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U L T R A M E T A____(extracts)

.....Thus do the grey demons, unleashed for a night, set about their white virginal prey; the unwitting living, who gave not a thought to poverty or death. The skeletal hands bring chill knowledge to the soft, the plump, the pampered rumps of those who closed their eyes, who turned their faces from the moon, the flipside of the world they had created.

I take to the cobbled backstreets, and leave it all behind me, the confluence of dark and light. I put my hands in my pockets, turn up my collar, and whistle softly into the night. Where am I going? To the river I suppose, to somewhere clean and renewing that might carry me to morning. The whole city still aches and boils over in its weekend ecstasy of amnesia and self-destruction. Wild singing issues from crowded late night bars, people stagger home in groups, like troupes of unapplauded clowns. Endless queues for taxis stretch around corners like the twitching tails of dangerous serpents. Fights break out. Deep-fried food is disgorged from glowing booths of harsh electric light, and poured like a petrol elixir into those who have lost life and sight; become robotic. Their limbs seem disobedient, like children again they struggle with their first steps, move quickly to avoid falling over, lean against walls for stability.

Further on, in the darker reaches before the river, I see couples struggling together in the dark, as if trying to unlock something, grappling for the key to some mutual door. Harpies in leather skirts and boots strut and pout on street corners. Skeletons use needles in the dark, inject themselves with neon light; red fires light up their veins. I see them as if skinned alive; anatomical diagrams of sinew and muscle laid bare, they grin and leer from the shadows.

But nobody can touch me. The streets thin out as I reach the river, and the moon parts the clouds above to greet me. I kick off my shoes and sit on the cold stones of the quayside and bathe in the silver light of solitude. I make some notes in my sketchbook, my last observations, then toss it bitterly into the water. Pretending to look the other way, I see from the corner of my eye a dark figure downstream wade out and retrieve it, place the book hurriedly into a plastic bag. So the Keepers are still with me, I wonder how many of them followed me tonight, how closely they watched me, or influenced events? It is impossible to know for sure what they expect of me, or if they are to be believed; what orders I myself gave them some time ago, which they still meticulously follow.

If I am caught in a game now, then perhaps it is ultimately a game of my own making. And the answer to everything, the reason for it all if I need one, is just locked up deep down inside myself, if only I could reach it. But I may never remember, never recall what this is all about, although sometimes drifting in or out of sleep one senses it lying there softly, the reason, like a memory, like a pebble or a stepping stone, lying just out of reach of your naked foot.

I stand up and take my clothes off. It is time again. To trade up, and take a new hand of cards. I slide off the mossy quay and slip shivering into the freezing black water, drift out with the tide, lie for a while with my face to The Moon: searching for her in my memory, asking if she is my mother. But she says nothing, without even a tear in her eye.

Now I turn my face to the blackness, to drink the night dry, in sympathy with all the unanswerable thirst of everyone I leave behind me. And with them I dream of a shore where I might be washed up with my mouth full of sand and my ears turned inwards like spiral shells, intimate cathedrals: echoing to the distant hissing of foam, the music of the oceans. Listening for an answer.....

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.....Last night walking back from the village, my father placed his hand on my shoulder, to keep me safe as the last bus drove by. It was nearly sunset, and looking after that little red country bus, I marvelled at its lit interior where only one passenger sat, on the back seat, reading a paper. The unknowability of that passenger and their destination, the mystery of that moment and of everything that might come after, is with me still.

And now only one bend remains in the road, this dusty track, before it turns towards the sea, and each hedgerow either side will slide apart like magical curtains as the sand dunes begin, and I run to meet my brothers, my mother and father.

They will be young, as I will always remember them. My mother picking flowers and sea shells, my father hunting for crabs, my brother drawing pictures in the sand or making sculptures out of driftwood.

I turn that corner in the road, and I hear the roar of the sea beginning, beyond the rustling of corn and of the dune grasses.....

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