Playlist: March 2020

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I dream I am driving, and the accident with tomatoes mattered less because I was going to slam myself, my assemblage of metal and flesh, quite deliriously into the tree. He once teased he was good at slamming. Before there was yesterday, I had watched you with the beef variety in the centre of the plate; how you held the knife quite close so the skin would almost burst, I held my breath. Red would split upon red, the tremble. Is it even red, this colour they ascribe to the fruit we always said was vegetal? Breakfast, another cut between my legs. Breakfast, the people who queue outside for their messages. Two metres apart, we exist at the opposite stems of each other.

To think of it now, my mind flowering as though on modafinil, recovering a single pollen of thought. It is this: I would crumble to every yellow you asked of us, sweeping me from your sunsets as nobody would dare come online. 

As the plot develops, you are pushing the knife, really pushing it into the fruit. You are going quite steady, through the seed. I feel a warmth from the skin of the keys. You can’t go through with it; you drop the handle and check my pulse. We loll around, considering things. We are two lopped halves of the edible. I felt like Whitman, licking tomato juice from the knife of the man who doesn’t exist. Who made you a man? You could just as easily have been a sunflower, boy. We loll around, considering things; we sway in the wind that doesn’t exist. I want to be as sure as the land. The land outside is an area, and the area is X, it doesn’t exist. 

who / that / it
pleases
to live

There are millions of infected tomatoes living right now on this planet. I find it triggering when someone pretends to count them. I set my alarm clock to March, knowing we’d even get back if we tried, if we were silent as we are. I cycled hard up the hill to meet this, dreaming the fruit upon my return. 

The clocks go forward, stupid clocks!

*

Fiction makes us go places. All the signs said, for circumstances beyond our control— 

Move you between ex and why. 

I dream of a quarantine beside the sea. My brother is ordering luxury coffee, the air is good, I feel it stir in my chest. The air is time, but we can’t buy it. I leave fat tips with coins I can’t use. Why is it for ‘me’ or ‘us’ that the world exists? You took the single when you wanted the double. No, it is not that at all. We thank the people who serve us duly. You have served me the last bad song of myself. 

‘Of crushed red tomatoes, you turn it down to just an orange glow’ (Bernadette Mayer, ‘Very Strong February’). 

In lieu of my thesis, I kept making playlists. Which argument is it that would strangle the days, leave them to simmer

Then strangle the days to a blazing teal. 

*

‘Something is going to happen’, writes Sartre in Nausea, ‘I see myself advancing with a sense of fatality’. It is our curse to be so viscously stuck to ourselves. I don’t know what that’s about, what any of this means. Imagine a laptop on top of a laptop. I am helpless in the form of a sentence. Why are my keys so warm, from what tip did we insufflate?

‘The Nausea isn’t inside me: I can feel it over there on the wall, on the braces, everywhere around me. It is one with the café, it is I who am inside it’ (Sartre, Nausea). There is no island from the virus, no Nature to look back, sashaying her endless oceans of hair, like the restaurant manager portrayed in a surly review on TripAdvisor. I am nauseous with a virus inside me I can’t even see. Maybe we are close to a birth with it. A long, interminable pregnancy. 

The twang in my chest was a causal relation between ventricle rivers.

I feel trapped in the body inside my body. It’s always looking back. 

A friend messages with the apology, ‘Still need to reply to you but my days have been frustratingly full of speaking at videos of other people speaking at a video of me and so on forever and ever’. 

Can you adjust to the nausea? I drove a car very hard, knowing I could not drive the car, knowing it would end so badly and the creosote bushes would sing to me. I drive us back to the virtual diner, where you leave all the olives and sip a red scare.

The nausea comes in the form of abyss. It is good to hear you speaking, the lemon trees growing, your hair losing tone because of the days. 

*

If people were chalking ‘We will be okay :-)’ on the riverside walkway, I would do a Ben Lerner, via Whitman, and pour sympathy out in paint: ‘I project myself—also I return—I am with you, and know how it is’. Do we know how anything is? I have been texting my nurse friends with everything and nothing to say. I cross bridges for no reason than burning it backwards. Could you say this to a river? Can fire kill a virus?

I project us backwards into the current, knowing the absence of voice would sweep me, swallow a flower. If we forget how to speak, if we get through this. 

Tambourine canter.

Swallow a fruit. 

On the other side, politics chokes.

*

One day, we will live post-email and lilac you sit on the sill of my window. 

If I had a thing to say, it was not worth saying.
If I had a thing to say, it was not worth saying. 

Something is going to happen. You spear the tomato, eventually, and it is so trivial. 

I want to live in the blood that makes us so trivial, harvest my red, be less of love and more inside it. 

*

Somebody I don’t know on Zoom is called upon to define their practice.

*

If you were never already in reach. ‘Distance is here the expression of a certain loss […] which is “losable” only insofar as it is within my horizon’ (Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology). I watch other rituals on the feed, tomatoes conveying their life like sunsets, oozing Billie Holiday songs on a glitching sea. 

*

Your former melancholy. 

Darkside.

I want you to draw them. 

I want you to draw them, very slowly

until every one is a baby. 

And you make a baby of my tomato. 

And you make it very strange. 

And you give it as seed. 

Sequined with topics.

These bundles of fatalist apples of love. 

I sketch out the yellowest nets.

*

I should have sent no poems over the sea, I should have envisioned the breakfast of distance, I should have swam while I could. 

I would like to arrive dishevelled / at the edge of things.

*

Smell of wild garlic in Pollok Park / you polish your shoes / I miss you.

*

So this is it that survives ‘you’: 

‘The joyless, atrocious, sad “pleasure” is in the details of the suffering, in the suffering itself, in the taste you taste to the bottom where nothing forbids you to suffer, and each cruel dish, so relished, offers the heartbreaking pleasure of being able to feel.’
   — Cixous, Dream I Tell You

When someone on twitter has already written, had lunch twice just to feel something

‘In order to avoid saying “I,” the author eats incessantly’ (Ben Lerner, Angle of Yaw).

My heart freaks out at your avatar. It happened again and I’m sorry.

stop_refreshing_the_news.pdf 

*

Adding these smiles of coriander, you discover dawn’s vanity in the mouth of a crow. It is adding its cries to the plate of tomatoes. Such seasoning loses the seasons. I would drown you in oil / before you could make / the cut of my life. 

*

Remember gigs
Remember green infinite days
Remember growing backwards
Remember gross affairs with inelegant consequence
Remember green & finite money
Remember glistening sheets
Remember guessing who would be there
Remember gestalt was a thing

*

And you make it very strange, this thing that will happen. Immensely belonging to no one. Her body a pyramid. Enter it. 

Motionless, causing a solemn offence.

Outlook fails to open a page.

Something is waiting. Remember it green & infinite. 

*

Easy for you to say of a fall. Feels spooky to have speed dial. No news is rhizome. 

Catch you on zoom.

Hate us for saying it.

I adore us. 

So trivial.

Sacred tomato, last supper,

cut me on cam. What do they look like?

You are yellow and red you are yellow and / red you are yellow and yellow and yellow. 

~

Stereolab – Infinity Girl

TOPS – Colder & Closer

Deeper – The Knife

Ellis May – War on Territory

Porches – I Wanna Ride

Squid – Sludge

Thee Oh Sees – C

Porridge Radio – Pop Song

Catholic Action – Witness

Savage Mansion – Weird Country

Disq – Konichiwa Internet

Life Model – Saskia

DOPE LEMON – Streets of Your Town

Sufjan Stevens, Lowell Brams – What It Takes

Sharon Van Etten – Staring at a Mountain

Lucinda Williams – Sharp Cutting Wings

Broadcast – Lights Out

Half Waif – In August

Sun Glitters – UUnnrreeaall

Kelora – X24

Grimes – Delete Forever

Moses Sumney – Virile

The Weeknd – Hardest to Love

Minor Science – Spoken and Unspoken

DjRUM – Blue Violet

Princess Nokia – Gemini A COLORS SHOW

Laurel Halo – Zeljava

Brooke Bentham – Control

Good Good Blood – Sanctuary Mornings

Real Estate – Falling Down

stmartiins – Holly’s House

Ratboys – A Vision

Waxahatchee – Lilacs

The National – Never Tear Us Apart

Beth Orton – Blood Red River

Phoebe Bridgers – The Garden

Bright Eyes – Persona Non Grata

Playlist: February 2020

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Warning: contains dairy

These Piscean days, I lose whole mornings to night. I spread every hour like butter to sleep, back to the melt-world with its length which is only the sentence, dripping at the end of the knife a line. These nights are nothing! Paragraphs are so conceptual and I am always failing to come inside them. I wake up to ill-formed texts and forget my dreams. ‘There is a type of daydreaming that can foretell the future’, Jenny Boully says, ‘a type of dreaming that explains why nothing is being written’. Nothing gives itself up this way. In the diner, pressurised to justify something of which I have nothing to say, I took my leave of the mirror. I watch butter drip from the knife that is poised on a plateau. Honestly, I would eat truffle fries with Deleuze any day. He’s like, ‘what a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and even rarer, thing that might be worth saying’. In saying nothing, I dream my days and nothing gets written. It is a process but nothing gets written. Yes you can take the menu away. 

As nothing happens, indistinguishable figures surround me and my space key sticks. The mark between will melt in your mouth. Some of the figures make violence, they bear what I can’t say of the happening. They are dripping with the fat that won’t hold language. So I am struggling to say this to you. I had this beautiful dream of the world’s oasis, its heart, not the world’s but you know whose, what that dream belonged to, what heartfreak is it the dream contends. When you cut the knife in the middle and it melts all the rainbows around it. 

Truffle smell is just vapourised rhizomes, baby.

A refuge cove, pastel-hued in some new time before dusk and dawn that was not night, unnameable, not even twilight. I feel it is a word only islanders know. I was swimming so freely in this cove, my soul was archipelago, and I knew it was the end of the world, breakfast, not the cove but everything breaking up, it was happening, at long last, and we were so calm. We were so calm in our pieces. Disaster is archipelagic these days. The other person was asking me questions, confused, and I was saying it is only that things will change, and you knew and you knew, like Nico. It all breaks up. Can I convey to you the beautiful feeling of the water, which always continues? How I touched that chalky rock like it was a planet, how I said (being spoken) it is told to believe, the scales are disordered; if we keep touching the rock it only can happen. The water surrounds us smooth as cream. The sea level rose around me; I felt rosy, I knew I wasn’t the only one — I couldn’t wait to feel truly atomic, after all. The violent figures would extinguish each other, I won’t say like love.

~

Have you heard Grimes’ new album? For me, it is more like, I felt so light I could fall above earth, like angels descending. We might catch each other on the way. Our wings would stick, like my hair in your glasses.

After the end of the world, like the single annihilation of a mountain, bmbmbm, a kind of love that eats you from the inside out. A love without purpose. I read this satirical piece in The New Yorker which goes something like, but what about when there aren’t many fish in the literal sea? What then? Is there an app for that? Someone keeps scrolling for other expressions

…and the fish will catch you back 🙂

~

The scene in my dream was like the one in Antonioni’s Red Desert, where she swims around the turquoise bay, she is so bronzed and this is the lightest moment, the music, before industry almost. Childhood’s idyllic shelter is water.

I wonder about the shelter of water. What is it to swim and not actually swim, from my perch in the city, a milky white cat at the end of my bed? You end the things you say with salt. Chalkmatter colours my black leather shoes. It only snowed or almost snowed; they salt the roads so poorly. At the end of The Topeka School, revolution just is the kid doing asphalt sketches in front of the cops. I read that book by an early winter, on the old Virgin, heading north. The full spectrum of my psyche swings between two types of moon: the black cat and the white, the lunatic cappuccino continuum. miaow / miaow / miaow. It is a foamy thing, otherwise slender, dusted w/ safest chocolate stars. I could mew for a future, should it work. I sleep through the pickets; I am wracked in guilt, I wake with a cold full of head.

Why don’t you tell me a story?
Why not yesterday’s?

Reality is bladderwrack.
My dreams are thickening; they scent so hard.

~

It is mostly, surely — I’ll tell it properly later — that the story has to come out backwards. You pull the child safely away from the water, you unravel the knotweed ribbons of time, you tweeze a poison stem from my lips. Why would you? I had forgotten the cove was an island, a place to be always alone. Robert Pattinson pulls the kelp from her belly. Why would you let her fall in love with the water? You can have these luscious, indulgent memories, salt spray, and still be unsure as to who they belong. This is our state of it now. How long had I lived in nature documentary, ambient music, instead of the freak of my heart? The freak of my heart was a golden foam. The island was upside down; its bowels were dripping into the sky, there was so much lava, gold-dripping lava. The sea all warm with thermal energy. The sea gone almost gold. I go to see a movie about the smallest glacier in the world, and Iceland is a word I cherish like fruit. 

So eerie, only the splash her legs make slicing the water. There was no sound

Two types of cat, they eat up my thoughts like golden commas.

It was between what I wanted to say. It was covered in gilt and leaf. Before I slept, thinking the unsaid is a tan line and surely if I took off these clothes you would see it, crinkling frost of gold, how the not-saying had burned the skin of my chest and back, how it was all there, so plain and white, negative scripture — what I had covered. If you could insufflate the measured lines, excoriated pores of deepest carat. Shame is expensive. Whose fault is that violence? The moon-cats, white and black, they blame the sun. The scratch little hieroglyphs from the skin of my arms.

~

It was the interruption of a ship. A wreck. I fell for it. She leaps off the rocks of her refuge cove. She fucks up, walking through the park in tears. It is only Monday. The ship is a ghost. What do we mean when we say ‘alone’?  It sailed away to a moonscape, burning. The child wants to know what that also means. Eudaemonia. The ship coming back, as it always will until the end, which is the after we’re in, we’re ever. 

I want us a mountain. The strangest isolated music, whose voice was all. I dreamt somebody was threshing corn, impossibly on the side of a mountain. There was an operatic howl from the sea. I could feel these landscapes start to collapse, this deep impending heat, inland and littoral, which would surely explode on a note I couldn’t reach.

The rocks resembled faces. I found my inlet. The rocks like flesh.

~

‘Walking thus, hour after hour, the senses keyed, one walks the flesh transparent’, writes Nan Shepherd in The Living Mountain, ‘But no metaphor, transparent, or light as air, is adequate. The body is not made negligible. But paramount. Flesh is not annihilated but fulfilled’. Am I afraid of this fulfilment? 

Every hour a transparency you catch on not-sleeping. 

Brain function down by infinite percent. 

Pareidolia is a symptom of material contingency. My transparent success of walking this back to air, a bodiless gratification, ephemeral as rainbow. It’s coming around. In time, to erase like a tan line, missing the call of a thought.

The train goes north to Aberdeen, and I want to keep going, to go as far as Inverness then west — so painfully do I miss the summer, the midges around the loch, the rich excess of Highland rain. We took photos at the mirrored curve of the road. The crazed church cat, wild heather and car rides, rice cakes. Now the light is pink on granite, there is snow on the hills. 

That break I took, listening in the corridor; ‘How to Disappear Completely’. Labour’s psychic debt is a cup of tea. And why are the blossoms here already?

~

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There’s this line by Karen Dalton in ‘Remembering Mountains’, ‘Do you think the seasons change? / Without your heart’. It’s a miracle when they do, and I hear Sharon singing it, and I love the name Sharon. I can’t stand the sight of snowdrops and crocuses, when colour still hurts because it throttles towards the overlap of the year, a loop I won’t complete. I wear it necked. They used to say I look like her. ‘Are you dreaming?’ asks the song, and I wish I was, as if I could sleep, and it is five in the morning of a Wednesday, indigo light / cheap lager, and I am watching Joan Baez on the BBC. It’s Edinburgh, 1965, and the crowd sing along in the chorus, and she is so beautiful and soft, the chords familiar, ‘O the summertime / is coming’ and I can hardly bear it, the fact of this five in the morning and the promise of leaves, long hair and warmth. Angel Olsen: ‘If it’s alive, it Will’, ‘So That We Can Be Still’. My heart among strangest cacti trembles. Whose purple heather belongs to the mountain? Her voice will carry me through the morning light, the screaming gulls, the missing sea. My cousin gives birth to a boy. And I melt on the blue I wake up to / in this flat that isn’t mine. And when the others sing along Joan murmurs, that’s beautiful

What are your favourite books to read? I used to think, I used to think…

Everyone watches in such stillness and awe. ‘I watch you grow / from a child of shimmer’, Julia Holter sings on a fragile, chiming version of one of Dalton’s songs, ‘My Love, My Love’. What belonging does the shimmer really want? It feels like the loneliest fragment, plash of a fountain, so significant. As I write this, it’s starting to snow: rich flakes of not-snow, the long and melt of it.

Remember when the world seemed plenitude. She was 24, her voice a soprano hillside, ribboned with crystal. 

Dude, the river is a drum machine.

~

There is an era I long for. 

~

When the rabbit appears, is it like Donnie Darko. 

When the rabbit appears, is it like in Donnie Darko. 

I guess I could never get the physics.

I always felt too meta. 

When the rabbit gets away.

~

‘Knowing another is endless’, Shepherd intones, ‘The thing to be known grows with the knowing’. I don’t exist apart from the knowledge of others. Somehow that’s soothing. Like never really knowing what you know of me, and not to know that. I give little pieces to the sun, like wine gums of soul. The sun could chew my life to its sugar and cinders. It gives me a tan line. I think about solar panels installed in the desert, a solar forest, a solace. Send a stupid text like, all of the funk is cherry coloured. Waft between; what bleeds of a middle, you press the knife in. They were playing it in the restaurant, ate to eight, and I knew this would happen forever, and I knew it had already happened. Black stuff gushing straight out from the centre. The bookings cease behind Billie’s lashes. She gets up to eat her ocean fish and the sky is an ocean eye, skinned by a knife.

Angelina, I had written so long — I wanted you to show me how to wash windows, like in the Pinegrove song, or how to paint the walls pink like in Betty Blue, or how to be painted that smutty colour of being extinguished. You would pull the ladder away. There is a ladder scene in a film you say is super beautiful but I haven’t yet seen it. 

~

Bright Eyes are coming back! Spotify has a playlist called lofi love. I have seven unread messages; I keep deleting the apps, choosing colours to flush the hours, wishing I was outside if I felt less ill, changing skins, crying in public — 

The republic of crying in public! The spun out sky is another seduction. I took notes, returning to Anne Boyer’s A Handbook of Disappointed Fate. I was particularly struck by her use of the word ‘encradling’. It seems this is something a cat can do. There is a fountain made of glass we cry beside where we used to make wishes. The secret is the fountain is a harvest of tears. In the dream where me or the girl was clung to the rock (who is she) and I knew that in touching the rock I would survive the end of the world. My paw on the rock, I would promise. Well the rock was whittled and polished and shaped, and now it’s a fountain. ‘The harm will come’, Boyer writes, ‘it never doesn’t’. We only cry beside it, cradling kittens. This is so metaphorical, he says in the movie. We can’t cry exactly inside the harm; it would be like trying to trace your own flesh with a cloud… ‘for the harm may also be like an entry in the encyclopedia of what has not yet been written’ (Boyer). Shamefully, I am still more interested in wishes than knowledge, even if the knowledge would allow me to be. 

                                        A waste of paint! 

                                         An elixir of less!

                                        A precious index!

~

Watching the figure skaters twist and snap their ankles on ice — temporality of wishes — love that spark snap kick when they leap and pull each other backwards, forwards. Some of them are infinite flowers. Halo selfie in lieu of sleep, so graceful I dream of the tessellating rainbows. Watching The Love Witch, Spinning Out, Parasite, Ismael’s Ghosts, The Lighthouse.

~

These Piscean days are strange and excessive. Spread rainbows from the jar by your dreams and remember the all-night messaging, the synchronised falling asleep two coasts apart on autoplay, other Aprils. You look cute without glasses. I get ID’d at Sleazy’s, give the bouncer my whisky to borrow. He’s like, ‘Good night?’ and foolishly I tell him of the day, one sip on the train. That is not what he meant. I go to Aberdeen and back. I read the whole of Patrick Süskind’s Perfume in one go. In the novel, the Marquis de La Taillade-Espinasse has a theory that ‘life could develop only at a certain distance from the earth, since the earth itself constantly emits a corrupting gas, a so-called fluidum letale, which lames vital energies and sooner or later totally extinguishes them’. So his theory is trash or whatever, but what if I am scared of the earth inside me? Mum, did I really eat mud as a kid? I gathered petals from roses and watched them float in a soup bowl, calling it rosy cologne. I love the bit about developing an angel scent, so ‘good and vital’, what happens towards the end is success. I am scared of the invented theory of an earthy sickness, so I eat truffle fries with Deleuze in my dream. I am trying to garner immunity. You have lamed my vital energies! I dab my wrists with liquid tobacco, maple and cherries. I want to seem resistant to the fluidal theory. I want the teeth to sink in my wrist, a taste of pulse. Maybe like Nan I need to get close to the mountain, melt with its snow and sleep there. ‘No one is the only one‘. I am totally extinguished. They would dredge me sick from my earthly perch and call me hahaha a virgo. Sleep has its pulse like a feline body of sugar and grass and plasma. Sorry, I’m feeling milky. Sick tidings, bro. What is the odour of fresh-fallen snow? In the library the scent is quiet. When I get stressed, sometimes I experience a phantom olfactory glitch. I smell what isn’t there, this extra-sweet and ersatz presence. What is the scent of a coming storm? Who is behind me? I joke that I can feel it in my breasts, some quip from a movie, bruising me.

Melt-world of the fridge makes ice of this milk. And who would pour it?

There are so many storms of this month you could fill a class of primary children with their names, and they would take off their coats to fly with the wind and in the Red Desert story, its central heartfreak, that was the tale of the kites, to fly by your coattails, his heart murmur that almost broke us. I was sorry to cattily tell you the story. And so to gather up those fish, get caught again, you stay inside the essay.

Pour me a storm? What of language catches.

~

From the stage on Valentine’s Day, Angel addresses the crowd, my sweet lad, and the dusk flavoured Buckfast on the walk to find you, darkest blueberry red assessed, and the gossip would settle its glitter on song, and we would have cried had she played ‘Sister’, but to fall upon ‘Lark’ was ultimate. As if she were singing Angelina, farewell or washing windows, as if we were singing along in the car and this was the long and winding road to Arran, St Abbs or Skye. We have all these earnest chats about burnout. It’s been a fair while since I’ve seen the moon, or even the news. It snows but doesn’t settle.

~

Free Love – Bones

Sufjan Stevens, Lowell Brams – The Runaround

Melody’s Echo Chamber – Snowcapped Andes Crash

Sharon Van Etten – Remembering Mountains (Karen Dalton cover)

Perfume Genius – Describe

Weyes Blood – Lost in Dreams

Culte – It’s Too Cold to Be Spring

Joanna Sternberg – My Angel

Joan Baez – Will You Go Lassie Go

Conor Oberst – The Rockaways

Julia Jacklin – Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You

Billie Eilish – xanny

Ratboys – Peter the Wild Boy

Deeper – Pink Showers

The Orielles – Come Down on Jupiter

Disq – Loneliness

Sorry – Starstruck

Kississippi – Cut Yr Teeth

(Sandy) Alex G – Salt

Nice As Fuck – Angel

black midi – Sweater

Hannah Lou Clark – Trigger Happy Kisses  

TOPS – Witching Hour

Hatchie – Stay With Me

Wild Nothing – Sleight of Hand

Grimes – So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth

Arthur Russell – I Kissed the Girl from Outer Space

Nekkuro Hána – Loverspy 

Tan Cologne – Cave Vaults on the Moon in New Mexico

Bonniesongs – Dreamy Dreams

Bright Eyes – Waste of Paint

Heather Woods Broderick – Wyoming

POLIÇA – Little Threads

The Concretes – Miss You

The Mountain Goats – Tallahassee

HOLY – Heard Her

The Hollies – Jesus Was a Crossmaker (Judee Sill cover)

American Football – Never Meant

Roddy Woomble – Everyday Sun

Radiohead – How to Disappear Completely

Lana Del Rey – Terrence Loves You

Playlist: January 2020

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I am trying to find a narrative arc for this month. It is somebody reaching out to say, I can’t let you be. There has to be a simile to describe white sheets, expensive linen and French cologne, detritus of a Joni song and the world, the implacable world beyond windows. What is this like and is it really like this. Too much world in the song. A crease is a melody also, or a cramp in the song, the bit where you fall asleep in the story. Rising and falling in tempo, you climb right into the album. In a room of friends, all of them peaking at various levels. An arc is a part circumference of the circle or curve. I only have the bassline in my head; it is a soft morning bass, ‘Forgotten Eyes’ maybe, but it won’t get me up. D. had an endless playlist and the hours were indigo, endless. I am trying to find a narrative that goes up, but it comes down and is also left, right, start + a. I forget, I forget. Nobody knows where b went, but that’s okay. Joni I’m sorry but I just can’t listen. I want to cheat and do all the levels at once.

I say there is too much world in the song, but there is so much leaf in the leaf and again it is a thing that folds, then falls. 🍃

She says the cat might look over your face before you fall asleep, paw your features, but it is only because she wants in. There was a fold in the day that we lost, because our heads were fog, because of that blur I think in plural. There were various selves I could not chart because the grid-lines were squint. Can you shorten this? Bernadette Mayer says maybe if you grow your hair long you write longer poems, and ever since she cut hers it’s all short lyrics. I want to shorten my emotions to a cut: yes, this is that, yes, say it. Imagine going into the salon and saying I want a haiku haircut. 5 x 7 x 5. Your eyelids fat wet petals of overlay. Nothing works but shapes, and I pass them silently through sheafs of language, and I don’t say much about it. 

Gold flakes off cheeks, mascara blackens my vision. Is it okay to not brush your hair or get dressed or think about anyone else’s necessity. I bring a velvet satchel to the party and empty my grief in lottery tickets. Everyone is happy. It is so easy to pick a number.

At six in the morning, watching him do card tricks. 

Is it so easy to pick a letter?

I get home at nine and while everyone heads to work I am watching Morvern Callar again, putting tinned soup on the stove, watching this film simply for the scenes at home with the cassettes and the fairy lights. Plum-coloured nail paint, that’s how I remember it. I watch it on mute, feel eerie. 

~

Google says I have to validate my identity. There is a toll for walking the way that we do, so fast, defeating the days, and I felt the bright sensation of a coming air, like this was performance. The layering…oh it was, surely, 2018 and I felt the first flakes while listening to Songs, Ohia — maybe it was ‘Tigress’. Had I known then I would buy a tiger coat, two years in the future? Drink cups of green tea in the empty morning, stalk my email? Certain messages grow in spines of grass, until they are so tall we pluck them for the gaps between speech. ‘God watched us talking in the mirror’, Jason sings, and I think I’m some anonymous, single star. 

Extinction chews us over.

You could tuck me away in the sheets; I don’t protest the air.

~

saying now when the feeling came
strongest: how I miss the future, it’s sideways surrender.
— Lotte L.S., ‘As If to Misread Song’

There was a storm, and the streets were quiet for Saturday. It felt really good to battle the weather, to write long email, to listen to Sharon Van Etten and wallow. I would only do this for a while, a week say, and then the threads would release and I’d come home soaked in rain, with extra red in my tresses, I’d say the emails were terrible flowers I couldn’t bear to read. You can read a flower like an algorithm; it takes a certain kind of smartness. Outlook says, your inbox is 97% full. That in itself is confession. My eyes smart. The flowers…they have a strange way of opening and something of poison honey in them warms, and I want them. Cats are allergic to lilies and raisins. I put petals on my tongue and think about the word ‘beautiful’; how pointless it is, and good for nothing but everything. The lecturer asked us to chew on a raisin. I listen to Jack Halberstam give a talk on nothing, the exclamation of Gordon Matta-Clark, ‘nothing works!’. Jack asks, ‘What does it mean to destitute the world?’ and I feel jaded and warm, and an hour or so later I order soup, and the soup arrives late. We talk of failed dates with the children of the sun, and know this is also study. What they said or did not say, that counts. Nothing is hypothetical, only the walls of buildings we move through. Why do you sleep in the middle of the bed.

When I first wrote this, it wasn’t raining; but now, on the flipped side of yesterday’s blueprint…

I like that bit in The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin, where Shivek says, ‘I am going to unbuild walls’. This initiates a general phrasal collapse, like how all of us were Instagramming sunsets at the exact same time, all across the country that Sunday. And it felt more important to look at those sunsets than read the news, collating each one, the various colours. In the car, telling F., you know I always wondered if the sun actually sets on the east coast, but now that I’ve seen it…

I can’t tell if this feeling is vertical or searches horizons to meet.

S. says, I’m going to find out where your wound is. 

Le Guin: ‘the hand you reach out is as empty as mine’. Why all the letters dissolve on the keys of my laptop, so I type in the alphabet of blur. Why all the luminous grey of Tuesday. Oil in my scalp.

~

Another question mark, a cascade of candy canes. The sky’s pale outro, my twisting gut.

Jason sings, ‘We’ll be gone by morning or be together by then’.

A.’s hair is curly again like the hair of the girls in Mystic Pizza. I think of K.’s story about the girl, is she a girl, who sheds all her hair and it is monstrous and she is chastised by society. She is followed by the fall of her own dark locks. We share teenage stories of hair loss, scaling cliffs, or in the kitchen. Sometimes I find a tiny black curl in the carpet and think of the commas still between us. 

Evan sings, ‘Can I believe in the me before I knew you beautifully?’. 

If you let all that hair like a river, if you let the stream continue. All my life feels like content repeated, the last time I saw him was the middle of summer, the last time I wore cobalt and cardinal together. I love like the rain in combination, additive river, a clarity. K. says you just need to be lucid, there’s Clarice for that. Am I also an alarmist? 

The sky is a needless worry. 

The sky is a needless worry inside me. 

I require surgery to cut out the sky. 

When they found my stupid heart, they said it was a wind turbine and set it to air. 

I had all these essays to write, I was blue.

I see chunks of time as colours: years of purple, silver and green; minutes in violent red; seconds of airy teal; golden months and bloated months of solemn navy; glowing yellow mornings; decades of rainbow; the indigo hours between me & u.

I spend so much money on pens.

I’m such an alarmist! Always messaging, messaging. Why though: mistaking her middle name for Rose, reciting other names out loud, wishing it were June and I were lost on the west coast, feeling the rain whip me out of this slump. 

~

You still exist and I feel good knowing it’.

~

Alison Rumfitt has this poem, ‘Pollution is Just a Mindset!’ and ‘We’re all going to get swallowed up by a big / whale angry at what we’ve done to all the whales’. I want to know the difference between the big whale and all the whales, like is the big whale part of the other whales, and since the speaker ‘had a dream about it’, she knows ‘it’s at least metaphorically sound’. That’s how I feel about the days now, they have to be at least metaphorically sound. That’s just the bar I set. It’s lined with tequila and milk. S. says sometimes a spoonful of milk will settle your belly, like if you are so hungover you can barely keep down the air. 

Perhaps that’s just it. The fog in my brain is pollution. I need a spoonful of milk. A glass of charcoal. In class, we swerve from the topic of stars to molecules of oxygen. C. sings don’t piss in my oat milk. There are passive aggressive adverts for Oatly everywhere and so everyone is writing about oat milk but I already had a line about poems ‘brimming with oat milk, / cornichons, kimchi’. Our best fermented days. Alison writes, ‘It didn’t look like a whale but I knew it was a whale’. That’s how I know about the fog in my brain, the long and bulking whale of it.

~

I swallow myself on read. 

You left gleaming’. 

You shouldn’t feed cats milk. 

You shouldn’t feed your child to the tiger. 

I had so many babies, they were all just poems, and I fed them to the tiger. 

I put on my coat.

The poem is a rectangle.

The whale was only algorithmic.

Is that the same as metaphor.

The tiger was soaked in French cologne.

The tiger was starving.

The whale is a wave.

The whale is a mean old daddy. 

The whale ate the rat.

I give it away for free.

The whale and the tiger, fucking each other.

I found the appropriate clip art and dragged them into your golden ratio. 

I wish it were really rectangles and not always squares.

Instagram addiction.

Our theme is ‘climate change’. 

I need to start deleting emails.

~

It turns and it turns. Make of the heart a spectacle, so you could pour it with what Sophie Robinson calls ‘dynamic emoji’, so you could feed it popcorn, synecdoche, wrap it in sheets like Kafka’s hunger artist. Harvest each beat until you are ready.

~

‘I am going to unbuild walls’ from the squares. I am swallowed in the pictures you post on the internet. Some of them simple compositions of shadow and light, black and white. Spooky quality, quiet mew. Sometimes there are people, and this hurts because people are so beautiful and knowable, but ultimately…

Sometimes, in the distance, like at the top of Buchanan Street say, we see the turbines, tressled in lilac.

I draft the email, the sky is a needless worry inside me. The future is or was always surrender, but here I am with my yoghurt, ignoring the sell-by. I want to ferment the future inside us. You can always recycle, but does it work ‘in the end’?

~

Lana Del Rey bought her Grammy dress from the mall, a ‘“last-minute silver” vintage-inspired gown’. Time shimmies.

There is a pause where she turns just so, a moment prior to smiling where you know the smile is her personal glitter. 

You can’t put it on paper. 

Time shimmies under the moon.

I start to think of paper as something you have to continually feed, so writing itself is no different from keeping a Tamagotchi, say, and it’s the telekinesis of keeping a pet in your brain. The writing is sometimes a snake, sometimes a rat. I can smell it like new rain or the sheets after sex. Time is hunger for writing. A lick of it. Sometimes I wake with a bad taste in my mouth and can hear him in my ear, screaming THERE’S LEAD IN THE WATER

I want something sultry.

I want the impression.

It’s as if all the sequins came off the dress and clotted the pipes, and I could die glamorous and pointlessly poisoned. It’s just the old way you die in writing, falling within the rehearsal of speech. I didn’t expect to see you, etc.

She looked good after all. Sometimes the dress just fits and you can get it for six hundred dollars. I sleep in those sequins because I don’t sleep. 

~

After the workshop, M. and I saw a dead pigeon. She took a photo.

~

Imagine the weather were French cologne. 

He is so lovely in the red and the blue
He is close to the stream

In motes, the arc of it caught in sun.

You take a photo, then another, another. I love this.

~

The arc is a nightclub moted
with fragments of moving lavender.

~

Sometimes it’s fine but then I zone out, start replaying these moments. The allowance of volatile quality, another baby, I didn’t open the door, I mumbled down the buzzer I’m sorry. Tesco is so empty. Lorde sings ‘But when I reach for you / It’s just a supercut’. I have to believe it all gets better. D. gives me chilli jam for Christmas, my arms are full of marigolds, C. says hello, I want to collapse. It happens again; is there memory?

Brexit message from the Principal.

All I can smell are the other expenses. Silver and gold are so much silver.

HOW DO YOU DO IT?
HOW DO YOU DO IT?

January slants backwards. I forget how to dance.

Type this / typify

Report search prediction…

I dream a checkerboard transparency and see the bars resolve. A pick-up truck is dumping a garden-load of shrubs on the Gibson Street tarmac, a place they’re re-laying; the streets resolve into alien characters, Megadrive graphics, the shopfronts boarded up. This is a different city, believe me. In the dream there is a river, a lavender river, and teenagers go there to play at drowning. There is a whole millennial economy of breath. Someone with a shaven head says, “I just wanted to forget my breath, just for a moment”. No, maybe it’s “I wanted to give up my breath,” as if that wasn’t the same as dying. No, maybe it’s, “believe me, the air is better down there.” I’m in this disaster, it held me too, and I wanted to slip in the lavender water. And J. was holding a guitar, wrapped in fairy lights, and it was just like the movie I saw on her story. 

26,240 words already.

‘What also touches me […] is the unendingness’ (Hélène Cixous).

Apparently there was snow, I stayed up all night and I missed it.

And Phoebe was singing I love you in someone else’s song. And that was enough. 

~

Bright Eyes – Hit the Switch

The Beatles – Happiness is a Warm Gun

Big Thief – Forgotten Eyes

Savage Mansion – Karaoke

The Weakerthans – Sun in an Empty Room

Brick Distributor – Another Personality

Nasari – Spoilt Milk

Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse – Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It) (feat. David Lynch)

Sylvan Esso – Coffee

Lorde – Supercut

Mitski – My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars

Pinegrove – The Alarmist

Adrienne Lenker – Angels

Anna Burch – Not So Bad

Porridge Radio – Sweet

Soccer Mommy – circle the drain

Nap Eyes – You Like to Joke Around With Me

Lens Mozer – All My Friends

The 1975 – Me & You Together Song

Frances Quinlan – Your Reply

Quirke – Se Seven 7S

Double Discone – Espionage Industriel

Wuh Oh – How Do You Do It?

Palm – Memories of Winter

Hatchie – Obsessed

Pet Shimmers – Mortal Sport Argonaut

Disq – Parallel

Julia Jacklin – Body

Happy Spendy – Take Care of Yourself

TOPS – I Feel Alive

Katie Dey – So You Pick Yourself Up 

Hovvdy – Ruin (my ride)

Purple Mountains – Nights That Won’t Happen

Songs, Ohia – Tigress

Karima Walker, Dominic Armstrong, Bobby Carlson – Blue Thread

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

Sharon Van Etten – Give Out

Phoebe Bridgers – Two Headed Boy (Part 2) (Neutral Milk Hotel cover)

Red House Painters – Have You Forgotten

Bob Dylan – Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
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Playlist: December 2019

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There is this Anne Carson poem, ‘God’s Work’, which ends with the line ‘Put away your sadness, it is a mantle of work’. By chance, I was reminded of the poem via some post on Instagram that came up an hour ago. I want to think about this ‘it’, like how it is the sadness and also the work, and the pronoun of living, the abstract embodied. ‘Mantle’ is something that covers, envelops or conceals, it is a portion of the Earth, a sleeveless cloak or cape. Is it also the bevelled edge of a door? One can be mantled with a blush, the mark of a covering shame. Is it a mantle of work to hide your sadness, or does the ‘it is’ refer to some other thing whose outcome is that we must put away our sadness? We must close a passage of time behind us? Notice I am switching to a plural pronoun, because I have entered the poem, sharing the position of both addressee and speaker. I am the the person with this feeling; I am the person addressing this feeling. To speak at all, I am doing the mantle of work. There have been these tectonic shifts in my life of late, the underlying move or loss that is a portion of everything. ‘Put away your sadness’ asks you to imagine a physical form for the affect, a classic poetic move: my sadness is a bird, my sadness is a stone, my sadness is a rose, a scrunchie, a sea. These are things you can put away, tie back; or you can hide with a cloud, or you can dive in. Typing in ‘my sadness is a’, Google suggests: 

addiction
a smile
a father introduced
a souvenir
a smile
a text
a joyful dance
a science

It seems these things are all correct, at the present moment. For instance, I drink from this mug and I think about Prague, and how it looked in the rain of a flickering image. That is a souvenir, but it is somebody else’s rain. The internet offers ‘Healthy ways to deal with sadness’, ‘Why am I sad all the time?’ and the old adage, ‘It’s okay to feel sad’. I have been reading Heather Christle’s The Crying Book (2019) and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (2005). Didion insists, ‘The way I write is who I am, or have become, yet this is a case in which I wish I had instead of words and their rhythms a cutting room’ where one could ‘touch a key and collapse the sequence of time’. In one of my favourite Laura Marling songs, ‘The Captain and the Hourglass’, she sings ‘Behind every tree is a cutting machine and a kite fallen from grace / Inside every man is a heart of sand you can see it in his face’. I love the pessimistic, teenage fatalism of this album, Alas I Cannot Swim (2008), its jump cuts of warning and love and familiar pain. Is the man the whole of humankind, or men in general? What if instead of words we had the bark of a tree, its abrasive shavings; a shaven novel or heart of sand in which to bear our suffering? Dissolve is imminent. There would be the rings of your life, the brief achievements of flight, but then the fallen linen, the tired old string, the particles blown. Didion wants it all at once: a simultaneous display of the frames, the scenes of a life. You would then choose what to cut, reassemble or stow away. What doesn’t matter to be dispersed. In the cutting room, a mantle of work is required. And what of the work that is to write who you are, when what that seems is only pencil shavings, sawdust and woodsmoke? 

I have not walked in the woods for so long, and the last time it was with you. But let that not be the last. I was cloaked in so many layers; I could not get rid of the cold. It was a damp and green, needling feeling. It was not so much inside as around me

Heather Christle puts it really well, this question of the cutting room and the cry: 

Maybe we cannot know about the real reason we are crying. Maybe we do not cry about, but rather near or around. Maybe all our explanations are stories constructed after the fact. Not just stories. I won’t say just.

It is a relief to write while crying. There is something comforting about the simultaneous flow, as though letting two substances at once run through you: one being language, the other chemical; each in a woven relation. Crying, then, is the anarrangement (ana being Greek for ‘up, in place or time, back, again, anew — OED), of a state of things that are happening in life, in the body, in the social, in various temporalities. There is the before and after of a break; there is the running on, running behind, the sense of feeling this from ‘above’ or ‘below’. Like when for ages I didn’t properly eat the world was a glassy thing I was seeing from underwater, poking the ripples, falling backwards. To cry is to indulge in both prolepsis and analepsis, to slip and collapse, to blur and feel into. A friend says, you have to work through and not around it. I try not to cry about, but recognise the ambience of sadness. I won’t know until later what is really happening, what narrative this can all be placed in, or slip from. 

Somebody nearby is playing a flute really badly. 

The chime of a text message. It’s okay to feel sad. 

In the office, friends and I exchange tales of election night. One of us is trying to fix a puzzle, the other drinks for sorrow; there is a mutual sensation of violence which can only ‘end’ in blackout, keying a car, throwing a punch, posting a rant or falling through sleep’s amnesia. For a while, I could only listen to songs that came out before this happened, and before the Tories were a bad new government, which felt forever ago. 

What if daylight itself became elective, and that was the bold democracy of what it was to enter a day. Do you choose the light, or does it summon you? I just make playlists.

The moon has been flagrant of late, or was it right before. I remember seeing rainbows around the moon for days at a time. I remember that seeming too much, like I’d overdosed on the dust of this planet, like there were molecules of colour in my nose I could not sneeze or shake out. Like there was a terrible high about to happen. 

I have not seen the moon at all this week. 

I write this raining. 

A thought of the before and after which remains unfixed and semi-colonic. It is to say and not say of what was said. 

There is a special release in crying by bodies of water. I believe in a clairvoyant sadness, one that predicts some upset to come. It is the body’s sincerity of knowing. So you cry by the sea, or lately, a river. All that I have. Cry your eyes out by the Clyde. When you arrived, I was reading about the horror of purple, that ‘which hurts both sides’, ‘the horror’ (Hannah Weiner, The Fast). I wear it around my sleepless eyes. It is a bruise colour, the muscular failure to move through the day; it is a pile of clothes, a burgeoning energy of the horror. So I turn to blue, which is a star, or a gas flame because someone is cooking. 

That line in Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’, from Blue, a lifesaver every Christmas, which goes, ‘Just before our love got lost you said / I am as constant as a northern star’. And it’s that ‘I am’ that I like, the moving throughness of it, the insistence that this is and not was. Because there is something of forever which is getting lost, or a wound that is hidden and cannot be healed. That is forever opening up. For we were so close, a year ago. And of course Joni flips, deliciously, to the mundane. She asks ‘Constantly in the darkness / Where’s that at / If you want me I’ll be in the bar’. As though to look down in your soupy negroni, you would find that hot abyss from which love is turned, over and over. And maybe you’d shed a few tears in it. And you’d struggle to say the location. 

I remember dressing as a wise man for a play at school, wearing a homemade crown and parading slowly towards a manger. Somebody was acting the part of the star, and we followed them. 

Somehow in a notebook I wrote, ‘I am going to be fine. I am going to shine at it’. To be shiny in this being fine, I wrote that in a café and I remember my hands were trembling, my earrings were not real gold. 

There is this dream from last night where I wear a blindfold made of a banana leaf, and you are helping me cross this road, this road that is river. 

In Goodbye, First Love, there is a hat that floats away in the river where Camille is swimming. This happens at the end. It is either too late or too soon, and she is crushed. This is the wiki summary. From the film I remember the widening shot of the river that flows on but closes, and the sunlight, and crying as I watched this at six in the morning, after reading about it on somebody’s blog, the link now lost. It was almost spring and I had not cried since winter. Back when I would add things to my weekly list like, ‘more on lattices’, ‘a setlist’, ‘a more explicit weave’, ‘reply’ and ‘pack’.

Writing this now, am I attempting to ‘put’ this ‘away’? 

When he tried to be practical, mentioned ‘In the long run…’ I could only think of that song by The Staves. It was a churlish note, curled at the edge and not mine or yours. That night, there was a cat called Olive, a taxi to Greenbank, sleeping in a friend’s sister’s bed, waking up face to face with Sophie Collins’ small white monkeys again. In the notebook I had written in a slurred hand, ‘I wish I would cry now but I feel afloat’. It was the elated tiredness, the denial. I had a freezing shower to cool my shame. 

Climate breakdown is also a breakdown of the heart. We have to admit that. Something is always stinging, ‘I’ve been thinking’, a mug of hot water. I could not sleep, I was reading Clarice Lispector’s Agua Viva in fits and starts, which is perhaps how it demands to be read:

I swallow a mouthful of blood that fills me entirely. I hear cymbals and trumpets and tambourines that fill the air with noise and uproar drowning out the silence of the disc of the sun and its marvel. I want a cloak woven from threads of solar gold. The sun is the magical tension of the silence.

A spoon of blood, not sugar, not jam. It is the hot lump in your throat when you cry and the blood that is anyway. About to. Remember I bled for thirteen days, or was it more. It was because of hot liquid, a rush, a pill. How you nourish yourself or not. A friend says, when I cry on buses and trains I listen to specific kinds of music and pretend I’m in a movie. Is it detachment we want from that? Would there be cymbals and trumpets and tambourines in this movie? I want you to put me in it, the noise. I want to stand at the front of the gig, be buffeted. I want to be bashed around like a note that won’t break from the instrument. I want to find a post-it note stuck to my back, but what should it say? Over time, I garner respect for the sun. It is not that my nocturnal years are ‘over’, but I am wondering what it would mean to truly love and rejoice in the sun. The giver of life, not Byronic darkness. To lie in a colourless sea. What would this clarity that Clarice writes of look like, the woven cloak of ‘solar gold’, its ripples? Is it the mantle one could wear to cloak a sadness? But what if the sadness was the clarity itself? I say, I think you are brilliant. It is a mantra. It is a giving away. When the van swerved and nearly hit me, I felt the sunlight so incredibly brightly. The east coast, the sense that this was someone else’s morning. The silence remains still, and I look for it in that ‘magical tension’ of the said and unsaid, and I am doing what Didion does with her grief, the magical thinking that is arranging all these scenes at once for something to emerge as possible. That is trying to sort a timeline or feeling yourself ‘invisible’, between things, the living and dead, an incomprehensible love. 

In Ariana Reines’ recent collection, A Sand Book (2019), the pages of the final section, ‘MOSAIC’, are black. She introduces the scene that prompted this section with italics, 

The sun’s warmth kept filling me, and what had begun as a slightly above-average warmth kept growing. It was starting to fill my body, and just before I totally surrendered to it, I had the inkling this might be something like the “bliss” I had heard about in old books. I had to sit down.

What is relayed as a religious experience, a spiritual experience, is then a series of transmissions (‘MOSAIC’ is in reference to Moses). But it is also fundamentally a solar experience. I think of Laura Marling’s heart of sand, something grazed by a coming warmth, the lap of a sunlight like the sea. A hot liquid thing that is coming inside me, causing the bleed, the bliss, the generous massage of some hormone. It is embarrassing writing, it demands a hot bright mantle. To feel it, feel through it, you have to sit down. You might go to the bar, as Joni does. In fact, I write this lying in bed, as is often the way. There is nothing to set out for or plan, so much as the needling of this ‘inkling’. 

I go to see Little Women, and focus on Jo’s ink-stained fingers.

I have not been ‘on holiday’ for so long but if I did I would make a solar panel of my opening chest and lay where the river and the light would take me. I think the black space on Ariana Reine’s pages is just as important as the whitely capitalised text, ‘EARTH IS SPECIAL […] THERE IS NO “BACK” TO GET TO’. We can’t get back to any bliss other than what is felt in the present. And there has to be so much energy. Put down your phone.

Dorothea Lasky says she tells her students ‘not to have a plan, but to collect things and poems and then put them together’, there is this ‘holy idea’ of ‘emergence’. I write mostly by assembling quotes I like, streaming things down (for to ‘jot’ implies a decisiveness, an almost violence) whenever they do or don’t make sense. Text myself so the thought is received as though in reply. I have all these poems from the month I don’t yet know how to assemble. They are as much of the rain as the rain. Someone comments on a fresh sense of ‘scarcity’. 

I wish I had a river so long’. And there is no snow here. The lines feel hard and overly sweet. 

Candy canes hang upon the tree.

On Christmas Day, we walk by the canal and stop by the locks. The trees seem anorexic, as in a Plath poem; as though they had chosen to strip this pure and gleam on the water. They too will see from below, but they know a different renewal. 

I can’t say a certain five letter word. 

I want to know what the seven words are in the Weyes Blood song. 

I wish I could swim in an ocean / As cold as’ a line I can’t finish, listening to Grace Cummings as though it were autumn all over again. But people on the internet are still going wild swimming. The world is not everywhere cold. The caption reads, literally all I want for xmas. 

Two photos on different accounts of a landscape blurred by the motional train. 

It’s funny, I even wrote, ‘it’s like The Topeka School and the failure of language’. 

To sob into the warm, soft fur of a cat. 

The want of a cigarette.

Astonishing winter light.

I couldn’t finish the wine. 

In The Fast, Hannah Weiner writes, ‘I didn’t know any golden light people, but I knew a couple of blues. I knew I had to be rescued (I thought of it that way) by a blue, or someone near it’. One of my closest friends and I both Instagram a snapshot of ‘River’ on Spotify at separate points across the festive period. It is this secret, not-so-secret gesture of the living-on, the warmth and possible. I think she is one of the golden light people, in loops, and I wonder what I am, if one of the blues. Who else is a blue? But I have always loved green eyes. And the Earth, which is a globe of something like green and blue, (de)pendant on/of the universe. Whose. And I have seen the garden in four seasons now, but just barely. The scene is still swinging and won’t stop to focus. 

What Reines writes of how there is no ‘back’ of the Earth to get to. I think of the back of a tapestry: a ragged collation of stems, snipped-off threads, criss-crossing lines. A simultaneity, a mess, a work in progress. When I am trying to write about the anthropocene, about what is happening, about the earth, is it this ‘back’ I am trying to write. It is not to get back to, but a back that is happening, the other side. I have been trying and failing to learn crochet; I think those who succeed are beautiful and perfect, I won’t turn over their lovely creations. In her song ‘Other Side’, Grace Cummings sings ‘The fall of a raindrop / Returns blue to the daylight / Your mind must return / To behind your eyes’. One drop of blue can restore the day. I think of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tangled Up in Blue’, living on Montague Street, in one or more stories. The worried thread. It is like putting on makeup to stop yourself crying, but doing it anyway, later in rivers of mascara and other clichés. When you are watching a movie and the crying is about to happen and you feel it as a sparkle, because it is not about the movie for which you are crying, but something around or near the happening, the space of it, being there in the other imaginary. And then what is going on ‘behind your eyes’. Crying happens in a space. It is all the prettiness we do while we can, which is a mutual hurt, a hot slide of a tear that catches your neck and means something small and inexplicable. 

The Bright Eyes song ‘Train Under Water’ begins, ‘You were born inside of a raindrop / I watched you falling to your death / And the sun, well she could not save you / She’d fallen down too, now the streets are wet’. I used to think that song was about miscarriage, now I know it could be about any kind of love and loss. Remember when Jeremy Corbyn said something offhand about getting the train to Orkney? I dream about the sub-thalassic train sometimes, northerly moving, passing by jellyfish and flashes of shapeless light. Where are you going, where have you been. The milky unborn thing that we bear yet. Feeling sick from relative motion. It is the glassy way we watch from behind falling water, all of our lives. What touch do we really share of each other?

The air is a key change.

At the reading, Gloria says something like, we have all been thinking of writing as a practice of moving through the days, a practice of living, of marking time. Here are the days I give you in words. In Utopia, her little red book, Bernadette Mayer writes, ‘Everything you or I or anybody says always seems 100% wrong sometimes, unless you keep forcing it to be closer to the truth’. There is a truth quality, say, to the way plants photosynthesise or a starling assembles her nest. The percentage quality in which I can or cannot get out of bed, and whether you are ‘Active Now’ or in fact just barely online. Again, it is a question of green. 

Marianne Morris has this beautiful poem, the last in her collection Word / World (2018), that a friend and I once read aloud together on a patio in summer at the XR climate café, the first I’d attended. Everything seemed shimmer then. The poem, ‘Lion’s Gate’, is a prose poem of some intensity. It is about what it means to love and to hate, and what is worth keeping. I really want to quote the whole thing but I can’t, so I’ll make do: 

We do not want to go back with more questions pertaining to life on this Earth. We must learn them before we leave, loving every possible second upon this beautiful Earth, because we will not come back. We will move on elsewhere. It is like a heart breaking feeling suddenly, I see it all so clearly and I want this moment to stay. This feeling of certainty that the only thing that matters in this life is that you enjoy your time here and keep thirsting and seeking and do not resist the lessons, rush towards them and learn them all, so that you can die to yourself, die into light. 

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~

 

Green Day – 2000 Light Years Away

Caribou – You and I

Market – Told

Angel Olsen – Lark

Fleetwood Mac – Dreams

Pinegrove – Skylight

Rob St. John – Your Phantom Limb

Laura Marling – Tap At My Window

Karen Dalton – God Bless the Child

Joni Mitchell – River

Grace Cumming – Other Side 

wished bone – Pink Room 

Nirvana – Something In The Way

Wilco – An Empty Corner

Belle and Sebastian – We Rule the School

Vashti Bunyan – Winter is Blue

Connie Converse – I Have Considered the Lilies

Bright Eyes – Train Under Water 

Big Thief – Dandelion

The National – Guilty Party 

Organ Tapes – Simple Halo 

Björk – Sun In My Mouth

Eartheater, LEYA – Angel Path

Mitski – Last Words of a Shooting Star

The Greatest Loss: Lana Del Rey’s Anthropocene Softcore 

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There is a scenario in which the jukebox is equivalent to the poet and some elaborate analogy is to be made between intertextuality and the limited catalogue whose selectional form produces play. The scenario only survives in video. It needs this urge of duration, not to mention the tenderness of a touch. Where fingers brush keys like notes, there is something to add to the story. A social space in demand of ambience; on flickering alongside off. When Lana is alone on stage, hands stuffed into a bomber jacket, singing ‘Fuck it, I love you’, swaying almost nervously, I want to think about what she is doing there and who she is speaking to and from where she is speaking. She is not really speaking but singing. The lone girl on the stage is the open mic dreamer, with nothing but lines. She is scattered across june-dreams of multiple personality: ‘The I which speaks out from only one place is simultaneously everyone’s everywhere; it’s the linguistic mother of rarity but is always also aggressively democratic’ (Riley 2000: 57-58). We mother our solipsism with words but in doing so there’s an opening. So to say fuck it and state the interruption with syncope, sincerity. Lana Del Rey was born on the cusp of Gemini and Cancer season, which more than explains that statement: ‘Fuck it, I love you’. With her sails to the wind. To say it over and smooth into plural refrain, you could even say chorus. For a chorus wants to be shared. It is a commodious mother, fed by the keys of the jukebox baby. There is a constant reversal of nourishing; the democracy of lyric utterance, the milky feed that streams.

Denise Riley argues that any ‘initial “I love you” is barely possible to enunciate without its implicit—however unwilled—claim for reciprocation’ (2000: 23). But what is reciprocation in a song? Is it just the urge to be sung with? And this ‘fuck it’, the pervasive millennial injunction to just be, to move on, as the tag which erases the expectant price of the utterance? Riley argues that I love you ‘must at once circulate as coinage within the relentless economy of utterance as exchange’ (2000: 24), but in a pop song it bears the leaden weight of so many prior expressions. The irony is that to cut through that with a simple fuck it, Lana can attain something like sincerity in the very pop mode whose lineage of commercialised love would surely undermine her feeling. Fuck it, in spite of saying I love you I really do. The pop song becomes this space for the staged epiphany of repeated assurance, I really do. It is a softcore admission of the self in its burning limit. 

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‘Fuck it I love you’ is soaked in lights, but they’re fading. ‘I like to see everything in neon’, is the line that opens the song. To see everything in neon is to fluoresce what is haunted and gone. I think of Sia dragging rainbow dust down her tearful cheeks in the video for ‘The Greatest’ — tragedy’s shimmer as fugitive mark on the body. Lana offers herself up as sugar dust, cliché in honour of Doris Day: ‘Dream a little dream of me / Make me into something sweet’; she acknowledges ‘dancing to a pop song’, but it’s not clear if this is her or the character or the one she loves. ‘Turn the radio on’ could be a reflection or an imperative. The reader is hailed between these positions of love and the loved and the effect is saturating, warm, delirious. Separation is that ‘it’, the spacing. In the video, we watch Lana painting and then suddenly she’s surfing with the aurora borealis in the background. She’s on a swing, her jean shorts caressed by the camera, she’s the sexualised pop icon again. She’s on a surfboard, green-screened, young. She’s choosing a shade of yellow from the palette, singing ‘Killing me slowly’. What is this ‘it’, killing her slowly: 

I’ll return to the unknown part of myself and when I am born shall speak of “he” or “she.” For now, what sustains me is the “that” that is an “it.” To create a being out of oneself is very serious. I am creating myself. And walking in complete darkness in search of ourselves is what we do. It hurts. […] a thing is born that is. Is itself. It is hard as a dry stone. But the core is soft and alive, perishable, perilous it. Life of elementary matter.

(Lispector 2014: 39)

I want slyly to argue that this is a kind of anthropocene existentialism. Recognition of the self as this ‘hard’, ‘dry stone’ thing of geologic mattering, reflexive species. This is what it is to be ‘Human’ right now. And yet the agential spark within, the ‘core’ that is being alive in a world where we have deposited those sedimentary layers. Creating ourselves in the stone, often with the tarnish of the very products we chose and developed to beautify, excoriate and cleanse ourselves, to remain forever young. So there is this oscillating temporality at work between desired infinity and the trace of our fugitive place on earth. The very earth minerals that would ruin humanity, mine our bodies of endless labour. But to go back to the song, with its idea of a gradual dying. I want to call this something like anthropocene softcore: the unnamed presence of species being within Lispector’s slender novel from the early seventies, or the Mamas and the Papas brand of late-sixties ‘sunshine pop’ whose solarity derives from the perishability of that energy, utopian commons, cascade of flowers — that serotonin glow of selves in streams and streams. 

Lana’s anthropocene poetics are not of the hardline, direct call to action. You would not say of her cultural presence, eco-warrior or nature goddess. You would not brand her Miss Anthropocene in a kind of demonic marketing gimmick. You would say most often she is a siren, per se, leisurely supplicating us towards death on the rocks. Desirous flow. This is anthropocene softcore. This is what it is to challenge the act of self-description itself, and in doing so questioning those generalisations that arise from the ‘we’ of humankind, not to mention the ‘I’ of pop’s delectable, mainstream lyric. Alchemically, Clarice Lispector and Lana make of these malleable pronouns the ‘perilous it’. The it, the feeling, the speaking self which is nothing much more than a bundle of affects, sensations, atoms. To be cast over and crested by the wave. Significant that ‘Fuck it I love you’ ends with the rising bubbles of this wave, the one that spills us through the fourth wall and into the studio. This song slams together pop’s saccharine mythos of California as dreamland, a late-summer song as the former was written, surely, for autumn. California: ‘it’s just a state of mind’. She could be talking about the self or the state, or the state of the self. 

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What happens next? The shot drifts over the cliffs, the coast, to a strip of palms and a distant view of the LA skyline. That shining love in the previous track is replaced by a minor key, a glimpse of the jukebox whose songs include The Eagles, Bon Iver, The National. Artists whose Americana is the melancholy of generations moved from political despair to something like the glitch of the times as a basic fact of intimacy. One of the Bon Iver songs shown in the video is ‘22 (OVER S∞∞N)’, and if that title was not rife with implicit apocalypse, what is, what is. A stammering into language, pitch-shifting the fragile space of utterance. There’s a spiritual glimpse to the sky and the infinite quality of the stars: 

There I find you marked in constellation (two, two)
There isn’t ceiling in our garden
And then I draw an ear on you
So I can speak into the silence
It might be over soon (two, do, two, do, two)

(Bon Iver, ‘22 (OVER S∞∞N)’)

I don’t know what the maths is doing. I don’t want to know that the song ‘was inspired in part by Bon Iver mainman Justin Vernon’s unsuccessful attempt to find himself during a vacation’. I am however interested in the hubris within this term ‘vacation’ at all. Do we now live in a world where you can take ‘time out’? There is nothing of the world we know that could be switched off. There is no ‘away’ of complete erasure or original presence. Deconstruction caught up with our living. Vernon describing this song as a gesture towards what might end of his emptiness could just as easily be flipped: its relief is equal to a mortal sense of loss. The impending erasures. It ‘does’ or acts the accretional event of extinction that is speaking into the silence, to those who could not speak back. 

Fragments and snatches: the neon green lining Lana’s eyes, the aurora borealis, the neon green palm in the club where she sings alone. A season by yourself. The love of the couple together surfing is cardboard, Hollywood. It is a trembling symbol. It is almost ridicule.

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What is Justin Vernon looking for in the constellation? When he sings ‘two two’ I think of Hilma af Klint’s nose-touching swans, or the hours of the day chipped at the edge — two of them stolen by tragic event. I think of a mic check, two, two, ch, ch. Click. Near-enough-presence of speech. A white swan on black background; a black swan on white background. Flip. The swans are geometry, signets of signature, they move towards abstraction. Growth. I love them. Fuck it I love them. The way they are just it. Inversions of colour and a monochrome mood splashed with cornflower blue, the tiny excess we can treasure. It is the cornflower blue, the little webbed feet, which make the swan in question unique. So we can care for it, figuratively as it swells through grey-white waters of memory. The swans we have lost in our shit. Royal iterations freed from belonging. This painting is from af Klint’s series Paintings for the Temple, works derived from spiritual communication. The abstraction of the swan / renders us stark in frame / for we were Lana or Leda / before we were animal. Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Seven Swans’: ‘All of the trees were in light’, ‘a sign in the sky’; ‘My father burned into coal’. And all of our sadness was carbon neutral before this. We plunge into whatever remains of the water, its plasticky thickness.

I keep pausing the video as it transitions. ‘Fuck it I love you’ twinned with ‘The greatest’. When The National sing It’s a terrible love and I’m walking with spiders, what exactly is the ‘quiet company’ of the ‘it’? It could just as well be spiders. Maybe it’s the web itself, the web between the human and the more than human, the gossamer moment where metaphoric articulation becomes more than feeling and gleams material. ‘It’s a terrible love that I’m walking with spiders’ — what is the grammatical transition done by that ‘that’ and who is to blame. Walking with spiders might just be that love. Transitional, subject/object logic is reversed in this song: ‘Wait til the past?’ is sung, then ‘It takes an ocean not to break’ when surely the ocean itself would break you. Soon the ‘terrible love’ is a substance, something ‘I’m walking in’ — to feel it is an act of immersion. It is to let that wave crest over, the ‘lyric auto-explosion’ (Moten 2017: 3) of the wave that would break you. 

In ‘The Greatest’, Cat Power sings of former ambition now cast to nostalgic regret. There is a sense of time slowing to delay, laconic strings, relaxed drums, the balladic sleep of a once-held fault. It is a parade slowing down in the rain. To say ‘Once I wanted to be’ is to hold this question of ‘the greatest’ as a generalised desire itself. The hunger we lose in time, whose primary colours soften. I hold to that precious, cornflower blue of a swan’s foot. ‘Two fists of solid rock / With brains that could explain / Any feeling’. This solid rock that would box you into the future, that would harden the edges of self. A thing is born, as Clarice puts it, ‘hard as as dry stone’. This is the thing born ‘that is’. To exist is to be this hard thing, protein ligament, to kick out in lines; but then in time there is the plasmatic self inside that, like some fatty animal byproduct, sticks to the others it loves, it needs, it leaks. Gelatinous, softly sticky love. The ‘it’ that needs saving. Anthropocene softcore; soapy inside of all geologic agency. Who we are and what we regret. The turning of the outside-in, the inside-out. Kathleen Jamie, in Sightlines, asks: ‘What is it that we’re just not seeing?’ (2012: 37). 

A sightline is a hypothetical line, from someone’s eye to what is seen. Is it clear or blurred, bad or good? Anthropos recedes in its very own scene as the ocean continues and we howl in the dark like a lossy-compressed version of species. We are the sirens and wolves. We are at the great concert of the Earth. We have to resist what Bernard Stiegler calls the ‘proletarianization of the senses’ (2017); we have to find longform ballads of what’s happening, pass them down the line, resist the short-circuiting of thought that occurs between screens and machines. We have to send letters back to our consciousness, our elders and children. This is the work of lyric. It could be the work of dance. I think of Zelda Fitzgerald’s protagonist, Alabama, learning to be a ballerina too late in her life: ‘Her body was so full of static from the constant whip of her work that she could get no clear communication with herself. She said to herself that human beings have no right to fail’ (2001: 180). Alabama barely eats; her energy is all the zeal of will. The dance of lyric as reduction, lack, as static and chased success whose collapse lands as Alabama will eventually do on the event of inevitable break. Grapefruit squeezed on the gritty turmeric shot of the future. And a brake, a screech. And yet we write, we cast out limbs and materials, we work towards this loss; we imbibe it. 

This is an ugly type of writing in which the outside is always imagined from the inside. Horizons are fictional and buildings are barred. I have no sightlines. I’m fucking cutting the corners of someone else’s desire. All paths are the continuation of a pre-existing line. This is a city from which I send myself postcards wherein I wish I was here. Flying letters. Words stolen from myself. I refuse to recognise that I have not composed them unintentionally

(Bolland 2019: 78).

The videos for Lana’s ‘Fuck it I love you’ and ‘The greatest’ swerve between inside and outside. We find ourselves in rooms we don’t remember entering. Writing the anthropocene has an ugly, masturbatory quality of fucking yourself with the rush of elaborate doom. Okay, so. Constructing fortresses of lines which would make a valiant destination. When I listen to Lana, I’m accessing shortcuts to ‘someone else’s desire’ which is the opening up of presence. ‘This is a city’; ‘I wish I was here’. I have never been to LA. We plagiarise our very own diaries to get back that sense of the once-intentional, the greatest declaration on Earth. That we were here, and we loved. She wrote that lit, forgot. The papers curled up and rolled away in a sultry air that was summer, 2012. The year of failed apocalypse, the year Lana released her debut album, Born to Die. We saw her campaign of fashion smoking through plexiglass bus shelters. Remember all ‘horizons are fictional’: they tell a narrative, they bleed and tilt and set like ice. Towards them we stupidly drift: the lived throb of our softcore skins, our hungers and rhythms.

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Drifting in colour like H.D.’s Leda, the rape of the land and the body and bodies engendering bodies. Worlds ending around us. And so I could say, but this is just one song, a phrase, a white woman of fame lamenting her world. But this self-conscious cinematics is a gesture towards the western world itself as this haunted, tragic protagonist: ‘The culture is lit and if this is it, I had a ball / I guess that I’m burned out after all’ (‘The greatest’). So you could say, anthropocene softcore speaks to the lyric I in its state of orphaned exception, which in turn is the loss felt by us all unequally. If we make of Lana a sort of anthropocenic siren, we must recognise the distinctions within our longing. For we all lose worlds differently; harm is striated along lines of class, gender, race, ethnicity, geographical distribution — of course. That wave that closes the video could elsewhere be a tsunami. I like to think its place on the edge is a deliberated hint to what could or is even already happening here or elsewhere. And maybe the colour, the aurora, is this streak of need for an excess beyond static blank, ‘human’ planet, standardised canvas; the need to splash something more of blur and blue. Flood the structure. 

When we say something is ‘lit’, we mean it is hot, on fire. We mean it is turned on, ignited, intoxicated, drunk, excellent. Lit is the past simple and past participle of light. Isn’t that line alone just lit? Maybe we are in the twilight of a former Enlightenment, recognising our species hubris as this alien green that tinges every familiar horizon, upsets the normalised green of pastoral. Is it toxicity, the elsewhere within ourselves? It is a radar showing who we are and where we have been. Those material metaphors cook on a smoulder, and this is the softcore coming to knowledge about what is happening.

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What does it mean to sing: ‘I’m facing the greatest / The greatest loss of them all’. To sing this on the brink of a hyperreal sunset, to chase a solar excess among loss. This loss could be a love but it is more like a culture; it is more like a voice and the condition from which to speak or sing it. The loss of lyric, its possibilities of address, and the loss or deferral or ruination of place itself. Maybe this is Lana’s lyric maturity, a generational acceptance that ‘young and beautiful’ is no longer the apex state of what we should strive for. Absence tenders complexity. Is this, as Roy Scranton puts it, Learning to Die in the Anthropocene? This question of mutability, the green-winged eye that sees a darkening world, a lack of birds along the bay, an edge. In the video for ‘The greatest’, Lana’s jacket reads LOCALS ONLY on the back. I google the phrase and find a hipster restaurant in Toronto with the slogan, LET’s PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED. There’s a kind of parochial nihilism that glisters like the light on the sea, but the sea can never be local only. There’s a boat in the video whose name is WIPEOUT. It’s all happening; the signals are obvious. How we are practicing the absent-presence of the name’s erasure. My tongue gets twisted when I say anthropos; I want to say mess, I fall into ‘guest’ and ‘gesture’. With its glaring cinematics, LA offers the hospitality of light. But it is an exclusionary light. For now, only some of us get lit, get to the mic.

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Lana sings from within the metallic architectures of LA’s coastal infrastructure, the port. In the bar, she throws a dart and misses her target by a nonchalant smidge, knocks the 8-ball towards its pocket. I keep thinking about exports and imports, what we put out, take in and trade. Economies of luck and depth and surface. Maybe Lana is a hydrofeminist, her soaring lyric gesture recalling a hauntology of America as that dreamscape of what lies beyond or in the deep. And now we know it is further extinction, precarity, hardened borders. What do we do with that looming closure? Lana has shrugged off her jacket now, she’s smoking in the kitchen where the lid slides off the pan to let the steam out. I’m not saying we’re sitting on a pressure cooker here. There’s simply work to do, mouths to feed, ears to fill. This is a ballad, a paean to the transient, fragile beauty of everything. The songs shown again on the jukebox are songs of a type of blues specific to oceanic or cosmic consciousness, to hunger, the time of lost summer or that of a broken love:

Janis Joplin — ‘Kozmic Blues’

Dennis Wilson — ‘Pacific Ocean Blue’

Sublime — ‘Doin’ Time’ 

David Bowie — ‘Ashes to Ashes’

Jeff Buckley — ‘Last Goodbye’

Leonard Cohen — ‘Chelsea Hotel #2’

I’ve spoken before of what ‘anthropocene sadcore’ might look like in poetry. I’m still working through that. It comes from the common phrase used to describe Lana’s music, ‘Hollywood sadcore’. I’m interested in how that emphasis on mediation, transmission and cinema plays out in our understanding of ecological emergency, but more generally the existential condition of the anthropocene, which places us as geologic agents under the generalised, gendered rubric of Man. Maybe Anna Tsing’s feminist work on the ‘patchy Anthropocene’ could be applied to the cut scenes of a glossy Los Angeles caught on video. A patch is also a software update, where comprised code is ‘patched’ into the code of an executable program. Maybe the patchy anthropocene involves this kind of cultural patchwork: the lament to a love or a culture is patched to include this bug of ecological consciousness — the patch is a kind of coded pharmakon, poison and cure for apocalypse blues. But Lana paints in shades of yellow too. Blue and yellow making aurora borealis green. A cosmic gesture to what lies beyond thought. And what of those oil rigs in the distance, glistening. They form an audience to the siren’s lament; they are part of this story, and we are mutually complicit. Where the magnetism of the male gaze is often part of Lana’s canon, here it is mostly replaced by oil rigs — supplementary Man as the infrastructure of anthropos, looking back at its melancholic, warning siren. Softcore is less affective than sadcore; it is the ambient hum of climax coming. Its cousin is the slowcore, luminous melancholia of a band like Red House Painters, perhaps: Purple nights and yellow days / Neon signs and silver lakes / LA took a part of me / LA gave this gift to me’. 

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In Bluets (2009), Maggie Nelson writes of a restaurant she used to work in, where the walls were ‘incredibly orange’. After each shift, collapsing exhausted in her own home, ‘the dining room’ of the restaurant ‘reappeared in my dreams as pale blue’:

For quite some time I thought this was luck, or wish fulfilment— naturally my dreams would convert everything to blue, because of my love for the colour. But now I realise that it was more likely the result of spending ten hours or more staring at saturated orange, blue’s spectral opposite. 

(Nelson 2009: 43)

Orange and blue, water and flame. The mind’s alchemical transformations reveal the way colour works chiastically upon us. I think of Freud’s mystic writing pad, the waxen surface of memories allowing for palimpsest versions of stories that trace and erase. ‘This is a simple story’, Nelson writes, ‘but it spooks me, insofar as it reminds me that the eye is simply a recorder, with or without our will. Perhaps the same could be said of the heart’ (2009: 43). ‘Fuck it I love you’, sung to the blue-orange wall until something comes off that surface like a static or fizz. Irn bru, ironed blue. There is quinine in my dreams of hungover labour. Surely there is a violence to this particular love, that is staring, necessary. The love of what must be limitless hurts.

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Janis Joplin’s ‘Kozmic Blues’ rises to a swell, a jostling of guitar licks and urgent, assured vocals. A sonic thickening. ‘So mastered by the brute blood of the air’, H.D. writes in ‘Leda and the Swan’. Held in that vascular shudder that acclimatises to a manmade world, what happens next is a loosening, a shimmer, a shrug of the garment. In the poem or song, in the painting or film, in the collapse of that wave into a bluer future. To incur a kind of erosion and yet live on in those terminals. ‘There’s a fire inside of everyone of us’, Joplin sings, and I think not of flames but of cinders. ‘At what temperature do words burst into flame?’, asks Ned Lukacher in the introduction to Derrida’s Cinders (1987), ‘Is language itself what remains of a burning? Is language the effect of an inner vibration, an effect of light and heat upon certain kinds of matter?’ (Lukacher 1987: 3). I know if I did not write I would smoke. These acts of temporality in its material extinguishing. What makes the remembered restaurant blue, not orange, is something of this transmogrified smoulder — an inversion akin to af Klint’s swans, demanding that splash of blue. When I write, am I pursuing the absent space of that skyward blue?Blue is the colour of the planet from the view above, Lana swoons in a song (‘Beautiful People Beautiful Problems’) from her previous album, Lust for Life (2017). But in Norman Fucking Rockwell, Lana’s California album for 2019, it’s less of this ‘above’ we see. We are held within the infrastructure, cinema, the end of summer. The dreamlike logic of How did she get on that boat? When did she enter that room? Who put that song on the jukebox, baby?

I want to say:

It takes an ocean not to break a planet.
It takes not a planet to break a species. 

Lana’s voice grows wispier as she sings of that burnout. There’s this imperative that okay we could enjoy this with American flags, we could pour communal Jack and go down in flames. We could riff the history of our culture in archives of song, gestures and nods of reference. Ladies of the Canyon, Cinnamon Girl, Norman Fucking Rockwell. We could keep laughing or dancing while the world is or was at war. Lana is both behind and at the bar, the sightline of where we go to be ‘served’. Intoxication is the order of the day and we call it ‘fun’ to put the fucking of other people’s desires under erasure, strikeout, as Bolland does.

If this is it, I’m signing off
Miss doing nothing, the most of all
Oh I just missed a fireball
L.A. is in flames, it’s getting hot
Kanye West is blond and gone
“Life on Mars” ain’t just a song
Oh, the lifestream’s almost on

(Lana Del Rey, ‘The greatest’)

Miss doing nothing’: post-recessional ennui becomes the paradoxical happiness of living in static, not working as a kind of work that resists the future as set out by capitalist horizons of accumulation. We used to just ‘hang out’ and several other dreams of youthful nostalgia. Kids of today can’t even touch that innocence. We know so much; maybe or probably they know more. We are all variously entranced by the softcore unfold of this happening; we are all variously called upon to be complicit, to recycle, act, resist. To speak or not-speak. To be in one of many different levels of rising heat. The conditional state of being’s value, ‘If this is it’, in the anthropocene raises its pitch to a charge. To sign off is a form of surrender that gives up the name for the blur of species. I think of Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, the planet that would smash us and yet somehow Lana dodges it, that

The audience in the bar where she sings are mostly men, but their gaze is not sexual, as in much of Lana’s prior visual oeuvre. Rather, their longing gaze, often filtered through further glass, is something like the profound melancholy of a multi-generational sense of this loss. These old men have lost the planet, the one they grew up with, just like Lana’s siren, come from some other time, a life ahead of her steered by the changing climate, the hurt and vengeful seas. The camera holds close ups on their staring faces. The song holds the long durée of a loss that spans generations, damages and is damaged by elders, sparks in the present-tense of cultural tendency. In Lana these men look to a future hurt whose cause was partly theirs, as inheritors of industry: she is both victim and heroine, singing and swinging. The shot opens out to reveal her smiling with younger friends, her own generation. These intimacies are what we have left. The next shot shows some kind of factory or refinery leaking smog into a cloudy, overcast skyline, sulphured yellow. Once again the boat appears with its title, WIPEOUT. Lana is supine on the bow at sunset. She is golden, angelic, silhouette. It’s like she missed the fireball but melted it, cooked it up for tea, apocalypse syrup. Things are going down around us. She hugs her arms, later standing, laughing with a dreamlike intimation of imagined elsewhere, closing her eyes. Be hospitable to yourself and others. The reel of the jukebox keeps ever turning: this is our ever faith in culture. We have to take care of what’s left in whatever space we can make of song, duration. 

But the mainstream disciples and idols of Hollywood are failing, Kanye West is ‘gone’. Surely a reference to Elon Musk’s plans to save us by colonising Mars, ‘“Life on Mars” ain’t just a song’ is sung with a melancholy matter-of-factness, a kind of sigh which implies the banality of techno-utopia in a time of extinction. The thrill of such dreams is lost now. We lost our faith in Hollywood, lost our faith in the movies and the scale of those solutions. In a world without books, we’d be ‘bound to that summer’, addicted to one of many narcissistic ‘counterfeit[s]’ to make love to nightly in futile repetition — that would be, as Weyes Blood sings, the ‘Movies’. 

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What we look back with: 

The trauma is not, in the Freudian lexicon, this or that violation from the world (such as war), but the ill and trauma of this originary installation of “the cave”—what could properly be called the cin-anthropocene epoch, particularly given that the era of modern cinema is to be regarded merely as an episode: that of the machinal exteriorization of the cinematic apparatus, given that it coincides with the era of oil (artefacted “light”), given that its arc coincides with that hyperconsumptive acceleration leading to mass extinction events, ecocide, and an emerging politics of (managed) extinction

(Cohen 2017: 246)

The trauma of greatness as such is this accelerated promise of the dream, the event, capitalist growth, the movie itself — whose imperative is towards scene, closure, episodic narrative in demand of the next. But the drinks in this video are barely drunk; they are more like props. Everyone is aware of their place in the tableau vivant of the anthropocene, even in its softcore, consumerist pop expression: the iconography of oil rigs, downbeat affect and intergenerational longing. Not a violation from the world so much as the stream, and where its accumulative logic would eventually come to crisis, even as corporations beyond our imagining were already plotting that logic of a break within archival excess: the feverish incineration of the present, the smoulder and melt that smogs and spreads and streams. 

Fire is there or it is not there. […] But surely there is a word for that moment when a fire log, beneath its bark, has become one immanent ember, winking like a City or a circuit board; for that moment when you know only the desire, no, the need to stir it up. What is on fire, you ask yourself, staring into that waiting. What is that moment. What is that word. 

(Lennon 2003: 434)

The nights ‘on fire’ that Lana sings of are those of the Beach Boys, reprieve of the sixties; the bar on Long Beach that served as a ‘last stop’ before the tiny island retreat of Kokomo. Frank O’Hara died on Fire Island. Fire is presence or absence, but there is a moment before it is both. A slippage between the extinct and extinguished. And the world was lit up as before. I wonder if the word Brian Lennon looks for is simply ‘sleep’, the title of his essay which I first read in John D’Agata’s anthology, The Next American Essay — with intimations of that Lana song, ‘The Next Best American Record’. What is with America and the positioning of the next. A constant state of pressurised imminence that streams and streams: ‘We lost track of space / We lost track of time’ (‘The Next Best American Record’). We sleep into death or spirit. My first legal drink was a fireball whisky, in a pub by the sea they built in a church. That moment when you know only the ‘need to stir it up’, fanning the flames. That impulse towards blitz feels extra political in these contexts. We need something of relief that would stream, and in that flow be more than a question. Something of cinders, drifting. 

In Lana’s song, I’m interested in this word ‘lifestream’, which seems like a slippage from the more familiar internet-lingo, the ‘livestream’: the coming live that seems provisional to digital retro-future, the promise of satellites beaming the present, simultaneously. Lifestream, instead, is a vascular imaginary of bodies flowing together. ‘LifeStream’ is actually the name of a blood bank serving the Inland Empire and its surrounding areas. Lifestreaming is, Wikipedia tells me, ‘the act of documenting and sharing aspects of one’s daily social experiences online’. It is the flow of the timeline, akin to the wall, the blogroll, the feed. But here, at the end of the song, the promise of information’s overflow is in a liminal state — ‘almost on’. Extinction’s monetised data cast as the simultaneity of thick presence spread by millioning participants. We are here and we said something, our words were atoms, splashes of blue. We stream towards a life, cut ourselves short on the fragments of others’ desires. Mortality’s softcore contingent. The fear of missing out is assuaged by the narcotising work of cinema. And if this is it, Lana has already signed off. It’s something more like her spirit that’s here for us, the stream of an echo, fold of a song that we could replay, continue voicing. Hope lies in the circadian rhythm, the lived time of a pause in the anthropocene’s ceaseless, cinematic duration — that which we see and drown our hearts in. As Jean Rhys’ drunken, depressed protagonist of Good Morning, Midnight (1939 – the year WWII began) muses, ‘Well, sometimes it’s a fine day, isn’t it? Sometimes the skies are blue. Sometimes the air is light, easy to breathe. And there is always tomorrow….’ (Rhys 2000: 121). And what if tomorrow was the greatest loss of them all? 

~

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All screen grabs taken from here (Director: Rich Lee) and here (Director: Natalie Mering). 

~

Works Cited: 

Bolland, Emma, 2019. Over, In, and Under (Manchester: Dostoyevsky Wannabe). 

Cohen, Tom, 2017. ‘Arche-Cinema and the Politics of Extinction’, boundary 2, Vol. 44, No. 1, pp. 239-265.

Fitzgerald, Zelda, 2001. Save Me the Waltz (London: Vintage). 

Jamie, Kathleen, 2012. Sightlines (London: Sort of Books). 

Lennon, Brian, 2003. ‘Sleep’, The Next American Essay, ed. by John D’Agata, (Minneapolis: Gray Wolf Press), pp. 427-234.

Lispector, Clarice, 2014. Agua Viva (London: Penguin). 

Lukacher, Ned, 1987. ‘Introduction: Mourning Becomes Telepathy’, Cinders, trans. by Ned Lukacher, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press), pp. 1-18. 

Moten, Fred, 2017. Black and Blur (consent not to be a single being) (Durham: Duke University Press). 

Nelson, Maggie, 2009. Bluets (Seattle: Wave Books). 

Rhys, Jean, 2000. Good Morning, Midnight (London: Penguin). 

Riley, Denise, 2000. The Words of Selves: Identification: Solidarity, Irony (Stanford: Stanford University Press). 

Scranton, Roy, 2015. Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilisation (San Francisco: City Lights Books).

Stiegler, Bernard, 2017. ‘The Proletarianization of Sensibility’, boundary 2, Vol. 44, No,. 1, pp. 5-18. 

 

Playlist: April 2019

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I remained on the alert to seize those vagrant moments which seemed to me in quest, as a lost soul is in quest of a body, of a consciousness to register and feel them

— Jean Genet.

 

I’m in a Caffe Nero in Central Manchester, and they’re playing Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’, a song I love dearly but haven’t heard in a while. People nearby are talking Italian, Portuguese, French; the coffee smells of a job I left behind. I kept dozing on the train heading south, the way you only doze as a teenager, as if falling asleep was its own laconic rebellion. As if your cares were minor enough to warrant a worldly suspension. There is something bittersweet I can’t name, for fact of the secret and something new coursing through me. I forget to spell, to brush my hair. I check in, and then out. I walk until my feet are sore. Along the canal the water glitters, a quintet of goslings tap at the grass. These shoes don’t fit yet. I’m collecting images for later, holding off the impulse to open my phone. Everything good is a little green light, an almost constancy.

There are bits of wax pastel under my nails I can’t scrape out, the blues and greens. Late at night I sketch mountains, undulating lines that mean something unnameable of time and place. This is where we are when we can’t hold it clearly. I need a selection of scenes. As if you could peel the line from the form. I do this over and over when I struggle to write. It all looks kitsch.

Transferable lines betray their futures.

As though you had to draw to think the drawing hand, the soul behind it. I could drink so much more of this thing that we are. Little symbol of something merlot. We talk of luminous substances, cinema.

*

I buy a badass topless postcard of Sappho. I do the splits at a poetry reading.

An elderly man from Cumbria relays a potted history of the railways between Preston and Carlisle. He tips his hat to me upon leaving the carriage; I go back to Clarice, reeling.

Suited lads order Carling till everything stops and we slump back into the city.

Fade out.

*

We do doubles and discuss our thievery; we’re not counting exactly, the hours just melt into amber, slosh after slosh and the sting of it. He says lovely hurt things, plus the syntax of limbs and rhythms. Weeks before, I snap glow-sticks onstage, follow the blue dot flash on the map. April feels sweet and easy. The blossoms are gone from the trees already. We are vaguely north. I want to hand you something precious that can’t be replaced.

We smash his plates at six in the morning, as though the heart were a sacred amphora.

Every few days I flip open Derrida’s Glas at random. I am caught on this gl, this glimmer and glyph. The only good thing we learned on that course was the runes, I see more of the runes in the church in Govan. I want to wrap my hands round a genuine sunstone, we discuss evolution at dusk and somebody is always interrupting us. The weather is clear and mild, like a symbol. Elsewhere I write the phrase, life is just stars refusing to die, and I don’t know why.

*

“We talked of the sun and moon, of what makes an earnest Instagram.”

*

I called it good air and used more cobalt to imply the sky. A man on my train resembled Mark Fisher and later I dreamt I asked him a question. Plexiglass demands a certain click. I scrolled on my iPod to find the playlist with all the rainbows, there was this chat of garage shanty and April showers. I tell your dad about the legendary felling of the lilac tree. Sometimes we think in firewood and catch sparks in the kitchen. If you want me I’ll be in the bar

*

Cixous: ‘It is as if I were a fish and I wondered: “How can I be too much for the sea? How can I drown the sea?”’.

What is it we said of the question itself. ‘We never die enough’, she writes. Currently obsessed with excess, against lack. I die into the writing and it gets so I can’t even write! But that’s beautiful too, because the not-writing is the veer of the pen that leaks on my bed and the sleep that made it happen. I walked so far it was all I could do. Something turned over with pale deliberation; we had to elide the sea from each scene. And the gulls fell away like punctuation.

The fish drowns the sea with interminable shimmer! ABSOLUTE selenium. It is a vodka taste of pearlescent tendrils, it is everywhere you want to go of the road. We trundle into London at minimal expense. The air is mega.

*

Out in the dark, I lost the necklace with the ‘M’ on it, the one I’ve had since I was a child. I bore the loss quietly, which seemed to befit initial extinction. Later, I’d buy a watch with a face of pearl to replace it. I saw there was a value in time again.

*

Sincerely I wished to be a reader of science-fiction, but that was an effect of the store with all  the metallic covers, the pop music. And of Messenger, ever. Some things you can’t parse from a future, but certain emotions grant you investment. There is finally something to want of tomorrow.

The day is all pinstriped and sunny, I can’t see through it.

*

Scientists are finding shrimps that are laced with cocaine. We’re geared up for anything, they scream in journals. I eat my way through loops, wake shiny without comedowns. Something translucent twangs of the skin.

*

I taste a nearly virtual plain, with lavender milk.

*

In her poem ‘April 23rd’, Bernadette Mayer writes of a ‘cardinal’. I keep thinking of that song with the butterfly and the dogwood, the shades drawn down. It just appears, almost without comments excepting the greyness. Cixous notes, ‘The things that happen are too beautiful to be written’. This is all true and maybe why mostly the lines elude, or weigh too rich on the page these days. I am grateful for small indefinite phrases that come, and the pretty ones that even sometimes land. You can cry if you find the right canopy.

*

He wore green velvet.

*

There is all this tender intuition. The expressions of vanishing in Permanent Green Light. The protagonist who lies in a sleeping bag on this soft suburban lawn, a piñata hanging in the tree above him. Prior serenities of sleeping on trampolines through summery twilight. Blinded we’d swipe at the sky to beat the last of the leaves into tinder. Explosion is what happens to the sun all the time. It’s kind of delicious to think of that, like romance as solarity and the space between us. Measured days and days, held breath.  

…What changed?

*

Dream of Sibylle Baier’s colour-green sweater. It’s made of angora and makes me sleep into the sleep of itself, as though sleep were exactly what you drew about your shoulders. And you did.

They were playing Bright Eyes in Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s, a good omen if ever I know one. First with your hands, then with your mouth

*

Alone on the stairwell, dropping slips of snowy paper. Enjambed cacophony of the neighbours smoking, and a blue light that isn’t mine, the massive tv I pass each night in familiar windows. I love to be alone in hotel rooms, the soft mood of the light. The endless sense of mirror and sleep. When you played, you wanted to see to touch. I tried to remember the beautiful email, to make it better. Little confused thing, said so simple, sorting papers.

Sometime in April a letter I wrote.

Last edit was seven hours ago and boy can you feel it, a critical hit.

*

What I drew had no obvious form. I’d stopped bothering to look for permanence. There’s a new kind of ring to the rain, the smell of green leaves and the river’s illegibility. Most extravagant violet marks, a watched ellipsis. Here.

~

Sibylle Baier — Colour Green

Yohuna — The Moon Hangs in the Sky Like Nothing Hangs in the Sky

Pinegrove — Skylight

Hand Habits — what’s the use

Twain — Solar Pilgrim

Frankie Cosmos — On the Lips

The Bellybuttons — Mannequins, Gr.

Aldous Harding — Fixture Picture

Thee Oh Sees — Island Raiders

Youth Lagoon — 17

Buck Meek — Halo Light

Cate le Bon — Home to You

Joni Mitchell — Little Green

Weyes Blood — Something to Believe

The Cure — Plainsong

Galaxie 500 — Hearing Voices

Four Tet — Teenage Birdsong

Robert Sotelo — Orangerie

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Planet B

PUP — Full Blown Meltdown

Better Oblivion Community Centre — Exception to the Rule

FKA Twigs — Cellophane

Princess Chelsea — I Love My Boyfriend

Sky Ferreira — Voices Carry (‘Til Tuesday cover)

Big Thief — Orange

Talk Talk — New Grass

Yo La Tengo — Green Arrow

Brand of Immortality

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I can say we had no idea what we were doing here, but that wouldn’t be fair on Bill, who is always trying, who understands things in a way I suppose I could never. Bill with the sticky note diagrams pinned to our bed, torn down in the morning. He says my lack of understanding grants me a brand of immortality.

“I could never think about the future, babe,” he assures me, “because I know too much already.” The yellow notes curl in his fist.

Everything we do we do in present-tense; he makes sure of it. I wish he would elaborate on what he means by ‘brand’. 

Every day he refuses to stare at horizons or watch the white scream of webpages buffering. He is never without some tool in his hand, whether it be a toothbrush, hacksaw or knife; he does not build, he will only fix. Never without a drink either, whether it be a mug of instant or a cup sloshing over with supermarket wine. We only need to take the car out five miles to the nearest store. We make our own convenience.

My favourite times of day at the cottage are dawn, noon and dusk. I like edges and centres. The caramel hour bitten into crisp wafer, wakefulness. Times right after the light changes and the clouds sweep into general elemental drama. I shiver in the damp air and go outside to catch a breeze, wrapped in the scratchiest blanket. I watch Bill take the boat out and kick shingle back into the sea, wishing I was smoking. Something I gave up when we moved south, along with everything else. The Topshop habit, the fibre-optic broadband, the Netflix subscription. In tattered clothes I walk the shore, losing my sequins. A lot of what remains from that time is stuffed in boxes beneath our bed. There isn’t space to pull it out, but on special occasions I’ll riffle through for a pair of shoes or a dress. Once, I salvaged my patent blue heels and a pale gold backless number and paraded down the creaking stairs, as though I were a prom queen, morning after, my hair unbrushed for days. Bill saw me at the door in the light and laughed.

“You look nice babe,” he offered. He was fixing something on the hinge, or the lock, wielding his drill. He gave me a look that only a father gives, a kind of bemusement and tolerance towards his daughter’s minor rebellions. As if I’d bothered smudging lipstick on as well, as if this were some extravagant transgression. I felt shame. 

I sat at the makeshift desk we’d set up by the window, flipped open the laptop and looked for work. I did things freelance, intermittently. When I got a good job, I’d sometimes beat Bill in the takings, but such jobs were few and far between. Plus, they’d leave me ragged for nights, up late with the slowest WiFi, endlessly emailing and making notes. Times like these I missed smoking most. Smoking would fill a delay. I could never get my sentences right, and facts seemed increasingly blurry, always positioned ahead of me. It was like the sea licked the edge of my prose and wouldn’t let things settle. I hated every draft I ever completed. I needed that nicotine clarity, the stark voice of an editor at my back, the buzz and warmth of an office.

But then again I have space now. I let myself think.

We moved south to get away from something, sure. I’m not sure what we were looking for, was it solace in the water? Bill says it’s contaminated, the shoreline. He’s seen folk in high-vis doing tests, collecting samples. I’ve seen them too but never tell him. There used to be some kind of plant nearby, perhaps a rig; you can see its skeletal remains jutting out to sea on clear days, if you walk far enough west. The ghosts of a former infrastructure. I took loads of photos when I first saw it, I wanted to write a blog for this environmental organisation. I wanted to get paid for ranting about the surprising petro-landscapes of the south. I loved the way the sea stars and lush, cola-coloured kelp just clung to the rusted bars. Politically, things went sour that month and it wasn’t a good time for complaining about oil; I ended up writing on the specific variety of pink thrift that springs up hardily around our cottage. It was some cutesy piece for a gardening website where everything was written for ‘Mums’ specifically. They wanted you to send them an ‘everyday headshot’. You had to mention ‘your kids’ and make offhand remarks about a ‘work-life balance’.

I took my coil out months ago. I wanted to leave things to chance. Something he doesn’t know.

Bill and I have been painting the living room, a stark shade of yellow. He was so sceptical, humming and hawing in the B&Q we’d driven two hours to get to. I had printed off all these articles about how yellow increased happiness, how it set off your serotonin receptors, how it had served in this or that film set, how it could soften your lighting, your heart. The first thing Bill did when we left B&Q with the heavy pots of paint was spit, groggily, onto the concrete. He’d had a particularly bad cold but wouldn’t admit it. A woman was passing into the store with her daughter in arm, and looked at both of us in disdain. Not that Bill noticed. He was distracted by the task at hand. His spit swirled with luminous green, on the surface of the car park. It had landed perfectly, ridiculously, on a blue bottle cap. It looked like the fucking Earth.

Sometimes I wish I could really look into what’s happening, what’s to come. I’d be a much better freelancer, I’d predict and inform and connect. The old woman in the cafe says there used to be whooper swans, smews and teal. She has this whole list of beautiful birds she reels from. I see her once a week, sipping her Earl Grey tea on Friday afternoons — the only day I allow myself the luxury of hiding out here instead of the damp cottage, reading. I read whatever’s on the shelf of the cafe, trashy romances and natural history; I never finish the book I pick up, never ask to take it away with me. Borrowing seems too committal. The old woman says the land is dying; sometimes she is more specific. She remarks on my tardiness, remembers the days when girls dressed smart. I find it remarkable she still refers to me as ‘girl’, hasn’t noticed the streaks of silver in my hair, increasing day by day. Of course she is immaculate, a figure lifted straight from a 1950s knitwear catalogue. 

My blood still comes, out of the blue in the night like a miracle. I lay awake listening to  gushing rain.

The living room is finished, smelling fresh. I have drafted my piece about losing the birds, quoting Ms Earl Grey for good measure. Bill says I’ll struggle to find anywhere to send it. Nobody wants to hear about extinction, he says. Especially from someone so obviously immortal. He winks and I try to comprehend. Everyone is willing me into the present, but I can see the longview now and it is not bright, it is not yellow. The yellow won’t hide the cracks from the damp; the alkaline, unpleasant smell leaking out from the soil beneath us. The men in high-vis taking samples wear yellow. When I stand on the edge of the shore with hail in my eyes, their yellow mixes up with the yellow of boats and lights of distant harbours. When I look out to sea I don’t know what I’m seeing. The tide gets closer to the cottage each day. Soon there’ll be water at the door. 

Bill might find a solution, build a wall. I am not so sure he can solve this. He asks why my eyes are stung red and raw each night and I blame the weather. He runs his fingers along my spine and tastes the future inside me, bruises me like a fruit he can’t quite eat. In the morning I wake up and stare at the yellow, remembering.