17 03 20

Whichever time standard we’re on, the question
of how fast and whether it’s worth it, we are
underlaid by drift in the form of mantle, and
that should be at least a start. If the woman
gets up in the morning you could say it
was to be anointed, if that (in this time)
weren’t so puny and obsequious. The wrong
standard makes it so, and the brutal fact
is that there’s no simple difference of opinion
involved : the wrong is an entailment, and
follows into the glowing tail of “history” as
for example the Marxist comet burns with
such lovely, flaring destruction.

That we could come off the time standard is
a first (and preliminary) proposal ; having
nothing to do with some zeal about traverse
or the synchronous double twist of a minor
protein. We could come off all that, to-
gether, into the nearest city of numbers
(of which there are four, & could be five). This
is just a proposal, set on the table to move
right out of range of those sickening and
greasy sureties—like « back to our proper
homes » (or look after the Golden Rose).

The homing instinct of a great deal
else might then be cracked up : the loving
magnetism by which consequence springs
to attentive display in the field of roses.
That, say, and the justice of what we
are said to deserve when so hopelessly
we want so much more. We do not
get what we deserve, ever, since we have
proper claim by the limits of hope and
however far a given desire has within range.

So, we could come off that standard, and
“possessive individualism” would be who we
are—the first city. Break the charter, lift
the harlot’s curse, the revolted abstraction
of “populism” by which the dark is so feared.
Holding hands is a disgusting trick, and is
augmented by the expectation of plenty.

Which would set out our past as gained
into the territory of fortune, and dispose of
that lumpy yarn running back into the trees.
Again, what we recall is the choice, of our
prevalence, the rich garden of the climatic
terrain. And choice is not then one from
“the rest”—the élitist dream of the crown
domed in the Castle of Gold—but an
inclusion within that measure, of choice,
the second city of this middle earth.

And the question of “exchange” is thereby
also dismantled. The dispute, over how
far the values are trimmed, is strictly a
consequent disturbance, since “fair price”
is only the extent of our fears in the
chest, of whatever sundry moth & rust
we see in our age. “Our age”—at it
again, the credible is what we aptly wear
in our timid & tender years. The standard
is a fear index, a measure of what (for ex-
ample) “natural gas” will do to a pre-
carious economy. Whoever in some sheltered
domain called that vapour “natural” deserves
to laugh right into the desert. These are the
arid displacements beyond which lies in its state
the third city, or the jewel of the air.

Further than this, up to our necks in our
polluted history, the fourth city is not yet known.
Going off the standard is thus far only a
proposal : the mantle is warm and in
constant flow, but no man has yet crossed
the plains. No trumpets in any case for such
banal folly : the modest hatred of our con-
dition and the competition which we therefore
call time. They will not sound, as we cannot
yet see the other side, but we deserve to, and
if we can see thus far, these are the few
outer lights of the city, burning on the horizon.

Jeremy Halvard Prynne « Numbers in Time of Trouble » Kitchen Poems [1968] in Poems Bloodaxe Books 2005 p. 17–18