Excerpt from UMBER; OR, A DELETED NOVEL — Owen Vince

UMBER is the reconstructed remains of a novel that was originally written ten years ago or more. The original text was a cloying, over-written grab-bag of references, low-grade faxes, and unironic pastiches. The original text was about the life of an artist during the Stalinist purges (it is set in 1937, loosely) who attempts — as an artist — to be purged, but the state overlooks him. His friends, and those he admires, disappear. Until only he is left.

[ twenty one ]

          when his wife left there was no ice in the ice tray –
         he went into the pale orange courtyard  , with
         shadows draped across it. ‘the one you love
         is a mess‘. Her heels are tipped over. Every night
         he tips his face into the basin, among
         whatever peelings and food is left there, however
         impure the water. The moon has a bite taken
         out of it. The limp districts of magadan are hounded
         by sleet. Too warm for snow. The ground
         is a river. The pale orange courtyard
         has dried up. When his wife left there
         was no ice in the ice tray.
         ‘the one you want is a mess’.

[ twenty six ]

         today i grew my hair out — 
         i moved my skin around in the mirror
         Grimacing , like a big idiot .
         i watched a century
         of white or faceless helmets ;
         a continuous pearl , that its breach
         is oyster colour — in the glass in which my toothbrush
         wilts. I — Soon a painting of a marketplace in the kitchen, it
         fell from the wall, and broke. Oranges
         were scattered 
Everywhere , &c all at once . . .
these were you, Arman – who cuts
through the body of the venus — who
cuts through the body of her bronze
replica with industrial
wheels or film reels — wagging your hand
of breaking the original
[ by ] contorting the modern. My father was intent
to pulverise the red-faced who describe
a circle
with their bodies , and buildeth
in the unbroken earth
around C – russian plums wilted in the dish. The fruit
changed everywhere.
perhaps we’re too dumb to notice —
or you pasha — were quiet. I saw you saw
the bulb in the writer’s house. I saw you
shake your head from side to side. I saw you
crack walnut halves on a bench in the
people’s park. It was nightfall. Nobody
came to my rooms. I kept the fire on.
Everybody was there, in the window
glass, patient 
as horses. I carried this
consideration into the wilderness ,, into a terrace
of geometric trees * , with pearl barley leaves , with 
soft orange horizon. I realised i was waiting for the
words. The dog sunset moved
about . &c I was raised from the
wells of Doeskin. I was amply rewarded
by the blackberries and deer meat of long island.
I was sitting in a cafe off New Oxford Street.
I was leant over the railings of Plymouth
or Hull ,,,  or Gateshead. The bulb in the house
is still on.

Owen Vince is a writer and artist living in London. He tweets @abrighfrar and is poetry editor for Minor Literature[s].

Purchase UMBER with preorder discount here