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“Nothing here is exaggerated. It rains.” – Richard Makin, WORK (Chapter VII)

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.

VII

A perfect standstill.

August: she seizes the head and carries it off. There’s no evidence of her existence before she settled beside the lake. The other protagonists may have been right all along, that she is counterfeit, imitatrix. 

He was once of singular conviction, the simple idea of some individual thing in the mind — a man of the galley-sheets: evocator, ruthlessly selecting and schematizing his material. At the base of his back, on either side of the spine, he wears two cubes of translucent stone. The crew graved the ship at the shoreline and remained twenty-six days, one for each letter.

            ‘I fear the nostrum you now take may possibly cause you to suffer afresh.’ 

            Origin is used, in the sense of our own making, a neutralized hour. If I mistrusted this statement what could I do to undermine it? Set up experiments of my own? What would they prove? Yet taken together, for sure, a walking eclipse. Nothing here is exaggerated. It rains.

Now, this thing of the bridge, our man poised for combat. . . . [Ear the right showing face tilted before a downward strike.] It seems paths are prepared to cross, if need be. The tide must ebb when ashes are countersigned. 

Unable to decide from which stack to feed, she starves to death. (I forgot to read the instructions.) Just then, way up through the clouds, something like a shoal of silvery-white young, soluble fish — a masterstroke. For the ascent the camera had been strapped to a helium balloon. But I don’t think I’m going to trust any of these remarks on time; our parents show us how to die soon enough. 

The cloud creeping slowly down the mountainside caused space to stand still, or at least move very slowly. The journal states that he was executed by ‘wearers of gleaming raiment’. Seen in the context of the victim’s epoch, his last request was not so absurd as it first appeared.

            Magnificent ashlars are still visible at the temple platform. Thereupon is placed a limestone object bearing an inscription. A sprig of lithosperm stands like a small tree laden with dead fruit. . . . A sprig of lithosperm stood like a small tree laden with dead sea fruit, for the naked seed clung firm where the flowers had been. The species is endemic to zone three, the species is hermaphrodite and pollinated by ‘Insects’. The roots have been chewed with the gums in order to colour the gums red. The flowers have been chewed with the gums in order to colour the gums yellow. She has not named this, she hasn’t named anything yet.

            We are dissembling. Please note that an informant may be invasive in one area, but not necessarily your neighbourhood. Geologically speaking, the rigid outer layer of the earth consists of the crust and upper mantle. In the outside the world the search for an acceptable name continues. (Not ‘afterdeck’.) Somewhere imperceptibly he would hear her, and somehow reluctantly sun-compelled.

*

It’s dusk on the sixth and his personal revolution is about to fail. Further along the axis another birth is poised. (See ghost sorry of cabin.) Our comrades had orders. Our comrades had orders to keep the guards talking as long as they could: there are exceptionally fine views in the round from this hill fort, and suchlike. In ancient times the usual direction of augury was south-southeast. Cook the stones; we’re ready.

            The reader will have recognized some typical initiatory motifs: the whirlwind, an ash tree, the hanged man ejaculating, kicking out. . . . The first guard punches him in the teeth with his fist. It rains, rains incessant. Only the dead could make anyone feel this good. 

Imagine a breakdown. Our shadows were thinner than the bodies who cast them, we upon the flint, blue tracery of branches, gold-flecked snails underfoot. No keepsake shall save thee. 

            Bolts of semen spatter the flagstones. I entered the cloister in search of two granite monoliths cut from the oldest quarry on the planet, older than dynasty. We had left the shade of a terrace overhanging the marsh where smokestacks disgorged.

            Faultless horizon, level grey-green sea, a distant mort. More than one vehicle has been found alone in the wilderness, tank dry, blood-smeared cabin empty.

            ‘Listen, do not use a sharp instrument,’ she insists. ‘Never use a sharp instrument.’

            From then on I was resolved to bludgeon my way through life.        

She peals back the scalp to reveal deep lines scored across the cranium, the letters of an unknown alphabet. This head faces south, the right shoulder points toward the east and the left shoulder to the west. Its feet lie beneath the sea, the spine stretches the neural cord. This makes it look like an old thing.   

I was at home writing when I heard the news of his untimely death. When I said I was going to join the search party she said No. Nonetheless, his corpse was found — a torso cum head minus teeth, eye, tongue and ear. Only through such ceaseless labours can an interpreter find a resolution, a painstakingly constructed mosaic composed of minute details. 

            Witness now his brutal execution in a quarry. Any remaining object must be surrendered to my mind, obeying the summons of recall: white oleander, the turpentine tree. . . . It was the worst of time (which is a space). I can’t breathe. 

            A brand new undertaking: me, reassembled, neither from the past beneath nor from the past above — the final cut, a full thirty years before the event takes place. 

*

I should never have left the employ of that lakeside manufactory. Your money isn’t correct. All I’m left with is a stack of old family snapshots in a battered trunk, but around this kernel lies everything I need: unbreakable deposits, mass noun under the tongue, craw chock with feathers. . . . I tried everything and the handle just came off.  

            One protagonist hangs from the ceiling by leather straps, quite inconsolable. Look, now he’s frozen to a slab of ice — mustn’t squander these dying traces, only then will your tormentors show any restraint. There’s always a particular song that’s found to correspond with any given circumstance. (I’m all right at the moment.) Then again, we were in mourning just the other night, were we not?

I am chasing the setting sun, an ill-starred project: it would suit them well to trap me in the pursuit. There’s a whole subtext here about recapturing time in a forest — it’s dark, an immeasurable woodland with a man at the centre. Everything is so obvious. I went next door to read my own book, but not for long.

            She had marked her advance with a white feather. I had given. Three red-brown chestnuts have been carefully arranged on the table, alongside.

One mother’s dead eye, final glimpse in burnished blue steel. It was her first corpse. The tiny cubes resembled phylacteries, whose significance is lost to a chain of causality that vaporizes on waking.

This reinstates us at a threshold. Cast out breath between each signal. Some impulses I am resisting, others not.

            Above the dome of the head, the volving blades of a copter, beneath the foot lady’s mantle, weed of dry wasteland. You have no option but to continue north — the ruined abbey lies just beyond, but there’s no path. What is your location. 

            I am under a ladder.

Phantom ship, a pierced stone, and another hid his eyes beneath his wing. I proposed a book of days. (What divine atmosphere, though I can’t breathe.) By eight o’clock is the time.
            Further up the slope he’s in bad shape. In art is everything, whereby the highest achievements of utilitarian reason are transfigured into numinous phenomena. No one is laughing. Origin is will plus nous. 

            See, he is shapeshifting again. For him to be at last isolated — identified and cornered — exceptional circumstances are required, such as are met within the lower decks of our vessel. The ship keels to one side, cannot be righted.

*

From the viewpoint of geology and natural history, the island is one of the most remarkable in the polar ocean. We all gathered up on deck in a shivering knot; the reactor will surely blow. Our first mate bears the mark of a bite upon his neck — I warrant his days are over, and all the archived flora and fauna shall sink with him when he is slid into the sea. Thus do the most sorrowful tales descend gently into memory, our most inconstant territory. A green wave froze beneath the prow.

            Always seek advice from a professional. I am easily broken or displaced (‘mood seemed inappropriate, the patient was often labile’ et cetera). This is self-defeating dialectic: a most significant event befalling the most insignificant member of the crew. I don’t want any of this to follow us as we tip beyond the lip of the earth. 

In poorly ventilated conditions a substance of waxy consistency derived from dead animal tissues is formed. It’s the turn of the nineteenth century and his noblest faculty is deteriorating. 

            Notes are being made toward a short film based on a single page. Its themes include an impossible uniformity of intention, the lineaments of a giant with rictus grin, a sacred place where none can switch allegiance. Wish upon, wish upon: now awake — memories shift and realign.
            ‘I want the surface to resemble latticework of glass.’ 

Consider, if you please, a semiconductor manufacturing company versus an evil character from Zoroastrian mythology. At the centre of time is an evil sorcerer, an opponent known for killing those who are not able to answer his riddles. This story is elaborated at great length in the mediaeval How I Lost Everything

            I said the pilot, where. 

*

Imitatrix is a small species, very elongate air-breathing mould, a terrestrial in the family. See, I’m asking questions aplenty now. I once asked her if she would want pipes and tubes put into her body and coming out. A tea made from the leaven is applied externally in the treatment of fevers, accompanied by discharge of spasm. 

            The species is a paradox; it cannot grow among shades, yet it shuns the light and prefers a well-drained head and suitable acids — the chemical element of atom fifteen is poison. This combustible was first rumoured in two allegorical tales. Origin is another shape.

            The only way forward is to begin repositioning the objects we have hoarded over the years. The symbol is pi. I always preferred mist to a dry orbit.  

The species once had both male and female organs and rolled about the earth between the young planet’s peaks and hollows. We are currently updating this episode.

            A scarlet dye is obtained from the root: right plant, wrong place. 

I was once sectioned — a mountain sanatorium — day by day my identity eroded until I was left with nothing save me. I lost my possessions — clothes, books, manuscripts — until all that remained was unrecognizable. I beseeched, I howled and threw things. The corporation had taken over. I cypher. 

            The sun is setting on the fountains of Rome: a pageant with hautboys, torches, my lost noun of archaic form. The lithosphere comprises a number of plates. He took it out of the sky.

*

This condition is one in which certain faecal vessels are suffused with blood and begin to swell. Origin is very still, late from trespass, in the sense rose-coloured.

            They were not numerous in the heartlands — greater concentrations lay to the north or in the opencast mines. We went in to change the locks, the cordite. In this province, people carry their ancestors about with them in tiny cubes worn at the base of the spine. Yet this world is full of corrosive forms — two make a pair, lovers oblivious, while others give alternate endings to infinity. 

Memory weighed in the balance, she breaks open the skull, eases pressure. Human vehicles form the underpinning. Trepanned to within an inch, propped in bed she reads from the book a lengthy quote, and laughs out loud. We all laughed. The fault lies with me, the gnawing scraps of recognition. 

Unhead. 

            [Subdued on a chair. Rest of chamber dark.

            ‘Our party was trapped in a death spiral, a wormhole in space. What I say is extinguished before it can flare up; we all slaughter ourselves in different ways, more or less slowly, with more or less kindness.’ 

            Very often this secret tongue is actually the animal language or originates in animal cries. The guards took it in turns to kick at his ribs. It is seven. 

            [Reads.]

            ‘One of life’s details that one never forgets — a person who evokes, especially one who calls up spirits, one who calls troops to arms. Origin, perhaps, is a variant of old grave-shore, because ships would have run aground.’

            Summon fog into the form of a man — chew glass, spit blood.        

*

An addictive, of or with respect to the fixed stars (i.e. the constellations, not the sun or planets). Clearly he has access to equipment and books. Is working and living on his own consuming his mind, a position of untrusting quiescence? 

            I overlooked the propane cylinder. Uranus has twenty-seven moons, most of them named. 

            His flesh bears the track of a scar with purple rim. Maybe we have overlooked. Somehow this is not so effective as the first spell, whose chief ingredient is adipocere, a greyish waxy substance formed by the decomposition of soft tissue in dead bodies subjected to moisture. And he was on his very last journey — the vessel was a migrant raft. Origin is bent of dialect, by association with raft in the floating mass sense, her body in his mouth. 

            Gloriana! Her pet monicker was hell.

Short film of a single page. Awake, but slow — panning, scheming: anecdote of cubist spine. Who did attend these occult fictions? (Excise me, forgive me and so forth.) He at once sent his clerks out of the room with instructions to admit no one. A dog was ritually slaughtered on the roof and blood allowed to flow down both sides of the shack.

            Every act is commodified. The gathered company, quite desperate by that point, had thrown dice to determine the animal’s fate. It was the best of time. 

*

We find ourselves at the intersection of two vaults where a rib spans their crossing. And who in his role as sea god had the power of prophecy, but would assume different shapes to avoid answering a question? We are developing a three-fibre bundle that will possess capabilities.

            It was carnage. I am barely able to distinguish between the natural glow emitted by your organ tissue and the limitless dark surrounding us. Origin follows the pattern of words such as dorsal.

            Finally, he severed some ancient runes, whose juice smelt of mould and was at the same time aquatic and sepulchral. A modern wall stands on top of the mutilated rampart, the entrance through which is now unidentifiable.

Consider, I beg you, four shadows surrounded by a radiance. I am alert to the gaseous envelope of long-dead stars. The sun’s corona is visible only during a total solar eclipse, when it is seen as an irregularly shaped pearly glow surrounding the darkened disc of the moon. 

            He had no possessions to speak of. His flight was madness: burial gifts, gravegas, a woman begging alms, her cerement the colour of damp ash — the reactor, the final rain. 

            [Cage. Silence.]

            Neural spoils, the breakage of bonds — in seven days thy fate et cetera. The master of the vessel threatens to destroy a certain city unless a righteous man comes out and solves his riddle.

            [The dark. Five seconds.

Last week he lay on his back like a starfish and kept very still. No one spoke, every answer would be judged an error. Cockroach and utilitarian citizen are indistinguishable.
            

Dead side of the street, this — I have expelled all your ideas. Gradually prepare to enter sleep. (I’m sure we’ll all be less nervous when the interregnum suddenly collapses.) You’d better get used to this; I’m not going away.

            When I first engaged in this work, I resolved to leave no word or thing unexamined. The narrative is simple enough: illumination of memory from without. (What offers do we offer you today.) I’m pretty sure that my object was once here, right here. My greatest fear is the expected.             

White phosphorus is a yellow waxy solid which ignites spontaneously in air and glows in the dark. Red phosphorus is a less reactive form used to make matches. Origin is overpriced and hallucinating.

Let’s accept that they may come at night. We’ve learned to appreciate divinities for their own sake, their immaculate forgetfulness — come hither to write false, a book of remnants denoting place, a walk along a mountain ridge in a rainstorm. . . . How is it, then, that we can posit an object culled from these presentations?

*

Me, I’d sacrifice him right away if the choice were mine. I know many fans will disagree, but he is case-hardened, after all — that business with the ceiling and the leather harness that stretched and tore, unable to support his weight before the earth’s pull took over. His visage is not so pretty as it was prior to this ordeal by gravity. For all that, he would not talk under duress. And this brings us to why I am carrying about with me an admirably polished torso. 

            A substitute is needed, our story spills out through his aperture. The exact form of the trapdoor varies from genus to genus: it can be tongue-shaped, spoon-shaped or spatula-shaped. Its mechanism is vaguely reminiscent of an automated tin opener.

            This species is endemic. Origin arrives via amulet, from to guard.

He proclaims the cobb is now undersea. Upon the deck stands a wayfarer, satellites pulsing in the night sky above the mainsail. Grain is sown in the sunken valleys, where drowned men silt backward into sleep, glacial flowers quivering. 
            She presses firmly at the base of his spine, easing him deeper inside her body. Accept where you are. Consider the question: would he actively seek out these catastrophes, or encounter them in the course of life as unforeseen events? Did we at some time become aware of the tolling of a bell in a distant campanile? The lungs and spleen have a blanched appearance, as if overcooked.         

            Ever extemporaneous, I forgot the question (the correct answer is scar tissue). The flower sought is distinguished from clover by its sickle-shaped pod and short racemes. So what else has been happening all these years? A smokeless explosive has been improvised from nitroglycerine and petroleum jelly, for we have exhausted our stockpile of ammunition.

            ‘No longer anything to be done in that direction.’ 

            ‘I don’t know. Go on as you are.’

The gathering of hair in a crab shape has become fashionable once more. Our ancestors are drawn down and marshalled into cycles. The enormity of the impending collision of bloodlines has only this minute struck me.

            I am dedicating the edible flesh, pieces of mind. The trail peters out. 

            We’re hooked. I also found a collection of love songs in that garret, but nothing seems of consequence the longer we remain. You are what we were not ready for.

*


A new look. A new range: open fire (exclusion bag compressed). Now cease.

            Nicely timed, the nodal point, as it were. To stop, to hollow out a sense of place unlimited — papers flutter down from the shattered windows, and again, his brutal execution at the quarry. Origin is middling from star plus pierce.

            Hands and feet are bound
            father and son, where waves pound
            the white fluid cooling rapidly 
            and trains run the track
            linking direction counterclockwise
            so brace yourself, he hath teeth in his ear.

            And

            Apples, some whole
            some halved
            painted onto
            the sky like
            flying wallpaper and
            everyone looks up
            of course.

Trial and motion. I went into battle. Shoes were thieved in the tale — written on brown wrapping paper — then the stretching of a cord took place. Our crucial error was a multiform taken as a single organism. Yet this is not all: he is manifest as a veil of dust.

The soldier is imprisoned in a tower. His lover speaks to him through a metal grille. The truth is that he descends through the eyes and into the heart.

            It could be that we’re looking for a symmetry that was never here in the first place, murmured my maxillofacial surgeon. I left without viewing the interior. 

© 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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