A living spring introduction

The lyric poem component is a reworking of the earlier poem Possessed and takes certain echo’s from the monologue story that accompanies it. I wonder if it will be necessary in the end to keep the titles of the lyric monologue pairs the same, or if the echo’s will be able to stand on their own. I have much more work to do before making that decision!

The possibility of a prolonged monologue still interests me – and increasingly it will depend on experiments I make with structure and what I can roll with in the surprises the writing presents.

Food for thought. Which reminds me, it’s time for lunch.


A living spring

We’re going to take your elbows – they’re to go on without you.


I’d thought what it held was water, that the spring was like a fountain in a town square or hidden in the dent of a rock, or cast out of the earth by restless pressure.

It turns out that the spring has nothing to do with water. It has nothing to do with a town square with a dry flaky pavement, or the snuff of a cave, or even the inside
of a dark place being squeezed from its tube.

The spring is warmer outside than inside. It is out-living. It dances around matter
and what I thought a moment ago and what I think now can be possessed – can be struggled out of.


I watch my elbows with difficulty; chart the undergrowth of everyday tasks, familiar gestures that have become so assured. Time makes the body assured.
There are other factors I’m sure.

In the body is a muscle-listener, tenderness, a tongue tinned, quiet with lowly oxygen.
In this observance bells are cast. Pores ring. Temperature is right. Favourable conditions melt to music.

Life, without bells or hands to warm them, is lost in thought, or hope – anywhere close.
I will fold my skin. I will shake it out, and dance and dance. I will let go
and only tell the story at my feet.


And the goose bumps of my skin will withdraw from significance. I won’t be hidden, I wont be awake. I will only listen, outwardly. I’ll tell you eventually that it wasn’t my elbows you wanted, but something I never knew I possessed.

A living spring

M-L feels biased when her friends arrive with such blank faces. She hears footsteps on the tiles outside her door and already she can tell that these footsteps are expecting something from her.

The sound they make is rapid, even though it is summer and there is no real reason to be rushing toward the doorbell. The footsteps want to be seated, inside, where M-L will entertain them with her fine nose, and her partner B will prepare cooking smells that will go home with them in their dresses, ties and cardigans.

M-L has a concealed forehead. Her streaked hair is bracken that forms a blind spot where other people might just frown. You can see the faint undergrowth of her scalp through the sticks of hair. She has a mouth that says modest things that are pitched by her voice so that they glint a little like new coins. Her nose is delicate, with freckles that look like abandoned loose change. As her most endearing feature she secures and maintains her friendships with her nose and its active curves.

On a Tuesday, which is today, near the start of summer, M-L opens her door five times to let her friends in. She emailed 8 invitations, and she is a little pleased that she only has to open the door five times, rather than 8 times. B has a spinach parcel in the oven already. She calls it a parcel because she likes the thought of putting a gift in the oven and getting an even crispier, extra golden gift back.

Really its proper name is Spanakopita, which translates as Spinach Pie, and it is a recipe that B picked up off an ex-partner who was also a chef. M-L told me once in confidence that if not in the company of others, B and her find it overly easy to fight about Spanikopita and its origins. Thought M-L finds Spanakopita delicious she will only eat it when she is secure and confident in the company of her friends. Spinach Pie is a special treat for both B and M-L for very different reasons.

At about 8pm the friends take their seats at the long table in a room separate from the kitchen. At the table B has already placed her chin into the intimate bracken of M-L’s hair in a way that takes for granted the familiar smell she finds there; she no longer makes a lingering request. It is the place where B goes to centre herself in the company of M-L’s friends. M-L’s voice squeaks a little more than usual, as if she is experiencing a rush of goose bumps and is trying to hide them. Her friends pay particular attention to her nose, and I can see that it is a rock that they are all trying to stand on.

M-L toys with her blind spot. She has developed habits that her friends have come to rely on and being a rock is one of them. Her nose is a small island on which the people she loves congregate. They can throw stones off into the outer zones of her features and see them ripple, amused and almost hoping that the pebbles will some how bounce back and smack them lightly on their foreheads, an intimate ellipse like baptism.

This never happens, and they are all relieved and made awkward by disappointment.

I am attracted to M-L’s right elbow, and in the past this has been a problem in our friendship. I do not take much interest in her nose, and do not get much satisfaction from watching B hide a little in the thicket of M-L’s hair above the assembly of her friends. I rarely join the congregation in the middle of her face and in spite of myself start to ask B about where she found the delicious recipe for Spanakopita.

I do this even though I can see the party on M-L’s nose squirm and pick up wine glasses and take sips at great speed without comfortable breath in between and grip the glasses with both hands like bulky stones that can’t be thrown.

I resort to buttering the bread on my plate. I ask M-L how the life drawing class is going, all the while buttering the bread that flattens under the knife and is sucked down and breaks open and shows the flat-bone plate.

M-L uses sentences that have been practiced on others at different times earlier in the day, and she adds warmth to the details that bring her drawing class to life by making the words travel the full length of her tongue; the story pumps with quiet stamina.

I excuse myself from the table and go to the bathroom. B follows me and asks me if I’m all right, and I say that I have perhaps enjoyed too much rich food. The greasy marks on my wine glass are there when I get back.

The friends have left the safety of the island and are in different places of the flat, talking or stroking an object or helping tidy up the kitchen now that the plates have been cleared and dessert needs to come out. B begins to talk about the origins of her name, and the origins are admirable and have a deep root to them, and slink under the growth of time to a point made intelligible by darkness.

M-L leans over my shoulder, beside me but a little behind with her elbow almost touching my back. She wants to know what my name means. I tell her ‘a living spring’ and she says she never thought that a spring that is coiled and metallic and that hovers between the earth and the sky could be living. I do not say nor had I, but nudge the bend of her arm onto the launch of my back.

Under energy saving light bulbs, B gifts us Sorbet.

Lydia Davis and tangents of structure

Initially when I read Lydia Davis collection ‘Break it down’ I was attracted to the psychological environments she established through very minimal means and how this freed up an approach to the endings of the stories.

Since reading the interview Structure is Structure that Rina passed on to me the other day I have also become interested in thinking about how the structure of her stories informs my reading of her work as minimal and less invested in causality or its drama.

Structure is a kind of dry word, as if it means to take the magic out of something. In the context of her writing however it takes on a kind of unpredictable power.

It has something to do with scale and proportion, which in her stories seems to focus the psychological boundaries of her characters. There is an investigation of what her characters can know about themselves and their environment and how this informs what they can know of others.

For example in Five Signs of Disturbance, the physical limits of a woman’s state of mind are animated. A democracy between her thoughts and her environment exists. In this situation time is left alone. Later it transpires that it was there, and makes demands only when the character attempts to pin her understanding or confusion on something tangible or immediate. The structure becomes less about repetition or sparseness or lack of dramatic plot, but more about tensions leading to and away from understanding, and how it does or doesn’t find appropriate tangibility in language.

I get excited about the tangents in tangibility, that maybe understanding requires considerable tangents on which to hinge and generate a memory, or a memorable after-life once it is reabsorbed by the pace of life or the mind.

I will leave it at that for now. I am thinking about structure as I am thinking about how it can be experimented with in different ways in long or short fiction and how structure might relate to the logic of conclusion, or scale which is about tangents of boundaries.

Lydia Davis interviewed by Jason McBride can be found on the Poetry Foundation website and is titled Structure is Structure.


Questions: Different padding to diffident pudding

I’m intentionally back to ignoring genre’s again – still with the chaos of specific ones in the back of my mind – the dramatic monologue, lyric, magic realism, language poetry, phenomenology…then the ones that seem to have been obscured for a while or the ones that you can feel coming at you as if from the future…etc

So more specifically I’m intentionally ignoring what can and can’t supposedly mix as genres or be subtracted or added. The writing generates a cacophony all of its own, and then my intentions do also, and then whatever else is out there nosing around.

Thinking about genres does seem like unnecessary trouble and for this reason my curiosity is piqued, I can’t help myself – why am I thinking about magic realism?

There is what you write and what you love to read. What you love to talk about also.


Where does magic realism fit in the conversations I’m having – strangely it might be an editing thing, a question of editing – which is one way of saying the shape you try and draw out of writing after it has led you where it wants you to go – or during the process if the writing is being demanding – or not at all if it’s being improvisationally lucid.

I think even the magic realists wouldn’t have liked the idea of magic realism much, the cute side of it anyway – whatever the name there does seem to be something about a relation of fantasy to talking about the present, maybe even the subjective generalised or the general subjectified to talk about the social.

E. Jabes has his characters variously put each other through questioning, or put each other on trial.

Strangeness and questions are related.

So if I ignore the trope magic realism and pick up on the following maybe it will get me somewhere more interesting, a place to have a conversation beyond petty rejection of terminology:


A piece of writing may suppress its questions until the end of the first draft – this means it is also delaying a transparency of its potential strangeness, which by extension gives it a social and subjective framework.

It can’t always see at first what its fantasies are and how it needs to be edited or layered by intentionality, a layer which whether subjective or general allows specific questions to become visible to a reader.

When people begin to establish boundaries between each other, there is a necessary openness, a starting point with only implied boundaries, where few have been mutually exercised or practiced – humble, shy, anticipating but not yet lived.

Writing must also find a way to make liveable the implied boundaries it has set itself – and perhaps this is why I’m thinking about where editing fits into the process as well as fantasy and realism.

First lets talk about fantasy. Sport has been on my mind, on the mind of my writing…

Yes that’s right, sport, as in games, play – the national obsession is just the tip of the iceberg my writing is saying to me.

Then most recently the strangest proposition was made – Sport relates to Holidays!

What? The part of my writing that tries to clarify things for me has been a pain in the ass about this for weeks now…What does sport have to do with holidays? I’ve tried to ask it, cajole an answer from it. As always it took me a while to realize I needed to ask it some harder questions.

Does sport relate to pleasure?
Does leisure first confront the body?
What is the role of play in the imagination?
What do freedom and boundaries have to do with strangeness and how we confront it?
What explosions and superstitions can the athletic heart bear?

I’ve been working on a poem that has this line in it:

– proportion is an unfathomable holiday in another heart.

Holidays, like sport, occur on a scale of formal and informal play. Holidays are available to (inflicted on), in various forms, everyone – that is what is implied by the holiday. Sport has a similar proposition to it, an element of the life-miniature:

To explain:

– with watching a game of sport, playing soccer in the driveway or going camping or sleeping in the back-yard, we have the chance to respond to the subtle changes, twists and turns, that are otherwise obscured by everyday volatility. For better or worse.

Lets extend this further:

Another example would be how you don’t notice how family members, that you might grow up living with, age, in comparison to those relatives who you don’t see as often.

Sport or a holiday would seem to give you the opportunity to take in changes which time would normally smooth over, incrementally, as you slow down also, take time out, enjoy time for the pure pleasure of it, knowing that there is a start and end to the activity.

BUT it gets more interesting when you remember the element of play, pleasure in activity, in boundaries and inventive freedom. You would much rather prioritise the ‘general’ observation, the deepening of emotional, physical, mental and even spiritual involvement, seemingly at a remove from life’s usual pace and parameters.

At first this appears to be an attempt to just stall the increments that are always so swiftly passing in the everyday rush of routine.

What’s more significant is that we also try to do away with or reorient the superstitions of this rushing, this striving and straining – on holiday or at play, rushing, striving and straining are all present, they are just reorganised to suit a particular replenishment of the compass.

I think this is why I wanted to give a little wave to genre, to its historical and social compass – tapping into genres is a little bit like taking an unfathomable holiday in another heart.

It can be both ethical and unknown, limiting and explosive.

Different padding to diffident pudding…

Postscript to ‘Possessed’

I began ‘Possessed’ after watching the video performance by Hannah Wilke. Wilke was one of my early influences when I first began to practice performance and push the capacity for the body to exert its expertise in both art and writing.

I think realizing the body in anything is hard – even in life its hard. You could say the body is everywhere and it is explosive and secretive and arduous and lightening-like and a compass and a short straw and a superstition and a belief and a holiday and a home.

I’m going to try and get at the body a bit more – this attempt will try to enrich the ‘energy’ I’ve talked about in relation to my writing, that I’ve been attempting to shape through structures like the pairs of lyric monologues.

The body is tied to strangeness – a hiccup that devours its promise.

I want to know how writing might be able to endure the body and how the body might be able to better endure writing.


We’re going to take your hands, they’re to go on without you – I watch my hands intently for the rest of the day.

I watch them perform everyday tasks, the familiar gestures that have become so assured.

Time makes the body assured. There are other factors I’m sure. In the body is a good listener.

Bells are cast. Pores ring. The temperature is right. Favourable conditions lead to music.

I consider a life without bells or hands to warm them. Palms
up – I weigh the soft sides on my cheeks.

Lost in thought, or hope, this is where I would choose to loose anything that belonged to me – anywhere close.

Who can best fold my skin? Who can shake it out, and dance and dance? I would undo silence but not the holiday.

I will let go and only tell the story at my feet. I’ll feel the goose- bumps of my skin withdraw from significance.

I will not be hidden, I will not be awake. I will have my ears glued to you, because you know me. Listen outwardly.

I will tell you eventually it wasn’t my hands, but something I never knew I possessed.



Hannah Wilke (1940-1993)
Gestures (1974)

‘Gestures is a series of performance-based works in which Wilke faces the camera in extreme close-up and performs repetitive or durational physical actions. At times she kneads and pulls her skin as if it were sculptural material. Often her gestures – rubbing her hands over her face, smiling so hard that she appears to be grimacing, sticking out her tongue – take on a loaded significance when seen in the context of gender performance.’