There is a forgotten part of England that is like some body,
rather than that body or this, or even The body. This A body – or otherbody –
is only NOT noticed properly because of every body … or so the history goes.
– from Corporeal Punishments, by Dr Eva Dore.
Some time ago, you are standing in a field in a particular country. This land, having gone through such a murky entangled past of conflicts and convolutions of cultures, instincts & histories has come … to be named England. And a small part of the ever-growing vast body of evidence for this land’s conflict-full existence is here now in this field, and is as you will find it …
A boy is throwing stones at a rusty cab-less tractor, that has rotted in a corner of a field for many years. Each clang-ping as he hits target reverberates across the nearby lake that forms the west edge of this field. For a year or two now the field has been left to grow wild grasses & flowers, but is mostly thistles and clumps of stinging nettles. The boy goes on throwing his stones slowly one after the other, stones collected in an old galvanised bucket. He is a good shot, and soon he builds a slow purposeful percussion. He imagines the sounds of the stones’ impacts as mechanical ghosts — spirits of levers & nuts & bolts & springs all wispy whooshing away over the water, the body of water. He feels the vibrations of thin grey transparent skeletons made of spanners & pistons. The hull of the tractor is entangled with briars, black & red berries glare against rust. Nettles nestle into the belly of the machine. The boy has stopped his throwing, he wants some of the spirits to remain within the metal corpse. He is moving towards the tractor, there is sweat on his brow, his breathing is becoming faster. He has never approached the tractor before. The ground seems to suck each of his boots down to it, so that pulling each boot up again is difficult. Yet he keeps his eye on the decaying tractor, steadily he moves towards it, like a mountaineer fighting against wind & thigh-deep snow. The snow is nettles, cold icy crystals of sting — he can feel the bite of the green snow through his blue jeans. The boy suddenly notices crumpled pages strewn amongst the nettles, magazine pages. He has never seen a naked woman before, and suddenly, here, a boy mountaineer has found frozen women in the snow-nettles. Frozen pinks of them, the cut-short heat of their open vaginas grabbing at his guts. He picks up some of these ripped & faded pages, and with his fists full of crumpled frozen women, on he goes towards the tractor. His hands are vibrating, there’s a kind of pins & needles — he can feel little punches and tiny bites on his palms & fingers. The women are thawing. He releases his grip slightly, now see-through flesh wisps curl out from between his fingers. Some of them expand. An elongated breast oozes out into the air. A thin stream of thigh wavers like gossamer out from his hand. And a long dark warm slit splits the clear air as it whizzes away over the lake. Quickly he clamps his fist tight again, wanting so much to be some kind of keeper. A hoarder of treasures. But a warm stream of piss slips down the boy’s thigh, soaks through blue denim. He is trembling. He has always thought of the old rotting tractor as a dead knight, a dead fighting man. A man who once dragged his swords, and his axes through the brown flesh of ground … the rich meat of England’s soils. Yet now the tractor’s rusty iron and the split black-lugged rubber tyres are softening. The metal is suddenly shining, silvery, no longer rust-crusted. And now the tractor’s metals seem to be melting, and yet remain just on the brink between flow & stillness. The metals wobble … now break from solidity into molten motion. A silvery tractor-spirit elongates through the nettles towards the lake … it is rounded and nimble as a moving pool of mercury, soft curves in slow motion. The boy can see his distorted reflection undulating & contorting in the gleaming fluid of molten conglomerated metals … so he follows it, down the field towards the water. On arrival as the machine-spirit touches the lake there is a hiss like cherry-red iron plunged in a bucket of water. And now the boy suddenly feels a memory he never knew he had wriggling into the grey of his brains. This boy remembers his great-great-great-great grandfather making horseshoes … hammering bright orange metal, the clinking, sparks, and also the smell of horses. The sweat of a working horse is in the boy’s nostrils. The mercury-ghost-tractor is all mixed up molten spanners & pistons & springs but also hooves & muscle & mane & bone. This mix-up of beast, machine & loss-spirit is slowly slipping into the lake. Water bubbles & whinnies. Suddenly the boy can feel a very sharp wet heat squeeze out between his fingers as one particular and particularly tenacious see-through flesh wisp escapes his left clenched fist … and now this escapee suddenly turns back towards the boy … and now her rough hot gaseous solidity is seeping between the interlocked teeth of his flies’ zip. There is an electric hum. The boy yelps, opens his hands, immediately all the other remaining gaseous women squeal out into the air, and the air sizzles. He presses his hands to his sore soaked crotch. This place, his crotch, this centre of a world … it now feels different. So different. He looks down between his legs. He doesn’t have to undo his urine-drenched jeans, he knows … he knows … it’s gone. So perhaps it is a little girl then that climbed onto a horse-tractor spirit now slipping away back then into a lake later. Proudly she held the steering reins of now-as-then’s trajectory. She & her see-though silvery machine/beast drive/trot into a dark fur
row of water.
Suddenly a tractor has gone, as if it were never (t)here. A field is empty. Empty as was. A surface of a lake hardly ripples … until … a last unique swallow of a unique year dips to a unique lake for a unique last time before its long flight back into a continent, a unique continent, that after nameless millennia got to be called Africa. The swallow’s hollow-boned body is unimaginably light & agile. And even though a field is empty, you are there. And you are a fully grown human staring at a lake in an England, remembering something … or per … haps dismembering. What was it? A feeling? No, it’s gone now. Perhaps you are growing old. The pains in your body of late have become the very material of your movements. Or perhaps you have that easy glide of those with youthful muscles. Either way, right or left, south or west, you watch a sky’s distance condense on one horizon, whilst a last swallow’s tiny lightweight shape breaks through an other-horizon to be … gone. Soon you too will go. But. For. Now. You will turn for a home. Leave this (or a) field for a familiar haunt. Perhaps you live in a city, or a village, or maybe an isolated cottage, or even remote bothy — only some you knows which. And only some you knows how the body some you has claimed feels … just at this (a) moment, just in a (this) place. In this field. Breasts pert or sagging now a little perhaps not maybe a hairy chest or instead silk-smooth skin possibly something plastic or metal-alloy fits on or into you perhaps you feel a penis nestled between your legs or perhaps to misquote some old mad king you feel a hole there a kind of nothing from where … nothing comes from. Who knows. Not a question for in deed who does know as who has always done so now it is some you who walks away from
Mark Goodwin has a number of books & chapbooks with various English poetry houses, including Leafe Press, Longbarrow Press, & Shearsman Books. His latest poetry chapbook – Erodes On Air – was recently published in North America by Middle Creek. Mark lives with his partner on a narrowboat just north of Leicester, in the English Midlands. He tweets poems from @kramawoodgin.