Friday, May 03, 2019

On Writing #162 : Lydia Unsworth

On Writing and the Self
Lydia Unsworth

past moments old dreams back again or fresh like those that pass or things things always and memories I say them as I hear them murmur them in the mud

As with walking, there is only one place from which to begin, that being wherever your feet happen to be. I rise from the folds of my interior, a consciousness that began as a seed and expanded into this. Into hands that tap on a computer screen, attached to a torso that belongs to its environment, a head that is habitual and formed by how it is received.

My command, if I have command, comes out of this body, my ability (thus far) to persist. This body lives with me and I with it. You get used to each other. You familiarise yourself with your set of limitations, real, imagined, affected, believed in, and wriggle a little inside your veil of skin.

I am one hundred cats inside a soundproof cube with a hairline leak. Those cats disagree, fight, both with themselves and with each other, change their minds, howl, die, come back to life. I can’t see outside these walls, not with any clarity, not with all this noise in here.

The exterior feeds in, becomes the surrounding fields. A whine overhead, a newspaper headline, advertisements, words of wisdom, the glass shattering in a car window and the sirens that geyser from the scene. Imagine an already damp cloth sprawled out across the table, lapping up the spreading sea.

I’m a venus-fly-trap munching on my own leaf. From the lockjaw of iteration comes a kind of release. An ability to make certain movements, to walk a person through the rooms of one’s house and illume the debris.

Curtains of static and association filter the impressions coming in. You tune the station, fiddle with the channels. Catch a breath of pure oxygen, a swift in flight past an old barn beam.

Walls of tiny metal beads, like ball bearings, rain down in all directions. Each bead carries a small image, a sentence remembered, a name from the deep. And your body charges past, heading for the glimmer of light flickering off some stranger’s watch face as their feet scuff the threshold of the door as they leave. Beads in disarray, metal fragments reverberate like hail, the birdsong of disruption falling back into place. A nearly, a helix of just-missed steam.

Everything detours this way, for a second, a year, a day. And, as with walking, you grab whatever is within reach. Pick up a pebble on the beach. Pass it from one hand to another, admire its curvature, estimate its weight. Do you need it? Can you put it on a shelf? How long should that shelf be?

You juxtapose one thing with another, like a bower bird lining a nest. You select, compare, reconsider, throw away. You turn a thing over, pick at it, chisel. A slab of intensity, finessed, is left to harden. Complete, you step outside, and dance your ridiculous dance in front of the resultant array.

Lydia Unsworth is the author of two collections of poetry: Certain Manoeuvres (Knives Forks & Spoons, 2018) and Nostalgia for Bodies (2018 Erbacce Poetry Prize winner). She has two chapbooks forthcoming in 2019 from above / ground press and Ghost City Press. Recent work can be found in Ambit, Litro, Tears in the FenceBansheeInk Sweat and Tears, and others. Based in Manchester / Amsterdam. Twitter@lydiowanie  

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