first opulent thought: the smoking break_______
GILDED DIRT #1 Trash Queen, Design & Editor-in-chief: Maria Sledmere Cover Art: Douglas Pattison
Contributors: Ella Calvert, Ella Clark, Claudio Cristini, Honey Jones-Hughes, Steven Harvie, Christophe Lee, Robert Mcadam, Louise McCue, Shaun McGinty, Campbell Montgomery, T. E. Parsons, Douglas Pattison, Rowan Rosie, Hayley Rutherford, Maria Sledmere, Sarah Spence, Ben Weir, Sara Wengstrom. (further attributions for writing & art on p. 42)
‘[…] going westward through a town without shadows in an atmosphere of powdered old gold’ — Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent 2
Foreword: Gilded Dirt In the carpark of a shopping mall, the teenager lifts a handful of soil from a ﬂowerbed. It’s rich with the luminous juices of broken glowsticks, all neon bleed of hydrogen peroxide leaking through layers of dirt and grime. There are scatterings of ash ﬂakes from cigarettes smoked long ago and left here, their ochre-coloured butts littering the concrete. Every tiny item is a trace of a moment, the tangible memory detritus of actions. Cracks abound and there is a spot in the ground where spilt milk has frozen over like acrylic emulsion. If you look close enough, you will see the elaborate craquelure in the milky glaze, little ﬁssures where the ice has fractured in miniature strikes of lightning. A faint breeze shudders on the teenager’s skin. Fingers worn raw, all the better to feel the dirt seep into the opened pores. Put the dirt in your mouth. If you did this, your tongue would ﬁzzle, fur up in disgust, each ﬁlament grasping the fullness of chemicals and earth. Quite the potion for abject lust. People love, secretly, to deﬁle the boundaries that separate them (quite artiﬁcially) from the world. This is the whole purpose of sex. Let me outside the ﬁlm of this body. Base material transcendence. The reason for eating, pissing, shitting. For picking at scabs, lifting rocks to see the thousand thousand slimy things wriggle underneath. Why do we feel those slimy things deep in our chest, the revulsion that seems to spring forth from the sense of them inside of us, even when they clearly are not? What is that throb in our esophagus? What is it about the roar of the stomach in its most potent disgruntlement? Dirt is the blood cells clustering upon a wound; dirt is the speckle of earth on the lens of an eyeglass; dirt is the grime between the keys of a laptop; dirt is the salacious remainder of unspoken gossip; dirt is the lingering guilt; dirt is fear of the other; dirt is a fraught sexuality; dirt is the cholesterol, clogging our arteries; dirt is the dust that shaves oﬀ our skin; dirt is the horror of emeralds, is Stephen Dedalus’s snotgreen sea; dirt is the resurrection of the things we have buried, returning in fragments and random pieces; dirt is the splicing of the rotten and fresh; dirt is the grease that feeds our freedom; dirt is the food for every microorganism; dirt reveals itself rolling in cycles; dirt is matter unclean, the particles crusted in every screen; dirt is the pungent wax unpeeled from a lime; dirt is both more and less than the accumulation of crystallised time. To write about dirt, one must get dirty. Skin-deep in the ﬁlth of culture and society. Find the worms beneath your ﬁngernails and draw them out, one by one, for inspection in the light. Watch them squirming and read the runic meaning of their movements. Throw them back into the alkaline soil, where their energies endlessly reproduce. Embrace the compound of muck and chemicals, the loam that makes the ﬂowers grow. Stop all obliteration, ﬁnd material for creation in microscopic places.
Love of dirt is here a speciﬁc necessity. Love is dirt; dirt is love. To wake up beside another being and wish for the salt of sweat on their skin, the ﬂicker of tiredness which is nothing but the ﬁlm of ﬂuid in their eyes. What does the teenager know about this, shrouded in nostalgia for this handful of dirt which reminds her of childhood? The innocence of putting foreign objects in one’s mouth and recalling that of course it is perfectly natural to do so, since one’s body is itself bursting with such foreign substances. I am not iron, and yet there are shards of it drifting right now in my blood. We are curiously drawn to things which seem clean: diamonds, snow, bleach, tears, clear nail varnish, milk, glass, water bottles, LED lights, vodka. No volume of vodka, however, will entirely wipeout the cells of my immune system. No amount of weeping will wash away every sin this mind and body has committed. And what is a cell but the basic structural unit of a living organism? What is dirt but the phantasmic doppelgänger of the cell; the return of the repressed, the physical embodiment of its imminent death? Dust is dead skin; dirt is diﬀerent from earth – it has no purpose. It is, as Mary Douglas reminds us, ‘matter out of place’. It is always foreign, displaced, exotic and strange. We love to orientalise that which baﬄes us. Despite the attempts of science, dirt continues to seem psychically mysterious. Complicated textbook diagrams are uncannily detached in their colourful aestheticism, their implication of a process frozen in time for intelligent dissection. Yet cells reproduce; dirt accumulates, gathers, amasses itself into piles, lumps, handfuls, oceans. There is always a slippage of scale. We can build ourselves palaces of purity, ice sculptures ﬁne as winter light, spilling its shards upon ﬁelds of snow. We can dream of cotton clouds, white ﬂowing dresses, potions to restore our virginity. We can wrap ourselves in garments of iridescent opal. We can imagine a carefree childhood, lived by the clock of the dandelion, whose seeds ﬂoat onwards in the green summer air. We can rid ourselves of grownup pollution, the impulse to procreate, make money; the necessary mess of life, with its gory gossamer of childbirth, the stickiness of sex and sleep and death. An overpopulated world. The trick is to return to dirt. Not just the abstract smut from glossy magazines – pornographic, desire-drenched, stylisations of furniture, ﬂesh, metal and light - but the real hard stuﬀ that is always left behind. The waste material of every environment; the carbon deposits encrusted in the earth, the solvents which mix with rivers their poison veneer, the bright trash that falls out of shopping malls. The ghastly squelch of the frog as it yawns, of man when he eats. The jar of love letters which the teenager keeps by her bed to languish in nightly, the knife which she wields to dice up the world. We can ﬁnd a new beauty in what we reject, a new kind of procreation. We write with excreted snake venom, the ink of oil spills, blood, everyday toxins, silvery dream wisps, mercury, poetic viscosity, string cheese, coal dust, crustings of sleep, pollen, tree sap, molten amber. We write as if writing is one big ﬂirt with the end of the world, an ending which is here, now, always already. We revel in the dark ecology of this death; we move nearer and near, we don’t care about getting hurt, we’re gilding our dirt. / Maria Sledmere
There is ore dripping from fingertips dipped in the saltmines of Internet history, fished out, five malevolent websites,
Pathology of Storms Muscles knitted together, seemingly inexorably. A storm lung clots with cyclonic lightning, the thinnest breath that bursts the air around its sullen breather. In the darkest part of the year diamond dust clutters the atmosphere, though you do your best to clear it out with blink after blink of liquid luck. Tears they say: slush of giantâ€™s sorrow, remembering some boy who would love you tomorrow with spider-bites spotting your neck. The networks can track human desire like satellites, and all is a silvery fissure slithering the stiller surface of a paranoid moon. We call it tropical when the headaches come and there is a centre for low pressure, heat to focus on the eye of an ocean. Living south of here, the winds come balmy even in winter; though still we are plagued with tornadoes, the dark remainder of gyrating matter twisting us deep where it hurts. /Maria Sledmere
second opulent thought: innocence lost
How does visual onomatopoeia translate a visual into a sonic phenomenon? Imagine a two-dimensional surface such as a marsh or estuary. Late afternoon sunlight is shimmering on its surface, a shimmering galaxy of sand and water. What is happening here, casually speaking, is also a matter of translation: water is translating light into a water-morphic version of itself, just as humans translate the visual shimmer into a sound. Shimmering is the visual equivalent of murmuring: a gauzy film of more and less intense pulsations, almost meaningful. Something is happening, something might mean something. The surface of the estuary lights up, then goes dark, then lights up—and this process occurs at thousands of points on that surface. The terms we use indicate some kind of lighting-up: shim- and glit- and spark(as in sparkle) are the light made language, rendered as a quick upsurge. At a quantum scale, this language is highly accurate. — Timothy Morton, 2015. ‘Sparkle Time Time Sparkle’, Chtonic Index, ed. by Sophie Sleigh-Johnson (Southend: Focal Point Gallery).
â€˜Rubble is another name for interrupted desireâ€™ - Brian Thill, Waste (2015) 12
10 Examples Towards a Definition of Gilded Dirt 1 Gilded dirt is a coin found on the ground, the value it represents suddenly isolated, odd, estranged; its lack of ownership like the horror of a book belonging to no known author. Queen Elizabethâ€™s face kissing the earth she barely recognises. Pick it up, put it back in circulation, where it belongs, to be exchanged for something, let it travel to that hand, let it be gently welcomed to the till, from where it will journey to other hands, callous hands, delicate hands, clumsy hands from which it may one day fall back down to the earth which crumbles by it. 2 Gilded dirt is a crumb or set of crumbs firmly stuck in between laptop keys, digging into the gaps, questing for the underground, for the place beneath and beyond the symbolic. 3 Gilded dirt is the yellowing pages of a book, a sickly mist threatening to overwhelm and eradicate the eternal. 4 Gilded dirt is the human body, its physical cleanliness like moral cleanliness, which is to say constructed and maintained with urgency, every shower an absolution, every shit wipe a repression. Infected wounds, protruding bones, the godforsaken knowledge that a corpse lurks beneath, right there. Death as a romantic notion, the ceremony, the burial, the splendour of remembering a life lost; the body, its flesh, its rot, its dirt, its material repulsiveness, greeting St. Peter as a stupid, lumbering, blind catastrophe.
5 Gilded dirt is the worn out, frayed guitar string; a pathetic survival crying dumb notes and numb songs. Yet the newfound timbre is a welcome respite from pitch perfect prisonsâ€”what else are the strings over an acoustic sound hole but bars? Darkness its prisoner, the worn out, frayed guitar string thinning as if to facilitate escape. 6 Gilded dirt is the dust resting atop the mantelpiece, presiding over the living room. Unseen kings of the domestic, their reign is only ever temporary. To dust is to remove dust; trapped in cruel semantic selfdestruction. 7 Gilded dirt is Duchampâ€™s toilet and its representation of the impressive stupidity of commodification. 8 Gilded dirt is pornography, the fiction of desire and depravity, an industry of bodies, fuelled by the gallons upon gallons of bodily liquid spewing forth sad, insidious power. 9 Gilded dirt is that which muddies clarity and robs reality of its occasional beauty. Diabolic halos circling lights; Cubist faces monstrous and imperceptible; text trailing a taunting, ghostly palimpsest writing itself between and over the original, besieged signifier. 10 Gilded dirt is a landfill, the wistful beauty of things and stuďŹ€ abandoned; the memories of miscellanea huddled together in solidarity, while structure, meaning, solidity teeters on the edge of oblivion; the future waste pile of our lives looks right at us, aware, suspicious, resenting, slaves to polished trash. / Steven Harvie 14
All love songs must contain duende. For the love song is never truly happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love without having within in their lines an ache or a sigh are not love songs at all but rather Hate Songs disguised as love songs, and are not to be trusted. These songs deny us our humanness and our God-given right to be sad and the air-waves are littered with them. The love song must resonate with the susurration of sorrow, the tintinnabulation of grief. The writer who refuses to explore the darker regions of the heart will never be able to write convincingly about the wonder, the magic and the joy of love for just as goodness cannot be trusted unless it has breathed the same air as evil - the enduring metaphor of Christ crucified between two criminals comes to mind here - so within the fabric of the love song, within its melody, its lyric, one must sense an acknowledgement of its capacity for suffering. -- Nick Cave, 'Love Song Lecture' (2000)
Ȅ̸ v̫ ᷄E ͕̠ r̽ ͢ ̝ ͢
͝ ͋ͬ ͬ̾ͮ ͂̇ ̂ ̒ ᷃͞ ́ ̓ ͗ ͫ ͞ ͦ ͭ ̓ ͣ ͇ d Aẏ͜ ̺ ̠ ⃪ Po̐ İ͔ ̰ sO͖ n͛ S Y ̼ ̡ ̣͓ ͈
In the black, paracetamol water, the fur grows thick as a surface of skin, alien to the touch, spreading with craters. ///// Gathering a gift basket: all pink cellophane, ribbons and apple pips, a little carafe of polycarbonate plastic, constantly molten for your delectation.
Drip nail varnish on my tongue to coat my words with precious lacquer like it was before, all violaceous smiles and the way you’d say God How I Miss This like we were a meme, popping prescription pills all smooth pink and scar-crackled green.
In the Vape Shop For R. R
Exhalations of vapour savour the honey-twist tang of this longing; lemon-scented, you sell cheap ecstasies by the dozen, pricing the violets of snakes’ eggs laid in the keys of laptops and yet the profits come slow as the roll of my eyes, when it’s like this: everything saccharine, a slot machine remainder of golden auroras, emanations of waste, the ice cream kiss of vacuous promise, , , i say come closer to death, its silken breath that slides like silver and speaks through comas of sweetness. With holy macaroon and pastel-hued beauty, I blow through my teeth your blondness of sorrow. Now I can smoke my nostalgia the way Keith Richards snorted his daddy’s ashes and it’s cool as hell in blue-hued billows, the nicotine treat latticing apples in my brain with the prettying. The flesh curls and coruscates; they call it breathing. /Maria Sledmere
sad lime. sex poem I
sweet sticky fingers, sesame seed. lick lips & cut through me again.
sad grit. sex poem II
opened before you : the cacti dripping with dew slow towards the sun / Sara Wengstrom
‘Inside this complex, rubbish was being burnt: it was a trashincinerating plant. Giant mountains of the stuff were piled up in its great, empty halls, rising in places almost to where the ceiling would have been. They were being burnt slowly, from the inside, with a smouldering, rather than roaring, fire. Whence the glow: like embers when you poke them, the mounds’ surfaces, where cracked or worn through by the heat, were oozing a vermillion shade of yellow. It was this glowing ooze, which hinted at a deeper, almost infinite reserve of yet-more-glowing ooze inside the trash-mountain’s main body, that made the scene so rich and vivid, filled it with a splendour that was regal.’ - Tom McCarthy, Satin Island (2015) ‘I take my students into garbage dumps and make them understand the civilisation they live in. Consume or die. That’s the mandate of the culture. And it all ends up in the dump. We make stupendous amounts of garbage, then we react to it, not only technologically but in our hearts and minds. We let it shape us.’ - Don DeLillo, Underworld (1997)
Rose: She was four years old, sitting in the garden in her dirty little culottes rolled up at her ankles. Her hands were dipped in red and saturated by the saccharine scent of the strawberries she had greedily devoured. A lone butterfly glided gently upon the wind, landing delicately with its en pointe legs dancing across the back of her hand. It lapped up the sanguine remnants of the splattered fruit. She watched it for a moment with awe and admiration. She watched its tangled legs slip stupidly in the sticky mixture. She grinned to herself at how feeble the clumsy little thing was, and then, measuredly, she reached out her other hand and tore a solitary wing from its back. The insect crumpled on its left side and out-reached its spindly legs as if grasping out. She laughed through her chomping teeth, pulled the bug towards her grin and swallowed it still squirming.
decoding FLORAL SHOPPE 2 no. 3 - Lordâ€™s Prayer // vernacular no. 4 - some kind of holy spirit sound no. 7 - blue eye? eye eye eye witch doctor, spill deadly nightshade on my synth keysss unlocking a puzzle â€” clues r in the labyrinthine feel the overlap the pressing synths dark dark scintillations no. 13 - faint echoes of original ~Floral Shoppe~ but they sound a bit like crying gulls lost out in a distant sea 420 / - muffled in death glitter no. 14 - third eye ())))))))) glitch sticking uncanny - JAPANESE lettering sense of CURIOUS OTHERNESS ! ! ! inhuman yawn ragga-style rapping & tropical noir dissolving to absurdity no. 10 drawn out crawl of throat pain * What is order ?
/ something eerie crawling in my ear
STUCK pain of past, memory pound & slight slick flicker beat does he like the tongue tick ! space/asbestos && poison dust tick tick tick tickINGinginging ing 2 vague club beats and cold electro ? each song so short; slips away from ur senses to darkness, future pulses collecting metronomic energies will it pick up; no just crunch & so many reviews lead to DEAD WEBpages yet shimmers return, ghost-eaten traces.
Maria Sledmere 25
PALACE (IM)PERFECT Ornament of the crooked mantelpiece. Did such char marks blemish the Oriental carpet? Flourishes of scarlet entwine the eyes in gold, looping the glossed wool of a thousand arabesques, little fibres frayed in the sway of the mystic wind. Somebody left the glass open, and now the dirt clumps its minuscule cities amidst the sullen twirls and florid rococo lines. Such gorgeous sheep, slaughtered for the blood which provides the fabric dye. I am most satisfied at a certain point, where attention dissolves, flies off at the flick of an untied line. It is tempting to pull the loose ends. Below the tapestry are floor tiles sliced from slabs of the finest marble. There are black shatterings on the white, like lightning. They gleam when the oil lamps glow, they are smooth and bright as a giant mirror. I would like to take off my clothes, to loll on the cold floors as if they were hardened, blocked into flat rectangles of chunky stone, cut from the rocky edges of shoreline cliffs and dustcloud quarries. What is it about raw marble, chalky and bulging and formless, that makes me so thirsty? I want to lick the rivulets, the black slivers of Abrabescato, the imported pattern which already I have forgotten the origins of. No matter, it is all for taste and texture. In the evening, the orange falls in languid pools upon the palace marble. The light is quite gold; deliciously molten. BONFIRES OF QUARTZ Sequins are picked quite haphazardly from the dead skin. They come off in flakes, in holograms. No, it is not possible to pluck love from the hide of heathens. Not even the carcasses, which acquire a certain glister aside the valleys, where quartz-glowing rock cascades down queer stone ridges. Here, the mighty satanists take their picnics. It is a beautiful spot. The river plashes with silver spray, sun-catching; the salmon here are pinker than dawn skies in winter. You can make a puzzle from the bright shards, leave them in harmony on the hillsides, forget that you ever came here, intruder. / Maria Sledmere
✨ _GILDED DIRT_✨
Witness Bones. Stowaways holed up, corner-crouched, secret-deep. Bare eye-holes, stripped raw by the swallowing earth, hollow in the archaeologist’s Floodlights. Frogmarch tongueless skulls. Interrogate cracks, fractures. Cross-examine every chemical trace – make the past answer the present’s questions.
Patient Rolling back the blanket of earth, finding them waiting, lined ward-neat, we gently awaken the deeply sleeping skeletons. Well behaved, like a patient propped up in bed, they answer, apologetic, with notches and fractures, our concern; let us please, at least, diagnose those injuries, cancers, deficiencies that sent you, bone-tired, to sleep. / Sarah Spence
Cut flowers are very decorative but tend to droop,
starch in the water will keep them upright.
LOAMY SOIL Fresh crumbles of mud. Slug juice, its s i l v e r y v i s c o s i t y clinging to crinkles of leaves. Sunday morning, post-rain, the earth emanating s e c r e t o d o u r s . F i n g e r s d i g d e e p like claws. Worms in f i n g e r s , c r a w l i n g outwards, seeping b e n e a t h n a i l s . A silence; a scramble, so quiet; a little maggot. White as 33
Lera Baubling mud swamps gurgle, gaggles of dirt. Cling film, skimming, suﬀocates. Bitumen and crude. Iridescent, metallic bruises peel and fade. Glossed over and varnished, split bubbling among. Young flesh feeling fondly. Suckling pads layer flush in millions. Unweaned. Limpets, leeches. Fern tipis burn red. Rusting, crumpled. Lay thick, tired and angry. Flowing slow and flat, in between. Dusting the silken streams. Wrinkles ripple, curdle like cream. Piles upon piles of skeletons weep. Wilted and compost amongst bundles of green. Thick moss bed broken limbs. Muﬄe expression. Lichen. Bandage wraps purpose and age. Comforts lively the figures with wild. Entangling ivy, demanding, screams wide, bright. Aggressively alive. Flagging life, flatline in every eﬀort. While bursting black berry bubbles shrivel and dry. Brittle thorning, arching the dampened, rotten, buckling wood. Contiguous, feet furl socked, grounded. Warm envy on fellow female friends. And fallen, wise women, ethereally turned about. Twisted lying Schiele all over the sodden floor. Splintering branches tear stretch marks. Meditative. At ease. Just being and breathing and waiting to feel. Pearls hang. Transparency glistens, silver from veins yawning air. Dazzle in canopy, shaping blush pink, and high. Hung. Quartered. In abstract jigsaws. Microscopic scales. Virus. Disease. Fragrant, golden gleams fire flash, bright beams through silhouetted bones and broken dreams. Winter comes thorough, hard and heavy, but free. (Mud) / Ella Calvert
Payne’s Room Fowler and Payne presided over a kingdom of debris. The floor of Payne’s room was thigh-deep in beer cans, crisp packets, tissues, the contents of overturned ashtrays and crushed empty dark fruit cider crates. They stood in the morass like waders on the shore’s edge. Archipelagos of cigarette ends rose from bowls and teacups. Crystalline residues of white and blue powders were embedded in the surface of the desk. Smoke hung in fronds beneath the lampshade. In a threemetre radius around the dartboard, rough holes in the wall like the burrows of hornets. The translucent shades of Payne’s housemates moved through the corridors. He lay half sunk in Payne’s computer chair, his feet propped up on a small bass amp. Across the room, Payne’s body traced a similar incline on the single bed. He had met Payne at a house party some weeks earlier. They were among the final stragglers in the small hours, and by no small margin the most intoxicated people present. As the morning drew on, the hosts retired, taking cherished friends and willing strangers with them. Fowler and Payne emerged and wandered the waking town, chain smoking, talking little. They hit up a corner shop for cans of cider and went back to Payne’s ground floor bedroom to convalesce. Payne busied himself loading a glass pipe. Fowler saw broken gadgets, torn costumes, toy swords and cap guns strewn amongst the clothes and cans. The day drew on in an agreeable blur, his consciousness disintegrating at the sun’s zenith. He woke up on his bed in a cold sweat. After this meeting, almost without thought or direction on his part, Fowler began turning up at Payne’s house at unsociable hours, greeted at the door by his new friend, who accepted the imposition without comment. They took turns telling long stories that trailed oﬀ. Fowler’s stories were about teenage conquest, a collage of memory and fantasy, redrafting his regrets. He watched as Payne sprung to his feet and marched up and down the length of bed, relaying how Caesar built a wall around his army during the Siege of Alesia. Neither attended seminars. Fowler passed his coursemates on campus, their neat, close trimmed beards; their checked flannel shirts tight against gym bodies. They had a way of being that Fowler could not comprehend. Outside the sliding doors at that faced out into the garden, he and Payne pissed side-by side in the shadowed dawn, the birdsong mournful and alien. They fell into the detritus whilst trying to steady one another, legs giving out, the cans crushing, sifting and groaning. Payne took his air rifle and front crawled toward the sliding doors, the paper targets he had set up in the garden. Fowler grabbed his legs and pulled him back. One afternoon Richard White came round with three pairs of rubber gloves and isopropyl alcohol. White and Payne
gave the room a deep clean as Fowler got in the way, tentatively picking up the odd fragment and gulping beer. Five days later the refuse was back to ankle height, and White stood incredulous in the kitchen. The sun coming up over the hedgerows lining the back garden. 9am pilgrimages across Beverly Meadow to Londis as Payne laid out the seven propositions of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Fowler’s veins sludgy with spirits. Gaps in his memory like film exposed to the light. Falling out of his chair and floundering in the cans like a dog in a ball pit. The heat pushed at the sliding doors, and they lay in reverie like decrepit sorcerers. Huddled over a bubbling pipe like crones. Fowler’s throat torn and parched, his uvula swollen and his tongue the precise coarseness of a scouring pad. In the deep shadows, massed bottles and glasses took on a kind of gnomic life, chittering and teaming. The drug induced in them a soft-peddled mania: their bodies locked in ebbing waves, their speech terse yet muddled. It pulled them through packed bars and living rooms, pulsing venues, the two of them silent and separate from the morass, searching for some opening in the circle of bodies. It left them insensate and shaken back in Payne’s room, drinking oﬀ drinking, unpacking, as the springs began to coil within them again, set them whirling out, deranged cartographers of mundanity. He saw, passing across the vellum of his eyelids, a procession of smiling young devotees of a new and splendid light. He would go with them to the bend in the brook, the sun on the water; great roots protruding from the banks; and they would step into the waist deep concourse, flowing clear and steady; he would lathe himself and scrub the filth from beneath his nails, soak the reek of ash from his hands and wash his many small and stinging cuts. Submerged, he would shed the grease and dead skin that had accumulated in the canals and trenches of his skull. He spent days shut up in his room, in the grip of a childlike, feverish terror. His sinuses ached, his lungs were packed with thick, mushroomy phlegm. He felt a deep, essential sickness that nothing could pacify. His arms were covered in burn blisters, his legs in dark, yellowing bruises. When he closed his eyes he saw tumours metastasising endlessly. He cried out on the verge of sleep, racked by paralysis, seizures. In his blighted withdrawal dreams, Fowler saw Payne’s flesh decimated by police hollow points, air rifle clutched in his right hand, a lit cigarette dropping from his lips. Released from this psychic bind, Fowler pledged himself to sobriety. He went out walking. The buildings on campus loomed in the sunlight like the prows of great destroyers. In their vast windows, they drank each other in, replicated stark profiles of their neighbours framed by the cobalt sky. Throngs of seagulls gathered
on the rooves of red brick townhouses, crying out and drifting slowly across the baking streets. Beneath the waters of the Stour, lush green foliage swayed. The fullthroated yells of children’s after school games rang out and startled him. All along the high street were signs of a temperate existence, honest and attainable. A group of beautiful girls laughing in front of an Italian restaurant. Tanned young men drinking coﬀee and smoking alone. A yelping mass of French children and the boy that called out Je m’appelle cunts! as they passed. Yet, that woman was twisting a glass of white wine between her thumb and forefinger. That man in the sports jacket with the well-thumbed book was nursing a half pint of bitter. And what was passed back and forth between the two schoolboys who sat watching the river? As the shadows lengthened he felt the town’s busy nightlife tugging at him: the pool players, the dense medley of voices, the smiling dreadlocked and bright haired patrons of King’s Mile pubs. And so, once again, he found himself nightly descending the floodlit path to Payne’s room. The black chimneys on the rooftops of Payne’s street crowded on the rooftops, the night sky. Once more he spent his days beside the desk with its wealth of stained crockery, mouldy half tins of beans and bottles of rum. Payne’s inscrutable equations piled up, page after page of methamphetic eldritch symbols. Hours in which no-one spoke. Falling asleep mid-sentence and coming around arguing. Celestial light cut its way in through the sliding doors, bisecting the smoke, striking each mote of dust, and illuminated Payne propped up on the bed. The light blazed back out through the dials of his mirrored sunglasses. As his high overtook him, Fowler saw again the devotees, now crowned kings of summer, wreathed in garlands of pale flowers, wearing birds’ nests, flitting between one another like finches; circling and laughing; incisors out and smoke trailing into the sky; as the late light broke through the canopy, deep in the woods above campus. A can in each hand; goodwill to all the nice lads; a fire crackling and smiles when parting; arms around some light and easy waist. Ascendant as the bellicose songbirds, everywhere shadowed by lovers in loose white robes. Finally, he saw himself among them, wreathed likewise, and Payne leaning from the highest branches as if from a ship’s rigging, pointing out across the fields toward the coast. / T.E. Parsons
Picture a city street, wasted on a summer evening, an unseasonable wind lifts hair from the cheeks of the lost, who wander between pools of orange, looking for that point where their bodies grow weak and all that can beckon is a well-lighted place, clean or unclean. The all-night McDonalds near the river, the diner that never existed but shone in the memories of the wanderers as if it were real; they chased that neon in the darkness alone, without the fervour of Lorde in her ‘Green Light’ video. They made themselves part of the night; they were drunk on their own melancholia. Nobody cares about shadows or footsteps, so accustomed as they are to their own spent traces. Some will kneel in the dirt, take rest on the curb of a pavement, the way we once did as children. There are coppers gleaming in the fountains of malls and plazas, but their brightness is hardly worth the risk of drowning. Somebody spiked the dry white wine with ketamine; the world slowed beyond repair for hours. Wander the streets, feel the flashbacks. What is the glister that rings at the edge of the bridge? Here their friend drowned. Nobody lays flowers, though sometimes at four in the morning—the time when it happened—the summer flies alight in the street lamps and their glow sings of all those myriad losses. One loss for every fibre of his body. This, perhaps, is not the irreverence we expected. The year progresses but time is only as it was before, which is always. We linger on the faces of people in buses, the plasterwork white of absolute despair. We sift through the muck of a drain, knowing deep down the endless treasure. Underground, the music pulses. At some point, the other became us. We were we and still we are now as we walk with Burial’s throbbing womblike beats warming our starving brains. There is a memory that eludes; there is the evanescent sense that this is all okay. A smashed-in advert leaves three white beams. This is not okay. Beyond the bleakness of the streets there is a world we are building. We use blocks of shadow, dust as cement; we construct an elaborate plaza from the ghosts of tomorrow. There is glass that refracts the bursts of our hearts. Plates of gold, nourish palms that smell of Tom Ford perfume. Scratch away the surface and you will find remnants of code. Still, at the back of it all is matter. The cerulean pool is unswimmable, burnished in turquoise. The girl shaking cocktails is a figment of Vice City, her ponytail swinging to primordial beats. Trap, bass, jungle. Trapped; it’s not quite ecstatic, but it’s the world we have. You can draw yourself in, dissolve in the vapours, an endless treasure. Cyberspace provides the architecture of life, even as it strips the depths of things, leaves us irrevocable in geometric dimensions. We harvest our atoms, we are generous. The light gets in and we love the cracks, the splits where hallucinations take us. A world abstracted, a world static. Let the celeste trickle silver, let symphonies ring the million telephones disconnected, lolling like tongues from the edges of walls. Let disco overshadow the climax of night, let us find beauty and peace in the crypts of malls. This feels momentous, irrelevant. [[A L A T E M A N I F E S T O ]]
Further Attributions: Louise McCue: p. 1 (art), p. 9 (art: glass) Maria Sledmere: pp. 2, 6, 7, 8, 9 (cyan) 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 24, 28, 30, 33, 39, 41, (art) pp. 5, 16, 17, 18, 21, 30, 33, 39, (text) Ella Calvert: p. 34, 35 (art) Ella Clark: p. 26 (art) Campbell Montgomery: p. 23 (art) Honey Jones-Hughes: p. 32 (art/poetry) Shaun McGinty: p. 33 (art) Hayley Rutherford: p. 24 (text) Rowan Rosie: p. 20 (art) Robert Mcadam: p. 18 (art) Christophe Lee: p. 10 (art) Ben Weir: p. 11 (art/poetry) Steven Harvie/Maria Sledmere: p. 15 (art) Connor Kennedy: p. 30 (message/text- bottom left)â€¨ Claudio Cristini: p. 31 (art)â€¨ Douglas Pattison: p. 40 (art/text)