The Garden /6 — Louis Armand

el Âouame she can hear Him coming closer the words swelling jolting bashing into her like the hammers of a typewriter turning ribboned flesh to ink-splatter in a barrage of short sharp strokes He’s rewriting her dissecting her in shapeless frenzy doubt’s the only attitude that’s not seduced by the corruption of a world in which there’s no difference between a legal & a criminal act I grasp hold of this image extend it like a weapon as though to ward off the unknowable & there at the end of my reach a gulf already opens as present as a naked body the reeling of space & voices from far above towering figures & in their accusatory gaze I’m literally squeezed into the confinement of this body & not just this body but others as well the bodies of the Law of Conscience Knowledge Guilt everything which denies me & sets me at odds with myself whispering behind my back I look but can’t see them I want to scream to shut them up of course it’s just a game & it’s their role to kill you by any available means the ones you can’t see are the most deadly words for example at the same time a passage an escape route a wall or a blank piece of paper but all I can think over & over is silence like a voice at first deep & troubled emptying into nothingness which allows the word itself to subsist or rather suggests it mechanically in a roundabout way in a false rigid fashion like an avatar dressed in state-of-the-art kitsch the image brought naked before the model in that moment of darkness vaulted like a vast cupola but whose place does it take is it me thinking it or it thinking me & at that moment the only certainty I’d ever been granted vanished into air that one day I must die as once I’d come into the world à traverse la piscine enflée du sexe de la mère in an act of reverse consummation I see myself in the womb the proximity of God’s dark mechanical processes cut away from the dead placenta it seems arbitrary that I should’ve ended up as the thing I am born of an empty infinity like a hunchback’s dorsal cord tied in knots but how can He put a word in place of the one He’d just crossed out as though it never existed is that what He was doing now to you slowly erasing you & filling up that blank space recalling how one morning M had woken in a frenzy from a dream in which she was strangled by her hair she’d taken a knife & tried to cut it off cutting herself instead across the back of her neck as if everything could be summed up by the idea of an encounter in a room or some indefinite setting lying face-down on a wet slab of concrete the penetrating cold brings me to my senses I can’t go on like this the tepid dénouement the catastrophe of being a succession of half-realisations each time repeating the same errors the same disavowals in the café bar I am sitting alone at a table a man & a woman are sitting at the table beside me perhaps they are familiar at least it seems to be a possibility & I try hard to recognise their features their voices the clothes they are wearing but no sooner have I begun than I feel myself falling asleep struggling to focus everything seems to happen without my being aware of it or I’m conscious only of staring at a large tumescent salt shaker in the middle of the table its appearance fills me with loathing I know that I have to escape to get out of that room I stand up & begin to leave but at the last moment the woman turns & stares at me somehow I’ve knocked over my glass & immediately it becomes clear that my aversion is itself evidence of a crime but is it enough to be made to crawl like this over so many pieces of broken glass only to encounter the realisation that I have indeed been driven entirely by resentment of M the world in general her death everything seems inextricably linked to my sense of loss or I’m afraid of sinking finally into indifference spiritual torpor I have to go on shoring up my resistance even if it means not sleeping but at least there’s the illusion of escape I get drunk fall down cry it’s no use rushing outside there seems to be nothing reasonable in my actions I find a prostitute on a side street take a taxi through the herds of swaying bovine faces a hotel room she’s wearing a dark green overcoat it reminds me of M I tell her this & she laughs no a self-conscious silence or else she’s simply naked & I tell her to soil herself in front of me I can’t bring myself to touch her not to touch her chaud & froid the irritation at having seen M’s corpse in the room although at the same time I attempt to rationalise my anxiety in terms of something else the sea for example & then it passed she felt that by August she’d done away with the sinister & violent episodes that threatened to destabilise her & perhaps others but she hadn’t done away with the mental violence this game was called ΣM & was played by remote-sensing in a room crowded with “projections” the objective of the game was to make everything cohere or abolish itself forever there were no grey zones although it was debatable how far it was possible for the one to invade the territory of the other absorbing its contradiction within itself you hit the start button & straight away seeing becomes knowing it’s no longer a question of which experiences terminate in the virtual but how to produce their realisation though at times difficult to distinguish between true & false metaphors standing with her back to the sea in a landscape void of semblance abstract figures emerging from a stereotypical “desert” there’s nothing obvious about their intentions approaching with a dreamlike irregularity of movement arms outstretched cinched with rubber tourniquets she has to decide when to press the control switch & when not to though sometimes in place of figures there’re words or wordshapes & everywhere she looks things become their own constituents like Mandelbrot subsets at that moment when her thoughts coalesce as scenery in front of her & she rushes forward to meet them I’m trembling laughing you enter the room as if perceiving yourself through the room’s eyes something comes next but you can’t remember what it is it’s no use asking Him at the water’s edge a woman stands leaning slightly to one side with her arms hanging she stares at the water at the sky slowly things seem to crumble inside her & she leans further somebody not I asks is she trying to touch the ground or not to touch it does she have a purpose or merely a condition later a man & a woman standing on the shore solitude is yawning around them engulfing them the irate look on the face of the man & the mournful face of the woman made you sense that a silent drama was near at hand & you came closer but at the moment M faced her & said incomprehensible words she trembled & averted her gaze & then it was winter already the snow on the High Atlas in the black light of Decembers when everything’s so dismal & significant & fatherless prophets wail at the human darkness Ô defeated world well what kind of ailment afflicts an idiot you ask if by killing fucking Him I obtain a sense of relief a respite because I am dimly aware that in killing fucking Him I have temporarily killed fucked Death but what’s all this meant to serve why’re you tormenting yourself it’s impossible to think clearly to write any of this down or it’s gradually becoming dark & I resign myself to the darkness I don’t know what time it is & the room seems colder than before at some point I sit down I’m made to sit down I stare at my hands are they mine I can’t feel anything they’re asking me questions other people but I can’t hear them it’s not a dream this grotesque apparatus in which I wake searching for lost veins in the dim light M is drawing a needle from her eye the punctured yellow orb oozing a rusty liquid unblinking staring blindly at the inside of the skull wizened hands spread out on the table & slightly swaying like a medium in the stupor many spirits enter the body which is bewitched & becomes the sole cause & locus of events for example in order that the sun might continue to shine M had to experience psychic turmoil in proportion to the brightness of the sun if you ask a simple question I hear it but it’s as if from outside the room jumbled phrases half-syllables & there are other presences too emerging in the red light like figures on strips of transparent film becoming opaque the smell of bromide which reminded her of rotting seaweed & the sea when it was so bright it hurt her eyes to look at it seeing only the negative spaces through which meaning is spirited away from the visible to a different conceptual plane eidetic transduction but the anaesthetic isn’t working I try to think of something else anything without pain she said you’re nothing I try to resist it to resist the nothing in the end pleading with it a demoralised & incoherent pleading the overlapping of images & movements that culminate in the collusion of objects silences shouts & seemingly purposeless repetitions a ritual by which meaning is to be reinstated that she may see with her eyes & that she may hear with her two ears & that she may breath with her nostrils & that she may be able to utter sounds with her tongue in the underworld beating her flesh in order to reawaken it on the eve prior to the departure at the first sign M became motionless frozen a voice as though from a great distance the sound of echoes underwater I am the stillness & convulsing of death she said the circle & the abyss I am the silence before revelation considering the perceptual field as an entity & scanning it literally from left to right top to bottom rather than considering what is directly in front of the eyes as planes of distance which led me to certain ideas about composition & structure the mirror the razor the scales equally present times & places & states of consciousness but I am no longer sure whether or not it’s she who’s speaking her fateful daughters are over me now carrying me down to a further room a space which extents to a forestage I recognise myself entering being laid out for the embalmers my daughters are weeping they’re calling me by many names above the entrance to this tomb there’s an inscription which I do not wish to read I seek instead the medium who’ll make me palpable flesh-become-word a mouth an eye a vein the eternal bride I offer myself up to who offers herself up to me encircles me like the hands of a clock like that poem by Apollinaire in the book M had given her tu ressemble au Lazare affolé par le jour but in what language do the hands on a clock run backwards even in space a straight line’s never simply between two points nor is it we who complicate the universe with our springs & pivots & wheels-within-wheels to imitate the simplest mechanical arrangement a bird’s footprint in mud with enough thrust behind it to breach the outposts of the solar system but given a choice what message what essential piece of information would she send to the future or back to the past to atone to set the record straight ni Dieu ni Droit arriving out of nowhere in a cosmic tin can of course they’d devote every last available resource to the task of deciphering it a lump of molten steel buried in a crater look look a sign from Allah hahaha the poor misunderstood genius if only she could be sympathetic to His plight so cruelly chained to His writing machine & not have to plague Him with her endless recriminations I’m not your muse she hissed at the mirror but did He even listen did He even care what she did said thought behind His back was she obliged to be so blindingly obvious about it just in order to get His attention away from all those prepositions & pronouns & similes long enough to fuck her madly back into submission like a shortcircuited democratic process towards fascism my love these things aren’t impossible to theorise just stick your head out the window & smell the air & when she spoke to Him it was as though He didn’t really exist as though she were talking to herself aloud the way people in mourning talk to those who’ve died & whose deaths they can’t separate themselves from as if it were a failing staring for hours at the wall at the floor her eyes fixed on a knot in the carpet you don’t hate me too do you the collar of a blue hospital tunic exposing the nape of her neck she was covering her face with her hands her hair fallen forwards revealed the delicate skin waiting to be violated a slight tremor passed through her body she woke & the physical sensation that somebody had just entered the room the asylum bell rings behind the stage a cemetery made of nothing but pieces of stone & broken pottery there’re places in this world no-one has even dreamt of but saying it isn’t the same thing telling you you’re no better than anyone else but anyone else isn’t better than you either hahaha you’re a fool if you think they don’t mean their perspective the universe’s full of them but there’s only room for one in this world sweetheart the way their eyes smile every time they force her to wake up their bodiless eyes at their eyes in the glass an image flashes across the proscenium screen of an audience seeing with their own eyes their reflections cast back at them from the between-space of this false-presentation as though to bare witness to an end of history while outside on the street someone lights a cigarette the line traced by the hand’s movement the hesitation the smoke lingering in the air & a path leading off across a rubble-strewn field to a waiting taxi & in her mind she’s trying to keep that scene from passing away to fix it forever in her memory a moment of resolution something more than a mere tissue of words departing then without remorse but with a souvenir of conscience briefly envisaged perhaps to return on some distant & anonymous night yet that was all so long ago a crime of innocence but whose innocence when I reach the apartment I’m suddenly taken by a strange paralysis a state of anxious contraction extending the length of her body & centring in the groin like something stiff & dead I lie on the floor the objects in the room begin to gather around me acting out a stilted tableau it becomes increasingly difficult to breath think speak fear of being buried alive she raises a hand to her brow in a reflex of pure melodrama a moment ago it was a block of stone it isn’t enough to be reborn in the thing that I’m not but it’s impossible to know on which side to defend myself I strike the empty air with my fists danger is the fear of dying or of being killed anguish is the fear of death & so I must kill my visible enemy the one who’s destined to steal my life flickering in the shadows at the end of the optic nerve la culpabilité inhérente to spend each day avoiding at all costs the accidental appearance in a shop window or a pool of gutter-water you begin to notice this avoidance suspicious you want even more to catch me like this by surprise all of your faces knotted & drawn already I can tell everything’s closing in on me somewhere you’re repeating my too familiar phrases lying on your back in the dark in the twilight or staring into a mirror a voice forever in the past of memories you know belong to no-one but before you had a chance M turned away becoming invisible against the sun’s glare she squinted at the sky a prolonged flash spreading her hands defensively in front of her & you imagine the feeling of it close up & then far off the blood thundering in your ears the seared eyelids red & then opening them again the air crowded white & blue she stood teetering between the walls her bare feet cold against the cracked tiles awake in a nightmare & struggling to cry out it’s dark a pair of blood-caked lips like a mouth smashed in some kind of extraction the roots entwined around a piece of torn flesh the tongue sticking in the hole the audience departed she saw their shapes divide slowly around her with awkward deliberation she dropped the torn pieces of a photograph onto the blank page on which He’d written the theatre is a passionate overflowing a frightening transfer of forces from body to body finally there’s nothing left but a sense of surgical & mechanical boredom a telephone rings downstairs there’s a prostitute arguing with the same taxi driver from a moment ago taking your place in the world the sound of glass breaking a siren I’m sitting in a chair or standing up I seem to’ve regained some sort of composure although everything happens without my being aware of it later I’m conscious of being watched I close the curtains stare into the mirror above the desk a grey inhuman face glides across the glass ruiné par l’orgueil du savoir l’homme se retrouva aussi abandonné & démuni que l’homme primitif devant l’image du monde une fois reconnu que ce monde visible dans lequel nous sommes est l’œuvre de la maïa un effet magique une apparence sans consistance irréelle en soi & que l’on peut comparer à l’illusion d’optique & au rêve un voile qui enveloppe la conscience humaine un quelque chose dont il est également faux & également vrai de dire qu’il est ou qu’il n’est pas I switch a light on or off it doesn’t seem to matter which suddenly desperate to remember any of the things you made me do & say under hypnosis it wasn’t me I did nothing said nothing you’ve stolen my existence from me somewhere I read these words that existence is like tossing a coin in its sense & in its being it must grasp the unity of its two-sidedness on the one hand it’s impossible to sleep & on the other I’m always in the process of trying to wake from a nightmare there were flies were crawling over my mouth & then M appeared she approached me I was naked & she began whipping me with a branch from a thorn tree I could hear your laughter & then I opened my eyes & you were standing right there where you’re standing now covering your mouth with your hand & in the sunlight the stems in the bowl rose & fell I begin to think that I could be more at home in a landscape of the underworld the scene does not move towards clarification but proceeds towards the strangely luminous trace of a dream image the wave motions of the sea of a poem of a woman’s body tu te lèves l’eau se déplie tu te couches l’eau s’épanouit but if I’d secretly wanted M’s death was it merely in order to deny my guilt since if she killed herself I can’t have killed her but in wanting her to die I’ve condemn myself to perpetual torment since I can’t ever own the gratification of having committed her suicide in place of her or else I resent her because her death refuses to belong to me forcing me to re-describe it constantly to the point of hallucination pour vivre il faut que je me tue & in its declensions the audience may relate the figure to the vertical section of an eye the curtain of the iris perforated at the centre suspended in the aqueous humour while a black horizontal line traces the path of light piercing the vitreous body but rather than delineate its contours the line suggests a flux the mysterious itineraries of the figure that emerges against a light background perhaps some kind of a transformation simultaneously reflecting the coils of a woman’s hair as it falls forwards to reveal the pale skin at the nape of the neck or the uncertain gesture of a hand brushing the hair from the face she turns her back to dress I’ve lost her already buried under the infinite weight of her significations a scene in a dimly lit room against the far wall a bed & beside that a washbasin a narrow bathtub a woman’s frantically miserable ghost standing before a mirror no windows are visible only a postcard tacked to the wall depicting the sea-blue geometrical pattern of a Berber carpet every time she looked at it she instantly felt some sort of tide rising against her the sibilant flow washing over her while outside the seagulls turned in a slow & intricate spiral above the wake beating white sails to wings & the récit of the wave’s journey as it draws ever over to the shoreline the hollow fury of self-annihilation ad infinitum though nature is indifferent to metaphors & like a mirror’s interior surface retains nothing behind the rupture a chasm impenetrably deep with half-shaped Babylonian monsters & enormous engines turning wheels within wheels & cries of torment filling the void like the unconsumed despair of a psychiatric ward you thought that was really hilarious your cacophonic blackbird laughter under the hedge where you lay puking your lungs out & there’s a line from somewhere which says that where the waters slumber beneath the cliffs you’ve fallen asleep forever & I find myself repeating this as though the words contained a hidden Ô so portentous meaning if I close my eyes I can almost hear across a hundred miles the breaking of waves on barren outcrops the hissing of seagrass the churning of pipelines of sewage outlets of industrial effluent wafting to America but the room itself is silent I hear my own breathing I’m the sea the drift of the wide blank sea washed up carried dispersed opposite or a world in which only impossible things exist of course there’s no such thing as subjective time or space there’s only physics stick a knife inside your mind & it bleeds dial-up the voltage & all you’re left with’s radioactive dust blowing through the streets & turning everything red slowly she stood up gripping the arms of the chair it seemed as though the objects in the room were regarding her their shapes contorted into bent accusing faces she pressed her temples between the palms of her hands it was hard to breathe in that room the air thick with miasma she took out a cigarette & lit it the smoke faded to yellow against the ceiling coiled about the light she felt her mouth go dry somewhere a siren a distant & continual clamour she can’t get it out of her head even the silence resounds the numbness the black weight airless drowning am I too close tell me if I’m too close when they found her body there were slivers of glass stuck up under her nails the stems in the bowl hung suspended in time green against yellow against blue against white for a flicker of an eyelid they hung then the light changed she thought the sky is too near & then too far shivering away from the window blinking in the sudden glare she heard a noise from across the room & hesitated should I look was it His voice she leant instinctively towards the basin what was it He’d said just now with His all-seeing eye caressing her obscenely was it yourself or others you thought about when slicing your wrists & plunging them in the water like some dream of prenatal life come back to haunt you wanting only to sink down into its warmth before the cold rushes in turning everything even your thoughts to ice & she reached across to the tap & held it tightly in her hand first one is dust He’d said that standing over her with His jaw set first & he might just as well’ve sad man like an imam shrieking at a mob haram because it’s written & they demand it as surely as order’s broadcast from chaos the mad voice in the sky OWN TO TREE FALL first man & then His avid listeners putting on their counting faces FIRE SEX EVE ATE tallying their unhatched chickens their premium in pristine hymens waiting up there in that fanatics’ paradise they’ve dreamt about since madrasa day-one working their pocket abacuses their four-second fuses like a child’s clockwork plaything flywheels worn off braille-fingers worrying the slots & dials the springs & coils in the failing dark like a suicided rumour a neurotic tic tic tic cette mauvais réputation of Destiny with its knees up & its ever-abiding tail in its mouth that calls itself the All-of-Everything no less the Eternal-Sunshine-of-the-Vanity-of-the-World lalala was this the vision you expected to wake up to after God Himself has had His way with you a greyblack sky teeters upon the rooftops the dusty windowsills tips tumbles & ha spread out in due proportions beneath all-that-falls the awful silence before the unbearable non-silence wala-leila arising in undead stagger through the streets in weialala wailings of megaphoned anguish the shalala prophets of a difficult barely-possible surely-miraculous tedium haha but what untold vistas can’t be built atop such ruins in the prescribed fashion of Happiness Ever After balancing on a needle-tip even the one you’re dreaming about right at this moment working its way under your thumbnail but what if she were born of water not dust or a dispensable rib & you twisted the faucet the muscles all down your ribcage abdomen thighs knees aching as you straightened & looked back through the doorway I can’t recognise you it’s not you after all is it you the sound of water outside it had begun to rain the sound of rain falling against the window blown at an angle by the wind its cold breath blowing against the glass a dark mouth coming towards her it doesn’t speak it withdraws already & so difficult to breathe straining at air forcing the air out of the lungs & keeping the mouth open waiting for breath to rush back in to rejoin to return & that heaviness of the eyelids the impediment of thought the racing & slowing of the pulse so far away already & still the open window facing onto the garden the street the skyline the grey band of rain of mist & the unripened fruit on a tree that hangs as though precariously from its own gnarled & blackened branches black veins all too visible in the sky in the painfully respiring sky I can’t remember the story I can’t go on making it anymore well you can’t go on being nostalgic forever she supposed as a pair of orderlies took the box from the back of a van & carried it to a red patch of mud behind the hospital wall where they lowered it into a hasty shaft the rope slackening then following it down it wasn’t much of a ceremony at least there wouldn’t be anything afterwards for the dogs to come & dig up because she hears them both from within & from without & in some darker recess of the mind an infernal machine’s dealing out visions of anarchic mouths teeth & ripped sinew an amplitude of dull pain across the temples an enlargement & constriction of the chest & abdominal cavities as the needle slips beneath the skin the electrode beneath the scalp her lips twitched contracting slowly into an ugly grin so this is what you’ll think when you remember me her wasted image forcing its way up inside me not the real M who was dead but a simulacrum M an echo a succubus a bodily tomb connais-tu la vieille femme qui veille à la porte de la mort but what does it mean to stare into an empty mirror is it the whole she’s seeking or the fragment of something in which to reflect herself un théâtre où il n’y a que la repetition her coat fell open & her white throat was like a flower just emerging from its dark bud it was late afternoon when the taxi escaped the traffic along the Avenue Mohammad V rounding the last bend where the street narrowed under shop awnings shadowed on both sides they came to a stop in a courtyard with a fountain surrounded by trellises there were vines tangled over the gate & balconies the patterned stucco a broken windowpane glinted in the sunlight from between two shutters & behind them a room that was never intended to belong to her compulsively sans domicile fixe He opened the door she heard Him cross the room His footsteps approaching His shape looming over her like the walls of a walled garden you’re erasing me I don’t know anything begin from this but where was she before He entered before He passed into her the sky crushing down the flare of a psychogalvanometer they’re asking her name she can’t remember groping in the fear you find nothing the razor’s too dull the cut’s never deep enough to draw the spiders out or I can’t bring myself to feel anything I lie awake at night stare at a wall a sheet of paper a mirror there’re other lives around me people who I can’t see but I hear their breathing work out your own salvation in fear & trembling they seem to say & as if in response a phrase spoken in a dead language barely audible verbum caro factum est because it’d rained then & the windows hanging & unguarded there as she stood as she opened her body & the rain between dark columns descending to something absent separate secret hidden she asks me if it’s dark & I tell her it’s been dark for some time as she lies there inert unreal anaesthetised & while the rain enveloped her it seemed she was being altered losing her reptile flesh abandoning the transvestism of the body for that of words & in me too the wave rises shivering against the wet sheets He was eclipsing her she couldn’t think His gaussian eye her too-pale lips she opened her mouth Ô to the onrush & static & prophylaxis beneath the darkening film & tongues tasting of acetate & logos the blurred stereoscopy of Raphaelite hair slipping its moorings to sink down among all the poetic detritus & dead dreamings & night without day as the waves dissolve & she couldn’t think to think going under like this to a point of no return without circumference or dimension or duration even

Marrakech 1994

Louis Armand is the author of novels including The Combinations (2016), Cairo (2014), & Breakfast at Midnight (2012). In addition he has published a number of collections of poetry & theoretical works. He lives in Prague.