Peter Kiernan

Smith, Jones, Crow






In the beginning a Smith and a Jones.




Jones cradles the days in her stomach. Neat days, no more than the spectrum of her hands held apart. She passes each through the crocus of her throat, as changed-to straw, out of the acidic lump of cloth that is belly, into eventual silence, into nothing but the air about the face coldly.


The body is deceived. It leans into little chasms gathered at the elbow, along the legs in irritant crags: chasms of indeterminate future that swallow the body whole and reproduce it in one moment. To create motion. The body thinks itself motion failingly.


My words aren’t surrogate skin. More a piercing and out-walling of skin. Writing body in a place that it is not. Words are the determinates of choices. Turns of the sunk and climbing oar are a haze about them which they hold in their form.


So there’s somewhere navigation and what is navigated through is presumed in them, the words sunk in the to be navigated mass, sinking into the same. Pearls of time, marking course.


An ocean without shoreline to bend it in then, turning like a spinning top, dotted with little ships, but our noses do they go into prows? Our legs culled into sleek wood, our heads splitting and with hair arousing masts and sails? Wind from our unearthed brains?


The body’s machinery is turned out! It runs method outwardly, from the distending centre, smoothly. We’re not in it. The metaphor of breath runs deeper. Hostile the unity of body and self-fleeing.


Jones is a young woman certainly.




The Smith worked and had the same dream every night. A black slope, starless, vacant before his outstretched hands, a night-hill of unnourishment. He called it ‘the future of mankind is hard’ and was thinking of exhibiting it by sleeping in an art gallery, at night, over a series of nights, with a piece of paper taped to his forehead which read ‘the future of mankind is hard’.


He worked at a shop, an ink dot swelling on an empty road.


A car here could mark a century in penury within a minute.


There was the sign the Smith had placed above his register.


‘All men become wastelands of rippled flesh alight with a few doomed sperm, truly there is time for everything within the excess of the masculine’.


There was the troubling question of tone. How it decided it. There was a beat in it which clocked it off about mid-way along. So that its early shoots were wit-tasting then twisted into a feral nailbrush of displeasure.


Both lived in the same town, in historic Ulster, just on the snake line of partition, biting everyone equally. On the right side of the border, from a prejudiced perspective, in the Republic.




The sun was a silver discolouring of the sky, itself an inverted bogsoul, hanging confused, upside down, as if knitted to its former, mined flesh. The local soil terraced, trammeled, curled up in the fouled iron of gliterring houseing estates like a tongue in its mouth. Bogsoul kicking its sad trails of cutting air as its too knowledgeable head sinks along the tarmac sloth, clicking in the wake of drawling, outdated cars.


Up from the Smith’s shop the ubiquitous public house.


Once while walking past, the learned Jones had remarked internally, playing the words only along the curve of her own ear, so that they were like taut washing lines cutting back, blithely giving up shells of sound under the skull’s amplitudinous dusk.


Her remark, of course, I forgot to include it – that Kavanagh [P.] had been writing to the dumpy hills with the knowledge that they rebuked him in total disinterest, had no need of mirrors, that sly Kavanagh [P.] equally was playing the mirror, praise for nothing turning to pleading mockery of praise. This important to him, important elsewhere.


Jones was, by the way, displanted from the Carribean, shovelled into the dark-arid cleft of Ireland at three. She had thought ‘Ireland is like a broken pot, spilling the tiny black corrupted teeth of apart-tumbling soil, the dead roots like coffins holding away-bleeding nutrients jealously, like secrets, the sun oddly striking the blue ceramic valley, all jagged and heartless, with absolute indifference’ – it had taken an inordinate amount of time for this to go along from herself at three or four to herself as currently, making the paucity of her years seem ingrown with so much freely knotted additional.


She had not thought sufficiently on her Carribean heritage, though it made her skin dark in a way that made young Irish men and women eager to depose Cathleen and hand her mantle onwards. Something which left Jones divided. The Irish don’t change. Not in their souls. Which are after all uninherited by they, inherited by roads, wallings, other things, the like. Though they should and need to.




Jones was presently in her house. She was hungry but there was no food. She had to pull on socks therefore which irritated her. She had pleasant feet.


What to do. I’m gnashing my teeth in anticipation of what I know.


Alex Smith looked upon her dumbly. She was plucking milk from a semi-refigerated shelf, looking at the coloured cap for a date.


They now confronted one another.


Jones pays.


She’s left behind some change, some pennies and a bright euro coin like an offering of salt on a lion’s tongue.


He takes it; is outside quickly. The shop door clattering away behind him. Caley Jones is already across the street and turning to walk along, back. Thinking of getting rid of her shoes.


He has to stake a slight call out on the road between them, which is spotted with little holes, aglimmer with water out of the sky sucked, and she hears him certainly, turns. Places the plastic bag with the little shopping on the path. Walks back. Is a little displeased, preferring to lose the euro than have to talk.


‘You left these. Behind you. It’s not much but I thought – ‘




She cups them into her hand, her sleeves, thick, now veil her palms like reeds. There’s no wind but it’s very cold and the fabric presses and plays upon her distressed hands like those reeds wind dipped to stray their rough heads along the waters.




She’s pressing the coins into her trouser pocket. Behind her appears an old pagan castaway. A spittle crow, eased from long memory, black as well’s water. The same makes up the dysphoric frame, with feathers like living water at clash with fastidious shade theretied, all contained in the well’s interior but flex lain on the bird’s plumage. Shifting about the dark tongue into earth-(thewell)-core of the birdsoul.


Just as it crosses them crossed on the road it lets fall a drop of rain. Coveted on the wing we know not how long. Then, as it descends, the crow severs it into perfect doubled kinship by talon. One upon the head of the Smith intact, one upon the head of the Jones intact. Each softening then into the mess of crown.


Then the crow into combustion of several thousand of the black birds, littered into the light, leaves, the all-around circumferencing body of world, twisted on them like a nail’s end. The point of which always seems somehow just beyond the twirled metal coming to a finish.


These the unstable dreams of recent peoples. The world too lucid. Working furiously against the concealed but immovable depth of dream, which catches the world as speech. The world fitted into white clay pipe-work which castigates dream, funnels it off into low streams of consciousness that slink by, slow rivers, partial veins, plotted in the peripherals of cities. Rational desire kills the dream and builds cities [cities in this case are pseudo-metaphors for the complex, intertwined ideologies which dominate the present intellectual landscape] in its place.


Cities that are succour clouds sleeping on the mosaic land.


What one hopes with dreaming is to disconnect it from that sense of the without will pondersome on which it is founded [like flowers in a vase]. Making it instead hard, a disruptive feature of thought, a defining feature of human entanglement / with what? / the dumb, minute work of things by themselves.When they touch against us, they shatter into the dreamt. The dreamt which is nothing and which is outside time.


Can I distinguish dream from say the imagination?


The imagination is nothing in this schema, for when that which is associated with it is mostly redistrubted to the character of thought altogether it simply drops from consideration. Imagine is too tightly bound to a certain view of what is real – a view I associate with headaches [the forehead] and the senses [particularly the ear and its related]. Dream on the other hand is more subversive, for it links the world to us in a very disturbing [thrilling] way. It is not just the implied misuse of things sucked loose by the prying mind from the world it encounters, it is the hint of a structure that includes mind and world and talks about what is through them, what makes itself out of them mutually.


Out of time how? Perhaps time atmospheric, dreams reaching in structure to non-temporal spaces. The relation then between the temporal and non-temporal then [not the Hegelian not the Hegelian not the Hegelian].


Certain things want time, others do not, or are strange things, with deeper structures than seem reasonable to us.


What then was the difference that struck in them sounding like hordes of muffled bells?








Wait. Don’t toss aside this thing yet. Not of the sort you’re inclined to think. Remember no one is with us on this, the weariness of so-called knowing will not help you.


A soft but naked coil-point, vibrating, sinking itself mercilessly into them. Not the joining of mood. Not the eye’s roping countenance. A point of absolute deferral to – an unnatural gift of the sky’s forgotten heathens, whispers of the crushed mythic flesh Ovid plastered into knowledge under the ignorant curtain of the painful apart of our being timely. As if the burnt out crow had travelled from another now through such a curtain briefly pulled back, providentially.



There is a word that annoys.


Irk of providence. Why does it rake the still, even though it does so gently? Well in this time of being out beyond the pale swab-luminescence of history, looking back at its ugly growth, we think that everything has been taken out of the hands of others and that every action erects itself perfectly in a debilitating and total freedom. We live in a world-vision where there are actions but where there are not the spaces in which there are actions – for the latter presumes the possibility of the violation of actions as much as it proposes their capacity for existence proper.


So what does it mean?


Intention is the resultant of act.



Suddenly they were not in reach of themselves. There was a dividing emptiness which was holding them together while erasing what was themdesire. O like the wake of ruin, the little circles of silence that rise up, that remind ha-fuck the world endures itself disgracefully. When the papers clear the hard, tiled street-ground remains, waiting to build walking on its back.


Everything changes, the mind has no pace for it, cannot even comprehend the degrees of change, and doesn’t realise that it is itself that cursed ongoing grounded, that line-mesh of horizontal street. Is stuck through with a thousand edges into nothing.


I mean there was a pull in each towards a point that belonged to neither. Which was eviscerating them slowly. A point they were re-building themselves toward. They were sloping out into encompassment.


This was the sense of standing on both sides of oneself with difference between and then thinking that what one is oneself is all the in-between points of difference [think again of the nail end]. That is whatever was not an actual moment of one’s life.




A rain fell; it slaughtered the Smith-in-clothes. It fell on him. On the township too, but it dragged him through itself, it made ruin of his shirt flowerly loose on trouser-black, it folded and rotted his red-yellow badge which welcomed with his written name. It left him naked.


The Jones thought this quite strange, though amusing. A second glance at his shivering and she tore, spontaneously, her own clothes off, petrified in aggression and now entirely naked in the rain, on the road, with a person in the pub window just out of their sight smirking like spent wax.


Her chest rebuked the now out of the road-stones-grass wind as she let a cry of frustration fowl her own lips, nose, crown, her body however, ignorant, continued to slide itself into the moment at hand.


The Jones looked down, her feet still covered in sneaker. She looked over at Smith, his shoes and socks had, faithful to the rain, washed away with only the laces still visible, carried over the road which was now with stream. She thought of resistance and was soon frantically pulling them from her feet until her soles touched down on the rain suckled gravel.


She moved backward emphatically, still channeling frustration. A thistled brush nearby, clucking at the road with its invasive thorn porous stillness, cut into her leg, charging the blood. Smith ran his teeth down to his knees and, in the blessing of dirt water drained with his mouth the poison, his mouth round the wound on her leg connecting with the fissure into veins and the difficult place of life kept ordered along a non-beat, an infinite whistle without mouth.


[Life is often ordered along a principle; so the most perfect, a snow-crushed perfection, is the principle of self-replication, of self-continuance, of survival which posits that the principle is itself to continue. It is difficult however on two levels – firstly what is it which continues? Do we have a number of pre-established things metaphysical which struggle to prevent their becoming not-themselves? Is it not the case that often that which struggles to prevent this death, this extinction, does so through death, through ceasing to be itself, through adaptation? Perhaps it is a struggle toward a state of continuance itself then, but a struggle by what? By continuance for continuance? What mysterious, empty not-thing is it then that desires continuance, that can desire continuance? – secondly what do we survive? Other things? Other products of the same process? But here we have just seen that the ‘thing’ which continues is explicitly a variable here, is undefined. So how can it, seeing as it frequently defies itself, seeing as that thing-boundary has been made superficial, how can it be contrasted as against?


In order to imagine this survival we imagine things in danger through other things, attempting to preserve themselves, but what they themselves are is variable, the they-themselves is undefined, so nothing desires survival, continuance is already assured in so far as at some level the thing exists, continuance is effortless. This could be called a kind of structural theory of evolution, perhaps if nothing invents difference then the world collapses so there is an automatic splintering infinitely away toward a stability that transcends this threat of into-sameness so deep that it undoes. That is what is desired isn’t survival, so evolution toward continuance, but structure, existence, so evolution toward that. Alternatively this could be titled a load of bollox and dismissed with a movement of the hands]


Smith’s body began to shake as the poison, now quite vigorous, slaked itself through his rightside hip, along his back, to the neck, an impecunity of the surrouding skin, pooling there at the neck and then sinking into his lungs a sick, loose water at flush.


Jones was outraged by this not only was she no longer in possession of virgin leg, unpuckered by the brute lips of man, but the fool had only poisoned himself and the crow’s love would now surely draw her to do the same, to press herself again against the nettle or draw it up through his hanging mouth.


She did not realise of course that a little of her own blood had been taken through also, that it now distilled itself through the poison.


I propose that even with all the relevant information available it remains impossible to determine outcomes where naming all possible outcomes counts as a determination of outcome also.


Think of the magician who, standing before his audience, presenting himself as knowledge, finds a flower out of his chest, behind his white, starched shirt. A rose we’ll say, a little bloody even, and he thinks ‘I didn’t put that there, I didn’t prepare that’ and then he faints onstage with the rose still clutched in his hand. The heretical clutched around the true, like the crooked, upward rose about its rose-life.


As such his hair darkened and began smelling of the cheap lemon stuff she had used this morning and which he actually found quite pleasant, it stuck up also which she, noticing, disliked, it reminding of her own struggle against the same.


He remained somewhat sickly.




Smith was not entirely familiar with visitations in his eye’s obscuring port. Generally it was empty, untended to. Feral. Bits of trees and other sighted objects lying in it slovenly. Here though were stumbling yellow eye-pictures, made of smaller indesipherables which flocked, glowing, staring at him, perspicuous on the horizon, suppressing the dull landscape.


Their presence brought sharp pain down the crescent of his forehead-to-chin. Startling his eyes with instant recurrence.


He begins to run, dispirited limbs lie on him as he directs his beleaguered hale-dim soul toward the bleak jaw of the hill, headless, which overlooks the road that turns away toward the border. Her legs, disobedient, have already begun to follow.




His soles bleed against the flaking rock as with urgency he ascends.


The hill goes black, the bloodied feet move on it like the casting of notes.


He stumbles and she lifts him onto her shoulders.


She carries him to the top. The pleasant character of her feet put aside for the near future.


He stumbles to stand, grips her shoulder, stands.


The crow-brood pass over them in full number.


They come together, moving in mass, shifting. They form the face of a greater crow.


A recrudescent figure out of lake-like mental detritus.


They shiver.




The hill goes grey and the sky turns to meltice. The face of the thing moves incessantly before them and they don’t know how to address it or what to do at all.


It flushes the sky black-sleet, curl of wavering darkcut foam, they skim through, return then to centre on themselves. They repeat, like flash recurring, mechanically tripped storms. As if a great hand brushed them down then caught them. Pelting the feathered bodies.


They huddle together, humiliated. She bites into the point at which his neck rails into his jaw. The blank worm of the crow’s curse is toiling in them both, redrawing the visionless going of their wake-lives.


The head of the thing tilts, beak opens, out streams a noise, a music, which assembles them thusly.




The love breaks the self and flings it away from itself.


The world rinses away from the point of action equally.


The self and the world retreat from one another infinitely because they are joined.




I, the crow, make you incapable of seeing but through the four eyes of your divergent bodies.


I, the crow, place you beyond time and into the steps of adams&eves. I, thrilled, damn you.




The distributed weight in you adam you eve. The arbitrary distribution. Bisection. Take whichever place you wish. Still the same is repeated. I can make you the woman, you the man, without touching your flesh. I want to see what happens. This decided distribution. Ineffectual in my hands. I want to show love splintering and then the no-point to which it aims. No-point in that neither yours nor mine nor worlds. What then? Just.


You make this without trying. You make this home for invention with your mere embodied, the spirited toy-wood of your limbs.




Ourselves, existing. Walled out the world. Which, legend has it, has lost its own self.


Down through indexical time [which is so unreal] lost, rather indexical, so on the other side of time’s carapace.


The walled out world creeps in at the fled from point of joining.


Love intends the point of joining, the mutual space created out of.




The Jones looks along his chest and stomach, breaks from him suddenly. His lungs are frantic with themselves. She laughs. The crow scatters in all directions.


He lies down in the dirt. Exhausted.


She thinks ‘love is just on the other side of this’ and touches her finger to the air. Is like a heavy skein of black water just on the other side of this. Beating like a heart. The crow is a dream scraped off of the touch of that.


She thinks ‘I am Adam’. For she is what she has lost to the world.


She thinks ‘love despises what is not in its name’. Though everything precious is not in its name.


She knows you can only love the nothing which is given in all things, all other love is false, is duplicitous. What is the other intention of such love?


She thinks ‘love saves nothing’. Is raised like an amphitheatre in its observation of the events it is bound to.


Her love is a betrayal of self, a betrayal of world, a betrayal of the possible God. It makes things exist. They should exist.


She looks at the Eve in him and he is as he was to her. No one in particular.


To think that to get something done you should need to betray everything so deeply.




He is asleep on the hill top.


He dreams.


He is standing on the outskirts of a forest. In front of him there is a cliff edge and beyond it just wind, hovering intensely, a depth of wind that eradicated depth, an appearance of horizontal solidity which spoke of the endless unmade caverns piled into its surface. That nothing is obscure is the most sane thought. Also, out in the wind, a momentous, dull heart of silver, droning. Like a bleached, tamed sun. This is what it looked like in the beginning, he imagines it so.


In the end a black slope, starless, vacant before his outstrecthed hands, a night-hill of unnourishment.


He held both this beginning and this end to himself and they were dreams proper, skimming over his own existence, neither ever actual but that he had seen it so.


He dreams also, oddly, of her feet. Of him being carried up the hill and he watching the heel of each in the gravel.




Peter Kiernan is an Irish writer based in Dublin and part-time researcher at TCD (Plato and Modal Realism). He has previously been published in Honest Ulsterman.