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
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
with their bodies , and buildeth
in the unbroken earth
around C – russian plums wilted in the dish. The fruit
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
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 @ and is poetry editor for Minor Literature[s].
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