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Published

22 June 2024

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The beautiful corners

Gloria Dawson

Collected in one corner of the house we live in (whatever house that is at the time) is an archive of all the things we must not forget. We made it because we have lost almost everything we ever had – possessed, controlled, held, felt sure of. Long strips of paper spell out timelines of colonialism, the shootings and riots, an anarchist hero remembered from a long-lost book on the Spanish Civil War. Like official histories, our archives are full of untruths. The difference is that our lies are in the service of total liberation. In another part of the house (or building we inhabit) is always the place dedicated to all the people we have loved that we won’t ever see again. This is a shrine to all the people who keep our embers alight – friends, lovers, parents, partners, comrades. There are photographs and paintings and drawings and some objects, precious or semiprecious or worthless stones, shells, and pieces of paper with names written on them.

In one house we stayed in for some time, there was a wood-burning stove with a pale pine surround. In one place it had burst open and there was a gob of sticky amber resin leaking from it. A few drops had fallen on the stove below and when the fire was lit there was a hot resinous smell, very faint, like a memory or a promise or a rebuke.

Because you have already been here, it is hard to write about it. Because you have never been here, dip your fingers in the ash and begin.

That was in the last house that I can say now was my own, and permanent (though it was neither of those things). I dreamt that my clothes flaked apart and stuck in pieces to my skin, I dreamt that cooked rice was sprayed and stuck all over the walls of this house, I dreamt I misgendered everyone. I fantasised a spilt drink, a ceasefire, a collapsed timeline, an argument with my lover in the street, underground rivers culverted underneath the Council Chambers, a riddle on the back of a Jobcentre information sheet, the cessation of logistics, the hospital restored, all the solar panels working again on the roof of the un-bombed hospital, all the hearts that stopped in the hospital beating again, and the blood pouring back out of the soil into their hearts and veins and arteries, and I dreamt of giving a baby its brand-new names.

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