The Visitor (22) 

The Visitor (22)

By John Cheese, in collaboration with Tommy Mica

The Rock and the Dog

The clocktower silent is,
Whilst the war is on fire
Around Pedro’s mountain.
Spanish children scamp
In the dry, yellow dust,
Knowing not that the war is.
Suddenly, a bloom of orange,
Bursts its boil
Over the rim of Pedro’s sombrero.
The specked children
Cower in their dens,
Knowing not that this war is.
Crushed petals, red-streaked,
Float from the sky,
A vice versa balloon race
Labelled with the death
From which it comes.
The clock-tower silent is
And tolls not when the war ends.
The Spanish children,
Skeletal stiff in their damned dens,
Know not that their end was.
Staccato statues,
They prick the air around
With their sharpened bones.
The clock-tower Pedro is –
His limbs cat-strung,
Gut-tight, bone bitter,
As an effigy
Of the tower that was.
His mind, clock-wound,
Hands awry, unnumbered is.
Away to the south is
A red-stained rock
Where the bitter battle was,
The clock-tower Spaniard,
A black pin silhouetted
To the misty north distance,
Where Pedro’s mountain is,
Is as solitary as the rock is.
A Chirico humming silence
Tightens the purring affinity
Of pin and red rock
Where a whining dog spits.
Away to the east is
The accumulating clouds
Of an imminent storm
Which will wet the dust
That deadens death’s hiss, where the war was.
The dog beneath the rock is,
Snarls at the black pin,
At that horizon-flaw.
It mourns its soldier-master,
O moustached brigand
That fed it red meat
Before the bitter battle was.
The clock-tower Spaniard
Ticks tears for his children
Who uncomprehending corpses are.
The dog breathes its last
And the red rock glistens
Where the rain of the storm is.

The Killer Antelope

A square, generally yellow, windowless, stuffy attic
Holds within its claustrophobic compass
A stuffed, glassy-eyed antelope, rigid as the attic’s air.
Of course, since windowless, the yellow and the arch antelope
Cannot be seen by the visitor through the impenetrable gloom
As there is no permanent method of casting yellow light
In the lachrymose attic of antique atmosphere.
The door stands almost perpetually shut,
So, once again, the interior is as dark as ebony,
And the Poet is unable to discern the form of the stuffed antelope.
He is alone in the attic with this stiff, standing statue:
No sound. Not even the flap of the sparrow’s wings,
Nor the unseen rustle of the coming night through dusk.
The tears of the air drip down the invisible yellow wall,
But even they are soundless as the stiff, stuffed beast.
The Poet crouches in a corner which he cannot calculate,
From the tendency of the direction of his thought,
Whether north pointing or south pertaining.
The strong silence persists, survives its own oppression,
And reaches its perfect strands over the standing air.
Who knows what positively lurks in the opposite corner,
Behind the central imminence of the unlooming antelope?
A red tiger recently escaped from its own metaphor?
A silver-suited Shylock selfishly clasping a valuable ornament
Or the mirror-image of our cowering Poet?
The dark makes the answer nigh impossible
Unless the blood-peering Poet creeps carefully
To his opposite corner, never leaving the walls’ warmth.
He will not manage to pluck his courage, pizzicato prominent,
To wreak this journey of wet, black, humid crawl.
Suddenly, the antelope shifts in the dark!
It paws the dusty floor, its muzzle panting softly.
The Poet knows not this movement,
For his fists cram his ears to blot out the silence.
Better his own silence than that not man-made.
He did not hear the antelope’s tentative exit
From stuffed oblivion nor, of course, saw its progress.
Only the Reader understands the Poet’s fear,
Only we can see the creaking, shifting beast.
Where does it shift? Where does it tend?
Only the antique antelope knows, only it understands.
Although unseen, we know it creeps Poetwards,
But we pretend it’s the opposite direction.
Ho do we, indeed, know that its direction is such?
Truthfully, we can only guess, we can only hope.
A sensible suggestion the Reader makes:
Leave and search for a yellow torch to light the scene!
Pull yourself from the Poem’s claws,
Fetch weapons, guns of green, black bullets!
We must save the cowering, deafened Poet!
This we accomplish and return, but a shock meets us:
The attic is empty, we know that the blackness hides nothing.
The Poet and antelope have disappeared,
The torch is now superfluous, we do not use it.
Guns of green, black bullets – mere tautologies.
How did the crouching, fearful Poet meet his death?
How did the antelope crush its purposed prey?
How did they dim into mutual nothingness?
These questions point to possible answers,
One being that Poet is now Reader, or can that really be?
But where is the killer antelope
Who was stuffed too stiff in the lachrymose attic
On top of this mansion, under night’s hood?
He roams the night through forests of sick silence.
The gibbous moon sheds its yellow gloom
Through the criss of branch and cross of leaf,
Silhouettes the slowly shifting antelope.
The attic now does not exist, nor does the Poet,
Nor does the Reader, or can that really be?

The Story of the Pseudo-Art Master

As two Lapland antelopes locked their antlers in friendly combat, the other farmyard animals gathered around to hear the odds on favourite for victory in the story competition. (Rumours were that, as well as the main prize of an all-expenses-paid trip to the Plains of Harchwee and Ka, Castle Neb (Publishers Extraordinary) would publish the winning story in their reputable broadsheet (currently enjoying its centenary year as a family-owned literatum)).

“Huzza! Huzza! Huzza!,” brayed the heraldic donkey (with large posthorn) to alert the gathering that the intermission was over and that the farmer himself was about to tell his tremendous tale:

Hey-Day! Alack, Alack, I must, I suppose, leave my drowsy somnolence…

“Superfluity!!” screamed a pestish beast.

…to tell you all my tremendous tale.

Thomas Michael lived in London in 1974, somewhere near Croydon. In those days, home videos were not available and he travelled daily to the West End (where the entertainments were centred) to work as a projectionist in a large Leicester Square cinema. As a child, he had wanted to be a television news cameraman, his ambition to peer through a viewfinder and "steal" the scene for unseen millions. He wielded no lying medium, such as brush or pen. His art was perfection itself. If he did not manage to become such a cameraman, he would have liked to be a professional photographer. Not quite so satisfactory, but the next best thing. However, he became a cinema projectionist - the third best thing? We shall see, for my tremendous tale is about to begin.

“Mere opusculum!” laughed some naughty nanny.

Dodging the IRA terrorist bombs that were rife those days in that area, he used to arrive at 11 a.m. and left about Midnight to return south. He projected many films in his time, for example "The Sound of Music", "The Horror of the Furniture Removers", "The House of Whipcord", "The Exorcist", "The Hotel of Free Love", "Blotting Up The Dreams" and so on.

The job was so routine, he yearned for some other excitement. But Thomas Michael had a sense of humour - a veritable asset in that day and age. Not only did he have that quirky aspect, he also possessed what was then known as an "avant garde" taste in art. His hero was Warhol.

He decided to play a prank on one night's audience. So, the weekend before, he went into his living-room with his own home-movie camera. He emerged several hours later with an evil grin butterflying over his naughty face. Several days later, the cinema audience having just seen "Horror From The Skies", ending in a mind-blowing B-feature plane crash scene, were now settling in a good mood for the main sex film. The canned music softly hummed behind their costly chitter-chatter. Soon, the vast auditorium dimmed, the huge neo-Victorian chanderlumes faded, the tireless chatter tired and the incessant mealy-mouthed musak gradually sicked up silence. All stared up expectantly.

In the near dark, the towering pleats of the velvetine curtains hummed open on their electric rollers to reveal the empty, but horrifyingly potential, oblong tunnel-end of the silver screen. The MGM lion roared from its plinth and the film began. The quality of the image abruptly deteriorated and, instead of the sharp bright colours of typical scrolling credits and the tortuous electronics of a trendy theme, there appeared, planted in the middle of the most expensive screen in London, the flickering image of a domestic television set. Through the flishflash of the amateur film-maker's carelessness, the astonished audience glimpsed a strange hand reaching out from the foreground to switch on the set. And then, they could just discern the programme on the TV screen - one of those dreadful "soaps" which inundated the public's consciousness at that time. In black and white.

Thomas Michael, up in his little booth, grinned maliciously. Since the audience had already seen this classic of the small screen in better circumstances (i.e. on a colour TV set in the warm comfort of their living-rooms without the "intervention" of a cheap holiday-movie camera) and since they had not come to see it anyway, they began to boo and hiss violently. He continued to grin maliciously, as he heard the increasing riot below. This escapade would cost him his job, but the excitement was worth it.

Soon, he could hear the "Ee-Aw, Ee-Aw, Ee-Aw" of approaching policecars. Then there erupted the shrill whistles as the force broke into the auditorium with the concomitant chaotic yapping of snarling policedogs. Of course, Thomas Michael was not unoccupied during those interminable moments. He had switched on the houselights and was leaning precariously from his booth, as he filmed the mayhem milling amid the plush seats of the upper circle. He recorded, too, with his cheap movie camera, the torn limbs, the rabid dogs plastering distemper all over the velvet fittings, the helmetless policemen and their bleeding truncheons, the frothing faces and blood-balled eyes and, not without a growing sense of humour, he re-recorded the still flickering cinema screen, the TV upon it and the flesh-coloured hand that reached out like God's to switch it off. In due course, they arrested Thomas Michael and threw his unloaded camera into the red rubble that the auditorium had become.

By Peter Jeffery

Let me say (no I won’t, snaps Des) before venturing comment upon part (xiv) that I am shocked & appalled to find that ‘The Visitor’ (another book of the same name (?)) begins afresh on page 49 (SIC). Stories within stories are one thing & novels within novels quite another (obviously).

On Part (xiv) I will not labour obvious cross-references both to other parts of ‘The Visitor’ (rosemary, human head, onyx (chips -:- field), the flapping lens (vulture moth & probably at least a dozen other references to eel brooches, diverse flappers & lenses of TV cameras) etc. etc.) & to other pieces not in ‘The Visitor’ (e.g. the ‘For PFJ’ about Chips Auger, to John Cleese/Cheese of Monty Python (N.b. the cheese shop sketch etc. etc.)). Actually, the whole piece up to the crossed out section (SIC) (is this supposed to be read – it is still quite legible & could be intended as remaining deleted but an integral part of ‘The Visitor’?) is reminiscent of large numbers of previous passages including another dream scene…

The crossed out passage (SIC) intimates that the sub-sub-narrator of this dream is Lorg Dagg (sub-narrator Ab Bintiff, narrator DFL (Cf. Comments on ‘The Core’) & the following passages confirm it – although Dagg is not the only one who was in the lotto hatched room (crones & camber were there too), he was the only one to survive (or was he??) &, more certainly, the only one likely to mention that ‘Even Edalpo has gone’ (for obvious reasons)… (This possibility* gives rise to the question as to whether, in that case, the beings called pseudo-Egnis or pseudo-art Master could be real Egnis or art Master or, possibly, (& I quake at the possibility) some pseudo-pseudo-Egnis & pseudo-pseudo-art Master)…

*The claimant of the title of Real-DFL of part (x) (SIC), it will be recalled, was shown as the clearest internal evidence to be a pseudo-DFL … & the further evidence could have been adduced (but was not) that he mentions a mole on the right cheek whereas it is an indisputable fact that the real DFL has a mole on the left cheek. An examination of the picture // what picture? – Ed. // at the end of Part (xiv) shows a mole, or something of the sort, on the right cheek of the face. On this evidence (& on the suspicions aroused a couple of times above) it is clear that this is a pseudo-DFL &, at once, our suspicions of this claimant to the title of being the real Visitor (as opposed, presumably, to the preceding pseudo-Visitor), increase tenfold…


…On then, to the lift indicator which reminds me of the clock in ‘Wheels of Time’, only this time it seems more to be a case of wheels of space … If (& this is possible) the revolving clock of W of T refers to time revolving until the same point is continually re-reached, the indicator of the lift may be held to indicate space revolving until the same place is reached again. Digression: the solar system revolves round the galaxy at approx. 12 miles a second & the sun should, eventually, come to the same point again, but so great is the distance that the last time the sun was here (if it was ever here before) there was no planet as Earth & may (if it gets back here again) have sucked the Earth into itself the next time around – like a man travelling round the Circle Line buying & eating apples as he goes: end of digression. Parallels could, of course, be drawn with diverse circles: the Hindu wheel, death & rebirth, the wheel of fortune of the tarot, the philosophical zodiac etc. etc. … the vague suggestion of a face inside the wheel of the lift indicator is duly noted & lends the circle a kind of sentiency & possible links between the be-numbered circle & lotto hatches (with faces peering through) also come to mind. (As Shed says of the texture of the wood hinting at a face ‘we shall not go into that’ as is well for it might end up in a discussion of deity or will or purpose or something else of the kind, lying behind the wheeling of the Cosmos*).

*Or, for that matter, authors lying behind the wheelings of the story!

On, now, deeper into Shed’s story. I shall pass over the interpolations of the gathering, remarking only their ignorance of preceding portions of ‘The Visitor’ & return to the heroine in the lift. As she moves from floor to floor she seems to be revolving through previous Visitor passages & fragments of the tale flash by as if her life recalled in an instant by a woman drowning. The art Master’s prying camera, the moonface of DFL or pseudo-DFL, the grinning beard of a crazy commentator or the slippers of the Di-Jo crones & the hideous visage of Edalpo. And then – the lift stops. ‘The Visitor’ has ceased to revolve (= the break from the previous story in which this tale is told?) mayhap the point of entry into the story is reached; & she becomes part of the woodwork. One may compare this with the eating of the apple on the Circle Line, the sun sucking in the Earth (cf. THOTBL), escape from the wheel of death & rebirth (= enlightenment, the nirvana of the Buddhist system) etc. etc. … Of the vision of the burning fence I need, perhaps, only say that maybe she is now become pure = nothing (= nirvana again?). The other vision must refer to the work of Charles Dipp (the infamous) & the clock tower may refer to her own clock…

Moving on, I am very glad to see that you included a comment upon the comment on my previous comments, a good touch, this…

…on to Sade’s story … I shall say that the multi-layers of story fit in well with the general scheme of things which appears in the current portion of ‘The Visitor’ (Cf., e.g. some of the remarks near the top of p. 53 (SIC)). This multiple layer nature, already a heavy element in ‘Orlando’ is here intensified by the interpolations of the listeners plus the fact that it is now part of a novel within a novel … It is quite remarkable, I think, how much the piece gains from its surroundings … The comments, or some of them, thrown in by the listeners remind me of the way that I was interpolating in the story when you last read it to me at Easter back in Pearly Surrey…

(written 1974)
to be continued...

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