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“A border or threshold — the development of meaning here is a puzzle” – Richard Makin, WORK (Chapter XIII)

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.

XIII

A simply crafted memory, said to have the virtue of ensuring that the wearer of the shell would never be forgotten. 

Suddenly I saw a man fall from the sky. His widow was told the fiction of a bloodless death, that he was killed by a concussive blast as he stood to light his pipe, and that there was no mark on the body. And I thought, if the dynasty can get away with such a crime, so might I.

            I was born not breathing, I didn’t have a nasal airway — no holes in my face. My mind was made up, I would start stealing other people’s plots.

            Now I’m going to slip over on the wet cobble and my head will accidentally collide with plate glass. I’d die before I told the police exactly what happened: if your war profiteering is sound, then everyone involved has a healthy retail index. There’s an ongoing controversy about the difference between leadership and management. (I wish, I wish.) It was our first anniversary.

            One morning in an all-night café, and I have no recollection of where I’ve been; temporary amnesia can be a blessing. I lit another cigarette.

            But there is always some hidden remembrance, some fragmentary detail; the floor is often a good place to start looking. I turn myself about and there’s someone standing by the window, where the light is.

            A beaded curtain shelters the interior from the heat already and the flies.

            ‘I don’t mean it’s a manmade mound, I mean it looks engineered in some way: things have been done to it, tiers of earth, flesh.’

            Consider an individual who begins to learn or study only late in life.

In the centre of this gentle swell he builds a catastrophe, meditates upon a single sheet of blank paper. First we found ourselves lower down and then higher up the river. One day, in an all-night café, and I suppose he means something like ‘absent company’, whether known or unknown.

            ‘Not good weather for anything. My mind is caving in on me.’

            ‘There’s nothing wrong with your legs, you work part-time, that’s all.’

            Less variety of faintness now. Nothing like this could have happened in the past. In response, more than a hundred geneticists and biologists dismissed his conclusions in a letter published in the broadsheets. Concussed and confused, he made his way along the autobahn, staring uncomprehendingly at the passing traffic in the rain. He felt paralysed immediately after the collision, but gradually began to move his limbs.

            I owe this man the small debt of disassociation; this is no time for supernaturals. I thought I was alone in the warehouse when it happened. The same motif returns, weird yet quaint — a film of speech, randomly yoked monologues, tailored oblivion. I no longer think about those days, don’t think about anything very much. I am searching frantically among the rushes (the first prints of a film after a period of shooting) — forsake not an old friend for the new et cetera, the spirit of all these remnant people.         

*

Free-floating anxiety, the first night, legends sealed in a small box: the surface of a shell, scrimshaw mizzenmast with noose suspended, the projecting jaw of an animal, a strap or cage for the mouth — jade turtle — the final contact sheet. . . . He wore a nice pair of spurs, about which the hem of her petticoat entangled itself. Minski had his slaves conduct us to a superb gallery, into which were set mirror-panelled alcoves. Who cannot break free.


The extreme end of a gun barrel, nouns scattered beside a sacred object from the dreaming. The word literally means to cook in an underground oven.

            To gall, to wound or fire the silences.

            To rain in small drops a fine rain.

            To decamp, to confuse.

            They became locked inside the house; this error of yours will cut deep. I forewarn you. I gave up reading and began writing my own book (‘airtight crisps are non-resurgent, jet escaping’ et cetera). We shall whittle away until I reach a point of eclipse. We are running either side of a body of water; the creature’s flank is worn smooth. We haven’t been in touch. No one has been in touch. Broken glass cascaded.

*

A border or threshold — the development of meaning here is a puzzle. We’re distracted by the carousing of seamen on board an icebound ship. (I am culled ghost, a sorrow set in the high Arctic.) I sat up late, scribbling nonsense and talking to myself. I had long been obsessed by the Franklin Expedition and was permitted to collect a number of bones from the crew who had died on a desolate island.

            Dried bear paws, diced and scalded in saltwater, were served from silver plate in the captain’s stateroom. Sodium chloride is our mineral, typically occurring as colourless cubic crystals. This is why we have come.

            Re sternum: I have a thing about the word, it sounds like what it is, solid breastplate of uncompromising bone.

Space, divided by resistance, teeters and slides from its collapsing axis. I struggle once more to think what it is that I am remembering. And then there were more postponements — but very soon I was earning a livelihood, despite the snow, as a dealer in ursine meat products.

He had once worked with a carefully selected group of unsympathetic performers: nightly beneath the marquee a carriage was pulled by horses at speed in a circuit, the whole entourage caparisoned in jet velvet, a flawless matt surface.

Our product is an impure yield of the smelting of sulphide ores, especially those of copper or nickel. The painter is in his element now, an extraordinarily cool-headed professional: the reformation was in full swing, the walls whitewashed and all the relics removed and buried. They were rediscovered a hundred years ago to this day. (I’ll never walk away from you.) This is God’s way of opening a door to a better future for me, she told herself.

            I started writing a book about this, about what or whom to address.

            ‘Got home (Milan).’

            She came by and said she was depressed and was going to kill herself and I laughed. I am abroad in my own time, imploding; I live on the seafront but face the earth. Beneath my window is a vast two-tiered concrete platform running the length of the street, a project abandoned when the land collapsed.

            Into the distance he says, follow the direction of a her favourite object. (What else have you got.) Then I say that to remain quiet and not distracted by literature are the same thing. Outside it’s mizzling, a fine rain from a cloudless sky. Or, to be more precise, fine rain falling after sunset from a sky in which no clouds are visible.

            He aspersed the place and all its inhabitants.

            A loose cavity in birds and reptiles — null trace of love et cetera. His ducts terminate and burst. The five surviving stratagems are plan, pattern, position, perspective and ploy.

A melancholy type of song, hauling at the capstone. His given monicker is an old name for a climbing shrub with tubular flowers that are typically fragrant and of two colours or shades, opening in the evening for pollination by moths. Unusually satiric today, he draws down the veil, now prostrate in humility to form a cross of his body on the flagstones. You know what folk say they did to him, limbs bound to shire horses and the suspect’s body torn apart — just as I am torn between two theories of mediaeval architecture: that of teeming minutiae contrived one upon the other, with no overarching aim, contra the ground plan, a forgotten blueprint.

They do look a bit like herons, but they’re white and have long plumes in the breeding season (egrets). I’ve never myself had much to do with the central nervous system.

            The deer. It was an invention all along?

            Whereas I stood still that day, no turning in space and time. Everything came back into itself to collapse at that instant. Back then you could take a whole profile and forge it into a personality; there was no one voice with which you could safely talk about anything.

*

The ground was silent. Opposite crouches a woman blessed with assorted nervous tics — understandably, I’m reluctant to participate. The readings seem skewed — organs are missing, filched from the freezer. (Will she take heed.) I envisage how my shape shall resurrect when the time comes. There shouldn’t be any reflections on the wall — yet there are, there surely are.
And then, of course, I remember what I wanted to do, I’m trying to push these irrational forms into the shape that she originally desired. I know only too well; I am hoped for.

            Why does the creature have a head that looks like that? Nothing else has a head that looks like that. Where are the landing craft? Where is ‘the boat that disappeared’? The subject matter is irrelevant: enigmatic ruins, partially obscured by a line of horizontal cloud — a posthumous reputation expressed in rather flat parataxis. The current sense dates from the late sixteenth.                    

Can’t rush this, we’re in need of a thing that joins, the two organs having been loosely arranged side by side. Bright spots are misfiring on the iris lens. (I’d have called it a day after page one.) And my copyist agrees: little book, enough. Full stop.

            ‘Wrong.’ [On his back in the dark.]

            ‘We’re out of touch.’

            ‘Right.’

            ‘Times have changed. I have found a man among the captives who will make known unto you the interpretation.’ [Fondles the spare battery.]

            ‘She was brimful before ever she was born et cetera.’

            ‘I am lying in wait for what I should, yet never can, remember.’

But this task cannot be limited to the job of exhausting life. A corresponding number of girls were under instruction to chase away flies and burn incense during our sleep. (Something sticky on the spine of the book.) All the women remain standing, shaken by the rhythm of the train.       

An arc of translucent beads jets from her groin at climax. This feels less of an archive now, more like pressure of a neural type. Being wholly preoccupied with the negative exterior aspects, citizens care very little whether they are called that or this or something else. Leaf lard is made from the visceral fat around the kidneys and loin of a wild boar.

            Ore of aerial lightness. Origin is abject from the dreaming. (Didn’t anyone tell the artist that dreams are fascinating to no one but the person from whom they spring?) This is the shocking moment the airline pilot punches an air hostess in the galley. Now he never leaves his shuttered room.

            ‘You see, if I’d left that cloister, I would never have found the surviving you.’

*

Room with ikon, candles, Kachelofen and a large jar of pickled eggs. From the window we had an uninterrupted view. The same man (code name Goadster) always opens the game. Large daggers of ice are piled up beside the field of play; he has hired a signalman to shout out random letters of the alphabet. Competitors respond by arranging the shin bones of horses in a uniform script upon the frozen ground. It was the beginning of a great rivalry. 

And I said it was because we hadn’t slept for four days. She seems to draw the light from the window into herself. The writing permits me — I can, because she has.

            ‘A mass of plumage, the beating chrome wings of flying fish, bodily contact, proximity. . . .’ 

            Here’s another excerpt; a lost ancestral chapter of the world’s first novel has been found. ‘Dear Cardiogrammar,’ it begins. . . . The pant reference made me laugh. It has been said that my archetype is the trickster; maybe this is why chaos and trauma seem to follow me around, despite my tendency toward quietude and a rather solitary, semi-monastic existence. Curious that we both have an estranged older sibling; I wonder whether they know each other. I enjoyed the foolscap heartbeat reminiscence, and yes, writing is libidinous. A very still day here — grey lid over the earth and the sea — spent at home writing and reading dark matter, ghost sorties. A man’s head was wedged in the letterbox when I woke, another for me to swallow whole. Your own work has one of the best credit lists I’ve ever seen: you have a horse wrangler, someone acknowledged for felling a tree, and multiple people responsible for explosions — plus an aircraft crash recording, bulldozers, Pacific blasting, a spinning mule (1779), voices off and science-fiction babel.

            Ships are a common way for a geneticist to get around the island. Within, there are road systems, but they don’t connect with each other. This evening I’m competing with bagpipe drones across the battlefield and landing craft on the beach.

            I dictated this entry at one reel, under a workaday trance. A blue smear of watery ink spreads out from the centre of the page, apprentice Rorschach.

            Perhaps the devil, caught so to speak off balance, behaves a little recklessly today. The chief remedy against such an assault is, with the help of grace, to practice discernment. Repeat after me: it is always possible to simply not believe a given fact — the only plausible conclusion is that the phenomenon was acausal.

*

Felled by a single blow, he plummets onto the electrified rail. There’s no style to it; a jump is a jump in this instance. They must come for him, they must.

            The ribs consist of a quantity of cancellous tissue enclosed in a thin compact layer.

            Gazing down, a uniformed official asks what he means by intuition, to which he replies instinct leavened by memory, and could you please withhold the electric while I scramble back onto the platform. His face is soot: commuter DNA. A pair of off-duty swingers assist him home, one on either side, a human crutch.         

Climate random, shadows beyond the pane — blind swelling in the warp of a distant rectangle. (Gas and dust are blown out during the final stages of ignition.) But the scene does not appear to be expanding any longer; a raised weal across my back augurs change.

            In the daily practice of notation, his eye has taken on a most revolutionary aspect. I’ll be ready and waiting. Fortunately, her companion is not overcome on seeing a general clad in dazzling splendour, and who is holding out his cloak in supplication.

            There had been altogether too many false alarms such as this; Robespierre, when he heard the messenger, broke out into something like hysterical laughter. And who often confused his opponents in court by saying precisely nothing?

            She sits and reads: a book, a devil’s gone get her et cetera. A pattern or position can generate a perspective, a perspective constraining the shift in position: a messy contretemps, afters.            

Clipper. Half-asleep, I whispered his name, but he could not answer. I did not know what to do. I fell asleep again, to dream of a crematorium whose stacked compartments are stained an oily black, God-knows-what beneath the floodwater.

            There’s no reliable way to signal such events. If he gets bored or excited he starts chewing at his electrodes. The speculum reveals the disease has spread — for example, I said Tao and he heard Tower.

            Ranks of opposition most various today. The head replies. The head is placed in the middle of, though a little higher than, the lieutenant’s flashing green Totenkopf epaulettes. A hot iron is applied to his undercarriage: more cries, the repetitive rhythm of his Be wrong, be wrong, be wrong. . . . Both legs lie nearby, in counterpoint to a discarded beer bottle — no message — but the more he’s tortured, the more amusing he finds the situation. (It is a gift to be inclined to both study and know man, and to groan at the misfortunes into which he inevitably falls.) A decrease in the frequency of sound and light waves occurs as the source and observer move away from each other. His head is truncated. He asks are you too named after something strange or interesting?

            It’s difficult to remember the beginning when it’s the beginning of the end; apocalypse means uncover and reveal. I am busy reassembling those ancestors described earlier in the book. Deferment and distraction are my middle names he adds, ironically.       

She’s beautiful. Her scales are beautiful (each of the thin bony plates protecting the skin of fish and reptiles, typically overlapping one another). Her tattooed scalp is beautiful, even her glass eye and prosthetic knees are beautiful. And very red, everything — the world is full of objects that boast of this colour.

            I learned yesterday. I am the only one, really. And I’ll tell you why: this is a result industry in which I’m reduced to a doting partner. I am the cornerstone of a quartet. Overhead, zebu crossing a rusting railway track on the savannah — humped domestic oxen, tolerant of heat and drought, another term for Brahmin: shunting dragsmen of a proximal star. See genesis.

            ‘And the men were afraid and they said et cetera.’

            An immensity cloistered in a cherished room, ceramic tower in one corner, without, the gently drifting snow.

We are speeding across the continent in a sealed train, above which buzzards circle in curved air. And your character’s subconscious thoughts, this is where you set them down — even if these are left unused, you know they are here, at the deepest level of the blank page. I have told you this ten times over. The prosecution is here. All rise.

            Various existing opposition, including the founder of the genus. In successive palaeozoic formations, a similar parallelism in the abundant forms of life has been observed by several authors. We were held captive in order to navigate, yet still I think fondly of that era, of our incarceration. 

*

You won’t meet another one like that ever she says; he was omnipresent — though I don’t think that part was quite ready to be detached from the rest of him. Now his thoughtless head is blocking the drain; these are the kinds of accidents that occur when one is not paying attention. We are to be neutralized, but nonetheless and are feeling pretty damned optimistic about the future.

            A joke: two squabbling flies were caught dancing in the sunlight.

            ‘Life is far more rewarding if you can live in a caravan.’

            ‘No, we’ve not got any music left.’

            More oblique symbolism, this time a dilation — a shift which produces a figure similar to, but not congruent with, its original.

            In that case, a massive neck looming up in the backwash. . . . Agreed, yes, after the terrorism that is the conviction process, how important it is to be grappling for one’s own sense of liberty, which then immediately transforms into something quite commonplace, and hardly qualifies as punishment at all. And ultimately, that’s all we have that is of any real value. For example, the placing of clauses or phrases one after another, without words to indicate coordination, as in Tell me, how are you?

            Old back, pain fading — corrosive vertebral column. Decide yourself.

*

In this passage, both sides come together at last. You are lying on your back in the dark and one day. . . . Building up to the weekend, there are two concerns: the inner core and the outer core — damage to a single compartment degrades the whole hull.

            Don’t flag up your concerns; these are bodies, perfectly achieved bodies. Several of my own organs have been reinforced.

            ‘I think we’re in the wrong place.’

            ‘Yes,’ he grunts.

           

Consider a word used for secrecy or convenience, instead of the usual name. Then there was this rustling sound over the phone, which became the decisive piece of evidence as I stood in the dock. Granted, there is a marginal risk of just about anyone getting drawn into these legal proceedings.

            Then there are the nerve agents (no one said this was going to be subtle). What’s that funny noise. What’s that on the floor. The manuscript was located in the home of a descendant of our feudal overseer. The novel tells the story of a prince who meets and eventually marries a woman named M, like the author. The god principle is still the source of evil, but it is now twinned (literally or figuratively).

*

They are rather more insouciant than their counterparts, gently osmotic, devoid of grace yet blessèd within. What remains of your astronomy now? (Exactly.) Just take a look at the script, take a glance upward at the night sky. Keep yourself to yourself; the wind is coming. We shot flares into the dark, setting them on their grand trajectory into emptiness. I’m obliged to express myself, star-vexed as I am. I can feel my face burning. I am here denoting bone tissue with a mesh-like structure containing many pores — a scatter of primitive glyphs.
Now to the close of progress, drawing on breath thick and short, his body cased in claw-bark, its name derived from the hook-like thorns that resemble the claws of a cat. Drawing on breath thick and short, each effortlessly succeeding the previous. (Pneumatic parataxis.) Origin is old thing causing death, poison of origin.

* 

I had the distinct impression that I should leave. (A semiconductor diode glows when voltage is applied.) Her name is the same as mine, which seems plausible; I think in future we’re going to place all our objects upside down. I returned the stolen items. After the stars begin to emerge from a dark molecular cloud, their energy output of light and material began to expand into the surrounding regions of the nebula.

            See, we’re trapped in a fluid dynamic, one on one — the neural toll — hanged in a thermal funnel, an entire alphabet pinned down into the earth. (Is this enough.) When you look at it sideways, that’s when you start to see things in focus, and the final hunt can begin. Each stripe is magnetically aligned to the north or south pole (this is all best-guess). I think they’ll settle among themselves in the end.

            Arctic ghost, sorry — you can touch me here, but not there. In the future only two species of music will survive.

            Make sure each alibi is of a distinct class. (Is that time-running-out music?) The more dramatic effects could start up any day, once the major causes come into play. (Lung.) Everything hinges on this.

These are the kind of events that can happen. You are too being. You are not looking out. You are no longer paying attention. Duty calls him back once more into the turmoil of life: ‘abi ter a8thllstr Bridge’, and suchlike. An increase in the frequency of sound and light waves occurs as the source and observer move toward each other.

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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