Tuesday, 31 July 2007


Is there any god, in any religion in the world, who says in effect: "I need you, mortal"? (Let's say: "I need followers, I need worshippers, I need you to act a certain way ... I'm needy ...") This does tell us something important about the nature of religion: that need is the logic of the cosmos, and that religion cannot be honest about that ...

Monday, 30 July 2007

A worry

A worry: that I will lose the ability not to say.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Moon poem

You, pebble moon,
set in
the wide black beach, the sky.

How to comprehend
the tide
that washed you up so high.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Absolute zero

Let's say that, just as greater or lesser temperature is the state in which the particles of matter are in greater or lesser motion, so absolute zero is that state when the particles are quite motionless. There can't be less motion than no motion, and so there couldn't be a lower temperature than absolute zero. But what if those motionless particles were to shrink, each on its centre, each away from the other? Wouldn't the effect be a reduction in the temperature to a state below absolute zero? What, I wonder, would that look like?

Friday, 27 July 2007


We're always waiting. It is only that sometimes we are distracted from the fact and temporarily forget it. Nor are we waiting for anything: neither anything in life, nor dying. We're simply waiting.

Thursday, 26 July 2007


Irrigate your curiosity.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Mushrooms poem

A pilgrimage of mushrooms
lined on the lawn
oldest at the front
a spongey knuckle, youngsters
behind like a trail of droppings

snapshotted going.

Wither? That's all their wisdom,
to pass from rot
to newer, better rottenness,
it's the very gulp of truth:
every mushroom a syllable

and in line, spondees.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007


Our sense of individual decency is always greater than our individual sense of death.

Monday, 23 July 2007


Changes are always about to happen, and always have just already happened. This is more than saying that there's no way to the future or the past except through the gateway labelled 'change' (though that's true); it's noting that there's no such thing as 'now' except in the sense of the changeless self-identity of now-on-now.

Sunday, 22 July 2007


"I'm terrible at lying ..." a friend said. "When I lie it's painfully obvious to everyone." Isn't this a strange way of putting it? It wouldn't occur to him to boast about his truthfulness ...

Saturday, 21 July 2007

The 'power' of memory

Some reviewerish boilerplate, from Jane Yeh in this week's TLS:

... should appeal to a wide readership, given the universal scope of its themes--family tensions, and the adult author's changing relationship to her parents, the power of memory ...

But why do we talk of the power of memory? Surely all our experience leads us to the consideration of the weakness of memory. This is not just a question of the feebleness of our powers of recall (the necessary, non-Funes weakness), or the way memory is a sixty-pound weakling compared to the muscular shaping requirements of our preconceptions, our repressive superegos and so on. It is to challenge the idea that simply recalling something is 'powerful' in its own right: as if we're sitting in the cinema of our minds in 1890 and are amazed simply by virtue of the fact that anything is projected on the screen at all. It betrays, I suppose, a tacit belief that memory ought not to be able to move us, to influence our present; that we ought to live in a sort of unfettered continuous present. Or maybe it's a simple misprison: for memory read the past. Two things almost wholly unrelated, however often they're confused.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Cost and price

There's a principle whereby if a thing costs more to make it costs more to buy, and, conversely, if it costs less to make it's cheaper. But not for films: we pay the same ticket price to see The Blair Witch Project as to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. That's hardly fair. Ticket prices should be adjusted to cost; 20p to see the first of these two films, £200 to see the second. That would act as a very desirable break upon the ridiculous indulgence of contemporary film-makers.

Thursday, 19 July 2007


Sand is a form of rock. Water is a form of ice. Books are a form of literature. People are a form of thinking.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

"If I were called in to construct a religion..."

"...I should make use of water." It has only recently occurred to me how wonderfully ironic it is that Larkin, of all poets--drink-sodden Larkin--should write a poem about the transcendental qualities of water. You'd picture him, rather, taking W C Fields' perspective on that liquid. Perhaps the whole poem is a carefully considered irony.

""If I were called in to construct a religion I should make use of alcohol; Bacchus my god, and boozy transports my ascension."

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Shocking pink

Shocking is an interesting qualifier; because one thing colour cannot do is shock in the way electricity or collision can. Extremities of touch (as with a blow), of taste (chilli, acid), of smell (sal volatile), of sound (earsplitting din, the Panic shout) ... all of these can, of course, be literally intolerable. As for sight, well the photoreceptive layer of the retina is divided into rods and cones. Rods are easily overstimulated by illumination--the intense glare of light that blinds--but cones, responsible for colour vision, do not seem to work this way. In a normal eye, there is no intensity of colour (as opposed to of brightness) that is actively painful, or intolerable, after the fashion of these other things. Since colour is indeed perceived in terms of varying intensities, it is very strange that the intensity doesn't seem to have an upper level.

Is this the only portion of the human sensorium that works this way?

Monday, 16 July 2007

Functionally anosmic

Blind and numb, deaf and dumb, these are amongst the commonest of signifiers. To lose our sense of sight, or hearing, or communication, or to become leprous or stricken, are fears most people have experienced. But challenged in the street I'd bet not one person in ten could put a name to the condition of lack of a sense of smell.

As it happens, I am functionally anosmic. Of course, this does not incommode me as much as losing sight or hearing would; but it is no very pleasant thing for all that, and I'm curious as to why it has so low a profile in the world as a whole as to be, effectively, nameless (why should anosmia be anomic?) I wonder if there isn't a degree, even, of wish-fulfillment in this: smell is how hairy beasts navigate their world; by excising smell from my sensorium I move symbolically away from the bestial and towards an existence of pure mentition. That's is a spurious and even rather stupid rationale, of course; but I wonder if it isn't part of the explanation. We have words for blindness and deafness because we fear becoming blind and deaf; as to losing our sense of smell ... well we don't feel too strongly about the matter, and if anything it is probably a beneficient development rather than anything else.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Saturday afternoon at Cliveden

Carp crowd the pond.
One fin unzips the surface of the water.

The sky is an eighteenth-century blue.
A white cloud shaped like a periwig
Is manoeuvred into place above a cypress tree.

Saturday, 14 July 2007


There is, of course, no such thing as miscegenation ... what logic says 'a black father and a white mother produces a child half-black and half-white'? (Might as well say 'a male father and a female mother produces a child half-male and half-female'). Race is no realer than gender.

Friday, 13 July 2007


The task of the writer? Why, to bracket the impossible with the possible, of course.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Death says

Death says: 'it's not the gathering up of lives that is my joy; what I gather, and what I love, is the look of surprise on people's faces. That is my addiction'.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Tell us what to do! Don't tell me what to do!

Obviously we don't want to be told what to do ... we want freedom. Equally obviously, we don't want to be cast adrift ... we want guidance, leadership.

A properly dialectial psychoanalysis would say: not that we want to be told what to do some of the time and left to our devices at others--nor that we want a sort of middle-ground between the two positions--but rather that we want both of these extremes at the same time and all the time.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007


The pterodactyl quality of umbrellas ...

Monday, 9 July 2007

Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest

Presumably Gray means that country graveyards are full of inidviduals who, but for the vagaries of chance, might have had careers as famous as Milton's. But then again perhaps he knew exactly what he was saying: that Milton minus his voice and his glory is not Milton in any meaningful sense. Or more specifically, on those terms we're all Milton.

Sunday, 8 July 2007


Here, the sky is angry.

Saturday, 7 July 2007


The part of 'hard-on' that people get fixated with is the hard part; but what interests me about 'hard-on', qua phrase, is the on part; as if an erection is something we wear, something we drawn onto our otherwise inherently soft flesh. An erection, in other words, is the adoption of a localised exoskeleton, not a stiffening from the inside out but rather a strapping on of external armour.

Friday, 6 July 2007


There's a ghost in phones.

Once, when phones were tethered to walls and booths, those ghostly diembodied voices haunted them as a spectre haunts a house, or a graveyard, or some specific place. Now that phones have been untethered to sweep freeform and spirographic trajectories through the world, those spectres have been loosed. Now the place they haunt is everyplace.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Religion and memory

Immediate or strictly contemporaneous religions (Scientology, say) seem absurd to us, even though the miracles they declare are no more intrinsically risible than those of Christianity, Islam or Hinduism. But this must be so, because religious belief works as memory, not as to-hand experience … or at least not as this latter for most people (ecstatics and schizophrenics excepted, I mean). As is the case with our memory, many details are omitted, and many contradictions and infelicities reworked into more-than-truly-contiguous narratives. Like memory, religion doesn’t always or even particularly intrude on everyday living—it requires a will-to-contemplation to evoke it, actually, although a properly functioning religion is bound to provide copious aides-memoires (liturgy, ceremony and so on) to help in this respect. Consulting family photographs, after all, has a liturgical aspect to it.

The memory-gravity of religion means that those portions of religious practice or thought that have a significant future component end up doing that strange thing of construing future apocalypse as memory … the odd past-oriented backwardness of St John’s revealed future, for instance.

The more I think about it, the more it strikes me that this is one of the things that science fiction has in common with religion.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Open-heart surgery

The scalpel that had made his chest
Into an open-cast quarry
Mined the word-seam in his breast:
Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

White Cloud, Dark Blue Sky

I saw three little clouds, bright white clods, against a sky so deeply blue it looked almost purple. I looked again: the white clouds were standing out, in relief, not against a sky but against a huge purple raincloud of such size and uniformity of colour it looked like the sky. That feeling, in the middle of your torso, when your senses shift about ...

Monday, 2 July 2007

The beast Imagination

The beast Hope is much more easily domesticated than the beast Imagination.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

The Witch Speaks

You think I like my familiar? By no means, no; it is wicked, perverse, dangerous. But it's my familiar. You don't choose your family; all that you do is find ways not to reject your family. I don't like my familiar, but I love it.