Wednesday, 12 October 2011

High-Water Mark



Cast iron parapet riveted.
Rolled steel structural skeleton.
Baked clay ceramic blue-green brick.
Dressed stone rusticate masonry.
Damp lime mortar stalactites.

Lilac, turquoise, cobalt, umber,
Citrine, cadmium orange and slimy
Intersticial ion exchange,
Anodic and cathodic they drip.

The tangy products of corrosion
Slither smeary snot slick, thick,
Serous and silvery electric.
Slatherous and lathering - chemical biology
Minerally feeds bacterial bloom.
Over ferrous, igneous metamorphic
And ceramic substrate:
Fungus, lichen and blistering moss
And leaf litter
And litter
And guano
And frass.

Then just dust.

From pustulating mustard and viridian blisters
Mushroom dank dribbling papules
And the ocherous crevice; a dark citrine fracture
Is a disquietingly cold fissuring breach

aromatic wet-dry rupture

A fragrant technicolour symbiosis born of organic metallic bacillus mineral ejecta. Animal, vegetable, mineral -  it's a meaningless distinction.
For now, it is alive - that's all.
It's beautiful - that's enough.


"It's beautiful"

Under my breath,
Just to myself.
But overheard by
The one passerby
Who replied:


"Aye. I bet they couldn't make it like that these days".

I was standing still, and had been for a while. The passerby was walking smartly through, underneath the railway arch. So we lacked a common frame of reference - that's why it took a while to understand that the beauty he appreciated was in the structure of the arch, its construction and its span rather than the entropic interplay of the arch's intricately dynamic atrophy; that which so fascinated me. Instead, he thought I was lauding the beauty of this stone, brick, rubble, iron and steel arch of the mile's stretch gently-graded railway viaduct. It's a testament to single-minded capital. A river diverted, the estuary drained. Ecological devastation brought and so many lives and fortunes lost to bring it here, now so very very long ago.

Here where the natives once came to gawp and cheer maharajas and tsars changing trains - highland-bound they were to go and placate with fawning tribute the heavily-armed and continually victorious megalomaniac widow in her mountain-fastness purdah. Her, and her vast armies.

And here now the London-bound, soon to be superannuated, high-speed diesel loco coughs and farts its humming flywheels into whirring angular momentum. Blue-grey particulate smoke issues in fitting discharges from stubby rearward-raked exhaust pipes which penetrate the striated locomotive roof. Then, carriage linkages finally flexed, smooth acceleration. Deserted first class carriages, an oily yellow glow diffusing from their chi-chi little table lamps into the autumning gloom. As the driver throttles-up the 25-year old engines front and rear with their Record-Breaker's potential on the Flying Scotsman run, I think of how far we came. And why we stopped.

That same viaduct, travelling all the way down time from 1867. That same rail-line brought the commissar Tony Benn from Westminster to oil-boom Aberdeen in 1976. Gravid with rational civilisation's last message to the joint-stock seven sister daughters of Standard Oil;  he was to tell Mobil and Exxon and Chevron and Amoco and the others that no, they couldn't just take it all. Our British National Oil Corporation would have 51%, for all the people of the UK.

Those same locomotives and carriages, travelling all the way down time from 1976. That same late 20th century high-speed diesel train - as promoted, commissioned and inspired into existence by the insistence of that same rational socialist technocrat. High-tech high-speed rail for all! Now fading glory - yes. But because of that, all the more evocative and heart-wrenching a glimpse into the Concorde- (or TU144-?) era world-we-could-have-all-had.

And all the while, as free-market votaries kicked their heels in the shadows, (sharpening their stilettos and scissors and axes in Chile and elsewhere), our own stakhanovite visionary government technologists and bureaucrats were accidentally betrayed by unwittingly myopic oblimovist organised labour at the high-water mark of civilisation. Oops.

And that betrayal afforded the stilettoed ideologues of irrationality the trigger they were waiting for to make their putsch; to let the credulous market-religion adherents in. And taking the name of "capitalism" in vain - erroneously using it interchangeably with "free market" - they superstitiously worshipped the idol which they openly called "The Invisible Hand".

Mistaking affluence for wealth, the free-market fundamentalists first concentrated then dissipated our common capital and so grievously failed us all. But they also mistook price for value and so, in turn their beloved markets failed. And all that is solid melts into air.

"Aye. I bet they couldn't make it like that these days".

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