Article in Arts
Open the cages and see what you find yourself....
 
 
 

Cage 1

The Hydra Reality

The vision is there again; the three Hydra floating in an ethereal, hyperreal kaleidoscope of ultra-vivid colours. The faces serene, eyes meditatively closed. I remain awake, as the vision continues to drift in mid-air, somehow trying to convey some message, some arcane wisdom. I realise that I haven't slept for days and the mute typewriter has been taunting me as much as the empty page. Inspiration has been absent. The image taunts, as I turn towards the Hydra, almost offering a silent orison, asking for some intervention, divine or wholly human. I must have capitulated to madness now. The empty Absinthe bottle speaks volumes about this; wormwood poisons mingling with the ethanol toxins in my wracked corpus. All around the Hydra is illuminated with a gentle effulgence, I feel a sense of calm, serenity. I couldn't care less if I have tipped over into utter lunacy, this is the first sign all week of some kind of agent of change at work. Desperation has driven this agent of change and as I look at the neon beauty of my Hydra vision, my every twitching muscle fibre reminds me of creativity within and life flowing through the narrow arteries and valves of my personal eco-system. I am at once alive. My eager fingers play a tattoo of keys on my long-silenced typewriter and the verse flows once more:

The Hydra has come;

Prison of silence breached,

Inspiration in webs of aether,

Illuminated unspoken words,

Alcoholic anger dulled,

Blunted,

Light floods my cell,

Day has finally arrived.

The first words written in a week of chaotic forgetfulness. The vision departed, but the essence remains. I return to my typewriter and the keys move with almost automatic rhythm. I abandon myself to the 3 heads of the Hydra and let their collective voice speak through me. I must truly have ascended to great heights or plummeted into the jaws of insanity. Either way, I have returned from the stifling silence.

Cage 2

The Space Behind My Eyes

I had got to the point of saturation, luxury was choking me, stifling me, driving me to utter quantum boredom. The apartment was becoming a decadent in-joke; a last-days-of-Rome affair, white powder littering mirrored glass and empty green bottles of eminent vintage. I choked when I saw my alabaster countenance in the en-suite reflection; I had become all that I hated. But then all you are is what you are, Toni, you are only what we made...wanted to see, you are our projection, out entertainment, our enthusiasms made flesh...Toni, you belong to us, your every molecule...The taunting voices ceased as I stared anew at the taut, surgically-enhanced oval in front of me. Who was I? Every night a new persona; acting out the intimate and ludicrous phantasies and even worse backstage. Come on, Toni, one for the boys, huh? You know this is the only life, Toni...

Cold water brought a vestige of wakefulness in a sleepwalker's life. I straighten my aching spine and exit the scene. The chaise longue sees my other self slumbering, sleeping off another endless hangover as I soundlessly glide out into the hushed hallway. I am now free, out in the ozone, thinking my own thoughts and no longer chained. I descend the service stairs, painfully slowly, 26 floors from the Park Avenue apartments and into a cold November Lexington Avenue. Little Danny the Dead sees me and gives me a thumbs-up through the thin mohair I had given him as a spruce-up gesture. That and $50 dollars and a new guitar. I must be crazy leaving this life behind as my own possessions amount to little more than one holdall and a credit card that was only good as long as it remained unreported as missing. You are living on thin air, Toni...borrowed time...other people's memories, other people's credit...Lexington Avenue's concrete edifices dwarf you as I soar with that unfettered freedom. The freedom of the condemned. But free nevertheless. I laugh as Danny the Dead does his best soft-shoe shuffle and bows whilst whistling a Jerry Garcia riff. My mind was always free. The rest has now followed. The voices subside as I hail a yellow cab and head for JFK. Today is point of ejection. The gilded cage has finally opened.

Cage 3

All that glisters is all there is left

I still see them; my three women, my ever-young brides.

Time cannot diminish them,

My love is eternal, even though it is now a reflection,

A wishful projection in the feathers of a household pet.

The little fellow flies free for an hour every day,

Bringing me solace in the skyward reaches of my concrete square,

A village in the air, 18 floors between me and the streets below,

He is my wings, my little bit of Nirvana, Sartori, heaven if you will.

I always was a dreamer,

Life through a technicolour lens,

Life on a 20 foot screen,

Reality on the margins of my visions.

I really shouldn't have had that one for the road,

Only the bird flies free, I remain rooted to the spot.

Cage 4

Love is always in the margins

We're skirting around our differences, feelings, in fact the entirety of our relationship. You hear yourself say these words and can't quite believe it's happening again. Another sunrise divorce? Territory, that's what it all boils down to. You believe that you are the dominant partner, the breadwinner, the provider. I can't do enough. The house is no longer a refuge. All the component parts are sullied by your tinpot dictatorship. You try to make yourself invisible as the argument spills out into the garden. The inevitable wordless showdown. And you always go back for more mistreatment. We used to be so alike, united by a purpose. The lottery win really ruined us, my winning ticket, no more work for you, a house in The Hamptons...Where did love go? Respect? You turn and see the concrete palace for what it is. And walk off into an uncertain future...And remember some old lyrics:

Where did it all go right?

Flying easy, flying free.

Where did it all go wrong?

Dying a little everyday.

We used to drink our lives to the dregs,

And now we've passed that point,

And there is no point to us...

image

Used only with express written permission

Cage 4b. made after reading "Love is Always in the Margins"

I'm too old for angst. You realise that a caged romance is no romance at all, but there is enough to keep the flame at least an ember. You remember the second verse:

And now we just have to keep on going,

There's nothing for it,

We'll keep it lit,

Flames can burn your fingers,

Burning embers keep you warm.

It's sappy but you turn back after ten steps or so and see the face radiating something beyond the anger. You see love in colours and the crimson anger has mellowed to a yellow glow. You smile and

throw your arms open; part defeat, part victory. The spoils of romance!

Cage 5

Dreaming on a tight budget

My children sleep safely, as the dove flutters near the window ledge,

I see Paris laid out like a vague patchwork,

Somnolent eyes view the midnight sodium bulbs,

Pinpricks of blood orange,

I see my children sleep safely,

As I pace the room vainly trying to compose.

Midnight gives way to dawn,

And still I watch the dove,

Keeping silent vigil,

I finally give in and uncork the whisky;

Scottish remedy for poetic insomnia,

Father's ruin, amber water of life?

I awake to a conference of doves,

Seagulls divebombing,

Darwinian stratgems airbourne,

And on my window ledge.

Paris has faded and the rather more everyday has returned;

Hynagogic state; small recasting of reality.

The dove remains,

Though with a distinctly Paisley pattern in the feathers.

And my children remain, as yet, unborn.

Cage 6

The Politics of Boozing in the Middle of the Day

Indulging in fermented beauty in a Glasgow glass:

Far from the maddening throng.

All I ingest is in front of me,

The analgesic warmth,

The numbing of the pain,

Mostly physical,

As I gaze happily at my divorce papers.

The wow without the flutter:

Leaden proletarian prose,

Words of friendly abuse,

Oaths shared;

Downing expensive lagers in a masquerade

Of the arriviste bourgeoise.

Laughable; as the hordes wolf tapas

And talk of Lanzarote,

Avoiding the real.

image

Used only with express written permission

Cage 6b. The Politics of Boozing in the Middle of the Day

I rearrange my thoughts as the revellers

Go up a few decibels,

And get mired in the present, tense...

Drinking our stances into submission;

Levelled out by Alasace's finest,

We all sing a hymn to Kasteel Cru,

And clutch vainly at reality,

As the day blurs into night.

Cage 7

The Wrong Movie

I was trying to get served in a stifling, overcrowded, Friday night bar-as-Bedlam joint. My tired arms telegraphed unnoticed intent as the painfully fashionable bar staff ignored me with the barely concealed contempt I had grown accustomed to. Five minutes passed. Six minutes, as my raised ten spot note began to wilt. Seven minutes; If I exit now it'll take me ten minutes to circumnavigate my way out of this sweaty fleshpot. Midnight. Cinderella search all but over. I finally get physical and heartily clasp an exquisitely bored looking barkeep who gives me a haughty snort, but accedes to my need for a double vodka on the rocks. The law of diminishing returns states that this first drink will be the best. I turn to a sea of faces, hopeful, some doleful and some blank eyed. Friday night. The crowd clears as I practically swim through a tide of testosterone and oestrogen, not to mention the pheromones of almost shamanistic intent. Mysticism with a good bead of alcohol aboard. Alchemy for desk jockeys like me. I find a perch and I see her. Through the fug of alcohol fumes and belched dinners she transfixes me. She's like a delicate bud in a room full of tackety work boots. She is moving to the music, elegant shapes thrown as her eyes remain closed. Her outfit at odds with the emperor's new clothes commonly (not) worn here. She is swathed in cottons, or fine silks, I can't tell from this distance. The music is changing as she moves, as does my febrile consciousness; I am no longer in Wicker Park swaying to techno slurry, I am in Dar-es-Salaam or at least somewhere out of this sweaty Chicago fun pit. She seems to oscillate in front of me almost floating in the thin oxygen. I blink, shake my tired and tight head and try to move towards her. But she is gone. An vision of the oasis at the oasis. Mirage woman. Sum of all my desires. I never should have left the old country. I shed a slight tear and quickly sink the vodka, letting its numb anaesthesia overwhelm me. I try to summon verse, but I remain dully focused on all of the writing bodies and weekend berserkers trying to mate, mammals at play. I shake my head and see a single dove escape the tawdry scene through the smoked glass of The Aberdeen. The verse I had inside my caged memory returns;

Let me fly, cage me not,

For it is my destiny to be at one with the wind.

I see from my perch that you too are not supposed

To be caged either;

So take courage,

Take flight,

Leave the pursuit of desire behind,

For it is only ever fleeting,

The longing remains.

I place my tumbler down and make my way to the door in time to see the dove reach an apogee above the teeming streets and smokers. I am out in the air again and feel the freedom of the dove.

My vision holds me. I can still see her dancing, whirling in the bar, even though my wish fulfillment from home remains there. The longing remains. The lust is defeated, for now.

Cage 8

Current 93

I kneeled aghast at my altar. My three-headed Hydra had become a living, illuminated entity. Three weeks of a banishing ritual and a further three weeks of trying to attract an inspiring presence. Veni Creatus Spritus. Come creative being. I fell onto my back as The Hydra's triple faces irradiated my attic studio with pure blue light. I'd read about this, the usual sources; Crowley, Osman Spare, Israel Regardie and tried similar rituals to bring about Current 93. It had been difficult, but now bathed in the electric blue, I realised the awesome presence of a higher magick, a force. The fear was palpable and I felt bathed in the effulgence, surrounded by the total all-encompassing energy. I rose to my feet, body in spasms of shock and felt slightly nauseous. The Hydra seemed to bore directly into my very consciousness, asking questions of me, enveloping me in its power, rooting me to the very spot I shook in. I couldn't quite fathom the archaic language of the angels they seemed to be using. I was a mere novice magician and had been warned by my well-read brother of this occult dabbling. I was beyond dabbling, though, and this evening had proved that. I felt the force resonating around the wooden beams and shuddering slightly through the uneven floor. I placed my palms together in a namaste gesture and then moved them apart, to banish any fears I may have. My vision faded. I found myself on my knees in the kitchen, holding a child's toy, some relic from a cereal box. A three-headed being rendered in plastic. Wishful thinking. I walked the weary stairs to my attic and found it in complete darkness. I flicked the light on to discover my altar was empty, a bare table in an equally bare room. I opened my palm to find The Hydra figure pulse with light. Current 93? Or merely some small alchemy on a dull night? The plastic seemed to melt away and I was left with a bluish tinge on my palm. The room remained as I found it. I trudged down the stairs to my bedroom and had the first night of dreamless sleep in years. I may not have conjured up anything much, but had cured my insomnia. That, in itself, was all the magic I needed. I wrote a few words of warning to myself and threw out my spellbooks and arcane paraphernalia:

One can only heal one's self,

With knowledge of nothing but the self.

All else is folly;

Reaching out to a higher power,

For vainglorious gain,

Will only return you to the place,

From whence you sprang,

The circle begins and ends with you.

It was then I noticed The Hydra tattoo on my exposed forearm. I'd been a somnambulist for years and here was one of the legacies. I laughed and boiled a kettle, I was going to enjoy this cup of tea, more than any I had made.

Cage 9

Skull to skull dialogue.

Desperation was the imprimatur, it was your means of breaking through from one reality to the next. Perhaps a moment of divine madness; William S Burroughs in one ear and Frankie Howerd in the other, fighting for space in the pre-frontal cortex. Perhaps inspired art installation as nervous breakdown, a manifestation of the fast-twitch hyper-kinesis of the febrile Now. You lie on the floor, holding onto to what seemed like a spinning globe as all stimuli was overloading itself into a tightly packed analogue. Your tired 4 square inches of consciousness. The synapses misfiring. You capitulate to the madness then awake to a blank sheet. The sun seeped through grey glass as you raise yourself to your feet. Too many days spent in the hyper-real. The room empty of the TV, radio and laptop is now a place of sanctuary, peace, silence. The chasm you have stepped into is one that was entirely necessary. Desperation is the agent of change. You mouth this as you open the windows to the combustion of traffic and the omnipresent deliveries to the supermarket next door. The conveyer belt of commerce never sleeps. Your reality remains behind the double glaze as curtains are hastily closed and ears blocked with foam capsules. You allow the gloom to swallow you; conscious thought a string of remembered playing cards and the tarot deck of fatalism. Other people's coping stategies becoming your credo. The silence envelopes. And the desperation begins to tear the thin membrane between you and the purely imagined. Desperation becomes the orison. Muscle memory strikes the keys and you compose a difficult doxology. 508AM. Life lived outwith the text is worthless, you decide as the flickering VDU illuminates all that is required. It's only then that you notice the headline: “Actor dies onstage: the gods of drama have their sport” Mocking. You now realise that this is the limbo they spoke of. No Hell in capitation. Only purgatory in marginal lower case. Holding onto that skull was a case in point. But in any case you have broken through to the next reality and it appears that is varies not too greatly from the last. You continue to compose, write and fret over each line. Your hands the soft hands of the indoor life. The pale alabaster of the scribe. You smile as you get used to being dead in one sense and alive in another. This business is a strange one right enough...You neatly tap a tattoo, a small sonnet and a miniscule haiku, you are pleased that the words continue to flow even after the heart has ceased its rhythm. The brain is still active. Your new nether corpus continues to sing:

image

Used only with express written permission

Cage 9b. made after reading "Skull to Skull Dialogue"

I chant anew, another day;

More of the same in the afterlife,

Adventures in purgatory?

Limbo seems no different,

I still see the sun come up,

But no longer have to place shades,

On tired eyes,

No longer does the migrane knife

Twist in the skull.

The new being is much the same,

I still get easily bored and frustrated,

But no one hears my words,

Only I see them,

Wraith presence in my infernal machine.

You sense a smiling at the sonnet, the haiku writes itself:

You seem to have defeated,

The space 'tween here and the Other,

And in so doing: Persist!

Cage 10

The Sonnet for between the worlds

I'm safe within my womb,

Leaving careworn days behind,

I'm far from the thoughts of you;

Who are you my silent guardians?

I awoke the other day,

A brief intake of breath,

And then I slumbered,

Now I am flesh made new.

I see I am a new-born babe,

Though I have lived many lives,

Or so it would seem,

Maybe this is all illusion,

The ghost in someone else's machine,

A vision yet to be dreamed?

Cage 11

The Freedom Within

The sun is blinding, omniscient, forever tugging at the eyes and somehow disturbing my conscious thought. I'm trying to break the nocturnal life, but insomnia ensued and so I went back to the all-day dreamscape and the all-nighter sessions. It suits me. It means that while others sleep, I sing for my veritable supper. My wife couldn't abide it; that and my rages at her past infidelities with those “in the light” dudes, the white-teeth and firm, easy-smile death-grip handshake business bods she so desired me to be one of. I failed at the first hurdle: I'm no entrepreneur. Words are my stock and words may remain my undoing in this rubbish world, this world of endless retread and hyper-commerce. She booted me out of our little love nest, the last straw was the car, I'd foolishly taken it on a wee spin around the grounds of that damned 14th century castle in Northumberland, another attempt to heal the marital wounds, the veritable chasm that we were widening day-by-day-by-day. I crashed the bloody hulking tank at 20 miles an hour and got pulled by the traffic feds. Embarrassing business. Still, I was alive and the car seemed to matter more than the corpus driving it. You can cheat death, but not life it would seem. Anyway, after a few months of chaos, I found the new purpose here on the inside. The opposite of the prison I had placed myself in. I missed the intimacy, but not the charade we'd become. She loved me so much, she allowed me to leave, that was how I was seeing it. I now look out of my faux-French windows and see the light and know that it is only outside illumination, the internal light will not dim, whatever the time of day. I throw out lyrics as I boil the kettle and draw the drapes;

image

Used only with express written permission

Cage 11b. made after reading "The Freedom Within"

I was breaking the body;

Using the mind as a toy,

Leaving out the essential maintenance,

I was heading for the edge.

The precipice was steep,

The price was high,

The water deep,

I drowned in the reality of the moment...

Time now has given me a second shot,

Ejection into The Now,

And if you can forgive me,

I'll write some songs for you,

The ones I never wrote,

First time around,

The songs for me...

I get a full awareness of my own particular madness, my muse, myself! I laugh out loud at the nonsense I endured at my own hands and rub my temples with an electrically charged hand.

The day waxes as opposed to wanes. The glass is neither empty nor full, but my mind is as free as its ever going to be. I hear a spring Robin sing his sibilant lines, airbourne poetry for the day.

Cage 12

Postponing the liminal

The door is open; I shall not cross its threshold,

Until I am sure I am alive.

I feel too far into control,

To want to lose this feeling,

The essence of my being,

Out there in the aether,

The outside a phantasy,

Nature as a browser window,

Friends all but virtual,

Sounds all digital,

Life but a set of pixels,

On an ever-bright screen.

I will step over into The Real;

Maybe tomorrow?

Cage 13

Dreaming from the bottom of a tumbler.

And so the dance begins;

Little figures and shapes are thrown,

Small lifetimes are being grown

And so the dance begins

I see her across the room,

Lighting up the bar in the turquoise gloom,

Writing our futures with every motion,

I await her gaze,

I awaite, amazed,

At her pure being.

Woman of light,

Descending from the twilight air;

Maybe I've had too much ale tonight,

Maybe the dance is but a wish...

Cage 14

The Tea Ritual

You're making tea again;

Another useful Sunday chore,

Keeping the metaphors from the door,

And I keeping writing lines you'll never read.

I'm drinking tea again;

Another little ritual we have,

Another way of grabbing moments;

Of silence between moments of silence,

The science of avoidance?

And we're having wine again;

Another way to numb us,

And get the mood between us,

Raised somehow,

However futile.

Notes

Greg Carter had previously contributed to my article "Kinesis" and I was intrigued by the idea of us collaborating further. The end result are these "14 Cages", images by Greg, words by me. Greg's highly original ultra-vivid and other-wordly visions inspired me to complete 14 pieces of prose/poetry/lyrics based wholly on these images. I approached the project as an almost Zen exercise, responding in an immediate "one take"; not being too analytical or over-editing my pieces. It was a new departure for me, as I had only previously collaborated with another lyricist in "The Lunacy Board" music project (which is ongoing), so working with a visual artist was challenging and envigorating, I hope to complete further work with Greg as I feel that this project has caused me to work in a radically different fashion, which I am grateful to Greg for suggesting.

 

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About the Author 

Greg Carter
During the past 20 years, I have explored most of the niches offered in the developing digital technology: multimedia developer, website dev

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