swimming in the heath

Yesterday R and I went for a swim in the Heath.

Muddy hills roll out their greens and yellows, reaking of summer. High heat, heavy air. Stringy, ethereal clouds tangle into a makeshift veil around a tall, smoking sun, providing little solace as we duck into a tunnelled alley to skip the heat. My trainers pounce happily on the soft rocky dirt, as hard rays of light smash through the hairy treetops. I get distracted by their gold-ness, their brightness and tesselate movement. I pretend to trap them under my feet. Slices of plant sustenance. Tree food, pure energy.

We reach the pond. The water is still, slickly green, completely opaque. There’s something sinister and scary about the water – without current there is no flow. ponds are loners and introverts. springs chatter, rivers whistle and talk. Ponds sulk, sap, rot and darken. The little bank is crowded, I panic about having nowhere to sit. The grass looks like weeds and nettles, poisonous and coarse. R asks if I want to get in the water, I complain, mumble and waste time. I think about monsters, amphibian creatures lurking beneath my feet, slipping between my toes. Is it there? Did you feel that? People are huddling by the water next to me, buzzing with conversation. We’re watching a string of ducks cut across the pond, their paddling feet sunk soundlessly into viridian jelly. Will it be cold? Will it taste like dead fish? Will it pierce my feet with abandoned glass if I let them stretch? I walk up on the wooden parapet and stare at the little lake, a puddle of unknown unknowns. R is hovering on the edge like a seagull scoping its lunch, excited to hit its element. I catch his eye and feel suddenly childlike, excited and silly. Ready? JUMP.

24-06-18 north london

poem 0

sweat caught in oil slick

shake colour colour thick

blocked up and spilled to the top and covered

with a hot pressure rice-cooker lid

shake shake pain between bone a trapped nerve

thick thick

tic tic

bone pain back bone

i smell the good food like oil that steals the air away

from subcutaneous blood

the hand hurts where the nerves hurt

the table moved onto my wrist as they collide

as i fell

onto a soft wrist with my hard wood bones

hands heavily propped

at 90 degrees bent i’m carrying the world

under my wooden lid

i hid and i cry without face just the head

and in my head i said

i miss you feeling my sadness

with your thick yellow thread

when i cry or don’t cry

yellow bird

 

poem 1

I stare the chalk, down

I soak the wall, in

The music is too, loud

Too loud and the fragments of chalk sandpaper

Repeat

Too loud and scratch patterns of chalking paper

Swim tightly, crushing my teeth, lightly

Chalk powdering wet crumb-boulders

into my shrunken

lungs

until I

collapse

 

I give into the heat

and my hands go hard

Letting my blood go thick

I’m letting my people drown

On either side of

me

And I feel the veins hit me

in my chalk-ribbed rocking boat

My lips – sails

My legs – ropes

And in a thousand high chords

The strings of anxiety of my wrists

Are pulling a million invisible seams

Apart until I

collapse

notes on sensory exclusion: the two senses of public good

I think a reasonable way to begin is here, right now.  I am sitting in one of the research centres of my university. It is a space for research postgraduate students like me to do their work. It is one of the few places on campus where I am able to do so, but it is far from being somewhere I can do so best. Despite all the emphasis on the ‘facilities’ that are provided for our ‘community’, like a hot water tap and a couple of extra computers, the main aspect of study for me is sensory. What it feels like, literally, to work in a certain space.

Here, the lights are copious and bright, and the white light seems to reflect in depthless white sheets off the white smooth of rounded plastic tables. All the surfaces are smooth and depthless, just like the single-hue sculptures of Anish Kapoor, sharply and economically framed, but concave, convex without end.  The tabletop is brighter, more luminous than my computer screen. There seems to be no meaningful distance between the white light and me. There is no depth to the room. Everything is here, happening – to me – at the same time. I try to imagine a different sensory point of view to mine, what might it be like to work here in a different body and I cannot.

I just left a talk given by Nina Power. She gave a paper on the public, the state, protest, legal subjects. She considered a number of concepts like ‘public space’, ‘public opinion’, ‘public order’, and their relationship with the polis, police, policy. She considered the simultaneity of these fictions and functions. Negatively affected by the state that segregates those it exploits from its definition of ’the public’, negative publics emerge. Refugee and migrant movements, police violence movements, free education movements, Sisters Uncut. Nina talked about the way in which those excluded from the fictional ‘public’ (in the name of which the law acts as such, punishing or permitting X as it sees fit) – whether by virtue of the fact of their documentation and/or dissent – find themselves excluded on all counts. That is, temporally, spatially, politically. Collectivities are constituted in the negative. This is, in a way, the real public, or that pole of ‘the public’ with actual bodies.

The university has its own privatised spaces that are meant to be shared and common. I think of sensory exclusion as another mode of slicing the public into fantasies of the good of the public and the ghosts that are its threat. What kind of body can withstand the private, prestigious, card-access-only spaces of the (public) university? What is the individual body implied? The light is too bright for me means body unfit for the light, unfit for the room or in other words failing of test of fitness, of fitness for academia. I fail the reasonable test for access, I lose my membership to the room, my citizenship of the polis (Goodley et al:20). The university is not a tower but an ivory city-state, and to identify with the polis is to coincide with police, the law of the land, the law of the good proper.