voids - new writing


There is nothing to grasp. Nothing to make sense of. No story. No meaning. Nothing except what you make of it. Nothing unless you make of it. I wasted years studying metre and rhyme only to conclude I didn't need them. They were descriptions. Descriptions of historic accidents, contingencies.

At ground level a basement window just about large enough for a cat to crawl through.

Three pears in a cobbled alley.

As a leisure barge turns into a wharf a cormorant across the ship canal dives underwater.

I've enjoyed my walks so far this year, and got in one of my long walks out over a day where I get the train home. But only being one it's a loss. Since December last year the growing cost of living crisis has stamped on my finances and trapped me largely within Greater Manchester.

Coughs spits and groans of a runner passing by.

Monarchists cling to their non-stop news, public grief, genuflection, archaic pageantry of a tattered empire you'd hope was dead with Lizzy Two but stumbles on. The cruelty inward and outward barely masked by private profit, offshore money, and conspiracy of government, press and snarling king to keep us children.

Slippery boards retaining the path.

The loss of the sense of self while making art, immersed in others' art, walking, meditating, high on molly, staring into space, whatever your accidental choice, is beautiful when you come back to yourself after.

A long way to go. I know every step, broken down into five minute chunks. But not the detail, the surprises.

Summer flares back intermittently even as it dampens into autumn.

Terrible official, semi-official, poems struggle to pretend any but the most debased care about the death of a queen. I remember walking and reading Shelley, Bryon, and translating, poorly and slowly, Heinrich Heine, none of whom would have any of that. But I wonder whether the two English aristocrats would have turned reactionary had they lived long enough. After his death Shelley's extended almost stream-of-consciousness poetry was more easily reduced to toothless excerpts, the rest ignored or written off as youthful folly. Byron was sharper, funnier, more direct. But both died young and remain revolutionary, if frozen and memorialised. Detached from claims on today's struggles. Though editions of Shelley's Queen Mab with the extensive radical footnotes were important for many workers at the time. Anarchism, contraception, vegetarianism, the evils of marriage as constituted then, and more. Should we adapt Byron's words on Castlereagh?

"Posterity will ne'er survey
a Nobler grave than this:
Here lie the bones of Lizzy Two:
Stop, traveller, and piss!"

Acorns drop and bounce on the path.

Jean Luc Godard dead at 91. Though not his best film, critically hated at the time, shunned by audiences, and featuring the Rolling Stones, who I don't much care for, I love his Sympathy for the Devil/One Plus One. The band assembling the song adrift in contradiction, art and commerce, community action, Black Panthers, revolutionary texts, celebrity, the aesthetics of celebrity and revolution, guns, the confusions and early recuperations of a time with multiple futures where no one knows anything, the purposeful fragmentation and denial of narrative. The darkness.

And me, walking and writing and photographing on a bright hot clear day. I'm uncertain about even the things I'm certain of. Just an idiot flailing. And some human sympathy for loss. 17 hours walk or more away when my father died. The guilt. Present for the last breath 12 years later at a time of change and turmoil when my mother died. Helped carry each coffin. That much is hard, that much in common. But little else.

Alongside the guided busway, cyclists and people walking tiny dogs.

Heinrich Heine knew Karl Marx, though their tendencies weren't in real synchrony. Marx visited Manchester frequently, which Friedrich Engels wrote of, where the Peterloo Massacre happened, which Shelley wrote of.

"As I lay asleep in Italy
There came a voice from over the Sea..."

Stop and piss in woodland.

Fields of horses.

Leigh opens below.

Charles I cut short by a head. Charles II issued the charter that granted the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading into Africa a monopoly in trading slaves. Charles III's brother Andrew and beloved mentor Lord Mountbatten both alleged nobles nonces.

Light aircraft and helicopters. Most likely from City Airport - Barton Aerodrome, the smaller one.

A dead dragonfly on the path.

Now and the future's where it's at. One of the reasons I prefer to improvise. It's about the present and whatever's next. The accidents and discoveries, the ugliness and awkwardness, the unfinished.

Dead duck head curved down in the water.

Red gable ends reflect in the canal.

Thin lenticular clouds and condensation trails.

Swans paddle ahead of a narrowboat.

We're forgetful of struggle. Factories repurposed or demolished. Collieries grassed over. Canals and railways turned to leisure.

Bell tells school it's out.

With a move to the country and undiagnosed autism, from age nine school was hell. Bullying and isolation. I survived, grew stronger, made myself, but no one should face that.

Kingfisher. Black horse.

Overhear part of a conversation, "...artists of the first of the twentieth century, like Hemingway, Picasso, and Gertrude Stein. And he gets to know them all..."

Goats across the canal.

Away to my left Winter Hill.

The queen is in bed, frail, holding the royal orb. Through cracked lips she whispers "Epstein" and slumps back. Loosened from her grip the orb rolls from the bed onto the floor, snapping off the cross.  In the background Prince Andrew enters, alarmed.

Burned out wreck of a boat.

Imperfect but vital is better than clean, precise and dead. Narrative tidies, narrows meaning. I'd rather create a space for play, for interpretation.

Dog barks and circles excitedly as its owner, on the phone, bags its shit.

Couple on a bridge snap into selfie faces.

Heavy-handed policing of protest and dissent.

Anxiety about autumn, winter and beyond when fuel prices rise.

The roads are dangerous, busy, thick with traffic.

If Godard engaged with the present, with ideas, the queen engaged with symbolism and a sanitised history. Power and distraction. Black-edged photos, flowers, non-stop coverage of trivia and irrelevance.

Just out of sight, Weaste Cemetery, one of the earliest municipal cemeteries. Among the interments Mark Addy who over time rescued more than 50 people from the then heavily polluted river Irwell. Dye works and more along its length. The pub named after him now abandoned after flooding.

Rowers talk across the water between them. A runner gestures with his bottle.

Meanwhile our narrow, bitter island continues drawing into itself.

Man sucking nos balloons on a park bench.

Stack of red, blue and uncoloured pallets.

Cats sit and watch each other.

On a long stone path downhill, trees to one side, a stretch of grass to the other, two friendly dogs ahead of their owner run up to me, jump up for petting.

We've changed day, changed process.

Stone on a cairn painted in rainbow colours and the text, 'Endeavour 2022'.

Bungalows dwarfed by the cars outside.

This largely affable landscape, trees and streams, a few sharp valleys on the few steep skirting hills. Barely populated weekdays term time as the year declines.

Skeletons of giant hogweed.

The flat of Manchester.

Domis. Salboy. Mayo Civils.

Gulls perched on a wheeled bin, sans wheels, on its side in the Irwell.

Cycle hire stands.

Away from syllabic or accentual syllabic metre I moved instead to accentual metre. And then purely to sound.

Walking and improvising for me, and writing too it seems, are processes of change, experiment. Ideas thrown in, routes tested, new directions, new ideas. The creation of insoluble problems, dead ends, impossible geographies, landscapes in constant motion so what was there yesterday is gone today. By accident and exploration finding mental maps that drew together paths and threads. Gaps of unknown territory for future visits. Fragile, tentative, uncertain, but thrilling, unpredictable. Safer, preferable to navigating impenetrable social structures. But the same testing, failing, starting over. I dream labyrinthine conversations, relationships, houses, city streets and country walks. Stopped and confused and turned around. Meaning unformed, elusive.


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