No Man’s Land

memento mori

All writing contains an element of memento mori, a trait much easier to detect in the writing of say Dostoevsky than the Yellow Pages but it’s always there if you look and think deep enough. Even the most ridiculous scribblings and advertisements and lists will one day be invested with some unintended unforeseen significance when their author is long dead and time has moved sufficiently along to make our present the foreign country it will one day become. It’s just a question of seeing far enough ahead and then turning to look back – a Lot’s wife view of history. People will sift through the wreckage of our age just as we do the ages that came before us. The monumental will decay and the trash will be elevated into antique.

Waiting in a station recently, I was reading an unnamed literary journal and decided to attempt an erasure poem in the vein of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes erasure of The Street of Crocodiles by the great Bruno Schulz. It may be due to innate miserabilism but the poem I extracted seemed to want to become an apocalyptic memento mori dirge, a reminder that the spirits are guiding our hands after all but only in the sense that we are the spirits. Here are the pages and there’s a transcripted version at the end. It’s all folly of course but I like the way the original text increasingly resurrected itself as the ink ran out. The above image, incidentally, is from the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral by the sea, a stones throw from my work and a place that counters despair; for between the headstones lies the beach and in the midst of death, my friends, we are in life.




No-Man’s Land

The final rain on the windows.
Lightning ran
on empty ground.

No-man’s land.

The mosque floods.
A cathedral, unseen, falling.
The ruined houses furling and unfurling.

History deserted
its central icon.
The sea, looking out,
consumed thought and time;
a tabula rasa behaving
as it always had done.
Lights into darkness herded.

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