The Visitor (39) 

The Visitor (39)

Ka and Harchwee
By The art Master

“A Kaleidoscopic, Biblical edifice towers gauntly before the squinting eyes of uncounted and unaccountable hordes. The Beast within is unseen, unheard, but they still squint, shade their eyes from the burning sky, to see He who Comes, to glimpse the explosion of ice and death…” (A famous author)

The sun is weak and watery. The black bladder of the sun seems to be always setting in insipid array over the plains of Ka, Harchwee and Toons.

One such plain is in Harchwee, unmapped by those topographical flunkeys in Lancaster, dubbed the Plain of Beyondo by some undiscussed tomes beside me now and the Shift of the Infinite Steps by others. As I draw nearer, the third part of my novel unfolds before me, each nook and cranny of its story, all the dark corners (chimney-corners, kyphotic angulations, forked and furcated crossways, hook-nosed cusps, V-shaped crutches, akimbo zigzags) of its narrative intricacies, every labyrinthine and mazy catacomb of its tortuous tale.

dream wending to its ending
crosspath bending
around the fingers
of the fingerpost
reaching paths that ask
the way away to themselves.
noisy pylons and sexy fences
border the way to the way
that leads to the Plain of Steps
a mere moaning mileternity
from the dry sea
and thankless is your badcome.
dream blending
through creepish crossways
and dim and dimming dingles
if you are deaf
turn left
or you are dead!

silent Plain
perching over the arid waves
once a clifftown
where its denizens
did shade red eyes
from the forking sky to the fore
and the screeching streets
to the hind.
bind your sheaves!
weave your thatch
as thick as summer growth!
for lo! The winter winging crow
wings of wind
and beak of flaming fork
skin of darkest sin!

dream ending
its crosswork toppling
from stitch to stitch
clifftop tipping
into the dying sea.
how could they appreciate
that you came
through crosswinds
on screaming feet
to save them from this end?
how can you express
the words
that even now are dimming
on your bleeding lips?
how can you?
the crow’s on you
and the crowd’s a crew
of sunken craft
of novels and suppurating crosswords.

The Shift of the Infinite Steps is a plain beneath the bruised sun of Harchwee; it is a plain of non-Euclidean, Escherine, non- and pseudo-geometrical, promiscuous, indiscriminate, untopographical steps. As far as my eye can see, there are the ups and downs of steps and stairs, ladders and runged gradients, calibrated hills, scalar ramps, graded dips, hierarchical slopes and skewbacks, herringbone escarpments…

As far as my eye can see is this nightmare of endless steppery. Some lead down, some lead up, but none join each to each or seem not to do so. Therefore, my considered conclusion is that both the going up and the going down are perfectly pointless. A problem with no solution for the mountaineer or alpinist. A descriptive impossibility for the careful writer or the careless hack.

However, my eye does not drift endlessly over these ascents and descents, does not frisk forever with these flighty stairs. For towering at the centre of some horrid contamination of steps in the distance is the edifice, the tall and leaning, many-hatched erection, the broody brickwork containing that which must be hid from your eyes until the dream has ended. It efforms, in standfast incubation, from the deserted steppery, looms, in carven but inchoate genesis, from the massive slopes, rears, almost beastlike with many eyes, over our next scene.

The next scene? A scene from some B film, no doubt.

The rocket zooms over the bestepped plain and drops our two heroes to a particularly large and unwieldy ladder. Dazed, they skim the nightmare around them with peppered eyes. They shiver under the powerless sun and draw closer to each other.

Lorg Dagg, the mountaineer and epic poet, looks wanly at his blonde-haired flunkey, Ed Alpo, and shrugs.

“Is this death?” he asks.

No answer, for Ed is mouthing lunatic platitudes to himself.

Far from this plain, the rest of those lands sat in motley forms: dim pastures, Pyrrenean rucks and crags, cracked meadows, thrilling waterdrops and cliffedge hamlets.

(…secret farms, hanging towns, bedewed fens and fells, shivery badlands, arable fields, granite and onyx escarpments, silver shores and strange inland seas.)

How, then, the Shift of the Infinite Steps? How did it become? Many a Harchwee merchant will take you aside to some dim chimney-corner in an overgrown drinking-place, and he will hiss the following words:

“There was a cliff over a great sucking sea and there was a thatched town upon this cliff. They built a tower upon this cliff to house a certain thing. And then – only steps would do.”

These bizarre mouthings hiss into silence and Ed, far off on this very Shift, sleeps beside his one-balled master.

Far from Harchwee, Ka and Toons, far over sharky seas, past Bluemanland (that may not even exist), there is the antimeadow snowlands of Egnis. Only snow whispers and nothing is silent. I will not continue this description for not even abominable snowmen grace these icy and worldless wastes.

Before leaving this set-scene arama, I must posit here a piece of traditional poetry that a Harchwee merchant has tongue enough for repetition. (Please excuse my hasty translation.):-

The Song of the Merchant

We sell the songs
That we heard in the Meadow –
A penny a piece,
A halfpenny for their shadow.

We sing the songs,
The meadow songs,
But we cannot dance,
We cannot dance.

We die, we live,
The forests are afire,
The heat is in the kiln
And our hymns are in the mire.

Have you heard this Meadowsong
Before you heard its tune
Have you heard the wings above –
They are coming much too soon.

We sell the songs
For your body and your heart
But before a note is struck
The Meadow is our tomb.

Strange be it, the labyrinth of our last scene, but, be assured, the skein is not as untrammelled as you think.

Lorg Dagg’s First Dream
By John Cheese and Charles Dipp

And what was the Scandalous Scandinavian’s dream? But, first, his name? The One-Balled? St Lorg Dagg? Abraham Bintiff? Desmond Lewis? Ed Alpo? The Shoulderwitch? The art Master? Simon Heman? Lord Dog? Juan Camembert? Daniel Swift? Jeremy Helix? Tommy Mica? Peter Jeffery? Clovis Camber? Tristan Camber? Mr Kane? Or pseudo-all-the-aforementioned? Or even John Cheese or Charles Dipp? Bartin Camber? One of the Gathering? Etepsed-Egnis? All of them? None of them? Some of them? Or pseudo-all-the-aforementioned? Or pseudo-all-the-aforementioned? Or pseudo-all-the-aforementioned?...

And that was his dream. His silly dream.

And what was Ed Alpo’s dream, Lorg’s blonde-haired flunkey, as he lay beside his master on the ‘Battleship Potemkin’ steps. He did not dream.

Strains of a Mahler symphony, expressing the end of Romanticism and the decadence of Germany as it was about to enter two disastrous World Wars, was mellifluous and flowing, a corrupt adagio exquisitely beautiful, a rank stream flowing into stagnant and sublime lakes. The collected works of Thomas Mann lined the bookshelves of a Victorian-style drawing room and around them hung the staring visages of gold-embossed oil paintings. As the symphony drew to a quiet end, the insistent ticking of a walnut-cased clock ominously kept the silence at bay. A bunned and golden-robed lady sat sedately beside the downward-hung drapes of purple curtains, closed and impervious to the outside. Suddenly, a well-dressed gentleman strode through the oaken and brass door.

“Rosemary, that’s it! War has been declared. The Balkans are afire and our men are to be bog-dwellers on some foreign field! Those Serbo-Croat pigs! That Kaiser, that thalidomide maggot! Those German cretins! Peace is to be denied, my dear.”

As his red and worried face worked over these tragic words, the clock continued its pregnant rhythm, its unrelenting tick-pause-tick.

“I never had it nor ever will,” was the lady’s considered response. She, carefully but energetically, rewound the cumbersome gramophone and placed another record upon its renewed wheeling. Beethoven’s Ninth aptly-paradoxically was heard beneath the hideous wearing of the old record.

The oxymoron was not lost on Latimer and he smiled as he sat beside his mistress.

“Open the curtains, my dear,” smiled the staunch Rosemary.

Latimer rose and pulled the gorgeous lengths of royal-purple curtains across the crisscross window. He peered through the lotto of panes. He drew in a sharp breath as his eyes drifted over endless expanses of Escherine steppery.

(written 1974)

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