Thursday, July 28, 2005

terror, rain, red buses and the route to lewisham

Life has taken on the logic of a dream.

There are approximately five hundred persons on a Docklands Light Railway train, fewer now because of circumstances. Yesterday a young man from Rwanda, new to London, got stuck in the doors; they close so fast at Canary Wharf. The driver said on the loudspeaker: 'Get away from the doors!' The train emptied.

Next to me a young black girl cried 'Not me, not now.' An elderly woman pushed over a suited, briefcased man to get onto the escalator. The driver on the speaker shouted 'No, no, no!' The running seemed like underwater.

Later a student wearing a rucksack left a tube station downtown singing. It was Bop, Bop, Bop, Barbara Ann. His mobile began to beep. A hundred people scattered. A black cab rear-ended a white van. A television crew arrived.

I think it is partially due to the constant repetition of disappearing news. The official news is that there is no news. Everything is proceeding cautiously and according to facts. Can the public help to identify this plastic container, this rucksack, this blurred face? The official news is supplemented by strange people. They are “security analysts”, “terror experts” and a number of witnesses all called Robert Jones. Robert speaks perfectly and concisely. You see them once and then they disappear.

Police have things under control. The Prime Minister is resolute. He does look tough, younger. His pictures in the papers are in profiled. Is he travelling on the tubes. Every day the news is faster moving. Less substantial. Better. Bad. Psychologists warn of reality.

Worse is the incredible shifting terrorists. Ten arrested. All disappear.
At first, dressed in a heavy coat he ignored instructions, leapt over a barrier and flung himself into a subway carriage filled with innocent people including Robert Jones. He was Asian (that’s what the British call Middle Eastern says FOX). He was shot twice to stop him from detonating a bomb.

You know the rest. Information begins to drip, twist and fog. First off he was shot eight times while being held down screaming. He was Brazilian. He not only had no bomb he had no coat. He did not leap over a barrier he paid using his travel card, like I do. He did not flee police; he took a bus to the station. He was not an illegal immigrant. He was given no warning. He was not even the man the armed team was following. He was hurrying to get in the car before the doors closed. Everyone must agree it had to be done.

I think it may also be the sirens. There are the streets closed because of incidents you never hear of again. There are daily raids of kabob shops and Internet cafes. The machine guns everywhere. There to reassure. Abandoned cars, each with a helicopter overhead, litter the streets. I cannot find a route to Lewisham. Red buses have grown in size. They fill my windscreen like a wall. Their route numbers have horrible significance.

The Prime Minister, dream-like, calls for an alliance of all civilizations to meet the threat. He says we had all gone to sleep. That is why it happened. He will wake us. He warns of twisted logic.

There is a whisper we will leave Iraq. I don’t remember falling asleep.

Friday, July 22, 2005

bombs fail

God love me I pity the terrorists of yesterday. How must they feel? They were on their way to paradise (personally I would decline all those virgins, but they are younger) and the bombs didn’t work. Everyone here including them went home.

They did not immortalise themselves. They undermined the work of the previous martyrs. It must feel so unimaginably bad. It is worst than failing a test. It is worse than being dumped in love (experiences the previous martyrs had before they became Jihadists). You have screwed up the unknowable infinite.

And what else have you done. You have contributed to the world’s fund of general absurdity. As well in London the accumulative result of terror in the public psyche has resulted in the outbreak of a new era in social enterprise in the furtherance of the plastic adaptation of globalism.

For those who are freaking about going into the tubes a charity has formed called ‘Tube Buddies’ (seeking government funding) which will accompany the very impressionable who equate descent into the tube as a descent into the grave on a jolly journey to overcome their fears. They have bottled water and crisps. The financial centre and the Prime Minister want everyone to carry on as normal.

A ‘terrorism expert’ (aren’t they all) on the telly has objected to the tube buddies, urging for extreme background checks on them (many are Australian backpackers) lest terrorists slip among them. He recommends a new agency to do deep checks. He urges the public to be more vigilant. He recommends purchase of a ‘terrorist attack kit’. This contains bandages, water and crisps in case you are stuck on the tube.

The terrorists always ‘slip among’. Commuters always ‘struggle bravely’. Police always ‘proceed cautiously.’ Cabinet Ministers ‘appeal for calm’. Experts always ‘strenuously urge’ those who have real jobs to do something sensible. Business always ‘goes on as usual’. Intelligence agencies are ‘tracking down’. The Prime Minister ‘looks grim’.

No one mentions what is in someone’s mirror. In the mirror is the indiscriminate killing of ordinary working people, the ignoring of the rule of law, the desire to impose an alien ideology and culture by force. And now despair. And, thank God, sometimes incompetence.

I thought the PM looked freaked.

there is a place

There is a place on the border of London and Kent where a public footpath extends over an open field of grass. It goes down a hill past a roman ruin to a little stream.

Where that footpath meets the road there is a wide parking area leading to a driveway.

My friend went there in his orange mini, parked and left to have a little pee along the footpath in the copse of trees at the edge of the field of grass. He was on his way to work and was caught short after too many coffees.

When he returned a police car was parked in front of the mini. Another screeched into the driveway and parked behind. Two large vans arrived in which police in flak jackets were seated carrying machine guns. A station wagon arrived carrying two black dogs.

The space was full so that when the ambulance arrived with the sedan marked 'doctor' containing two women in hazardous chemical suits they had to park on the road. The dog cars moved into the driveway.

The men from the first two cars got flak jackets from the van where there were spares beside a rotating apparatus disk like a radar dish. The dogs were taken to the copse for their own pee and a crap.

A helicopter appeared overhead.

My friend approached the fattest cop who was struggling into his protective gear. He thought a joke would be appropriate.

'Are you here for me?'

'That depends what you have done, sir.'

'That's me parked there.'

'You shouldn't have parked there sir, not in these circumstances.'

'Can you let me out?'

'In a moment sir. This is a 'Catos' operation.'

My friend didn't ask about that but I have since looked up 'Catos'. That is the police operation in which as a protection of civil rights of persons who are suspected of being terrorists or who fit the profile of terrorists (brown young males) are not harassed or detained without just cause. They are instead followed by teams of snipers and other armed police in case they do something. The Times editorial has approved of this.

'Excuse me sir, but your willy is hanging out. Can you secure it please?'

At that moment a middle-aged woman arrived. She had, according to my friend, a leathery tan under a wide brimmed straw hat.

She approached my friend, ignoring the police.

'Is that your automobile?'

'Yes it is.'

'I have told your people before that you cannot park here. This is a private driveway.'

'But there is a public footpath. The drive provides access to it. That is the law. Besides, I'm not parking. I was only stopping for a moment.'

'I will take your licence number and will forward it to my solicitors.'

'Please do.' He secured his willy.

'Don't be rude to me sir. You are trespassing. This is private property. You have no right to be here.'

At that moment the collection of vehicles began to move. They roared off down the lane following the flight path of the helicopter. The woman looked at my friend's plates and then turned and walked up the driveway between stone gates.
My friend went on to work.

Monday, July 18, 2005


The big news is that a first edition (and nearly spotless copy) of 'Mayfair', the original and most ancient British porn magazine, plus a slightly stained copy of 'Bondage Weekly', also a first edition, very, very rare, were exchanged for one copy of my 'Borderline' in Camberwell on Sunday. A copy of 'The Bush' was traded for a fine painting and a bottle of wine. A Richard Rathwell impersonator was offered a reading at a literary pub called 'The Green'. The organizer of an Italian saint's street festival said my book had made the festival a success. Don't ask me why. Can Gary Snyder say the same? Can Chatterton?

an electric dream

Some Terrorists.

Everyone has to admit to their shame how stimulating terrorism is. It throws into relief feelings and belief like an electric dream. Anger at the terrorists, at the authority, pity, fear, black revenge, even blood, screaming racism and phobias of all sorts; all can be exercised under the veil of the event. You can mourn and fantasize as over a grave. It is the approach and departure of an evil lover.

I am reading Nietzsche with great sentiment. He had terrible stomach problems like me.

He hated idealism and delighted as a naughty boy in pissing on it. A dialectics of evil. Can it be just that? He loved Paris and Italy. He hated German culture which ruined wherever it went. As does ours. He loved negating and finding that the result was life and creativity to his delight. Like Blake. Imagine him at my age and condition not Marx or anyone.
In this terror incident the news reporters, especially those on the scene, could not see through their dreams and associations to what was actually going on. Naked bloody children running from shots to their heads covered in their own blood and body parts of others including those of black widows.

‘The poor children really want water. That would do nicely right now, won’t it? Look, the soldiers have water bottles. See, they all have been stripped so that the terrorists could disguise themselves in their clothes.’ Of a hundred bloody children? ‘There is another explosion and more smoke!’

Many naked bloody children are ignored; some are pushed. The smallest seem unseen altogether and scatter in all directions as the many parents ignore one another, them, the troops. One soldier cries. Another smokes. A big naked girl takes a bottle from a small one. She drinks and then gives it to a tiny boy.

‘The gymnasium is now under control and there have been ten casualties.’

This from a person watching armed parents drag corpses out from under rubble while being fired on both by terrorists and their own troops, men who in a few seconds would beat someone to death who may or may not have been a terrorist. This is just as some fool starts another fire — a parent, a trooper, a terrorist — and sets off another mine, ignites some more gas to kill one hundred more children, sucking the air from their confinements where they have hidden after someone tripped and blew themselves up scattering iron shards at knee level to adults but at stomach and head to kids. Lots of people now run into the flames or the line of fire.

The stories emerge and disappear. People do not see things. People see things not there. There are associations and images from other times and places, other places appearing like ghosts here. The story is written and rewritten. ‘A hole was blown in the wall to allow escape’ — but the wall is intact. There is a man in the window, no, the children have been lined up. But there is nothing there.

There was no plan to storm the building, but there was a plan but it wasn’t to ‘storm’. These are volunteers, citizens. No; they are an uncontrolled mob. A passionate mob. They are ghouls. Or not. They are saviours.

The terrorists are under the strict and inhuman control of a soulless leader. He is well known. Inhuman. And so he now is. But they are not controlled. They scatter. Some to the town. Some to the railway crossing. Why the railway? Escape to romance. From horror to local reality in this exotic place?

Some scatter throughout the building. Some surrender, some blow themselves up. Some defend themselves. Some trip. Bang. Some murder atrociously in the worst way they can imagine, targeting the most innocent. They go on murdering. They are attached to all murder.
But there were none here until the war against them began.
To negate the world. We will never know how many perished but we do. Some were never there. Some never will be. In every summary of figures, the addition is horrible. There are two hundred missing, three hundred. Mostly children. The buildings that were cleared now sound again like the echo of grenades. They smoke. They flame. There is shooting among the spectators. It starts up again. It is over. Now to the hospital and morgue.

‘What have these children seen? Will they ever recover?’ What they have seen is now their normal experience in school terrorism as what you have seen is now yours. And what have you seen?

And in one year or two when a colour or a sound reignites what they have seen, perhaps a body part, you will say they are mad and treat them. Or comfort them. You will wish them to see as you do. Or less. But they won’t. Just as the black widows don’t now, another explodes now, and that is all to all vision beyond the veil.

This not seeing is even as I wish to do. Not see but see with and without tears and free from, but guided by, compassion. I who have been a terrorist. But never was.

It is not a terrible beauty. But it is not this either.


I agree with vertical, sometimes in spirals.

There are movements to otherwheres too which can be out to islands or through magic spots. The cosmologies are intense organizations, with division of labour and interrelationships like families or tribes.

In some African cosmologies it is a resonance of forms holding reincarnated spirits going backward in time and enlarging deep into horizontal space and outwards to origin. The present and local place incarnates them by instances in life. The otherwheres, and others, light up along the tunnel of spirit frames and travel into you. It isn’t a value resonance upwards like, for example, the Gnostics. This is the Shona, butchers of the Ndebele. No good, no evil. The traffic is however still one of angels. Shona see them. They saw them in Ndebele. But they didn’t in me. But I did in them as the trucks of bodies came over the bridge which marked the border. It is the anniversary of that and of Rwanda.

What I find terrifying is not all belief and spiritual experience but one particular belief, one experience, the one about unique characteristics, unknowable to others. This belief renders everyone and everything else less than a ghost. Whether this is justified by a divine history, an ordained, supernatural experience, a unique culture or as chosen, a fate holocausted and God booked.

Or, God save us, by an ordained ‘way of life’.

With this belief no governance or humanity applies. There is ultimately no discourse or exchange. There is no peace or war. There is only possession of purified space and time. The absolute limitations. Purified of everything human but your own, purified of all ghosts but your own.

This was my experience on the border in Gaza. It was like a Shona looking at me for Angels.

Blind Satanic redemptions.
The basis of a lot of mad behaviour.

This day my particular demographic buys plants for the balcony and eats sweets. We buy cars, houses and computers. Holy Rabbits! Sacred Eggs! We walk around. We take it easy. We get ready to live. Everywhere I go today is a target. But it is lovely. I hope the other kind of Angels, the ones closer to here, all fly by and we can get on with it.

Monday, July 11, 2005

the hilltop monastery

On an island I met a very old man who as a boy knew Trotsky. Trotsky would fish for a specific red-skinned type in the sea near his house. He didn't speak to the boy. Once Trotsky pulled a gun on the boy's doctor as the doctor had reached into his pocket for a notebook. The doctor told the boy about it and the boy was terrified. At eighty something he still was. He was now one of the last Christians and Greeks left on the island. He had once lived in its historic monastery.

In Istanbul later I saw the room in the Church of Divine Wisdom (a cathedral/mosque that remains a wonder of the world. It was inspired originally by an Emperor's vision). Here one day a handful of smelly, sweaty old bishops from all over the tiny known planet decided that the church must have only one line on divinity and a murderous institution to enforce it which was placed squarely between God and Us. It was the beginning of everything going bad for creative activity. The assholes. To decide that there under the icons and angels!

The twenty foot gold and blue and still very intensely feathered angels in the dome had resisted the conversion of the church into a mosque. They
still floated high above the rising non-representative and coded Islamic tilework. Islam had never reached to the dome, the dome that was originally built to hold divine wisdom and placed to catch sea breezes in a city of spirit and riots over images.

Back to Trotsky. You read it all here first. It is nowhere else. Not on the web. Don't tell anyone else either or I will know.

The island on which he was exiled and on which he wrote The History of the Russian Revolution, My Life and others and where he organized the spiderweb of the Fourth International is covered with Cypress trees and wild olives. The ancient monastery on the high hill dominates it. Travel on the island is still by horse and buggy. It is now a place for romance and picnics by Turkish youth. It seems to them a place away from the increasingly stricter mosques and the political turmoil of Istanbul.

Trotsky's house was on the beach shore facing the sea and also Europe. It was behind the hill that blocked the view to Asia. During his stay assassins and lunatics arrived by boat regularly and some worked in his secretariat. The house was firebombed mysteriously. Was it by someone he knew?

The island was traditionally a place of exile for misbehaving empresses, mad mothers of the heirs to the sultanate, megalomaniac generals and for others. Trotsky stayed for years, trying constantly to get away. He wrote to everyone.

But not just that. The monastery on the hilltop was in fact one of the first asylums for the wealthy and possessed. They were chained to the floor in front of the crucifix to remain until they said they believed and were cured or they died. Here God would speak to them. The treatment was provided to all of Byzantine and later to the top people in the Ottoman Sultanate for 1500 years (yes to Muslims). The chains on the floor are still regarded as holy relics and are the object of pilgrimages by members of ancient families with hidden histories including from the British aristocracy.

You may know about Trotsky's daughter. She joined him there on his island in the fury and paranoias of his exile. She languished in the heat and gaslight isolation of the place. She became terrified at his predictions about the rise of fascism and of soviet bonapartism. He was toxically messianic to all around him and gathering disciples. He challenged everything, thought of every expedient.

She felt she was going insane. Her father was cold and disdainful. She was bored and frustrated. The kingdom they had was gone.

She was losing faith. The island doctor wasn't to be trusted for the treatment of her shaking and weeping nervousness. Trotsky hadn't time as he obsessively tried to reverse history, to sort friend from foe staring at his patch of trees and bit of sea on the Marmara.

Did he send her up to the monastery?
He could see it every day from his window.
He had to get back to work. She screamed in the sunshine.

In any event she left the island later. In Germany she gassed herself on the eve of Hitler's ascension to power. The friends of Trotsky say it was for political reasons.

I recommend a visit.

It is a lovely place, magical. The horses freed in the evening from their buggies frolic unrestrained in the trees.


A decline.
of fashionable successions
of colourful stereotypes
of decaying monuments
of unageing intellect

none could tell the end of it
in the world
never being
so much booty, samite robes veir,
choicest things,
large women and eunuchs
curves of swords shortened
cowering Platonic
academics hiding ‘til
Lucretia is born

A time since you paced the boundaries
Under an image
Blazoned in the sky.

the unicorn goat

It was mystical for me.

This is a natural state for an urban six year-old responsible for an increasingly neurotic single mom barricaded in a one room 'apartment'. The 'apartment' was shared with some feral kittens who lived hanging from the curtains, with a tiny sister who did the same, with an absent dad's ghost, a virtually unknown dad who was constantly sending electric tigers from the moon. The room was surrounded by the howling of the woods and the relatives.

There was also an equally threatening external environment beyond the farm and beyond their grunting at the dinners I suspected every evening to include one of the horses, either Dobbin or Maude.

There was lots of dead stuff lying around outside the door at the farm. I stepped over it most mornings, rain or snow, on my way to the school a mile away.

Beyond the corpses and the unicorn goat there were usually the predatory pubescent German twins often waiting there in the lane to try to pull down my pants. I thought this had something to do with the war.

At the school, a one room school with a row of desks for each grade, now a museum, the entire curriculum seemed to consist of the humiliation of the new kid.

I was often picked for the game of 'hit the smallest guy with a branch' and excluded from the game of 'throw the ball blindly over the school' unless it was to try to push me under the ball as it came down. There were points for this.

I didn't understand at first about the different grades in different rows and I did all the work of all the grades and answered all the questions. I believe this may have annoyed some other children.

I would at times walk past the iron stove at the back of the room, bending to warm my bum as I went by, as I answered something, usually without having been asked, go to the dusty library of twenty books on two shelves at the back and pick out a book to refer to while I finished my reply.

I once linked 'Dick and Jane go to the shop' with a quotation from a pristine book , probably donated or stolen, that I was proud to be the first to open. It was was a collection of Provencal poetry from the Ottawa Library.

The red-headed, brown, violently freckled lady wrestler who was the permanent temporary teacher accused me once of cheating after I attained a perfect score on spelling, including of the word 'apocalypse'.

In humiliation and fear I fled the school. I was especially frightened of her three-foot ruler which smashed almost almost constantly across the knuckles and heads of the bigger kids as they mutilated each other between the rows. Kids I now know were probably my relatives from the five village families.

On that rainy morning I ran across the bridge over the foggy and mad rapids, past the post office to the little brick cottage next to it. There I hid under the table in the kitchen of the mysterious widow. Was she the one who had donated the poetry book to the school?

The teacher sent the whole school baying after me. The widow saw me, heard the mob and taking down an ornamental sword from the wall stood in the doorway swinging the sword at my pursuers. I was Bonnie Prince Charlie. I was Arthur Pendragon. She was The Lady of The Lake. This was a pretty far-fetched destiny for the descendant of Orangemen farmers.

who were they?

I fought, with my sister as a tiny bemused and often befogged sidekick, an anxious and desperate cultural war against them among the dark trees in a gothic place.

There were hairy demons in the woodpiles and corpses in the barn. The lake was bottomless and its surface would break with waving wooden hands. The sap from the maples, sprinkled with black flies, clutched at my clothes to drag me into lightning-split trees. The goat had one twisted horn and waited for my return from school in a ring of rocks. The dog was half blind, slavered and each day avoided a gunshot. There was a dead copse filled with broken pickle bottles and scattered corn relish.

They waited behind every tree with knife and rope.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Everything we heard and saw until the dead rose was false

Everything we heard and saw until the dead rose was false. COBRA, the state agency for control of imagination convened in a bunker under the parliament buildings a moment after the first bomb, some say a moment before, and authorised the implementation of the play that had been written for the occasion of the inevitable attack.

The first lie authorised was that it was only a power surge in the underground. Next they shut down all the mobile phones. After the next bomb members of the government came on television to say how well prepared they were. The television crews interviewed some people, some a little sooty, who had emerged from the stations. They were very attractive people. But behind one, several ambulances rushed by and a fat man came out covered in blood.

The media sought out a new cliché. They found an enraged couple who had been caught in a subway car for several minutes. They had considered breaking a window and said that the other passengers were uncomfortable. Everyone hates the tubes. No one likes minor officials. There hasn't been enough investment.

A woman in glasses behind the angry couple had a bandage. The interviewer turned to her. People did scream, she confirmed, but then they became quiet. It all sounded right. Then she added: 'We settled right down when we heard those people in the next car.'

We didn't hear from her again but the complaining man was played for about half an hour.

The chief of everything said after an hour and after another two bombs that people should not move and that the situation was controlled. There were no troops on the street.

By now the city knew what was happening. Traffic emptied from the centre and gridlocked on the periphery. Hundreds of thousands walked silently from offices and shops towards the river, or past the parks or to the north. They were not silent because of any self-consciousness. They were silent because everything was obvious. Some of the silent walkers went over bridges without traffic under which floated empty tourist boats. There were some troops. They were on TV and outside my window.

On television more sooty people were still talking of dark, some small panic, and routine rescues. But several deviated from that image. One spoke of a fifteen minute walk in a dark tunnel after leaving a screaming car. There had been a bang first. The tunnel was dust-filled.

She came to a station which was lit. Naked people, all black, hairless and burned came towards her the other way. They all went up stairs together to a station where police asked them to sit. After half an hour they were put in a bus and taken to a hospital. After a while she was given a pamphlet and released. She asked the television man: 'What is going on?'

My own orientation was by now completed. The bus blown up had been in front of my son's university. He was to be there to get his marks but wasn't. His friend is missing and is missing still. My love was impressed into a team to do trauma counselling. The first ambulances had just arrived.

A new complainer was on TV. He didn't like it that the firemen had led him out past the bodies. He could have been taken another way. He was weeping.

The hospitals would not speculate on casualties. The purpose of all their spokesmen was to convey how rigorously scientific they were. They would only admit to things confirmed. They would confirm only what they could of what statistics were authorised, how many ambulance trips for example. They would not confirm how many had walked in. They could confirm the number in theatre. Objectivity was spreading like a panic. In front of bombed stations the police could confirm that no one was still in the station, nothing else could be confirmed. This left a silence. How many were underground? It turned out later that they had meant no one intact was left in the station. No one alive was left underground.

An expert came on the television to fill time before the Prime Minister spoke. He would sum up the situation. In the background clips from an hour ago were playing with the caption 'Live'. The expert surprised the cameraman with a visual aid. The shot blurred and cleared. He had brought along a diagram of the pattern of body part dispersal in a bus bombing in Israel. Another diagram showed disintegration of the brain from pressure. He was replaced in a few seconds, the next sequence of a doctor. The bus had exploded in front of the medical association offices. The door was blood splattered. It was where statistics were compiled. He could not confirm casualties. A woman behind him shouted a question: 'How could they do this to my daughter?'

The prime minister spoke. He particularly wanted to point out that the terrorists were trying to disrupt his important meeting. He called on everyone not to change their lives. He would return to his meeting. He was very upset. He later made two more statements. They were more eloquent. One had at least three world leaders, maybe more, who some considered to be terrorists standing behind him expressing solidarity. They seemed grim. The other statement was more eloquent in iambic pentameter. He was alone. No one mentioned the war.

In the hospital of my loved one the children's ward was emptied of its present occupants. Small pyjamas were laid out on the empty beds. The city children did not come. They had already been in school. They had survived. The mayor pointed out that the attack had not been on world leaders but on ordinary people on their way to work.

One man in parliament mentioned the war. He was called a serpent with his tongue in a poison pool. That seemed excessive. A placard at the parliament building linked the bombs here with the bombs there.

The spokespeople sought for a cliché to organise the images around. Returning to normal was a good one. The brave city goes on as usual was another. Clips now showed shops opening. The stock market was rallying.

Emails and text messages were read out on the news. They all were sympathetic and brave. The event had great significance. One sounded awkward. It said: 'Everyone enjoys terror.' Phone calls came to me from abroad. They wondered about the bodies underground. But there were no more bodies underground. Everyone had been objective about that. There were only parts in their patterns.