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Jack Barker-Clark


Once I was a boy, replete with alpha brainwaves. I lectured on pulsars and zygotes, on Kierkegaard and carbon offsetting. I was as familiar with the Yuan Dynasty as with Fireman Sam and took in anthropology and ethics from my highchair. My parents hated me. They put me in rompers and I gave them the history of cotton. They served me yoghurt and I outlined the horrors of dairy farming. They pointed out full moons and I quoted Cleopatra. Now the fleeting moon, no planet is of mine. I expected them to roar, explode with mirth. They were intimidated, alarmed. I was two feet tall and had read all of Proust and Hegel. I knew and intoned dead languages. Knew Pi past the trillionth decimal place. I knew who ate what and in what order on the eve of the Battle of Hastings. I only wished I knew more. I was not in other ways porous. A blurred glimpse on our way to Ripley Castle of cooling towers above the motorway, caused the theory of thermodynamics and drift eliminators to organically develop in my mind. But I could not cook. Or successfully dance. Or shave. Or unwind. Or decipher subtly. Or unpack irony. Or lie. Or impress. Or be cherished. And I was always baffled by my mother's ravenous appetite when it came to her loathing of me. In the springtime my uncle got sick, lymphoma. I produced graphs and funnel charts, mapped his decline. For this I was banished from his bedside. I was banished from the hospital. I was banished from the living room. My mother wept all night. I stayed in my crib and advanced complex theorems. Now and then I dreamt. Of a spacecraft that broke the speed of light. I have been dreaming of it now for years. Here it comes. I zing outwardly on it through the stars, assemblages of gold. I travel back down to Earth, an escalator through the planets. The human species has regressed in my absence. A billion years. Or thirty will do. To visit my mother, a little girl in North Yorkshire. Happy, lucid, cylindrical. Her powers dim but gathering. Her hatred not yet fixed. I speak. But no words. Only formulae, algebra. Field theory, polynomials. Equations pour out. My mother shakes her head. She is crying again, falling on the ice. The paramedics are always near. They are forever reviving her. That violet sky, the hydrogen churning. The medics and the tonics. Their various nectars. It always ends the same, my mother's voice in the little girl's mouth: why the fuck are you like this. There is no tonic for me. I laugh, but bitterly. And a stranger, holding my skull in his hands, closes my eyelids as I pass over, or wake up, and the black night comes down screaming in my cot. For a moment I am a boy, oblivious, fey. But the raw data soon multiplies up my sheets. The information leaps back into me. I know everything once again, the history of the world. A waterfall of numbers glittering in reverse.





"Entombment" began as a response to the narrator of Kierkegaard's Repetition, the tireless Constantine Constantius, with his wry reflections, his somersaults. "Simply by having begun, he advanced such a terrific distance that he had leapt right over life."