|‘Clear the air! Clean the sky! Wash the wind!
Take the stone from the stone,
take the skin from the arm, take the muscle from
the bone, and wash them.
Wash the stone, wash the bone, wash the brain,
wash the soul, wash them wash them!’
The Chorus , from Murder In The Cathedral by T.S Eliot.
(we convulse in sun light there are skins to trace and there is flesh to caress in some sudden dawning where the sudden shakes the boundary’s clasp….)
Scene Forty Two, In Damage Seasons
The structure underpinning Michael McAloran’s In Damage Seasons is Palladian (a.b.a) or a quasi-triptych. It isn’t however an altar-piece or a pleasure-dome of a book. The parts of the triptych structure are: Onset, In Damage Seasons, and nothing’s bones-. The thematic thrust of the book which fully comprises 130 pages interspersed with kaleidoscope images, is barely contained in the second section eponymously titled and consisting of fifty individual scenes. Onset opens the book setting the myriad kaleidoscope theme, and nothing’s bones- the third part of the work, is a paean. It forms an accumulation and gathering of the essence of the book. It is a beautifully written after-death, where life is the exilic condition.
Make no mistake, the doors of the triptych: Onset and nothing’s bones-, barely enclose the mid-section of the book and do not make for a sense of containment let alone comfort. Their purpose is to iterate the wolf howl of loss and an uncompromising poetic-voice that sometimes feels oxygenless. The book encloses this disembodied voice that has deranged from its centre and meaning. In visual terms the book is the raw howl of a lost generation. McAloran is too consummately skilled in his image making to drop his theme (the howl) and he works it with a fine acuity:
‘sing spun alone till dry of speech the asking of the
prayers from the hollow entity unto some foreign grace
traceless depth will in end no end in depth sing spun
alone till speech evaporated’
from nothing’s bones-
The dystopian landscape and setting of In Damage Seasons is dense with image and requires the reader’s full concentration. Here the wusses may leave, it is not for you. Onset and nothing’s bones- form the closable field of the overall triptych that is In Damage Seasons. They are as splattered with blood, torn nails, ejaculate and shit as the Hieronymus Bosch nightmare mid-section of the book:
‘an amber nocturne and the force of blue stun a
silhouette a shadowing a trail of dead words scattered
behind in retrospect of hollow oblivion’s benign claim I
or we/eye dead of yet but once heart meat heart less…’
Scene Twenty Five (is dead meat heart…)
The walls of the cylinder form occur throughout In Damage Seasons. The cylinder, of polished metal-sides, with an interesting kaleidoscopic window detail. Sylvia Plath often described the rarefied air of her bell-jar, and her reader knows that its breach involved the fatal-wounding of her panic-bird. She described her artifice, her work, as the blood-jet of poetry. In McAloran’s case its blood-jet, ejaculate, tearing, bruising, incision and excreta. It is loss, torture, violence and pain:
‘the blood comes to the fore and there is nothing.…’
Colours inherent in the book are amber and blue, a streak of red, and shades of metallic. One minute the writer is imprisoned in the doom of the non-working affair, the next he is shattering the funnel against a stone-wall and walking through the shardings of glass barely observing the beauty he made. It is meant to wound his feet, his hands and his body. We read rupture, derangement of form and the screaming voice:
‘kicking convulsive in the reek asking of the breaking
night’s dissemble through the cortex mirror a sheen of
black iris flowerings a kaleidoscope of burning
carousels spun alone reaching for none…
the blade asks of the final wind the death inhaled the
caress of some vital wound ask of till subtle bound
some stasis somewhere other than sung aloud in glint
of darkness…’ Scene Forty Two (is stillness to brace…)
There is no piety to the howling of the poet. There is a type of tenderness and wry acceptance which could not be called compromise in any way, shape or fashion. This is strong and assured work. It is unrelenting for the reader:
….here and there the blind terse the fettering of all spun
till head of till spire of spine recorded as if to un-know
hence laughter cracks the ice like some obscene
symphonium trace of desire still the living clot in the
eye the tongue torn out silenced of all …
ah break the bones of it there’ll yet be asked of till
splendour held in mockery of stun shards of bone and
foreign silences child’s toy fragments the walls peeling
in the artificial light…
from Onset, 5-
The sense, or aftertaste of a book gives it its meaning. I tend to leave down a McAloran book with a sense of altered-reality. To me that is the meat of the poetic work, and it is often absent from the canon due to a mistaken sense that poetry should lack violence, or maybe it should do something pretty. Like adorn the margins of a chocolate-box culture bent into its own restless consumption.
If your taste runs to Bataillesque, then this is the meat for you. In Damage Seasons is post-apocalyptic with a hint of tender. The apocalypse inherent in the book’s imagery is of body and of mind. It contains the reality of violence worked on the body and told through the disembodied mouth in the brilliantly written nothing’s bones-
In Damage Seasons by Michael McAloran is Published by Oneiros Books In 2013.