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Notation

These final notes detail the circumstances that led me to this fugue of wracked obsession, one which I could never declare to be the work of mere chance, if such a petty and thoughtless concept could be taken seriously by any who have seen behind the curtain of the mundane; and although no man will ever read this statement, I must compose it nonetheless, so as to document the ethereal sequence of that ghastly notation.


Notation

These final notes detail the circumstances that led me to this fugue of wracked obsession, one which I could never declare to be the work of mere chance, if such a petty and thoughtless concept could be taken seriously by any who have seen behind the curtain of the mundane; and although no man will ever read this statement, I must compose it nonetheless, so as to document the ethereal sequence of that ghastly notation. The cadence starts in C, as if to tease the major scale; yet it suddenly takes a shift Locrian, losing all tonal sense thereafter. The instrument it is played on does not exist: could not exist. So it is that the music has, at last, returned: I have spent days, weeks in my squalid house, preparing immense reams of variations of sheet notation for the piece, but when played back on the piano, they have never even started to come close to those bleak scales that shift eternal in the dark distance. Although: I am sure that they had sounded right in my head. I am sure of it; yet none of this matters now: the piano and the library’s worth of notation is destroyed withal, for what good that may achieve. I fear it is too late for me, and so all I can do is write these final words.

I began learning piano when I was seven years old. By age eleven, I could read and write music at a grade that I had not achieved even in English and Latin. I was thirteen when I first played this wrecked piano in front of me. It had belonged to my school for as long as anyone there could remember; yet, I had never observed it being played by any of the music teachers, nor tuned by the blind pianist who came in every Friday morning to play for us during our otherwise dull assemblies. It was a pitiful orphan instrument: unloved, uncared for. I was drawn to it, being myself bereft of mother and father.

I felt its presence from that first music lesson; every key that I struck on the Casio keyboard seemed to resonate instead from the piano, not from the piece of cheap plastic in front of me: and every note played sounded tortured, and ringingly out of key.

When I inquired about it, my teacher told me that it was impossible to tune; not that they had not tried: even the blind man had attempted long ago and failed, and he had since stayed far from the withered, dusty beast. I asked why they kept it around: I never once heard a clear answer to that question, and my attempts to play it during class were met with refusal.

One day, in my third year at the school, after classes had finished, we were called to the main hall for an announcement; the students were to be questioned and perhaps scolded after a number of hideous, perverted images had been found scrawled in the boys’ bathroom. As the droves of students made their way there, I slipped rank and made my way across the empty school grounds and over to the music hall, which stood alone next to the south gate.

I entered the desolate classroom, accompanied by the light creak of rusty hinges. The piano sat in the corner, dust on every inch of the housing and lid. I pulled over a chair, raised the lid and sat down. I played a note.

The note echoed its dissonance. There was no other sound like it: it tingled every fibre of within my being. I closed my eyes and let the feeling in: the shared harmony of two lost souls, reunited for the first time. I played another note, higher up. My left hand formed a chord. My right hand scaled up. That progression I now know so well, yet could not replicate. I could feel it crawling up my skin, crawling up the walls.

In the subsequent days, I tried to remember what notes I had played. Even with perfect pitch — inherited, according to my uncle, from my mother — I could not figure out how to reproduce the off-key phrases that I had played. But it was more than that: I could not hear what I had heard that day. I could feel it, but I could not hear it: it was more than mere music.

The piano was removed from the room. Nobody mentioned that it had been played, although the removal of the dust from its coat must have been noticed. A year later, myself and another student were sent to the storage room under the main hall to retrieve a bag of sports equipment. The piano was in the corner, behind stacks of newspapers and academic books. A memory of a melody twinged behind my ear, and then crawled out of earshot. In my last year and a half at the school, I tried to access the storage room a number of times, but to no avail. I found no success, and after graduating, I attended a prestigious music college, and then went on to study composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

It was around this time that I began learning the electric guitar. It gave me a chaotic and loose respite from sheet music, and with help from a cheap fuzz pedal and a glass slide I found myself closer to finding sounds similar to the music that permeated my penumbral thoughts; yet, they were cheap imitations, and far from satisfied my cravings. I used a reel-to-reel tape recorder that I had bought at a car-boot sale to create loops of decaying noise, spending every moment that I had outside of my studies on this pastime, eventually even skipping lessons to partake in the creation of these layers of dissonance. It did not ease my mind, and eventually I was asked to leave the university due to continuing noise complaints and a lack of attendance.

Two years later, I was working a desk job for a phone repair company. I had enjoyed the work as far as I could have, and I had thought neither of the music nor the piano for a number of months. I had been relaxing in bed with a book when I heard something outside. My neighbours often had parties, so I thought it must have been them starting another one up, despite their last one having been the night before. I was wrong. It was not their music. It must have been emanating not from outside, but from my own subconscious; for it was that cadence, the very one I had heard in my first encounter with the mysterious orphan piano.

It had finally returned to me! I sat up and took a writing pad from my desk and started to jot down notes. But as soon as I had begun notation, it was gone, lost once more to memory’s haze. I cursed my recall and took my sleep.

I woke up an hour or two later: the music was back. I had not heard it in my head: no, it was outside; somewhere in the distance: I threw myself from my bed and ran out into the black night, following the sound. But even as I ran, the familiar, eldritch sequence did not gain in volume, nor did it lessen, as if it was always hanging just out of my reach. I walked the streets for an hour, but no turn took me any closer to my destination. I went home and slept, although the music kept its flow.

The next night, it returned once again. The same phrases, tantalising, mocking. I set up my tape recorder and kept it running after I was asleep. When I played it back, I heard nothing.

This continued for the following months, and my every attempt to find it or record it resulted in abject failure. It was at this time that I made a pact with myself: my life was in a pitiful rut, and as stable as my job was, there was no true enjoyment to be found. So I decided that I would set myself upon the music that haunted and taunted me so, discover its secrets entire, and then I would take it to the Royal Conservatoire, to show those so-called experts, scholars, that nothing like it existed in the human spectrum of musical experience, that only I can play it, and that I should be bequeathed a substantial grant to further explore these new, alien modes. Once again, I had a purpose to my wormlike existence.

I wrote hundreds, thousands of sheets of music, each work an attempt to recreate those sounds, each piece one that I would have once considered an opus but now saw as less than worthless. I quit my job, took my final month’s salary and travelled down to my old school. I met with the new headmaster, and questioned him about the old piano. He did not know of its existence, so I told him where perhaps he might find it. He replied that he was a busy man. My monetary offer changed his mind. In the evening of that day, the deliverymen carried the piano up to my room. I started playing immediately.

Nothing came out. Just sour, twisted notes that fell dead on my ears. I played for hours, to constant and unremitting failure. I closed the lid and got into bed. As soon as my defeat had been sealed, that was, of course, when I heard it again: it was out there, laughing somewhere beyond the window’s glass. It was closer now, albeit incrementally. I pulled the piano over to the window, tearing the carpet in places, and sat down again. As the impossible fugue started over, I played back to it. But still the notes collapsed as soon as they had left the instrument. I eventually had to stop at three in the morning after the next-door neighbour hammered against the wall.

I ignored the music and the piano for a week. On the seventh day, I received a phone call. My uncle had died. I should have wept. I went down to attend the funeral and left before the wake. He left me his cottage in the will, so I made the correct arrangements and before long I was living just outside of Penrith, finally alone with my music.

The country air did my lungs a world of good after living in the damp of my old house for so long. I took daily walks, still continuing to ignore the music. But every night it came closer still, until finally I could no longer stand it. I left the house and ran to the woods past which the noxious music seemed to originate. I tripped over branch and root until I got to the other side of the trees. I looked out at the night sky. The stars bowed down over me. The music screamed. The shapes in the sky took the form of the notation, like no notation known by name, written in a hideous, aberrant alien script: it had finally been gifted me, finally there for me to take as my own. I checked my pockets. In my hurry, I had left all of my pens and paper back in the house. I ran back, further harming myself on the way, spraining an ankle and bruising a wrist. I took my fountain pen and a large pad of paper and made the trip again, avoiding any more extensive damage. I stared at the sky. It was gone: only the shadowy, endless void welcomed me, even that seeming to stare down at me in disgust.

The music had stopped. I was alone, truly alone. I walked back to the house and sat down at the piano and wracked my all too human memory. I played for ten hours, until I finally slumped over the keyboard and passed out.

I started to drink whiskey, attempting to channel the music in a drunken fugue state. It did not work; nothing did. Every day my body grew thinner. Food no longer had any taste, not after the experience of having seen that mystic, unearthly, Stygian music with my own eyes, only to have faltered and lost it once and for all. The music did not play outside for many weeks. I was naught without it. I knew that if it returned, if it graced my decaying mind with its echoing laugh, it would be for the final time.

In a rage, I felled my adversarial instrument: the piano connected to the ground with a discordant crash, broken but yet still living. I took to it then with a hammer. I did not stop until the damage was irreparable. I destroyed all of my notation, and my recordings. By this point, even water tasted foul to my sensibilities; I would not imbibe a drop. So I waited in darkness, day and night, for that final, wracking hymn, and composed this document for posterity’s sake, although I believe such matters are relevant no longer; nonetheless, I am glad to have written these words, to purge my guilt over chasing this cacophonous destiny. I shall not know peace again; there will never again be silence.


Tonight, I was woken by the smallest of sounds, far beyond my window and over the horizon. Despite its distance, I could feel its immensity. It continued to get closer, the spread of the sound multiplying and diffusing into the air. It is nearly right outside my window now. I feel that I now realise what this ravenous requiem has been trying to tell me all along.

It seems to laugh at me yet, that scraping, mirthless rattle. I feel it shake the windows. There is not long left. I take my pen and pad and stumble through the corridors and throw my door open and allow myself to exit the house and be embraced by the cold air outside. But the air is not cold; in fact, there is no air. There is no view. Only blackness, a stretching everfurther abyss. Then the shapes emerge, those ghastly notes: they crawl through our spacetime dimension; they are all that there is left; I am the last of my kind, and I am the one who wrought this. It should have never been heard. But as I start to write it down, I know that all of this, the sacrifice that I have made on behalf of humanity, has been worth it. Nothing has ever existed that held such horrible beauty. There is nothing but the notation. And as I finish writing it, as the pen scrapes across the paper for the last time, I know my purpose has been fulfilled. I was the gatekeeper, and I opened the door. All that is left now is the unending coda: the music that will scream alone for eternity.


Love Song for England’s Death Knell

I have been down to the river, she said […]

Love Song for England’s Death Knell

I have been down to the river, she said:
Around the way it comes to a head, and begins to froth
As ducks pick white bread from the banks;
It is quiet in places — if that you would believe—
Where the throngs subside, you may sit beside
The frothing, muddy stream, and contemplate
The love song of England’s death knell.
It is sung in voices we dare not hear, silence
Arcing and tumbling as a Roman candle,
Strapped with heretics. Dance with me, said she:
Come and see, there is a dove I like very much
With mangled stubs and cracked wing
And knobbly beak; its darting eyes can be much
Like the anxiety that rises as a tide — ebbing
Sometimes, but not often. Yet how often I have danced
In a tired trance amongst the artificial flowers
And stone giants, and pondered
The love song of England’s death knell.
It is whispered in distinct tones we all must face
When at last the last trace of the last glare of sun
Slinks beneath the final bridge. And the streets
Are piled with bodies. Colour matters no more:
For we are all just as dead in death. Just as encased
In quietude, she said. I know it isn’t a very original thought,
But it seems relevant whenever comes to mind
The love song of England’s death knell.
—I thought to interrupt then,
            but left the stranger to continue,
            wondering what words may next come.
It is like the fields of wheat, she smiled, picking
A sunflower seed from her teeth.
Reaped.
And then packaged and stored, and delivered
To be fused into plastics and oils.
Reaped:
With rotten scythe. With neutral hand.
It is what we deserve; what we have borne
Upon our slight and weary backs.
Upon the Styx it sticks, like blood and oil,
Like oily blood and bloody oil,
A rainbow of cement; when one is all and all is one,
There can be no fun, there can be nothing but
The love song of England’s death knell.
—I watched her eyes, quite grey themselves
            but with a sheen like clingfilm.
And I have been down to the streets, she said:
For stretches, it is as if the markets have all but died,
Gone away; it is as if the people have all left, as if
The smoke to breathe were not enough! And what joke
Is that, when there is plenty smog for all in the laughter of
The love song of England’s death knell.
Let us walk now, or would you chance a skip?
There are no penny farthings here, no skirts of low descent,
No shame now, yet no modesty either: no balance
In this city of burnt ends and sand-like dirt
That catches in your eye and shakes a wince
From your frowning brow. Tears not born of pain
Or pity, but a simple reaction of base biology. Acrimony
Is the common tongue. So would you dance with me? said she:
Or would you rather continue to slink
Like the beaten, trodden dog of the back-streets
Further and further into the cantos of
The love song of England’s death knell?
—I chanced a laugh. But what was there to laugh for?
            I knew this girl not,
            and yet she had always been there,
            I believe.
You spurn me, she said:
And who would not?
For truth is not lauded, no; there is no ascent here,
No joy,
And very little in the way of work. All has been done away.
A white-gloss colonnade with no forethought,
Lacking a catchy tune, and this hall, fretted with fault,
Becomes much more a vault — to store the notation of
The love song of England’s death knell,
Which now is less a song than a scream, a cry,
Like a great chorus in the sky — as a worm, crawling
To the surface for rain, to have a day of replenishment
And to seek a sightless friend, only to be met
By the rats of fatness and in countless number,
To be swallowed and chewed upon carelessly:
There is no order here, there is no happy chance chaos;
Anarchy without respite, and a hand that whips but does not feed.
So, go, said she: leave me, for we do not see eye to eye,
Nor mouth to ear, nor touch to touch; your hand is as a brush
Of bristly, cruel prickles upon my tender skin:
I will not let you in.
If you shall not dance, if you have no ears to hear,
Nor eyes for sight, nor kind flesh to rub,
Nor nose to smell the filth and roses,
Nor heart to sing, nor mind to think, nor breath
To turn to romance in the Autumn, then
What good are you to me? She said;
And if this is what you are to laugh at—
My idolisation of the land of William, of John, of Mary;
Of Elizabeth and Percy and Thomas and Polly—
Then, begone! she scowled with despight:
I shall myself dance alone upon the banks
Of England’s shore; I shall myself alone skip
Beyond the frothing, reeking mud and swollen rats,
Beyond the thrashing maw of the streetside vendors
And hassling whores and leering wretch-men,
Beyond the smog’s assail, the leman’s wail and beer’s lament,
And yes, beyond the cracked stone giants and plastic plants,
Beyond even your wicked smile and depressive wit,
To where the throngs at once subside: and I shall sit beside
This peaceful, sighing stream of mine,
Companioned by a knobbly, wounded dove:
And I alone shall descant
The love song of England’s death knell.

Decaye: An Observation

Decaye: An Observation


(11th December 2019)


There is ne’re a face I stand to see
In the city side-streets, and underground
It’s all the worse, where shades hang
From every wall, and violence begets
Nothing but a slight, disapproving glance.

[Embankment, 6:53am]

A figure slumped at disattent
On the platform; drowned not by onlookers:
Crack pipe — erstwhile bottle — in his lap;
He rolls his own rotten teeth
Around in his mouth like marbles;
Cavernous cracks in his face
Hide nothing.

[Leicester Square, 6:15pm]

Swaths upon swaths and you know the deal—
Like anyone who’s crept the gap could—
Marble Mouth still on his route, gaping eyes
That do not look at me, nor anyone as he
Asks for what I ain’t got that he don’t got.

Go’bless. Go’bless.


This One’s Up to Me

As crossing like six boundaries what is wrong […]

This One’s Up to Me


As crossing like six boundaries what is wrong;
This street builds too much, executed
Actions; But wait; But see the cross’d line
That made a troubl’d, dancing fool — idiocy
To think this old mare would bare to face
The old line you pared. You thought yourself a snowman (moron)—
Yet there was a laughing girl, and a
Boy with a brain full o’ shit. To be expected
When a brain o’ shit is a brain full o’ salt like mine.

Tell me not, you young fool:
Your experience . . . is naught but a gnat to a god.
In all crystal honey.
Thy rude fortitude is but a joke I now smirk at:
How uncreated.
Counting down to Oblivion.

Yet, melting-ever is your evermask and evermore—
No, nevermore—
Your laughter is a worrisome task, and backed
Up on heaps of crud, and rotten filth; so carry
The filth inside, and cast it to the wooden panels
That are loath to bear your burden of bare
Loathsome ghostweight. For tho you have iron
In your blood, like the rest, you are gone:
and yeah, there’s the stinker, right in the
Gone! Gone! I do naught but cackle
Like an idiot, wasted god.

Now, die: die! Feel dead! For thee . . .

Come neath my roof and settle sweetly like a bairn
Basking in nearlife cooter-uterus and be calm agen.


Spyders

Stretch sylphlike-aërial into the airwaves […]

Spyders

Stretch sylphlike-aërial into the airwaves:
Cast your bare shoulders broad in the light;
Atomise brute efficiency, so that your etchings
May clamber vinely in this slight hour’s chamber—

Do this, Daffodil, O Budding Rosemary!
Do this, for the spyders are ambling ever close,
Mandibles manifest as words of care and joy, of love—
To suffocate inn’cence in torture of the dull.

Venom encased in silver, paralysis, in turn,
In time, chiming sibilance to enslave entyre:
And awaiting yet until unxious tongue-sin
Bares its arachnoid, translucent teeth;

So greet this life with a hammer: hear how hollow
It rings, then fill it with gold; the Sun, as Moon,
Would nod verily, artificing such arcane attachments—
An addendum to the final message of God’s creation.

Thrown: thrown into the quintessent show,
A song’n-dance on a rack’d, emboss’d stage:
Thrown not aside but headfirst into costume-chaos:
Rapt by the modern map, paved with love,

Worshipping naught but death.

Home is for the Vain

Every street a gentle reminder of lovely death— […]

Home is for the Vain

Every street a gentle reminder of lovely death—
Every trip lined with spirits taking their aim—
Amongst bin-liners and dog faeces lying like
Heroin-tipped bloodied needles within

Your grasp. Sharing sips and nicking swigs
With beer-lined belches: stomach gas: snapped
Twigs: truly husband material, as they say
These days. Locked from within, so mazel tov!

One and all: each aspect of man’s mistake
A sure-fire sign of bastardry. So open up
To let in the leering licks of lecherous time,
Enjoy the vile caress of slow degradation

As would a whoreson or whoreson’s son;
Each street holds the lurching singletons,
Each set quite apart: two paces: a walking image
That speaks to the facts, the simple documentation

That acts as will to the culture quite deceased.
When what you took for entertainment degrades
Into but an earnest socket’s worth of fun,
One must consider what took them all the way;

What was it I said to bring about such boredom?
Stifled to breathe! Too bland for own-brand cans
Of sweetcorn and the like; deluxe, just taste the
Well-earned copper tang upon the tongue.

Together, we can make some tyrants from clay—
Watch them goose steppin’ — a puerile half-witted
Dance in which they lose time time and time again.
I dance too, a jerk, a jumbled ember tied too tight.

What is it he holds in that crippled hand?
Why, it’s an epic — he composed it himself!
Yet it will burn, and the title fades, as does
The poor, deceased author, into a realm of esoterica
So pure that none shall know. None shall know:

None shall deify nor compare; none shall begin
The process of canonisation: and none shall say,
What vanity is this? Nay: none shall know,
Not even in Heaven’s sunly glow shall it shine—
Consigned to one’s own home of the vain.


A Screed to Live By

You are nothing: remember this fact as you age, my son […]

A Screed to Live By


You are nothing: remember this fact as you age, my son;
Recognise that when put next to the golden others,
You are less than a man, with heart of grey — no fun
Will ever last, no soul will ever join you under the covers.

Line yourself up and see — a little short, are we not?
It is because we are different, my boy: we are the worst
That the crop had to offer — runts — left, they forgot
To keep us under the wing, neither special nor first;

Blackened are our fingertips. We have naught to take
For granted, nothing to look forward to: were I to procreate,
It would spell only a sallow, hollow existence; it would not slake
The everburning ember, nay, like ash it would only fall to further hate.

Take it easy then, my brother. Take it in your stride.
Let life slip through your fingers as if ’twere common dust.
Each day will brighten and darken, ebb and swell does the tide—
Take a sip, from one neck to another, and taste the rust.

The rest will die when God sends:
It ends when it bloody ends.

Only a Dreaded Scene at a Party

I declare today that I am Poetry […]

Only a Dreaded Scene at a Party

             I declare today that I am Poetry.
I am Spenser’s load and Eliot’s entrails—
                    Worth more than a penny.
And I declare today that I am to be Understood:
      For as I am Poetry, then I am opaque:
And as for my being opaque, I can be seen
                       Tru’n’thru’n’all the rest.
Today, England is a breathing, walking state
Of affairs; and to be a state of affairs, you must
            Also be reachable and touchable.
So thus I must be “England.” That’s common sense.
  I am Poetry and England; and this must b empirikal:—
O, cherished birthday bash, this age of snow’s glow!
Come down, o beauteous cherub, o kind clown
Of bared masque and childish laugh! Keep my
Calf below, in a cellar not unlike Shath’s; for I
Am the One in Blue—      and one is, ever, two
(Unless one is done with all wrath and cud to chew)
—So let’s call it a day and seek a joy much less of excess—
And should not just I and thee make a play of act of one:
     Two parts, two roles, together again!,
   Chuckling like fools in a rancid tavern
And undoing idiocy for the laughs of good old Jack!
                                                    AM I UNDERSTOOD?

      What’s he saying?
      I don’t know, I can’t hear him


I See No Moon

I see no moon from within these plaster walls […]

I See No Moon

 

I see no moon from within these plaster walls,
No streetlight, no lightly drifting finches—
Naught but sound cracks the doubl’d panes,
And of that there is much; in here no pin falls,
No mouse might dare to creep for the clamour
Of the moonlit street.

I have no taste within these bournes of four,
No trace of caramel distinction found in sweat:
Naught but the dry and the damp sunk up from the lanes
That stalk themselves in shadow as if to assure
The lonely travelling reveler’s paramour
Of her delayed return.

Yet these constructs of isolation
Contain their own scenery;
Frightful tales abound within the solace,
The solace found in stagnant recognition.

 

Ode to a Governess

My governess, I maintain a sickness at heart […]

Ode to a Governess

My governess, I maintain a sickness at heart:
   It is for your love, and that is all: base, low love.
Your eyes change with the seasons, autumnal gazes
   That dance in playful bind, striking at my strings:
Then Summer’s hand strokes your golden hair—
   And once again you are in my arms, breathing,
      Supplying me with wise, considered counsel:
How you saved my life! How you brought me metre!
      How I watched the light stream through your locks,
Eden in your glow; these prime moments are countless.

Yet Winter’s grasp places all kindness in stasis:
   So in this waning light my love is yet forlorn:
Your humours reborn as the seasons shift inconstant,
   Guidance on my thread becoming evertorn—
Your eyes an icy grey, your pale flesh shivers
   At my finger’s touch, your gold mane hiding
      A naïve foolishness, countering your wit
Regarded in the warmer months: it quivers
      And turns blind from my sight, never minding
   Nor caring for my heart, ne’re even a bit.

A thousand lines to your laugh! O, what else
   Can I do, my governess? My tutor dear,
Beloved madam of the morning mile—
   Nay, turn away; nay, take my hand! Where
Should I turn for one to snare my thoughts
   And turn me towards the mighty Spring?
      Should I blossom with you, or else detain
My arch-aching atrophied blust’rous madness?
      Aye: for two must be done at once, nature
   Should be tempered with human restraint:
      In these forty days, I shall prove myself
         A man kindly unworthy of your care:
   Only then, my love, temp’rance be my wealth,
   Yes, only then shall I be worthy of your stare.