- Vol. 05
- Chapter 10
Open the window to the width of yourself and face out. It’s so close, and you watch it all night, all summer, how it circles and fathoms you. You are prone to it, the gap unhindered, could touch it had you the reach. It presses at your skin, divining fury, even love. In the mornings you undress and rehearse it with paler light, the near wail of swifts. You hear whole forests are on fire, and you feel them now.
Here, in the middle, which is perhaps the start or the end, there is a notion.
If only the eye could stand above, hitched to the hawk as it cuts the air on its widening gyre, then the way out – or perhaps in – might be revealed.
There’s a wisdom in circles. Something ancient that exposes the absurdity of a suit and tie, that traces the unbroken curve between information and knowledge. The arrow loosed to fall forever towards its mark, the archer forgotten.
The notion does not hold. No matter how high the eye might climb, it is drawn back to here: the middle, where movement never started and will never end.
A thrumming shift in the soul’s blood; something understood.
The bones of your face are softening as you recede in the distance. Chin dropping into your neck. Eyes blurring together, the bend of your nose joining your mouth till your face is as smooth as a thumb. I could recognise you just by your walk, by the shock of your hair and the weight of your bag over one shoulder leaning your gait. Soon these too will be unknowable. In the sea of humans, you will be one more shape. Face blotted out against the sun.
Once, your face blurred from being close to mine. The white sheets, too near to see both your eyes. Sunlight blurring my vision. Your lips making unseen advances on mine. Our noses drawn together like a line drawing of a vase. People do this kind of seeing with their eyes closed, with their hands moving over each other’s skins.
And the patient grip of your thumb, printed now on my hip.
We built this city its walls and gullies its red and blue barrios abandoned storefronts narrow alleys barricaded precincts and armories potholed one-way streets besieged redbrick schools houses for sale homes awaiting demolition bars churches city parks a sock ground into the dirt a canvas shoe laces broken a rusty swing comes and goes to the silence of past laughter
We built this city handicap parking outside starfish malls factory outlets close-out-sale banners sun bleached logos billow over JCPenney and Sears memories of Woolworth Levitz Furniture A&P B. Dalton Toys R Us Mr. Movies Sam GoodyRead more >
Your mind, a congruence of aberrant thoughts a serendipitous convergence, you try so fervently to carve your own niche your own identity in this cesspool of clones floating for eons from here to nothing
Your face, a stark reflection of the blatant reality where everyone is trying to be unique like the blueprint or the map carved out by the swirls of their thumbs pressed on paper you believe yours is unique don't you?
Your voice trying to break the cacophony in that tumultuous mind of yours a silhouette of silence, Read more >
Blank faces staring back From a vortex of cranial vacancy. Whorls of words drip and drip while They trip the light fantastic. The quick step. The two-step. A goose-step. Placating the plastic personas And vacating accountability, As the shadow puppets play On the walls and pray to gods Created in their pompous ascension. Now I wake me from deep sleep To creep along a road too steep And shake off the last vestige Of their soulless, seductive soliloquy.
whorled – a face replaced by candy lollipop licked grinning from ear to ear untraceable Duchamp-able surrealist uncle brick stuck thick perhaps you were too quick to insult the artist and now your hat has been taken and reframed anonymously by hypnotic head pinned to dust wall toxically shocked reduced to a thumbprint unrecognisable still
They watched us — when we walked beneath the wall, when we scaled it and looked out over the top at what we told the children was somewhere they mustn’t go, and where, when you were old enough, you looked with an empty feeling, a sudden feeling, that turned over in you before you looked away. At night, street lights cast a pale light that picked out the camera lenses’ white glass eyes. In the day the cameras were less sinister, but the eyes of the men themselves followed you now, with those pupils like bullet holes, as you walked to work, as you walked down the road with your thoughts, or with the thoughts of someone you’d just met and wanted no one else to know. The red spirals appeared overnight as if by a grand illusion — no one knew who, or how — blotting out first a mouth, then an eye, then two, not the whole face, not at first, and we used to walk beneath the wall, feeling afraid that they would know we were pleased that their eyes and their mouths had been blotted out. And then for one glorious period, a week perhaps, maybe two, the whole faces were painted over with those beautiful red spirals — silenced, blinded, struck dumb — and we walked through the streets talking, thinking, and looking like we never had before and haven’t since.
At first, I smugly thought the lines were the whorls of my thumbprint. my imprint upon your features— you who blended so easily Into the wall of my existence. Then, examining more closely, I realized the pattern detected was the whirl of that “Mystic Hypnotizing Trick” toy you carry in your pocket. Whirling, whirling, you press until it covers your face, and become a whirlpool slowly drawing me into your depths, your darkness— deeper than I really want to go, drowning me in you.
Washing machines are running at the same time, but I am alone in launderette. The motors of each machine growl and wash the human shaped objects which are losing their subjects.
In the dryer, the logo of T-shirt is dancing...
RIO QUENTE! GORGEOUS SPA!
In the next dryer, colourful pareo is cooling down the heat source of magma.
It is a hot day today. Shaking at full power to blow away sweat, the black suit himself enters the dryer. He has no face.
― Oh, check for coins and cards in your pocket. Poster on the wall says so.
I urge the black suit to pay attention.
― I have no chicken feed.
From the quiet dryer, he is only bluffing.
― I have appeared in James Bond films. Also I stood on the stage of The Blues Brothers. But I am a suit. It was Sean Connery who was operating Aston Martin DB5s, it was Dan Aykroyd who was playing the harmonica. Understand? A suit without a subject is just a container. Or, cargo. Cargo carrying the brain which is in thought.
In the quiet dryer, he speaks in muted voice.Read more >
we thought so fervently about love, about trust, we hoped for so much. and whilst for some, we didn't hope for enough. for others, we hoped for too much.
all these thoughts fall with such quiet simplicity.
a petal on the edge of winter we are.
there was no fighting the snow or crying summer back into our lives.
there were amicable realisations, to let the world give us a course and find the wisdom within us to follow it. adapt accordingly.
because trying to fit a square into a circle was a tired religion.
and at least here we find peace, breathe again,
blow control to the wind
it had been ours.
You left your thumbprint behind my eye, strands of fate woven by your desperation to keep the pieces of your life glued together. You left your imprint in the shape of my hands, the machinations of my mind and the words that deftly escape the confines of my mouth. You left your fingerprints on my childhood, torn at the seams by genetic predisposition, the gradual fading of laughter into the sun. You left your boot print in the pit of my throat, plucked my voice out with your disappearing act and left me on the pavement to mend my own wounds
this body persists tonguing from behind
this banquet of rings punctuated by the habit of living
this open muted yell, sick as secrets, ever sinking into place
like buttons over the clatter of dice in a cup with spiral thin necessity
this trauma in exile pressed molded anchored sybaritic urgency to just spit in a straight line
this triumph over distance
'That friendly guy off BBC Business, Ben...? No way, it's definitely Jimmy Carr – ears! Both wrong, woman in drag, smooth skin Who, then, who?! – Female with big ears? Jo Caulfield, Fringe stand-up, writer; hair dye Nah! – Could be a rugby player?/Nice ears?! Running back or a winger, not forward bruiser; I'll go for Gavin Hastings, old picture/Nae way! Good fingerprint spirals, anyway, which reminds me; When's final series of superior crime drama 'Spiral' – One with Gilou, Tintin, Laure Berthaud – on BBC4?'
You don’t know me.
You see a suit and a tie and invent, what, a lawyer? a trader?
You see a penthouse with stunning, panoramic views of a bank account as wide and endless as the sprawling city below.
I might smell of fast cars, foreign holidays, or just a hint of private jet
and to you my voice might be a mellow blend of malt whiskey Read more >
Every smile, every kick, every comment sweet or sour has pressed its print on you, my snarled-up man, once a lonely child. It's hard to understand what came from where and you resist unpicking stitches, poking scabs and scars and hardened skin, you prefer containment of your toxins deep within. There's the rub. When your fingers fist up, your tongue fires bullets, your face scowls you print on me, infect my love and leave me feeling foul. I know you'll grieve now my full stop has finished our sentence, once and for all. Dear one, I'd wished for another ending. I stayed too long in hope but bruises from your thumb prints left me numb and worse, adroit, fit to perform small cruelties of my own. I wish you a new life, without punches given or received, freedom from loveless annihilation.
Now, There will be no you. There will be no me. Just this moving on. You left I stayed. Our heart is a pendulum of Backward pasts and forward futures And we – just moving present entities. Emptying and filling again Our empty pitchers of life, Seeking the flow of water That will once and for all suffice. Until then this seeking continues in the search of a flowing stream. You see, it is infinite Though you and I are not here now. But you and I were here before; You and I will be here again.
Today I saw a picture of a fingerprint face, And I thought I was Dorian Gray. My suspicions wouldn’t go away, Though I tried to laugh off the sight: “Is his tie on too tight,” I jeered, “Or did he tie on one too many last night?”
It was more fundamental than that. He didn’t have eyes, But he stared at me so hard From the center of his whorl, That the world spun out of control.
Vertigo! Falling down, down, down, From the ivory tower!
He had one black ear and one Caucasian, Symbolic of the strife that makes the world go ‘round.
I continued to speculate…
Perhaps a vortex had been formed Between consciousness and its objects— The two holding together the one, The one disintegrating into an abyss That sucks everything into its nothingness?
It is just as though God’s thumb came down At the moment you started to pray, Squashing your visage as if it were clay. Now you can be assured You are created in His image.Read more >
When I was a child if someone passed over we moved in like a blanket to cover and cover for the spouse who remained.
For he / she was knocked out knocked over unable to do, think, be.
Pills and sleep, spoon fed. This was grief to me.
So I sit here now and ponder in all our connectivity ... interconnectedness online have we become less connected to life real, true, flesh and blood life?
Our relations and connections offline. Are they as deeply rooted? Have we spread ourselves too thin between two dimensions?
It seems now when a spouse is lost the first thing we do is
upload a photo and write a long text:
"You were my everything ..."
as we sit uncovered at our desk.Read more >
Mother had a wall of photos of those adored and famous and would light candles to them and stroke the images and glare at me, then a toddler, beneath them. You're already so small, she would say, but next to this wall of titans you seem less than the dot at the end of a sentence. You seem like the afterthought of an atom. You seem like the rumor of a person long after he has ceased being discussed. Read more >
It is measurably damaging to confess —
I left my prints in the woods.
I am wearing the city, I am wearing the house, I am wearing the dog, I am wearing my drive-through coffee mug.
I am late.
I confess that, too.
I ride my bicycle to work. I walk to work. I drive to work. I am driven, one way or the other, to work.
I am my Adam’s apple.
I have to confess — there are articles of clothing in the woods. Small piles of them between glacial boulders, hung in oak and pine trees; edging streams and trickles of streams. They coagulate sometimes as mossy bundles. They belong to the woods.
I must confess — I am wearing some of these articles of clothing now. They fit like a charm. They support my work.
They support the city and its work. They support walls with graffiti and tall buildings with construction workers and scaffolding. Urban sewer systems and underground infrastructure. Transit systems. Street lunches.
They belong to the woods. I confess I have been to the woods.
I left my prints there.
They say that ears are as unique as fingerprints, so I’ve committed a crime using just my ears to see if they will find me.
My mother always said, ‘You can get away with anything If you pretend to have the confidence.’ I think she mainly used this to fake her way into buildings to use their restrooms.
I’ve been wearing the earrings every day since I stole them, walking down city streets, letting the lights glitz off them, and they whisper, ‘Isn’t she beautiful?’ and they whisper, ‘Isn’t she something?’ and I have never felt less paranoid or more balanced.
He was always inside looking out, dressed in his smart, dark suit, the only sign of his humanity a sorrowful black tie. Faceless and mute, he daubed his emotions in murals of citycapes and skies painted brick by brick on public walls all over town, taming his tremor, trapped in an Archimedean spiral of no return.
"Stand on the footprints. Keep still. Look into the machine. Do not blink."
The scanner delves you through your retina. "The eyes are the window to the soul." Yeah, yeah.
Your baby blues, conker browns, vodka shots – they videoed all your deeds – good and bad.
Except those so bad you had to hold tight, squeezing shut so not to see them through...
and those when only blissful blindness could be their proper accompaniment.
The scanner whirrs, retrieves the print of your life and cross references it with some database.
This then is who you are: capillary swirls – a barcode pricing your criminal nature.
A fat boy coughs. You never thought Judgement Day would be so much like entering America.
you think you know me i’m black i’m white asian latinx muslim catholic hindu buddhist jewish man woman straight gay bi transgender young old able-bodied handicapped you limit identifiers to fit your excel sheets to keep me from myself ourselves from ourselves
yes you have your lists your barcodes social security numbers and signatures registration forms and passports footprints fingerprints retinal scans usernames and birth certificates customs officers and ICE too just in case we or I have snuck into your precious precinct crossed some arbitrary border no squirrel or fox or crow would recognize
but you don’t know me i’m feral or revert to wild when i’m cornered when your henchmen tally us with gunshots as we fill the streets join our hands so different Read more >
Love is to attraction as a labyrinth is to a maze. A man of a thousand cul-de-sacs, the skeletons that never reached his heart hold plates of pasta, bags of petrified cookies just like grandma's. The real entrance to his core hides under his hat, and no one's lost in that mine but the architect himself, awed by the roses and sky.
Down cellar in the old green house in Amherst Mass, five different shades of green, I found a box of someone’s relatives, swollen with the damp. Long ago, he moved away, Thinking to leave behind All claim to kinship. The sepia of long-steeped tea, they speak a century of carefully-recorded births and deaths: Grandma, white hair sparked with frost, waits out winter on the porch. A proud entrepreneur beside his enterprise, sign announcing “Pool Table Sandwiches.” Yet even as these details stand the seep of winter and the summer storm, I see someone has quite deliberately de-faced these stout progenitors. More shocking somehow than a skull, their faces now a slur of white marked only with the print of one damp thumb. Despite the clear desire to blot out everything, this unwilling heir has left his portrait among theirs. Beyond the power to deny, DNA’s spiral calligraphy scrolls through his veins. This scion—ambivalent, anonymous, loses nothing in the move.
It usually starts like this, having lost control again, Joy Division percussion rattling inside his skull. The suit holds him up, a suit of armour, which in theory should be heavy and claustrophobic but luckily, it isn’t. He starches his clothes (shirt collars in particular), a remnant from a previous century, and the stiffness which this ritual brings acts as an iron lung. Breathe, in and out, another ritual which is absolutely necessary in order to cheat the tide. It’s impossible to master it, but he has become accustomed to cheating (other people, the law, death) now that he has joined this underworld of villainy.
All it took was an unremarkable face. His, the sort of face possessed by countless administration assistants and bank clerks and insurance salesman. Nothing exceptionally ugly or exceptionally beautiful. Just a face, with two eyes, one nose, one mouth, and everything the expected palette of beige-pink-brown. His face was his ancestors’ gift to him, the accumulation of generations of suffered marriages and saintly marriages and sentimental marriages.
See? Nothing out of the ordinary.
He has to reconstruct his face during these episodes, gaining perspective on the world which has become a teeming mass of pursed lips and jug-like ears. The first step is to adjust his breathing, the second is to select the most unremarkable features in order to build the image he seeks. He is the corporeal Mr Potato Head, centring himself and finding his nose. The third step is to stop panicking and pull your knickers up, man. There is a time and place for feelings like these. It doesn’t matter that you’ve not found that time or place, doesn’t matter that there isn’t one.
[Sorry, I’ve got a panic attack scheduled for half past two, couldn’t you wait?]Read more >
I became lost in the labyrinth of your mind.
I tried to follow gnomic wisdom to stick your hand against the walls and to keep heading in the same direction. Thus I spiralled right, but your neurons did not fire concentric.
Your synapses snapped in my wake, closing up my escape. I apprehended they were shepherding me towards the medial. The pattern of your brain forged into a target, with me in its sights. A cocooned bug ensnared in the viscid strands of your grey matter.
Jeremy thought he glimpsed a fifties taxi, runner-board and all, disappearing beyond Saint Anne’s. Curious and depressed, he trudged newly-fallen snow to investigate. Rounding the chapel wall he scanned the short avenue. It was devoid of traffic. No tracks spoiled the pristine white blanket covering the weary asphalt and paving. Less a shroud than a cocoon shielding the spent surfaces while they bubbled into new life, the snow seemed to defy the eerie silence. Jeremy felt a passing urge to lay himself down and be reborn without the baggage. He blinked tears away, blushing in anticipation of onlookers. But there were no eyes to observe – only the grimy windows of the breakfast bar at the corner. A blonde sat at the window – her sensuous primrose top all but see-through under dull fluorescents. She turned and smiled as he traversed the road and pushed blindly through the saffron-framed door, drawn by a frightening sexual magnetism. Her smile brightened. A cold hand gripped his heart and he almost collapsed. It was only when a yellow cab pulled up outside the window that his peril dawned on him. His hands clawed in tortured supplication in her direction before he crashed back through the door and retreated across the street, giving the taxi a wide berth. From the safety of the chapel wall, cold against his cheek, he swivelled an eye in the direction of the squandered romance. She was blushing furiously and staring dead ahead. “Bloody xanthophobia,” he moaned into the grouting, before retreating into the shadows of an overhanging laurel, using that cover to escape his failure and drag his feet back to his flat – a box which the lack of love disqualified as a home. Read more >
They came, men in black wearing suits and a rucksack that didn’t crease their jackets. They seemed kind, clean–cut, well-spoken, firm, Mid-Atlantic… "Meter readers." They were, they said. And, "Did I want to be read?" Asked to come in. Put my head in a spin.
"Hold your hand out…Begin…"
Once told: only the worst things are revealed in static silent symmetry. To fracture is to be rendered invisible and bring an end to the hunt. You are not there yet. There is more work to be done. Please don’t go so soon – you’ve barely begun to know yourself. If you must leave, remember this: one day a walker on paved streets is what you promised us. Wanderers who, at length, desire to be the cracks, be the thing another falls into. Be the bad luck of it all. I beg of you, please, don’t forget that a brick can be more than a cell of a prison wall; it can also be a canvas. Take with you a measure of my peace but keep asking, what will you do when the walls build in around you and the world is left without?
They know who I am. Hairs on my head bristle. When they are close They sense fear and humiliation. I am not like them and I do not like them.
It’s not that I am special, I’m not. But refuse to play their games, kiss and tell, rapo and condemn.
I am lucky still to be myself, Unusual in this tinsel town? But you pay with your life.
Sometimes he felt like a man with no face, his face space occupied by a swirling mist of confusion. So he had to wait for it to settle down to see what emerged, wait to find his face for that day. Sometimes it was exciting, but only sometimes. Sometimes he wished for a blank space that he could fill himself with a Magritte apple. Or maybe a luscious peach would be self-fulfilling. Sometimes he wished he could wear the same face every day, wake up with it in place and know it would stay, know what he would be every day.
That jaw line isn’t you. Those cheekbones are not you.
You corrupted your own structure for validation.
Did you crumble under your own volition, or did the pressure of others strike at you, your face as a tin drum, their eyes a fleet of microscopes sliding you under their lens?
Is your skin really alabaster, or is there just plaster adorning your visage?
Are you still able to smile under the weight of injections?
Do you have any reason to smile, their cameras having left you jaded, anhedonic?
The camera loves this theory of façade, but what love have you have left for yourself?
Conformity Dress codes Denied vacations Overtime Advancement through marriage to the company Political correctness Manicured personalities Your electronic presence is constantly monitored Abandonment of individuality Constant threats of lack of security The ladder-climbing protagonist Spending more time tweaking PowerPoint slides than actually working The offensive brown nose Human Resources are there to protect the company and not the employee Please do not let the door hit you in the arse on the way out You are salaried, rather you are slaveried
There was a man no—many men
who touched me mouthed me ate me.
I swabbed their cheeks with my tongue.
I see them in my son and daughter
though they are not their fathers.
And women, too, many times over.
Anyone who ever changed me
has entered me. I have a gate
with no lock permeable as the skin
of a cell block. Molecular as connective
tissue and equally empty. Stay awhile.Read more >
“The old home town just looks the same”, I’m happy to tell you – excepting, that is, your mural. It’s somehow *evolved*. Over night, it’s said. Your masterwork’s not what it was.
Instead of that quizzical face, there’s this vortex. Hypnotic thumbprint throbbing through the wall. Your suit survives. Amazed, a pair of ears, perhaps tuned into heaven, or the soundtrack from hell –
who knows? Bemused, of course, I stepped a touch closer and peered like a speculant tourist. At once the thing hummed into life! How it *whirred*; I felt my cowardice wisely reassert itself...
It wasn’t the happiest homecoming. Off I shot, retreating from my waking dream, bricking up the vision that I’d seen. Our town: “like a derelict man who has died out of shame...”
(With apologies to Jarvis Cocker)
They peer at me through a lens. They want to confirm if I am who I say I am and imagine that the retina has the final word. Even the technology resting in my hands insists that I trust the lens.
They think my face is my fingerprint.
As if fingerprints are alive and ready with all answers.
I wish this were true. I wish my face had lines going around in circles the way my thoughts do. I wish my thoughts moved either inwards or outwards without ever crisscrossing each other in unknown bizarre ways. I wish life were as simple as an optical illusion that the mind knows and accepts as one. I wish there wasn’t a face with all its ridges, spurs, chasms, and a landscape that changed with the light and the darkness of moments. Then I’d have remained unchanged over the years with just a few measly lines turning grey.
The face, however, is in many ways similar to an iceberg where thoughts deep inside are the real navigators. It is these wily navigators that are responsible for everything from early melting to rapid meltdowns to deliberate surprises in the pitch dark for boats and cruise ships to allowing seals, walruses, penguins and others to pop up on its deck to pose for the paparazzi. An entire cosmos exists right there on the face, as it does on an iceberg. One can see the dance of the universe there only if one wishes to… after all, this is what Krishna showed Arjuna in the Mahabharata, didn’t he?
And yet we sometimes cannot or do not wish to face the face. We hide behind a curtain of inscrutability so we can remain unaccountable. Save all that is unreadable and carefully pin it on. This is all you need to start in the world of politics. This is all that my father said as he thrust a piece of paper towards me to sign. This form, once filled, would launch me as a worker in the political party that he now patronized.
Isn’t it strange how things unravel anticlockwise in the night, as if thoughts, blindfolded, spiral homeward into
the past? In the morning, even in the half-glow of dawn, you can float away from yourself, changing their direction,
the end of the trembling dark clutched tight in your hand, deliberately unwinding pain through a labyrinth of forced
possibilities. Time, then, is just a cruel trick of the light. Or maybe, love is. I remember lying on our backs on the
sand, the sky close, beginning at the end of our skin, stars finding the hollows under our nails, clouds moving
in dextral whorls around a proximate moon. Or maybe we were just looking at it wrong. Maybe it was day. Maybe it
was us whirling and there was one nebulous cloud in the centre blurring the sun. Maybe we weren’t next to each
other, a deception of trajectory and distance and touch, the twisted path a long way to reach an inevitable end.
She drew him on the bricks –
this was her resistance.
Skin had grown up between them by now, the
protective globe of a light bulb
flaring in and flaring out
it was springy to the touch like a
thick sheet of translucent rubber.
Could you have seen his face for the circling?
They like to say, "You can't see the forest for the trees."
But she kept on drawing him here and there
every one a note of resurrection or
candy-striped, placental wishing.
Constant thoughts encircle my mind Keeping me trapped in a no-exit maze Walled up from behind Hypnotic madness from within A deafening silence ringing in my ears
Trapped I feel the walls, the barriers closing in Soon to crush me Leeching out my brains Flattening my skull Like an MRI plate
The blinding spiralling maze Has smashed In a deafening crash Flattening me into the wall Like a fly Swatted on a wall