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“The process in the mind corresponds precisely to the process on paper” – Richard Makin, WORK (Chapter XVIII)

As Iain Sinclair has observed, Makin’s “writing is that it is. This is prose you must learn to experience before you begin to interpret […] the pages in their beautiful and delirious abstraction are ordered poetry.”

Richard Makin’s Work continues the “work” of Mourning by taking stock of “the minutiae of the view, the dissenting details,” and dealing with the processes of passing, disappearance, & death. As David Vichnar has observed (see here), Makin’s is writing born out of “the obsession of the I that wants to die without ceasing to be I.” In the excerpt published below, one finds the similar pressing, disconcerting and richly bewildering tone that fills the pages of Mourning, and also something more.

Work is forthcoming with Equus Press in early 2020.

XVIII

In a cobbled alley they stand before the cordon. That forensic tent she says, I hope it’s no one we know, we know. 

They are expanding upon something here, how hideous events may be cherished in retrospect — lethargy is a wise precaution in such a closed-circuit. . . . Then he read one of the communiques aloud. 

Slept in the tap room 

bleached wall opposite

across the drop

crumbling daylight through a small square.

The compound is ringed by a palisade of rough-hewn logs. It’s good fortune I happened by, or nobody would understand what the other is saying. (I’ve just realized what’s meant by silence, it’s chemistry.) Under siege, even the sick are made to mark their watch. 

 

He is renamed using a shortened form. Six runners pass through (one is real). This is the signal that our present circumstance has to end. Pestilence was unleashed in our manor; structure here is a mazy thing — it’s said to be unlucky to run through more than nine times, and in the strictest application, no note should be repeated until the other eleven have appeared. I gaze out at the distance without looking at anything, waiting. 

Here the unhappy gentleman’s grief came into my head once more. Sitting alone in the darkness I recite from memory an essay on libation and sacrifice, a long list of names. 

Yes, the dead man is on my mind; I love the feeling that comes with excision. He’s now little more than a thumb-sized stump, wears a strap across his forehead for hauling burdens. My gangrenous right leg must be drained of putrescent matter (we are eighteenth century, yes). 

By this point in time maestro had chosen to define himself as musicus, not singer. The word ‘and’, it tells us something else is coming. Close by, blue rubber pipes snake through a shallow trench — aerosol legends, the body of fact gathered about to enwrap the flesh. We are equalizing time.

Her head is full of reptiles, he’s out celebrating his new eyes. What a team. It turns out that no one knew what anybody else was thinking. 

The work is severed from all previous pasts. Painting’s theological crisis began with the first collages, the first ready mades. 

Let’s get these versions in the correct order, all fragments of the original fabric. A causeway built of small blocks of cobble is punctuated by bands of light. The tide rose suddenly as we attempted the crossing and our carriage disappeared into the quicksand. Her chosen idiom is to say nothing. 

He is freshly demobilized. I sit coiled on the verandah and watch calmly as he disintegrates into small pieces; a large flap of skin drifts gently up and down in the humid air. I’ve been cast out from the loop, ranked as mere factotum. (The latter is a quote of a quote.) A few of us guessed at the outcome: through the agency of chance they accustom themselves, harden into a tribe and seal off the parish map. A hawk has clamped itself to the arm of the local blacksmith. 

An eidolon, you see, is a kind of phantom, a confusing reflection or apparition — a fractal image, the interpretation of a word achieved by boring into itself. We have plenty left for a final fling, the last of the pyres smouldering high on a headland. And he says, After thou sendest them summer lightning, shall we then quit this realm?

He’s an habitual outsider; disputed transactions follow him around. (It was an inside job.) He noticed against the right wall another object, one of a woman feeding birds. 

To the recess, by that I mean a hollow space inside something — a remote, secluded or abandoned spot, a temporary suspension of formal proceedings. The verb dates from ultra-early, whereas we have a constant mean density. Chance would be a fine thing. 

As soon as there’s a gap in the proceedings, I enter. The wrought iron legend above the gate reads here from us as in yours find love, our grand commission. 

Where was I found. My only defensive strategy is forgetting. A guillotine is set in motion. What this has to do with personification, I have no idea.   

Now he’s explaining some obscure riddle: for you in suffering I have yearned et cetera.A tiny desiccated heart is pressed into the palm of my hand.

Never say you’ll be here for sure, harbouring an abnormal desire to return, time and again to a familiar place — a nostalgia for mud, sheltering thieves. . . . Thrice we had to bury his corpse. (Are you happy now.) The autopsy revealed that not all of his organs were situated in their designated cavities. 

‘You are a rumour, recognizable only as déjà vu.’ 

That said, it’s been a modest evening by most people’s standards.

He troubled years over his own translation, before the inevitable drift downriver, where reluctant islands barely swell above the mudflats. He’s sent on a journey, there’s a reference to a meal of stones — noise enters through the skull — a dog, perhaps jackal, stands on a flat-keeled boat glowing in the dimness. 

The man gets his samples out, scattered remnants of a theme once voiced.
You realize the absurdity of what you advance: the process in the mind corresponds precisely to the process on paper — I’ve already done the arithmetic in my head. Her palette is airy and light, whereas he incorporates written accounts from a much earlier date. During her climax, beaded arcs of translucent spray jet across his abdomen.

‘Yes, the words function as wicks.’ 

‘Allow me to explain.’ 

Nerves are shot; I blame the stars down to earth. I remember a boon time: filaments vibrating in the breeze of an electric fan, a beam striking out like your withered arm. That’s much better — we have a last minute test card for you. Consider the lilies of the field. (Shut up, shut up.) It has to be tomorrow. 

The other will come in time; she’s had her fill of missed opportunities, the notorious ‘carrier scar’. She longs for reward (battered suitcase, left luggage lockup). I’m not good at guessing numbers, so it would be the roughest estimate imaginable. Are you looking forward. 

He was shot on board by members of his own crew. There is no doubt: in this territory it’s found apposite now and then to slaughter and maim, with the object of encouraging any slackers. And the other says how long must I remain with you, how long must I endure.

After one hour the volunteers were unshackled and left to wander; by nightfall they had not returned. (It’s a shame, we would have made an incurable team.) Keep one eye out on the water, bobbling at the oily sheen. 

I am coming here to remain, cannot suppress my enthusiasms. He proceeds on his way. He is forever young; he miscreates, breaks up into individual events. 

In his state of detachment it’s ruled that he illegally occupies time, flares off the page like a curse, the voice from the whirlwind et cetera. Usage is considered incorrect by some. His severed finger is clasped in the keeper’s big white fist.

Ever in shadow down here, for all our sakes, she overcomes. (Are we two?) We’ve already agreed between us what must be done. Then she says do you want to be freed from all this and I says no not yet, it is the best paid if most gruelling of posts. And she replies, signifying the manner of death anticipated. 

I shall withdraw myself back into myself. She has been volunteered. The original is all you need; half a story is better than no story.

This is how the future was laid out before us that day. And the order of the series should remain unaltered throughout the work, with certain permitted modifications.

I’m still not sure. Say something. My stomach is bitter, like rancid honey, thick and gluttonous. A sudden squall, tombstones grown into the roots while still a living tree. . . . One of the contestants can fly faster through space than all the others. Tomorrow’s planters have arrived; limbs straggle, crack.

Without, the dazzle of a sea, crosswise shadows closing in to form a lattice; hang on to that image. I loved her, and she I — our love was an irreparable farewell, for ever in the shadow of the western stand, the clock end.

He twists his body slowly to face the glass door. Don’t reach for it now, memory is fading — hushed expectancy followed by a curt gesture. (Half a story is better than no story.) He demolishes; it’s dead on seven. 

The territory’s her satrap, yet still he’s inclined to boast of a bloodline. On the day of battle — fought in uniform lists — one of the combatants is talked to death at the base of a cliff.

The expanding cloud of gas
being the remainder
crab-eyed prayer beads scarlet and black
a loamy concretion in the stomach

calcified ligatures
motion sickness swaying sideways
growths on the sole and palm
to sink the oar too deeply 

and fall back into consequence. 

You could always write as if you were no one else. Everything is cocked with flavours, the taste of sienna plumage — tail feathers black, white, scarlet — wooden bill, bright eyes set brown, tamed by benightedness, hill upon hill invisible. A single gesture, and everybody present takes on the form. I’ve had a bad night of it all my life.

‘You’re not safe anyone, they come in the night.’ 

‘Sometimes you have to wait an age.’ 

They hold back and say in unison, He might be the exception, the one spoken of who forgoes fear.

I sit coiled on the verandah and watch calmly as he breaks off small pieces of himself. (Strength with heart’s wisdom or something.) That’s how it happened, that’s the way it happened. I have a feeling of having already experienced the present situation.

Discovering a convenient gap in her face, she swallows the anaesthetic eye drops that she carries about in her sack; they scald the larynx. She’s a master of the non sequitur. No one’s going home, until.
I see, everyday in the market, a legion of changelings. Those useless little codas he enjoys are tacked directly onto the body. Just say no, wait until you hear my voice.
‘Sit. Sit. Everything here reminds me.’
Sometimes recall helps: her pale blue gravegas, miles of ears of corn, glass vestibules. . . . I must write as many before I die out loud I say out loud. However, I am very melancholy under the fear of my eyes being lost, and not to be recovered.

In this neighbourhood the letters don’t feel like letters. She looks and feels much older than she is, old and demented; we are merging with another time.
‘She lacks repose, provoke in her many simples.’
Then I spent all our money, but gently, mind.

Note that the voice is the voice of an undependable narrator. We exchanged visas, yet without understanding each other’s tongue. He unsheathes a word (‘unexplored’, ‘uninvestigated’). The missing details were not found about his person when the body cavities were searched. He presides over metals, shipwrecks and storms, as if rising from the mouth of one deceased. This has to be a rhythmic process similar to the physical act of breathing, as we shall see in the next chapter. 

‘I do believe that phantom jackal is referring to me.’ 

He refuses to begin, hair flying wild in the wind like a flock of tiny birds or metal flak (you choose). Origin is sixteenth, in the sense withdrawal, rupture — from to go back. He splits open the rubber tube connecting him to the pump.

In this manner their cult spread. The revered object has the conjoined value of a head, a hat, a capstone. The south-eastern approach to the fort is crossed by two outlying linear earthworks — the stones themselves are the petrified remains of human beings. I am of secondary, even tertiary importance. (It was about then that Henry Miller started writing properly.) They have cleared out the dead. They cleared the field before rising to the surface: expel all their oxygen et cetera. Portermen lug rubbery white vials, spirit levellers, egg sacs strapped to their naked bodies with gaffer tape.

She insists I wear a mask and strip to the waist in the disabled before exposing her small pointed breasts. (She died on stage.) Explanatory note: remove the minute hand of the clock first, you fucking nimbus.

See what it does now, how it grows, the way it moves. Old calumniator, I have been passing a deal of shattered windows lately, disguised as cobwebs — shimmering populace, whisperers of the time. He demands to hear a page of the score, fills the gaps in memory with improvised material; I don’t want any visual images coming through at all. For a moment he’s stunned, then shoots his load, down the rust chute and into the sea. (The mood is such that Thrownness gets closed down and sent home.) At the station she says your pronouns suggest a relationship. I reply. I can’t anchor down time, enclosed in the body of one so departed. The musicians stalking us play along as best they can. 

This isn’t worth too much of me — there’s been a run on money. A head rocks in the wind at the base of a cliff.
He’s all day in harness about his investigations. (Might be Hemingway said politely.) The first ear tested is supple, flexes with ease — lobe in my mouth, gentle between the teeth. He hammers in a fresh nail and the wallpaper changes colour. Teeth are yellow and sour. 

She says I was born under a caul while acid fumes invaded the room. 

In old chemistry, a special name is given to dull or black compounds — a severe base for a severed age. Never stray from the road she says; all our old memories are flooding back. Dead letters are traced across her forehead. The ship pivots about a point, swift arcs within a circling current, listing low in the water. Should we ever reach port, distance carved from a headland. . . . We find ourselves back in time: unknown customs, Iberian clarity of heat, the inquisitory cell. 

One inch from the ground, events are more cherished in retrospect. The chosen phrase is used of punishment or sacrifice, to mean an example to the others, to deter or encourage. Do you think, said Candide, that men have always mimicked one another, as they do on Thursdays?

A tap at the window pane; I felt cut off and cowered inside, obsessed by hallucinations of sight and touch — I could never have foreseen what his interrogators did to him. Much has passed backward, to be absorbed into my short life. 

See, he has become his own critic, as the average man becomes his own alienist. In this second of time I so badly wanted my next action to be the duty of someone else. Wherefrom stems your grudge? (The stash, a decision.) A few drops will take care of the wrecker on the crest of a distant headland, roots of white-hot fibre worming through his brain. 

That bolt-hole had fluid walls — dogma has a nasty way of interpreting our practice. (Note that slight melancholy hue.) The police raid is a minor affair, but the threat is clear enough when momentum is lost. Art rocked as if a gust of wind had hit him. . . . I extricate myself by saying. 

She is now accurate upon the field of play: nothing explicit, nothing revealed. I have noticed the rays of light pouring out of her head — she’s described in the almanacs: at the age of fifty-seven she withdrew to a remote mesa and spoke to no one for three years. Her life and work are full of interesting anomalies (wolf-mouse et cetera). I had to drag her through mud to the chopping block; she was very slightly built but unfeasibly strong. Whatever happened to grace. Human life is impossible she writes back. 

And so I lie. Come on then. . . . The rather belated discovery of my work in the west has tended to solidified the notion of a deep split between early and later. Above I am without mind, alone with my rage at the recollection of helpless.

She walks in. She orders — cut it out, the spleen. Reluctant locks are pried open; it seems hazardous to go beyond this point. I glance around me at the seance and think: be precise, we have more chance of survival if we place ourselves There. 

All I can offer you is some shares in frozen food comes a disappointed voice.

She carries a small book in the crook of her arm; evidently this one is a stray. The hopeless drill of such a task, to invent an ensign, a mark — a few words spoken at the recollection of some loss. In the end she resorted to a homonym. 

I’m descended from feudal assassins, an untried economic order. As the day draws on I feel no better; this is a good time to quit — lend me a signal, semaphore, beat my head against the incontrovertible. 

The part of her that’s left behind convulses. She has waited a long time for this. 

Then he says, that dome up ahead, all my life. And I should have said no it’s a cupola. I did not, merely thought it, for I lacked the prettiness of mind that day, as if rising from the mouth of one deceased. However, we vow to take great care in suppressing any tumults.

A fastness, the book, insignia resembling vein.

For days on end we refused to exchange a word. 

‘Use a coin to scratch away the grey surface.’ 

‘Not going to my father now, the state calls a half-hearted No.’ 

Buried deep within the head she is withdrawn, with irregular hatching and restless contour lines. This girl’s one for the byroads, anyone can see that; she’s been bitten by one of her own animals. The plot is lost, spread out across the dank earth, face down, a roadmap arranged in matching pairs of memory. 

He begins to wonder whether he may have overcooked the bet. We roped the creature to a post in the back yard and waited; only the arbitrary and inscrutable nature of existence connects the past with the present. 

She unravels by night the work of the day. However, for the greater part we do not exercise our lungs at all. 

A denticulate settlement, grim redoubt. His massive head seems to accord well with the possession of despotic power. (Note here that the death deity has no proper name.) The southern side of the enclosure utilizes a natural rocky scarp to form a double defence pierced by an inturned entrance. Proud skin flaps on a stalk. 

A solitary is a figure generated by insurrection — he has seen English, has seen off the inquisition. He has roamed and fought and written. The emblem this day is a discharge tube, fluted like an anchor, a coil or transformer of that shape. Small swellings have been seen at intervals in the landscape — a sedimentary animal is attached to the socket of the antenna, thorax fused to abdomen. A whiff of kerosene on the balcony and it’s all over in an instant. 

Traces of cilia in the scan, narrow process linking tumour to tissue — despite this, she tells the story exactly as it happened — she doesn’t leave anything out, then again, she doesn’t leave very much in. (We’re set to make massive savings.) She both distrusts and amuses. The dazzling light is flecked with spray blown from the crest of a wave by the wind. 

The day begins to fade. There you are at last; I lie down beside you and think about how we might fathom our escape. My pillow is a moss covered rock, there’s a ladder up the sky. I recall that it’s a leap year. (Fuck, we’ve been comparing these dates with the previous cycle, the long count.) I thought my visit must now end. Don’t blow the bridge until the assault starts. 

A blue light invades his forehead. Save me save me he cried and then looked around at the blanket of fog. 

‘You had better come too, captain, before it’s too late.’ 

Blue flares burst up out of the ground. He insists on saying the same thing over and over.

‘Attack is call off I blow nothing. Attack is call off I blow nothing.’

I’m returning all my names, still pristine, if a little scratched. An airborne polyethylene bag comes to grief in the branches of a tree. And I have swallowed every stone, gnawed my way through the depth of the sack. Elements of genuine gnosis found refuge in speculative alchemy.

They indicate that we can. Unlike the first he has no ancestry — the trail runs cold, lifelines severed by fugue and migration. Pace yourself, the footfall that postpones articulation. 

Slowly, he expires. What will they think of next. I have been given up on. 

Consummation isn’t everything. The drifts of snow, a ruined abbey through a film of light — you might as well go on till the end I say. Finally, you’ve had the courage to bring me a sample I cannot identify.

The answer is a young man busy swallowing a watch. 

And he wore at this time the guest of doctor, celebrated surgeon. Hang on to the partition, giant insects are pounding at the window. She has slipped through the glass — he feels momentarily a shock at the redness, the desperate pleading in haggard eyes. Together they must pursue in zigzag fashion, forever beyond reach. 

This chapter is without a vignette. The deceased, holding a staff, is seen standing before an electricity pylon. I talk a little; I break a little. Persistent hiss at inmost ear, and therein I make an important discovery. 

A mesa is an isolated flat-topped hill with steep sides found in landscapes with horizontal strata. During the karaoke session he pulls on a finger, coughs up a few words, something about an ex lady. If you think too much about the fate of others you will lose yourself in a tale of buboes and embalmed cocks, the combat now hand-to-hand. . . . Jackals circling — back pressed flat against piss-drenched hay — pink-cerise, crumbling matter of stiff clay or earth, forced in between. On clear mornings you can make out the horizon and the tourist oubliette, but today is overcast. 

I can read a whole book and don’t even remember the hero’s name. Indeed, the zeal which you show in coming here, if you felt this every day it would be your last. 

Two men at the head of the column force the volunteer apart. Go to Spur G, my enterprise hub: pumping raw material — barrack-bunk rumour, impromptu surgery in the wilderness, a trepanation foretold. Scumbled blacks bridge across the picture plane. I’ll stop here, being thus out of range. What evidence can you show me of your past existence. 

He was stabbed through the heart while bowing to leave, with a final swig from his glass. The heart has four chambers. Above iceland, my alienist dwells, truly.

I can’t see that changing the numbers. Never pick a client up by the scream. 

‘Shush, I’m counting, counting.’

About Equus Press

EQUUS was established in 2011 with the objective of publishing innovative & translocal writing.

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"Modernity today is not in the hands of the poets, but in the hands of the cops" // Louis Aragon
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“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?…we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us” // Franz Kafka, letter to Oskar Pollack, 27 January 1904
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