Archives for posts with tag: construct

I’m full of graves and guitars.

As if they’d give money for that!

It’s not frightening, it’s what I want. Although I don’t know. You won’t be there when it’s gone. That’s how you never even see anything.

If I could go up the hill, I could write a song as big as the cellar.

No, I’ll get round to it. Listen. If you don’t see how it ends, how do you know it’s ended?

Some of the graves are ships.

I spend eight hours of the day wasting my time. I’m not a romantic. I’d rather get paid. I like geometry, the calmness of those structures. If I could get to the top, I’d see what I’d lost.

Evenings are the saddest. Evenings in the hold. There is a song, just beyond the tip of the oh I don’t know.

They don’t pay you for your pain, they take money from you for it, because you’re no good at the things that don’t give you pain. It’s obvious, but I can’t see why. It’s bound to show.

There’s no darkness inside it, there isn’t enough room. You need space for darkness.

There’s no time inside it because of the war.

Just right on the edge of the maybe later, after I’ve slept.

Mondrian, for example. You think it’s ethereal, but it’s concrete for me. You just fill it with thoughts, so it isn’t. Even before I’ve started, you’ve started first. Always, so you don’t get to the voyage, not really.

Yes, if you said I was going to die alone and poorly dressed, you would be like the fortune cookie. Evenings are also beautiful, of course, if you make them like that. You have to put in more effort, the moon in labour, the horses in Cameron’s Field.

Its scalar. What do they say these days — granular. Einstein was right, so he was wrong.

I’m treading the vanishing path. I understand things by avoiding them. The more I avoid, the less there is to cause me pain. If you worry, that would be nice, for both of us, perhaps?

They want to pay you, so they can understand. If they can buy it, that’s part of the structure. You end up with the odds and sods, the bits left out. They can’t see the money in them. You try to show them, but they just take money from you, because they can’t understand. If they only looked closer, but they don’t have the time or the patience, they never really follow their eyes. Eyes are like wells, like rabbit holes. They don’t look down their eyes. They just see dice, but they don’t call them dice. It isn’t mixed up. There’s a grammar for it. Or, well — not rules, precisely, but still, a form of precision.

I’m not a romantic, I like circles, squares. Euclid. Rhomboids. Pentagons. Triangles.

They get paid, but they don’t see the moon giving birth to the foals. Then the money comes, and they see the horses.

They take the money off you, and show you the street. There’s plenty of room there!

I guess it is frightening, but eventually you’ll reach a circle, and then there will be no one. It’s like sleeping on a ship as it sails. Like the views you don’t see as you sleep. That part of the voyage, filled with everyone else. Even you.

If you don’t see how it ends, how do you know what it was?

Is it the last thing we have in common? How could you see? There isn’t a side or an angle. You can’t even negate it! How can you tell a song that it’s not a song? And why would you?

I give them the money I can’t afford, so they can go home and rest their eyes.

Graves are full of people like us.

All you can say is, it ends if you don’t see how it ends.

You see?


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)
(this poem, October 2016)

1 | How fares the muting word?

From The Dictionary of Semantics and Metasemantics, Miles and Sigurðardóttir, 2010, no publisher, retrieved artifact — oblivion factor 9.975.

Invariant variation | The law of semantics. Nothing ever means the same.

Departure shadow | The word as it understood to leave.

Arrival tremor | The word as a tremor of premonition. Before we hear what we hear, before know what we know.

Semantic horizon | The limit ascribed to a parcel of semantic information: for example, how much a word can possibly mean; how far the meaning of a sentence can travel before effective dissolution.

Un-zone | An impossible construct, or a construct indicating impossibility or no further conceivable semantic progress — the “place” we imagine where there is no meaning. The un-zone is said to “occur” beyond the semantic horizon. It is an indicated place: an outline of nothing. Certain commentators ascribe to it a sacred function: and some of these commentators have called the un-zone God.

Perception investment (1) | The process by which a non-existent phenomenon is constructed by the amount of attention we choose to allot to it.

Perception investment (2) | The process by which an existent phenomenon is regulated by the amount of attention we choose to allot to it.

Perception investment royale | A phenomenon is the amount of attention of we choose to allot to it.

Semantic ratio | The ratio of meaning to non-meaning in any semantic construct. A notional and indeterminate value: A word means far less than it doesn’t mean.

Zauberfeld | “The domain of magic” | “The charmed field” | “Magic country” || Language; language as it operates; the operation of language: semantic country — the place of meaning, or the state where meaning occurs. A conjured space, wherein life floats semantically.

Ghost tailor | Semantic actor in their role as designing and dressing other actors.

Discussion | reading and interpretation: interpretation – words don’t pre-exist, and we don’t interpret pre-existing words. We don’t “place a construction” upon the meaning of a person’s words, because that would be to suppose that there is an ideal entity underlying speech or writing. Language is a form of semantic energy. Language is not a set of objects, but a series of events that can look like objects, or we treat as objects – but are “wrong” in so doing. We don’t place a construction upon a person’s speech – we perform construction upon it. “It” is a fiery detonation of non-existent explosions, the creation of modalities.

Invest | To clothe a ghost.

Investor | Actor in a semantic play.

Semantic capital | The amount of meaning accumulated within a semantic construct.

Semantic hoard | Another term for semantic capital.

Semantic bank | Another term for semantic capital.

Semantic metropolis | A construct with a high semantic population.

Semantic province | The area of meaning not included under the portfolio of a semantic capital.

Semantic coherence | The moment of meaning.

Capital semantic coherence | What you are reading.

Provincial semantic coherence | What you are not reading.

Semantic decoherence | The moment of semantic capital fading into semantic provinces.

Semantic incoherence | The region of neither semantic capital nor any semantic province.

Hodgepodge | The actual state of the total semantic field value at any one moment.

Semantic field | Ghost envelope of semantic activity assumed at any one moment.

Glass capital | The desired investment value in a semantic capital (as opposed to the actual state of the total semantic field value) at any one moment.

Glass capital games | The analogous semantic spree that includes “glass jaw” , “glass ceiling”, “glass floor”, “glass walls”: glass country…

Recursor | Semantic actor exhibiting a pattern of behaviour.

Strong recursor | Semantic actor with a pattern of behaviour that imposes attraction, either on a large semantic population, or with great power on a solitary semantic actor.

Weak recursor | Semantic actor with an apparent predisposition towards ephemerality; a semantic actor unable to assert its attraction over others. It should be borne in mind that recursors are subject to the law of invariant variation — in other words, a strong recursor can grow weak; and a weak recursor can strengthen. Any actor’s semantic horizon is endlessly and necessarily in the process of expanding or contracting: no semantic horizon can remain stable, because no semantic actor can dominate the stage for more than a certain amount of time.

Dominant weak recursor | An actor that is constrained by logic to appear to provide a stable pattern of behaviour; a quasi-logical operator, yet still subject to the law of invariant variation.

Dominant strong recursor | An actor who holds a starring role in the Zauberfeld: the audience for a dominant strong recursor is large, and this audience is highly convinced by the actor’s performance. A strong recursor in the dominant phase can hold sway over nations, and even over entire trans-national blocks of population. Such a strong recursor is so convincing that their pattern of behaviour is accepted as literal: the performance, in other words, is no longer a performance, and what the audience believe they are seeing is their own lives, and the basis for all their lives. Only age may diminish the powers of a dominant strong recursor. On all screens, on all channels. Charismatic. A world-swaying actor — “the foundations of civilisation”, “the Lord”, “Her Majesty”, “Rule”, “Law”, “Public good”, “Public order”, “Revolution”, and so on.

Recursor royale | Highly controversial actor, the existence of which, even as a concept, is hotly debated. A quasi-mystical actor, often attributed with divine qualities — the ability, for example, to exist outside of the Zauberfeld, or to possess the power to bring the Zauberfeld to an end, or to create, or to have created, the Zauberfeld. Beyond aporia, and not subject to the law of invariant variation. Some commentators align “the royale” with (in English) the “I” — the individual human agent, and the source of that agent: a specialised notion of self. The actor who never appears on stage, The sleeping actor, The actor in the audience, The actor without a play — “the royale” has been the recipient of many different epithets, with the validity of these epithets also a subject of much discussion. A “symptom of a decadent discipline”? Or “the longed-for figure of absolute unconstraint: freedom from traditional models of humanity — a revolution not by, but in, humanity”? Or (my own favourite characterisation): “It will do until we get bored — like anything”.

Recursion | Both the institution that employs semantic actors, and the theatrical principle of definition. Actors gain and lose status by their powers of recursion: actors likely to enjoy a long run in a production (in the Zauberfeld) recur over and over again, performing night after night: some are mere humble extras, others enjoy the privileges of fame and celebrity — but like all actors, semantic actors only exist if they have roles, and the roles of semantic actors change at an imponderable rate. (The paradox of the “out-of-work actor” is a famous example of recursion theory.)

Semantic population | The people who mean: also, the numbers of people who invest in a particular semantic capital.


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)
(this poem, October 2018)

Every spirit brings a perspective | Fold my awkward wings, give up the air awhile | break into the vacant house by the shore | use it as my own, a borrowed luxury | Sleep on my back on the sleek oak floor | contemplate what you’ve done to me, introducing | once more | this longed-for unease | rendered the sea a moth’s flight, the mountains | shiver in the dark | seeking safety | to the leak of wild | honey from cracks in living trees | turning the roots and earth below | sweet, and sticky, and shining || Is wild honey like that? | I don’t know | They have dropped from the tip of a telescope, are tiny, their voices | are so soft, and fine | like mist or silk, you might lower precious necklaces into them | to store out the turbulent era | bury the meat in the fire | Like chess pieces on a board, they must | keep to their squares | rook move in straight lines | the King one step at a time | When the cat disturbs | an abandoned game | I hear the figures clink and roll | Hours later, when all is still | I forget what you look like || Call it Siamese, call it a bear | It has made me its home, its den | works regular hours | keeps surfaces reasonably clean | watches the sun set from the train, is too | tired to read in the evening | Often, despite you, the flowers droop in their vases | Sheets go unwashed | You wouldn’t care for these things, but the end begins | when we started writing different kinds of poems, ones | only we cared for, bound by laws | most people couldn’t detect, never mind | understand | and the point | failed | You go against all of that, but | because I do not, quite, I | cannot bring you in here with me | to winter the summer through | or to survive | only by the thread of a stranger’s glances

Every spirit brings a perspective | You inspire in me a heightened | access to detail | respect for the nuance of matter and mood | the coagulated white smoke of the freezer | how the woods feel just before the storm | so very delicate | the trees motionless | the birdsong muted | any gesture would be lost in this, and so | I make one | Walk by the sea | recall your face | continue this | process of scattering | across the days | Like a monk, put the gold | to the ‘I’ | in a monastery cell | Drop out of school, waste my youth, then my whole life | Most of the time, the Marquess of Queensberry | had no mind for his rules


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)
(this poem, August 2013)

Carrying a maze in a bag | Putting the bag down, opening it | Taking out the maze and walking in | The music grows more lush, moving smoothly | like dense vegetation seen from the side of a boat | gliding through deep forest | Pink-winged parrots paint the air | at speed with cursive squawks | pass and score raucously overhead | while purple-faced baboons | scoff and grunt in troupes | from the other shore | Our role, grown blurred, does it trouble us? | Are we conquerors, or sightseers, or explorers? | Business, Madame, Sir, or pleasure? | Are we the border guards, musing over visas, or the travellers, with our coats and luggage, quinine and guns? | Or drug smugglers, police or users? | Spanish moss festoons the cedars | like primaeval party streamers or partly | solidified smoke | Elephants trumpet in the distance | We sip the boat, and settle for the night | in steamy rooms, a rough hotel | so far up-country, there is no rail | the nearest airstrip is five days away, the fan | rotates erratically on the ceiling | the plaster is a warped and faded | pistachio green, from the balcony | there is a view of low-rise buildings with rooves | of corrugated iron | gleaming dully in the moonlight | Sleep, the annex of death, awaits us | and sleep is crammed in everywhere | within our days | slitted in a blink | hiding below the up-turned cup | stashed just beyond the limit | of our perplexed vision | and yet | for a moment more | we linger | where sense can still be made | and slowly | almost boredly | we measure our lips | with kisses | washing us to a dreamy shore | making us ask | Do we know this place?

It was a renovation/extension project | for a wealthy client in Hampshire | We had tendered | Negotiations were advanced | Our lead architect had excelled herself | the modern element was beautifully done | elegant, streamlined, inevitable | the interior | graceful, understated | I left a laptop with the plans one night | on a train | promo, mock-ups, everything | I still think of those designs sometimes | although in the end we didn’t get the contract | and the extension was never built | Was it progress? | Perhaps, but in such fits and starts | sometimes we seemed to be going nowhere | and often, we were | frustrated | Time passed | Years, in fact | Eventually, the longueurs became our situation | we found ourselves relaxing, admiring the view | enjoying coffee at the Italian place | making love with new, exciting strangers | Like miners, whose labours | in exhausting ore | produce magnificent, carved-out galleries | we lost ourselves in exercises | that appeared, on the surface, practical | but were, in the end, indistinguishable | from stupendous reveries | the wheels not turning | the engine idle as the gangsters sit | waiting for their target to show | Dissatisfaction, not a god or | moral high | drove us on, but I wondered | would our achievements ever be | as significant, as lovely | as those inspired by greater aims? | — and would we ever reach the state | where we really wanted less | for ourselves | and more for others: might we be called | to desire even these doldrums | as whirling dervishes worship | simply by going round in circles?


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)
(this poem, August 2013)

The present had grown mysterious. It floated like mist at the heart of a derelict building, the windows all blasted out. You had to clamber over the rubble in the street, massed before the entrance, and by the time you’d made your way into the interior, you were back on the street, facing a derelict house full of mist.

In an odd way, you never reached the present. And the place the present was kept — the past — was also inaccessible. By the time the present had occurred, or you were able to make sense of it, it had been packed into another derelict house, the house of expended things. And the house, because it had no doors hung in the doorways, and no glass in the window frames, couldn’t prevent the mist from entering it, and floating over the old, ruined armchairs and settees, drifting up the rotten stairs, dampening the peeling 1930s wallpaper with lupins and butterflies.

The future, too, was inaccessible. The future was the place all the presents pointed to: it was a kind of phantasmal museum, with collections of hopes and dreams and plans, none of which could possibly ever come to fruition, because by the time they came to fruition, they were already in the past — the future was a place people browsed round exhibits of elapsed projections. The future, therefore, made up the ghostly triumvirate of derelict houses, the three houses of time.

Of course, this ghostly triumvirate was actually just the same property, perceived from different points of view.

At the heart of the mystery of the present — and thus, at the heart of the mystery of the past and the future, too — there was the moment.

Nothing could have been more perplexing or bedazzling to your imagination than the moment. It was the trace of an enigma, or the skeleton of an enigma, an enigma that had died and lost its life. It was as if a building had had all its foundations removed, and yet, instead of collapsing, floated.

The crystal machinery of the moment was more complicated than the burning neuron forest of the human brain, yet simpler than a black crayon dot on white paper. It could be divided and divided and divided, and yet never broken down to its constituent element. It multiplied everywhere, in its billions and billions, and yet everywhere it vanished. When it vanished, it left no trace, except for the world. And the world suckled from the moment like a baby at a mother’s breast.

No one could name an individual moment. It wasn’t like a street — like Pearson Street, say, or Bokutei-dori. Too small to attach a name to, it didn’t work like that. The moment was general and anonymous, and at the same time, precious and utterly specific. It was translucent, and yet totally opaque. It contained nothing, and contained the universe. It was discrete, and yet attached to its fellows in long strings. The moment was there, whether you dreamed or not, whether you were alive or not. It had no witnesses to the way it moved, and yet every human life could be said, in a sense, to be a profound and extended testimony to the nature and effects of the movement of moments. Restless as the sea, still as a snowflake caught in a spider’s web, built in a gap in a drystone wall across a moor, on a windless day, in Yorkshire, England. It was the essence of the art of the riddle: from the Babylonians to the Anglo-Saxons to the PhD students dozing in their quantum cocoons, the moment was the spring, the first explosion, the first thought.

As for novelists, story-tellers, singers, musicians — what would they be without the moment?

The moment was a transcendental mechanism. With each new moment, the entire history of all things was transcended. Nothing was preserved, everything had to be rebuilt and the whole planet and its narrative shored up with logic and assumption, culture and hearsay. Your imagination was bound up into the moment, with its paths of orbit, divergence, bifurcation, circling, shattering. The moment’s precipice stood before you. To leap from the ledge would be to enter an entirely new world: it would be an act of sublime baptism, of absolute alchemy, of the radical and pervasive transformation of everything, from the core to the perimeter, from the edge to the centre. No one could survive that leap. You certainly couldn’t. And yet, what choice did you have, but to jump?

The moment is the supreme construct — a fabrication of such beige and vanilla humility, you can easily overlook its presence; but a fabrication, too, of such imperious and angel-subduing pride that even within the confines of a wristwatch or a sugarcube, its tremendous landscape rears up, with icy peaks and vertiginous ravines, to remind you of an 18th century copperplate print of the Swiss Alps, pitched at the trembling brink where the picturesque and pastoral morphs into the Gothic and sensational, where Reason plays Russian roulette with God and Satan and that whole starry crew of unleashed dogs and singed and smoking wings and letting-go…

When we’ve finished here, do you fancy a coffee?


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

Rogue state | Dogged by ill-health he sought lodgings… in the heat, the cat snarls, can’t reach her fleas | You hear the missiles, feel their slipstreams | in landslide weather | can’t sleep | in the white nights | at the barriers | wait in the car as the train goes past | the gendarmes tell you | there is no need for alarm | the water on the strawberries | But the whine of the motor | the engines igniting | the air needs to move | he can’t sleep | the dog rests | in the cool shade of the silos | the tourists drift away | town empties | it’s the heat | you wake | to the smart click of the timer | my screen flickers | the information starts to leak | the little cars near the church | with POLIZEI | so we decide to turn back | the migraines worsen | they are posting notices | too much of you | Very tired, irritable | but can’t sleep | the cake went to waste | put the infinite on hold | By 1907, harassed by creditors, worn out by threats, she fled… the Federales | They were dredging the river | so we cancelled our walk | the camera came on | he lacked the will to continue | in the freezing cold | dogs dying in the street | the first indications | the same old same old | we felt so tired | the air-con was broken | the searchlight from the police | helicopter | the passing of a star | the rumours of cholera | the marshals usher you | away | When the network goes down | part of you is relieved | in breaking news | the suicide pact | the train strike is on | the sound in her head | was the ringing of an anvil | then we missed our flight | a problem with the visa | Lazio had won | and their fans celebrated | all night | we couldn’t sleep | you tried to deny it | in the powerful storm | the lines came down | at cherry-blossom time | in the middle of a speech | the screen went dead | the music was sombre | everything felt | as if it was wrapped in polythene | with a gag in my mouth | She couldn’t reach her hotel | and had nowhere to stay | the Carabinieri were pointing | making signs | the quiet was huge | the shadow of the cloud


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)
(this poem, July 2017)

The week laps in like waves

It begins with our argument | shot paratroops hanging from their chutes as they come down, peaceful | inane | dull and functional as fruits | dead before they even reach the ground | We’re cold and malicious to each other | It’s very distressing | and I sense a certain doom in how things are falling out between us | The pattern is familiar | To me, at least — you’re younger, you’ve probably never been disappointed like this before | it’s like the sudden lowering of the water-table | a vanishing of moisture | Inside, I feel | the almost constant gripe of spiritual gremlins | a nasty moral shrinkage | a littleness — at the back of my mind, the sound of paranoia | the dwarf tumult of a honeybee unable to free itself | from a drift-net web | on the floor by the statue of Buddha | while the dog pads past, looking for snacks | And in this way, a poem becomes the account of everything it is not

Later, at dusk, the lawn under the cut-leaf maples is really beginning to fade | and has a yellowish look in the last of the light | “Moona” he says, “Moona, mia moona” | I note his tiny fingers | the daintiness of his hand | and the naive possessiveness of the young | and the mystery of the personal and the individual | which is the mystery of the gap between individuals | the not meeting, the not knowing | the commanding solitude that renders everything warped and buckled and refracted | except itself — but you can’t make an account of language out of language | not an account that is substantial — ironically | We never leave the ship | We never step on land | It’s okay | or whatever | The views from the rail can be beautiful | does it matter if we can’t disembark? | But you don’t care for this kind of thing, anyway

Later, the scraping of chair legs as Jesse next door moves a piece of furniture across exposed wooden floor | It’s a primitive sound — primeval, even | like the bellow of a timbery dinosaur from a nearby swamp | Or it is a poltergeist | The silence that follows is very peaceful | A static silence, prolonged, in the enclosed cube of space and air of this flat | warm, living, ambient | the kind of silence that says, It’s okay: sounds will come along in a minute or two, but for now | there is this deep, interior repose, contained and sanctified by absolute banality | the reassurance that nothing extraordinary can happen, that nothing of utterance can disturb, and then there is birdsong and the hum of the fridge | but this doesn’t displace the silence, for this silence | there is no “Eureka” | there is no time and there are no tongues… | Within half an hour, the fire has destroyed everything, the toys, the sockets, the machines that were plugged into the sockets, the clothing, the suitcases, the souvenirs of the volcano and the casino, the trophies of intellectual and athletic prowess

Later, separation seems inevitable | In a rare interlude of calm, brought on, perhaps | by exhaustion, a mood of washed-out despair | we agree that our relationship doesn’t exalt us | as it used to do | doesn’t offer us the chance to be greater people | or even iterations of the same people | but belittles us both | shrinking our horizons to keyholes | deflating our spirits to the slack  state | of withered balloons | the cooling sacs of used condoms | We live in mutual solitude | and the tenor of the solitude is degraded | but when I look ahead | the quality of the solitude, its purity and intensity, increases | and in moments of panic | the solitude takes on the presence of a landscape | or a wild animal | and I imagine myself like some poor soul out in the desert, thousands of years ago | seeing, in the suffocating sandstorm | the arising of a god | a being so utterly strange | so other | even as it goes about its business | of obliterating you and all you have cared for | and all you have ignored

Later, we have the island | All this mess is clarified by indifference | K. says that the most benign discipline is history — benign in the sense that everything becomes history | or it is simply annihilated from our arena of conception | which I think boils down to “Everything must pass” | She is pretty dismissive of what she sees as “a bit of fashionable anomie” | She despises loneliness, and makes it seem as dated and theatrical as the idiotic Beelzebubs of poète maudits | and her stance impresses me because | sometimes, when I look at her | I think she must be one of the loneliest people on Earth


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

It was late in the era, the interminable dusk of the war, stronghold after stronghold falling. Did the young know? They were restive, teeming through the streets, running on a purer current of electricity than we could access; and yet, alas, they didn’t know. They were doomed to their innocence, as we were doomed to our knowledge, such as it was.

The summer trees, too, were filled with a certain electricity.

In her arms, I found a degree of peace. We had our hideaway. Many of my colleagues would have called it an indulgence. The politics of that time were more abrasive, less was certain. Perhaps it’s foolish to mourn the loss of a volatile, strife-filled atmosphere, when breathing was combat, the slightest blasé remark could ignite a violent quarrel? All the same, the constant clashes were tiring. Today, it is consensus that smothers and enervates, the growing moraine of the status quo. Perhaps we did feel a little guilt, loving each other in that way. “Bourgeois”. And it was wearying, for a poet, to have maintain the structure of the reasonable and the irrational: to be served with moulds, and expected to flow into them. Obedience at the fundamental level: obedience before any choice could be made. Thus nuance and subtlety were redacted from our debates, we edited ourselves, censored our desires: like the dictionary in 1984, words were taken out, not added in, and the vocabulary grew shorter. And yet I knew, beyond the dictates of the theory. I knew: I could feel differently. So, I continued to write, although less often, and with less hope. Still, I knew. The snow fell very lightly. Because I was near to her, I was near to the mines, and to the snow: the snow grew a new edge, so that I might take hold of it.

I imagined sailors from an opera, in white; they were butterflies, the shipwreck their cocoon.

She told me about her dream. It was winter (as it was in New Haven). People had gathered in a vast cave of ice, a cathedral, or the hold of a gigantic vessel, the belly of a mythical sea creature. They were dressed in furs. They removed from inside their bodies intricate, key-like structures of bone. These they spent their time polishing. The “keys” were, to her, objects of great delicacy and beauty. However, the obsessive polishing started to wear them away. They began to grow translucent, unbearably brittle. She went from person to person, distraught, warning them: the keys were too frail, and would only be damaged and diminished through polishing. No one heeded her advice: they were intent on making the keys shine, determined on improving them. When each key, polished to the point of catastrophic fragility, shattered, at that moment, the owner faded out of existence. It was harrowing for her: no matter how patiently she explained, and no matter how carefully and attentively people followed what she was saying, they always returned to their former activity. Thus, one by one, the people went out, like lights. Eventually, she was left alone, standing on a carpet of glittering fragments, in the cave of ice, which sparkled all around her. Only when she was entirely alone did she reach inside herself and draw out her own key. The dream ended as she began to polish the key. She now understood everything.

Later, the campus was occupied. Lectures were suspended. There was tear gas, rubber bullets, live rounds. The workers struck. We fled to the coast. It didn’t matter: certain things, we couldn’t flee. We lived long enough to see the passing of the ideas on which we had built our whole careers. People treated me with such disrespect, in print and in person, after all I had achieved. I realised, very late, that yesterday had always been waiting for me. One evening, a violent storm was forecast: as I walked home, the trees were being swayed and thrashed around by strong gusts of wind. I heard, beneath the tumult, a sinister sound – the sound of new books coming.


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

A post-nuclear calm, a world of clean energy, small population, the lawn very green, the air very still, the mica in the patio stone glittering, to a child’s eyes, with a mysterious, an impish light, but there are no children. On the worktop, a plastic carton of milk, its contents gradually going off. Utensils, appliances. Near the clock, a high-definition photograph of caribou in falling snow | Lovers, motionless on the bathroom floor. They have no use for their hearts, what have they forgotten? Long black hair, slick as molten crows’ wing, very ancient. On the edge of the bath, an iridescence of shampoo foam, a series of Xanadu pavilions, floating. They have tipped everything out of their glances: somewhere, perhaps, it collects, but in a very different order to the way it arrived in them.

The security guard has taken off his military-style blue peaked cap, and hung it on a peg beside the table. What we see is what we see. Is he alone? Now we are all police, at night, secret criminals run and the streets are like forests. Where does the door painted a washed-out mauve lead? He has no time for liberals. Envelopes, all of manila, and fliers, lie loosely piled on the red-check plastic table cloth | A dolls’ house, antique, part of the inheritance from her mother. She looks in the windows, peeping on the dolls’ world. Does she have an ambition in life, a direction? Not really. To survive, to put off pain. She would like more love but, then again, would it be real love? The kind of love she wants? The men she’s had before, they were unsatisfactory: either too sincere, too cloying; or too insincere, too predatory or parasitical. Those moments you wake up next to a stranger, it might as well be a sea-slug draped in a sheet. No.

The aged woman with her middle-aged son, this entanglement of veins, family trees with intricate, obscure root systems: subsistence, rampage, silk, treats at the fair. The silence between them, the shapes they cut out of space, the room stalled: an aimless life. Acute tenderness: tenderness breathing in the boredom. Gently, they scoop their spirits into the unspoken. Stories dwindling out of knowledge, discarded litmus paper blue | They wandered round the installation, brushing against each other occasionally. The artwork was pompous, glossy, the concepts tired: global, corporate, international house style… Between them, there was a thread, one they longed to pull, but longed even more to leave hanging, perhaps just to hold? She bent closer to read one of the inscriptions, conscious that Lou was close, their bodies devising a quiet, private cycle between them, a modest, delicate, beautiful synchronisation. Relevant or irrelevant, the card read, all things immediately join the ranks of the discarded. Sheilah didn’t think anymore about it, not after a second. Coffee, or home? she asked.


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

Across the bay, even long after the sun had gone down, the cries of the boat traders would punctuate the air. Often, at his desk, he’d be unaware of their presence, but occasionally they would stir into his consciousness, and then, for some reason, discomfort him. He had lost all chance of love, had settled into his later years as a sunken wreck settles into the mud and sand of the seabed. The cries reminded him of the calls of birds, marking their territory. Watermelons, fish — fresh or grilled — mangoes, coconut milk. Commerce has its own melancholy, from the numb sleekness of corporate lawyers and the dreary plutocrats of the financial quarter, to the cries of the vendors floating across the polluted waters, the sound at once mechanical and keening, with a faint note, if you listened carefully, of the desperation that waits at the end of all money — the spectre of falling, at last, into the hands of human beings | She dreamed she had jumped from a plane. Her parachute, a great plosive and sudden flower, had opened with a fierce buck above the ocean. For hours, she had drifted through the sky, over a seascape of coral atolls, with their turquoise and subtle azure rings, like exquisite lichens colonising a softly respiring stone, glittering in the bright tropical air: she hardly seemed to be descending at all, but just gliding effortlessly, passively, far above the planet’s surface, visibly curving. Later, she found herself entangled, dangling from the canopy of her chute, high up in angular branches among tall trees. Island. The straps of her harness and the ropes creaked, she struggled like a crane fly with broken limbs, breaking further. This was not the land she had seen, when a child, in her parents’ grandiose, antique atlas, a representation delicately drawn and, as if to emphasise the fairy-tale status of the information contained within, framed by elaborate gilt. A thought is endless, she had written in her journal. It has no sides, no permanent dimensions. A single thought can germinate and reproduce and cover the Earth, like a benevolent weed, curiously inane, or spread like water fed from an unseen spring, and keep on flowing, deepening, changing. Was it true? A journey had waited for her every day, like a mythical animal, four-legged, horned, hoofed, with glowing eyes the colour of ripened satsumas, folded wings of dusky brown, at the foot of her bed. Ever since her early teens, an existential unease — often very beautiful — had possessed her. Her happiness was somehow rich with unhappiness: too, too fragile, life had no way of saving itself, no place it might rest, no sanctuary. All was exposed, perfectly itself, even the secret linings, the buried treasures: how could the sun not be a sun? When she woke from a long sleep, she found a girl beside her in the whorl of sheets, a different maze, warm and palpable, yet, with her eyes closed, racing towards innumerable vanishing points, the cry of bright white seabirds over desert beaches of pure black, volcanic sand, a moment, a seed, washed up, together, on a strangers’ shore.


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)