<— la — is it Ella, or is it Memorex? — Hold Music (Denise’s Ear) — this fig — festival — not constance — soft rock / strange trouble — Toody — i catch a rare vole — dedications — front matter — Partly Stressed — She Had Work To Do — Guilding / The Pith — Ruins, Spats — by recognising it, again — When One Says To Another
festival sound, 14:22 (2020) / publication, 24pp, Risograph (2021)
(broadcast on Market Gallery’s Vibration Lets Me Know You Are There Episode 2)
— you and grass are caught in a crisis of performance, tangled in the tensions between performer and audience, co-acting with the apparatus of the event and its affective architecture(s). Noise bleeds, graze, and dwells where memory is like loose debris trailing on your trouser leg.
listen here: https://soundcloud.com/user-770699049/episode-2-1
publication available here: https://goodpress.co.uk/writing-artistsbooks/festival-by-jessica-higgins
The grass is dry against your palms. It’s not rained in thirteen weeks, they say. Some stress this lack louder than others, but everybody knows it’s definitely pushing it. Late afternoon shadows cross paths with legs carefully arranged to touch and not touch each other and those touching signal kissed cheeks, or maybe lips, or maybe softer parts. Sometimes, the leg’s particular sag or will to move with gravity’s pull give it all away. These pressures cast on flesh carve the mounds where intimacy dwells. The grass is dry against your palms as the weight of your torso propped at your shoulder routes through your arm and, arriving at the heel of your wrist compacts the soil and in return accepts imprints of the ground’s shoots and loose debris.
The grass is dry against your palms and you stand up. You’d woken in a bad mood and wanted to go home. But you couldn’t. You were a long way. You took some time to linger alone. You linger a long while. Somehow, the lingering worsens your mood. Some scenes try too hard to implicate you in their folds. Your drag resists. You can’t speak. You feel coerced, and split. You skirt the bricks rather than cross that swell of dry grass again to greet that old friend who you notice in the distance, whose touch you sustain, long lost and pulsing. Lingered too long, sun-weary and left cold, you split. You skirt. Noise bleeds and carries your feet. Soles compacting the loosened topsoil. This heavy body parsing loss. The ground is overdrawn. A reminder buzzes in your pocket.
The grass is dry and in high brushes it tickles your ankles. You pass a parting at the thirsty swell’s edge and a voice pulls to you. You’re told it’s probably time to eat something. You eat, you feel better. You watch the flowers and a grey cat slink past. Some people make jokes. Some take things seriously. Some talk about toilet habits. Most lament the breeze. The grass reminds you of itself. The ground is overdrawn. You move to a small clearing and sit, ragged. The collapse is dislodging. The collapse tells us of its loosenings. The grass is dry against your palms. It’s not rained in thirteen weeks, you’re told. You’re sitting.
The grass is dry against your palms, again, and something shifts in the back. All but a finger is pressed to lips and a hush hums quiet. You hear what shifting weight and the preparation of attention sound like on dry grass. The grass is dry against your palms. It’s not rained in thirteen weeks, they say. Some stress that lack loudly. And all — it’s definitely pushing it, this pressure. This frame. Touch tends tightnesses. It’s not rained in thirteen weeks, you hear, again, elsewhere. This collapse is dry and things get brittle. A hoarse cough. It begins with the clearing of a throat. Its brush turns heads, pricks an ear, brings it up, removes the obstacle. A through way. Bringing it up. This collapse is gruff . You, intent to remove the obstacle. This collapse is a graze on the ordinary skin of things.
The grass is dry against your palms as the scene dims and shadows dissolve. Clouds overhead phase a casting call. Someone whose leg shouldn’t really touch yours touches yours and you both re-arrange. A synchronous split. An emergence. You hear what an accident of familiarity sounds like on dry grass. It cuts at your thighs. This grass is dry and this grass cuts into your thighs.
The grass on your legs is the hand raised above the heart, palm flat against an imagined plain like a frame or a screen, it signals a guarantee. The grass says I’m telling you the truth, or so help me. I’m real, I’m really real. It’s really real. It’s really real. This blade is this proof. Doubt mutes in the face of material. This collapse. Someone in the corner of your eye kisses someone softly whose leg stays put. Everyone around whether touching or not touching notes the noise. You accept the implication, this time. You roll it around and between your knuckles. You clutch it — grasp it — drop it — graze it against skin — wave it at people across from you — hide it in each other’s hair. This sustain.
The grass is in your hair. The sun has re-emerged. The shadows rearranged. Unreliable witnesses drop from the eaves. The held hand casts itself into the architecture and presides over the event. Or so help me. It hangs ghosts across the peripheries of the crowd — it’s not rained in thirteen weeks — a slow — soft drum — now kick — the time — now a muted snare — a tambourine sweeps past — you are the hostage holding up a today’s date newspaper as the spotlight blows — a tambourine sweeps past — grammar — falling over — and over — and over — and over — and over — minor chord. Punctuation. Two strums. Up. Down.
The grass sings: when you’re all alone and lonely in your midnight hour. A backing breath props the melody’s exhale. What did you want to do? Once. What did you want to say? Once. Who did you try to impress? Once. You’re asked: what fields did you graze your knees in, and for what? Grass. And the rise. Grass. A dramatic: and who loved you, grass. You are not-not like the oath of the hand — steady — ready — who loved you. Or so help me! A lover’s arm stretches around their other and then, swaying — swaying and bobbing — pulling the rope — now, centrifugally — now, a tug of war — now, a fishing line — hooking and hurling out a 4/4 life. You go mad. Mad. For a suspended moment. Held. Grass says: so to explain it one way, we’re all paragraphs. The crowd is reframed. The space between arms is a tab down and a shift to the right and a lapel pin is the initial. Larger than life. Standing at the beginning. Again. You begin again and carry the point around. Again. That’s the point. Again. You carry your purpose like a crate of fresh fruit and deliver it back to your feet. Shuffling into the room late you find yourself a spot somewhere in the middle of the rows and the end of the aisles. A light glares in your eyes. You shirk. Ghost images float. Imprints. Trolleys and plates clink and rattle in the back. Something else is happening. You sit across the parting, parted. You missed the beginning but you’re a paragraph now, just like the rest of us. The current is a steady flow. A crowded baton relay. A marching band. A hand runs through hair. Someone recrosses those legs. An elbow grazes a thigh while reaching for something on the ground. Heads bob back up. Heads bobbing up and down in the sea of electricity, again. This collapse, held at the hinge between neck and spine. Working nape’s throb. Over. Over. Over.
The grass hums the snare rattle — a glint and a gloss bounces through the shade — makes contrasts. You look over a shoulder as the drummer kicks and hits in swoops of 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4. There is a pause. A wait. A hold. For a drop — your ring makes a shape in the silence — the suspense — midway to — heads bob up and down — hips hold a stretch and release in and out of time in the sea — that is — of electricity — that is — a drone — a — a — a — a — a screech — the lover cries out — the lover is executed — the lover mourns — you drop a glass on the dance floor — you jump on your back — you shake you off — you rush over with a sweeping brush — the scene continues. Imagine electric space. Grass. Imagine being wired up. Grass. Think, like a carrier of charge, unwittingly. Be power and movement, Grass. Be, the response and the call.
The grass pulses ‒ the sustain ‒ delay ‒ drench ‒ dust falls ‒ flings ‒ like glitter ‒ a crumble ‒ a slow rhythmic dis ‒ interest ‒ no room in the eaves ‒ like heat ‒ you lose your friends ‒ ears prick ‒ not you ‒ synthetic ambiences warm nerve endings ‒ you sink into nostalgic frets ‒ not you ‒ grass prickles ‒ youʼre the entertainer, the entertainer. But. Youʼve been better. But. Heartbroken. But. The words arenʼt staying down. Spin ‒ youʼre a long way ‒ you donʼt make a fuss ‒ at curtains up lights and camera ‒ you turn it on ‒ you sign up ‒ laughter ‒ crying ‒ joy ‒ pain ‒ to exact measures ‒ 1 2 3 4 ‒ you know it ‒ the flick of a switch ‒ like the flick of a switch ‒ you feel the prickling all over your body at the sound of a certain note grazed ‒ the brush of an arm ‒ legs touch ‒ a noise in your hair ‒ thereʼs noise in your hair ‒ the drop of a worn out cliché. You want to write music thatʼll move you to tears, grass. But you canʼt tell you why.
The grass ‒ atmos ‒ amb ‒ ence ‒ sludge ‒ tempor ‒ tempo ‒ o ‒ o ‒ taup ‒ tarp, get the tarp ‒ or ‒ watch without ‒ what ‒ being watched without ‒ the room is bone dry ‒ you miss the sun ‒ you miss the sun ‒ you miss the sun ‒ the room is hollowed out ‒ smoke ‒ deflect ‒ glare ‒ glare ‒ glare ‒ lighting technician calm down ‒ glare ‒ glare ‒ another drink ‒ grass ‒ do you want another drink ‒ grass ‒ can I maybe get you a drink ‒ grass ‒ youʼre here with ‒ grass ‒ the room is nothing but clad ‒ grass ‒ container ‒ the situation in, you hear ‒ stringed along ‒ you move and shout and pause and plead ‒ you will and want and plead and beg that something is happening ‒ glass smash ‒ this isnʼt happening ‒ grey cat ‒ sultry being ‒ hairball ‒ no ‒ too many cigarettes ‒ you jump off the stage mid-song ‒ get some water ‒ you miss the note ‒ well it was ambitious ‒ they always said you could do anything if you put your mind to it ‒ well, this throat has limits ‒ a well gathers and is drawn ‒ draw from a well ‒ well ‒ this crowd petrified ‒ this isnʼt happening ‒ Pompeii ‒ itʼs like Pompeii out there ‒ freezeframed ‒ a frozen register of comings goings ‒ carrying ‒ kissing ‒ kissing ‒ kissing ‒ kissing ‒ not kissing ‒ kissing ‒ shouting ‒ sleeping ‒ their eyes, staring back ‒ youʼre up for sale ‒ it seems ‒ perused ‒ captured ‒ a single striking look ‒ can I just get ‒ can I get ‒ Iʼd love ‒ picture ‒ why ‒ I thought ‒ well ‒ no ‒ but you do it anyway ‒ it seems youʼre up for sale ‒ the noise in your hair ‒ just ‒ you were there ‒ air ‒ er ‒ um ‒ do you want a drink ‒ this one goes out to ‒ can your hear it ‒ the rain.
Grass is queuing ‒ grassʼs capacity for the cue is underdiscussed ‒ perfect timing grass ‒ whereʼve you been ‒ wh ‒ wh ‒ oh ‒ bye ‒ grass got changed ‒ looked fine before ‒ come ‒ glass smashed ‒ plastic return ‒ thereʼs plastic in the gutter ‒ always ‒ in your gut too ‒ right ‒ string section ‒ blurry eye ‒ streaming ‒ or so help me ‒ the ambience is a bit like a jellyfish ‒ time ‒ oooo ‒ aaaaaaa ‒ strum strum ‒ hit ‒ ah ‒ what ‒ groul ‒ cupped ear ‒ cup ‒ cup ‒ cup ‒ mouth moves different to sound ‒ rolling in your fingers ‒ palms ‒ threading in ‒ a hum ‒ it tried a bit hard ‒ didnʼt catch that ‒ tucked into trousers ‒ secreted ‒ rattle ‒ glass ‒ you sweep ‒ mirror ball ‒ leaving ‒ leaving me behind ‒ hear labour productive ‒ a throat at work ‒ arranged ‒ clocked in ‒ strapped for ‒ re-amazed ‒ body pop ‒ a yes ‒ a yes ‒ a yes ‒ a dew appears wait ‒ wet ‒ or was it ‒ wet ‒ every you the moon ‒ hunger ‒ balance ‒ topple ‒ static ‒ ow ‒ suck ‒ pinch ‒ cut: grass.