Marcel Broodthaers, Signatures (—shake with their name.)
Counsel (Mascot)
Ethiopia Konga Grade 1 Yirgacheffe Powder (Spanish galleon)
Graham Fagen, Come into the Garden / And forget about the War (The fir tree speaks: ‘In winter – on Ash Wednesday – I congeal before the Cross and become soap.’)
Flannelette nightshirts (Myxomatosis)

The city breaks up. The voice of the city is ‘cut glass.’

Joseph Kosuth, Five Words in Red Neon (in—Le Diverticule des Félins—the Chamber of the Felines)
Paynes Grey (Grey, the sweetest of colours; even green looks grey here – the trees!)
Rainbows (Jigsaw)
Secession (One day last week I sent a letter of thanks to the sky with an autumn leaf as a postage stamp.)
Robert Walser, Looking at Pictures (‘Have you seen a woman / Carrying the corpse of autumn? / Have you seen a woman / Rubbing her face on the pavement, / Weaving a dress / With threads of rain? / People / Are burnt-out coals / On the pavement.’ —Adonis)

The face of the city is cold.

Children roll our hooped hearts away.

‘In Clara’s hand the flowers smell of iron and grass. The same smell as the grass behind the wire factory after a rain.’ (Herta Müller)

‘The Groats were the last family on the island, and had thirteen children. Under the decaying stairs, I find coat pegs marked with their names: Bessie, Isobel, Alice, Eva, Ethel …’ (Amy Liptrot)

‘Share a Coca Cola with Aggie, Ahmed, Barasa, Dorcas, Joe, Mona, Nelly, Patel, Winnie …’

Aggie. Scotland Kissed
Soap washed out your dreams of borrow-pits,|invisible fingers drumming on wet sand, your|childs heart raced|after hoops of rubble, burned the sky down with it.|Some things were not there: your favourite|
place, watching|from the window; your lunch box made of smoke and air;| and the pedestrian, over your shoulder, who did not|exist, alone – relative to the last king of Scotland.
The banks of carriageway were high and overgrown,|running your dreams of bitter grazing on|the verge of light along Thirteen and St. Peter;|in decline, your night career of sleep played and,|in the morning, eyed a city mad with fever where|you chanced to be among houses and lawns burning| in feasts, the mating pit in their mangled hand ­– Kissed.

Ahmed. Fata Morgana
Light repeats itself travelling| shipwrecked; wall and charcoal| and you, Lord, on its horizon|
cradling a head of bison.| A childs footprint is six red dots.| Your body is a child swimming.| Light answers itself.

‘If we lack grace / it might be because we’ve never known our place / among the elements.’ (George Szirtes)

Barasa. List
‘Wraps x 2 Bread Tiger loaf x 3 Wedges x 2 Frie’s x 1 Mozzarella Balls x 4 Greek yoghurt x 1 mixed peppers x 1 O Rings x 1 Tomatoes Punnet x 1 Fairy liquid x 1’ —There is a shop in Perth, in the pale of the town. A sign above the door spells out what you can buy: ‘VHS Tapes, Stornoway Black Pudding, Tattoos.’

‘3 Milk grapes yogurt Bananas Cold Meat Frozen Carrot Small Pies’ —Her hair on a naked shoulder, on a carmine red overcoat. His head on a plate, always with her.

Dorcas. A State of Blood
For Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) it was the allied bombing of the supposedly ‘open’ city of Dresden during World War II, ‘… the largest massacre in European history, by the way. And so what?’ For my parent’s generation, US military action in Vietnam, and Pol Pot’s genocidal Khmer Rouge in Cambodia will likely be at the top of the list. For my generation, born in the 1960’s, the Gulf War (1991 – present), ‘the longest humanitarian airlift in history’ during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992 – 1996), the Kosovo war (1999 – present), the war in Afghanistan (2001 – present), the second Gulf War (2003 – present) and the civil war in Syria (2011 – present) are all likely to be indelibly etched into our minds.
Until recently Europe has enjoyed a relatively long period of peaceful co-existence, while not always covertly flexing its consumerist ambitions and murderous tendencies in other, far away parts of the world. Some believe that the consequences of this are finally ‘coming home’; the supposedly distant world of ‘over there’ not so hard to get to and from as the political elites once thought. Perhaps it was just down to the small coterie of sadistic teachers I had at secondary school, perhaps it was my age, fear, lack of confidence and anxiety at the world around me (a mostly cruel, brutalising and unforgiving military school), but there was one other name that remains indexically linked to this malign human, largely male, tendency towards brutality, torture and extreme acts of individual and institutional violence: Idi Amin, ‘the butcher of Uganda,’ who came to power in a military coup in 1971 during a steady and ruthless campaign through the ranks of the King’s African Rifles’ (Britain’s colonial African troops.) I’m not going to go through the catalogue of human rights abuses Amin should have been charged with, instead, if you’re interested, I would urge you to read Henry Kyembe’s account of Amin’s rule in, ‘A State of Blood.’ Amin died in a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2003 where he had lived in exile after ten years in Libya. He was never brought to trial for gross abuse of human rights—The Saudi ruling elite and the British Government should be held to account for this.
I hadn’t thought about much of any of this or particularly followed news of post-Amin Uganda since he fled the country in 1979, until very recently that is. That is, until my stepdaughter intended to travel to Uganda on an adventure trip organised by her school in July of this year.
She is sixteen, and knows nothing of Amin’s post-colonial dictatorship. Knows nothing about the war in the north of the country with the Lord’s Resistance Army, and her teachers have, as far as I’m aware, never brought the subjects up. Should they have done? Should I say something?
Despite recent fraudulent Presidential elections, the on-going war in the north of the country with the LRA, the current refugee crisis in South Sudan and the sometimes brutal suppression of Gay rights, freedom of speech, the freedom to express political opinion, etc., Uganda still appears to be trying to re-brand itself internationally as a modern, thriving East African society ready to do business – promoting in particular environmental tourism, and outdoor adventure opportunities for those who can afford it. That is, it’s pretty much like any other place in the world. But it wouldn’t take much for it to be pushed back into its darker past. That’s the feeling I have when I think about what’s both already happened and is currently going on in the region. Uganda is a landlocked country bordered to the east by Kenya, in the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the southwest by Rwanda, and in the south by Tanzania. It is the second largest landlocked population in the world (after Ethiopia) and that means a lot of mouths to feed. And revolutions start, as Brecht reminds us, not because of politics but because citizens do not have enough to eat and drink.
Fifty-five bottle caps are used to make this souvenir. It was bought from an elderly woman at a market stall in the Ugandan city of Jinja and given to me as a birthday gift, and I’ve fallen under its spell. (A massacre in 1972 of troops in Jinja barracks during a purge of the Ugandan army of men of Acholi and Lango ethnicity was followed by the disappearance of over a further 5000 soldiers and twice as many civilians by the end of the year. No one knows what happened to them or there whereabouts.) Each candy-pop coloured cap is from a 330ml bottle of Fanta, Coca Cola or Stoney and I imagine each freezing cold bottle in someone’s hand, and the bolt of ice and fizz as they tip it into their mouth; quenching their thirst as they stand, ecstatic, on a dusty, bone-dry city street; the sun splitting everything.As Vonnegut writes in his introduction to ‘Mother Night,’ the moral of the story he is about to tell us is a very simple one: ‘We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.’
This particular giraffe has eighteen and a quarter litres of fizzy juice in its veins. No bad thing, I think. Perhaps screaming that you have something other than blood running in your arteries (your mothers tears, engine oil, black ink, laundry liquid …) may be your only chance, if the boys with the knives and automatic weapons kick in the door.
Did I tell my stepdaughter about Amin and Uganda in the 70’s before she left on her trip? No. I decided that on humanities current form she would have enough to deal with in the decades ahead. Fear, because that is what such a tale would create, is pernicious, and absolutely no amount of reassurance would set her young, understandably anxious mind to rest, as she prepared to travel to east Africa, and away from home, family and friends for the first time in her life. I’d talk to her about it afterwards, when she was home.

‘Are you an assassin?’ | Willard: ‘I’m a soldier.’ | Kurtz: ‘You’re neither. You’re an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.’ (Apocalypse Now)

Joe. This is the end …
The first line of Lachrimae Verae – the first of seven sonnets that make up the poem, Lachrimae or Seven tears figured in seven passionate Pavans – reads: ‘Crucified Lord, you swim upon your cross / and never move.’ Published in 1978 by Geoffrey Hill, it is one of the great opening lines in English poetry – complete; unadorned – unforgettable. The voice goes on to say: ‘Sometimes in dreams of hell / the body moves but moves to no avail / and is at one with that eternal loss.’ Our nightmare – my own; these lines, spoken by Colonel Walter E. Kurtz.
Where are we in relation to the figure of Christ in the image Hill has made in our mind’s eye. Drowned – underneath, looking up. On our knees, at his feet. Stood over the scene, looking down? Wherever we choose to be – in time, in space; in our imaginations and our emotions – Christ remains still, we move; we are alive, for the moment. In one of the painting studios in Edinburgh College of Art in the early 1980’s I came across David Mach’s sculpture for the first time. (During the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe, the college was often used as a venue for contemporary art.) My recollection of the work is a little hazy – it was thirty years ago – but I remember it consisted of a large collection of clear glass milk bottles, arranged in a rectangle, some of which contained quantities of a dark, grey-blue dye – creating the image of a shark, in water, motionless. While searching for a picture of this I found a more recent work by Mach in an exhibition called ‘Post Pop: East Meets West’ (Saatchi Gallery, 2015). It’s title, Undressed, uses the same method as the shark but with red dye, and depicts a female figure lying on her back, arms and legs spread wide; the image, created in a collection of 1666 clear glass bottles of HP Sauce. It’s a striking and chilling image. (Perhaps seeing the shark some thirty years ago gives me a better sense of what it might feel like to be stood over this splayed, crucified figure, despite having seen it only in photographs.) I say, ‘crucified,’ but I’m not sure if that was in Mach’s mind. The figure is ‘arranged,’ helpless and vulnerable taking the shape of a saltire cross; held down by a violent design; she does not represent the bloody deformed mess of the barrel bomb, more the summary execution. And yet the title at first seems a bit perfunctory, artful, and perhaps even harmless: Undressed. The use of HP sauce bottles – icon of Englishness; ‘By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen’ – further discolours the water, as does their number, which places us in London in the year of the Great Fire. And what is this works affect on our understanding of voyeurism? Do we stand and look at a representation of our seemingly insatiable desire for public ‘execution’ in a culture that is mercilessly confrontational, reductive and condescending to those to whom it purports to want a response from? Mach’s work relies heavily on contingent circumstance. It is usually made – using magazines, postcards, tyres, bricks, coat hangers … the stuff of the everyday – to court the spectacular, but it is in the quieter reaches of these less spectacular works that I think he touches the nerve.
I’ll append another image here, one perhaps as memorable as the picture of Christ swimming on the cross. I wrote above of the atrocities committed by Idi Amin in East Africa in the 1970’s. European history has its genocides too. In a circuitous discussion with a friend over coffee recently (taking in amongst other topics the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann) my friend talked to me about a nephew, N., a forensic anthropologist who has been working in Spain on the exhumation of mass graves from the era of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). N. directs the archaeology, to assist in identifying the skeletal remains of victims for living relatives who do not know where their husbands, grandparents … their loved ones are buried, and who are left ‘not knowing.’ (The poet and playwright, Federico Garcia Lorca, is one of the ‘known’ disappeared although his body has never been found, but recent estimates suggest that there is in the region of 2000 mass graves which may hold the remains of 150,000 victims of execution.) Many of these graves are by roadsides, victim’s shot into shallow ditches. Others, in fields.
N.’s description of what he saw in this one grave is vivid. Each skeleton had a bottle around its neck, held on with a bit of string; and inside each bottle, there was a scrap of paper with the persons name written on it – milk bottles, olive oil bottles; bottles of all shapes, colours and sizes – the dead must have been covered over with soil by people who knew them; by people who believed that one day, their loved ones would search for this grave, and find it.

‘Catalog of Horrors / Descriptions of Natural disaster / Lists of miracles in the divine corridor / Catalog of fish in the divine canal / Catalog of objects in the room / List of things in the sacred river’ (Jim Morrison)

Mona. List —for a Sculpture
‘Lotto card| 15/40 diesel oil| wash powder| milk| face wipes| bottle water.’

Nelly. A Lot Older
The only moment we were alone, with things – pictures, objects, words – in the mirror of the history of art: the privilege of two forms of silence.

Patel. ‘Mistah Kurtz – he dead.’
‘We are the hollow men / We are the stuffed men / Leaning together / Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! / Our dried voices, when / We whisper together / Are quiet and meaningless / As wind in dry grass / Or rats’ feet over broken glass / In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour, / Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed / With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom / Remember us – if at all – not as lost / Violent souls, but only / As the hollow men / The stuffed men.’ (T.S. Eliot)

Winnie. Looks On In Wonder
Finally I wonder at the motivation that brought the giraffe into being. What prompted or necessitated its creation. Why was it made. Was it made out of a profound sense of wonder at the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it. Was it made, say, for the same reason as the inscribed images of bison, horses, and buffalo were made on walls – deep inside the earth – in the Chauvet cave; the caves of Lascaux. Or is it a piece of tourist exotica, an ‘objet-souvenir’ made only to sell to foreign visitors? From here, in rural Perthshire, I can only speculate, while I like to imagine that whoever took the time to make this small figurine, did so for all of these reasons, and more besides.


A decorative arrangement: green, turquoise, silver, silver, turquoise, silver.

Ethiopian Sidamo Powder
For a long time – wrist and wrist, under the cold tap in the bathroom.
Jane Kenyon, Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2007)
Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love (Oxford University Press, 2015)
Kiomi Cognac Slip-ons
Sweet Heart sweet potatoes
The scale of the wren.

City Devotions

To Bee, for whom today is difficult.

A knight with a clock; the swings tied up, swings too small for him. Mist rolling over the fields, a little of the veil, the colour of suicide bathwater: Turkish delight; glitter on the performance, a carmine red fleck of laundry; and flowers, on the breath of the cull. Paris by night. City devotions.

‘It’s done mechanically?’ / ‘No, Monsieur, by hand.’ (Overheard at a Neo-Impressionist exhibition in 1894: Reported by Thadée Natanson in ‘La Revue Blanche.’)

The ground tips back, held down by small lumpish shapes. Waiting is the whole story, movement restricted to a thin skirt of light that comes from a village at the foot of the hill. Small streaks of white oil correct small failures of the imagination. Grey fills the sky, which is low and flat without a patch of blue, and a liquid coldness spreads over indistinct forms and things; the village, outwith the vantage point, an idea equal in value to the picture itself.

Of nothing Linz she thought more Munich, Berlin. Tap tap of an overflow pipe on the sky. An old woman collects frosted berries from wild bushes at the back of her garden, pale, delicately freckled fingers stained pink with things that never mattered the first time around. (The sound of sleet on the car was made elsewhere. The silence she made was made elsewhere. She waited where she wished, shared everything as the engine turned over to run the heater. Circumstances that could not have come about without this white theatre under a hard overhead light: A primitive farmyard. A young peasant woman with bare feet. Only a few paths, deeply marked or furrowed led through the snow-covered field before her eyes, closed.) A railway station in deep snow, Freiburg. A betrayal, only Rosa pimpinellifolia in the garden. A station of the cross, a triptych of Black Mountain gateaux. A deconsecrated church and four-leafed window of fading luck, Kirchzarten. Asparagus, white hollandaise sauce. A waste pipe, grey boiling mud. New potatoes, potatoes. A village, a primary school playground. A village, what blossoms of clematis! Infidelity, just killing. A village, tentacles of swastika. A village—there is no village.

Looking Over Largo Bay To Methil From The High Water Spring At Ruddons Point—Listening To A Village Buried In A Pit Bing
Clearances still; in demand of rock blackness, no starry work was made of such blue-flashing light hounding wheat as night’s grey ran it the length of a far off childline.

Shuffle …

A field. An enhanced octagonal (made by Rose, Charlotte Anne, Theresa and Lucy facing inwards around a big pink thistle) with heads gentle rubbing together in wild grey, in a butterglen meadow of daisy, chamomile, corn poppy and tall green grass, a warm breeze keeping the flies away.
Press ‘shuffle’ and it should work.
Charlotte Anne:
I’m trying, but my hoof’s too big.
Mine’s a bit smaller and I’ve done it before. Let me have a shot.
I’ll leave you girls to it. I don’t fancy a playlist of ‘underachieving kak’. I’m going down to the riverbank where Foxglove will read poems about buttercups and wet sage in five minutes — Later.

‘Mrs Adams said a wis a croass. How come? Whit’s she talkin’ aboot? She said tae ma Mammy ‘Mrs McPherson Clare is your cross. We all have crosses to bear’. / Ah’m no a cross in am no a bear either. She disnae like me.’ (Grace Cleary)

To Whom It May Concern,
There is black mould on the sky, re-born dolls in the pharmaceutical labs, porcelain cups for apostles of ‘the God-given occupation’, counselling for the melancholic and ‘pinko hippies’. The Christian miracle eye tracking is torn on a line of grey bodies, on thousands of stacks of bodies. Dirty pollen coats our needles; pitiless bag closing, and an engorged media prostitutes privacy and our right to worship. Under siege the sky is sallow and the weather like grit; umbilical soil in a gravitational well. The mining settlements plunder the aisles of ‘Cold Meat, frozen Carrot, Small Pies, Tissues, yeast, more tortilla wraps, hair dye …’ adrift in the fetid hum on verges of dual carriageway (Genocide, tin-oxide, egg white on silk pillowcase, 2016. Private Collection.) And tears and weeping as far as the eye can see. Were it not for your listening eyes, had you not a delicate sense, when would we have acted? But I shall forget this dream; through midnight, I’ll disappear. Dear, hear this my …

‘A man was standing in the rain. It rained harder.’ (in Floor Grey, high up on the east wall of HMP, Perth.)

Green in Cottown. The fields smell sharp, of rhubarb, grey slip on the road, but nothing grows, even in the rains of Heaven.

Shuffle …

Neukünstler! My name is on the door. White plastic belt, cardboard, aluminium foil, silver tape, 20mm starch packing sheets, wire, and a canvas backpack, five cardboard boxes (24 pack eco laundry tablet’s), silver tape, aluminium foil, wire—Fake devices, ‘made by hand Monsieur.’

On the far horizon, the whole| conversation, hand cut blind| in the gilded space closer to| the margin of you on Cothill.
Movement of perfections shadow,| darkness outwith your corridor, tell me,| tell me, emptiness.| I rise out of my sleep.
And the grey cherry tree| turning in its wash of rain,| a nest in splendid-malnutrition| tonight I shall ask it in.
My love waited, may have died| in the wax of shadow, patrolling| the feast of leaves.| I met my death
coming the other way. Turning| a quiet song, I cried| and you passed by without a sound.| A resurrection?
Nothing that you say; I dwell.| No measure of fire; I dwell.| Keeping shtum on the road,| consent where paradox is fear.
My heart denied, I couldn’t see myself;| I left early into the field| with the nothing that you say| weighing past all weight
in the interior of smear and bravery,| prayers could not dent my darkness.| I go to my neighbour with nothing to eat,| the blackbird the chaffinch.
This love will be the end.| You have all the space| in my mind, the manners of pain,| a quiet carriage you say.
And you my spent heart, dwell| true, after truth, in love| never depleted by use or display| a moment and forever.

As simple an act as closing the eyes

‘I needn’t explain, I think you know’ (Tracey Thorn)

She remembered an open window, a morning, empty-hearted, a night of uncomforted weeping a long time for love. And how afterwards, in the silence following great words of peace, she wrote, ‘I WATCH YOU SLEEP,’ underlined, in the demersal hues of their unmade bed—peace at last, lovely enough to bring them a few hours of shelter, in silence; serenity, in ravishment. And then daylight came, like a haar, sank through the air and drifting stirred the estuary once, and dropped, at length, into the city.

The stuffed motel—in the way of marketable sheen. Wendover, Utah. Her hair hangs black to the floor, her white vest soft and wet with sweat. A shopping bag on the ground outside that nobody notices. A maid pulls back the bed sheet and blinks at the smell. I thought I was passed the memory. Caught more on this dream—of polyprop chairs, Family Dollar, smokes, Channel 5—awake than ever before and ready to return, my eyes open, coming into things by degrees, I found her stain had dried on my mouth. The coffee hot again.

I dreamed she was afraid—The leaves, bleeding on the grass, the smell of wronged flesh, mouldy breath; cankered dreams caught in her hair, waves of sweat tearing at her tongue; the fear to speak, to form what is in the air, my angel sleeps, wet, on our quilted cover—the salt lingers on my fingers when she’s done, while in the distance, through the din of sea birds, white waves over White Scalp dissolve in the obliterating light.

Sometimes they measured out life in little commodities.

Friday 1 July 2016—The last consideration; a siskin in the green wheat field behind the garden, singing in the slow world of the deer. You were in there too, curled up on the ground two hundred metres away, asleep in the warm breath of a fawn. I heard the pale sky fall apart in a shower of soft rain, a little saltiness in the air. Even to fold warm clothes from the dryer for you was enough that day—Limitless joy —Blue evening—What will come to your mind in the hills and the woods of Arcadia.

Repoussoir—Leave the A923 after Forneth and climb the hill past Citie Knowe and Balvidoch to the crossroads at Bishopryfauld. From there go west, past the ‘tradesman’s entrance’ to Snaigow House, and stop short of the ruins of Egmont Castle. By the roadside you will see a tall silver birch without any leaves—it has been asleep for a long time, over one hundred years, haunting the minds and clinging to the hearts of those who live around it. Every evening before sunset an old woman, Polly, takes her golden Labrador, Magnolia, for a short walk before going to bed. And every evening, she bathes with lavender oil, in a matter-of-fact sort of way, but with quiet care and attention, the phosphorescent paper of the lower part of the old tree. Polly’s done this since she was a little girl (with Lebanon, Rose, Gwen and Mandy, before Magnolia) though she’s long forgotten the reason why …

Pushing back a bit further—It freezes a bit of you, the rustling noise of leaves brushing against the grey sky; the emptiness; the brown lumpy mass of fat at the heart of the picture; the cold and clammy tissue of your night-skin dreams, lying immeasurably still; her skin takes on colour …

From the back of the world—Birds catch fire up there in the wind, in the same grey air that you open your window too; breathless, low and quiet, in a dark sky.

Empire …

‘LOVE, you ever want me, DON’T’ in orchid pink lipstick on the mirror in Room 11, Hotel Scandic, Helsinki. / She measures the winter night in the way his face slackens on the bone—each pore, each eyelash, each bead of sweat—deepest indigo, empty, like thought itself.

A note on the references. Anne Carson’s essay is a brilliant work of scholarship and includes references to poems by Elizabeth Bishop (“The Moth-Man’) and novels by Virginia Wolf (‘To the Lighthouse,’ a novel which falls asleep for twenty-five pages in the middle) among others, which there is no requirement for me to duplicate here. There have similarly been a considerable number of published academic studies on ‘Sleep in Art.’ The subject of graffiti itself is not dealt with directly but it’s implicit in the fine grain of the writing—with an interest in ‘what the words say’ in the contexts in which I found them and not just ‘what they look like’ or ‘how they were done.’ Those things I’ve listed here remain of interest to me, have some particular place in Art and Writing that I think fine art students may like to know about, or they have had a direct bearing on this short piece. The references are an idiosyncratic collection and are not intended to be exhaustive; a starting out point perhaps, if anything.

I close my eyes—on all my certain things.

Stay with, or abandon you? This is what the stars are saying to each other, up there, above the garden, in the dust of centuries.

The glow behind your eyelids is a painting without title, shows you open the bruise blood bending over in a field, an orange vendor at a fairground, your elephant, Eden (you sold your car to buy her) joyfully stripping leaves from trees in the garden—Angel Mugler, Miu Miu, Chloé drafting from the aircon of cars as they pass you on the verge of a dual carriageway leaving town; in your chest, mixing it with a silage of cardamom, sweat and lamb’s wool the sky feels closer than usual, the outskirts of the city, counterfeit. There’s something of the sky in you tonight, a dirty uneven breath. You were loved more than once but were in fear of … Well. What? Behind your eyes who now sleeps?

‘I rode down to the street floor and went out on the steps of the City Hall. It was a cool day and very clear. You could see a long way – but not as far as Velma had gone.’ (Raymond Chandler)

The rubber is discovered under a foam mattress in a child’s wicker basket at a recycling centre. It’s oblong and rounded at each end, covered in small dark spots where the end of a pencil or pen has been pushed into it. Some of it is shiny and a darker shade of grey. It feels smooth and cold in my hand. On two of its sides the words ‘elephant’ and ‘Sky’ are tattooed into the silky smooth surface with black biro. On another, ‘I am all alone Dear Emily …’ again, done with great care, in blue biro this time. One side is clear. Outside it’s raining heavily, has been for days. The sky is the same dirty shade of grey.

To one side is a squat, unremarkable church (of Scotland) in a simmering lake of tarmac. A woman lies face down in the rain weeping in its comfortless shadow, her turquoise skirt and pale blue cardigan bleed into the foreground—that it’s not Queen Victoria, you know already. The car you arrived in has pulled up in front of a tall building made of glass— ‘… for the best’ silences: It’s not what you said, but it was what you wanted to say. Yellow leaves flutter to the ground as you step away from the car, your one tear, your only possession, slips down your cheek and falls onto the woman in the turquoise-blue shadow, pure enough to calm her—your childhood sentence: normcore corduroy; a brutal cult.


There’s no door on the building, no door on the day, no glass in the windows, no wind to speak of, no blue in the sky. ‘With A Pure Heart’ is marked up above the sink—in Matador Black filled with Elizabeth Pink. ‘slowly, meditatively’ a peach scar in the woodchip. ‘Our Laws Are Still For War’ in a New York ghost-cap Soviet Red across an electrical panel. On the ceiling ‘I Did Not Know’ in Pineapple Yellow seeping through ‘My Heaven’ in Aspen White. ‘AUS DEM KOPF’ by the window in a single pass of Iced Vermilion. The buzzing of bees in a nearby bush and the spectral echo of a fat cap breathing a chord of paint into the future … hohhhhhhhhhhhh … the only sounds in the room, for it is still a room of sorts. You swept the floor of rubble and glass because writing over someone else’s work wasn’t an option and concrete like this is porous and soaks up paint not like the walls. ‘PLEASE Me’ is in pink, ‘Don’t Leave’ in blue. Who were you writing for? Who was to read this?
‘PLEASE Don’t Leave Me’
‘PLEASE Me Don’t Leave’
‘Don’t Leave PLEASE Me’

‘Love is time travel—still I dream of your arrival’ (set against a sky blue background in ‘Epitaph,’ a serif face influenced by the types cut by Jessica Möll between 1449 and 1516)

‘Don’t Leave PLEASE Me’
‘PLEASE Me Don’t Leave’
‘PLEASE Don’t Leave Me’
You implore your sanity. You are prostrate, weeping for your God. You are still in the room leaning on the windowsill with one knee resting on a chair looking out towards the sea. You are still in the room—there is no voice that the sea will not put in its mouth. This is the first line that your body longed for, words without much use now that you are unable to remake what followed. It is the room speaking. This is Eden. You are like a cat delivering a dead mouse, in control over what you give. It is the room speaking, the room is cruel. This is Hell.

Next to the door outside (it’s been painted over but you can still make it out) you’ve written ‘Trust me I’m the Doctor’ in Mercury Yellow. Perhaps your name is Emily.