He / Who touches base first at dusk is possessed first, then wins.

—John Ashbery, "Something Similar"

Dusk brings us closer to the edge of ourselves. {} Declaring an object, withdrawing—a parallax loom of scales and boundaries. Dusk smudges the lines from petulant certainty. What makes us things—the surly whirls that once were borders—in dusk begins to retreat. Retreat into what? The mystery world of elusive possession. We want things more when night falls, when we feel the rustling and stirring; things vanish or flash, distinct from how they do in the day. There’s a sense of surrounding. 

Dusk: from the Old English dox ("dark, swarthy") and doxian ("darken in colour"). The swarthy sky bereft of stars. An olden Romantic glitter of dark. The word lingers in the mouth’s open O, softly like the beginning of a kiss. We work hard in our labour for the still point in the day, the onward walk home that complements wandering. Time seems to ease into evening. What once was urgent, certain—the push towards starting—melts into a seeping morass of excess moments. Pause for reflection, fly over the hill. The agrarian rhythms; time as contained in sundials, the centrepiece stone, an aural montage of jackdaws, sparrows. Stephen Duck’s wearied threshers, whose efforts resound against their masters’ "dainty Fare", as they chew instead the thick hay, a Sabbath feast, the "gloomy waste" whose "pleasing Prospects" once were fair. Dusk upon an English hedgerow, a dark and sad pastoral. Land of the Brontës, those misted moors with cloud dusting silt on the glistening mosses, the chewed-up peat. Meandering souls that haunt each grave, following close an ellipsis shape, a circular pathway. The mine-stained skin that mixes vodka-cold in the hillside waterfalls. Only in the darkest parts can you see the stars, discern such points of scale in the liquid mousselline clarity. Childhood visits to Dumfries and Galloway. The mystic properties of marshmallow gin, we pick at midnight. Laura Marling: Darkness Descends. The descent itself is a darkening.

We adopt certain strategies to navigate the violet dust that accumulates upon each iris daily. Making haste home seems illogical sometimes, especially after the strip-lights of an office or library. Procedure descends into chaos. If you look up, over the recently unravelling autumn trees, you will see lights in the distance. Leaves. If you look up, across the twinkling, darkling bay, you will see lights in the distance. Leeward sunk. If you look up in the forest clearing, those lights in the distance are genuine stars. Leaky gleam. Dusk is the vague smudge of a moon cutting its outline from laminate cloud. Distilling whole consciousness to geography, you revisit dusk to discover some memory. 

I am on a roundabout in a park and every portion of the roundabout is cut like a pie into primary colours. I hold onto the bars for dear life with a boy and we sing all the songs of the White Stripes for hours and it’s the first time I’ve sang anything with anyone. It’s like this chasm is opening within me: the precious rift of initial longing, a slit of mystery. We don’t notice the darkness that falls around us; our lungs burn clear and young and strong. I am dizzy from cherryade mixed with my father’s malt whisky, dizzy from spinning. It feels very tender when we sing, fall is here / ring the bell / brand new shoes / walking blues. We invoke the morning in place of nightfall, the necessity of ending. We sing a version of ourselves, red and blue Clarks shoes with the matching buckles walking hand-in-hand to school. We erase the age difference. It feels more spectral than saccharine. We spin and we spin and spin; he gets sick first, leaps off to push me harder. I think then if he’d grabbed me and kissed me it would be the most romantic thing in my teenage existence. Instead he waves and I watch him disappear in the thickets of dusk; by which I mean something of far-away hedgerows, darkness, undiagnosed shortsightedness. I think he fell through time a long time ago. 

Spinning alone I was lost. As I am lost walking home again and again, each new walk an iteration of the first. I dream in these trippy repetitions, the same old songs starting up as I pass this lamppost, phone-box, bus stop. The absent presence of that walk to school among maple syrup sun and falling leaves, dripping heat and a touch of cool. Chill in the air, ice in the teeth. I am like Ashbery’s speaker in "Something Similar", hoping quietly for deja vu, "That’s all we can do". I would like to set out a sense of duration, lay it like a plush long carpet. The original feeling diminishes slightly; with each walk I dilute the rawness, coat fresh lacquers of indifference. My mind opens just enough to let the dusk in. I desensitise, slightly. 

Sometimes I dream of being a farmer’s daughter. I would like complete access to the land. Somewhere to watch the sun go down, to open my skin to the lusty midges. A sense of continuity, the emission of identity in the space of recital. 

Maurice Blanchot, in The Writing of the Disaster: "Desire remains in relation to the distantness of the star, entreating the sky, appealing to the universe. In this sense, the disaster would turn us away from desire with the intense attraction of the undesirable impossible". Such paradox comes into fruition at dusk. I would give up every river of Ashbery’s "Into the Dusk-Charged Air" for a general sense of the river as such. The hyper-virtuality of unstoppable currents, the strange sense that nothing is the same, that a river never meets stasis without negating its namesake. Finnegans Wake: "riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay". I think in reversals: I read the ebook version that stretches for days and days, as if the diurnal rhythms of such arbitrary arrangements were anything less than a chiaroscuro play of darkness and light. I scroll as the clouds do across the sky, sweeping text from a page till it blurs in my eyes. The tiny screen reads, page me. Where light ripples on the river, there’s the dappled parts and the shadows where luminous fish hide their light. The fluvial passage of light across water, current and weight; the bedded stones which shiver. Those hard and shiny nouns. These expressed trajectories you cannot quite follow with the eye alone. Sinuous among jungle flowers, "choked with ice"; that is Ashbery, describing rivers I have never heard of, will never look up. Remain unknown. Life follows the currents that spill over the lines, as if ever a river had an "eternal song" and the mere invocation just tongue-in-cheek. Still, a rivulet existence. Meet me at the tributaries where memory splits apart into sea, becomes oceanic, the miasmic expanse of consciousness. Then nothing. A violence.

Poetry can be a form of abuse. Wordsworth’s depictions of Lucy, the beautiful jewel, phantom in the crest of his breast where desire should live if not for sheer glut of words. "A violet by a mossy stone". This shining thing, eye of reflected shadow, "Half-hidden". Dancing and skipping in the darkening mountains and far-off shores. Like the narrative of Finnegans Wake, her beginnings and endings ambiguous: "She lived unknown, and few could know / When Lucy ceased to be". In dusk I streak through my outlines. I read conspiracy theories that Wordsworth "killed" Lucy, but only years later do I understand such assertions as sheer ontological premise. Her being exists alone in the space of imagined death. Oh what Blanchot might say about this! A continuous, sidereal passion. Lucy "concealed" by nights; what remains is the phantom sense of the "last green field / That Lucy’s eyes surveyed". Such pastoral is cloaked in shadow; we see it from the eyes of the dead alone. The disappeared, the undone. Who is Lucy, we must ask. Who indeed did roam?

Her very name tastes of moonlight, liquid, the slice of time. Lucy: meaning light, born at dawn or daylight, one of light complexion; derived from lux, a name given to girls born at dawn. Lucy thus being the opposite of dusk, she signifies the coming of light rather than its dying in the midst of darkness. Lux Lisbon of The Virgin Suicides, full of golden auroras and "daring rendezvous", "radiat[ing] health and mischief". Lucy is also acid, the promise of a concentrate hit of a trip; imminent shift to the psychedelic. Lunar, sluice: the movement of water rinsing freely; a word that resembles the moon, that summons the moon in description. Luce: Italian for light, or else a fully-grown pike. Limbless cold-blooded vertebrate, predatory and freshwater fish. Scafell Pike, where charcoal clouds collect into void in the treacherous walk. Lucency: the emission of light. Language comes out of this play between darkness and light, the liminal space with its glow or shroud of possibility. Take Rachael Boast, in her Void Studies

                In the room where evening comes on
                and language loosens on the tip
                of the tongue we tap into the sound
                of its roots seeking the dark
                and the song of the dark

We talk of something "coming on", as a drug takes effect in the veins. Coming up sunny on sparkly methamphetamine. The anapaest that trips us, "of the tongue" and in turn feels tactile, tasty; language that tightens in its muscular root. Fall into the next emphatic beat: "seeking the dark", so the point is the looking, the needing and watching, falling. Void beckons. What we glean from the dark is the song of the dark, the spectral meaning that grows like a mould at the fringe of things. Where liquid meets land and moisture seeps rich into porous wood. Carve upon objects the language of absence, inscrutable hieroglyphics. The more we drink or dab or dance, the looser our lines which stream the debris of estranging words. I turn to you on a beach somewhere with sand in my heels, screaming. What comes out of my mouth is nothing but matter, dark and Lynchian. A rasping.

Eluding the electromagnetism, the starry particles which emit from my screen. Each dot matrix pinpoint makes love in black to its background of white, the clustering shimmers. Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. But if spiral shaped, there must be a void; an abyssal ending where everything turns from, orbiting darkness, absorbing light. The oscillation makes no sense. There is some resonant cavity, a certain frequency. Matter of the quality anti. The eye meets its vanishing when looking too long at distance. Sometimes the hills seem to quiver. The lake is vast and coloured as the darkest sapphire, with its elastic lattice of inward arteries; the temperature of blue attunes to UV. We react, then grow recalcitrant. By midnight, it’s possible to see the halo where once the forest had been—infused with ink, now loosely running. The stars shiver then still upon wasted plains. A denatured nature, a dissolve into darkness, the end of the film’s magnetic strip. Rustling the dust marks, the scratchy bits. The halo threatens all; it’s the inevitable, inward devouring.

Everything creates its own reality. The infinity of looking in millioning mirrors, the kind of triangular facets on the chips of crystal on the side of a cliff that stretches forever. Wordsworth’s daffodils, "stretched in never-ending line / along the margin of a bay". The impossible scale of the glimmering objects—"ten thousand saw I at a glance"—distilled into the margins of the page. Where we trace, where we hover. Cursorial; resembling a cursor. Lucy has a childlike innocence; you imagine her always in a state of play, that strangely primordial communion with nature. She clicks things to activate secrets. She’s hardly human; supernatural with added nature. She skirts around the edge of things: "She dwelt among the untrodden ways". In Ashbery’s "You Spoke as a Child", he writes: "You spoke out of the margin". Something is summoned in that possibility space, the sense of being always pursued, wanted, elusive: "The children here are as / hunted rabbits, and don’t think too much about what comes after". What is imminence but this what? Erase reproductive futurity. Invisible by its beauty, something vague we’re not seeing. The way children collect in the margins between fantasy and reality, building their own pretty worlds; this is more important than tomorrow itself. 

The vanishing point of language being the space of deferral between words, the yellow bulb and its surrounding leaf-work of filament shadows. Gold pressed parchment-thin, crackling and creasing. Reduced to darkness where the light is hidden. Flowers in Keats’ Grecian Urn, starting to wilt by evening; for, according to Timothy Morton, beauty is death and death beauty. My face bears the elemental scars of every rainfall, every lash of wind. I am Cathy, languishing at the window. Wordsworth can’t help but evoke the vast and sublime, the "milky way" with all its continuity of stars an implicit backdrop to disaster: Blanchot’s "great sidereal desire". The black hole, the dark matter. Disaster’s inversion of negative presence. The great, initiating declarations of Tom McCarthy’s International Necronautical Society: "let form touch absence, ellipsis and debris". Again, that all-devouring halo. Plato’s fuzzy line, the uncertain divide between the Material and Ideal. Gradations of truth, the flashbulb reality of those sprawling daffodils. Implicit within each a supernatural quality. Added nature, added extra. As Morton reminds us, humankind also possesses daffodil DNA. We are the flickering beings enmeshed in everything, never quite fully ourselves. I open my lips, acid-tabbed tongue with the yellowing sepals where pollen drips. 

Tell me a secret. My fingers brush the obelisk surface of lake, the daffodil bulbs, the sweet pink ribbon that once was Lucy. All of us sprawl and disintegrate as synecdoche. "So much happens in a touch", Karen Barad argues, "an infinity of others—other beings, other spaces, other times—are aroused". An ecology of intimacy takes place most vividly at dusk, the meeting point of two times, the lisping turn into darkness from light. Night from day. Transitioning the flesh into a space where artificial light or fire must render the sense of presence, skin and shape. What I touch gives off a different form of heat. Chemically lovely, unnaturally sweet. Dusk being the ultimate erotic; the physiologic process permitting the opening and melding of bodies. Somebody in a book somewhere is writing about the mating of coral, a fantastic splurge of pearls and strangely bundling sperm, glassy and beadlike in the dark sea spilling new colonies. Treasures of the deep. We delve deeper into dusk. The little eggs clot beneath our nails, they are sold luxurious in metropolitan shops. 

Deeper through dusk, deeper through sea. The hypnotic moment in The Beach where Françoise and Richard swim out to see bioluminescent plankton, join the swirls of luciferin blue, synchronise their kissing with All Saints’ "Pure Shores", blue light glistening on their soaking skin. It’s the end of the nineties, something dark and secret, a strange expansive millennial feeling. You wonder how many takes it took to get it that perfect. Never been here before / I’m intrigued I’m unsure. Mix of desire and uncertainty, Keats’ negative capability, the fleeting: "absence in all its vivacity always coming back without ever coming" (Blanchot). What happens when the blue disappears into black? How many times have millennials recreated this trip, dragged themselves to Thailand and back with a million stimulants tingling their blood? But no, it is never quite that. A painted reality, a crashed motorbike. I feel fizzy; my brain is filled with euphoric pop. Caught in the dusk between things, watching the planes fly back to the airport, signals flashing in the warm foreign night. Hallucinogenic snake-blood, whispered mythologies. The tremors of absence, fleeting lust; could this be Barad’s ethics of the touch, the aesthetic manifestation of the plankton as galaxy of starry particles? We are everything in a deep sense, everything swirling within and around us. We are everything but never quite ourselves. Salt flushes our pores, our wounds—we seep backwards in sleep, the chasmic layers of interminable dreams. 

Come take a nap with me, we’ll lie where sky meets sea. We dream different when we’ve been smoking, as if we’ve let too much of the world inside us, darkness clotting our lungs with anxiety. Little spores of looping thought. Let the meaning leak through, like music. It’s calling you my dear. Not exactly a spot of time, but the immanent arrangement of living systems. Bacteria, moth-dust, beautiful luminous algae. 

Trompe l’oeil. We were crossing the motorway in summer’s flush dusk, eleven o’clock of July. In my head, the steady hum of a hard-drive; months of writing had infected my brain with a strange warm tinnitus. The sound of the sea always within me. Crossing arm-in-arm, glancing back and forth at the passing cars, the blurring lights. What we saw at first was a dead dog, splayed on the roadside. Upon closer inspection, a keeled-over shrub, a stump of a tree. Somebody else’s grotesque imagining. When I count for protection, I only go up to seven. I imagine street lamps glowing on with each shift in numbers. 

Something about a septet. Seven swans, signal in the sky. Seven children singing in a choir. Seven mountains in the space of an eye. Seven lovers. Seven planets of the old cosmology. A queer blue light, the Hot Tub Hostel. We walk this street only after midnight. The buildings unfamiliar, a different geography by daylight. My skin goes cold and glistens with fear. We do not speak; the darkness rank in our mouths, metallic.

My moon sign being Pisces. The horoscope said: All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of yesterday. The implication of intrinsic suspension; you must not move until something else utters the motion, the sewed-upon stitch. A needle through my pores, the threads of the future, sprawling, quartz-like. We grow and grow, thicken and glitch. I never thought it healthy to turn back west, but the stars were telling me. Backwards. Fragmentation as absence of time. Night-blooming cereus cacti, white crown of petals and powdery topaz stamens. A rare display, once in a year or a lifetime. The pollens that collect and dissolve, the opening of former moments where remembrance unlocks the truth of something. The truth is always moving, flowering in places uncertain. The scene with the bathtub and rose petals, the sorrowful marimbas of American Beauty. Dusk is the turn from daydream to fully-fledged fantasy, the product of loafing by fountains while children flick wishes in the water, shed their pennies. The fetish of a moment stalled, a promise: "The memory of what has been, / And never more will be"; Wordsworth memorialising Lucy. How do we tie a ballad to the night? A campfire tale where words are performative, singsong, the gathering matter resounding through mountains, valleys, darkling skies. An old, kinetic romance. A bounding animal, blinded by light. The darkness harsh where we curl into sleep, bodies entwined in the sense of eventually. A cut in the silk. 

Alan Warner’s Morvern Callar, lighting her Silk Cuts as if each spark was an eking of time. Here I am in the moment, being. I cut myself into existence. Absinthe tasted twilight in the 1890s. After dark, drinks feel different on the lips, acquire a sharpness, an urgency. And from above you how I sank into your soul, the astral merging of bodies; or else a singalong with Neutral Milk Hotel, languid and sprawled together on sofas after 24 hours of binging. Stuck clams that we are, in love that we are. Always, everyone, just one of us perishing.

But dusk connotes also the craving of nourishment, safety, restriction: Coleridge’s "parlour twilight", in which the mind can unfurl its expanse within limited space. Dusk encapsulates both enclosure and wandering. Here, take this, a little capsule of pleasure. Chopin’s Nocturnes as Romantic compositions: night scenes, opaline shimmers of notes that spill over themselves, that descend and swell and ply levels of dopamine. The nacreous layers of a still-growing pearl. When you hear the inward rasp of the pianist’s breath, a savouring almost sexual. Preservations of ecstasy. Counterpoint, clustering scales. The quality of night-time in the nineteenth century, prior to electricity. Lyric attention, the reprisal that dwells upon a certain mood. Metaphysics of the flicker. Meditations on moonlight, the molten core of melancholy. Brought up to the centre, its contrasting agitation. A kind of interrupted Heideggerian dwelling; the music trips into space itself, how certain notes scatter like leaves but are soon swept back into the trills of some drama that is being, being. The nuance envisions the subtlety of silver upon midnight leaves, a brush of frost, an ornament—the very act of noticing. We sway, the fingers fit upon each other, the mingling of black and white keys. Dusk is the point of the night where promise resides; where the imminent is full in the poetry of closing, dissolving. Shapes are transforming, birds are nesting with muted murmurs. A softness appears, but not wholly safeness. In dusk we dwell, that hour of the city when "light appears immanent to the lit", as in the New York of Ben Lerner’s 10:04. We linger in the long walk home, the street lamps glimmer and the world is caught between here and there, the real and the stage-set. The solidity of things is always slipping. 

Open messenger and the words trickle with strange and intangible music. We say these things only after dark, when life is indulgent and the sky flavoured violet. The edge of our words tastes of danger, lack of punctuation signifies a shift in particles, an abyssal expanse of language which includes the furious, pianist’s click of our fingers on keys. Take these confessions after a long day, at dusk remix reality. Channel its fragments, close lips upon the lips of another or simply drink and drink in things we no longer see. The Nocturne rises, it breaks down into theatrical catastrophe. The surge of consciousness pressed to a window, where the glass splits two worlds and the garden is flooded in celestial pools, the black cat pissing quick by the ash tree. A shift in tone. The grandiose. Dusk is a round in the day, the signifying dark descent of light, an altered volume, a latex mist, a frailer beauty. One thing fades into the other; we shed the complex skins of the day’s identity. In dusk we dwell: here in the shadows and glow, the chiaroscuro recording; the bootleg of everything, scratched and blotted and glitched to oblivion. Who touches the dusk first, the sumptuous flesh of the night, succeeds in the ecstasy of melding. Somewhere inside, we are all Lucy: gorgeous, anonymous, wandering lost; somebody else’s elegy.


MARIA SLEDMERE has just completed her Masters thesis on dark ecology and the curatorial novel. She is assistant editor of Glasgow-based poetry zine SPAM and founder of Gilded Dirt. She regularly contributes music reviews, interviews and features to Ravechild and GoldFlakePaint, and is currently working on a mysterious mythology-based exhibition project with producer Lanark Artefax. Her writing has appeared in Bombus PressDatableedFluland, From Glasgow to SaturnRobidathe murmur houseThistle MagazineQuotidian, and Zarf. She tweets @mariaxrose and blogs about everything from Derrida to Lana Del Rey at musingsbymaria.wordpress.com.