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Hot Desk Extract: ‘Pandemos’

Read Thursday, 27 Jan 2022

As part of the Wheeler Centre’s Hot Desk Fellowship programme, Georgia Kartas composed the text of their upcoming poetry album, Mythamorphosis.

Mythamorphosis is a concept album created in collaboration with sound artist Lucas George. It features nine poems, adapted to an experimental and theatrical soundscape. The album traverses the past two years of global transformation, invoking prophecies, the Jungian desert, cowboys, quantum mechanics and free will.

The prose poem ‘Pandemos’ is from this album. It is a reflection of travels experienced through meditation and dream practice during Lockdown 2.0 in Naarm, in particular to the metaphysical Abyss as it intersects with world events. The piece is an exploration of Greek iconography, quantum physics and queerness.

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Left: Diffraction patterns of x-rays and electrons shot through the double-slit experiment; Middle: Photo by Jake Adam Treacy; Right: Photo by Elly Freer

‘Πάνδημος’ / ‘Pandemos’    

On the shore of the apple core-shaped island, we find a glass bluebottle labelled: TOP SECRET. You unstopper the cork and hand me the man o’war, from which I extract a thin paper scroll.  After reading its contents, I use the clandestine letter to cut a slit in the sand, the length of your upper arm. Through it we can see In-Between. Some call it the Abyss. Don’t get me wrong – nihilism is ideological laziness, Snoozeville of the Isms. The Great Emptiness is only empty because we gaze at its vastness with the wrong set of eyes.

Dressed in digression, we return to the slit. Having gone unsupervised for an entire paragraph, it is opening up like a set of broken blinds. Oops. This is why they wrote about willpower and focus. Oh well, too late now. I crawl through the main opening, and cut my etheric body on the jagged edges.

When I have tumbled into what you call nothingness I call out to you, but you say you’re happy to watch. What you mean is you are scared of losing control. I point at the first syllable, but you pretend not to see it. It is easier to cast responsibility than to swallow your stone.

As for me, I cough my stone up. It takes what feels like an iron age, so long in fact that I am coughing and hacking and coughing and hacking when an iridescent outline begins to draw nearer and clearer, starting out as a glimmering small or far away joke, until the vast bulk of a whale made of stars is in front of me. They open their night sky mouth. The stone finally releases itself from my corporeal body, into my palm, covered in black bile and saliva. I offer it to my giant spacefaring friend, but they knock it out of my outstretched hand, and eat me instead.

You scream through the widening slit that this is all my fault. I shout back don’t you dare get biblical on me, but my words are lost in the shadow belly, and my attention turns to the present. Inside the dark are other kinds of dark, and as my sight adjusts to the infrared gloam, a set of pipe organs emerges.

No not that kind, goddammit, I said no biblical content. These ones are the kind invented in Ptolemaic Egypt – that is, the hydraulis. Splish-splash goes the cistern, converting the dynamic power of water into air pressure. Claudian wrote that it transforms a light touch into thunder, and he was not wrong. The star whale swims and I softly play their favourite storm, as they ferry me from your reality to another.

I can’t hesitate because old mate spurts a shooting star through their blowhole, cannonballing me into the nextπαράξενος.

My comrade hacks me up and I am covered in celestial vomit, which is not slimy but still very uncomfortable, like tense gas clouds pressing against and moving around the outline of my flesh. I reach out into the absence of light, and feel the rough texture of a cave – this entrance is no amateur, letter-opened incision. I can’t hesitate because old mate spurts a shooting star through their blowhole, cannonballing me into the nextπαράξενος.

A double horizon fades into the corner of a staircase. I can hear a thalassic mirror crashing against my feet, but they remain dry, unblinking with each ascent. The domed sky spills purple and orange pandemonium. No sun here, but a star the size and shape of a child’s fist. On the rooftop is a shower, open to the elements. I remove each of my garments with reverence, fold the cloth into small paper horses. Each bid me good night with clumsy whinnies, as warm salt water rushes from silver holes above, washing my goosebumps away. I take the showerhead into my mutating hand and it too transforms into a branch. The tree inside me spreads its leaves. We photosynthesise the exploding star above our crown. The mouth lets loose its terrible bony blades, milky delirium, ferryman’s tongue lapping heads and tails of petroleum rain. I am perforated by quantum tunnelling, portholes that don’t exist, yet lead to the other side, and the other side of that.

The orchestra puts down its instruments in surrender. I spot an old horned friend in the back and try to wave, but am too ερριζωμένος, veins and tendons now a conversation between hyphae and loam. We turn our gaze to the swelling panorama, undulating mounds terraforming into an oasis, a city, a temple, a bonfire.

A demon is just a contemporary deity, you see, and they are very self aware, and they love too. They hardly live in shadows; we just measure light by what we can see. What about gamma, x-ray, microwave, radio, and the aforementioned infrared? Close your eyes and release the delusion of information. It is one of seven cups we drink from so that we might not ask what it is exactly we are drinking.

The bowed flower raises its face to drink from the east. When the institution enforces the disquiet of silence, the musicians take up arms, yet again. The past has no existence except as recorded in the present. It will have no grave, because there will be no body to plant. But it will recorded.

It will be branded into the burning mattress atop the red crab island. It will be compressed into spiralling fossils, layer upon layer of endless uncertainty, in Μόρια and greater Λέσβος. It will be alive with every breast-beating cell and cell door-banging fist, raging at the dying of the sight. It will be honoured by the three jobs street sweeper, raking dead leaves into love hearts, on the pavement. It will be borne by every double-take of masked and muted should-be would-be can-be lovers. It will be lamented by the bluestone hiss of a black cat in your neighbourhood. It will be revisited in queer hands beneath waistbands, in the dark hours of lonely mornings. It will be remembered when you hear Nina in your dreams, when you feel the slither between fences, something approaching a state of change.

It is the candle winking at you, as you wonder what it was you really saw, when you saw someone swallowed by a whale made of stars.

Applications are now open for 2022 Hot Desk Fellowships. Click here to find out more. 

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