on the doorstep of the moon
October 15th is the birthday of one of the most important thinkers in the history of philosophy, possibly the most influential philosopher in my personal history.
I discovered the work of Friedrich Nietzsche in the first year of my undergraduate degree in Philosophy at the University of Cardiff. I was drawn to the beautiful, frightening titles of his books, particularly The Birth of Tragedy, and his enormous, almost threatening, and nearly unspoken reputation. Before I’d ever read or heard anything of Nietzsche I understood that he, that his work, was monolithic. In my second and third years at Cardiff I got to know his work, in particular The Birth of Tragedy, which lived up to everything I’d imagined from the name. What marked Nietzsche out for me was that among a pantheon of dry, dogmatic, and severely logical thinkers, this was a philosopher whose writing was literary, sublime, spiralling in a grand chaotic challenge; it struck me at the core from the beginning and has remained burning unforgettably inside me ever since. Today I’ve no doubt that everything I write and think is somehow inspired by my discovery of Nietzsche. This might not entirely be a good thing. But nevertheless.
Nietzsche was my Copernicus.
In his honour I’m presenting a short story? – more like prose poetry – that came to me from I’m not sure where, somewhere mad, influenced by the wisdom of Silenus:
“There is an old legend that king Midas for a long time hunted the wise Silenus, the companion of Dionysus, in the forests, without catching him. When Silenus finally fell into the king’s hands, the king asked what was the best thing of all for men, the very finest. The daemon remained silent, motionless and inflexible, until, compelled by the king, he finally broke out into shrill laughter and said these words, “Suffering creature, born for a day, child of accident and toil, why are you forcing me to say what would give you the greatest pleasure not to hear? The very best thing for you is totally unreachable: not to have been born, not to exist,
to be nothing.
The second best thing for you, however, is this—to die soon.”
– From The Birth of Tragedy
on the doorstep of the moon
In the moment of calm between the swell and the suck of the ocean whose waves turn up hundreds of jellyfish and abandon them on the shore to die there luminous under starlight and the toxic light glow of the city
on the doorstep of the moon.
In the moment of calm between the swell and suck of the ocean I lie among the reflected night dying jellyfish on the beach and die a small death of my own.
I have died a thousand deaths, I say: I, who was born in some east London backyard made for love in carparks, whose parents fucked backwards alleyways in godless passion to birth me overnight; I who then sailed into the suburb sprawl on a tide of pathos; flowing bloodred rivers of lava, like a volcano of old, sent to destroy it all,
like volcanoes no longer exist, he smiling says;
no because volcanoes are extinct, I say; I have seen them as contained dead water in steep sided sheep grazing reservoirs and the sewage treatment plants. This the suburb of my hatred and desire, where have you seen the caturine claptrap tramp crawling out of the gutter on mild evenings full of twilight where smell of myriad takeaways climbs up among the pink clouds of gentle evening, and we could have stood in that moment for all of time, only we couldn’t, but we tried at least until the caturine clap laughing sonofabitch uncle brother of your mother whom you hated because he told and teased you’re a miracle child like Jesus Fucking Christ hisself. Only not because your mother is a virgin, god no, but your father he hateful says who had how do I say it what they call, other inclinations of the religious kind, which we discover much too late and your poor indecent mother especially; so that when you’re conceived we all stand around scratching heads while your relatives laughing said amongst themselves in secret subterranean treacheries, what kind of an accident you are; only you were never supposed to know but we did anyway. So we killed your uncle and fled the stagnant suburb life of adults for the sea where we thought we’d live forever.
On the doorstep of the moon was where I loved in the black fleeting space where I said, nothing remains. Even the catastrophe of the jellyfish was temporary like the smoke that bloomed on your lips. A rose forms and dissolves in sunlight on the dusty roadside by the body of the clapped out getaway car, and we came likewise upon the jellyfish in a hot miracle and lay down among them where the shattering cymbalsound of the black and white sea, retreated, advanced, retreated advanced, and there, even the catastrophe of the jellyfish was temporary.
This was where the spark is. On the road, in the black tomblike place between nothing and everything a red fluid ribbon connecting us pineal gland to pineal gland an esp telepathy, I say. He says, in moments we are one person with two faces and, somewhere, the connecting link of the inbetween where we’ll merge in the somewhere of the great pineal gland of the universe on the beach by the roadside on the bloodsoaked pavement of the grim suburb where we take a hammer to the concrete where the takeaway smell and swell of the evening, though if the buildings could bleed they’d bleed only rain, and the two in one of what’s not even love but something you just can’t name, while I saw only the doomladen sky and portents in the quicksand water, like I said, like I said, nothing remains and took up my holy opium chant, destruction, creation, destruction, creation, but you refused it.
O innocent child!
Black cats stroll across yellow lamplit pavements in the city I walk alone. He said, I dreamt we’d sail across the ocean in a jalopy to Mexico where we might live forever you and I alone together if only to cut all the ties we ever had; of all the people we can’t wait to forget, people who won’t let us forget for as long as we remain, just imagine it. Then looking he adds, you’re tough but you’re also vulnerable; well, you’re half right. Which half though: the half that killed and murdered your uncle and your parents and onto my own equally disappointing parents fucking the alleys of east London in godless passion of futility who birthed me overnight into this sinking world and its setting sun, the one you think we can sail into when, I, I who knows the fact the one you refuse to name, or the half that fled the scene of the crime.
Where you will cut every last red ribbon that binds you to someone something and I, who helped you to kill and murder your uncle your mother your poor father and every friend acquaintance stranger who ever crossed your path and helped bind you to the stinking cruel caturine world, and finally you and I alone together in Mexico where you’ll find the fact that you’re still not free, oh no.
Your innocence betrays me.
And when I’m dead and gone and buried to the earth, I’ll be okay because I’m still a ragamuffin, the urchin child of saltier dreams and earth and not a dream child, miracle child like you. And then you’ll find that the person who remains is not you either. You, you’re located in some space above and to the side in the landscape, the mountains and the wind, which you imagine to have travelled the whole world many times over, and the wind that’s older than the hills and the trees its rushed through. Standing in the wind you’ll sense the stories it has to tell. You’re located in the smell and the taste of the moment where we came across that starlit field of dead jellyfish and smoke in fading blooms, the moment you long for, the silent moment, the calm moment,
on the doorstep of the moon,
when you cut the last, thinking the fact it would be best to have never been born
o poor sad miracle child.