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Photo of Louis Armand by Cait Regan 1996

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“TENDANCES MORBIDES” previously appeared in Prague Review
Louis Armand Louis Armand


TENDANCES MORBIDES

(for alfred schnittke)

1. “we knew nothing of thresholds & distance,” or that ice
forms downwards from the surface—the nights
reeling out their glib predicaments, each one a protagonist

the first days of the year are always the worst: an intention,
almost an act—the unhinged light that falls through a half-
open doorway, inviting error, on account of?

the chill air that binds up the senses—the blanking of
thought, the voice shrinking to emptiness & the room
at that moment described exactly as it was, a precise replica
crowded with all its abandoned machinery—broken, just
as the body is broken, locked away in flesh & blood

the space around them neither increased nor diminished
with time—although an end was imminent, dawn too
conveyed a sense of being pre-deceased

2. afterwards, pieced together, the scraps of each day—
pulling out names from a hat like straws (but the circle
must be joined at the nape of a man's or a woman's
neck) a succession of affects—the fragments
that you harboured like placenta or foreskin, awaiting

restitution—“to touch the cold air with its whole body”
lying in an open field to be harvested—a hand
parting the sex, carefully, like a surgeon operating
without anæsthesia—the inrush of breath, a cry
newly formed & ripe in its first throat—representing

what? something disparaged in the future conditional
tense, that goes on regardless? an outgrowth of
unintention choreographed in lapsed time—rehearsing
its technique of sudden disappearance

3. tomorrow there will be fewer dead-of-winter eyes
the extreme slowness of walls, the waking & de-
parting—an empty surface that absorbs each of our
gestures like a track leading out into a snowdrift

which must be “overcome” even as the lights go off
& leave the compartment in frigid agitation—a scene
reminiscent of something arbitrarily constructed
in the mind, where each object assumes an alarming

disobedience (in your exemplary dream the train
could go on derailing itself forever, with a clear
conscience)—or everything runs backwards from an
horizon drawn in contradictory perspective,
in the full light of day, that takes on the appearance
of something un-finished, or in retreat

4. concentrating on these details only—a shadow
cast in the rock & seawards, identifying the
acquired genius of water “stranger
than death” which becomes an interlocutor,

post partum (an elegy in black or white, born
of intervention)—at a liquid height it approaches,
flexed & multiple, like a photographic negative
(not as modulus but as measurement)

an impetus to denial of what can no longer be
seen—the waves shifting under carried detritus
a cortex, depressed in the fluent signage “endless
& boundless”—at that point, for example

where the sea is made blue by chemical waste,
a captive aura

5. returning to mark this down: a “body of water”
approaching the edge of the stage—in the immediate
distance, something dispersed or distorted that is

trying to re-surface (here the performance takes
a curious turn—the lights go out & the stage is
covered by a white proscenium screen)—she asks
not what it symbolises, but what it hides & en-

crypts, “a form of trompe-l'œil introduced
as counterpoint to the figure's seemingly naturalistic
pose”: it lifts its leg, displaying the hole where
scissors have exercised censorship in yet another
past—reading the edges of that mouth (ironically)

the omission itself seemed to become clearer & to
serve a more specific purpose

6. a city in europe, after one war & before another—
in which she would write “archæology in a place
known to be fictitious”—the room slopes
upwards at first imperceptibly, but is it a location?

as though, holding a camera up to art—what if the dis-
appearance went unrelated? or some condition,
caught through the skin (to lose blood to be kept
in doubt)—at such a late hour

left alone with your alphabets carried across
so many borders—a preservative, a souvenir
trailing behind in their paper shadows, to retrace
those first cautious steps—a “recursus of night”

that renders an account to no-one, but in closing
appears corrected

7. the last days of october, after the wine & departures
narrowing headlong towards a secret immobility—
the sky opens & the sheet slips away—one blue line

that trails across wakefulness like an asymptote of
“missed encounters”—in the apple orchard the trees
resemble assiduous actors, their gestures withering
in air & born again silently the fruit of what labour?

transposed from elsewhere, a figure moves outwards
from obscurity into borrowed light, or the artifice of
intelligence renders each scene plausible & then un-

ravels it like rain in peripheral vision—the motionless
eye of a streetlight casting its gaze in dark boredom
on the small clandestine pleasures of the witness—
a sleeping dog grins, but fools no-one

8. a specific, intense clarity in which the aversion is
enacted—its “justifications,” enumerated in the
margin as pictorial detail, heightened realism—

“he doesn't know why he should have such
patience” to say clearly what no longer matters—
the hands of a clock running out of time (but what

does that prove?)—a drama of inessentials re-
iterating its single purpose in planned obsolescence
(what else could be done in such a confined space?)
the prosodist stumbling off into the night, a random
walk from a to b & from b to a—something

that could still be enunciated, at the end of a long
struggle, to disclaim the personality: “i am not here
& regret nothing”

9. conversion of another sort—some with wings, others
crawling through the food-chain in a primitive &
upwards movement (an axiom or a post-mortem? viz.

demand for the first unit of a good is more than demand
for the last)—persisting in that demarcation
of tragic parodic kitsch—the depressive archetype

babbling in its dark night of the soul—a functional
æsthesia, addressed to the species & not the individual?
or an engine rigid on its tracks, that seems to portend
strange limbs anchored in sand or water like an

inexplicable colossus, staring into the torsion of its
own face, solid in refusal that something dies in
memory as it dies in the world—the improbable regress
to first principles: a fraction too early, or still too late

10. to have begun with the image of a wreck—washed up
not far from here, some figure-in-the-landscape

beyond it, dusk & a kind of extraction, the bleached-
out shadows like perished glass—but there are other
voices, other rooms & tonight you have danced

your last step, backwards in time, like a motif or a contra-
diction, with nothing left to exonerate you but the crime
“itself,” unspeakable, waiting to be committed

the scenography moves inexorably towards some
inessential moment, kept below the surface—
inertia or narcosis—a drama of reproach played out sub-

cutaneously—& what “comes after” in the huge &
unrenewable night, lies there, open-mouthed—its words
fall back upon the shore