Sharing a love of Arthur Russell’s 1986 album, World of Echo, musician David Sheppard and artist Louise Clarke chose to use its resonant song titles as springboards for new ctions. With each participant unaware of what the other was writing, these short, sudden narratives reverberate between the pair with a curious synchronicity, ideas and images rebounding surprisingly far from Russell’s original ambit, like ringed waves emanating from a stone thrown in a lake.
She’s The Star
She told me that when she dies she would become a star; that all the stars were the dead. She died in the night. I was in my room next to hers, looking out at the sky, watching the dead twinkle. Later I wondered, was she watching the same thing? Or did she lie, eyes closed, aware of the clock stopping, trying to memorise her last breath.
The shame of having sex in my childhood tree house lasts a mere minute. The guilt of rubbing my naked body against my grandfather’s handiwork utters over me for the briefest of moments. I recall the sound of hammering in parallel to the rhythm of our fucking. Bending over, holding onto the smooth windowsill, the sound of my arse being slapped fills the wooden cavity and seeps into every dovetail. I lie down on the carefully sanded floor and look up beyond my lover’s head and smile thinking of tongue and groove. We lie, silent, catching our breath, daydreaming. I flick the switch on my grandfather’s radio – it’s tuned to the cricket.
Hiding Your Present From You
Hiding your present from you, I find a surprise for me. A love letter — to another woman. All my excitement thumps away like pillows of snow from the roof. I look out of the window; ice is forming on the shed. The world is turning hard, white frost is starting to cover the naked winter trees; their black branches creep into the snow pregnant sky. The silence is broken as my mind drifts back indoors and I hear the buzz of the amplifier. I set the record to play again and begin to read.
Wax The Van
Coming back from school I saw a white cube outside our farm. As I drew closer the blots on its side morphed into text — Ambulance. The black shape I’d thought was a crow turned out to be the grave, slow movement of a policeman talking to my mother. The railway that ran behind our house was a swarm of activity, bright citrus-clothed men picking over the tracks. I approached the back of a white van parked at the level crossing; it seemed the only normal thing in this entire scene. Until, that is, I walked around and saw the front half crushed. The train had hit and scattered metal and man a mile down the track. Later when everyone had gone, I harvested tiny nuggets of glass that shone like diamond dice on the ground.
When I realised you were not coming back I started to decay. The outside of me began withering and peeling off . I started to walk — an unintentional walk along the canal. I reached darkness. Pausing in the night air, I decided to sleep under a bridge and as daylight came, I left. I carried on walking, like a homing pigeon; I walked out of London, through the midlands to the north.
Let’s Go Swimming
6.30am. The guard climbs into his watchtower. I walk round the pool, my semi-nakedness forms a moment of awkwardness between us that seems to fill the rafters. I am an owl returning to its barn at dawn. Silence settles. The pool is blemish- free and as smooth as glass. I stand at the edge, focusing, gradually becoming conscious of the sound of my heart looming closer like a distant funeral march. I push forward and for a split second I see myself mirrored in the surface before I break through. Vociferous waterfall. I hold my breath as long as I can, gliding, the steamed-up window of the world passing overhead.
Tone Bone Kone
Sunday morning. Winter lingers in the eaves, but all around spring is being painted on the landscape. I nonetheless put on my heavy coat and feel for the skeleton key in a side pocket. It nestles among the gloves, spent tickets and crumpled wrappers. The metal feels oddly warm. The lock that awaits it lies open-mouthed on the other side of the city. The future gapes for the present. Out in the rib-bleached street, the air is as taut as a violin string. There are doors to open again. The planet staggers forward.
The sea surrounded the little town on three sides. Its inhabitants resented yet revered the sea. They thought of it as a muscle, forever contracting and relaxing, always as ready to crush as to carry. The women of the town once looked on through desolate dawns as their men took to tiny painted fishing boats. Now the boats are gone, the men deposited in distant glass buildings, imprisoned by car parks; but the women still come down to the sea, forlornly searching for girlish reflections in a mirror made of salt.
Place I know/Kid Like You
The autumn woodland is dusted with cake icing and daubed with honey. We walk upon a carpet of nature’s frozen bric-a-brac. At every step, the forest cracks, as if ice cubes are being snapped from a tray. Along the bare branches a few red-tinged leaves still cling; summer’s forgotten IOUs. Once, this was a deep green cathedral; lovers were happily enclosed within its gently swarming precincts and children abandoned their bicycles to fall upon the black earth’s unlikely warmth.
She’s the Star
I awoke, still drunk. I wanted to say “I love you”, but perhaps that was the alcohol talking. Anyway, I was alone. When I think of you, you are on roller skates, for some reason; a mobile thing — quixotic, evasive, beyond measure. I want you to come to rest somewhere; to stop gliding in and out of my predictable orbit. I need to hold onto you, to momentarily still the motion of your astonishing atoms.
There was something perfect about her, despite her superficial laws. She was like an exquisitely designed metal antique whose surface rust only enhances its beauty. She favoured dark-coloured clothing, but seemed always to be emitting light, and when she spoke, her words were not so much sounds as sparks of animal music.
Hiding Your Present From You
It arrived today, just after breakfast. It turns out to be twice the size it appeared to be in the advert. The delivery man had beads of sweat on his forehead. I spent all afternoon shopping for the right wrapping paper. Sometimes outward appearance is everything, but for a logician, wrapping a gift is an absurd thing to do. What does the paper prison signify? Why do we ‘undress’ our gifts to one another? One day we will wake up and find that something like a miraculous bequest will have occurred, another kind of gift, apparently from nowhere, like overnight snow.
Let’s Go Swimming
“Time”, her father had once told her, “is an elastic thing”. She had always liked those words but never really known their meaning, until now, rifling through a battered biscuit tin crammed with curling photographs. There she was, back then, wet from the ocean, blushing pink from the sun and clandestine, salty sex; apparently invulnerable, a faded Kodak prototype of her adult flesh and bone. On the reverse, written in an unremembered, childlike scrawl, a quotation: “The chasm is best crossed by not looking down.”