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“Imagine a room about a film about a journey to a book” – Richard Makin, WORK (Chapter II)

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 pointed out (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.

II

I’m trying to reach a decision. I am right now pondering the most regrettably named product ever patented. On the wall hangs a faded print of a word I can no longer utter. Painstakingly, I glued the fragments of Saint Lazarus back together; he had bad skin and supported himself on a staff. Overall, the picture was blue-green. I bought the glue at the local pound shop. Voices crackled through the air like lost electricity; metal was the best conductor.

            Above us tilts an array of candles whence hot tallow spills upon the volunteer, who twists in space from a cable attached to a hook embedded in the ceiling. With each utterance I’m returning to a state of purposelessness. I felt like an Eastertide statue, concealed yet present. I am attempting to stave off the opposition, this people whose haemorrhage you fear so deeply.

            Imagine a room about a film about a journey to a book. I am consecrated an offering to myself at the foot of a tree whose roots are known.

*

When I halt my step they are alerted — keep moving, perpetual motion. . . . This sector holds the highest concentration of prey: nothing will save you.

            They are not men of their word. They convinced me I was a saviour, the trick of that voice. My advocate said punctuation has been left out because it disrupts the communication of meaning. . . . All this time you kept sucking at my fingers.

            Their love went unrequited. At the station she realized she had forgotten the diaphragm.

 

We’re at twenty thousand leagues. The structure had no doors, no hinges of any kind. He strides up to my table and tells me the ark is concealed in full view, like a purloined letter, within the stone house we had occupied for months.

            The others suddenly appeared out of nowhere; I said well take me. Sound was a lively piece of music, typically one that is short and free in form, free from pain. Origin is influenced.    

            We’ll manacle your neck and feet together he said, you’ll drink sea water until you burst or go insane he said. . . . This is vital when attempting to control growth and development and the functioning of the stricken neural ganglia. He has emphysema she kept saying. . . . The sea had risen perceptibly as we spoke. We stood upon the iron bridge encased in ice, the machinery of the locomotive and other debris trapped in the frozen water coursing beneath us. As we parleyed, I turned to see the river had risen rapidly to the level of the crossing.

            ‘I remember when this shingle floodplain was all fields.

            She said the Chinese had been right about iron all along, and then apologized for generalizing.

           

Come the thaw, I struggle to swim the length of the bridge, but metal debris has begun to break loose from the ice, making the attempt perilous. They summoned extras — soldiers for the final scene of the opera at the front — toting rubber weaponry, marching around in endless circles. One turns to gaze at me, for he is still duelling, posing a rhetorical question — it’s almost a comedy of errors, were it not for the outcome.

            ‘I’m to tell you that the name is an anagram.’

*

The hawk is belled and jessed, atom in the lung. The falconer has not performed the required action because the moment of alarm has passed: potent-counterpotent. I did not see the obstacle placed in my way. They would have slain me, given the chance, they would have slain me.

            This plan can work, follow my tracks in the snow. I read somewhere that a certain number of frowns creates a wrinkle. (What makes you suppose.) The foot is exposed, if you will. I feel conspicuously obscure and have volunteered for paralysis — I sense the need for a digression or two, a few scattered seeds, tattoo pulse in the head: it is time.

            I chanced upon a box of bees nailed to a wall, a rudimentary hive. They swarm about my head — my companion simply closes her eyes and shuts everything out. Where any of these words perturb, they may simply have been placed in the wrong order; I came down to earth in bodily form, leaping from star to star.

            ‘I suppose I ought to stay,’ said Newton. 

*         

Layers of immigration. Without the perimeter of the compound, a voice. These waves are a source of delight, and indebtedness — they also cause enormous degradation. St Louis was the centre of the universe; I used to love being ill — the brittle notes of a harpsichord would waft up the stairs as mother sat drawing the ghosts of tiny insects.

            The multitude insists — in each case, very precisely (let the dry land appear et cetera). He became caught up in various adventures which delayed him considerably. I asked for a list of all the male suicides of the previous year (‘doomsayers on a barren peninsula’ and so forth). He has a song of his own, i.e. the role of other people in the causation of a fatal act is not always obvious.

            Stranded diplomats huddle at the shoreline — to a man, they look confused — they need a vessel, anything to ferry them across. A raft is fashioned, pitch and cracked pallets bound to empty oil barrels. (Countermovement is simply the bringer of stillness.) There was a show of hands. On the far shore is an all-night laundromat. Walking the road anticlockwise, a man hobbles up clutching his meniscus; someone has blinded him — black resin drips from his forelock, eclipse plumage.

            ‘The rain came once to deluge me and the wind to make me tremble. . . . I am never quite sure.’

            How shall I describe? Here is an auspicious point at which to end everything this morning.

           

The mercury could not have fallen lower. The instinct is No. I lifted the quotation marks set around Geist,thereby reifying the word.

            First vision under opium, seated at my open window on a late summer night: hills between the sea, Mars orange-red, the lights of a distant vessel, but when.

*

His account of the campaign includes an assault on the counterscarp. The subject of the previous chapter leads to another desire: that is, to take the enemy by surprise. The outcome is decay: flight, collapse, rout.

            In 17   the novelist had himself ritually beheaded in public; his inner life was dominated by images of pain and death. His suicide was the ultimate realisation of your fantasies. The enemy now is barely visible.

            This was written into the flesh. Origin tears at sinew, gnashing the teeth, speaking bitterly from deep within the body. . . . At that moment a flying beetle collided with the window pane with a sharp crack. The senses that produce, bear and surrender arose in the middle ages. (Its a good job Ive little use for money.) Break a limb she whispered, squatting beneath me.

            This sad tale is to be compounded in time by sudden death at a remote railway station. And she looked at him in such a way. Origin is via goat, associated with wanton ludic movements, from head plus hog studded with thorns. I was in love with her from that evening onward.

            However, back to my story: the next feature is any ring-shaped object, especially a type of large circular chamber used in psychical research. Not one of us was allowed up onto the platform, but the anaesthetists anteroom, that was a different matter altogether. (I think journalists often flatter themselves.) Nor were we permitted to enter the crypt, where our freemasons private thoughts were stored.

            Spill all your cards on to the table. The one thing people in power fear is being laughed at; the middle ages and Lear understood this. You can no longer be transformed into the amorous butterfly, or a poor hunted moth.   

 

Up from the local ravine: fouls of ravyn, malignant tumour of connective tissue et cetera. We left a trail of chopped kidneys, raw. Have them strike up voice: savage violas, accordion, zither — rim-shot with brittle sound, unmistakable murmur and groan. Pustulant matter leaks from numerous ruptures.

            Once upon a time in America there used to be a real situation, called Ex. Outstanding magics cluster round.
Turning slowly over the fire is the shell of a turtle, craquelure spreading, splitting open in the darkness. If there are no objections, I now appoint myself. I have been toying with this notion, a playful abstraction: the crew are safely down in the hold — cargo of human ballast — most of them willing to die after a brief taste of liberty. (How’s the healing process going?) They have broken me up. Any stowaways will be crushed beyond recognition in the first storm of our crossing.

            An extinct hieroglyphic language has in its entirety just occurred to me.

*

Could one say with any truthfulness, I know the position of my hands with my eyes closed? We’ll need a full body cast — following the surprises of the previous epoch, we’re not settling for anything less (how to spot a hawk-owl et cetera, Ninox). The chances get slimmer as you grow older, but she remained at her post right up until the credits rolled. It’s quite sad toward the close: she knew. Her face was bruised at the temples. The future’s prophesied, eternal relics of the past — mineralogy, scudding clouds, the earth’s precession. . . . The mineral in question is characterized by unusually long fibres, whether it’s a glancing piece of hair, or whatever; if the follicle is still attached, we could have a DNA match before sunup.

            Resistance to attack by acid makes today’s date auspicious. The blade of a propeller is an aerofoil, from the tip of which a vortex trails.

           

One reads, and believes that one understands. We drink. The hull is segmented, a maritime ant-hill with seventeen bulkheads. One has ruptured — waters gush in, sea things too: giant squid, the tentacles of hydrozoa, writhing sea snakes, the barb of a stingray plus some unidentifiables. Therefore now take I beseech thee my life from me and so on.

            Do you know him, have you see him? Now he resents the sparing of the repentant, who has experienced undeserved compassion, and argues that justice ought to prevail, broken on the wheel. Your intentions should be directed at yourself alone, and no one else.

            ‘We should talk about our plot to pierce time, make a decision.’

            The regulars became known as les maudits. We don’t get many mystics around here since the all-night laundromat closed down.

           

Medusoid phase, mappa mundi: south is up, north down, and there are other anomalies. Im distracted as were annexed by a posse of men in military greatcoats. One among them raises a pistol and takes aim at my head. (How was yournineties?) He shoots, a bullet skims the brain. As I lie on the ground, another approaches to deliver the grace stroke from point blank range anticipation of pain, the retort, explosion inside the head and the sound, a strange sound as of moving air, the wind more like voice, murmur of being here void cavity of the skull and glimpse of dying alive: ghost parley.

            Im still trying to sluice that lingering aftertaste. Imagine, if you can, an alluvial deposit that forms by accretion inside an expanding loop of a river.

            They have ransacked the reliquary, fragments of marble flung through the air, descending onto cobblestone. The hatch is closed and sealed. A man weeps in the street, stumbling about in despair. Newly executed, I drift through the town on my back, floating just a little above the ground, eye skyward  — winding streets of timeless backwater. . . . He did not stop here but went on to draw attention to the curious pattern of pyramids studded across the surface of the planet, clearly visible from our orbit. See, we are returning to his spatiotemporal rupture theory.

           

The stag’s antler floats into view, a piece breaks off, and here we are — just you and I. We’ll doubtless drown. The sun also rises, to the south; he says I exist only through the supernatural act of writing — were it not for Napoleon I’d be selling life-or-death scratch cards on the street.

            At last I’ve made up my mind, am resolved to put on record the ordeal we’ve been put through. Luna blindness is an affliction of the eyes commonly believed to be produced by dreaming while exposed to the light of the full moon. My own eyes are just above the waterline, stung by salt — distant flash and glitter of marshland at the foreshore, set in tangential correspondence to the rising sun. I found all these lights in the sky. . . . Tendrils of white mist pour over the tor. . . . The narrative of a life flashed before me; it didn’t take long. It wasn’t mine. The surviving lung is fit to burst. Despite all this, I’m still on his fucking letter.


A forced march across a salt plain, ancient city of stone carved from a mountain, a certain lightness arising from the circumstance. . . . Through a painstaking study of a mass of funerary and rebirth texts you have established what, exactly? . . . Anchorage fees are so dreadfully costly these days — and as if it had ever been their own money. I will have to make something up: psychic energy as a magnetic chain of pylons, the last flicker of a dying star.

            Your servant

 

They had manoeuvres out there one night in the forest and were pointing guns at us. They said they were really sorry about the eternal transience.

            It’s here that he lays aside the conventions of formal writing and speaks to the heart of those whom he is addressing. I dreamt I was walking alongside you and that your shoes were broken. It rained.

 

Languid, floating flower et cetera — the centre is trapped in the wake of your condition; there are thoughts that radiate outward beyond their own loci. She’s so foolish, she really is; I love that about her. If it’s raining, I need something to do. (Who’s holding the purse strings now?) Back on board the crew have mutated.

            I realize my library is slowly decaying, the pages yellowing and crumbling between my fingers as I read. That’s supposed to be a surveillance camera just there, snuck inside the volunteer’s cranial suture. You may think twice about the wisdom of building an ark once the deluge has begun.

General Rules (1): assemble a group.

 

As detailed in previous bulletins, collective response is always preferable to an individual assassination attempt. We can endure, get used to anything — if all else fails, replace everyone.

            A stranger in the street questions me; I spin round, upended on my wet scalp. He sounds like a broken man. As the voice continues to repeat, I awaken.

            Raise the stakes. Give me something insensible and slow, a code we can crack — what paleographers call ‘a leak in the thatch’: a volte-face, insurgency, a schism (i.e. a letter to one’s younger self). Some stalk in packs. I believe, fervently.

            Low corridors of buckled steel crush to an apex — cathedral hull, moss vault ribbed with flying buttress. . . . The soldiers’ laser-blue shirts glow in the darkness. My phenomenon is called forth and named ‘germplasm’.

            Evanescent, there’s something of the decaying signal about me. This is the official oratorical period. (I’m not professing, only asking.) Match something to something else — settle down, stay awake, and enjoy the drama.

 

It’s said the grammalogue, a word represented by a single sign or symbol, was introduced with the first tables of the law. The primary feathers of a crow found dead by the lake were utilized as quills to pluck at mother’s harpsichord.

            I overlooked the sea a mile below our orbit; I could at the same time command a view of some great city standing on a different radius of my circular prospect. The outcome was another rout.

            She died heroically, but will live on as an example of the unattainable. Convince yourself, victory or death. . . . The former basic monetary unit was equal to about one hundred of your earth years. (We need not trouble ourselves over such temporal details.) A mad woman in a tricorn hat passes, limbs in tourniquet with leather boot laces — she’s a one-woman army, a flailing whirlwind chopping at the old confines. I am here inventing a new form of calendar, arranged as a checkerboard with thousands of dots and tiny sigils, scintillas of light, red and yellow. One example of a trade of goods between two tribes was found in the ruins beneath the fallen walls of the city: the broken fragments of an alabaster jar that once contained your embalmed brain.

            Ball lightning is bluish in colour and only remains visible for a few seconds. (Vomit somewhere else.) He is pulled out from under the rubble at the base of the wall, fighting like a demon. Nearby stands his ghostly surveillance-rack. The communards stuff the marquis into a sack, which a gendarme then ties up and hurls out of a window onto the cobblestones.

            We’re approaching a pit-stop. Make (something abstract) more concrete or real: all these instincts are, in man, reified as verbal constructs.

*

No trespassing. In the days of the son the highways were deserted and travellers trod invisible byways. Eggs were laid in the nest; the inhabitants of the village ceased — I was resurrected a mother and my diseased womb set off to wander. (He’s an honest sort of reprobate, is he not?) The people chose new gods and war was inside the gates.

           

Now the subject of a major documentary, she’s the bipolar axis of an abandoned pursuit. There followed months of freezing mist, months of hail and ice, whereupon marches turn to riots and riots boil to internecine warfare. Stopped at a checkpoint, there’s something wrong with her papers and she grasps the opportunity to give herself up.

            Crawl on all fours. Specials lose control. . . . Our descent (as M once put it to me) is a destructive retrospect of the history of ontology. A large convex moulding, typically semicircular in cross section, is often found at the base of your spinal column.

            See, she says things and does things. From which antecedent does she inherit these behaviour patterns? Grains of dried blood nestle in the wound. The anaesthetist was jackal-headed, which everyone present found most reassuring.

Of idle devotions.

 

And here and there, scraps of flesh, an assortment of animal parts flung clear of high table: the lobe of an ear, a diced snout, clumps of fur, dainty hoofs and trotters, excised anal flaps quite a tableaux, memento mori a tangle of yeses and noes that trammel a certain path. A thin tissue forms the outer layer of your surface, lining the alimentary canal and other hollow structures. Origin is a prayer of commemoration, whispered too late, i.e. Remember me!

            I am imperative a long exposure perspective. A fish-eye lens provides an extreme wide angle which distorts the image so radically that its edges are warped into a sphere. Our two continents once collided and recoiled. She smote Aphrodite on the breast with her stout hand and her heart melted. (I mean, whose prepared to evaporate into nothingness today?) The invader has these sterile pods — time capsules — where they work or play or mate or think. Your beginning is delayed — delayed to infinity. They’re among us once more. Mind is a disease of semen another man once wrote.

            I have inserted myself as a very long complex chain. These excerpts show that some cosmic drama was projected upon the ancient battlefields of Troy. Writing’s about disintegrating.

            Almost all of our links have been severed. I am unacceptable; people just can’t believe that anyone could be so rude. Being has swallowed itself. The psyche is largely clandestine, strictly confidential, classified, unrevealed, undisclosed, untold, unknown, uncommunicated — it operates behind one’s back, is off the record, a confidential matter, concealed, camouflaged, covert, underground, hidden, shrouded, conspiratorial, surreptitious, underhand, coded, enciphered, arcane, concealed, unfrequented, solitary, sequestered, remote, isolated, uncommunicative, secretive, unforthcoming, reticent, taciturn, silent, clamlike and introvert. As soon as one touches the uniqueness of the individual process, it cannot be witnessed any longer; you would be eyeless. Another man wrote lay aside what is manifold and take up the simple.

           

The latter is the quintessence of the former. Remember that we posses two very perfect bodies. I soon touched the earth — pulling aside, with clenched fist. I ask you, is an ant on its own really an ant at all?

            She buried them each beneath crosses of lilies in the back garden, barely a child. I said to the police, before I go, give me, give me a minute to hold my girl. No one came.

            This accounts for that ambiguous identity parallelism that oscillates between thee and me. We are coming back to ourselves, quite fragile, especially where we cluster, where we are legion. Our procession clings to the right angle made by the exterior wall and the floor, softly unsung vulnerability imposing itself a cordon sanitaire, quarantined against the viral outside. Origin denotes an ornamental brain.

            Sense three of the noun, the earliest of electric current, dates from an abandoned century. I dont suppose this is at all what you intended.

© Richard Makin, 2020

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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