Sean Ashton

Mark Fisher at the Lectern

Your audience had a grapevine feel, a crossfaculty aura,
an academic moshpit of thinkers, drinkers, stinkers,
and you did not go slickly into your spiel, like those types
who read from notes and never take off their lanyard,
but backed haltingly into your theme, one eye on the exit
and the engine running, until you gave the nod
to the driver that everything was going to be OK.
You had the crumpled look of a minor character from Sapphire & Steel,
but sparkled blackly, after a time, on gaining the ear of your audience,
who up till then had seemed to possess all the allure of a transuranic element.
A man once rose to harangue you for being insufficiently Marxist
in a deadrubber thing at UAL poorly promoted on Eventbrite,
but it seemed you were done with theorising the Left,
and almost said as much one day on the radio to Roger Scruton,
with whom you sparred with not nearly enough belligerence
in the eyes of your liberal peers. As with everyone, there were sentences
you started, sentences you started, sentences you started
and didn’t know how to finish, but had to, being at the helm,
and that you were no natural helmsman was perhaps the basis of your appeal,
how you would go from a standing start to something vaguely heroic,
a dynamo that needed traction, movement, to give off any light at all;
and as I reconstruct you now I won’t mistake for moroseness
what was really a kind masterclass in not putting on an act,
vulnerability turned to strength as you lost all track of time,
navigating just as much by what was left unsaid
as what the tongue allowed to pass into general earshot.
Sean Ashton‘s books include Sunsets (Alma Books 2007), a collection of reviews of imaginary artworks and books; Living in a Land (Ma Bibliothèque 2017), a fictional memoir written in sentences constructed in the negative; Sampler (Valley Press, 2020), a selection of pieces from an imaginary encyclopaedia written entirely by poets; and The Way to Work (Salt, 2023) a novel about a man who boards his morning train, only to find it redirected to Purgatory. His poems, essays and stories have appeared in Oxford Poetry, Poetry London, Poetry Ireland, the philosophy journal Collapse and the book Walking Cities, amongst other places.

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