Stone Shroom Sex
By Martin Sexton
He was a tricky fucker that Sex.
Sex. W. Johnston was his name. I once asked naively what the ‘W’ stood for and he smiled and offered up “With.” The world’s greatest living Irish poet, he said, and it pissed me off no end. After all, I too had laid claim to that very title, but Sex had made the important land grab first, and now I had found myself repeating the grand nomenclature anytime I mentioned his name. Besides, he once had threatened to ‘poem’ me. It was no idle threat.
Both our heads were still spinning from the long night that had just reluctantly shaken off her mantle. In her sour refusal to go, she had spun us both a hangover from Hades and an impenetrable mist still lay and subdued the morning glory.
The green goddess, and others, were jumping and dancing upon us in a dreadful wake. We had foolishly administered hair of the dog, but it only served to bite us. We were like the two pitiful innocents that morning, that had got drunk only once, but it had lasted a lifetime.
It was not long before the arguments started. The progeny of which lay in an insect that had shat on my hand and I had dispatched with a slap of the other. ‘Merdre! Shitsky!’ Sex had exclaimed, aping Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, which we had both been quoting to each other in a machine-gun etiquette, in an effort too out-erudite each other. “Feck you, feck Alfy Jarry & feck pataphysics,” was Sex’s imaginative solution as he dispatched the final bullets.
I kneed Sex in the groin, but only after he had grabbed me by the throat and we had both tumbled on our backs into some liquid soft cowpat. “Look what you’ve gone and done, ya feckin egit.”
I tried to ignore him. I was not sure if the shouting was inside my head or that we were at it again. It was all dreadfully hazy. Things calmed down—more from the exhaustion—and we eventually found ourselves staring at each other—lost but still there—like a child exchanging a long look with another. Then we both turned to stare at the mountain range.
All praise that momentary relief.
But then the ground shook in a low long rumble, tumbling the resonance of thunder beyond the hills towards us. The wind slithered through the long wild grass and there were bright flashes on the horizon. But Night still dominated, her incessant drums in both our heads.
There was no rain, but the threat was there and it would deliver. Sex meanwhile had produced the prequel, as he was now pissing on my back and telling me it was actually raining. He excused himself by saying his piss would somehow kill the stink of the cow shit. It did, but my back was beginning to feel first the clammy warmth and then the wet. Not for the first time that morning I wanted to kill him but instead I said, “OK, let’s see this giant Neolithic mushroom you’ve been promising.”
Everything stopped as he looked at me with that mad caved-in head of his. Then his countenance changed.
“This is serious stuff. You know, the big stuff,” he said.
I said nothing.
But for the first time that day a serious air had descended upon the quixotic proceedings. As he beckoned me on, an old boithrin lay ahead of us and Sex was making a charge towards it. It seemed to end the moment we stepped upon it, and then he was off again, at a lunatic pace across the fields, like he somehow knew where he was going. I could sense his internal compass was on fire and I would lose the mad poet if I were not up to it.
A turn here, a stop, an insane acceleration back, and then top gear and off again. Every passing half-hour—and there were several—he would exclaim that we were almost there.
An eternity later he was still charging about tormenting the landscape. Idle thoughts of murder entered my mind.
I contemplated burying my Bic biro into the back of his crown at the first opportune moment. In my frustration I fumbled to clasp the blessed weapon in my pocket, only to find disintegrated plastic and blue-black ink enveloping my hand. I had forgotten our pen-eating contest at Florry Bats in the early hours in Ceann Mara—probably amongst the sixth or fourteenth Jameson whisky? My sock-less feet were marooned in peat water, and I could see that Sex was showing his builder’s arse; as his beltless pants lay upon his camp-survivor skinny hips only the motion of his insane jangling legs was keeping them up. We were an awful sight and even the cows knew it.
“Let’s rest a while,” I pleaded. He shouted back something unintelligible.
I could see he had stopped ahead above a Faery Mound and was staring down, and then in an instant, he was gone. I ran up the mound and then, at its incline, on the other side lay Sex, all pleased with himself, like the stray cat that had sprayed the tethered housedog.
“There she blows,” said he.
And there it was. Ahead lay a black wood, about which, here and there, some isolated pines, as if they had wandered in like stray sheep from the mountains into the pit of the valley, only to be halted by the black oak, never to leave. The yellow furze along its border only served to illuminate its dark density. There seemed a vast loneliness in that small black wood. Like Saturn devouring its children. Yet beauty was there too, and it called to us.
Sex read my mind and said we should go in like Odysseus—blindfolded, tied to our mast. But there was no ship, there was no mast, and no one to sail the damn thing. Then the wind was up and it ran the flanks of the first rung of trees as they stood sentinel at the breach of the river—all those dark oaks, guarding each and every possible entrance, supporting one another in their resistance.
In spite of Aeolus's blustery efforts, the branches did not move, but the leaves shook uncannily and clouds upon piled-up clouds seemed to lay at this very point, arrested in their passage, held up in that dark oak cul-de-sac.
We both looked and waited. Then we were off, idiots that we were, dashing down onto the brook and wilfully into the black.
Sometimes despite dispatches, description or majestic invention, something grabs you and will not let you go. This was that moment and I, nor Sex, was prepared for it.
There in a small clearing amongst the natural amphitheatre of the stunted oaks it lay. Cnoc an Cappeen, the Neolithic stone mushroom.
With a hallucinatory clarity, it positively resonated its absurdity like some geological joke. Some 12-feet high, geology had been purposefully reversed; the limestone of its stalk should have lain upon the rock of its cap in natural form.
“Nature makes me nervous,” Sex unconscionably whispered aloud.
“I know what you mean,” I whispered back.
First it was those dark trees that had spellbound us—the giant bonsai of dwarf oaks, ashen-black, bark as hard as granite.
I tentatively touched them and they transmitted back the tactile cusp between existence and the hard, exhausted shell of fossilisation. And in the touch of that receiving, there were somehow distant echoes, memories of life, memories of something, something dwelling in another past.
The heavy dense peat bog had slowed their growth and the entire black wood remained at head height, yet the antiquity of the trees was self-evident.
If, like the mischievous Faery, you had spied us from their mound, you too would have witnessed the strange sight as our poet heads, bobbed intermittently, above the stunted canopy, like geese upon a tidal wake.
Something took hold of Sex and he called out aloud: “God, Creator of the World, Lord of history, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve patriarchs...” Then he seemed nervous and stopped.
Not to be outdone, but feeling the urgency to take the baton, I offered up: “Hail Aine, Anu, Dana. All the worlds are as if nothing and nihility.”
We stood there for a long while until the tangible tension had relaxed.
I cautiously circumnavigated the giant stone stalk once and then reversed my steps carefully back. As I tiptoed, I could spy Sex in tandem with my movements but placing his heels deep into the earth.
The air cleared and we both jumped immediately up and down in child-like relief, and then in an effort to view the entireties of the spreading sandstone cap. Its bleached orange hue was spinning with our dizzy efforts. I had the sudden deep impulse to climb upon it, but its scale and awkwardness was such that any limbed effort, even with the help of Sex, would have been futile. I quietly whispered to Sex in the hushed tones one reserved for the sacred places and the houses of God, of my sudden desire to scale its summit.
“Oh no. You would not want to do that,” he hushed back.
“Why not?” I offered too loudly in return.
He angrily motioned me silent and beckoned me out toward the brook as if the answer was not to be in earshot of the stone shroom. When we were in the water, he grabbed my arm firmly and said quietly in still hushed tones—all the while looking about him. “The last one, well that one, yer man, well…he did that…and he…”
“Yes. And he what?”
“Disappeared.” Said Sex.
“Where did he go?” I asked incredulously.
He looked about him again and drew me even closer, “Fourth dimension? Fifth dimension? Who knows?”
“Right let’s fetch a ladder,” said I.
Off we went in a mad dash back to Florry Bats as the sky opened and dumped the entirety of the legion of grid-locked clouds about our crowns, but not a ladder, a step or an empty spare beer crate was to be had that long day in Ceann Mara.
Martin Sexton is a writer and artist. He lives and works in London
and South West Ireland. His 'art works' have been referred to as 'Physical
Literature' and he has been exhibited widely, including most recently in
Tate Britain, London Zoo, The Earl of St Germans Estate Cornwall,
Bregenzer Kunstverein, Bregenz Austria and the 2005 Venice Biennale.
He refers to all his work in whatever medium: film, sculpture, painting,
installations, books—as 'writing'—and it all forms part of his ongoing
Physical Literature series. He is presently completing his Mythical
Beast series and recent additions have included Magical Lock-down Dark
Pegasus (exhibited at both London Zoo and Tate Britain.
The latter as part of New Gothic) described as a Physical Literature Play.
And most recently Dark Unicorn (-If You Talk 2 the Future, It Will Listen)
which is currently on exhibition at Sartorial Contemporary Art London. Then
in May of 2006 Battle of the Centaur & Satyr will be exhibited as part of the London Biennale
He has one previous publication 'We Love You' (Booth Clibborn Editions) and
he has appeared in the anthology 'Go Between' (Palais Thurn & Taxis/Magazin
4). Examples of his work can be viewed online.
Martin will be creating a major new work 'Gone to Earth' which partly includes
the placement of 'Angels' in 'Blake's Tree' (William Blake) in Bunhill
Fields graveyard in the City of London in November 2006.
Editor: Cnoc an Cappeen, also known as "the rock with a hat," can be found on the southwest coast of Ireland, outside of Kenmare. Geologists believe it's a glacial remnant called an "erratic," but Martin claims it as " 'ancestral architecture' constructed by his 'ollave mothers & fathers' for 'God in praise of the Goddess'. "
Photo "Solitary," courtesy of Carmen Cordelia.
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