In the trafficplace: the street

In the trafficplace: the waterstreet

In the trafficplace: the aprons to the fieldsites, the yardplots and the courtyardzones

In the trafficplace: peripheral walls    fences

In the trafficplace: filling stations, roadworks and rest stops.


I thought that I might like to think about the sentence: that this might supply/open an embarkation point. Stein wrote that affect—no, I want to say feeling—could only arise, could only be felt, within a paragraph. The single sentence alone—even many sentences, if not co -agulated, -ordinated into a solid, networked block—could not germinate [cultivate?] feeling. Neither within them singly nor among them multiply, could there be felt. Unless, that is, those sentences were to develop to sufficient complexity, that they might sprout within them [like potatoes growing eyes, but eyes ingrown] subordinate clauses.

This metaphor seems inappropriately organic. Unruly. Not suited to hand/ling fully architectural grammar. Whatever I might be permitted to pretend that might be.
But when Stein writes about the sentence, it is as though when she lifts language, she finds it pulsing. The paragraph, to her, is placental. A heavy, dense and web-bed thing, knotted into being by infinite connections and lit up by impulses firing: capillary mat-matted. The sentence, then, might be a single blood vessel within the messiness that, once placed, exists inevitably in relation to the whole.

I am not here at all.

So, when Silliman (now old) picks up Stein’s essay (definitely old), and writes sentence-colon-paragraph, he is meaning hole: whole. That tube, too. Punctuation as wormhole. In any case, we are being sent into that zone of relationality that, Goldman might say, maps exactly onto my plastic ball globe, your one too, and extends everywhere. And, like extended family, these relations—however uncomfortable, however discomfiting—must be dealt with. But where Stein’s cold sentence and hot paragraph presumed certain dynamics would subtend that particular relation—by which I mean (I’m trying to mean) that she accepted that the sentences within a given paragraph, however Steinian, must needs relate to each other, Silliman’s old New Sentence disposed of that presumption—bringing units unrelated into abuttal.

The Old Sentence might then operate according to a tessellate directive. [she loves that word] There will be close adjacency—intimacy, even—but there need not be the inter-ing-thing. The bloodflow will not necessarily change direction. In this, Stein’s sentence could stand as/offers itself as a third term, or a third way—for her sentences, more than any others’, bind themselves to their neighbours repeatedly, intricately, sometimes in almost redundant looking ways. They sew the same pieces of fabric together, over, under and over, in multiple (are they insistent?) ways. An abundance of threads [Goldman would say cátenas, Seita would say caténas] results. Lines of imbrication that, each, insist (each, with their own peculiar emphasis) upon their necessity. Like the sewn line that doubles back, knots, strikes through and round itself before consenting to be bitten off at its end, as though ’twere umbilical. It hopes, we hope, you brushed. ‘tis pity she’s. Was that what you mean by mordant?


If the paragraph is a placenta, then Stein’s is surely the richest, the heaviest of all: an imponderable nervepacket of crossreferencing, crossconnecting sentence-connectors/connections. Awesome: giving the impression of a delicious all-overness, abit awful, bloody-minded. I Like you. And there surely are some as would rather poke a corrmhéar into my greening basket than play among her sentences. We are all so variously squeamish. And you are some of you scared of the vegetables that put forth new pro-tuberances when warm, in the dark.

In giant caps, in square brackets [INSERT STEIN HERE]

There is something more than a little absurd—or at least ill-advised—in letting such a one as she into this. As though I hope to make a point about a pram-shaped space in the hall. And hope that in so doing, I could make it be true. That’s not what I’m up to here, and yet, it may well be that I’ve been collecting, all along, or mostaways, a small cast of exemplars. Severe little paper dolls that might be stacked against a rising wind of <inevitable force>. Thus deployed: they disperse. And so must be scooped up, shuffled back into functioning as per the job assigned. Slim secretarial. For that, they really cannot look ruffled. Nor, indeed, rumpley. Knowingly ragged, may/be, but not with that air of having forsaken care of one’s body for the care of that of another.

Staying in instead with a hand tightwoundround a bunch of Tibetan quaaludes, I sit with the poet. No, with my mother

All night long. Unsung. In a state of mutual extremis. Handholding against the possibility. One cannot be aware of the other, lest knowledge of what animates the one who lies so still should bring about a sudden, complete evacuation of oxygen. Not water and air, but salt and an ending. The skin is smooth and shines over the freckles. Knuckles of adamant, unwrapped, bare to the swimming opacity. Extrication suspends all pausing. Elsewhere, presumably, there was an extravagant folding. It is impossibly dark. In her atmosphere, everything is in close blackout. She lives on, on my next breath. We hang together off this linebreak. Perhaps I slept, always, more than the rest together. The whole, some, ‘set of expectations’. Does she know, now, what it is I am always, intermittently or forever not doing?


That, now, is a useful sort of mercury. A gloss ribboned round, to be able to make the switch whenever it’s needed. The slit, the slipping. Felt matting that remains on hand. Or, at least, in a handy cupboard. I want to know better how the reorganisation is choreographed. What moves, what is morphed, what is left behind. I want to know how to effect this sort of bypass. But I want, myself, to do the rosters. I nod solemnly at John’s right-ed paragraph when it tells me that control sits quiet [and, she says, i quote] ‘in the inner hinges, commas which separate clauses and hang them together; or colons which signal, semi-colons which segment’. In the reading, a thick line is laid down, like a comforter. This shouldn’t put us back on the streets. And yet when I open soshut eyes on honeycomb and buttermilk, then I know, already, what’s coming.

It is not the painting she was anticipating. She is finding it hard to identify where it is that the picture is happening.

In the trafficplace.

Perhaps, though, the dolls have never yet been called upon by anyone unlisted in my own ovenfresh dormitory-monitor files. It may well be that I will always sort and shuffle and prepare them for a forum not ever to be encountered. Work bent corners back into place for my own eyes only. I’m not sure I want to see how many little cardboard totems [do I want to say this?] I’ve got in there now—or how few. [do you want this said?] Even now, as I try to prise the lid from that small tin box, I can feel a countervailing force that wants to keep it closed. Lest I should look inside shrink from the paucity within—and, sifting, notice, suddenly, some ugly familial resemblances.       

                   Let that sit awhile. We have, I think, some time.

                   And so: Where, now, do you breathe your breath is breathing you? And if.

Relative temporal autonomy. Relative bearing lasagne. Relative maintenance of circadian routine. Relative malleting of crunchies. Relative contextual determinacy. Relative laying out of capillary matting. [her soft curtaining t] Relatively quiet. Relatively squez.

What am I to do, now, with all this talk of temperatures? What with John’s hot speaking and cool writing? Is it too late to look for a very bare explanation of thermodynamics?

                   It is too late, entirely. Even for passing cash about the room.

‘And anybody listening to any dog’s drinking will see what I mean’.

There is yet a claim, it seems, that is heard in the declaration of this state of exception. An announcement of allegiance—this is where I am not using affiliation—that looks to clear for itself a space beyond the ordinary. If not simply bigger, then maybe deeper than. That’s not what I want to do either—and it might be why I keep my templates caught up together in an elastic band that barely permits views of more than one at a time. I catch myself feeling past the edges of a stranger’s comfort, to try to line up achievement with an apparent, if untrustworthy absence of warm mentions. When these come they evince a strange rock; I pivot. The scales wobble and there is, or there might be [it is so fast] a momentary access of pleasure. When such magic acts are admitted, I am, at once and alliteratively, humbled and horrified.

It is the latter that lasts.

And if, in the previous instance, acknowledgement occasioned a recalculating, then here, too, I hear myself summoning seas, cliffs, chasms, in the space between me and them. I call everyone round to look, upon this jagged landscape—its threats, its unnavigable expanses—and I will you to offer that I could never traverse it. But even then, there is some minor delegate, checking passports, tacking maps to clipboards, and keeping things in readiment.

Diminution. Is that a word here?

We can write, just about, of the perniciousness of last-century Natalism, but all of our dystopias are yet too familiar. The men in these imaginings rarely seem all that bothered—unless they are Leaders of [  ] and so need (them in) numbers. Horrorshow. Women, though, are emptied and whey-faced: cast prematurely aged as though even the director can’t stomach the co-incidence of ‘that small pale oval’ and the nothingmore. Somehow, it never seems to instigate a new spilling of sexual energy. A largescale end-of-days expansion of ‘60s contraceptivalism. No. If infructuate: then also irradiated. Dry as corn-ears, faintly bristling. All of our ‘syntactic expectations’ dashed. Pursued by the spectre of the future their bodies are promising, they scurry to serve the emancipation of a sole intact specimen. She is the Last Hope. She is worth all of them. They offer themselves unto bullets and razorwire that she, that others, might live. Do we know that this one would do any different? This one that is always leaving her sentences open, swallowing too soon, fading down, flicking between the channels, always falling, always [fucking Beckett again] ‘failing to complete’? And if they were always perfect circles from the start, does that mean no way out neither no.

In the trafficplace.

Cartoons in first childhood were the instruments of a strong pedagogy—harsh colours bent to salvage an expiring earth. Science had a lot to answer for. Some day it would go too far and then there wouldn’t be any more. No punctuation; only ‘intonational markers’. Common sense (the same direction) would shake its head at how a desire for satsumas that never needed de-pipping ultimately led to the production of seedless specimens. The edge as dreamt by an overanxious market farmer. However it was to happen, this is where it was to leave us: surveilling a vast, rightangled field, its crops pointless, its ditches shiny. Hedgerow, she says. Hedge: grow.

What is being demonstrated in this diagram is not anyone’s kind of interspecies interchangeability.

It always would be all about the waste. Peachfurred adverbs. Small flies.  Scrape fullness toward pungency. Whom do you paint for?

It would send them back to that, rubbing a wrist, biting a lip yellow stringy. Eventually, you will recall, be recalled, to the imperative mood.

She would not know how to say.


Gertrude Stein, ‘Poetry and Grammar’, Lectures in America (New York: Random House, 1935); Ron Silliman, The New Sentence (New York: Roof Books, 1987); Edith Wharton, The Mother’s Recompense (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1925); John Hall, ‘Sentenced to: (Grammar for Performance Writers: 1)’, On Performance Writing, with pedagogical sketches (Bristol: Shearsman, 2013).
Also invoked: Peter Manson, Sophie Seita, Judith Goldman, my mother.





[Sarah Hayden’s chapbooks so far are Exteroceptive (Wild Honey), System Without Issue (Oystercatcher), and Turnpikes (Sad Press). Other poems have appeared in Golden Handcuffs Review, Steamer, Internal Leg & Cutlery Review, Artichoke 10, Tripwire 10, datableed 3, and in various other fine places. She is a Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Southampton. Her first book, Curious Disciplines: Mina Loy and Avant-Garde Artisthood, will be out in April 2018.]

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