by Tadhg Murray

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-