Walking into Sculptures
Different things go unnoticed in different times. A crusader, for example, didn’t discriminate between an organic and a non-organic apple. In our day, a twenty-foot-high Sophie Ryder sculpture in Salisbury had to be moved because texting pedestrians kept cracking their heads on it. And this despite a six-and-a-half-foot archway in it and over the footpath to prevent head-cracking. ‘This was the secret purpose of the piece, to show that we value communication with others over things and vistas,’ said no-one at all. No-one at all until I said it! I can say it because I am comfortable with the Accidental Fallacy: that is, it is in unforeseen, contingent events that an artwork’s meaning is found. Creation happens gradually. The bin that holds the apple core is more important than the tree.
The longest tunnel in the world opens in Switzerland, barely longer than the previous record-holder, and all the world’s tunnel enthusiasts can think of is the Chinese one that’s going to be twice as long. This is the face of progress today – increment, increment, increment, then BANG, an open-handed smack on the zygomatic bone that says: citizen of the past, these are the decrees of the new era. Tunnels can be longer than countries, countries can be weaker than oligarchs, oligarchs can be stupider than laws, laws can be obscurer than motives, motives can be darker than tunnels. Change is always too fast, isn’t it? Change that doesn’t happen too fast is called profit. I myself am near an inconveniently high Scottish mountain tonight, and the only digging I fancy is delving out an Erik-shaped hole a third of the way up the northern slope, where I would die if I tried to climb it. You respect nature’s power most when you let it kill you.
Oh, how I love the twenty-six mediaeval cathedrals of England, but it’s only Ripon I’ve stood outside with my nose dribbling blood onto the pavement after a prang on the road. Ripon and my memory have a special relationship now. On the one hand, stunned, I don’t remember a single name on a wall monument or if there was any gilding on the stalls or the cast of the light through the east window or the smell of the damp Saxon crypt. On the other hand, I recall the neutral (nice, even) name Ripon like a synonym for accident. I can worry it like a stone. And it even makes me smile to think of how I looked in the horizontal mirror (placed between the choir and the altar so visitors can gaze at the ceiling) and tried to tell if my nose was broken and if this was my new, suffering self-portrait.
Please, God, No More Referendums
Big idea to improve society: never ask people what they think about anything. It’s fine to turn over an issue publicly, like church fathers puzzling through whether Limbo exists, but demanding an answer spoils the scholastic beauty of the question. I’d as soon dissect a fairy. And, anyway, the choice made can lead to things not implied by the choice, or even in the choice’s orbit. Remember when the legendary wizard of Tarland cut open a cheese at the fair and was confronted with a swarm of bees? He couldn’t put them back in the cheese, and, frankly, what would that even mean? It wouldn’t be 50:50 in the polls about flags, memberships, or sovereignties if you asked people if they’d like to be left alone.
Erik Kennedy’s poems have appeared in (or are forthcoming in) places like 3:AM Magazine, The Island Review, and Oxford Poetry in the UK, Ladowich, Prelude, and PUBLIC POOL in the US, and Landfall and Sport in New Zealand. He is the poetry editor for Queen Mob’s Teahouse. He lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Image credit: Martin Cathrae