LYRIC PERFORMANCES Katherine Horrex “Waking in Twos”

A clock knocks time / between four walls/ where we lie caught up / in the excellent rejection / of all company but each other’s, / immune to the pendulum / as if it were the call / of animals elsewhere—/ cockerels crowing about / unfinished revolution, / so that whoever still sleeps, or slept, / is on infinite alert, half consciously. Not us./ Next door’s farm winds down, / its owner dead by his own gun/ for some days now. Not us/ and lorries light our room / with the colors of commerce.
from NEW POETRIES 7, an anthology edited by Michael Schmidt (Carcanet 2020)

FIELD OF REFERENCE Giving grounds, however, justifying the evidence, comes to an end,—but the end is not certain propositions’ striking us immediately as true, i.e. it is not a kind of seeing on our part; it is our acting, which lies at the bottom of the language-game.
from Ludwig Wittgenstein, ON CERTAINTY, edited Anscombe and Wright, translated Paul and Anscombe, 1969.

A wickedly clever lyric perfect for the hangover of Election night. Each cluster of phonemes spins in its gravity/inertia.

The title: “waking” misheard as breaking in twos.

Equivocity, the subsoil of lyric, sprouting everywhere. No thing without its other— A clock knocks time: “knocks” as in tick-tock AND “challenges the authority of.”

Verbal tension of the scene: “we lie caught (up)…” Think about caught. The dialectics of the lyric path leads us to the break: “not us.” Finally the reductive yet still vibrant image of the last line.

Wittgenstein’s path— from saying to seeing to acting— makes me wonder: am I wrong to feel an intense tug of NO compelling me over the abyss of exhausted dialectic into action? Or more precisely a relief that one CAN change one’s life? Hasn’t Horrex performed this lyric towards action/change of point of view to a standpoint outside the dialectic and within the lyric equivocity, art’s standing in the universal impermanence?

I hope so. In any event Waking in Twos is just the stiff drink I need this morning.

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at and other sites.

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