The Texts - Julia Copus
The Architect's Plan
VOICE: Sea-spray and sunlight, bronze and travertine;
brushed steel, red cedar, cloud-shift, shadow, stone?
This in the end is how it must begin:
a space on a cliff, a task, and the dilemma
of how to knit the one thing to the other.
What is required, he feels, is more than a building:
it is a vessel for the blind, an ark,
to house the aftermath of war. The thought
capsizes him. He shrinks before it, grows
nervy, hare-brained, carries the problem home
in a tiny battered case with a squeaky handle;
but combs his hair still, eats at mealtimes,
facing his wife at the hinged Formica table.
We have passed, he says, the age of the basilica
and temple. This is the age of industry -
a beautiful thing - and of the multiple building.
She throws the windows open, moonlight sliding
over the outhouse roof, the cooling grass.
He takes himself upstairs then, muttering softly,
thinking of the blind men and the dark
continuous rail of ebonized mahogany
he'll place round the cornerless walls of the building to guide them.
Alone at his desk, he calculates stresses, forces
in beams, sketches outlines of a plane,
as seen from above, marking out rooms along
the cockpit, wings and fuselage, each floor
a near-perfect facsimile of the floor
above it, or the floor below. Sometimes -
more and more these nights - he feels the world
contracting round him, small as a pudding basin.
His wife has receded now to a creak on the landing,
the briefest dimming of light at the base of the door,
which means she is placing the fruits-of-the-forest tray
just so on the table, along with the two-cup tea-pot
and a plate of sandwiches she knows he will leave.
He labels his notes, adds glosses to the labels:
grilles in the skirtings here, and here, small holes -
weepholes in the bricks so the rain can escape.
He sees the last stone slipping into place,
pictures himself in the bull-nose, surrounded by glass;
it is so light, it is almost like being afloat.
Yes, he thinks, the building will be a vessel
for the fallout of the Great War he has lived through
and the countless other wars that are yet to be born.
Korea, Malaya, Palestine, Aden, [conflicts involving British forces
Cyprus, the Falklands, Iraq, Northern Ireland? since the 2nd World War]
[fade out voice]