Afternoon Dust


Poem for Heath Bunting

These sounds come from China.
So does this tea.

Sometimes the world is a vast inescapable system:
        one's only recourse
        is to various circumventions, errancies,
        and detours, to multiplications of
        identities; you spot the opportunity
        to play a certain role and you
        seize it, only to realise that's all
        anyone else is doing, though perhaps
        less consciously.
Sometimes the world is riven with elsewheres,
        tiny holes
        through which you look but shall not
        pass, the tunnel you back out of.

Artist Heath Bunting spoke about his work at VIVID Projects, Birmingham as part of the exhibition Dot.Art, which runs until 27 May 2017.

Circling Around (Without Taking Off)

A field with a haystack near Birmingham International Airport

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I joined a group of mutual strangers in the middle of the concourse at Birmingham New Street station for a walk around Birmingham International Airport. The event formed part of the annual Still Walking festival, and was conceived by Bruno de Wachter, who had already organised walks around five other European airports. Bruno’s idea, looking at the way airports are represented on maps as blank white spaces, was that they are essentially ‘holes’ in the landscape — and how else to describe a hole but to circumnavigate it?

Laura Oldfield Ford — Chthonic Reverb

The dérive was invented by the Letterist International in the 1950s, so it is said, though its roots go back much further, to Baudelaire’s notion of the flâneur and probably beyond. Pick an orientation, start walking; change direction on an impulse, an intuition, drawn by the name of a street, the shape of a traffic island, the forlornness of a tree. Be led by the city. This practice is central to Laura Oldfield Ford’s work as an artist, and the starting point of her new exhibition at Birmingham artist-run space Grand Union.


A friend recently asked me to dig something out of my archive for him, but somewhere amidst the years’ multiple computer and OS changes the fragment of writing he was looking for seems to have vanished. I did manage to find the following poem, which struck me as seeming particularly resonant in these uncertain days, hence the posting:


We tread carefully, dust clinging
to our feet; the clicking
of latches.
Thoughts unpacking themselves.

Where we go there are no
footprints, only inverted shadows:

we can’t pronounce
the name of our country,
the nation to which
we belong.

The sun charts our progress
with her sextant.
Windows open and close,
their frames glistening
like the surface of a lake
seen from below.