Ten Clouds Andrew Nightingale
The Red Ceilings Press
MMXI [rcp 22] www.theredceilingspress.co.uk www.redceilings.blogspot.com/
Ten Clouds Andrew Nightingale
Mr Schneider's translation is never going to be finished. The fatal bracket that's closing has no respect for his translation. The bracket opened on a delirious night in Venice. He was in an Italian aristocrat's library. Three masked revellers were injecting the open bracket. It made its nest in his blood. And there was the pig-‐skin spine of the volume he would steal. It was the book on which he would hang his life. Twenty-‐four plates with commentary and, appended after each, an erotic Arabian apologia, the text he was translating. But Mr Schneider's translation lies unfinished on his lap. The clouds are closing. A winy perfume lifts from the manuscript. Mr Schneider is weak. He's not taking his medication. Outside his alpine cabin, snow drifts in sheaves of white space. The manuscript is ruined, the ink smeared, the pages caking. The bracket is closing. The book is closing. Each layer of text obscures the source still further.
Altocumulus The pictograms are plain:
iconic: but the unfathomable script under them can never be translated: it destroyed Kovacs: robbed him of his working life It was not the uninteresting gloss: probably Persian: late 17th century: known as "The Five Flowers in the Wine": an overly romantic commentary: it was not this that caught Giorgi Kovacs' eye
It was the stalk and curl of an alien script: lovingly replicated by Rossini’s hand: the original was lost hidden or never existed: only Rossini 's elegant reproduction remained: in a Venice library: nothing else was left Kovacs was a mathematician of some repute: and studied fencing: was elected Secretary: The Keepers of Concealed Moves: he had a circle of students: foil and figures: until the text made him a recluse
transcription: each plate a pictogram above a script and layers of unsourced annotation: On Loan A Grand Exhibition Antiquities & Curiosities: Budapest 1921: Giorgi the fêted professor: absorbed in study: thumbs smearing the glass display case In his dappled mind the text unrolls perpetually like the string of strokes an artist uses to disembowel his opponent: death: the master overcome commits his life to the study of his undoing
The Pagoda of Perfect Brides was most helpful. Kenneth Barton had settled things in a single trip to Thailand. The night they landed, Mali wrote a book of charms in his dreams, sinister characters, symbols he could neither read nor understand. Even tracing their outline with a finger burned like acid. Then he woke… to some relief… her fingers… oh you're awake… shaping… ha ha ha… could be letters… Mali wake you..? on his skin… He didn't know how Mali got them both invited to the avant-‐garde concert and the little back stage party afterwards. Now there's commotion over a book she's dropped in a bowl of sangria: Mali crying sweetly… stupid girl… other angry lady… oh I drop… why..? Mr Schneider… old paper… so upset… it's done now… sends Mali to sleep… boring… then woops… just a mistake… clumsy little Mali… No-‐one thinks it deliberate. And Mr Barton isn't paying a penny. He leaves stiffly with his wife. The same evening, Mali leaves Barton. His violence is ready to flower against her in a spout of sexual intent but she cripples him permanently in a few understated steps. The elaborate… Passing Cloud Hands… her mother… a style taught Mali… lived in a valley… by her mother… mixed herbs… made medicines… read the ancient texts…
Cirrus "Even the wispy marks of the script obscure the purity of the sign"
"Under the layer of human thought is another and another until a terrifying sun shines nakedly"
"When my Master (whose name I'm not worthy to speak) showed me how to read, I put down the book forever and stepped "Like flowers floating in into wine, I left my clouds skimming day-‐ a red sky as if light" my thoughts did anything but hide "A the true single taste curl of of her hair has come west what Arshan the Persian on some wants you to taste" desert breeze" "Perhaps "How can I we be shown, should when we are shown we a nd never look at the finger that points, have when we show w e placed this in the point" hands of a rich Venetian merchant, perhaps he will not understand"
Stratocumulus these clusters: hard-‐to-‐define constellations of who and when: not-‐quite-‐facts: they soften on the tongue: like Florka Kovacs visiting London in the late sixties: shocked by the cover of a programme for a concert of largely improvised religious minimalism by the Eye and Hand Orchestra: marks whose strangeness was familiar: marks she had seen as a child in a notebook: by the bed where her grandfather was dying: in that horrible hospital: the lost notebook that vanished with his soul clues are misleading: conceptually: no-‐one can interpret the visual designs: hence a minimalist composition is as good an arbitrary relocation as any other: a series of rounded rolls on timpani signal commencement: then sheets and patches of a more delicate percussion: a sense of space is achieved within which the nature of untranslatability is perceived: heart-‐felt thanks as always to the orchestra: The Eye and Hand Assembly: a round of applause: their special talent for extended improvisation within exotic constraints: and to you the audience: for listening to what can't be spoken
you see shapes in the clouds: see the script reinterpreted as musical score: this is how the music flowed: even this poem: even my notes about the event are dead intractable script from which you could concoct a musical performance: taking phonemes as rules for pitch or tone: it's like a séance: a way of embodying the poem: a form is summoned: extrapolated: even if the soul has gone: what else can be done with undeciphered script? just look at the shapes the clouds have taken
Florka waited: the after-‐show party: to speak with Lloyd "Ginger" Schneider: the eminent poet: after the performance: where had he got the source for the score? Venice? where is it now? he has it with him? did he know of The Fallen Peach? an awful sanatorium near lake Geneva? can she see the document? the last thing her grandfather wanted: but his copy was stolen or mislaid: a suspicion: can she see it now? Mr Schneider must guard the original with care: not bring it to performances in London: so? who is looking at it? that Asian woman? the one who has just dropped it in a bowl of fruit punch?
Cirrocumulus For the translation of a linguistic enigma by an eminent Hungarian scholar, a long suffering publisher has been waiting months, but now the First Theory of a Key to Possible Sub-‐Signs is One further delayed, some sultry minor incident has August caused a full evening, a rewrite new pretender
A Sufi maybe, a Persian, an Arab, perhaps Turkish, Uzbek, just travelling, just passing through, a shaved head, extravagant This seeks some strokes, moustache Hafiz and a a little swordplay, who can and not one, no not grin match the one of Kovacs' best the Guild concealed can field, with a moves hits nonchalant ripple home of the wrist, who What if is he, what does The there was a he want? He blade language of the leaves only clatters breath, a language a cryptic down, jolted of the sword, a script quote from Giorgi's that notated the turn hand, the Persian of a hip on impulses smiles and replaces honed from a lifetime's his fur hat on his smooth experience, letters shaved head, the style Kovacs' not to be spoken of the Guild proves a new theory but to be mess of aristocratic of a language moved courtesies, but designed for the Should this foreign acquiescent body technique style has never received any survive sprezza-‐ serious academic translation, the tura attention, though ritual strokes it took up all play on the body his time and and the body he gave up remembers fencing something other, the language once its own
Cumulus His room in the Swiss sanatorium was bank-‐rolled by the faculty: the Guild had disowned him: no-‐one now spoke of swords: the Doctor’s advice: a view of the mountainside: the pines gently scooping down to the lake: and the sky: the clouds in the sky: that should be enough: The Peach Tree Home of Rest believed nature did most of the work: but the work was marred: it was the clouds in the sky: each tower Kovacs made: each gaseous heap of association: link: corollary: deduction: each darkened: fell apart: "everything I think gets in the way": the script for what he believed was ritual: breath: movement: a physical text: choreographer’s notation: each attempt at translation: it fell apart: the piles of wasted sheets of paper invaded: blossomed: obscured the goal with an excess of failure: the impossibility proven greater: "my translations make the light grow weaker"
It’s where Kovacs died: 1938: he never left: the signs: the First Key never complete: the peach would not be put back on the tree: in later years even his painstaking copy of the Rossini text went missing (a peculiar incident in its own right: a foreign visitor: an incident with a vase of flowers): by then it hardly seemed to concern him: he spent less time translating than developing some ridiculous system for measuring the clouds he watched all through the daylight hours from his window: no-‐one from the Guild of Covert Strokes ever came to see him: which was a shame considering the techniques he learned from a Turkish beggar: his final words were a kind of curse ignored by his family: to complete his work: to crack the script: and from the script all meaning would be broken loose on the pictograms themselves: it would be exquisite maths
Altostratus The Traders of the Dark Sun met in Rossini’s small palazzo.
The third Friday of the month. Successful merchants who had retired early.
Enjoying decadence made possible by former business deals, they sought out
the occult for entertainment, competed to buy the most hermetic artefacts.
Their perversions and recondite tastes were notorious throughout Venice,
but so was their learning. One night Rossini showed a text, supplied to him
by a Bedouin trader, who undervalued the manuscript and exchanged it,
along with some spices and semen, for trite, a horned mask
of sequins and feathers. Inspection of the document revealed
arcane closed languages and pictograms. It was a find
for the Rossini library, a scoop for The Traders.
Rossini wrote his own introduction, "Word as Masque", sentiments
gleaned from its transaction. The essay was lost on those
who inherited it. Forgotten. A diffuse mist covered over words by his Arabian lover.
1949. It was found by a poet. An American. A boy in the library, his thin
body a painful read, his nakedness a sign.
Cumulonimbus The copy Kovacs made of the Rossini Codex was last seen by his bed by a vase of fresh chrysanthemums. He had an unexpected visitor, a wealthy lady of Chinese descent. Possible royalty. She brought him the flowers. The nurse went for a vase. The lady took off her sunglasses. No-‐one knows what transpired. The nurse returned. The visitor hastily departed. Later the copy was found to be missing. The Peach Blossom Spa refused to accept any responsibility. Giorgi died a few weeks later. It has been supposed that the Kovacs copy passed into the delicate white hands of that eastern princess. At the funeral a concubine (of indeterminate gender) appeared in full operatic dress and was tackled briefly but escaped by using the difficult-‐to-‐master Eight Cloud Palms Style. Because the massed clouds are only unmasked in sheets of rain. The clouds turn the wheels of language. Vast shuddering cogs, there in the sky, black wheels, grinding the husk of thunder between them, milling unspeakable corruptions of thought, replacing movement with the seizure of sign. Rotations working into consciousness, the cycle of comprehension. The turn that issues out brings words back. Trade moves in both directions. The sun eventually burns out the clouds but they also come back and rain is sometimes welcome phatic, pattering. The lightning marks the sky… copies the sun… ink runs… the paper… sodden… dries… heat blanches… then black wheels… milling flour… rolling seed… crushing out… crushed thunder… up above… the original sign… a paper sun…
words floated petals on the poet’s mind this he thought was how it was to first compose the commentary the dope had kicked in he licked the nib looked out his condo window and started swapping words: The Commentary of Perfumed no of Flowers yes and Wine [he double underlined] The sun is a flower no a character or a pictogram behind tissue-‐thin cloud paper -‐ once an original set of lines constructed rather embodied it now sheets read petals skim over make wispy haloes but still behind the text its thick liquor finds the hand a memory of clear skies short of breath he licked the nib again this'll kill me he thought imagine working on the very thing itself with no gloss and sustaining it for all twenty-‐four that Hafiz had stamina
Andrew Nightingale Andrew Nightingaleâ€™s first collection, The Big Wheel, was published by Oversteps Books in 2009, followed by Talismanic Contact, a pamphlet of visual poems from Knives Forks and Spoons Press, The Black Madonna, a pamphlet from Original Plus, and Hermegasmica, an ebook on the Shearsman website. Ten Clouds first appeared in full in The Text. Nimbostratus also appeared in the Flarestack anthology Mr Barton Isnâ€™t Paying.
Thunnerplump And so, we say, friendship ends here in a tidal column of cloud that crumples the sky. Today has the saddest eyes, a tick of rain before the thunder swallows us into a house roomed by chance. Raw edges of what might have been scrape my metal fillings. Magpies people the light like an old movie devoid of sound but for a theatrical pianist. We close the book on the last brick of the story as dark paint swathes old weathered wood.
The Red Ceilings Press
MMXI [rcp 22] www.theredceilingspress.co.uk www.redceilings.blogspot.com/