Title: Tilt

Author: Laurie Duggan

In: Sport 30: Peter Black-Real Fiction

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, March 2003

Part of: Sport

Keywords: Verse Literature

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Sport 30: Peter Black-Real Fiction

Laurie Duggan — Tilt

page 20

Laurie Duggan


The feeling of being here, without explanation, miraculous and terrible in a space where all is gratuitous. The grey mist of rain or the grime of windows. The sharp notes of an unidentified bird.

An object never before noticed on the horizon seems to advance and recede though it is stable: a highlit part of a familiar building detached from its customary anchorage.

The air is hard and cool. The road goes nowhere under the clouds and the high-tension lines.

A landscape opens up and closes in. Its benign features—signage—become, in the stilled image, markers of identity, reminders of loss.

The concrete soldier with raised bayonet. The head of a lion. The metal sheaths of streetlights. An invisible flagpole. The buttress of a monument.

The inhabitants have left the scene. Their washing, strung across the verandah, a plastic bucket: these are the clues.

A country mailbox. Faces of children by a road void of traffic. A handstand holds the planet for a moment upside-down. Figures in middle distance move lightly on its surface.

These people. Do they expect us to know them? To know what is inside this briefcase, on the back seat of that car?

A comforting myth: that the world and all things in it are made of gelatin silver. We rise from a chemical bath and are lovingly curated in acid-free surrounds. Or we are found, curled and cracked in a pile of refuse.

page 21

What we don't see in the photographs we take: the slip of a genteel aunt, a disembodied hand, the image of ripe tomatoes on a blue cardboard box.

Tattoos, aniline and permanent, on flesh that withers.

The buildings are all in their rightful places. Then blankness. What if all this were an invention?

All things are concepts. But we are trapped in their consequence. The cash register and the typewriter, archaeology that surrounds us. Our smiles already periodised; those tics that represent an era.

There are no interiors, or what we see is already an interior. Blinding light through windows. Television presuming an outside world.

If you turn quickly the scene will change its shape. Laughter from the street. Your own? Memory is displaced by memorabilia.

A reflection in plate glass of a pedestrian walking out of shot. She walks from the bank across a car park. Then she disappears into 1987.

Words stare you in the face. Crazy paving and 1960s functionalism become the architecture of despair. A language of shapes dismantled like the genetic code.

An old calendar on which events are marked. The taper of trousers passing the demolition site. An engine meticulously restored. Hell for leather. Guarded with your life.

The sky darkens over a small town. Gorse on the otherwise bare surrounding hills. Power lines intersect above a memorial fountain.

page 22

There is no room for nostalgia. The paint is not yet dry on this edifice. Dance steps come straight from an instruction manual.

A distance, not local, but from somewhere else. A life led in relation to lives presumed elsewhere. A style reflecting an imagined capital. A capital as fantastic as life on another planet.

A dog stares backwards into history like Walter Benjamin's angel. The future, ill-lit, waits beyond the dashboard.

The destination of the photograph does not include us or our concerns. It moves away at the speed of light. We remain in our own narratives.

Or we are held in another narrative. The lights at the crossing remain forever red.

Wind blows the photograph away. The weather in the photograph does not blow the photograph away.

A smeared window. Steam and rain. The lit shapes of petrol bowsers.

There is no horizon. We are shadows in a moving car. Speed is our history. There are fables behind these images that are forgotten.

As though, in waking, benign objects become for a moment the ogres of childhood. Walking in a foreign land where only the accents differ; alternate narratives that might be yours.