The Argentinean writer Borges once observed that the ‘imminence of a revelation which does not occur is, perhaps, the aesthetic phenomenon.’ Terrace is a book of short-stories and short-films in verse, told through oblique glances, hints and understatements, landscapes and lists, ekphrasis and myth, cut-ups and haiku, It is a book about the meanings of perfume, light and colour, exploring the world in a series of striking images, and juxtaposing them in unexpected ways to reveal at the end the ‘bigger picture’ that was always there, only hidden.
Cover image: Martin O'Neil
Author photograph: Keith Didcock
Among the colonnades, Count Pierre stalks and surveys the blooms. He must select the best-sized to abscond to Genoa, where a boat awaits for England. The tiny petals bugle their lilac time. Blurry, tribal. They say they are sterile. He has heard it said that love can grow inside one, no matter how rough the ground, just as a twig thrown into a salt mine will, after many years, come out crystalline. Karen Philpott and I would meet behind her estate on the wasteland. Her bloodless face, her hair straggly, unkempt. She gave me a Parma Violet and I placed it on my tongue. It tasted of iron. She said it was OK because she used them like the pill. They say the yews here can ‘walk’ by dropping branches, which then take root and become a trunk. Diving into the ground head-first, the cemetery is never still. They say a yew can walk an acre a year.
‘to step on an island is to die…’ It took me an age to find you, your final port of call obscured by a turmoil of long grass and eucalyptus. On the mossy slab, the words: EZRA POVND. Each glyph sharp as a knife, cut to the bone. The sun beats, peacocks cry, pansies shrivel in the heat. Each of these cimitero is like a Chinese character legible only from the sky. Who reads them now? Just the birds, who, passing over, break flight and drop like a stone to the ground.
When I emerged from the shadows, I should have seen light, but saw instead a deeper black. Since then, it has been a struggle, the mornings weightless, cramped, my life stuffed into a sour gift. I can no longer sit still. That failure dreams me. The girl, pale and thin, her vacant stare at my expectant back. I remember walking towards the trees, and beyond, the red chapel, where we were to marry. In that last turn, I carried with me the earth’s spin. I should have foreseen my failure, should have been dutiful, as they say I am, but there was a sense of falling, and I knew the song in the seashell had melted away like foam. Everything is clear now. Then, the land above was nothing but pure illusion, and I understood this as I rose to the surface, gulping air but losing love.
A man sweeps a field armed with a metal detector, the plate aching to find the sternum bone or shield of some Saxon lord and protector. My radar reaches three feet and searches for the band dropped somewhere long ago after losing all the heat and the half-life of your hand. The eyes of a submariner lock on the ghostly green ring as the sonar scans the immensity, his finger presses on the monitor and ricochets into the ocean, one long single ping.
‘beautifully wrought... knowing and knowledgeable, with a deft touch, and aural and rhythmic vigour.’
‘an impressive originality’
The Interpreter’s House