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“This manoeuvre is strategic: your destined path cancels my own” – Richard Makin, WORK (Chapter X)

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.

XI

They were popular. 

            And yet it so readily absorbs its detractors. (What is ‘it’? You don’t say; I’ve warned you about this.) I discovered that the source of the crisis was simply the words I had used, the name hidden within the living name, a sure-fire sign that your identity has been stolen. I’d never had so many subatomic experiences, I think it must have been the incident.

*

The mouth never recovered from this vehement refusal. Origin is down, completely. Origin is a boundary stone, the compact head of any structure, in particular a dense flat cluster of small flowers or florets, as in plants of the family.        

            She’s writing like this because she is approaching the end of her life and feels she has nothing left to lose. She also draws, in the midst of insomnia, pink spirals on paper, over and over, plucking at the straw that is not there.  

            ‘O look, it’s started raining.’

            The whole region beneath the ribcage was contused.

            ‘I said it’s started raining.’

            I have no wish to add more objects to a world full of objects. The second stomach of the ruminant had a honeycomb structure: it received food and passed it on. There’s still a little bit of credit left.

            During the closing minutes the platform rocked as shells burst all around and bolts of electricity shot through the smoke. Letters had been stencilled across the creature’s shell (this armour is a light corrosion-resistant alloy of symbol Ti). We always knew they were coming back.

*

There is nothing to write about. That is the problem and the solution. It wouldn’t be fair. Some of them were three years. A lot of them died. I remember the first time I met him: somehow he stood between us, as if he did not want us to touch — none of us will survive very long without a supernatural leaven. It’s clear that the habit of universal watchfulness has completely isolated him (the gift of mourning, else forget). I’ll probably just leave it at that, actually.

            I used to think that the day would never come — in mythology, an intelligent spirit of lower rank than the angels is able to appear in human and animal forms, and may possess the passerby. Origin is plural. I usually lose myself about here, a pause in the chain of forgetfulness.

            We went to see some ancient ruins and there was this rustling in the grass — I thought it was a snake and it was a tortoise (they are both very old). You do see them in the olive groves. I once spotted a magic hare on a bridge made of glass, or crystal — it was very still as if stunned and then very fast. I have a licence to sell one. And they lay eggs and you put them in a furnace named athanor. 

            Other people’s narratives often look cheap and shabby. The issue isn’t for or against, but what it means to the psyche — until tomorrow comes, I cannot sleep, am condemned awake until the death.

            The track in the water disappears, right there under the gaze of the watcher (you), a confirmed invisible. Her picture of insomnia looked like a woman made of lines with double vision; this is not what we are meant to be. There are a lot of nesting holes in the earth, some empty others burnt out — charred foxholes sunk deep into the ground. The after-image in mine eye, retained long after the stimulus had ceased, was a vibrant orange-red.

            Then she heard him say something like ‘alive, a life, a life you love’, something like that. (I forgot I still had all your credit.) But it was most likely not such a piece of random doggerel.

            I’m a textbook example of the supposed phenomenon of being in two places simultaneously. Origin is bruised.

*

The instructions say we are to itemize the objects that have been carefully arranged on the zinc table top: glass jar containing, unnameable succulent, black fingerless glove, spectacles with elegant slender frame, partly drained glass of tampered water, the broken hinge, one bygone mobile, a saucer of the same white at the rim of which is balanced a chrome teaspoon, and one colonial fiction set in the mid-nineteenth.

            He says that which is written is often remembered. By contrast, I trust no one. I can see him now. There he goes.

Junk DNA bond.

I’m still in love with you. My heart it belongs. I am saved by your eyes. A Schwarzschild is the radius of the boundary of a black hole.

            She placed her needless candle in the shadow. At a distance the deadcart clatters, a tumbril of used heads. She tears off a piece of the dossier and eats it. Her method is a method of measuring something, or the results thus obtained. A total of one hundred and sixty warheads were used in the attack, with a total yield of eighty-seven megatons. 

            The handwritten sign said please enter the gene chamber at your own risk. I am denoting one of two types of light chain present in all molecules, the other being lambda (i.e. anti-memento).

            Dear Comrade
            And I believe I too felt the last flicker of that nerve as I was growing up. But why does this disturb you now, after such a lapse of time? It was a test, the sea was rough — we are closing in upon a structure yet unbuilt. And they were asked again and again whether they did not want to make some use of their knowledge.

            I’ve been back to the old terrain — they’re digging up the worlds she buried in our trenches. And the occasional piece of disused limb and that severed hand at the wrist — assorted members, a hash of organs. The front line seems constantly in flux.

            Your servant et cetera

Her eyes widened as she read; I was on the right track. And what shall our new ornaments become, another buried hoard of mangled weaponry?

            Observe how he commits the worst of crimes without feeling their consequences at all. (While we’re about it, you’d do well to find a protector yourself). We must venture out from a starting point and at the same time dwell, corrode our newfound freedoms et cetera — keep the alien on its toes. 

*

He knows he’s going to die in disgraceful circumstances, compressed to infernal proportions. He implodes. He is everywhere — ever farther, ever higher — still more fiercely than thee, the ultimate indifference.

            Through this explanation of the origin of a name, one might drive our logicians into a corner. (Might we be held accountable?) And then he says they cannot take away the self of your self. Something like that. 

            We can no longer be sure of our transgressions (viz. the epileptic). The man’s dog had attacked him and chewed off his face during a seizure, for it no longer recognized its master.

            This terrain is undermined. They smile whenever one speaks, taunt the reader.

            The birthstones had been listed in an elegant hand: garnet, amethyst, bloodstone or aquamarine, diamond, emerald, pearl or moonstone, ruby, sardonyx or peridot, sapphire, opal or tourmaline, topaz, turquoise or lapis lazuli. The hatch was supposed to have been left open, we have missed our only opportunity to escape.

            He appears to be laughing gently at something, at everything. Still more fiercely advances the distance, while passersby pluck at their names.  

            The very last gasp, and I challenge nothing. I spoke gently, no more than a whisper. They seem to quite like that picture of themselves, keening at prayer. (Well, we’ve seen the exhibition, that’s the main thing.) Origin is unrelated.                             

*

Nocturnal dowsers. It’s the uniform; this all seems very arbitrary — build yourself up to a measured state of collapse. Wild animals took them. I don’t wish to tempt anyone away from speech, but welcome to the local wastage. I shall run and fetch the lightning rod.

            The major scale has no sharps or flats: perhaps snake-jaguar would be a better description.

            They replied that they took pleasure in knowledge simply passing through them, and that was its only purpose, to deposit a vague residue rather than a solid core of certitude. At that instant a great wave crashed against the jetty, cascading among the gathered heads.

A pendulum, first stroke of a razorlike crescent. Beware the striking-face of the steam hammer.

            They all fall. Do you know what it is to say ‘I shall’ in a gesture of helpless compassion? While performing, she did things with a speculum and a veil.

            Snap.

            Snap.

            Snap.

            It’s said this is the bay where they landed a thousand years ago, but I remain unconvinced. Origin is on the pattern of uranium. The largest satellite is the fifteenth closest to our planet. Come 1655, it was discovered.

*

Medium: potassium of dog, old age (senescence). The viewer can clearly see that the as yet undetected spy in the film fears for his life. He is followed by a large number of victims, approaching along the sunlit road, and harbours fears that he may be evolving into a tortoise. A bottle falls to the floor and breaks, spilling some burning medicament — a metaphor of a scouring blast whereby nomenclature serves as a purgative. (What?) 

            One executive was axed to death in the antigravity chamber, despite his vast central offices. I found myself with no choice but to make landfall for a quick costume change. Imagine blood aerosol in zero gravity. It’s said that in the land of Egypt, Osiris breathes.


A pig, as it turns out. An angry red eruption corralled her face, white tendrils writhe from the scalp, cankered growths fleeing a sclerotic brain: too much iron in the soul. The rebellious jinn led men astray. I’m going to set out to somewhere I’ve never been before.

            Can I live in this. It’s said I’m an unforgettable example of what this era has no use for. Strange that interim of decades, yet upon resumption it’s the same reading, a continuum — the uncanny bursting through, pressing at the membrane — a bridge to the eyeless.

            If we get to a red-brick campanile, we’ve travelled too far. The mind is holed beneath the waterline; date of death is unknown, but mainly in his own words. A small southern constellation, the reticulum, exists between the Large Magellanic Cloud and an inconspicuous water snake visible near the south celestial pole.

Rootmaster.

Sudden piercing stab at toe of left foot, third from the big, i.e. middle. I confess that I find this occurrence quite alluring. Compare spelling with genie.

*

Contestants were drawn toward the core, disregarding the offered supplement. I must now, I thought, rise up and go — I don’t even know why I came. Forgive me. Origin is mid-century, from revoke, an expression of reversal plus sing, chant, holler.

            Timing is perfect. The sun set slowly beneath a distant crest of the downs. There is grey landfill beset by gulls, there is too a yellow crane and an abandoned tennis court. The sky is very blue, though evidently preparing for dusk. This time of day may also be named nightfall, sundown, the gloaming, eventide or evenfall, tenebrosity and crepuscule. Psychologists, poets and persons of a mythopoeic bent may at times consider it liminal. (The left hand doesn’t know what it is doing.) Passersby are not aware of what they are saying and begin to hypnotically perform a series of improvised actions that are reminiscent of mister’s famous simulator experiment. Heretics were burned if they would not recant.

Of such youth-blighted days, a disused childhood. (She’s quite the stoic.) We shall leave them in the earth, but the earth remains ours all the same. The chosen value is treated as analogous to distance for the purpose of our investigation.

            Rook perched on the promenade rail. A letter arrives, which she unfolds, trembling a little before tearing off a piece and eating it.

*

Perhaps you could consider returning slightly earlier from Copenhagen; the trees are on fire. We’ll have to work out the figures as we go — they’re clustering, swarming. He’s through with familiarity, it’s back to the unpredictability of firecrackers and airborne paving slabs. The desert landscape was strewn with an abundance of conveniently-sized rocks, readily deployed as handheld missiles or slingshot projectiles. At the frontier, humourless officials made Brian take off his surgical mask, biohazard suit and adult nappy. 

            An x-ray was made of the animal’s jawbone (see medical edict No. 178). Surely I’m allowed to get even after suffering a great shock like that? What species of communication have we in the past desired? What evidence have we buried? They shot down in capsules, riding the lightning straight into machines buried beneath the earth. 

            A wall passes through our understanding. In his pocket is a crumpled note, written on a scrap of skin with a rusty point — among soot and blood its filaments knot. We are offered up. She domineers, licking ice off the frozen panes. It all depends on you et cetera (firestone).

            ‘It has no name, it’s just a place.’

            And this seems a really good point at which to cease crawling about the earth, now that we have thoughtfully redirected all experience and memory. She stands in a bath of latex, skin peeling in deep furrows — ‘fleeing the nidus’ is the title of tonight’s performance. To this day she remains swathed in yards of filthy bandages. 

            No, more like the girth or strap that holds the saddle on an animal’s back: a binary function of a topological space gives, for any two points of that space, a value equal to the distance between them.

            Low slant of winter sun as we pass the racecourse. I couldn’t find her, nor did I have time to search the terrain (torrent, trackside embankment a slurry of clay et cetera). Don’t forget, see to it, and don’t forget.

I glimpse the meat through my glass and I remember. What once I saw. (Was it really five years.) She made a wonderful governess — the marriage day was shining brightly, away in the past tense, like a lament. The catalyst is a vicious mixture got by destructive distillation of wood, coal, peat. 

            Another list. What truer project has ever been lost. It’s all about a refusal to remain alert, corrosive inattention — this body that was never mine.

*

Her hollow cheeks reveal at once that she is infirm. It wasn’t that long ago that we all felt diffident. We are standing in. There was on one special day a meeting of minds. I defecated in the street between parked cars. As she speaks she hands me three sheets of notepaper and the same number of envelopes, each of the thinnest foreign post. I am taking action against fear.

            This manoeuvre is strategic: your destined path cancels my own. There is little time to lose — the first-night audience was full of French officers who didn’t understand a word of our invented language. One reviewer said the story and plan of the piece unfolded at a miserable pace. (A nice new ditty is called for here, a lyric accompaniment.) It’s the torrent and roar of the rain that she typifies, trotting on ahead until vanishing into distance. A voice says she has to start making decisions, possessions. Our satellite is unique in having a reluctant atmosphere of nitrogen, methane and oily hydrocarbons.
            Now, my critique of her frontispiece, the dim sensation of pleasure and pain. Very early on in life I was able to identify objects. The stuff in question is a natural bituminous substance of like appearance.

            In secret operations, he tells me, each agent may only know a small part of the intention. (See description of daguerrotype chemicals.) But a brilliant picture all the same; there’s a pot of money.

            Former epochs returned, someone else’s past — the nerve of hearing, interstellar travel et cetera. Time is decaying, gravity a hoax.

            What happens now. I have fashioned a more expedient deception. His full title means great sun shield.

*

She’s offered the services of a falconer, and a short, broad sword bent like a sickle. He slips ever forward, following the shallow of her footstep. His virtue is measured in reference to the cardinal points.

            The same image persists, like that ringing noise in your head, as citations fly at random through the air. To aid digression, a fracture opens up in space (‘to be intelligent equals ethical audacity, an obversion unhinged on an infinity’). Further instructions are to appear in tomorrow morning’s newspaper, cunningly encrypted in the cartoon page.

            The rock is adapted by being taken up in the palm of a hand, or placed in a slingshot. Adaptation lies in the act whereby the rock ceases to be a static object lying on the desert floor.

*

Listen, long shadows on a promenade articulated by decaying machinery — wet sand beneath the boardwalk. She’s seized, blood is shed. The beginning of the calendrical recital is missing. Don’t look now. 

            I’ll wait to see you so I can reprimand you your New friends were in my sleep as you gave them energy you stay away it’s me they want and in a far to obsessed possessed way there dead for fucks sake. 

            They are not dead, nothing is dead. Try talking to them — after all, they’re holed up in your apartment. To dilate the orifice, a bright patch of plumage found on the wing was used.

Her suffering persists until all palliative care is withdrawn. To the very last, I have changed nothing. It is now after dark.

            Divination by scribe is the fetish once more. The spectators howl for an ordeal by fire. Silos ring the compound and braziers of pitch spew black smoke across the runway.

            Now to relinquish the third person. If you’re not the actual cause of her illness you are, shall we say, the framework. I’ve been a fool: we should have dug deeper than an average grave.

            A spirit of folklore is traditionally imprisoned within an oil lamp, then suddenly you realize that none of this matters.

*

Dissolve. Location: dawn. A small group is making its way down an avenue of crosses. (Is there another word for obelisk?) At the end of the mall, three men are engaged in digging a deep trench. They are fossors. 

            Benighted colour, as his black mourning garb and melancholy fit — greasyfingered toast upon a zinc ellipse, the ceiling’s reflective circle. Wax is melted in a mould and the skull drained. Bronze is poured into your remaining space.

            I am the son of a man who was too important to exist. Génie was adopted in the current sense by the translator of this afternoon’s atrocity.

© 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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