“If I focus I can escape my body, float up and out, over cities my feet never touched…”
Don’t hear many of those stories now. Why bother? It’s so easy to slide these wormholes
called computer screens, to swing down via satellite and explore unknowing lands.
At this distance you fit in my palm, might be a hunk of amethyst, a glassy blue eye
winking, chipped and misshapen, out of a worn and wrinkled face.
Brown earth severed by highways, black saw-tooths, shadows of rivers
collapsed like veins in a body hollowed by surgeons, drained to its last glint of blood.
My mouse cursor is a small white hand. I click and the fingers grab hold,
haul you up, down, side to side and in circles as if following this dance
that I am leading. I am the surgeon now. I have you on my table: silent, unaware
my eyes, sterile knives, are hovering, undressing you one click at a time.
Closer: your jewel eye is cut into a frenzy of squares: the cat’s cradle
of suburbia. Around it, minefields: grey ulcers, puckering into mouths
black with necrosis, reservoirs, sparkling shards of smashed glass, giddy whorls
of cut earth like a child’s careless clay fingerprint or the innards of a tree.
Geography is a language and maps are stories. Humans are compulsive
scribblers, can’t help but scratch ourselves into every blank slate.
I switch modes to learn the names of your streets: Chloride, Bromide, Sulphide,
a cris-crossing textbook of squares and roundabouts. Argent, Crystal, Kaolin…
these are the kings and queens, the threads of history from which you sew your now.
A planned city, built from equal-sized blocks, all right angles and infallible logic.
I grew up in a city like that: such sweet false faith in my sense of direction!
Choked me to learn that some squares are triangles, some straight lines swallow you
right back to the beginning like a serpent’s salty tail. So cities build people
at the same time as people build cities. Communities shape and are shaped
by their surroundings. Whether ploughed fields or metal metropolis,
engineered lands for engineered bodies, engineered lands are engineered bodies
– cyborgs. Wherever possible, civilisation programs out discomfort:
the heat, the cold, the thoughts that stand in front of sleep, all correctible
with the flick of a switch or some other little white promise. But still
there are things that pulse beneath the broken apart soil, the stitched up skin.
Even Second Life craves the occasional spontaneity of violence
and googling Earth is not walking it.
Originally published in Meuse Press Anthology ‘This Broken Hill’, eds B De Franceschi, M Sofield & L Wicks, Meuse Press 2010