Archives for posts with tag: construct

Died in his sleep on the train | It doesn’t matter which train, where it had come from | where it was going | If you’d believe me, Daniel said, we’d both be happier | She laughed, but the days had to end | There are different kinds of futility, different styles, she thought | and the pine trees rose around them | blank, as all things are, for a moment | then alien and beautiful | then oddly comforting in their otherness, as long as you didn’t have to stay with them | then they weren’t there | She was trying to remember something she was sure was important | but the only thoughts that came to mind were pelicans, in the shallow water near the shore of Hen and Chicken Bay | It was like trying to find the heart of a snowstorm, or the first part of the sea | as Milly asked, at the tips of caresses | Is it all a kind of story? | It was the funniest thing, they managed to get lost, and found themselves at a completely different party! | They were young then, much more carefree | open to accidents, opportunities, with less sense of obligation to anything | except, perhaps, the living moment | You have to build the connections | to make the woods real | such as, a fairytale | So: The ogre tore out the snowstorm’s heart | Daniel had started to cry | Don’t you believe me?


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)


The young do not know they are young. But the old know they are old.

Monuments in moments.

I have the sensation that the subtle glue holding the world in one place is growing dry and brittle. Is this what trauma feels like? A breakage, a lack of sublime continuity, so the parts no longer seem to relate to a whole.

I thought of a building, long since demolished, I used to pass on my regular commute: wittily, a graffiti artist had painted DEJA VU in huge letters on the wall facing the train tracks. Passengers, like myself, travelling at the same time each day, and with each day broadly similar in terms of work and routine, every so often over months might look up from a book or a paper out of their mild morning abstraction, and see the building floating past again, with its DEJA VU…

She was cynical in the fresh, irritating, but charming way the young are cynical — with a certain enthusiasm and sense of style. They affect to know things you can’t possibly know until you’ve been alive for many years. She was all Oh yeah! So? Whatever. She didn’t understand that a sphinx should pay attention to the desert. But he was genuinely cynical: old, and bitter, living in a used-up world, among fools and wolves.

He was one of those Sauls who, on his way to Damascus, realises he’s left his laptop at home, and needs to go back to collect it, and thus misses his own conversion.

Buddhas and dust.

It was a lament for buildings as yet unbuilt.

I don’t think I will ever fall in love again. This is partly a matter of regret. Can one love enough? I don’t suppose love can be measured very easily, the “how long” or “per cent” of love… But I’m grateful to have loved. Although, like the Chinese philosopher and the butterfly, the status of such things must surely be uncertain? Perhaps I only think that I have loved? And when love does arrive, it will be a noon inside a noon?

“It will do for now”.

The edifice grew more and more transient, more and more speculative. It was an assemblage or accumulation of illusions. He understood that the desert doesn’t pay any attention to the sphinx. It continues on its granular way. It doesn’t even note its essential continuity with the statues of mythical beings, warriors, queens and gods. Mao masses in suits. The edifice is the whales, not the krill; the ship, not the waves. The patient, not the virus.

The broken with their begging bowls, the dazed rich, languid in their limousines; the celebrities, seduced by their own cults, the anonymous, duelling with their shadows; the fashionable, fixed on the pin of a spotlight, the poor, prescribed their ghettos and their early deaths: he saw them all as part of a fabulous economy, each playing their part, each equally unimportant.

She had lived only long enough to realise that life was wonderful, but complex. When she’d been a child, life had simply been. Ambiguity and motive began to perplex her: injustice, cruelty, pain. He had lived too long: for him, life was simple and terrible. Of course, he had known a time when life was complex and wonderful. But then things had grown at first too complicated, then progressively similar and repetitive. The patterns became too easy to recognise. Death, at one time adored but inconceivable, began to take shape. Death was the only edifice that he could believe in. It was the only substantial building. Everything else was just life.

On the first truly cold day of winter, she breathed with a huff and watched the vapour of her condensed breath float in a cloud, and it was important.

She sensed she was young.

The young do not know they are young.

But the old know they are old.


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

The fuse of loneliness lit, they wait for the explosion that never happens. In their waiting, life collects, like rainwater in natural basins in the rock. There is the gradual accumulation of small disappointments, the trophies of unanswered telephones, bus tickets, the wilting of white chrysanthemums. By the light of the explosion, details glisten, and the explosion’s roar drowns the sound of every gesture.

Where the sentence begins, so ends the whole range of possible other worlds. And the establishment of one connection is the necessary annihilation of all other connections — and this annihilation is like the explosion the lonely anticipate, having lit their fuse. It is a form of clarity, the generous absence of object or incident, the description, by withdrawal, of a sensuous space, such as one might find in a quiet modernist gallery displaying a small, select number of artworks. There, space is cut as if by a couturier. We can imagine the soft, decisive crunch of the scissors through the cloth: the hem is tugged down, the sleeves are very fine as they brush against the sides of the tailor’s face. The moment before the chrysanthemums settle. Checking the timetable on her phone.

And with the beginning of the sentence, too, the annihilation is reconfigured, the whole order is moved about. It is not merely to turn the kaleidoscope, so that the shattered cathedral of the pattern changes — but to look through a different kaleidoscope entirely. I have incurred the wrath of a samurai’s daughter. Hi there, it’s me, the egoist. Their smiles, a kind of emotional flotsam drifting on the surface, evidence of a distant catastrophe: the inert serenity of wreckage floating in a current, like inane ducks bobbing in a line. The shaving away, year by year, incident by incident, of the chance of joy — note: problems with serotonin.

For a while, there was no conversation. The gale of talk had blown itself out, and he became frightened that there was no map to this landscape, no route they could follow that would take them out of the silence. It was strange, how panicked they felt at just a small failure of speech. The loss of golf, the supposed oddities of a mutual acquaintance, very swiftly and mysteriously led to the surface of an unknown moon, where his footsteps in the ashy, faintly phosphorescent dust trailed away behind him, bifurcating the entire world with his solitude, reminding him of the fate of Crusoe on his island. And she couldn’t think of a sentence to start the encounter moving again. She, too, experienced sensations of vertigo: she sensed an alien planet blooming inside her own skull. There would be no pity. No ascent. No recognition of her talents, incarnate with their unique frost design. No fingers in the right arrangement, no grand ceremony, no orchid, perfectly offsetting. None of this, none of the perfection. Even as it happened, she was aware of how curious it was that just a few powdery pinches of speechlessness could engender such distress.

Above the trapped miners, a full moon was beginning to rise on the ninth night after the collapse of the shaft. And it troubled her, as the perfume of blossom in spring unsettles the air: how could you know whether you had, or had been, truly loved?

It was not a fable, but she thought of the river, and the painted lines on the corner of the building at Cormorant Street, with dates like 1902 or 1933, each indicating the record of inundation, each a high-water mark.



from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

It was already the end, but no one moved | as if staying in their seats after the film | like generals commanding dead divisions | The channels kept up their broadcasts | shops were full | signal was good | Soon we floated into another story | decorating our apartment, carefully | choosing the wallpaper to illustrate out taste | making love like | nesting in nothing for a few seconds | planning our holidays | Driving into the desert, Russ’s old Dodge | an olive meteor with a tail of dust, it felt | heroic, and yet | too sudden | like a hat blowing off the head | of a passenger standing at the rail | spinning up and away, into the sea | very small, and the waves | very many | On the other side | waking to a sound of gulls | then hiking for two days | all the time, feeling as if we were building | what we approached | At last, after camping on a ridge | we came to the cave system | known as The Giants’ Dreams  | Google it

Wishing the words back into life again | As if in a medieval parable, puzzling over | a choice of apparent evils | to take the road which leads | to empty success, or the path | ending in honourable failure | Looking back, things appear | less clear-cut | life’s insistence on fertility, entanglement | draws into league the saints and fools | the knaves and angels | often leaving mere mortals | marooned on isles of bemusement and rue | In any case, I soon left that town | and, swiftly | this ceased to be my story | The rhododendron forests were in bloom | the air at altitude so pure | we felt there was no atmosphere at all | Was there no hope? Of course not! | We had the young | to fashion a simpler tale | For you, though, irony grew | inescapable, like a form of gravity | Finding yourself jostled | in a crowd of hermits, forever | glancing towards the exit | while far to the north | in terrible snows | dead soldiers broke | free from their frozen posts, and reached out | to take up their frozen guns



from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

Her lonely chores | Her day that was like picking titles for abstract paintings | Land Ahoy! | Cannibal Island | Hypergammaglobulinemia | Alone With Others | Pausing, toothbrush in hand | pushing through the curtains of the mirror | into the magic forest | Walking for hours until she came to a glade with short grass, like a suburban lawn | The sound of children playing in the plastic paddling pool | Riding the bus to school | listening to pop | feeling the back of the seat so hot in 1976 | her skirt damp with perspiration | the boys geeky or full of a dumb swagger | Show Offs | The Speed of Tears

At 17, she feels so old, her arms like rotten timber | with fan-shaped fungi growing on her | Hopeless, the world deprived of destinations | the blue hole of the sky into which sounds were falling upwards | She wishes she didn’t have a navel | it spoils her stomach | and the car is a grave, or will be, one day | Her mind is full of lilacs and skulls | a boy’s penis erecting | alien and comical | a dew of sperm | At this rate, how will she ever make 20? | Even 18 seems distant | the years like remote huts left behind in Antarctic expeditions | The Tigers Listen to the Flute | Fifteen Raindrops Long

Old people at bus stops, with their weird clothes | blinking | gawping at nothing much | tortoise, parrot, turkey, slug | The god, Apollo, will turn them into small brown shrubs | with their handbags still hanging from branches | ancient black shoes tangled in the roots | where amber millipedes coil like the parts of dismantled watches | I Fancy You | Heart of the Strawberry | His street from space | An order constructed around Sta-Press and swimming pools | with NASA in the background

The funfair in his cranium | the slides and waltzers | denuded of serotonin | stripped and rusting | He notes how the weatherpersons mention “areas of depression” | The cool girl in the black dress | with her honey-coloured skin and blonde afro | is she a writer or something? | maybe even in a band | His feelings, laid out like surgical instruments on a tray | a limited choice | and he knows | all cold and dangerous to touch | The Weird Boy and the Bear | A moment of happiness, so flimsy | like a parachute that seems to open, but then fails | delivering him to the blue quick ride of the sky | Ships, and Their Thoughts of Sinking

In class | measuring devices | Adjacent | incline | millimetres | arc | perpendicular | What will they do with the lions? | And the lioness’s roar? | Walk the long dead pavements | through the estate | Her parents are dinosaurs | big bodies, tiny brains | grazing sedately | unwittingly, each evening, itemising the different manners of their defeats | If you think in angles, you only end up with angles | If you think in circles… | The children play with the snake | and put it into black structures | On the train into town | she is in Wisconsin | like Russia is | like Minsk, and Kiev, and Guangdong | No one riding today | Like rollercoasters with only shadows | Delta Series, No. 5 | Monkey and Coconut Milk | It is hard to put a shape to absence | draw clear lines around it | One day, there | One day… | Carriage on the charm bracelet | Vacant Lot | He is not coming today | the boy with two scalpels for eyes | And soon, the holidays… | Land Ahoy!



from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

We had assembled the tower | now, we waited for people to visit it | But the channel was wrong, somehow | time was leaking away | I was growing weary, chaperoning the famous diva | the “Great Voice” | who could imitate the songs of robins and nightingales | but who sounded less | imposing ordering perfumes or cigarettes | The guards in their smart uniforms | of khaki with white fittings | flat peaked caps | trembled with yawns | and gazed stolidly out into the timeless | void of the plain | What was in their eyes? | No one waited for answers in those days | everything was rushed | Silence was a unicorn | galloping through light snow | and the air was filled with the sound | of complaints or elegies | of barter and soliloquies | theories and insults | a stew | a bruit, which | perhaps | as you drew further away | might mute and dampen | down to a murmur, like that | of a distant avalanche | destroying a village, or a helpless | party of skiers | Hotels, travelling, the endless | shopping | the desultory | rehearsals | none of this | was my real life, yet | it took up | nearly all of my days | and the diva didn’t even sing | so often | the era’s | taste was changing | and soon, plague | would close the theatres, the meteor | fall and instruct us | on the necessity for a new beginning

No one’s fault, and no one’s story | But we were restless, and melancholy | so we tried to explain, anyway | Perhaps we were too attached to Reason? | Scientists set off the beacon, plotted | the demographic | yet whole generations went missing | forgotten by love and lost in malls | Two lit trains, passing in a tunnel | your face as I kissed you for the last time | a sense of opacity even in | the slightest detail of a | fingernail and a caress | as if I were one of Odysseus’ oarsmen | watching Odysseus writhe and weep | as we rowed past the isle | of the Sirens | Bemusement, then | the tapeworm’s | view of her gut | a racket inside the sapphire, a menu | of empty compulsions | and always | it began to feel | between us | as if we were trying to build a pyramid | starting at the tip | A landscape, dotted with suicides | dipped in brandy and cologne | the deer’s | understanding of the hunting horn | That was the day | I saw the unicorn



from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

It was never possible, and so I left | Writing was how | I just kept coming back | Dawn was enough | the morning followed though | noon | each day | built its own skeleton | When I touched the bones, I felt them tremble | as if | they didn’t want to be bones | On the clearest | evening of the year | they were not bones

Dropping out of school | joining the revolution | getting away when it all went bad, police to police | migrating | Tramp tramp tramp… | Making the road my lover, an excuse | to keep a greater loneliness at bay | Sleeping in an abandoned church | or factory | or school | it was the sleep caught me | made me who I used to be | and I left | no bones behind me in the morning



from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

For those who owe their allegiance to a different order, life passes at a tangent, massive and undeniable, and yet with its intractable and relentless entanglements, which may lead to great suffering and despair, irrelevant.

The sun of the astronomers is not the only sun. And the geometers should not ignore their own shadow.

Supermarket chains. Conductors on buses, dabbing themselves on particularly hot days. Hunting for the tickets. Waiting at the hospital.

British Empire, with tattered colours, pith helmets and khaki. Musty aromas of kerosene and camphor. It is as if these uniforms are still worn, the lingo of wallahs and jolly is still being spoken. This, for big data or meta-fiction, for ripping up the clubs and click-bait.

The mass wearies with its noisy ghost, its unwittingly belligerent parade.

Won’t they ever shut up?

A distance enters all things. Our human distinction: our world of choosing. What power do we have over things — what power more intense and more extreme — than the power to forget them, to take the next corner? And the manner of our choosing is significance. Once, the Taj Mahal meant something to me. Once, the post box; once, the Who; once, the teardrops of Burmese jade. You open the old shoebox: you climb the ladder to the attic. Plato’s attic. The photos, the wallpaper with storks, the optical disk…

This too-solid flesh?… No, not at all. The body is a haze of arrows, a mist, a project forever postponed. The shoebox, the ladder — the souvenirs, the footsteps of climb: but each thing is only a honeycomb of distance, a spectral object constructed of the almost infinite number of ways we leave it. Will you ever kiss again, for instance?

The angle of the spirit is wrong. You don’t understand their slang, or want to take the drugs they take. But neither do you want to offend. It isn’t moral, this difference, or not especially: ultimately, maybe, it’s a question of mood, a particular gravity to your sensibility, a way the birds of prey fall in you, and not in others.

The distance. Locations, barren, remote, such as are sought out by lovers of glaciers and volcanoes.

Yes, of mood. The melancholy of looking at a person you were once in love with, but no longer love: the time that has passed, the water under the bridge, and then the bridges fallen into the water, and carried away. Later, the stream diverted. Later, the sea run dry.

The gulls in the centre of London have a particularly melancholy cry, as if they were mourning the loss of the waves and the end of land, but they no longer need either. Let the cold, beery waves crash on Silurian pebbles, the land bite out to its own gape and quiet, and the dizziness of the purely inhuman begin: the gulls on the roof of King’s Cross station have other interests, a separate limit to their concern.

All men are islands. All women, too. The continent is the sound of a stone rolling very slowly, gathering smaller stones to it — a dry, dusty rattle, and close up, a clicking and crunching drone, sometimes a roar. From the peak of the high summit, you feel as if you can hear the wispy clouds tearing on the sides of the mountain.

Blindly, from a memory that is only loosely your own, children fumble through the darkness, wanting what they must have.

It comes to them.


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

At Tom’s. A sense of the drift of mores — of a culture at odds with one’s assumptions. Trying to remember the difference between stalagmites and stalactites. Kagemusha — the shadow warrior. A film about acting. Peter’s tragedy. Defeat in the stirring of coffee, the way the spoon is laid with a measured, clicking finality on the saucer; cataclysm in a blink.

Looking away: like the movement of a tide, the retreat or onset of an ice age. The actor who spends too long in her role — like a swimmer too far from land to get back. No self there, waiting. Just the shore, as after a great naval engagement, the beach littered with the bodies of drowned sailors, debris. Sarah still talking about the Cadillac.

We follow the seductive implication of our routine lives that there will be continuity, that the days have a certain architecture, like a building with a regular series of arches.

I realise I have spent too long at the angels’ tea party, and that I find it difficult to return to mortal company. The gravity seems heavy, my bones have adapted to weightlessness. The grossness of the vocabulary shocks me. The imprecision of the concepts is depressing. And the constant hurry — the desperate, avaricious, mortal hurry. Even the torpor is avaricious. The angels are self-satisfied, it’s true, and their levity unfathomable, given what is going on here. Scarab beetles, but human beings labour not with balls of dung but with slow-rolling boulders of hatred. Not to care is hard. Caring is easy. What mortals fear most, they also crave most: oblivion. What else drives every sentence? This one, and the next? The hurry, the hurry…



from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

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, its tremendous landscape rears up with icy peaks and vertiginous ravines even within the confines of a wristwatch or a sugarcube, to remind you of an 18th century copperplate print of the Swiss Alps, pitched at the trembling edge 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)