from WORK


(another end)

‘His thoughts frightened him and he bolted into the house, hoping to leave them behind like a hat. He ran into his bedroom and threw himself down on the bed. He was simple enough to believe that people don’t think while asleep.’
            NATHANAEL WEST, The Day of the Locust

‘Some few hours before dawn, having lain awake all night, our hero decides the day will never
   come, and acts accordingly.’ ‘Say the words that (supposedly) register emotion often enough and
you will come, not only to believe them, but also to feel that you have meant them too.’ ‘I actually find
   this constant noise relaxing.’ Grub uncovers spoils. Two horses nuzzling, neck against neck, crossed:
leitmotiv for day. (‘Thanks for the lift.’) We are inadequate instruments. A sender-up of calm come
   upon form. A taker-in of messages, a threader-of-the-impossible. An essential exerciser, an inessential
space. ‘As though one had to turn off every brain cell, one by one.’ The scattered desk home to an imp-
   ossible alien. Chamber of the brain a suitable auditorium (miraculous – meticulous – immense). You
felt that if you didn’t repeat the idea, vary its expression and so verify your apprehension of it, it
   would evaporate. ‘This is facetious. This is not.’ ‘That is as pared down as I must be.’ ‘Yes, this is

a test.’ Limits limit limit. Push being offstage. Impact faced facts. Resistless gatherer. Master diver. It
   is the role of art to destroy easy comforts – even (especially?) our faith in oblivion, lack of meaning,
randomness, the innately horrible, sinful or debased nature of humanity – all these are comforting
   too. Recipient pays for delivery – puts onus on instigator. Ideas gather dust – the dust the interesting
part. The ticket home. The truth. (And rabbit on: a babble of opinion, then silence.) Himself must seem
   a figure in a drama. An actual fictional character. A conduit, link (that theatre between the ears). ‘I
was nearly asleep (and therefore indestructible).’ Ignored division. Division signs quantify sequence (or
   lack of it). Always importing the existent, difficulty demands to be read. We see the back of the head
of someone watching something beyond our view. Destructive & opening. How tiring to be a constant
   pessimist. A rational lens. A most inventive surgeon. We see: being a great (even a good) movie star

must involve knowing exactly what your face looks like from the inside out. The irrelevant distractions
   of symmetry. Being-to-be-admired. Being-to-be-advised. Taut tort taught, tautological. Exhaustingly
and horribly substantial. Coming to form. You amiable idiot you. Nature has no plot either. Ambition
   anti-mastery, forge ahead. An edifice / walk mud. One by one new avenues stop appearing, new
possibilities contract, until one is left . . . a someone. And absurd. Imagine your negative, your anti-self,
   the pleasure of hostility. No names exist for things right here. Qualities. Essences. Mud. (Sharing a
bench with imaginary companions, the dialogue involving silence.) Jolting brain within the jolting
   body. Becoming potential, an energy. ‘Somewhat a man of attention.’ A standing man. (He had
‘killed his puppet’, had never owned a pet.) That absolute and rarest of monsters, invincible to the gaze
   of many, choking not on his own reserve. This man, subject to an invisible audience. We – another 

audience – see him flounder. Who’s to say: perhaps, to them, he gives a stellar performance. Total
   mental flight. Against all things. Investment in society & continuity & repetition &. Proper behaviour
as constraint? Lived critical care. Perception lacks passivity. A certain passivity. A clear head. Head
   grown preposterous. It sounds remarkable, is. Innocent – refreshingly so. Sullen putty pity slapped
around. Self-edited. Your slack belief that if it cannot be expressed it may as well not exist. There can
   be only one narrative at a time: that is its threat and charm. This book, still to be read. Only a surface
can be pictured. What does this landscape see? How does place travel? Narrow mind on massive plain
   (on narrow problem). Dandyish thought! Incommunicable thought! Irony! Self-indulgence can take
so many, many forms. This is one of the worst. Luxury. Desire is desire is desire. You know, you’re
   in this. ‘Kick my head.’ Search, quest, desire for form: incessant: leads to sloppiness and nothing

but. Judged as named. Dwelling on failure. Alibi as spatial disjunction. Give yrself a hard time every
   night, sweat in yr mouth. (Whatever holds together when you turn your back.) This must, this must
(with violence, thus.) ‘And she has to keep her primed mind ticking over for another night.’ Nothing
   but return voyages. Choosing between blank faces closing in. A feint, a diversion, a horrible shortcut
the wide road to the great world. Shipwreck event in thought in event shipwreck. Encounter the form,
   shape, of inquiry. Eyes, detached from visual memory. (Is this clear [and true] or just facile?) Clumsy
thought as honest thought, gladiator. Needful complexity. Substance as canvas only (decreating others
   internally/eternally: nailed to it). Assumption of ignorance, as mantle. Thought despises thought –
stepping carefully, one by one, out of all its pre-lain traps. Resistance to location. (Early letters
   show him concentrating.) Personality as prism (prison?), limit on universal appeal. ‘A more complete

being would have eliminated ideas.’ Accurate description – even in this faulty faculty of language –
   destroys metaphysics. The blind spot is the interesting point. Excess is our natural (and hence not
excess?). Syntax, form, as sadism. Even this will have been prolegomena: halting, incomplete, absurd:
   fresh meat, competently butchered. (Equivocal, as ever, revelation.) Aesthetic parity: conceptual
equivalent to art, theatre, architecture, dance. (Are these analogies only? And if not?) Prove yr strength:
   exploit your weakness. Compromise changes – nothing should surprise. Shadow of self falls over
every thought – distraction colours even this: imagination trespassing on analytic engagement, fudging
   the result. Memory property – nothing more. So much false thinking – your own and others’ –
so much egotism: veils, veils becoming concrete. Image as change. Change as image. Image as mirage. 
   Comparison is barbaric. Works as waste product, that which is left behind. Alone, reflecting, words

mean little. Metaphysics sets up against itself. Observing minds requiring ‘faith’: a stance. ‘Choose
   well your scribe and hesitantly: Plato would be burden.’ ‘Is it possible?’ ‘Ought it to be possible?’
Monologue trumps dialogue: battle with one combatant. Narrative as religion. ‘All judgement is hasty.’
   Decision, not judgement – choice, not exclusion. Freedom as freedom to resist. Work automatically
for others: require for self no proof, no fixity, no final terms, no axiom. ‘If Cretans are not liars, they
   are liars.’ Think original beginnings (?), of radical newness, the ‘dewiest dew’. Ungroundedness
(‘modernity’ doesn’t happen much either). Medium as a futile display: mute expressiveness. Our
   object awaits embodiment in the interim. Safeguarding possibility. ‘No mourning, no mourning, I
beg.’ Pain harbours, anchors. Irony is infinite. Or not. Absolute negativity a weak indication of sub-
   jectivity. Base materials unfashionable. Reductive clay. Pain makes us think. Enthusiasm as weapon,

profligate in attack. Use thrills. (Do you hate what you do? You should.) Soulless gun yet speaking: 
   serious gorgon. A scholar is a spy – agent & counteragent both – complicit in, withdrawing from, the
violence of institution. Awareness of fragmentation presupposes violence. There is always violence
   somewhere along the line. There is so much left to destroy. Grub gains spoils, slowly. ‘Not my
forte, dumbness.’ ‘Where’s your head at, mister?’ In secret. The watcher watched. It can only be ‘seen’
   in other things, what it affects. Everything a tool. Good use. Good innings. Good intentions. Form
to come. We do not know what is the ‘sun’ of mind, of consciousness. Eyes see everything except
   themselves. Outsize: distended: mutated: cultivated: make of yourself an aberration. Consider how
to make of yourself and that one moment a satisfying totality: do nothing but choose. Abstraction is a
   useful evil. God nearby, and source of gods. People choose to sit apart. Some do. People are nearer –


more identical – in the throes of emotion. Incoherence: internal. Self-anguish self-staunched, self-
   quenched. Withinscape despicable. Emotion carries guilt, for itself, within itself: a guilty laugh,
a guilty cry. Play, game discarded entirely in the spirit of play. Idea of ‘man’ a means not an end;
   the end another angle of attack. Self-refined out of existence. Good. In theory. Pain, considered
as music – sensation over time – as it is suffered. That’s the goal/impossible idol. Idol-mind, God-
   issue. ‘Every time I think a tower begins, rises up, develops increasingly complex porticoes &
façades – flourishes – until attention is distracted, sleep arrives, something else comes up. The tower
   does not even collapse then, it . . . disappears. . . . No other thought-tower will ever be the same &
writing is no record: pens aren’t fast enough; words translations at best, at worst betrayers, assassins . . .
   mind a cheetah.’ Work in ‘images’ not words (not thought-pictures, image-words). Do this. Do

that. The other. Stop. Self-blur at moment of supreme exultation. (An entirely personal language
   for general thought? Unhelpful. The point. Perhaps. The goal. Grown denser by this thought alone,
without remorse.) ‘Valéry’s messy hair and neat moustache: hands in pockets, smile on lips, mind in
   neutral . . . never.’ Life’s work one avenue, a sample. Instant primed and/or death. Leave yourself
to the judgement of your fictive creations/characters. Intelligence – possessing intelligence, exploiting
   intelligence – so often a way of not having to be good. Limit case intoxication. Enthusiasm as curse, a
solitary invented goddess. Mental impotence humiliating. Pain suffers ‘you’; ‘you’ survive. Needlessly
   gathered together, seeking distance. Horse from nowhere, thigh-deep in summer grass. ‘Morning is
already late.’ As if. ‘Imagine me, at port, stuck in a jug.’ And laugh. A sweeper-up-afterwards. Pain
   as body’s idea; self as fug. The man with his mind in his pocket, his ‘historical neck broken’. Ouch.

robstanton was born in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, UK in 1977. He currently lives and teaches in Savannah, GA with his wife and two cats. His poems and critical works have appeared all over: can we have our ball back?, Fascicle, First Offense, Great Works, How 2, Jacket, Octopus, The Rialto, Shampoo, Shearsman, Stride, Verse and in The PIP Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative Poetry in English (Green Integer, 2007).
back next