The Underworld

By | 1 March 2015

with Ayla ffytche

There’s a place down there where the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.
Why are you doing lots of taps when it’s only a little sentence?
Because I’m taking notes.
I’m just going to make a cup of tea.
I like to have a cup of tea while I’m working.
You know what else helps the creative process?
These aren’t the best biscuits.
Do you want to choose one?
In this poem are we allowed to start sentences with and?
In poems you can do whatever you want.
You’ve heard me read some of my poems, they don’t even make sense.
So, tell me about utopia.
Also, it has holes in the trees where some people live, and some owls sleep.
Why do people live in trees?
Yeah, because they don’t, we, there’s not enough blocks we can carry down.
Blocks of what?
Blocks of, just normal blocks that you use to build houses.
The owls in that world don’t even hoot, because there’s no daytime.
But because the owl wouldn’t hoot, there is nothing for owls to say.
So the people who live in the place down there, what do their houses look like?
The houses are only built in the trees.
You can clear out the holes of wood and leaves and make little balconies out of owl’s holes.
That’s what life is like down there.
But then…
How do they make enough space for the trees to grow underground?
They builded a big hole.
Can you just read that out to me?
No, I’ll do that at the end, it’s easier if we do it at the end.
Then I need to carry on with my picture.
How did they dig the hole?
They just digged it.
But with a machine?
No, with big rakes.
Why do they live under ground?
I don’t know but they just wanted to.
Why do you have to ask me all these questions?
Because I’m trying to build a picture… a utopia is a picture of a whole society.
Now shall I tell you the next sentence?

There was no bread because the day wasn’t there and the corn wouldn’t grow, and the flowers wouldn’t sprout.
So what did they eat?
They only ate things that they brought up from their homes up in the upper world, and then they brought them down.
But what do they do when that runs out?
They just took lots and lots of it.
Lots and lots and lots.
So that it could last their whole lives.
But what about their children?
The children brought their own food down.
Because they had to do the same.
Because it was only time to build it when they were born, or maybe when they were just older, a bit.
How do they have light?
They used a big light bulb in each of their rooms.
Don’t they miss the sun?
They don’t miss the sun, they like their own homes just the way it is.
But I mean, don’t they miss the blue sky and the breeze and the flowers?
They don’t miss them, because they, because they they paint the top of the big hole blue and with clouds and the best thing is about that place that it’s never rainy.
But it’s never sunny!
It’s never sunny.
Yeah but I tell you they used a big light bulb and they painted some of the top yellow.
And what about poor people?
There’s no poor people there.
Cause there’s a big castle there as well with lots of trees planted and lots and lots of people live in the castle.
Is there someone in charge of the castle?
Uh, no but there is kings and queens there but they’re not the strongest people there.
Can I just take one more biscuit?
Mmm, chocolate finger.
I might have a chocolate finger as well.
So who are the strongest people there?
Nobody is.
Shall I say the next sentence?

There isn’t roads down there there’s only tunnels, that’s how you get place to place because it’s easier because there’s no sun.
What do people do all day?
Don’t worry about them, they have their own things to do.
Because wherever they go there’s a price to pay.
A price to pay?
A place to play.
So nobody works?
Nobody works.
So how does anything get done?
There’s nothing that has to get done.
What about if the tunnel breaks?
The tunnel won’t break.
Or if umm the electricity breaks.
There’s no electricity, they only use gas lamps, like things like lights with a candle inside.
But who makes them?
They do.
Isn’t that work?
Isn’t that work?
What does that mean?
Isn’t it work to make the lights with candles inside?
No, because you just make it out of wood.
Are there any police?
No because all the people there are good people.
What happened to the bad people?
There’s no bad people.
The bad people aren’t let in.
Because only some people want to build their city under ground.
Shall I say the next sentence?

The rivers there you might think…
No, no, I want to start that sentence again.
They plug in big tubes to the sea in our world, and the tubes are brung down and put into the castle, and the castle puts other tubes into the other houses.
What goes in the tubes?
But it’s salty water?
They clean it.
Isn’t that work?
What does that mean as well?
Well, someone has to…
We clean water in the sea, don’t we?
But someone does that work.
But all the people who got there first clean the water, a group of people.
I mean, work is doing something because you have to, not because you want to.
But the people down there think that they don’t want to work and they just want to have a place where nobody has to work and there’s no schools.
Is that the best thing?
Is that the whole reason you made up this utopia, because you don’t want to go to school?
And you don’t want us to go to work?
Because the parents, they started living up in this world and they got all the money and the money that they get up there they bring down with them and.
Some people think you could have a society – I mean a group of people living together – without money, can you imagine that?
Yes, shall I say the next sentence?

That place is just so happy, lots of people want to join them, and they all get their food from the palace.
I would be cross if there was a palace.
Because, why should some people get to live in a big palace when I have to live in a little house?
Because the king and queen live there.
But why should there even be a king and queen?
Because of lots of people living in the palace because they just agreed that they want to live there.
Oh. So it’s not like a fancy palace.
Because there’s still tree roots and tree things in the palace.
Are the people who live in the palace just one ginormous family?
Of course.
And lots of people there make skins out of animals and they and they like and you know those animals that have scales?
They skin the scales off and make them into a kind of cape so if anybody tries to attack them it wouldn’t hurt them.
And some people are lucky enough to have a whole outfit made of scales.
But who would attack them if it’s only the good people in this world?
Yeah but some of the bad people might have sneaked in.
Do they have to guard the entrances to this world?
No, because they just they just they don’t really want to.
Because no one wants to stand out the castle for days and days and days and nights and nights.
So what happens if loads of bad people try to come in?
Well, there, I just don’t want to tell you this.
There’s lots of wars there.
There’s bad people who make flying cities and they sometimes come in war against the underworld and they have be protected and stay under their cloaks.
Are you finished yet?
I’m kind of carrying on.
There’s lots of different things we can think about.
Do you have to give me the next question now?
What is it?
Let me think.
So let’s imagine a day in your world.
What’s the first thing that you do?
You would get up, and then just get dressed and you can either wear some soft clothes or scaly clothes.
How do you choose?
You know how to choose because if it’s one of the days when the upper world comes in war, you have to wear the scaly clothes, if there’s no war, you wear the soft clothes.
And there’s a special kind of clothes made from long plants.
Long plants?
And they are weeded into clothes.
So what do you do when you’re dressed?
You have breakfast.
Then what?
And then you go out and you give out the food to the other people in the other tree houses.
That’s nice. Is that sharing?
Yep, because the castle is the one with the food.
Oh, that castle again.
That castle again.
Because, why can’t we have the food in our house?
Because there’s lots more wars, and the people are in the castle are stronger and so they don’t get killed on the way and if the people come get it from the castle then they just you know.
What would happen though if the castle decided they weren’t going to share their food anymore?
They would never do that.
Are you sure?
I’m sure.
It sounds to me like life in this place would be worse.
No it wouldn’t, why do you keep saying you don’t want to live there?
Because I would, I would live in the castle.
But the problem is there’s nothing you could do about it, because there’s no government to have an argument with, and the people in the castle don’t want to have arguments.
They don’t want to have arguments?
Yeah. Can you just tell me one thing that you would like about that place?
Well, the scaly clothes sound cool, and it would be nice not to work.
But I wonder if everyone would get along.
They would.
Even if they knew the castle had all the food?
Yeah, they would.
Are you sure they wouldn’t just attack the castle and get all the food and give it to everyone?
They wouldn’t. Because the people in the middle would make sure that everyone agrees that the castle gives the food out.
That sounds like a government.
No, no, it’s just the people who make sure that everything’s ok and there’s no fighting and everyone’s happy.
But I wonder what you think the government in this world actually does, I mean, aren’t they the people who are supposed to make sure that everything’s ok and there’s no fighting and everyone’s happy?
But we would make it secretly and make tunnels going to our house.
I know but I mean, what do you think the government in this world does?
How am I – I don’t know how to answer that question because I don’t know, I haven’t really met the government as well as you have.
Hey, can I have one more of these?
Do they have biscuits in your world?
Yes, but they only hand out little bits of food, like chicken legs, or Yorkshire pudding.
How would you wash?
With the water.
But won’t that make the world dissolve if it’s made of mud?
No it wouldn’t – this world isn’t dissolving and it’s got water in it!
What happens if people die in this world?
Nobody would die.
They just go in the castle in war time.
The castle is very strong.
But I mean, what about people who die just because they’re old?
Well, that’d be ok because they know how to put people in grey, in gravestones, or they realise that if they dig a bit more they might dig a bit more they would reach the hot bits so they go to the centre and get pearls of dirt.
They go to the centre?
A little centre, like a little house.
Why does this poem have to be so long?
We can stop whenever we want to.
But when are you going to read it to me?
Do you want to give me a last sentence?
Ok, that place was so happy, and cheerful, and merry, that everybody there, would just be friends, and not fight.
Should that be the end?

First performed by Andrea Brady and Lisa Robertson at Polyply 30: ‘Big Contemplative Utopia’, Centre for Collaborative Exchange, University of London (5 June 2014)

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