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Thursday 20 March 2014

An Introduction to 'Of the Nothing Of' by David McLean


Of the Nothing Of

In this book the poet alternates between prose and ‘conventional verse’ to depict the nuances of nothingness, the categories of emptiness and absence which constitute whatever it is that a human is. The self here is just reflected emptiness, and its incessant struggle for a homeostatic equilibrium under the name of heaven, or otherwise described as some other sort of not ceasing, some other religion, whether in the name of reincarnation or just having children.

‘…in the dark the skin glistens of black tar, crystals of amphetamine burning their way in and the eyes rolling back-rolling, the jaw taught, teeth a-grind, all the while the whispering voices, the murmuring shadows, in a cloud-burst of deathly smoke, haven to fall drenched to the bone with nectar bloodlessness, all having said, and with what absence of sound, click-clack and the spine warping, spit it out the scum of nothingness, genuflect, genuflect unto the memory of the dead god, in the laughter-spill of the orificial night, wordless, mocking the stitch that binds the flesh together, raw as a bloody smile, a bloody cunt, an open wound, star-burst of forever having known, to see the ocean yet unable to hear of it through the winds, they stretch the skin taut, begin again, they say, from out of this nothing births the foreign sunlight, (echo), the joy in paring away the meat, intact, blood spat out spraying the glass, a vein severed, nothing more, till dark again…’

This book deals with the nothing of, for a nothing is always the absence of some specific thing - a god, a love, or a meaning.

yet ever speech

in the space between the fragment

and the settled ash

Which is the miraculous, not the mythological murderer with the jawbone of an ass, not the thirty pieces of silver, not any demiurge, just that this stream of consciousness exists, in the absence of any teleology or meaning, words that make themselves. 

And Mc Aloran is Irish, so his poetry answers to the voices of a great literary tradition. A Beckett to tell us how we murdered and ate Godot before we waited aimlessly for him. There is Beckett here in the dusty sheets of a final room, the tremendous mound of futility the poet piles over humanity like a cromlech.

‘…the words they fade away, death’s tomes, rustle in the breeze, scattering tumbleweed throughout abandoned graveyards…’

Derrida said once that what poetry is is the nostalgia for a presence that never was, the capturing of the sense of childhood perfection of being. Derrida seems, strangely enough, almost to essentialize poetry as the glorious empty attempt of a futile hedgehog to cross the tremendous Autobahn of a rational reality. The poems in this book reflect the voice that might laugh at the squashing of said hedgehog, the Nyarlahotep that laughs at the heart of the black emptiness; this book “literally” says the nothing, the hardest thing to say. It enumerates the small nothings that make up the surprisingly tiny “big picture” - what is actual is brutal and black, the small cracks where the blood seeps through, the absences that Mc Aloran makes talkative.

Mc Aloran, par excellence, is the poet who speaks of:

abattoir silences
the final laughter of the blood

which is what should sometimes preoccupy us. It is the stream of consciousness of a mind aware that most of what is is without awareness and soon we shall join all the absences ourselves and not be. In the nothing of god and meaning what remains is a sort of irresolute stoicism among all the anxiety, all the screaming.

(…shadow is benign, a foreign nothing, nothing claimed, spit it out your sequences, light and shade do not exist…)

(…the none/ nothing of all is a trunk card, a broken jaw flapping in the breeze like a fucked gate in the wind, nothing coming in or out, never leaving…)

What we can do, and what Mc Aloran does, is pretty up the desolation and nothingness. Poetry cannot find meaning and purpose where there is none, but it can render the absences and dust attractive, can make the dry loveless dusty sheets in death’s rooms beautiful. This is a value, making the dull skull lovely, and Mc Aloran does it here like no other.

In the dying heart beats of the close of the book the point we can find in the emptiness is preserved:

‘…breaking none of the without, settled, obscure…

…subtle gleaming of death’s overtures in a dead room, the door ajar…absent echoing…splice of stale air…discarded syringes in a dirty cracked glass ashtray…I cannot…’

--David McLean-


Samples from the book:

Skull-shine of a collapsed



Lock unto foreign lest there
Never was

Collecting the bone

       Spill of murmurs
Eating of the sun’s marrow

Stench till bile of night
              Stripping the carcass ice

Held then unto
Aching of the once again

                    Kiss of

Opened veins where the sky
Devours itself

Rocked to the fore/
                          Core deft

Snuffed out
Absent shuffling
          In a darkened room

5...the half-light/ of the forever having sunken unto waste/ fragments all the while/ fathom or non-fathom/ in-dreaming/

      the cold cut of spasm/ locked bone/ arriving/ yet never having departed from/ ever to depart from, through a crimson haze/ dragged out as if the bones were the ragged teeth of the night/

   no no answer/ a scream’s retort and the weighted beasts of echoes/ silenced/ speech without tread and the dry shuddering of the flesh/ collapsed in upon/ from out of which/ from out of which through eclipsed spaces/

      buried below in a tide of death/ silenced endless/ light emerging/ suffocated by gnarled fist/ step again/ erased again/ nothing known/ bone close to the bone/ as if to/ silenced again/ worse than ever held/ before/

   escaping scattering of flies from bloody meat/ nocturne and of the dead veins/ the laughter of the damned/ at the edge of the razor’s tongue/

      boot heel in shit/ tongue licking up the refuse in the ghettoes of the spent transparency of love/ now and for never/ not no/ step again/ they’ll answer naught and drain the roots dry/

   there coming and going until the sun spits shards/ splayed out/ the grasses seared/ let them burn/ nectar upon a severed hand/ soil scattered/ a fossil collapse of headless sky/ dreaming of the less or less/ the absence/ nothing left/    

      celebrating yet fading of it/ a rip of scarlet/ ashen relapse/ said again/ knowing nothing but trinkets of things/ of silhouettes/ begin again/ what of it/ as if in spoken here or now and forever be thy severed/
   head buried in the hands breaking apart/ fingers ablaze/ searching still/ no nothing/ buried once more/ lapse again/ furrow dry current of absent roomscape, nothing vital/ nothing taken nor given away/

      ask of the blade’s calling/ the cult of decay/ of dissolution’s breath seeking out the marrow’s pitch/ in a meat hook stylus of buckling bodies/ carcasses to love like nothing else/ in the reek of our due/ seethe of cold colours and the raw red rush of carousel dreaming/

   of tumour nights/ of skies stripped bare and torn apart without question/ coming apart yet never broken once/ laughing at the one thing that horrifies/ the one thing that matters least/ most/
      a crown of teeth protruding from the skull in silent victory/ extracted silences/ endless to roam/ blood and cum in a silken handkerchief/ unknown/ that will be the quarter/ atrophic silences/ silences of births/ overtures of welts to the bare skin/

   all of and beyond/ lacking distances/ step again/ begin again/ no no victory no beauty/ strangled out from which to burn/ less and less/ shadow of the outreaching hand/ a dead trail/ the tongue cut out/

      severed now/ till lock and ever hold/ held/ the skeletal figment/ the flesh never yet having been born/ in the distant the foreign lights of a lighthouse/

      searching/ searching/ till dead till none and search once more/ out of which/ till spit/ dragging a burning chain of a cadaver’s emptiness/ echo now/ breathe again/ the fingertips burnt away/ step again/ step    


           Broke/ broken

Echoing of the all undone
   Reduced to

Burning breath and
          The scarlet’s knowledge

Here or there

      (Says with a whisper…)

 [insert pulse beat]

Back then unto haemorrhage
    Scarred without wishful

Head alack/
            (Vibrating edge of blade)

        Skinning the reek
(That was when there…)

Broke bones of the bone-weaved sky
           Till death parts

         Dead diamond eyes)

Yet ever speech
In the space between the fragment

        And the settled ash


Sun smear/
    Fingers of severance

The eyes smeared out

        Writhe in pageantry

Of absurd meat
             Silenced all by the once

The thrice

     (Breathless again/ inhale)
Wordless but for the…

           Said again
                   (Never uttered)

   Erased the one thousandth
           Cutting the shadow from the

       Eye’s banquet

Dreaming of the nothing new
         Closing around

The throat

The fingers of severance


6...echo now/ breathe again/ the fingertips burnt away/ step again/ some solace of rapture through endless night/

      burning away as of tide till spray of sunlight jack-knifing in the distance/ the shadow once more, erased/ hollow breath/

   all back from then what held till diabolist sheen/ wrench unto havoc clear cut through by prism lock and casket carcass kisses/ in the bone shuffle of ever-born/ stilled born/ hack in a dry room of dusty sheets/ redeeming the sullen artefact/ shadow there/

      horse teeth of an obliterated smiling/ all of one or else/ pulse of dead dreaming locked till stray/ never to be released/ fathomless blade/ razor cum in a dead hand/ blood without colour/ black absences/

   the eyes struck out into some foreign realm/ nothing ever left behind/ step again/ once more/ step again into shadow dreaming of the more or less/ waste without beginning/ waste without end till light exhumes further nothingness/ till dark is redressed/

      haven to toil/ closing the skull around the tomb age/ blessed scars of empty scarlet/ emptied out/ dislodged/ picking the raw meat from the teeth of embers/ traces/ vapours of taxed hope/ all said/ step again, say it again/ traces of waste shimmering in the eyes

   known once/ yet never known/ recede/ retrace/ back then unto stationary/ speechless bones harbouring night’s paralysis/ where then the exigent/ where from none can follow/

      spitting out the cleft heart/ the worthless shit of it/ the scars coughed up like phlegm/ in the fractured mirror from which the helm balances the here or never to become/ bite the jugular/ a trail of blood screaming at the distant skies/ without purpose/

   knowing nothing more than before/ where vault and desert are but one/ where sands and time are unacquainted/ (echo, echo)/ echoing unto naught where the spasm flesh is caught in a smear of vice/

      some shadow/ piercing not yet ever seen from below/ as if…colours seen from below where shadows drift as if…from below…well strike a match/ blow it out/ there naught or less/ shifting writhing in the burning soil/

   nails in flesh/ a face obliterated/  burn the bone’s will/ burn this fleshed amphitheatre/ dread of one thousand lapses/ lay down/ begin again/ step again as if it were to ever matter/

      skinned flesh in salt/ the eyes gouged out/ emasculation of laughter/ till…from what of out will trace as of a salvaged tongue/ night upon night/ breaking still yet never ending/ unto nowhere yet having been the same

   rupture of spun silken blood/ yet having been nowhere else/ ever/ perhaps more of the less than known/ to spy with the little eye/ something beginning with…/

      exile burrowing it’s way in and out from wherever out and until then back again/ still the unspoken/ the paralysis/ bled out/ spat upon/ through a filigree of murmurs/

   scattering silences/ given unto speech from out of which dreaming less was murmured/ the gutted bloated self spilling its intestines unto the cold stone tiles with a slap and a silence/

      head of frost/ soundless pageant/ begin again/ less than from what there ever was before/ a closed fist of the dawn will stitch the wound/ seal shut the eye of spasm/ collect the sands the dusts of dreaming/

   spat out from accord/ into the dissipating hands/ dragging furrows of emptily/ collapse once more/ never having uttered/ breaking of the less than one where the bone broke/ the marrow spilled         


Abattoir tears/


Nothing else claimed but the
Burning winds

Held to rust or shadow delved
      (Till rot or rake)

Yet claimed
            In the spit of dreaming

Ache of valiant
Till blood to settle under

Violent teeth still in the claim of it
    (Said without rupture…)

Lest the rapture compete with the burn of it
          Settled then to fall…

                   Till else

     Abattoir silences

The final laughter of the blood


7...breathe again/ till sudden/ cessation -no/ gallowed by the fever of it/ the drought of it/ ask of it again/ no/ not known/ all said/ begun/ with what flourish it was held/ step beyond/ nothing there/ never was/

      not the how nor the when or why/ emasculated it might be said/ till what, how and ever/ begin/ stop/ start/ cleft alone/ wailing of the drifting shadows/ no recourse/ headless/ alack/ no/ nothing/ shape gestural or formless/ ashen light/

   the half-scar of it/ blinded still not known/ no not ever/ (retracing again)/ to leave or to stay…grasses knee high and the bone revealed through the wound like a slashed sneer/ absence of tears/ of course/ dead now/

      hollow shun/ hollow shunt of breaking lapse what from which the sneer/ the hollow/ the distance furthering/ all said there was ever nothing/ till what/ what next/ lapse and then/

   raking through the skull the fever like a talon light/ no force/ breaking still from what line/ haven and then from what foraging/ stealing out of the silence/ dread birthed like a still blue sky/

      and the cupped hands they cup fresh blood mixed with ash and a symphonium of the dead man’s advocacy/ bloodless eyes reflected there/ no thought/ erased/ time erased/ knuckled to ransom/ slice again/ laughter again/

   collapsing in spasm/ breath again -breathe/ cylindrical walls they rotate out of which the dead light shimmers/ seeks to strike the marrow/ haven of flesh spilled foreign like a deserted shore/ dreaming of the caress of the ocean to erase the footprints/

      else or not/ stung/ bitten kicked and punch drunk/ not a word/ not a murmur/ stammering all the while/ of dream of death of sun of pulse/ the lay of the land/ glide/ glide/ web spun/ cloud-dust of/

   given the advance/ working the flesh/ always the same/ never the same/ spilling the shit of dreaming/ of ice/ deft pageantries still-born in a heartless scope of atrophy/ break once more and to be done/ yet breathe again/ stammer and pulse and the mocking itch/ the stitch womb of it/

      the burn/ the scald/ the dead summers of waste and wanton/ filling the bloodless eyes with light that was never wanted/ not once/ breath again -breathe/ the less and less/ ever erasing/ with what ease/ drifting/ drifting from far unto leave or cessation/

       no/ not a maggot’s chance/ stone in the eye’s reaching fathom/ as if transported yet never having left the dusts of that final room alone/ hissing upwardly/ step non-step/ stepping forth or back without an ounce/ not a taste/ exiled by this way or that/ roots to rend to fertile nothingness/

   well call cards/ shimmer/ shed the skin of the endless night/ known for the never once breathed/ breath -breathe again/ no/ stop/ cease/ a mimicry of this or that/ call it being/ spat out/ the jugular severed/ the swallowed tongue of ice/ paralysed knowing/ steam/ lock-held/

      at the beginning of it/ what less to know/ pare away/ (never to be known)/ nowhere to from out of the searching dark/ the hands cold/ body in raptures/ it begins/ it ends/ stop breathing/ cease

'Of the Nothing Of' is available from Oneiros Books, here

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