There are those which are alike in spite of appearance
which share a secret affinity, an invisible harmony.
But then there are those which are neither alike nor unalike
that you place in separate boxes
as the wind picks out
a shape on the outer wall
sight so weary it can’t hold anything else.
You think on the essence of a leopard
always already a panther, always happy to field questions
from the audience. What do names correspond to
Might as well call it what you like, lure the conversation
back to objects and their intentions.
To contain the world (they
say) draw a line around it.
But then, the chef holds a different knife to the hunter
the video a different shape to the eye––at that hour
from that distance
you can’t tell a blur from a likeness. It’s about prospect
and aspect, you know, a capacity for basking, that
resonance at the back of the mind. After all
Der panther is also sometimes a jaguar
sometimes a cougar
even a mountain lion.
You followed language into the bush.
To say it in three words.
Pursued its scent.
No one thought ‘the landscape is a system’ or ‘a geometry
of soil and sky’ or ‘a tree is already a symbol of itself’.
You felt its claw marks on the trunk.
No one said ‘our idea of the undergrowth
precedes our apprehension of it’
or ‘we don’t belong here’
or ‘it can climb, can’t it’.
folded back on themselves.
No one thought ‘the rule for a circle
holds for all circles’ or ‘the clearing
lets in more light as it expands’ or
‘any perimeter can be stalked’.
To call up an image.
To consider it from all angles.
No one said ‘depict the canopy as a diagram’
or ‘understand it from the inside’ or
‘interpretation is always partial’.
You don’t know what words
in the end.
Which of them were buried here.
Not words, but teeth.
No one said ‘the ground is a plane of expression’ or
‘scatter the seeds’ or ‘let the architecture emerge’.
You made a mild intervention.
No one thought ‘we need a category
for both the things that are, that they are,
and those that are not, that they are not’.
To pause and reflect.
Now names lie concealed in each bough and branch
here and here and here.
No one thought ‘names are a vital part of what they define’
or ‘to name is to classify’ or ‘have dominion over things’.
No one said ‘we can’t think of a line
without tracing it in our minds’ or ‘a description
is a movement’ or ‘see where it leads’.
Now you’ve forgotten how to look past
the surface of things.
To be contained by the world.
Lost your bearings.
To stand outside it.
To reconcile time and place.
No one thought ‘a path exemplifies the forest’ or
‘talking about things brings them into being’
or ‘nothing is self-contained’.
You retrace your steps.
No one said ‘all categories are provisional’ or
‘any two objects placed in a space will form
No one said ‘the banks emerge only
as the bridge crosses the stream’.
No one thought ‘we should learn about the pines
from the pine’ or ‘all stones have weight’.
To leave from.
No one said ‘hold your finger to the neck
of the woods’ or ‘take its pulse’ or ‘feel the
tightened silence through the shoulders’.
To come into being.
You followed language into the bush.
Took satisfaction from small insights.
To be in attendance.
Knowing that a more comprehensive
understanding was impossible.
No one reflected ‘an image plunges into the heart
and is gone’ or ‘the grove in our minds is laid waste’.
To count the vertebrae.
Whoever said you can only walk halfway
into a forest has never been lost.
- 99: BROWNFACESUBMIT NOW with W S Dunn 98: SINGAPORECOMING SOON with A Pang and J Ip 97: PROPAGANDACOMING SOON with M Breeze and S Groth 96: NO THEME IXwith M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRICAN DIASPORAwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones