2HB

2HB is a quarterly publication dedicated to creative and experimental writing in contemporary art, edited by Ainslie Roddick, Jamie Kenyon and Francis McKee, with Louise Shelley as editor-at-large.

The selection process focuses on creative writing or fiction with a critical awareness of issues. A journal for experimental art writing, 2HB facilitates a discursive space for writing in contemporary art practice and creates a platform for artists, writers and theorists to realise work that might not otherwise be published.

Expand Earth

2HB vol.6

1. Pangaea

 

Sat in the kitchen with William playing cards in front of the television. I can hear Alfred upstairs packing for a trip he has next week somewhere up north. He’s moving around the room with solid footing, I can trace the line between the wardrobe to the bed where I imagine he’s put his antique travelling suitcase that he inherited from my aunt.

 

The house is always full and busy in the morning. I awake before the five of them to enjoy the fingers of first light after having watched the alignment of the stars in the nightsky. I monitor the meridians to assess how long it is until summer.

There used to be a tradition in the next village to predict the end of winter. Every February 23rd the village elders brought out the newest born baby of that year and held it up in front of the crowd of onlookers. If the baby looked at its mother it signified that winter was on its way out in a matter of days, but if the infant looked elsewhere, to another face in the crowd say, or downwards to the ground, or just to stare blankly into the near distance, then we were all set for another 10 weeks of cold harsh weather.

I went along once when I was a young girl, I remember the pink skin of the baby out in the cold air, the uneven undulations of its scalp, still fusing together. The child was held, wriggling slowly, in one of the smartly dressed man’s leather gloved hands.

 

 

Later, after consulting my planting guide, I go into the back garden to sow the first seeds of the year. The garden arches softly down the hill towards the river and is usually dark and midgey at the bottom. I had William and Alfred chop back the larger sycamore trees last year that had been blocking out the majority of light. The space is now flooded with new air and new light. The ground is still cold and clammy. I strike my fork down to chew up the topsoil. The lower bank moves slowly towards me. I scatter parsnip and savoy cabbage seeds into a trough. It is almost midafternoon and the river breaks in two. The rupture is long and deep, a 300 metre gauge that runs the river’s length, both sides being forced parallel away from their opposing side. I look down on the model of this I created years after, mostly I’m satisfied with its accuracy, although I was wearing a plaid skirt that day but I could only find a female figurine wearing dark plain trousers.  The water remains still upon the surface as the northern bank, which I am stood upon, mirroring the action of the southern bank, lurches towards the hillside. The stratas of loam slowly build up and fold resembling a concertina as they crumple into the nape of the incline. I palm over the remainder of my cabbage seeds, trampling a lone slug as I head up to the house.

 

Across the valley I see William getting on his bus to college. I can just make out his long gangly legs slowly moving his frame upwards and into the main body of the vehicle. Below, out of the newly forged river chasm, white molten rock pours upwards and laterally outwards in either direction. As it hits the river water the new ground cools and hardens. The first strand sets alabaster white, the second strand sets a dark grey, the third white, the forth grey and so on forming a zebra pattern island chain. Finally a slick flat foundation of muddy earth marks the end of the rupture, upon which a seam of carboniferous coal shingle has broken through a mottled clay iron-pan at intervals creating a neatly order set of dark even ridges.

 

---Intermission---

 

I grow and become a piece of spiralling matter

I climb up the trellis

As a smart young thing I correct your mistakes/mispronunciations

Gravity is at my base

In the form of two candles

One Red, made from Brazilian beeswax

One Purple, made of synthetic fibres

They break into pieces

And go their separate way

 

 

 

2. Laurasia/Gondwanaland

 

Taking a bath while I wait I consider how I would pictorially describe all the different places I have lived, or even simply sketch all the separate parts of this house. Since William, Alfred and Harry left I have turned their rooms into galleries of the scale models I’ve created over the years. I used to keep them in my en-suite bathroom as the plumbing no longer worked in the attic. I would turn on the extractor fan while I applied rabbit glue to the models.

 

The first model I made was of the side of the hill our house sits on. It was a simple model with few features, no buildings nor roadways or vegetation, it only conveyed the topography of the land. In my more recent works I have accurately placed telegraph pylons, areas of woodlands using the exact tree types (silver birch is always my favourite but is the hardest to track down), scenes of town squares and railway stations with crowds of figures interacting. Initially I used white mounting board. I would cut each lateral sliver of hillside out, tracing each contour line from an ordinance survey map. Repeating the process moving through the bandwidths of higher altitude, gluing each segment of terrain until the whole hillside is formed.

 

 

I pour the bath out, dry my hair, get dressed and head out the door. I am

in a theatre at the end of Opptin street, the Quinteeth. A row of seats is being removed. It is the front row that is being taken out on the request of the theatre owner whose longsightedness has been rapidly increasing. As his sight fails he removes a row of seating so he can remain in the front row while still being able to view the performances with optimum clarity. Once the crew have removed what originally was row 3, a letterist will renumber each row to keep them in the correct chronological order.

This is the venue for Alfred’s wake. I made the arrangements last week after the phone call from Harry. He’d been with him at the time.

 

The two of them had been spending the winter collecting pelts in Greenland to trade with the boat merchants who travelled over from Scandinavia and Ireland enroute to New Amsterdam. Apparently they’d had a successful 2 months and were set to return home. But only a couple days after departing they’d run into a terrible blizzard and been separated in the whiteout.

 

We return to the house after the service. Seeing the four of them together again reminds me of long ago. Looking at them now, as they are briefly joined, I notice all the time that has passed, all the differences they have grown, and I gain comfort in knowing that soon they will break in to pieces and go their separate ways.

© 2017 by Thom Walker