Paint that captures the shape of gestures memories arrested in space sinuous as the body is curved And he thinks too of the unbound energies they expended and of the shapes that their bodies made when they came together
the arc of a breast a mouth agape the slope of a thigh or an angled elbow Form and the absence of it light and the absence of it colour and the absence of it love and the absence of it and under a wrathful sky their union and the absence of it
In the 1960s, encouraged by the American poet and painter Brion Gysin, William Burroughs began to experiment with a cut-up technique of writing. He would take a page from a novel by Graham Greene, for example, and cut it into four columns A, B, C and D. He would then rearrange the columns in an order such as C, A, D, B. and glue them to a sheet of paper so that he was able to read the text across the lines of the page CADB as though the words had been written in that order. What interested him was to see what new images and combinations were created in this new arrangement of words.
In an interview, Burroughs stated: “Any narrative passage or any passage, say, of poetic images is subject to any number of variations, all of which may be interesting and valid in their own right. A page of Rimbaud cut up and rearranged will give you quite new images. Rimbaud images—real Rimbaud images—but new ones.”
Some months ago I tried a variation of this technique. Instead of cutting up pages, I consulted a concordance to the work of the American writer, Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick. I searched for usages of the words, ‘bone’, ‘dust’, ‘love’, ‘dream’ and ‘rose’. The text below is a compilation of those references as they occurred in my research.
Dust on the moth’s wing
She was bone of his bone and his very bones are as whispering galleries He laid her bones upon some treacherous reef with the bones of the drowned Not dust to dust but dust to brine he is dust where he stands he had dead dust for ancestors the penalty we pay for being what we are—fine dust
Did I dream a snow-white skin firmament blue eyes : this beautiful maiden who thinking no harm and rapt in a dream was a dream We dream not ourselves but the dream dreams within us How the firefly illuminates its body for a beacon to love Long he cannot be for love is a fervent flagellant fire love is all in all—all three : red rose bright shore and soft heart are full of love
Loved one love on who fell into the very snares of love Love the living not the dead great love is sad and heaven is love
Dreams dreams golden dreams : noon dreams are day dreams Are all our dreams then in vain? What dream brought you hither Romeo And sweet Juliet what dream is it that ails your heart ? We are but dolls of joy and grief : breathe grow dream die —love not
This earth’s an urn for flowers not for ashes Brush your tears from the lilies and howl in sackcloth and ashes as thoughts of eternity thicken Duration is not of the future but the past : we must build with the calendar of eternities Sad rose of all my days : a song sung on lips of dust
He’s seized the helm eternity was in his eyes Dash of the waves against the bow and deep the breath of dreaming Such perils that lie like a rose among thorns Her delicate white skin tinted with a faint rose hue like her lips like rose pearls that once bruised against my aching skin left love stains
Your rose, my sweet I unfold its petals and disclose a pearl yet the full-blown rose is nearer to withering than the bud : and Emily asked how far is it to hell ?