Enda O’Riordan

Battery (excerpt)
Writing, 2020

Hands wrung down to the bone, there are no hands left, cutaneous container peeling apart, bones abrade, stumps, heat and dust, the circuit runs itself dry. Lumps of flesh gyrate in a synchronous unity, lubricated by spittle and bile, And blood, congealed by friction. Blood in mélange does not sputter but flocculate.

Very well, your bile will lubricate the mechanism, be sick by all means, but be sure to make it a productive cough. At least one part of the machine must sputter. “A productive cough?”, I asked the paramedic. Something came up.

A productive meal equals a productive bowel movement equals a productive circuit. Extra cheese for 50p: synthetic dairy shredded to bits, immanent to experience via cling-filmed bain-marie. Did your mother cut and peel the apple for you too when you were little? It’s just like that, only this time you’re the apple.

They say linear time is done for good, but it still takes 8 hours between eating a meal and shitting it out. Ha! If you’re lucky, mine’s often so afraid of the world that it sits up there for days. Nervously wringing its hands: “something’s wrong”. A contraction of time always forces it out in the end, even dead matter must learn to get it over with.

Battery hen’s first sight of freedom: too accustomed to the bowels of its cage, turns away from the exit. It bides time wringing its talons or pecking at itself, the appel du vide of something that remembers its history as a chicken nugget. Time has fated all cells to contract and spit out their contents. But if you really knew what time was, you wouldn’t hang around like that.

A million chickens had to perish in dank cubicles before the spectacle of a tiny margin being freed could mean anything.

Two stumps of arm, skin retracted inwards to the bone; a synchronous tryst, a perfect unity of two forces, my life as your movement through me, with me, and in me with no surplus. Paired images mutilate each other in an indefinite chewing with no digestion.

The filament of anything extra to be sloughed off. The arms appear before each other as fleshy shits, like a block of marble to be played upon only by the inexorable march of natural process until linear time runs its course and the system can no longer reproduce itself. There will simply be no energy left, and in true romantic fashion both aspects of the dyad collapse in unison.

Is this spectacle to be revered as the true meaning of life, as something beautiful, or rather grotesque? If we are to treat this short lived mechanical tale as romantic, a love story of the dying unity of a stable system reaching its point of collapse, in which any system will do and that all such systems have formal equivalence then why would one care to love anything other than a beleaguered fleshy stump.

They say that all good stories end in old age, with the total exhaustion that follows climax. The decorum of contemporary parlance prefers to speak of ‘maturity’, which means: the event which marks the commencement of dying, a racehorse put out to grass.

This is linearity in its purest form, and the only species of tragedy we can countenance. At the end, all you need to do is wear the other into a smooth stump of retracted and petrified flesh, absolutely smooth to your touch and yours alone, and in turn that the objective of life is to be ground into a perfectly harmonious stump borne of the others’ exertions. Stumps beget stumps through meaningless friction and we are supposed to call that beautiful because it allows us to laugh at ourselves in a way that preserves the cosmic significance of stumps (the only thing we can remember).

But one should surely detect a tone of spiteful regret in the laughter of the stump whose life was irremediably stupid and sustained in no small part by the turgid romanticism of any task whatsoever, the institution of sustained ringing with another, which seeks confidence and justification in a sham constellation of consternation. Our institutions tell us that it’s okay to not feel okay in perpetuity, and that in the end a sculpture is equal to a smooth ball of human dung because of a formal equivalence that doomed both to annihilation in any case. Nobody is exempted from laughing at the end, not even the artist or their sculpture.

But why forestall all laughter until the very end? Finitude took up lodging in your head long ago— A demon who keeps to himself for the most part and whose presence is so quotidian that his outbursts, though not entirely infrequent in nature, are quickly forgiven or even forgotten. One encounters him again the next day as if nothing had happened, perhaps out of fear or politeness, or indeed both. But why hold it all in until this demon is about to take flight? When you raise your voice at me I begin to laugh.

The forms which laughter may take are so variegated that is was a mistake to categorise them together to begin with: An ironic cackle; a wry smile; a belly laugh; a last laugh; you’ve been had; well well, that’s it, and they make such a fuss? Ha ha; hehe; I’m going to piss myself! I’ve pissed myself and it feels wonderful! And approximately 100 other species of laughter which do not yield to written explanation, and amongst this number includes the rapturous laughter that follows the disintegration of madness’s most civilised edifice, the written word, the collapsed monument, the unravelling of tapestry, the disintegration of art, urine jamming the motherboard of integrated circuits, pissing on the hardware of the control centre, in hysterics, absolute hysterics.

The task of art is to invent the funniest (and most lethal) joke in the world. Wee on the motherboard, literal piss! The piss of Amazon workers denied their bathroom breaks, the combined piss of the entire supply chain, the universal piss jamming everything until it sputters and begins to malfunction, truly even the concept is enough to make you lose control of your bladder. A cascade of premature contractions, forcing the issue. Imagine all the piss one catches whiff of wandering on Parisian streets put to good use! Instead of just languishing, coyly demanding our attention like artworks!

And suddenly all will be forgotten in this grand caesura of universal spirit, planned universal loss; when such a thing happens one wishes to go back to work but knows how impossibly fruitless it would be to resume one’s job.

Gyrating stumps are dislodged from their circuits like the universal battery hen emerging scathed but alive from its cubicle, like the ecstatic relief of the perfect shit. Your eyes glaze over and your medals melt into air, now ask yourself: “What am I going to do?”.

Battery (excerpt)
Writing, 2020