The Great

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When I start assisting The Great Detective, the first thing he impresses on me is the importance of never writing anything down.

We eat a lot of avocados.  Avocados are rich in the kind of fats that help build bigger, brighter, firmer, more dependable dreamscapes.  Every night when we go to sleep to dream, The Great Detective and I are able to record our latest findings in the sturdy environments we have constructed in our subconsciouses.  There are side effects.  My sleep becomes thinner, all night I sweat and shake, and wake with cramp and a thinly-veiled anger that I have to stomp out before I can do anything else.

The Great Detective himself has been gone for weeks – travelling back in time to work on an unsolved case in the past.

I am due to follow, but first I must shop for supplies.  He needs me to bring more packets of the Greatest Ever Crisps and also some bottles of his favourite whiskey.  He has left me some very specific instructions regarding what to purchase and from where.  It is difficult to remain incognito when I venture to the little off-the-beaten-track shop, which I suspect has few customers, and even fewer customers who drink the exact same whiskey as The Great Detective.

Back at the house, I go in to The Great Detective’s room.  It is high up in the house and has big windows that let in lots of light.  I put the crisps and the whiskey in the travel case.  I am all ready, all set.

Now I just need the time travel paraphenalia, which is kept in the cupboard.

I look in the cupboard, but there is no time travel paraphenalia in there.

No sign of it, not a trace.  Nothing to suggest it ever existed.

I lie on the bed for as long as I can, hoping that something will magically change.  After a while, the only solution I have is to sleep.  I eat as many avocados as I can manage, then pass off in to a dreamless sleep.

I wake frantic, scared instead of angry.  Something has gone terribly wrong.

No time travel paraphenalia.  No dreams (despite all the avocados).  There is only one explanation –  The Great Detective has died.  Already my memories of him are fading – he seems strangely, indescribably not-as-real as he once was.  Already I begin to question whether he ever existed.  It now seems to me like he was always oddly amorphous, illusory.  The Great Magician, The Great Wizard.  I get a hollow feeling as I substitute in one set of adjectives for another.  The Great Charlatan.

I sit down at his desk and decide to break the first rule.  I will write down everything I remember about him, everything I remember about our work together.  I need to stitch together a reality in which to clothe his memory.

A sound, like someone else is in the house – but no one else lives with The Great Detective.  It’s just him and me.  I creep down the stairs, and the world feels soft to the touch.

The lady in the kitchen is someone I have never seen before.  She looks at me like she knows me, is surprised to see me, does not understand why I don’t recognise her.  I ask how she got in.  She waves a key in my face like I’m stupid.  Then she takes a bowl, fills it with food, puts it on the floor and a cat comes running.  Where did the cat come from?  This reality is not well constructed, does not hang together.  The lady turns and leaves, locking the door behind her.

Next, members of my family call on the telephone, one after another or all at once, and they all ask when I am going to get another job.  It’s been a long time since you worked, they say.  I have to try and explain to them how busy I have been assisting The Great Detective, without actually mentioning that I have been assisting The Great Detective.  The Great Whatever.

Distractions dealt with, I return to the desk.  But now that I start to write down everything that has happened, it does all start to seem very unlikely.

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Day# 11510 – Three Poems For Your Consideration

I know it’s actually a few days after National Poetry Day, but belatedly here’s some links to some poems and then some waffling on about them (if you don’t have time to read the waffle please just enjoy reading the poems instead.  I won’t be offended – I won’t even know):

The three poems for your consideration are:

 

Danse Russe by William Carlos Williams, 1917

I’m A Victim Of Telephone by Allen Ginsberg, 1965

German Phenomenology Makes Me Want To Strip And Run Through North London by Heather Phillipson, 2009

 

These poems share a sense of solitude and single-mindedness.

My favourite of the three is Ginsberg’s I’m A Victim Of Telephone (it’s possibly / probably my favourite poem).

There is a juxtaposition between the fantastic imagery of the poet pursuing his own quiet reflections – “purifying Eternity with my eye observation” – and the voices crashing in on him through his telephone.  He manages to make the calls sound prosaic – “ring ring Hello this is Esquire be a dear and finish your political commitment manifesto,” is thrown our way as an example – but read in isolation they sound like interesting phone calls.

Towards the end of the poem, the calls accelerate, the sense of intrusion seems more dreadful, more inescapable.  The narrator seems anxious.  He speculates that everyone else is lonely and this is why they are phoning him – a problem he does not seem to have, or one which he does not care about.  Instead what seems to bother him is the cacophony of voices, the unstoppable world…

Always the telephone linked to all the hearts of the world beating at once.

 

I can’t remember where I first read Heather Philippson’s poetry, but this poem stood out at once.  In German Phenomenology Makes Me Want To Strip And Run Through North London, the act of stripping makes a potent counterweight to the poet’s studies.

It is a strange mix of high concepts and quotidian activities and the language butt up against one another “Heidegger’s dasein-diction,” colliding with, “reduced ciabatta.”

The resolution is made to put in to practise the poet’s desire to define herself herself, to follow a whim and not feel tied down by her previously stated ambitions.

When I speak of my ambition
it is not to be a Doctor of Letters
or to marry Friedrich Nietzsche, it turns out,
or to think better.  It is to give up this fashion for dressing.

 

The work of William Carlos Williams first came to my attention when I was at University – his odd little poems hinted at an other world agenda just beyond the edge of perception, meaning loaded onto seemingly mundane things.

If Ginsberg’s Victim Of Telephone reads like a manifesto, WCW’s Danse Russe is an unashamed celebration, depicting a man dancing naked whilst his family is asleep.  He sings of his loneliness and it strikes me that this is in sharp contrast to the negative connotations usually associated with loneliness.

His final line –

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

– is sublime and looks to eradicate the outside world’s influence in favour of a personal happiness described solely in the poet’s own terms.