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“His landscapes, often peopled with bandits and containing scenes of violence, were a subversive influence” – Richard Makin, WORK (Chapter III)

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.

III

Nerveband.

            ‘That’s interesting, the process is anatomical. You go down the steps and you’re in.’

            He was more animal than human, luxuriant bill studded with minute sensors, robbed of which he’d never dine. His organs are constellated in a delicate fan array. I entered the cell to find him lying on a heap of filthy straw.

I’ve no option but to accept his clairvoyance, yet we all know that some events must remain unforeseen. The message was scribbled on a scrap of paper: ‘scried by nightshade’ et cetera. 

            Will sir take his punishment outside the body, or within? We can’t go on any further because this is where the land drops away. That red lever delivers the additional cylinder.

*

He has the principal role in an exhibition of mutism. We received but one letter, then silence.

            Realty, a person’s real property, is the opposite of personalty, a person’s personal property. Genera were marshalled: land with dwellings, minerals, pronouns, bodily fluids and functions, colours, numerals, elements and metals, celestial bodies, weather, birds, a variety of waters, fish, the stuff of earth — rock, sand, sod — and vegetation, decaying leaves, bark. . . . Folk disappear and reappear, have brought along their own alphabets, carefully packed in tinfoil. This is one of my last executive decisions. Lights open up in the darkness. 

The bureau is teaching humans to see through walls, abilities to be used as a weapon for which there is no known defence. We are here sabotaging the brittle geometry of an unfinishable structure; disease worked its will among the populace.

            Speech performance is equal to an inverted tree — underwater vessels — pores and lenses, the graphic trace (‘that salt marsh is infamous’ et cetera). Immediately there was a crashing through the yellow canes and a sound of voices. And what have I done to be thus chosen, I want to know.

*

A mobile vat of temperature-controlled chocolate overtook us on the hard shoulder (walking dead transport solutions). He crossed the Irish Sea, where he remained for a couple of centuries, completely out of touch and well beyond reach. One must walk, expend effort.

            This is a novel engagement involving the vast scale of human cruelty. In the grate were found lead oxide, brick dust, a knuckle bone. Yesterday’s paramedics were superb.

            That last sentence changes the meaning of the entire paragraph.

Did you know where you were when the incident happened? (That is the question.) Let’s see if our volunteer can perform this action.

            I struggle to recall. It was she who spoke, the apparition said nothing. 

            Consider an infamous passage in the original, e.g. space and gravity, quarks play roughly the role of electrons et cetera. Citizens could now conceive of things quite differently than before. 

Make a list of things that are going wrong. I’m in woods surrounded by fenland, bang in the middle of a life sentence. I recall the sheer length of that building, an aircraft hanger jammed full of beakless chickens. The tail fin alone is the size of a football pitch, white pollen traces the touchline. Something lurches toward me holding its head, spurred by hunger and craving. 

            ‘We’ll have to repair the perimeter, those cinder blocks. . . .’ 

            ‘Look, a thin film of silence galvanized by synapses, i.e. a junction between two nerve cells consisting of a minute gap across which impulses pass by diffusion of a neurotransmitter.’

            I don’t remember saying any of this. Two sacred black stones are set into the cathedral’s south-west corner, staring each other down.

*

It’s believed the victim stabbed himself to death, a rare example of autoexecution (these systems don’t last forever). No, I’m the only man who fought back. Remember the anticipation with which I looked forward to fulfilment of my long-cherished visions of travel? Lend me yourself, right now. We found ourselves back in an uncharted bayou.                     

            In truth, that’s the only useful thing about reading the cards (the Chinese knew how to copy reality, they just chose not to). Everybody has their own interpretations — control lives in codified form: Jupiter’s giant red eye. 

            A crisis is destroying the old patterns. Origin came early, from a base meaning sponge or lichen. You have to make room.

            He tells me he could not sleep. I thought, you too.

            This must be the mouth of hell everyone’s been talking about. I stood watching the planes swoop in, tail lights flashing. A watchtower was shelled from across the border.

            No doubt he’s inside one of those machines, head between his knees. (This is the first dusting of snow I’ve seen for twelve years.) No one was looking at the landscape, the hoar frost.

            Verglas is a thin coating of ice or frozen rain on an exposed surface. I am flung clear.

*

An interior, dimly lit. About the rafters and walls he has fashioned a reliquary of letters, what he calls the yield. He disappeared, evidently.

            A short leather strap is wound around the leg of a hawk.

Metalumina.

An opera cum charnel house. No sound. Enter. There’s a metal grille at the centre of the ceiling. In the sky is a pink mortality curve, an ancient track that never fades. 

            ‘Is your language meta?’ she asks, gin in claw. 

            This must be the Staunton lick I keeping hearing so much about. Volunteers are due to be shot — since then I’ve been waiting, biding my time.

He’s recognized by a scribe and released from the line up. On passing through this fissure, the nerve is placed just below the lachrymal branches of the ophthalmic crescent.

*

I’m blind. The only way up is the way one came down (viz. oubliette). I am mainly interested in the elusive material; I refuse to speak. Open the door a couple of inches, the steel plate, cue supernatural anthems. 

            ‘Don’t mock me,’ he says, ‘but I’ve a feeling that things invisible around us are creeping steadily to a crisis.’ 

            I relate all this from memory, though have scarcely wandered about the world myself,  never strayed beyond the electrified perimeter of the compound. The county coroner maintains that the deceased’s passing had been ‘aleatory’.

            My own options are now unquestionably limited; I can muster no movement before twelve noon. 

            See, another utterance with which my own speech has nothing in common.

Resound. I adore snow on the shingle — haar and seafog. But I haven’t learnt how to decipher the tide tables yet. Our values and freedoms conceal dissent and at the same time call out for rebellion. Painted scenery surrounds us, the backdrop to some cubist novella. (What?)

Saltirewise. 

In this movement the language appears irreducible. The rules of the game are ambiguous, and admit too much importance to a single solution. Mister soon discovered he wasn’t cut out for straightforward panegyric.

            It could be said that in terms of reputation I have never had much to lose, but neither anything to gain. I would often take myself off into the desert to sleep under the stars, beyond the gates of the compound. 

            The iron rivets burst, the shaft quivered — a vessel shot down.

*

Ortolani’s sign: diagnosis of the unstable or dislocated (formerly eaten as a delicacy, the male having an olive green head and a throat). Gerald, on the other hand, is a really good name for a horse. The mill continues to turn, grinding rock to gravel and creating a vast whirlpool.

He recommended specific rules of conduct and practical aids toward the formation of bad habits: thinking, cognition, the illusion that language enables thought et cetera. Seeing him struggle for air, the valet lifts his master into an upright position. Several times sir threw up lumps of clotted blood.

            ‘Yes or No, I will never be a party to retreat: save yourselves.’ 

            The phonetic relation here is unclear. A name is given — lace of damascene, various patterns done in silver and gold. Moments are cast from raw pigment.

            Why weren’t the instructions simply written down and left for us to find? Being could not exist inside the human body, but that something forced it inside.  

            During our third year an army of raiding ants invaded the settlement. (Something to do with the earth’s magnetic field.) . . . That woman, blonde on board a tram, Zurich — skull in a box of bones at her feet, between splayed legs, the perfect skeletal summary.

It’s non-linear, this gnashing of teeth. I woke with my head to the east, feet to the west. The birdsong had ceased. I spent a night crossing the vast deserts of Asia by train, the locomotive fuelled by pollen stored in shallow wooden crates. As darkness fell, open fires punctuated a barren landscape.

            Again and again we were besieged by tribesmen intent on slaughter. Captured and held hostage in an abandoned colony at the heart of this wilderness, my interrogation takes place over a pinball machine: our lives hang upon the detail of every response.

You read the terrain. You search for signs of passing. Finally I remembered when I came to page fifty-eight, the part where she hangs him out on a hook.

            I forgot to look for his grave, the remains of the man. It was freezing, and besides, the catacombs spread out beneath the entire region, an unmapped chain of cells, ossuary corridors.

            With his given name we come closes to an original meaning. At the frontier of the sulphurous zone grotesque forms appeared, hurrying toward us.

Last page, dream text of an unprojected man: the judgment, eidolon, hexagrams — every contour and crack of him: a vertical body of water that can write, glyphs floating on a chlorinated blue surface. What connexions can you discover between each letter? For example, aleph, the trickster, with its particles fleeing the subatomic. My comrades are envious, but no one can harm me now — I have overthrown purpose.

There was a big red number eighty-eight in the sky. I hauled myself aboard and she stood there waving farewell, a grudging valediction.

            So, an even deadlier sting: I’d hoped for fanfares, bouquets. She had a strict manner of relating her stories of the ocean. 

Concussions. 

I did not say any of this, am not the sum of my actions and words. The other interjects: today everything seems made of death, a performance of mummery. And who indeed was ‘scried by nightshade’? 

            Answer: hold down the chord of C, pluck a fretted bass string with the thumb of the left hand, and flee.

Memory disassociation. 

(Wherein the querent is seeking to discover the new pattern.)

Back me or I quit. We arrived late in the evening at the marshy outlet of a river. They’re cranking up the dredger, above our heads as we speak. No one will return within the hour. 

He’s got her where he wants her, holds the knave of diamonds and ace of spades. Folk call this feast day a ‘mournival’. I am going to restrict my work within the intervals, knowing all too well the rewards of equivocation, a subtle confusion. 

No. Like I said, it’s a life sentence; I shall atone. Then a rapping at the wall confirms his survival. Three shots rang out. 

            ‘It’s as if you’re actually there in the room with them.’

            ‘At least act in such a way that I can speak to you, should the need arise.’

We are beyond comparison. No one can decide. The situation is driving me. I’ve made the mistake.

            She has an ear for quiddity, the whatness of things. Compassion ratio is nil, compression null — the perfect form. It’s been predicted that the first space-faring civilisation in the galaxy would soon occupy the whole damn thing.

The nib of a fountain pen would have split, ink spurting everywhere, the job left undone. The insect’s membrane folds across its abdomen.

            ‘Nonetheless, I am determined to write you,’ our young vandal declares. 

            A chance aperture has opened. My bloody prints looked black the night before, now purple.

We’re sectarian to a man. I was lost. I drew a transparent horizon about myself, like some theatrical ghost, teeth poised in neat rows. As we approached the harbour I could hear detonations, see plumes of smoke.  

            The authority has a prevention-of-forms training programme, where they teach things like asymmetry, imbalance. And what did you do to that canine police, enquires a fellow servant of the community. 

            ‘The click obtained is diagnostic of a congenital dislocation of the unborn.’ 

            See, the sign takes precedence over radiography.

Miraculously, the passing hill is studded with black-coated cattle. I have no match or equal, an unrivalled erotic investment. Subjective experience corrodes in the neutrality of the enunciated word — a gesture of self-doubt that the reader has surely come to expect.

A diagonal cross, used as a heraldic ordinary.

She’s sliding away from us. I don’t think such behaviour is absolutely necessary. She misses everything. Here, our primary areas of interest have been intentionality, action, philosophical anthropology, causation and essentialism.

            These are historically alarming symptoms. The rest is the mess you leave as you pass through.

In the above-quoted passage he continues to question his own sanctity. His landscapes, often peopled with bandits and containing scenes of violence in wild natural settings, were a subversive influence. He orbits beyond the powers.

            His opinions are seditious, but that doesn’t mean he’s a revolutionary of the everyday himself — bound up as he is in anxiety and habit, uneasy at a loss for words. He writes from some godforsaken place, set among endless fields of cabbage and beet.

My adversary: the concrete understanding of a voice, a distant sea in hammered lead. Somehow he immobilized his victims without leaving any trace. And what’s your chosen area of expertise? 

© 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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