thirteen ways of looking at a snowscape
“Location (6)”, Hans Op De Beeck, 2008: Singapore Biennale
Have we been here before?
botched climate planning
blue chip imagination
clearly not enough
O verily how great are the works of the Creator
He layeth barren the verdant plains, he leaveneth all color
He bringeth down the crown of the proud birch
He stoppeth up the waters, yea even unto their deepest reaches
He causeth the very air to smoke and blur like a lamp put out
The might of the sun is as nothing to Him, nor the capricious breezes
Tremble ye who know not the name of the Maker
24kg wood ash
2 kg volcanic sand
4L housepaint “Arctic White” (non-toxic, waterproof, EzyCoat)
5kg albino elephant bone
13kg fossilised dandruff
67kg talcum (Silky Smooth Baby Soft TM)
30kg milk powder
42kg instant mashed potato flakes
49kg coconut flakes
900g Monosodium glutamate
May Contain Nuts
Not quite aiyowishiboughtthatthickmerinowoolcardiganonsale
but certainly goodthingirememberedmyextrajumper
and perhaps even aboutthesameastheofficeaircononarainyday or hokkaidowasmuchworseinspring1997
for those accustomed to alwayslikethatthenhavetoroadmarch or thisiswhyiwanttoemigrate
in diewaitkenaheatstroke and reallyfeellikehavingicekachang conditions
The hard September that broke my grandfather was worse than this
and it was only rain, premature and pitiless, daggerfuls of the stuff coming down
free of charge, rendering his whole naked lorryload of rice worthless.
Grandfather was a tough man, he’d outlived the Japs, the Communists,
he’d traded his pre-war fortune for a sore back and a labourer’s diet,
but this was the bayonet in the side, this was machine cruelty, and he
said so in so many kicks to his ruptured, mudsucked tyres, breaking a toe
in the telling of it. , his wife my grandmother would have said.
Snowfall in summer, downpour in dry heat, that operatic, cosmic signifier
of a world gone awry, some terrible injustice done. He healed
and fathered children who fathered children, lived to see them slush
through decades of bewildering growth, a deluge of riches, his hair gone white
in its proper time, a pipe in his mouth, more often than not, smoke-screened.
Read the papers and took them lightly. Watched the sky for undue clouds.
Are those rabbit ears
or the upturned feet
of a monk atoning
In outer Cairo they met on the backs of camels approaching the desert, but in Tibet surefooted Yaks were preferred when available. They timed their assignations to coincide with the Yangtze floods, and avoided solar eclipses except in Jutland. But here at last they could meet unaccosted by prying eyes for miles, veiled by the powdery fog in the shadows of bare trees, provided they were always careful to retrieve every scrap of clothing, and brush away their tracks, when they finally deigned to part.
“Not here, Andre.
The blood will show for miles”
a prolonged and quiescent ceasefire
settled over the map
silence as premonition:
the clean sheets
the intact branches
the prospect of thaw
The first to go is your sense of place, and then of sense.
Dexterity declines, sight fades to blue, then white,
then darkens entirely. The memory of your first kiss
slips shyly out of view, and your mother’s face follows, tsking.
The bullies grab their tawdry, empty schoolbags and trip
you one last time as they escape. Exeunt the seven cars you drove
and loved, the sixteen women who thought you were the one.
Farewell the coffeeshop on the corner of the narrow street,
the saltfish stench of passing bumboats on dark green rivers.
Every leaf on every tree fallen away long since, many more
than the days you remember, more than the days you forget.
Now you have shivered off your clothes, and now you are a mark
on the landscape, and now not even a mark. Turn over the white pages
always, a fresh canvas
07 October 2008 16:54 hours