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“The cause of my insomnia was a simple desire to witness” – Richard Makin, WORK (Chapter XII)

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.

Work is forthcoming with Equus Press in 2020.

XII

Stonegalleon.

 

Rumour has it. The old optimism’s flooding back. (Funeral on the third.) I was absent.

            And the irresolution; it looks as though something is buried under the ice. A number of categories have disappeared, over time.

            Some manner of metal entrapment is visible, barely breaking the surface. Our work sits well under the influence of gravity.

            Across his flesh are incised numerous tracks; it’s become necessary to surround him with an armed guard, waiting in stillness. I’m amazed at his ability to remember, and list: glacial deposits, a kind of valve made of stones, a favourite blanket, towering pillars of basalt, plate tectonics, a blast of distant trumpets, maybe from the very next room.

            I said I’d rather take a long walk to nowhere, and here I am. He makes use of naturalistic realism as well as dramatic light and shade. A woman passed by with a hornet on her back, another a wolf.           

            My legs. Remember that canal soaring above a river in flood? You were there — no, you were there.

*

The sun, reflected on a sheet of aluminium, is behind me now, imperceptibly in motion. We crossed a viaduct spanning a gorge in which someone had raised a cathedral. Beyond the frozen pane, a scum of sodium salt is deposited across the topsoil.

            Early frost — cannon stud the counterscarp. The incident lasted only one night, but left much unconsolidated material to process: ghost of lack, your unforgivable knowledge.

            Ratiocinator is one who has a tendency to form judgements by a process of logic, in isolation. The autopsy revealed a fossil embedded in the victim’s lung. Let’s look at these facts with an open mind.

            Weeping, he informs me. At the close, as we walked together through the forest, we realized that the spirit of our childhood dwelt here, or, more accurately, someone else’s childhood. 

*

No trace remains of his workaday world: the spoor in the stairwell, shriek in the lift — the scent of used electricity, mad footsteps descending. . . . In any known history, there is no reference to the incident that’s said to have taken place on the concrete platform opposite his lodgings. Not only is he stone dead, but there is tinnitus, a constant hissing of the inner ear.

            ‘Please to leave, sir. . . .’

            A stratagem is forming — it involves at least one horribly mutilated animal. Nothing of significance is going to change any time soon.

            The evidence comes prowling out to meet us: his malfunctioning family unit, a bucket list of the world’s most popular injuries, all his headless enquiries. This account of that misshapen night, which barely survived, is beginning to resemble a state of havoc (viz. mare’s nest).   

*

Four minutes to seven. There’s one closing in — let’s start at the top and make our way down, dowse the fire with sand. (If discipline can be maintained, you will not find a better weapon than the Avtomat Kalashnikov 1947.) Urbach is now suspected of being a police infiltrator; they are waiting under the ground, all about us. I know next to nothing about myself, balanced atop this towering  basalt column.

            When the evidence arrived, I couldn’t decide which of the microscope slides I would analyse first. It’s futile to attempt to treat this unreasoned change of opinion as a question of philosophy; I’ve been waiting all this time. (How does it know we are here.) There’s a halo of light at peripheral — let’s go up on the roof, we’ll be safer there: they have no ear for things.

            This last thought overcomes her resistance and she says I also woke to find that I know nothing of myself.

            Nothing left but used names, semantic decline — a burial pit with bright blue flowers strewn and leaves used as flavouring. Improvised cairns are to be seen in different places, whether British towns or asylums for cattle. We just can’t disguise the number of shots on target.

            The piece of technology you’re holding in your hand allows me to play five different roles at once. He says I’m a raw nerve, while he is famously taciturn, inescapable. I’ve been getting some indeterminate readings from the vessel, its entire surface is obscured under a blanket of mutated atoms. Scraps of prehistory were also found, quite petrified.

*

Dolmen plotted a course through unfamiliar terrain. Dog lapping at aluminium bowl.

            Their tradition contained values for the rate of the earth’s precessional motion that are so accurate it is impossible to attribute them to chance. Following the civl war, excavations showed the inner rampart had been fashioned into three steps, providing a stance for slingers (the sling is swung in an arc, the lead bullet released at a precise moment, firing the projectile toward its target). [Shouting] That’s one damn job I’d never do, working around electricity, the lone frontrunners bent double in a cloud of mushroom gas. 

*

Dehydration killed him, so claims the official dispatch. There’s no way I would have just arrived like that. They burrow up through the floor.

            He feels driven to act and equally restrained not to; he is yanked in directions. Yes, they emerged from the ground beneath his feet, inside the walls of that wretched cell.
‘I need only one trophy, the head. Sort it out between you.’
He bows, very the aristocrat, and pleads but what if we cannot finish the roof? At the molecular level, things are really hotting up — land and kinship, a calamitous bank raid, railway tracks dug up, retail defaced. We are allowed.

            I feel quite without guilt: the basis of their wealth was running off with other people’s crows. Sharecropping and zero coupon bonds have long been outlawed.

           

It’s a good job we’re still inhaling she says, and bring me the fucker’s head while you’re about it.

            Her vocal capacity had the listener believe she could transmit the minutest neural tremor. In terms of a speech act, the directive here is to assemble a number or amount, to summon up. And those are feet, are they not, swaying from side to side through a curtain of light.

            I am learning to recognize. I am learning to recognize the parts that promise to build a whole. You must wait here while I’m in theatre, we are still unfolding.

            Dear Gauleiter

            The sound of a descending aircraft through the neural vent attests to life beyond the compound. I share your fascination with marginalia — annotations to a book never written, redundant technologies; it’s a project I’d love to resurrect. Regretfully, I missed the thing of the ear.

            The object was blue and then it was green but I managed to find out what it was. And at that same moment a dragonfly settled at her feet on the shingle — in the distance, I could hear the morning canticle.

            Simultaneous events are occurring which appear to be significantly related, but have no discernible causal connection. By mural, I simply mean ‘pertaining to walls’.

            Yours, Migrant Hawker Esquire Of Either Sex

Migrant hawker.

The spirit of that last sequence will never release me. Now I’ve been held responsible for a list of uncertain memorials: ocean, estuary, mudflat — desert with plane wreckage, exotic fauna, one of the sickest musicals ever filmed. And all of this accords with the Maya numbering system of interconnected cycles, as disclosed above.

            He has a weakness for such tiresome digressions. Thus the human body — including the brain and its entire nervous system — belongs to the first Cartesian inventory.

            We’ve been threatening a performance like this for weeks — spring combat, a herd of underpigs, sustained ornamental beatings (Icarus). Our experience in the struggle shows it would have been possible to spare the lives of numerous comrades who were sacrificed while performing missions of no tactical value.

            Many of these case histories have disappeared over time, but the old pessimism’s coming back. I’m responsible for all the conclusions drawn hereafter.

            Now, over the brow of the hill comes a herder of swine, three hundred of them, charging headlong for the lake. 

            A state of mourning can never be expressed (you are horrified at our committed intentions). And the fact that he differentiates at all isn’t helping matters; not a chance must be wasted today, not a chance.

*

Of related genera: motile bacteria manifesting as curved flagellated rods, and suchlike. Origin is modern warfare from vibrate. As night fell, although the stowaway had become quieter — no doubt due to the laudanum — he remained delirious.

            ‘Who dwells here?’

            A talker, one participant in a delightful conversation piece.

            ‘Suddenly plunged into a new order of things, surrounded by a novel brand of mutant  people, I stumbled into a thousand snares without noticing a single one of them.

            ‘Thanks to your attentions, I feel somewhat recovered,’ said D. ‘It will soon be dark.’

           

We were contemporaries. He had won a certain esoteric fame within the salons of prewar Breslau. . . . But time passes so quickly — memory stockwork, hunters in the snow. . . . On to the northwest passage, grinding through the pack ice. . . . Not a chance must be wasted today.

            ‘It’s science fiction, but swung in our favour,’ he says, ‘reverse sensors, telesthesia, badly timed petrogylphs.’

           

Everything closes down Monday afternoon. No dogmatic commitment to the metaphor ever existed, and here’s the proof.

            Each player, holding a hand of illustrated cards, takes turns asking the person immediately at his left to guess which of the tourists he is planning to kidnap. Looking at one of your composite heads, I am driven in the same way to have a shot at redecorating the family.

            This instability confirms that the event — let us say ‘the work’ — is disturbing the whole assembly — disturbs its pattern of averages, its statutes and protocols, its hegemony. At this he takes outside into the courtyard everything they have accomplished that day and builds a big bonfire, lights it before their eyes, and all the ancestral offerings go up in smoke. 

*

We’ll have the hound checked by our technicians tomorrow; last month this happened twice. We set forth upon a bitter winter day at the close of 1890, with every chance of being snowed up on our long trek across the continent. Who’s monitoring the personnel here, where all lack a body at the base of the sky? His hands were on fire — I’ll never forget that image.

            Pick out a figure ascending, lost in the superlunary orbits et cetera. The reading for Lincoln showed 295°C, or thereabouts; this isn’t the first time that space has threatened me (cue disbelieving bass note). Speech infliction governs the vocal lines, ballast of extraordinary compass: an overripe toy of the third dynasty, a crate of junk bonds, a typical Victorian village gaffertaped across the surface of a giant bell jar. I later told him that I could not understand how such events could be possible.

            He argued it was quite possible, yes.

            He argued it was, though, unusual, yes.

            He argued it was unusual to witness such a thing, yes.

            Later, I again examined the cell and found that the rhombic plate had become a perfectly flat square. Thus do days on a historical trajectory move from rest, through movement, and back to rest.

           

I’m haunted by the fateful decisions of a previous hour. Her theme provides a motivating force, rushing on toward a future that’s already lost to the prevailing atmosphere, while the mind — including synapses, hallucinations, memories and dreams, all the baggage of autonomy — belongs to the second Cartesian roll call of young hopefuls.

The chapter of a man transforming himself into whatever he pleaseth.

 

Happenstance is in the ascendant. He’s counted among the elect for twenty-four hours, and not a second longer. The hymen ruptures. He’s offered up to the encircling light, assumes various shapes, often of colossal scale and uncompromising hideousness. (Is this politic?) If only he had known that he could simply say stop at any moment. (Sorry.) This was a manifestation of the ka, a word which conveys at different times of day: spidery genius, doubtful character, imagining that one is being followed by one’s double, a liverish disposition, or mentalist tendencies. That was such a bit of synchronicity.

            Use whatever comes to hand. Proceed by way of curse and superstition; take care that the pins pass straight through the wick. Its hips are greatly elongated and the thigh bears on its curved underside a channel armed by strong moveable spines. The foregoing truth concerning the enormity of these crimes is proved by comparing them with others that are of quite different quality and character. Now set him up erect, bind him to a wooden stake, and ignite.

            The flames reveal first one pin and then another, confirming that they were all along holding him together. The ramparts dissolved before our eyes in the torrential rain. One man was impaled on his own lance and lay dying — after hearing his last confession, the other lowered his eyelids in one graceful gesture. It was like a film.

            (43) Enemy camp. The five test cases emerge from the snow like moles, to the amazement of the sentries. The prisoners are freed and pelt the enemy with rocks while howling insanely. (Good question.) Every human interchange corresponds to some childlike deity: each volunteer stands in for a separate lover.

            When the queue disgorges the chosen man, a door will open and he will appear, animal scapula in clenched fist. On route we passed an asbestos quarry harrowed by giants. The fourth slab has been missing for at least three centuries.

            Then came a brutal disappointment. The bridge was made entirely of phosphorus.

            Some spelling that, a stray voice. The autopsy revealed gastroliths embedded in his stomach.

            Conjuration, as done this false —

            necromancer in a bare shuttered room

            under the shoulder bone of a ram

            salt-hand burnt at the spell

            (seven minute walk, very similar)

            soured cream in the churn

            the planetary dupe;

            whether he be asleep or awake

            I’d have him come back to me, and murmur word.

*

 Dwellinghouse it said in the will. I’ve never been sure myself who you are. (I am always, at all times.) Strewn across the pavement were shattered eggshells and a sprinkling of purple chalk dust, threatening to form letters and words — all very pleasing. Do you know that I am in the act of saying.

            When they sleep they don’t sleep but dream of a thousand and one things. Just before dawn, I was still awake and stood facing the lowered blind at the window, from whose edges an unnatural blue-grey light began to seep, intensifying as it entered the room to spread across the surface of the walls and ceiling, a mesh of electricity. It was only then, under the sway of this hallucination, that I realized the cause of my insomnia was a simple desire to witness.

© Richard Makin

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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