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I am writing this in what I would still say is my bedroom though in the last ten years or so
I’ve only slept in it sporadically. Claims might be made upon it by either cat now, though it
was also occupied for a time by a frankly inexplicable exercise bike which now seems to
have gone: I don’t know where.

Below is a photograph of the view, more or less, from this my bedroom window. I say
‘more or less’ because I can’t now see myself learning to ride a bike. I include it by way of
an introduction to the following discussions and demonstrations of ‘writing in space’
because, by sitting here looking at the photograph, then out of the window, then back here
at the screen, I am aware of something as volatile as it is idyllic: in putting myself within a
space that space is then deleted; in placing myself (in the photograph? In the space depicted
by the photograph?) I am also displaced.

(and a disclaimer, perhaps pertinent: why else would I offer here a photograph of a younger
me if I were not acutely aware that a bulkier older me occupies space rather conspicuously,
rather emphatically in comparison?)

When inviting submissions around the idea of ‘writing in space’ I was keen to stress that
contributors should send me whatever they liked: you might think of space as a location, I
said, or as a language. What’s striking about what follows is that location and language are

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not necessarily separate things, and to talk about a space is inevitably to talk with it. Here, in
their different ways, different writers have set shapes against other boundless possibilities:
they have not just postulated a point of view in relation to a subject, but have created that
point, that view, that subject.

It’s not like the writers have been performing their gymnastics in a void wholly
unblundered by my presence, though; nor are their works wholly unalloyed when my
greasy fingermarks have been all over them. First, I’ve organised the submissions and their
responses according to the cities in which the writers were currently resident:

Cork
London
Bristol
Cambridge

Each contributor has then been invited to respond to any or all of the submissions sent
from a city not their own. Arbitrary, I’m sure. You can decide for yourself how pertinent or
impertinent these accidentals of geography are to the reading and to the writing of what
follows.

Next: I can’t very well call for pieces to do with ‘writing in space’ and then absolve myself
of the violences I’ve done to them through slapdashing them into new formats and new
fonts, copying and pasting them in this order rather than that, eyebrowing them with a
preface (hello) when before they were offered baldly. In other words: these pieces are
already responding to each other before the writers do anything to respond in a deliberately
formal capacity; you’re already responding to them, and to their relationships, before you’ve
read them, or after you’ve read them, or instead of reading them.

As I say, some of that is my fault. By copying and pasting and formatting - and so on - I’ve
coerced a certain set of relationships out of submissions, and arranged marriages between
contributors, and outright played the pander when it’s come to nudging glances between
different poems and phrases and words. It’s a disgrace, really, but at least I’ve admitted it.
To try and put things right: the contributors are all soon to receive physical copies of this
issue, and I’m going to ask them to leave those copies somewhere. If you find one and pick
it up, I’d be grateful if you could do the following:

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1. Email to let us know you’ve found it (contact details are on the last page).
2. Read it (if you like).
3. Cut it up and put it back together again - however you think best (if you
like).
4. Leave it for the next person.

Steps 2 and 3 can be swapped.

As ever with Gadabout I’m pleased to see how integral reading, writing and responding are
to one another (they’re all basically the same thing, no?) With that in mind I’d like to thank
everybody who has contributed to this issue: the writers and readers of these pieces. I hope
you enjoy what’s in front of you.

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Metaphysic Crossroads and Crossing Possessed
Kevin Griffin

Stepping Stone
Graham Allen

Response:

On Possessed
Meena Qureshi

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Merely surmise, altogether wonder,
if a soul is swathed,

read smeared,

like grease around you,

read us,

I try to address,

read reach,

you, I have to wade,

read fathom,

and wait for that moment,

read era,

when the sun will shine,

read beam,

and the two, you and I,
will glide, drift, to an affinity,

read sufferance.

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Today so many friends will amble

amble to the river

enemies too will walk
rush to the river

so many will trip headlong along to meet

meet at the river
now the river trickles come see

meet there at the river
see

how the shadows black and grey

join the red fight
watch the shadows fight

fight shadows at the river.

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At pillars where a cross dog waits,
a wind that whirls any dust,
the stranger to the house.

No one cries
but the river overflows,
plenty of time for tears.

The earth moves
and the bridge stands still.

It is the fullness of time but the world steadies,
and the bridge sheds stone upon stone
until not arch remains.

Always a stage, always its own event
but with a whimper from many points.

At a edge, a stream of no going back,
but a handshake, a kiss even, quick, chaste,
but ripples too, and unsettled shadows.

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Improbable stone flung into the sky,
your face lost out to a bullet-shaped hole,
without you loneliness would kill us,
wandering ghosts in the shadowless dark.

Blake raised a ladder up to your arc
fixing you like a giant kite.
Will you take us with you when you go?

I think of you as a displaced angel,
inscrutable, bewildered, prone,
inching back from the storm out of Eden,
hungry for exit music and credits.

Scientists and poets feed on your smile,
home-base for the big push up to the stars,
your violence made us seasonable,

apocalyptic coitus churning the soil.
Skimming stone illuminating the clouds,
we should have stood you for the sun,
open to every metaphor we have,

that trick you have of being double,
lying fagged out in your own new arms,
we need you to teach it to us again.

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Kept thinking I should try
Meena Qureshi

Response:
Another Impossible Poem
David Punter

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Kept thinking I should try.
Kept thinking I should try.
Kept feeling the uneasy sense of something
Outside the eye.
Kept thinking Time
Tripping over itself, hostile, pulsing, live,
Kept thinking I should try-
Kept trying to sustain
An interest in something with a name:
Poetry, astronomy, philosophy or noise,
Rulers and numbers dead, card games – toys;
Gardening, pillaging, the economy, the rain,
Grasping and hungry, kept settling again upon
Nutrition, acting as if it came from one thing:

As if the soul-body does not suck
On the substance between
What is felt and what is seen,
On the airy creature whose dark energy teems
With infinite motion and at a distance seems

Still.
Quiet.
Vast.

Kept thinking the things that last
Could be trapped in the brief clap of sound,
In words, the dead flowers found pressed in old books-
Kept treating taxidermy as memory
Trying the future foothold
Forgetting the present platform
And tumbling
Endlessly down.

Kept thinking what is gone
Kept thinking I have won
Kept playing Nash’s game
Within the cage of a brain,
Kept consuming
Kept consuming
Kept consuming
More
And More,
Kept swallowing
Kept feeding, needing, pleading
To make the spaces inside
Solid, please, and real;
More, please,

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And Real.
Kept trying to fill the void
Which threatens to destroy
The blink-stutter ream of life,
Its dual-punctured joy and strife,
With gaping black holes-
Darkness visible,
Driven blind
In pursuit of answers
Of a singular kind.
Kept going till full
Each atom always full
Of More
Space-
Space interlaced with the shadow of its face.

Kept trying not to cry
Or Laugh
Or Love
At the inappropriate time -
Kept thinking I should try
Kept thinking I should try
Kept thinking I should
Try-
Kept missing every step
By trying to step ahead
Kept living in the bed
Of a Future to whom
The Present was not wed.
Kept up all night
Watching other possibilities
Silhouetted upon the mind,
Seductive strangers in the streets
There and gone
And lost in sighs.
Kept on feeling tied
Bound down and wound,
A thread on someone else’s loom
Longing to be the tapestry,
Soon,
Says the needle-chasing thread
Soon.
Kept feeling tried
By the inconsistency of the lies
Kept feeling
No longer inside the mind-
Kept feeling… fine.
Kept feeling
Kept thinking
Kept the two aligned:

All pairs profess unity

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Even when division defines.

Kept fiddling at the knot together
The single chain of you and I.

Kept changing words to
Keep my Self alive-
Keep the solid lines-
Which run on too fast for light-
Keep chasing
The unfurling thought,
The curling smoke which
Is the flame
In chaos, Now, alive.

Keep thinking and unthinking time
Living in unbounded shrine,
Keeps thinking what it means to keep
To continue if all roads eventually meet,
Keeps keeping
Struggling, mind-map fumbling
Keeps
Giving in,
Giggling,
At the end.

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This morning we were talking
(somebody and I – I don’t remember)
about the weirdness of the word ‘threshold’,
about whether it applied only when going in –
do the gods that live, or lurk, beneath the sill
mind who exits? The limen, the stone
that records our passing tread, or possibly our
agony (‘thresh’ is synonymous’ with ‘thrash’,
so I am assured) is not at one with the gravestone,
nor yet with the life-giving stone of the mill –
instead it is in between, which is where we spend
all our days, on the threshold, gazing out,
gazing in, willing ourselves to move, unable,
frozen in place. The Romans, apparently, had
a specific ‘goddess of the hinge’ – her name was
Cardea, or perhaps Carda, it may (or not) be related
to ‘cardiac arrest’, the swinging or creaking
of the hinge above the threshold about to stop us
in our tracks as the great door threatens to close.
But there is a better, a more life-giving notion
to the threshold as we set off on a warm summer’s day
towards a gilded morning, full of hope and vitamins
and knowing that, whatever else this day might be,
it is not possible; for it will be unlike every other day,
gone or to follow, every day stored in the wealth
of our memories, different in its ‘present-ness’,
in the unrivalled quality of its apparentness
to our memory, to our experience, that uniqueness
which is our impossibility, the impossibility
of what appears to us, unhaunted, reflecting yet
unglazed, that naked exposure which recurs, if ever,
only in the absolute impossibility
of our dreams.

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The Pyramid Paddington Riau Archipelago
David Punter

Responses:

After Riau Archipelago Paddington After Paddington
Scott Annett

Riau Archipelago (blindfolded) After Riau Archipelago: I After Riau Archipelago: II
Becky Varley-Winter

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after Yves Tanguy

First light. Hot, dry. What else did we expect?
We come up over the dune. Yellow heat; shimmer of mirage.
But we see it. Pyramid, but tiny; a small triangle
Reflecting, blanking out the sun.

It has rays. Does it have rays? One of us thinks it does.
He thinks there is space, room for a believer. He would like
To worship. We say it is too distant, nobody can be sure;
He weeps, but there are more urgencies; no bread in this desert.

Our nights are full of turmoil. Next day it is closer – of course;
We are moving, progressing; so we say. There is a hint (one of us
Says) of indigo; not found, but perhaps this pyramid, this prism,
Is fractured, obliquely cratered like the surface of the moon.

Is isn’t us, is it, we aren’t getting closer; the pyramid is closing
The distance. It is chasing us, it is eating up the ground.
It is a dead thing, a live thing. We have nothing to eat but rocks,
A glimmer of water, the hope of forgotten men.

The following day – do days follow? We no longer know their
March – you might think that there is a beckoning, a welcome
From across the far wastes; although already the days grow
A little darker, there is an occlusion of the sun. Which we love

And hate – for if there is no sun, if the pyramid is growing
(And we have no doubt that it is) then what will be conclusion
To all this? How will it appear (how will we appear) on the uncanny
Side of this mute photography, this mutual thwarted wonder?

I had a friend, the only one I could call such among a company of
Many. I thought his vision safe; but on the sixth day – or was it the
Seventh? – he rode down the sands and said (he said) there is
More to it all the time. It grows; it breaks; it fractures.

And (he said) I must go to it; for it is in need of healing; it does not
Know the magic numbers which it needs. It is not (he agreed)
A friend to man; but neither is the dog. I thought him wrong; but
The following morning (as are all mornings) he set off.

All gone now, although I am not sure; sometimes when I awake
From sleep but brief and fretful I seem to see them, walking toward
The pyramid. By now it is quite large, yet curiously indistinct.
I see its outline, but I cannot know its heart.

So just me now! Is that what the desert says – but it doesn’t know.
For I sit among the empty bottles, the wineskins dry of fruit,

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And think. I think upon my lost friends, but most of all I think upon
The pyramid, for it is close upon me now. Too close.

What it is I still do not know, but I will bide my time. I think
It is death, but also it has been hope, a shining in the deeps of the
Desert skies. It is the unaccustomed, it is delirium, it quarters nothing;
And all that I have lost, here I shall find.

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On Paddington station I sat down and wept.
It wasn’t a good thing to do; people moved
Around me in strange waves of displacement.

It wasn’t sadness, misery; Paddington, we are told,
Is ‘ever-weeping’; it was where those about to be hanged
At Tyburn could take respite, reflect, prepare.

No: it was a strange kind of joy. So many people, so many
Different colours, different origins; how could one possibly
Utter those terrorist words: ‘Where are you from?’.

Nothing is given, colours don’t merge, but there is hope,
Hope in harmony, that perhaps we can all sing the same song,
Victims, strangers in a strange land. All our land is strange.

And haunting, haunted, by ghosts, by other descendants –
How might we know whether this child, this temporary delight,
Is ours by another race, another line of origin? We can’t.

And so it might be good if we could dance with pleasure,
Whirling around on Platform 9 – yes, the train is delayed –
But then, so are we; delayed on our route to the terminus.

And while we are delayed, held up, there is a space to be filled,
A space, a place where we can move – can we? – unshackled.
Diversity, it was, that was what held me there, face to the ground,

Mournful, weeping, for all that we constantly seem to want to lose
By recognising our other, our brother, our sister. Here she comes,
Of course, the uniformed woman, not white, not privileged –

She has come to sweep up my tears. But I don’t know how to sweep up
Hers, those tears of regret, of hope, that reluctance to believe that
We will not be welcoming. Where is our hospitality, when the trains

Come in, and leave again, all on tracks, some of them even on time.
There are things I want to say. I want to say that, when I am sitting
(Not at Paddington, for this is the ‘main liner’, whatever that means)

But when I am on the tube, there are all the faces, all the bodies,
African, Chinese, Camden Town, Epping, all of them different – I
Want to celebrate – but wouldn’t that be embarrassing? Almost

As embarrassing, I guess, as being found upside down in Paddington,
Weeping for a harmony, a diversity, a mutual learning from each other
Which might forever be lost. We need this, we need this,

Among all the suits and shirts, the ludicrous notion of ‘first-class’;
We need this dance and whirl, the harmony of many colours.
Will I sit up again? So painful in this unseen panoply; but I must.

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Black water pooling
Silver-streaked, like haematite, like pain
Down among the mangroves silent
Slopping and the chug of river
Boat between emerald claws,
Dark tripods squatting in brine.

Thin palings rising
Netted trellises where the fish
Crimsoned by night jump in arcs
Of serpentine silhouette
Against bamboo, sea-oak, palm
Of paradise in the sea-eagle’s clutch.

Here among these unending verges
Of bark and coral depths are plumbed
By the shadowed sailor walking
Over the night taff-rail where
Memory laps the fishing-stakes
With circles of ebb and wrack.

Slipping along the northerly coast of Mapur
(Pale sand and towering casuarina)
A solid rain pebbles waves like
Jewel-heavy greaves in ranks
Across a metal landscape, the water
Ranged in pride above its coral secrets.

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Water spooling streaks black as pain is cracked
Stopped remembers drops secrets silhouettes
Shedding paradise landscapes turned to steel
Still misunderstand circles bamboo peels

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Gradually but with increasing energy, fluttering but unable to
acknowledge it, an eyelid opened slowly to discover darkness. Darkness
verging on blackness. A second eyelid, unhappy at the prospect of missing
out on the morning’s activities, followed the first. Neither the first nor
the second were much help in making sense of the fuzzy shapes at the
edges of vision. Neither the first nor the second were particularly
bothered. Nothing seemed to be moving, and both being relieved at the
absence of immediate danger, they relaxed, content with a job well done.

Awareness of discomfort followed quickly as arms, legs and back
pointedly drew attention to the unusual angles in which they found
themselves. Several seconds passed before the various parts of the body
took it upon themselves to first gently, and then not so gently, awaken
the mind. Indeed the mind took a couple of seconds of additional wake-
up time to recognize itself, wondering at first who exactly might dare to
disrupt the peace and quiet, making all that noise, drawing attention to
the outside world.

At last, and much against its better judgment, the mind decided
to take a look through watering and unhappy eyeballs and it found itself
coming to much the same conclusion as that to which the eyelids had
unconsciously arrived earlier: no immediate danger, nothing to worry
about, back to bed. The mind began to prepare to switch itself off again
but the arms, legs and back quickly fired messages through to suggest that
if the mind were to do any such thing, then the mind could find, carry
and consume its own water, the next time it happened to be thirsty.

These messages prompted the mind to pause as the prospect of
water proved rather tempting, despite the fact that there appeared to be
no record of the mind having ever consumed anything, never mind
water. The allure of the water was at least in part, no doubt, down to the
fact that the mind was now fully aware of the mouth and tongue, which,
having formed an alliance, were now screaming for water at the top of

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their metaphorical lungs. Seemingly, and very inconveniently, water was
indecently high on everyone’s agenda.

* * * * * * * * * *
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Lost. Alone. Feeling sorry for himself,
wondering where it had all gone wrong, the taste of tequila still furry on
his lips. He pressed one hand into the palm of the other. Gradually his
body was awakening and with that increased awareness, Paddy became
more conscious of his discomfort. He was, essentially, upside down.
Wedged. And yet, unafraid to do what had to be done, he rocked gently
onto his side, touching the cold tiles lightly. Happy with the compromise,
lying on his right shoulder, he decided to defer further activity. His eyes
were still struggling to register anything of note; his arms, legs and back
were suddenly greatly relieved.

After a couple of moments his ears gradually tuned into the
surrounding world, taking note of the footsteps behind him, some heavy
and some soft, some dragging with an early-morning-I-can’t-believe-
what-we-did-last-night stumble. Eventually, there was a sharp ping
followed by an announcement, made by an unreasonably cheerful
woman. Eight thirty five to Oxford, departing in six minutes. Platform nine.

Paddy struggled to make sense of that information, unsure as to
why anyone would ever want to visit Oxford, whether at eight thirty five
in the morning or otherwise. However, rather than probing this
existential question, he rolled onto his back and suddenly encountered, as
if for the first time, light. And not only light, but colour. Colour and
light. But mostly light. Horrified at this development, and heeding the
disapproval of both his eyeballs and brain, he continued his roll, settling
onto his left shoulder. He had instinctively closed his eyes whilst rolling
but now, encouraged by the relative darkness, he opened them again.

All around him, legs and feet were moving in multiple directions
and at various speeds. In the distance, he could see first one train, then
another. Right next to him, some unthinking capitalist had discarded a

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receipt for their journey, allowing it to land gently beside Paddy’s face.
He was in a train station. That much he gathered. But why he was there,
how he had come to be there, behind a bench, in a dark corner, small
enough to be wedged in an incomprehensible position, he could not
fathom. Or at least he could not fathom all at once, for gradually flashes
of memory began to assert themselves at the forefront of his reluctant
mind.

Cautiously, and against his better judgment, he sat up, and having
done so, he began to use his hands to reacquaint himself with both his
body and his possessions. Hair wet, hands and face smudged with dirt,
hat ripped, he’d even managed to lose his prized label, usually attached
firmly to his coat. Another night out, another bizarre night out filled with
unexpected events, had resulted in another disaster. He couldn’t quite
remember how he it had happened, what freak sequence of events had
collaborated to reach this horrifying climax, but he was sure that it hadn’t
been enjoyable. Not one single moment. Not even the bit in Swansea,
with the old man, and the young girls, and the weird costumes, and the
tequila.

* * * * * * * * * *

Paddy hadn’t liked them much. Neither of them, if truth be told, but
particularly not the big one. The small one could be quite friendly, even
kind at times, when the mood took him, but not the big one. The big one
dragged him around like a trophy, a gimmick to be flaunted before
unsuspecting members of the public, a prompt for terrible conversation.
Even worse, a tool for making friends.

To be fair to the small one, he did his best to avoid such
encounters. In fact, Paddy had spent the day watching him, wondering
what could possibly have caused such a downturn in spirits. Perhaps the
small one had eaten something rotten; perhaps he had been unlucky in
love. At any rate, Paddy had enjoyed his company, silent and sullen,
staring deeply into his ale, mumbling halfheartedly, seemingly out of

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habit rather than desire. The big one on the other hand was a disaster, a
complete liability, stumbling from pub to pub, person to person, and
inflicting his terrible, nihilistic humour on anyone that would listen.
Embrace the chaos, he claimed, on the bright side, there mightn’t be tomorrow.

Strangely enough, and against all the odds, the big one was
repeatedly successful in striking up conversations. The small one
speculated bleakly if that might have something to do with the fact that
the big one was, well, the big one. The small one was unhappy mostly
because the big one tended to lure his unsuspecting victims back to the
small one, only to abandon them there as he struck out in search of new
friends.

It was by this strange quirk that Paddy found himself seated at a
large, rectangular table, in a Wetherspoon’s in Swansea, with two girls,
one of whom was the daughter of a local vicar, three lost souls abandoned
by their fellow-stags but unashamedly wearing cowboy costumes, and an
old man, with a leather jacket, missing tooth and terrifyingly well
groomed facial hair. Paddy had spent the night wondering if he had fallen
into the beginning of a joke. The small one told him it was no laughing
matter.

* * * * * * * * * *

Upon their return to London the next morning, they had nearly lost him
on the tube. Camden Town, Epping, each awash with African, Chinese,
Indian, and European bodies, all flashed before their eyes as they
stumbled on. They were celebrating, although with hindsight Paddy
couldn’t be sure of the cause for celebration. Midway through the
journey, the small one had begun arguing with the big one, the small one
clearly taking the opportunity to vent, the big one clearly not listening
carefully enough to catch his friend’s drift.

At last, the small one, who to be fair had been threatening to
abandon ship all day, and to be even fairer, had done well to make it back

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to London in the company of the big one at all, stormed off. Indeed, the
last Paddy could hazily remember was the small one carefully removing
his wristwatch, slamming it emphatically beside Paddy’s head, and exiting
the tube. Paddy had been vaguely aware of the watch beside him, but had
not allowed the watch to hold him back as he ran into the warm embrace
of sleep. Thus, Paddy slept, while the big one, presumably happy to
continue his journey on foot, attempted to follow his companion. Had it
not been for the quick thinking of a nearby passenger, a large and (as
Paddy remembered) unbelievably fat man, the big one would not have
noticed either Paddy or the watch, and both would have been left,
perhaps happily, to their respective fates.

* * * * * * * * * *
On their way to the station, the big one decided to play one final
joke on Paddy. He had dragged them around London, apparently
unwilling to curtail the little holiday, insisting upon the glories of tequila,
the impossibility of growing old, the unlikelihood of making better
friends, the need to keep going, but had at last apparently grown weary.
Taking both the small one and Paddy himself by the arms, he had
dragged them into a little shop, with a blue sign and a welcoming, open
door.

Paddy hoped it was a café. At any rate, he had failed to take much
notice as they entered, now resigned to the big one and his ways.
However, once inside he could do nothing other than stare in horror at
what was before him. His eyes, accustomed normally to his quiet study
and books, were suddenly confronted with row upon row upon row of
what, for want of better words, appeared to be identical copies of himself.
He was, much to the delight of the big one, standing in the Paddington
Bear shop, at Paddington Station. Paddy struggled to find words to
express his outrage; his confusion at the realization that he was in fact,
simply, a replica of a replica, choked any utterance. Meanwhile, the small
one quietly shook his head in sympathy, while the big one waved
expansive arms and cried genuine tears of laughter.

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The following morning, Paddy woke at the train station, behind a
bench, in a dark corner, perilously close to a recently emptied bin.

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Down the mangroves
the river-chug squats in brine,
thin palings rise,
fish jump arcs of serpentine,
sea-oak, palm

the sea-eagle’s clutch.

Unending verge of bark and coral,
black water and pain,
shadowed sailor walking where
memory laps the fishing-stakes,
circles, ebbs and wracks.
On the north coast of Mapur
(pale shore and casuarina)
hard rain pebbles heavy waves,
ranks metal landscapes,
the water ranged
over its coral flanks.

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In grooves the slug maps, grin fades:
rise, chirping, and cloak alarm.

This evil sucks –
surge of laughter, pain,
what murks
edges and saps?

A favour lies,
flapping giving.

Making the most of her hands
she loves heavy metal, makes shapes,
apes the wave’s cool flank.

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This evil sucks:
rise, chirping,
and cloak alarm.

Still flapping and giving,
still breathing, stunned bird?

Sustain the clock
and dance if stirred.

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The first thing to say is that I think ‘Riau Archipelago’ is a really good poem, and my
writings are to be taken as responses to – rather than edits of – the original.

What attracted me most was the poet’s ear for sound and almost photographic love of the
coastline, which seems, at least in the way it is written about, deeply felt and familiar. I
found that my reading settled on the ‘shadowed sailor’ as a central figure, though he may be
incidental to the feeling that prompted the poem. I associated this figure with the poem’s
reference to ‘pain’, the ways in which sensations can be submerged as ‘secrets’ in verse
landscapes.

My first response is ‘blindfolded’ because I have not seen this coastline; I have never been
to Riau Archipelago. As a half-blind reader I pulled out the bits of the poem that I
particularly responded to, that caught my eye, and substituted a couple of my own words on
impulse (generally for the temptation of rhyme). This is part-reading, part-rewriting, and
feels transgressive because I am effectively pulling apart and scavenging from someone
else’s work. I don’t see the resulting piece as ‘mine’, but as a parasitic collage or
collaboration.

The second response goes a step further, trying to make a new poem out of sound and word
associations, rhymes and part-rhymes. ‘Mangroves’ became ‘grooves’, ‘brine’ became ‘grin’,
‘sea-oak’ became ‘cloak’, ‘sea-eagle’s clutch’ became ‘this evil sucks’, ‘verge’ became ‘surge’,
‘circle’ became ‘murks’, ‘ebbs and wracks’ became ‘edges and saps’, ‘Mapur’ and ‘pale shore’
became ‘favour’, ‘landscapes’ became ‘hands’ and ‘shapes’, ‘metal’ became ‘heavy metal’,
‘water’ became ‘waves’.

Subjectively, this might have little to do with the original poem, but owes a lot of its sound
to it. This response felt the most playful and easy to write. It also felt, at least in the earliest
stages, the least controlled process, defamiliarising in a productive way.

Finally, I pared the response down to make a third very condensed piece, using some of the
images and associations that had emerged. I am grateful to the original poet for the
opportunity to respond.

31
Cranes Vita Nuova XXVI
Scott Annett

Rhino
Becky Varley-Winter

Responses:

The One
Graham Allen

On Rhino
Kevin Griffin

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Scivolano così lentamente Slip so slow
Basse come il volo Low as the flight
I colli The necks
Semplice come Simple like
L’acqua che non è Water which isn’t
Per niente At all

Facile adesso Easy now
Niente da vedere Nothing to see
Si allungano They lean
Vedendomi Seeing me
Scivolando, combattendo Sliding fist-fighting
La nebbia The fog

Ogni rumore Every sound
Filtra attraverso Seeping across
La pausa The pause
Non può tollerare Couldn’t bear
Il parlare perché Speaking because
Perché Because

Le gru ma così Cranes but so
Lente nel cielo Slow in the sky
L’ali The wings
Tagliano le traccie Cutting light
Leggere dei sorrisi Traces of smiles
E io And I

Scivolo così lentamente Slip so slow
Basso come la notte Low as the night
La luce The light
Semplice come Simple like
L’acqua che non è Water which isn’t
Per niente At all

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(1) (2)

Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare So kind and gentle she appears,
la donna mia quand’ella altrui saluta, My lady, as she greets another,
ch’ogne lingua deven tremando muta, That every tongue must tremble, smothered,
e li occhi no l’ardiscon di guardare. And eyes no longer wish to watch.

Ella si va, sentendosi laudare, She comes, and passing by she hears
benignamente d’umiltà vestuta; Us praise her pure humility,
e par che sia una cosa venuta A creature heaven sent to

beda cielo in terra a miracol mostrare. A miracle on earth revealed
Mostrasi sì piacente a chi la mira, So pleasing to those eyes, for such
che dà per li occhi una dolcezza al core, A sweetness is to heart concealed
che ’ntender no la può chi no la prova: Until you see and seeing try:

e par che de la sua labbia si mova It seems that from her lips there moves
un spirito soave pien d’amore, A tender spirit full of love
che va dicendo a l’anima: Sospira. Which whispers to the soul just sigh

(3)

So here she greets those reveling eyes become silent passing by
She hears us praise her humble grace now known urging us to sigh

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The rhino was much too big for his small studio flat. When he
walked into the kitchen for breakfast his nose hit the wall. He had to
hook open the fridge with his horn, and the handle splintered and
cracked.

He had just succeeded in balancing the milk bottle to the table
without spilling it, when he glanced at the cupboard and growled. He was
out of his favourite cereal. Now he would have to go to the shops.

As he trod heavily down the stairs, he thought about his life. He
had to get it together. A new job. A bigger house would be nice. Perhaps
with a pool? He nudged at his pile of post. All bills. He munched
absentmindedly on one of the envelopes.

As he walked down the busy street people stared and scattered.
He rolled his eyes. This city could be so rude sometimes. He reached the
shop and squeezed slowly down the aisle.

“Oh god! Just take it, take it!” the manager screamed, as he always
did, the shop falling apart in the rhino’s wake.

“Thank you,” said the rhino, but it sounded more like “mmph.”
The manager stared at him with wide uncomprehending eyes.

Back in his flat, the rhino munched dolefully on his crunchy nut
clusters. What a morning. Cracks were spreading slowly through the
building like the wrinkles in his thick, grey skin.

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It seemed that from her lips there moves
A tender spirit full of love
Which whispers to the soul just sigh
Vita Nuova xxvi

Confronted with this I cannot but think of Shelley, occasional translator of Dante and
revisionary champion of precisely this Dante, poet of love. Shelley was led by Dante not to
Hell or Purgatory, but to the power of love which, he says, overcomes everything. He
places Dante above Milton in his Defence, second only to Homer, not as the tourist of the
underworld, dispenser of contemporary punishments, but as the poet of all transforming
love. Shelley's Dante, then, is the poet of the Vita Nuova and the Paradiso rather than the
full Comedia. What he gets from this purified, transhistorical Dante is something that
moves through Beatrice's lips, just as it moves through all things. It is a power that creates
galaxies, topples Empires and rests on the strength of a lover’s sigh. I respond, therefore,
with this Shelleyan paraphrase, conscious that like Shelley, armed with his proto-Romantic
Dante, the case is presented in the constative, whereas in fact it can only be the product of a
kind of performative, a kind of faith in fire.

The flame touches itself as it burns,
it is a skin that flares into the world,
it throws the stuff of the earth into the sky
and shakes its vegetable life into colour;
it washes the oceans into mountain ranges
and draws a grand chorus from the trees;
every bird is its fingertips
flickering bursts of light and laughter;
poets with incremental memories
twist it into probable names,
bathing their tongues and hands in its heat;
it is a skin that wraps around the eyes
of everything that dreams and wishes,
save the bright but uncomprehending moon.

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The story of the rhino at first seems frivolous, a mere self indulgence on the part of the
writer.

But it is well to bear in mind that the animal fable is a very old and noble literary form. We
hear of it in the stories of Aesop and later in those of La Fontaine. Jesus, himself a great
teacher, invariably used parables to teach what was often a difficult lesson, thus allowing his
subjects to learn for themselves.

Likewise, parables and fables allow us to view the story and its issues from a distance and
thus it is easier to judge and draw lessons from.

This gave rise to the widespread use of allegory in medieval and early modern times, by
Dante, Boccaccio and Chaucer. Perhaps the greatest and most well known allegorical poem
is Chaucer's Romaint de la Rose. Many of us are familiar with Spenser's Faery Queene with
its whole menagerie of allegorical figures, issues and situation.

The story of the Rhino illustrates the pressures on people in the modern world to conform
to established, and very often archaic notions of behaviour that are expected of all of us.
The exponents of this notion are very uneasy when they behold the unusual and the
unorthodox. It is an intrusion on their comfort zone which, like the supermarket manager,
they will do whatever is necessary to be rid of.

In a broader sense, too, it ask us all to examine our own attitudes to what is novel to our
concepts which are really prejudices and misconceptions in another guises.
The story ends with the great image of cracks appearing in the familiar world but
unfortunately they have also spread to the hero-rhino.

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I’m glad you made it because I want to apologise all of us do most of us do at least If I
can get a word in edgeways perhaps some time ago now I heard from

these gentlemen
after I’d initially put it to them that
he called it a a a tyranny, a tyranny of the what was it

the tyranny of the up and down
of this here this contraption you’ve got here
(he means the internet)
Thankyou, yes. So I wrote to these – gentlemen
gentlemen!
ha!
asking them in
I’d like to interject
blunt terms they were fervent terms
even rather wild
whether there was anything to be done about this bloody
‘tyranny’!
ha!
up and down, you see

and we said though didn’t we
how did you get this address or something to
to that effect

and all I asked was whether it might be
possible whether it might be possible for
this journal to be arranged
in such a way
yes
so that it might – go across
rather than just up and down you see. ‘like a journey’ – ha!
I don’t think it’s unreasonable see? if I can
get a word in
But you see, don’t you, what I’ve had to contend with edgewise
Look. Just look a minute, will you.
Look.
thankyou.
Now it began with that first letter.

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So – you’re still with us? That’s great. It began
with that first letter and a perfectly polite question. Can you
make the internet less up and down please
No, they said, basically
because we are making a journal about writing in space
No. No we can’t.
And yes we said no. And we all agreed on that
that is to say, Buzz, and Michael –
where’s Michael?
over there
here he never talks much but he agreed with us
Yes and I’d like to know just
yeah yeah yeah just who are we to say no, right?
Just like that is the thing yeah
Just no and that’s that yeah
Buzz sorry Neil
You don’t even allow the possibility, you know
Here’s the rub, if you like.
me Buzz, and I, and Michael
what are you doing over there?
ignore him We all of us have had some
just success
thinking going, as you have it, up and down
stuff about ignore him (in the strictest terms)
Please so you understand that your
view of a journey being something
simply side to side
yes ok is seems somewhat parochial.
yes ok Good. So when you wrote to Buzz and I
and
Michael

subsequently accusing us of
well let’s see shall we –
‘wretched’
(?) ‘weasel-eyed’
yes ‘coldly and cruelly aspirational’
yes yes (??) ‘gumbooted and traipsy’
practices
makes me want to spit Well. Well.
but you see where I’m coming from
let him finish this attachment you have to a
so-called ‘journey’
is bogus tied to a that is to say
a particular exactly a particular viewpoint
yourself
Now Buzz and I and Mike here we
well it must have been what was it
countless ups and downs
all through the sixties, seventies
you went to the moon
not me ‘ups and downs’ sure Yes. Yes. But you see

39
ho hum the whole one small step for man That was one point
we’ll put that to one side shall we? in the – procession
I mean actually it’s the small step that’s yes that’s
figurative
because it’s well it’s a colossal distance
and it’s not done hardly! I’d like to hope
Jesus so for you for you we go to the moon
it seems to me we are actually we’re going up and down endlessly
going round in circles And that’s why it would be fallacious
(you say) bullshit, right? to read across
but what do I know I see. And our way is the only way
to
escape yes a point of view
I see. I suppose.
Wouldn’t you agree, Michael?

I guess. There.

40
Thankyou to everyone who has contributed to this issue:

Graham Allen
Scott Annett
Kevin Griffin
David Punter
Meena Qureshi
Becky Varley-Winter
You (hello)

Please continue to join in:

www.gadaboutpress.com
editor@gadaboutpress.com

www.twitter.com/gadaboutpress
www.facebook.com/gadaboutpress

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I the undersigned found this journal at location (1) and left it at location (2):

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