Atmospherics is a prose poetry textbook that brings sensual life to the reference work. Encompassing topics as varied as the flow of time in museums, the play of momentum through a sports event, and the expression of food in dreams, it studies how anything ever comes to feel like anything in particular at all. Atmospherics pushes an expressive phenomenology beyond the resolution of experience into a very quietly strange world where there is wonder at the mood of a city street, the cry of a trumpet, the turn of an event.
Dankness and Cathedrals
There is a subtly tidal dankness that ebbs and flows in old cathedrals. The cathedral’s rock-wall surfaces are pocked with millions of moist, microscopic dimples. And the surrounding air, relatively nimble and dry, happens across these porous surfaces, pulling with slow, randomized tenacity a cooling vapor from their minuscule, stony wells. This vapor gathers and flows first from the turreted apses where less air volume to wall surface results in higher humidity and fractionally more pressure. In these inverse chimneys, the air thickens with dankness most quickly, and then pours slowly downward, building, as it falls, a cumulating, humid momentum. Driven down by weight, coolness, and the light squeeze of air in the rigid tower, the dank creeps to the ground where, on impact, it tumbles in a slow-motion tumult and then flattens out across the floor. In a cathedral with apses at six points, four in the corners and two in the middle of the length of two opposing sides, the dank will pour down as described from each of the six points at a more or less equal rate to the floor where all six currents will meet and buckle upwards in one low, slow, fountainous splash in the center of the nave. When the cathedral’s doors are closed for long periods of time, this contained fall-and-fountain cycle will pool cold, sober air up from the floor about the shins and pews and books. The rising and settling of bodies, and the turning of pages, churns the dank, blowing off feathery fragments that are occasionally inhaled and then murmured back out into the engulfing distances, generally gray and strewn with incense, chants, and the glint of chalices.
Within the event there sometimes occurs some perfectly timed salience of aptitude: a definitive turn around which opens a slipstream of positive congruences. The way is eased for everything within that slipstream, but the slipstream is fringed with drag and cross-purposes, and for everything outside it the way is confounded. Following a turn in athletics, for example, momentum sweeps along the game’s participants and constraints in two opposing directions, temporarily orienting happening into for and- against. To achieve this bipolar heading across the field of play, momentum actually moves through all the grunting, blurry strains of action in a variety of directions and speeds, radiating from hips, heads, feet, and fingers, modulating itself intently all the way down into the turns of athletes in their media — into those seams where, for example, a hard-pivoting player twists his cleats’ bite through soft turf, ripping the fine roots that sequentially hold and give beneath his flowing torque as he imparts impeccable touch to a ball. In athletics, as in desires, speeches, movements, and eras, momentum is the gravitational trailing of any real turn of the event.
On SPD Books
Cover art by Leslie Shows