“Floatation Device”
for Pete Spence

let’s do this in the voice of Sylvia Sass!  it rings so true
as halfway through the play a strangeness is overtaking us and it’s heavy
all around.  the air fills with substance.  lichen. some unspoken loss
and the charged absence of a brief and busy period alone
meets us here in our separations gasping for breath.  it was that kind
of painting far from the geometrics of dawn always floating
just beyond our grasp.  it had more sound than colour and lived in you afterwards
rather than in a room somewhere.  how we hate things
that live in rooms! we like most things.
it’s the time of year. so scented!  after months
of bitterness it is good to take to the pollinated air and to breathe
at least for a time. like other people’s pain
it is there but you can’t feel it.
yet it may be what connects one picture with another.  the “you”
that is there all the time. but here I am
you pretending someone else
is speaking and it’s your face that’s moving all the same.  maybe we
rely too heavily on the visual.  maybe it’s because with our eyes
closed the world is such a confusing place to live in. 
I am always impressed by how difficult and yet how easy
it is to get from one moment to the next
in one’s life!  that must be life, or what we mean by it? 
a ballet you’re not really interested in
but you go to all the same.  but I know what you’re thinking:
yes Sylvia! whatever you say!

it was a different place back then.  you thought nuit blanche
was a kind of vegetable and the farmer’s wife had houses all over town
where you could rest your boots still wet from the rain and crumbs
of the outside world clung to the slowly drying adherence of these cumbersome
derangements.  What say we push it out into the current and watch Leonora
disappear forever?  You look at the rain and say you don’t
feel like it much.  but that’s precisely when you must do things!
When your mood is wrong and the weather is not right.  how do you think
I met your mother?  lifting hay bails out of the snow?  it’s the way you
describe the journey once you make it back indoors:  pathos most of the time
with some sort of liveliness in the middle. the continuity of its parts
meets you halfway out of the door calling you a bad name
as you merge with the embittered symbolism of the thing.  like driving
a tank through the village for a photograph shoot.  it wasn’t you.  except that
it was.  

winter 1983 at the funeral of our favourite voice coach leaning
over to say: love is not like this! the memory turning green
as each of the colours between now and then work into another
form of osmosis like “absorb” as “something leaches
into the soil” turning cold in your pack.  we work
with only one short break for refreshment (just say the word!)
awaiting the implication of your approach over the reddening marsh
disturbing the fieldstarts nesting at safe distances from how things begin.
but who is this walking into your picture a head taller than the sanctuary
offered by the pages of Paris Magazine? don’t let him see you
playing truant behind his back where we wander between best examples
hoping neither will be selected.  ownership means you cannot be
separated from whatever it is
completely.  your version of anything the variant
cutting the sky in two just above the trees. 

the first answer is the best. and it is the hardest
to understand.  it sets up the tone for what follows
and running into trouble along this scale of decibels
something always follows.  the final word is one
you have never seen before.  you don’t check
the dictionary but go instead to the fridge where good things
are waiting for you.  has anyone ever been this hungry? asks
the expressionist raising flags all over the camp.  you wonder
like a priest obsessed with how much things cost
if it’s that kind of poverty? the part of you that grew up
on a desert island with no other children around thinks
it is. you pick up the conversation
after the question about writing letters in the dark.
it’s too late.  you could only tell stories to yourself.   

it’s like I know you already! and maybe you do
sharing yourself with the cliff-dwellers who do know
how to congregate.  carefully
they speak into the air having thought
for the allocated time when daylight shows
what the possibilities are.  these get to work
opening the air at precisely the moment
your voice moves in.  there and not there.
unholy footholds invisible until dusk
picks out the angles of our treacherous route
back along the breaks in old songs.  hey Sylvia!
they call.  it’s Domingo and I want my turn.




[Duncan White has recently published poems in ETZ and in issue 7 of Black Box Manifold. He curated WOW WOW WOW RECEIVER a book project that was produced live during the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair and included new work by Pam Brown, Kenneth Goldsmith and Laurence Upton. A review of his poems by Pam Brown can be found here: http://southerlyjournal.com.au/2012/10/15/thinking-in-collage-reading-duncan-white/. He is research fellow at Central Saint Martins. Thanks to Pete Spence for providing the title of this poem.]

Copyright © 2013 by Duncan White, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.