Hands Feet Seeds


21 September 2021

One of the questions raised during the Pause for Thought workshop that stood out for me was: What does exhaustion mean for people whose world has already collapsed?

Over the course of our conversation, my thoughts turned again and again to the months just before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. My world was already in a state of collapse. I was ‘of no fixed address,’ which is a polite way to say homeless. I was living out of a suitcase, on the road, in perpetual motion, in the early stages of extricating myself from, shall we say, a situation.

Here I pause to make a distinction, between the collapse of a personal world and the collapse of the wider world. Because even collapse is relative.

Other questions pervading our conversation circled around sense-making. How do we sense?

With our whole body. A body wherein the brain resides, but is not sovereign.

How do we make sense?

Of these sensations, experienced by the body.
Of, shall we say, a situation. As it is unfolding.
Of that for which we have as yet no language.

In an acute situation, how does the body behave sensibly? How does the body produce the knowledge necessary?

In order. An order. An imperative. To create order. To survive. Said situation.

Even now. Thinking about these questions. My sentence structure starts to collapse. Which suggests to me that these questions are structural in nature. In relation to the wider world of climate crisis, we are all in a state of collapse.

After the workshop was over, I took a look through my notes from January 2020. My body was already processing questions my brain had yet to cotton on to. How collapsed a world is it, if I have the wherewithal to write up notes about it? Good question. I hope never to know the answer.



Hands Feet Seeds

One hand holds the exhaustion. Working. Away. In a suburb of Rome. Between two televisions, blaring. Three languages. Four deadlines. A long waiting. No trains. Will this flight cancel? Feathers ruffle. The arm aches to wing.

The other hand holds a cypress cone. The ear, the sound of its falling. Fresh. Green. And scheming. I have interrupted something. Walked in on. Walked on. The cone at home now in my pocket. Along with a small piece of marble.

One foot sorer than the other. One foot in front of the other. On a path of white pebbles. In a columned portico. One foot colossal, one toe chipped. One foot in the past. One cast in plaster. One for the mouth. One for the door.

Between a fragment and a figment. One can only speculate. This is a hard place to concentrate. When in Rome. If a Roman invites you somewhere, you go. Between lunch and dinner. Between antiquity and a roundabout. A side street is being resurfaced.

In the Protestant Cemetery. Today. I saw an actual pomegranate. For the first time. I mean, alive. Growing from what I can only presume to be an actual pomegranate tree. And then I heard the cypress cone fall. And then I found it. And then I held it.

What I’m trying to say is, I don’t have time. Time has me.

J.R. Carpenter
Rome, January 2020



21 September 2021

Contributed by

J. R. Carpenter is an artist, writer, and researcher working across performance, print, and digital media. Her digital poem, The Gathering Cloud, won the New Media Writing Prize 2016. Her print poetry collection, An Ocean of Static, was highly commended by the Forward Prizes 2018. Her recent collection, This is a Picture of Wind, was one of The Guardian’s best poetry books of 2020 and has been longlisted for the Laurel Prize 2021. http://luckysoap.com

Contributed as part of Workshop 2