Issue 20: Andrea Brady
from THE BLUE SPLIT COMPARTMENTS
I think they should live our experience,
the tarmac an equality
mile after boring mile, the same white
strip, the same cats’ eyes, the persona
fades like early sleep and the hard
world goes on hiatus – it’s an eclipse
in thought, parentheses, a subject
dropped through a hatch,
and still the hurtling machine
the glass shelter the poisonous fire
darts around obstacles, each
a little cabin of self-preservation
only millimetres from catching death.
You go on like this, on autopilot, for months
simultaneously totally present
and a grating mass of absence, but able
to do that job which is not to die;
and then that stuplime moment when you catch
yourself doing it. Had I been asleep, for hours,
my daughter floating in my palm?
I was so engaged in the number
plates and colours I forgot to recognise
myself as a soldier. Hardly breathing
I crossed two lanes, put on the hazards.
Snapping back exceeded the heart’s strength
to tolerate electrochemicals, my head
swam with the bright proximity of violence.
Some part of me must have wanted to.
Saying ‘some part’ locates that part as an alien object
tapped into my viscera that can’t really be found.
I sip water, take a cleansing breath, ease
off the pressure. Celebratory gold ribbons
of rain cut the mid-summer sun and anoint us,
but they are wrong to do so, the mountains
grilling like the roots of a tooth.
Sodēly both the good & the euyl brake forth & flewe theyr wayes, the good houered vp to heauen, the euyll made speede to the hel, and in ye barel of euyl remayned only hope: & in the vessell of good was founde suspycion as that wherwith they were maynteyned, which newes when Iupiter hard (as he is an angry god) toke the empty vessells, and in a rage threwe them down, whych mortal men seing, desyrous of newes drew nere & embraced the emptye barrels, some of the good and some of the euyll. But they that layd hold of the empty tonnes dyd neuerthelesse persuade themselues to haue gotten both good and euyl, and yet in dede neyther good nor euyl fel to any mortal man, sauing that they hapned vpon the better barrel found in themselues opiniō of good with suspicion, & the other opinion of euill without some hope. And so it came to passe, not vnlyke as when men in darke nyghts walkyng in Arabia do happelye treade vppon some piece of yron or other cold thing, are sodenly affrighted with feare leaste they haue hapned vpon a venemous serpent, & yet haue not: euen so the only suspicion of good and evyll is that, that perplexeth al mortal creatures, because al that is good is ascended to heauen, and al that is euyl, gone down to the infernall sprytes.
Confess to yourself whether you would have to die
if you were forbidden. If not, continue
movement to the bazaar, moving under
advice, in heavy cloud. Owning this
projection of our power as volume
enables us to manipulate
the soil and raise it up
in defiance of the tyranny of distance
the highway hissing like a cat.
Gordon is cleared hot, Wildfire
in from the north, one minute.
He said he heard my text
in the hall above the consulting rooms
my searching of the holes made by American
surgical and gross violences
in a different light,
as the weaponisation of my own past
beating on the things I had been called to love,
the structures and the people inside them.
Bending the azimuth from justice
scorching vile bodies
this invulnerable mechanical body pulses
on a slow single trochee to engagement,
click over the watchkeeper’s
radically discontinuous times: this time,
your time, the long time in seats, the quick
click of explosive action, the slow prosthetic
violence and the long
postponed oversight. Put Eid henna on your hands.
We are on the way. My authorisation
expands to cover infinite time and space,
imagination running on empty
towards the finality
of an answer to the question I’m too afraid to ask. Lately
come offers of compensation.
The box levitates, reflecting
its scarlet metal faces on the ceiling;
like a valuable manufactured throat
it is edged in orange and powdered
tungsten, it is breathing, dropping
its steel curtain on fourteen hundred
curios from another age, insects held
as long as they know it
beneath clear, untrembling glass.
Copper turns green with its error
a form of productive sickness that is lovingly
cleared by the Djiboutian zero-
hour worker, or held off with enamel
armorised or vacant plexi.
The sides of the box push back
against the void of Fort Russell,
collapsing not outward
nor inward, solid, dry, magnetic,
independent of the viewer’s scrutiny
but not uninviting. The bottom is stubbed out
just barely reflecting but so capacious
it might include your face, that face you paid
to put there, that floats an inch above
your real face and is made of brownish clay.
No longer frozen
as an old photograph, military information allowed the past or the future to be interpreted, since human activity always gives off heat and light
and can thus be extrapolated in time and space.
A sculptor showed us that actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific
than a flat surface. Anything in three dimensions can be any shape, and can have any relation
or none at all. The substance of our universal rights
is transcended by the idea
as when you cut off the legs of a table, the table falls
but the form of the table floats forever in the sky.
The void is not ours
to sample, because it is infinite, not cleared
for release; the thin composite body feels
like dry paper, has overcome
significant technical issues
since its humble origins in balsa and ply.
The void is a value made of formica,
aluminium, cold-rolled steel, red
and common brass forces the artist to occupy
the site of a decision, part of a trend
famously to boot out illusion; Donald Judd
bringing the box into doctrine,
stack em high and sell them, well
into the high desert, the colony of souls.
Occupying space, the surveillance industry
was also moving into time.
In actual space we can pursue any possible
form of relation: the people of the Juba region
gather around the sacrificial girl,
her apron on fire, her fired face of clay
a colour trace that was written by the curator and is being read
in another room. The jar she holds
the length of a thighbone is more rare.
She is a box and she opens one.
Somewhere an artist starts building new tables,
hammering out fan blades and motors.
Anyway, you should come down.
It’s gonna be lit.
the daughter of All Saints is seduced
by a jewel-like ladder. She wrestled
her instinct to stay with mama but the sky
was opening, the shape dilating, and the angel
stood in the sun, beckoning to her and moving
the universe. So she went out
like a candle, a fun-sized terrorist.
Stories teach these kids curiosity
is lethal: checking the last seen
signature, following the online trace.
But opening the box is just
the beginning. Fruit bats
scream from the cavemouth dripping
with Marburg virus. Her instinctive eye zeroes
in on a pulverised motor
made into a new and smooth surface.
This is the box, frozen against hierarchy
at a value of some $10m, simply a form of being;
surgeon’s box, patient’s wound,
an idea of enclosure that can fit any medium.
The gaze is on the side of things.
Things look at me when I see them and leave me
galvanised: the box shows me how,
its opening lid works like a radome,
a hope enclosure inspired by Buckminster Fuller.
And who hover over it are tempted to wonder
where the ‘art’ went or where the ‘work’ went
on its flightpath from expression to formality,
looking for their circus image in the bottom,
or the intimate place where it touches the floor.
The angel of evil could not have done that.
A child is in heaven. The box is empty,
saying nothing but ‘construction’. It really is
like swatting flies; we can do it forever
easily and you feel nothing.
Andrea Brady’s books of poetry include The Strong Room (2016), Dompteuse (2014), Cut from the Rushes (2013), Mutability: Scripts for Infancy (2012), and Wildfire: A Verse Essay on Obscurity and Illumination (2010). She is Professor of Poetry at Queen Mary University of London, where she runs the Centre for Poetry and the Archive of the Now.