Bricks • Mortar • Imagination • Words

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]

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