Emile Sercombe

I wanted to write about Emile Sercombe, someone I am proud to have had as a friend and whose generous creativity deserves to be remembered in poetry, prose and artworks everywhere.
While thinking about how I personally might commemorate him, the question, ‘How far are you from a sense of wonder?’ came to mind.
It led to the poem below.
When I first thought the poem was finished, I gave it a too clever title, ‘Dumb, The End’. I also thought it couldn’t really be about Emile. It didn’t mention his gangly athleticism, his trust in people, his surreal imagination and humour, his intelligence or his extraordinary creative courage, that took on seemingly impossible projects, pushing himself to physical limits in his Tennis poem or setting up on the streets of Glasgow to regale bemused passers by with a verbal surrealism that most dared not stop long enough to fathom.

I have had a week to think about this and I now think the poem is about Emile. He was never far from wonder and lived as if he were asking us all the question, so I dedicate this to him. I hope he wouldn’t mind.

For Emile

How far are you from wonder?
Is it in the nearest child?
Is it on the face of a parent
or disguising itself in fact?

Is it in the eyes of a lover
or bubbling under the burble
of a faraway café?
Is it distant in time or just distant?

Did someone steal it?
Did you give it to someone
or just neglect it
and it shrank

and you just kept pretending
everything was OK?
Did you find it incompatible
with your seriousness?

Is it that once you came to understand
wonder is the blue black lid
on this plate of landscape washed by sea,
you knew there’s nothing else?

Was that knee quake,
heart desperate to speak moment,
when you kept dumb, the end?
Are you now cynical, first?

Is that what makes you insensitive?
Is that why it doesn’t matter
how far along the path
pre-worn by animals,

how vaulted the branches
of organic anarchy,
or how locking-on the view,
you will never feel alive
in a skinless moment
or experience woke as a sunrise?

ZQ May 2023


Drink it all in. Let the blood darken

your face. You are breathing

language substrate. You are walking through

so many parts per million of undiscovered expression,

a hemisphere of unvoiced sound.

The smallest unit of meaning is a germ

and germs lurk everywhere,

ink spit and typeface in mirrors.

They always did. They always will

tempt you to assign value.

When you do, you inhale invisible language dust,

delusion molecules, fantasy atoms, fact iotas

and inflate yourself with them,

build dreams, hang hope off them,

act on them

and then you fall.

There’s frenetic mutation

and any number of misunderstandings

but if you’ve tried to make sense before,

you may have some immunity

or an addiction, incipient or chronic?

There is peril in pulped data,

bits and bytes,

the d.n.a. of sentences:

adenine, the letters, guanine,

cytosine, syllables, thymine,

pulverised alphabet, spores of flower verb,

proglottids of emotional worm,

‘a’s and ‘z’s, silent and transparent as air in air,

illness heralds, single cellular life.

A body clearing its throat of irritant,

life sentences pour from the mouth.

Fine numerals, hair breadths, fractional tolerances

in creation soup, gamete ideas meeting,

generating plagues and paradise,

bugs, bug fixes, zygotes, cons and lies,

health bestowing stories, awesome description,

vaccines and poisons, inoculation and possession,

abrasive punctuation, transmogrifying radiations of fear and hate,

the syntax of oppression, granular imperatives

all swirling inaudible, intangible in the bubble

that surrounds you, caught in the filters

for understanding, clogging their mesh,

short circuiting nerves.

The thread leading back through the maze

into tree clean air, is fraying, is spat on and rotting,

is being chewed by sentiment, untied by pride

and going up in smoke.

The signs billow, flutter and flow like substitute oxygen.

You need to absorb some and live for a while in delusion,

drink embarrassment and boost your signifying anti-bodies,

take the rumours and the paranoias like strychnine tonic,

the fantasies as sugar, the lies as creative,

the fear as a warning, the half truth as a half truth.

You are breathing language substrate.

You are walking through an atmosphere drenched

in undiscovered expression,

a hemisphere of the unsaid becoming extinct.

ZQ 170317 (UD June 2022 – was Drink The Embarrassment)