Monday, March 09, 2015

The Precariat continued

Trier Two: Transcript of Rogan’s Address to the Oxford Union Society

Each of us wakes up as a different entity every day, holding but memories peculiar to that entity, memories of a life already under way, sometimes well-established, sometimes moribund.

This morning I woke up as me, a precariat, the Peter Pan of musique concrète. Tomorrow I might be a shrimp-like Imploplip foraging for motes in the rings of some much older planet. But today I am this, and we precariats have to tell ourselves something, when rejections come, or when there are no responses at all, lest we end up like poor Tannahill back-broken in the culvert. And apparently I am rallied by the story of how Gide initially turned down The Way by Swann's. I am pathetic it takes so little; and talking across incarnations the part of me that will be the Imploplip tomorrow whispers to me as precariat today: “What good is knowing of Proust’s vindication, when you still feel so unlovable, when you have always felt thus, back in New York, and long before that when Adrian Heath, in your dream, called you into his dressing room to tell you that he was leaving Stoke City? Tomorrow you will be me. Your brain will be visible as well as the food going down, and you will still feel thus. You take this feeling with you, joined as you are to the penance of feeling unlovable.” And so, members of the Union, I sit most days in the garden under the gazebo, and wonder how, with my history of afflictions, I could ever get back to New York; and part of me even at this moment wonders if you would prefer to be listening to someone else, and whether my invitation to speak is imagined.

When you invited this 42-year-old to speak, I held not his memories, and yet two months later it is me who has turned up at the Chamber. You are disappointed. You sense something in me that is not quite consistent with the precariat you invited.

Whence came this spirit – call her my daughter, but in truth who is she?
[Note: Rogan shows a slide of a little girl in a Stoke City
Strip from the Denis Smith era, standing with her back arched beneath
A rainbow, like a cartoon chorister abstracted from the wreath
That had framed her on a Christmas card, intoning bars of "Joy to
The World"] Her beatific countenance is prey to that thief who,
On tomorrow's waking, will take her, as I will the Imploplip,
But I want to stay loving her, bright-faced in this Stoke City strip
From the Denis Smith era; and this is the inconsistency
You sense: Since you sent your invite, that shrimp has been offering me
Unsolicited counsel, with faint susurrations proclaiming
Each morning as my first one as me. I glimpse his food going
Down, and his brain through sickly integument, just as you may be
Noticing within me a wad of something that you find mildly
Wearying. I want to stay as Dad to this little girl, to both
Of my children, and as Rimbaud reneged on his impulsive oath
To maintain the disordering of his senses, I would forsake
My writing if I could stay feeling loved by her, never to wake
As Imploplip. The wad you are noticing, that drains you all so,
Is that penance of feeling unlovable, but if tomorrow,
And for years thereafter, I were to stay as this little girl's Dad,
This feeling would diminish, and I should think the shrimp would be glad
To stay as he is, foraging for motes, never talking across
Incarnations. By rote, while concentric circles of meaning doss
At the feet of censing angels, I tap each finger lightly
To count syllables, speak rhymes to myself alphabetically,
Frequently in public places ("aces", "bases", "cases", "daces"),
And they awake fragrant and endowed with facets and faces;
But such circles can not be modified to express my love
For this girl. [There is a pause. The next slide shows some steps from above]

Sitting on some steps waiting to go on a tour of NBC studios in Rockefeller Center
(It is not what I bore);
Six thousand miles from home, a fan of The Fall; anorexia and migraine were my new impedimenta
(but how much I bore, stoically);
I was 18 in New York, and Frank O'Hara meant nothing to me
(assimilating pain as if it were an extension of childhood).
I was the first of my generation to go
To New York.

I seldom washed. I did not change. I slept in my bomber jacket.
A blue culture formed on my scrotum. I now realise that it
Was fabric, in fact, shed by my underwear. I ate just one jam
Sandwich each day. At 18, I would walk along the River Cam
Remembering how I used to deliberately fall in when my
Parents took us punting as kids.

[Rogan shows the next slide]
King's College, where I proposed to Norma all those years ago, having sold my Ford Fiesta to buy the ring.

If you are in Cambridge, I urge you to walk the meadows to The Orchard Tea Gardens in Grantchester. Or to Drummer Street, where you can catch the 118 to Kingston village; at the bottom of Church Lane visit the tree house, now sadly fallen, where I used to sit and conceive of a world clamouring for my couplets.