March 2017

Back to Issue 1

Stringing Body to Cloud, Katoomba

By Stuart Cooke

(I’d hung up the phone. I’d been talking with the woman I loved in a fierce, steady flame.)

—everything I touched was limp with damp; pages stuck together like wet leaves. Above, the sky was alive and crackling. For the whole day, even when the sun was out, shots of charge went reeling through the clouds—

—the bloody place just wouldn’t shut up; at one stage I even left my desk and went outside and asked it to. It didn’t matter that I was on a ridge into which weather systems will always collide. Knowing this wouldn’t have helped. It had nothing to do with the fog rolling in like the ghost of a fire and removing the world within seconds, or a bolt splitting the mist into reeling packets of light; it was more to do with the need for it to happen, because clearly there wasn’t one—

I don’t think we’ll ever be at the stage where we can happily reduce something as traumatic

as pressure gathering on a ridge to the filling of some neat, ecological niche. It’s not that I’m uninterested in ecology, but this is what the ecologists are telling us, isn’t it? To lose our deductions, to let our sentences keep spilling out into a yet greater network of affect…

—towards late afternoon things got worse: lightning seemed to acquire a metallic density as it drove into the core of the plateau. My desk lamp would dim before becoming brighter, or it would go out for a few seconds before coming back on. Just because I was dry and warm in no way exempted me from anything, each booming bolt from the sky could have shot through the earth and out of the light bulb and straight into my face—again, this was nothing to do with likelihoods, but with possibilities, the way anything might be swept up in the path of a rhythm, the way a new rhythm can break the crystallised momentum of the old—

It’s likely that we’re accustomed to living our lives between the featureless abyss of the daytime sky and the compacted matter of the Earth. In this way we’ve become creatures of alternation—this is reflected in our various histories, of immanent and transcendental thought, of quantum theory and astrophysics, of yin’s night to yang’s day. When the sky fills in with storm clouds’ steely wool, however, when great bolts pierce the clouds and plunge into the earth, it seems we have no choice but to cease aspiring and to resign ourselves to this: we are part of that which is moving

why not get angry
as the storm?                          

meeting on an exposed plateau
stringing the body to the clouds
with the regulation of light—