Němaɲa / Not to let go

Tree branches entwined with railings

by Alexandra Baybutt 

We sat down and admired upwards. I walked often alone along that road. But that day we saw the playground together, with its dated apparatus. Surrounding it are similar buildings, with easy brutal incision into the air. Three, four upward thrusts of concrete magnitude. Downwards, cylindrical cigarette butts are squashed into cracks of the concrete paving slabs. The concrete was hot and when a drop of water hit, temporary vapour curled upwards. A large glass disc near us cast a ray of light onto the earth below, and around the edges of this long strip of light were the colours of the rainbow. Right at the tip, blue into indigo defied the pale centre of this shaft of light. We gathered dry leaves to place in this ray, in the half hope they would alight. But we didn’t wait to see.

Did I see you smoke? Maybe I did.

The tall edge of the building looked immovable, with its concrete grandeur and functionality quite untouched. But when you round it to the other side, and look at it from the street, the fascia is missing, with the floors collapsed in the middle, looking like they might continue falling into the floors below. As if it was bombed yesterday. Preserved in memory and in daily sight, concrete is rendered as temporary as smoke. Its form can be moved and shaped by the material around it, as easily as the mouth might shape smoke that exits in a long streak or white ball.

The strong is weak, and the weak might disappear.

The room has a thick layer of smoke accumulating around the ceiling. No one opened the door, or if it was opened for a moment, someone howled ‘close it, I’m cold’. Breathing well is trumped by temperature. The wheeze protest at the end of the inhale tells me some parts of my lungs have given up. Lungs clack together to tell me: no more, leave, defy friendship and cordial enduring togetherness instead for enduring health.

Did you want to hold it? Did you want to hold it up?

We step over the smooth floor, round the large flowers and towards another slab. Its density is not asking for quiet. It protects itself for as long as it can. Coloured smoke streams out of a machine in different bursts. It wraps around the artefacts, like the object had an aura more obedient than itself. Coloured steam consecrates the core of its encircling. Shared breath exhaled from the communal moment, a ritual calmness of circles and endings.

Pass it on? Share it around?

We sat down and admired upwards. Always a ‘we’, never a ‘you’. Insects built the colony, the colony inviting the insects. There are small footprints and shared time structures. Work hours, rest hours, play hours with the Yugoslav dreamland, fulfilling concrete and concrete promise. Concrete shapes that remain as the ideas go up in smoke. Revising and envisioning different accounts, different takes on what was wanted, what was meant, what was hoped for, and what was needed.

Alexandra Baybutt (b. Sheffield, 1984) works as an artist, educator and researcher professionally since 2004. She holds a PhD, a love of dance, and the future lightly.

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