Mudlark Poster No. 32 (2001)
Robert Garlitz and Rupert Loydell
Robert Garlitz teaches in New Hampshire at Plymouth State College. His recent work has appeared in print in LUCID STONE, CENTRIPETAL, THE EXISTENCE OF WATER, and online in THREE CANDLES, SLOPE, and TANGENTS.
Rupert Loydell was born in London, but now lives with his wife and daughter in Exeter, Devon. He is the Managing Editor of Stride Publications, which he founded in 1982, an artist, and the author of many books of poetry. His abstract STATIONS OF THE CROSS paintings are being exhibited in various galleries, churches, and cathedrals throughout 2001. THE MUSEUM OF LIGHT, a book of poems, is forthcoming from Arc.
In the limbs, sinews, muscles, fat and flesh, we welcome the felt contrast between our lives and the life of the earth around us. The squirrels chew acorns and throw them to the ground, popping them off the metal roof, a Cageian composition each morning. Clouds panorama endlessly over our days, traveling for the journey and not for the shrine at the end of the world. All this play of light and moisture, water between the toes at the beach, beer and wine and chocolate shakes, the taste of olives late in the night when the stars draw our gaze away so much distraction from our work, which is to do exactly what? Exactly this: pack up the goods, move to the new house, get the job at the coffee shop or the job with the vascular research institute. Put on tea. Pick up the architectural flute and play.
With kaleidoscope and bookmark I set off to read the landscape.
Burning buildings, uncontrollable heat; we are happy enough in the city.
We construct our own worlds but often lose focus and forget the plan. I am easily diverted from the task at hand, allow complexity to confuse and disorder what should be straightforward. Is the percussion of rain on the roof, the drone of traffic passing, music? Are olives always so bitter? Weren't the summer longer when I was young? Echoes of elsewhere convince me I can escape the present. Under the arches the damp corner which fascinates and seduces. I have become a kind of ghost in this place; firm verticals and sudden curves no longer make any topological sense. How do we learn to accomodate contradiction, be content within the wreckage? At sunset I watch the lights below and am dazzled into silence and dismay.
The past is a radio in the corner of the kitchen. It is not meant to be listened to, its story is too unbelievable. Time is hollow; the sound of it passing is cushioned by rubber memories. Dark and wind, electrical storms are all we have; artificial intelligence is an oxymoron. In a huge warehouse overlooking the Thames the future is hung on the walls for us to see. It is made of remarkably beautiful and sensual markings; is a beginning not a conclusion. I don't know what will happen next, have no interest in change. There is no shared vision, simply the idea that our environment could be different. Up ahead a sign says the world is getting smaller; as we draw closer, the words grow more distinct. So does the music. In exchange for songs I have to answer many questions.
Water currents, culturally transmitted ideas, never ending highway. The running shadow of a man.
Streams silver through the rocks, shadows throw caution to the pausing cars.
You know how a field of wheat waits for the wind. The mountains here now wait too, wait for the flames that will come down, roil them, roll over them, burning in red gold orange sap yellow fires the whole earth, the whole waving rippling ranges and ridges intervales and hollows, from the north steadily downward the last furious torching of summer will red the whole land with flamelight, scorching everything and everyone in its brilliant sun, blaze of final fire, a holocaust of leaves, a pentecost of leafmeal to steady us and ready us for the great cold that will come later, the great blackness, the great cold black darkness and the white ground, the white mountains, the white earth under ice and under that hue and tone that will never relent, never yield to any other hue or tone, that blue.
A palomino rustles its mane in a bloody haze. Cats sit on rusted mufflers. The images dissolve into larger checkered patterns of looser contextuality. They never look like we want them to look. The box of ashes is heavier than I'd thought. Ten pounds. Our group explores the house in the dark but the slope keeps us from finding any holds. We rappel down the cliff face. No time does fear strike more deeply in the gut than when the bright day promises all is normal, all will be normal. All is. Emptiness drops through the floor. No one is around now. Peanut butter on toast. A walk around the corner where cigar smoke lingers in the storefront, peeling brown paint on the mullions. Stacks of dishes, wine glasses. Nets. That feeling of being tarry, sticky, black. Roland, always going to the Dark Tower. The frisbee becomes a knife.
You need to make things harder edged, use a stencil and spray paint, or razors, or chisels, take up new media.
Conversation and meaning share the same living room; paintings on the wall are part of our community.
In the brief hours I spent in my studio yesterday I briefly experienced the elusive thrill of how paint and ideas can fill long days, how other possibilites simply open up ahead while you work. Making and doing / doing and making; effortless, right. This morning I visited the patterns I have made, smelt the heavy studio air. Toxic, uplifting; complex entanglements in the ether... the perfume of promises, of energy and success. Abstraction does not expect any answers, and I have none to give; just a need to overcome resistance. Am I writing you a letter that will never be read? Who makes the toast in your house every morning? Boxes of ashes always weigh heavy - they should be emptied in a high wind. The universe will end without light or motion; I hope I am there to see it. Through the dirty window there comes the sound of rain. It is wise not to appear too grateful.
Grace tricks open portals, coaxes us across thresholds. You can feel it when you spread butter on toast. Accidents bring upon us the absolutely new. Insight stops the prayer wheels. Joy or despair sets them spinning. In a village in France one traveler feels ecstasy at the sight of the statue of St. Foie. In Bhutan, a another learns to listen to the noise of temple prayer. Today thousands will hear in silence the ultraviolet breathing, the sonorities of a quarry filled with moths, a hum travelers report from the Altiplano of Bolivia and the deserts of Siberia. But what of the oldest friend, the dearest, the young one, with the cancer that will not cure? Is she sure of the absolutely new, of grace or accident? Is she at a crossroads anyone wants to recognize? Can she ramble around the lake of stars?
If we can't escape house arrest, we can take the salts and ointments off the shelf and apply their mercies to the astonished flesh.
An envelope with no postmark changes hands; my mind is flung into a new country.
Conventional history chronicles the dullest parts, is strangely short on definitions. Imagine a communications network which included hope and thought and prayer; and other things such as memory. A channel of action, a signpost with arrows on a road leading to self-organization and the effort to speak honestly. There's a mild wind and sun comes warm through the mist, I've a sprig of honeysuckle in water in a mug; I regard these as characteristic. The light has gone adrift, it is dark already when I shut my eyes, yet the insides of my eyelids are printed with the usual fluorescent yantras; there is the opportunity to construct entire universes where readers may wander and wander. Absolution brings us new accidents; I offer up a toast for grace. We must all learn new tricks, share the guilt.
I have been warming the pipes, running a bath without the plug in. Redressing arachnoid balance. It was an accident, I didn't know the procedure, had to figure it out, everything about the way I lived. There are dozens of such procedures; I hope great order will come about. We all went through cultural crisis, saw our friends working in the field of dialogue and dreams; they are still busy tracing the faintest sounds. We have been misrepresented by journalists; the movement of the boat across the water helps the narrative along. Weeping into the typewriter in the attic, I only hope that the space race resumes. Everything is all so much bigger than we thought. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but there is really no place we should be, nowhere we truly belong. We are such a distance from where we intended to be.
Look at these images that are out of focus: light, shade, birds in flight, water running, a lightning-bolt; imagine the touch of fire.
Only the circular saw, the mousepad, and the schoolbook can prepare us for such omens.
The thing is is the way they always wash over you, or try to wash over you while inside the tidal wave, once in, you discover all this machinery, a total software of conclusions and three-quarters through you say hey what happened to all that washing over, where is the whelm in this over and why are we once again locked into such usually surprising inevitables and probables? Today I can't go there to look once again. What if something happened in them while I've been away? He got everything right, but how will we know (since he has been gone a while now) if I don't go see for myself once more? He spoke for us all when he inserted that finger into that bloodied floodwall, didn't he? Or so she thought as she moved through that labyrinth, dragging that thread behind her. Toward which, as she wended, those filings rushed.
Honeyed lights scan the bare trees. Push-button thermometers read the post-twilight, that famous hour when the blue of the sky reaches immorality. With such tools, I can arbitrate close calls and negotiate bejeweled medinas. Jazz might rev me into the wee hours, and coal dust sift over my papers, but the appointments will be kept. Merlot and zinfandel fill our glasses while we watch transmitted images of streetwise guys tangoing history into other people's libraries. If only I had collected such comic books. Not that they would bring money now, now that they would bring money at all. More that they would turn brittle, the inks fade, the electric plots and heroes would turn to heroin or gold dust or cremains. Laughter now. That's all. Sweetness seduces us into loving our houseplants and playgrounds. Children tumble out of trees and wave their halloween masks.
How playful these terraces seem. The murmurs of dappled debates tickle us into sidelong glances, willing to meet admirers' eyes.
Beachcombers and blackbirds, within a stone's throw of the cathedral, entering a visionary city, a landscape made by someone else.
These interested parties are deaf; and it is difficult to see why they are listening to the street musician. He has the strangest instrument I have seen, a mass of silver horns which produce polyphonic drones and staccato trumpet-like notes. His attendant partner is in charge of a rhythm machine which clumsily underpins the sounds he makes, elephant footsteps echoing under a butterfly dancing. Those watching flutter their hands at each other, as if to explain the music; their eyes and eyebrows contort with gesture. Something other than music is being shared, but it is only a fragmented tune I take down the main street with me. I am not painting pictures of the world but hoping to share some loveliness. Complexity is suddenly somewhere else; we are plugged directly into the present.
Three speakers mumbled inefficiencies. In armchairs they could drape themselves artfully. They filled the auditorium with screams and moans stifled into words. Hollowed, the listeners searched their leaflets for directions to the brothels. Generosity ran through the house. Everyone was terrified. The walls on either side shifted. A cracked corner beckoned. The academics wanted more nonsense. The students looked straight ahead. Citizens, lovers, modern mature people, overlooked the typos. Some borrowed bodies from others. Some borrowed mythologies. 'Jazz musicians say only the most adoring things about one another.' Figs fell from trees in the courtyard. 'That book helped me get through the experience, although I didn't explicitly let it scare me.' One poet started to peel the orange on the table. Another threw hers into the crowd chanting 'one art, one art.' Hot chocolate and cookies descended from the spotlights on bedside trays. Fame, like innocence, followed the rules. So what's wrong?
It must be that the gaps with which we scare ourselves are where we learn to like ourselves because while we cannot be we can belong entirely to.
Throw away these useless maps and resign your membership; we can desire many futures.
I can be contacted by phone, letter or on my mobile; faxes arrive day and night, e-mails flow into my computer. Books and music are becoming harder to experience, on the wall paintings are gathering dust. Fame is something we bestow on others, not something we can seek. I would rather time was my own. I no longer have a radio or TV; the stereo plays only fictitious music. Nothing is real except a non-specific dread and my yearning for a past I recently invented. If I had an orange I would share it with you, segment by segment. As it is the banana is past its best and neither the mango or nectarine are ripe enough to eat. Out back the quinces are safely stored in a cool dark place. One segment will flavour a dozen apples, one whole fruit perfume a room. I am innocent enough to follow the route you suggested when we met; know life will never be what I want it to be unless I learn to rebuild and transform.
The trees were torn down many years ago, the rest of the space then paved over. That corner has remained an anonymous and transient locale, with its own peculiar sense of desolation: a confusion of dead-ends and underpasses. The music you hear is clusters of car horns, the drones of cars passing, conversations fading away into the night. I rely on the past to find my way around, the sounds of work and the hum of indecision, the web of quotation and allusion in which all texts are located. We need these mirrors to remind us of our personal history; time goes very slowly in the pavilion of dreams. In and out of dark doorways, havens of carelessness, we pretend to each other that we inhabit private worlds, that there are answers at the end of the mysterious tunnel. What a pleasure to be so deceived.
Look down at the river or up at the sky; we will never soar like the angels.
Use an assumed name. Call us if you have any irregular or fast heartbeat, confusion, unusual tiredness or nightmares.
When the computer crashes, it may need repair at an authorized McGrath shop. Your life will go from viridian to flame, to blue, to gray or alabaster while you withdraw from web access. Loss impersonates itself as: nothing, autumn, mystic wind, veil, road, moonlight, rock, ash, dry leaves, solitude. Betrayal spans the cosmos from end to end. Some time by a waterfall or in front of an approved light box makes some feel that the neighborhood has become indeed a gateway, the sands where Persephone tried to trample Minthe, the nymph, to death. Without proper initiation our limbs can never know the mysteries. Of any thing: software, ancient tales, the visit of an old friend, a phone call in which the choked voice of the abducted hides the nicotine cough behind the soothing tones of laughter about how the novel is going. A work-in-progress always rewards our powers of disbelief.
The timbral structure of gesture. Eggs. Power. Pattern. Texture. Derivation. New York, Paris, or anywhere else. The interval content of each sound. Sorrow. Trance explorations. Pearls. The novelty of history, ordinary matter. Mating animals, performers and audience, mythical beasts or birds. Songs, television commercials, the sound of the ocean. Painters. Musicians. Scientists. Voicing. Instant Recognition. Cognition. Crippled symmetries, disabled drummers, bedroom bores. Previously unknown pasts and futures. The world in a grain of rice. Rice in the reign of Anne. The last hundred years. The last hundred words. The lost hundred words. The humming wards. Conceptual experience, the entertainment of alternatives. Process, activity and change.
Ask too many questions and you will never come to a conclusion. You cannot build a home with knowledge.
I would suspect what I mean, if I could say what I know. A hook in time saves rime.
A string of knots. A hurl of wings. Boxes without topses. Doors aflame over marble floors. Sunflowers that also stand and wait. When I went to visit the mansion I was looking for the secret of the towers. The green lawns rose up the hills around the house like a protective bowl. Large pumpkins were on the spires of the highest towers. I climbed up into the room which had five stairs leading to it. I scratched a cross in the oldest beam. I walked from window to window to realign the views. Five hundred years surrounded me in silence. The house was comfortable with that. And then I was at a loss. A string that can make a circle. Once I left the house, where could I now wander I wondered? I had the towers on my string. I had their secrets secreted within. I could tell no one.
Secret labyrinth; labyrinth of secrets. Beyond this point we will wear these masks. Once through the next portal, the one smeared with titanium dust, saffron and axle grease, you will never tell anyone what you will be told, what you will see and hear. Nothing. Never. Such secrets might be re-assembled under the lights of the museum of initations. The gasps of revelation, the stars seen through the milky glass, the machinery of piston and armature and gyroscope will send waves echoing through the caverns. Layers of human archaeology, an aggregation of voices, modes and moods. These will be discovered, uncovered. This month we've organized the makeshift seriously for really the first time you know, putting the weights in final order and man! is it a bitter landscape. At first it all seemed pretty buoyant in experimentalism and fractured, disjunctive weirdness, but now it feels kind of a frightening ride.
An emerald vortex in the trees, a residue of syllables. Theft realigns things; impatience is the only sin.
Sun-warmed woods, streams of deep, silent water, hundreds of flowering plants. A visitor wringing his hands whilst looking for what he has lost.
Inner coldness. A tunnel under the ocean, a railway alight in the mountains, wallpaper and paint that don't match; a chronicle of disasters. I unexpectedly found myself anchored off a dreary beach, about to dive into the past. We have no evidence to show that the sky and the land meet, but what else would the horizon be if not a new space that has just been opened? All our own weirdness and randomness and blackness, the curious creature we cannot name or recall, comes from there. It is certain that the night lasts longer than the day; hence the inscriptions carved on tombstones, monuments and statues. I have just switched off the light in here; the scratching of a gramophone needle punctuates the quiet. The earth revolves around the sun; a new moon appears tonight.
The names we are given resonate with the past; a long friendship will be prepared for strangers and questions, questions which will be asked. Today's headlines will bring us back to our senses: we must shift away from technology into the the echo of unconscious thought; the hiss and whine of our own creativity. I cannot pursue this idea very far, but wish to thank all those who made the idea possible. Everybody else has slipped in to terminal obscurity. A lot of people have been doing a lot of talking; I always felt the music took off where words stopped: arcane vocabularies, strange noises and wildlife sounds. I know you are waiting for me to grow up; dramatic monologue is one way out of the dilemma.
Fictions collide; storm-damaged telephone wires and sun-bleached skeletons fill the streets. One day we will learn history again.
The tales strangers exchange on trains bring their own prophecies. Backyards with hanging laundry and roses become etched on the panes of forthcoming windows.
In the lobby of every building a secret trap door waits for us. Every so often it opens and we drop into market expectations that defy diagnosis. The darkness softens so some objects can be seen; we touch these lightly to thread through the possibilities. Scent can be a more certain guide, or the sensations in the kneecaps when we bump against armored bakery trucks. If only we could find a siphon or a colander, instruments for making selections, easing choice. We never know what to do next, where to turn. Some always want to trust the paint on a lampost; others consult how the wax falls when cut from rare cheeses. I can accept that the future of naive metaphysics lies somewhere within the splat of a dropped crate of ripe tomatoes, but I still want the relief of being the monster I so often assume I am but can never really become.
Grotesques and gargoyles all around me deny confirmation of direction for today; cryptic narrative and innovative layouts do not help when the present has been washed away. The dripping gutter is a primitive beatbox accompanying birds who sing in protest at the weather. I would like to compress elements of wishful thinking and nostalgia to make a half-remembered memory all of my own, a conceptual shelter for when I am older. A rearguard action as I retreat, swimming along through introspection and despair. The rain has not stopped for a week, the unconscious production of dreams has flooded the market. We have mastered the technique of distorting time and sharing fragmented experience, created a catalogue of deeper imagining and fleeting moments. Disorientation is celebrated here, is no longer the expression of crisis. The resources of perception do not allow us to see into the future; a cold front moves in from the west, numbing the chilled hands of the consumer.
Throbbing motion, jigsaw detail, tape noise and abandoned locations. Compass and sextant, a knowledge of signs, dust blowing along the path.
A drawer of household flotsam, pencils and pens no one will use, scraps of previous projects, traps for memory, not discarded, skeletons and votive offerings.
Nowhere can we find someone who speaks the vernacular. What we would we say remains confused. That melancholy persists that comes of understanding too much and not knowing whom to say it to. Why do we bother with these things at all? An extra pair of shoes won't help while you're wearing the pair you are walking in. We can open the gates to the city by pulling the yellow cellophane tab. After consulting the drudge report you will want to reconsider your opinion. But that will only lead to certainty about essentials. It's rather like basketweaving, isn't it? Keep the willows pliable with enough rain or well water. Headaches at the time of full moons and solar flares, or the solstice, sends on pilgrimmage to Tashkent and Samarkand. There are no flights and all trains are canceled. It's the relief that counts.