“There is natural alliance between truth and affliction, because both of them are mute suppliants, eternally condemned to stand speechless in our presence.
Just as a vagrant accused of stealing a carrot from a field stands before a comfortably seated judge who keeps up an elegant flow of queries, comments and witticisms while the accused is unable to stammer a word, so truth stands before an intelligence which is concerned with the elegant manipulation of opinions.”
From Weil’s essay “Human Personality” quoted in John Berger’s “Understanding a Photograph” p. 180 Penguin Classics
The photograph is a detail of the artwork “Desert Quartet” by Elizabeth Frink, situated in Worthing, England.
“Now and then the clumps of people raised the cheer of the gratefully oppressed.”
– James Joyce, Dubliners
The rain comes down, misting the rooftops of the town. The faint susurration of its fall makes me think of many things: drowned ships, the whisper of memory, the third thing. It’s very English, isn’t it? To sit here and type and have the washing-machine going, and think about the sound of the rain.
I said the third thing, because it’s always important to include a third thing in a list like that, isn’t it? What is the third thing the rain makes me think of? How about: the sound of thousands of droplets?
I used the word English, there, as well, in the first paragraph. At the moment, this referendum is going on, to decide whether or not England remains part of the European Union. Here in England, a lot of the debate seems to be focused on what it is to be “English”. There is a lot of racism in the campaign, and people blaming the “immigrants”, who are not “English”.
By English, I mean English in the sense of listening to the Smiths, and being a Socialist, and welcoming immigrants. England, my England. My Socialist, egalitarian England. A drowned ship. Something underneath the rain.
The vote is on this coming Thursday and I am voting to stay in the EU.
I also meant – in that first paragraph – that I am sitting here, typing, listening to the sound of the rain, in England. Therefore, it has to be an English thing to do, doesn’t it?
And what does the washing-machine think about all of this? I don’t know because it doesn’t speak English. It has stopped now and the washing is hung up to dry. The rain, however, is still blowing across treetops and rooftops in fine clouds of mist. The trees are moving in the wind, silent through my window.
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.
Even the Teletubbies are being drafted in for crowd control in these times. But could they radicalise and lend their support to the revolution? Which way will the rat-faced innocents turn?
Walking around the concrete and wire
of the perimeter fence is an exhausting thing
but the dogs need the exercise and so do we.
A bird flies at an acute angle across our oblong path
I see you open a packet of cigarettes and take one out,
the rims of dirt under your nails, it’s dirty work
and the fresh air isn’t enough we need to smoke
and see, disappearing over the tops of pine trees, a white sky
blank as an envelope, with no address, no location.
You speak about your wife expecting the third child
and how the girl does so well in athletics at school;
you look about yourself, as if where we were wasn’t here,
stamping your feet on the forest floor, you walk in a circle
and the dogs pick up your unrest I imagine
moving their ears and their tails in anxious agitation
and you pat, pet them, quite able to prove your humanity
but soon we’ll have to get ourselves back behind the wire
back to the desk, the endless admin, and all the rest.
lacking, as has so
often been impressed
the salt of the earth
I languish here
at the end of Xmas
resembling one of
those final men
who will exist
the no-clue men
in no-men’s land
listening so hard
as if the self was merely
a filter for it
rare 8th Symphony
– the anti-Stalinist timpani –
after folding two slices
of Sainsbury’s wholemeal
into halves like
a butterfly print
to supplement the salt
I require as
the Russian project
after its Modernist
entropy – retreating-
just like Ur, old
Babylon (a stellar place
to be on a Friday night)
or America itself
too thinly spread
those imperial forces