In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Stumbling Block its Index
  • Brian Catling (bio)

The Stumbling Block is a graphic font. This black plinth was once a brush or similar terminal that was the lips of an intense electrical arc. Industries proud and violent need spoke through it to turn the wheel or smelt and cast the constructed challenge. Now abandoned it finds benediction in seclusion. It has softened its mouth to hold water, so that small animals and disjointed humans may drink or sign themselves in their passage. [End Page 218]

The Stumbling Block has been used like an entrance step to sharpen knives on. Its fossil bristle of bright stone forcing the heavy blades down to a hiss along one edge. These are knives of gleaming hubris, long intentions honed for malice. They are magnetized and have been placed to construct a lectern. Each blade holding the next to form the platform. It may hold this index at its centre, hovering, placed outside in the aorta of streets. The removal of any of the blades from the assembled cluster will spill their fish bodies to the ground. The paper will drink any of the stains of their usage. [End Page 219]

The Stumbling Block is an ark of extinction. A bouillon hive of the murdered past, frozen dry to a mass. Something has warmed its corner, the oxoed grit bleeds a vein of contagion, virulent in its passion to embrace and swim in human tides. [End Page 220]

The Stumbling Block is unfound to the stained and unclear eye. But its nest, its negative hollow can be discovered in the mounds of waste and detritus that choke the streets. Its possible wedge, sphere or beam form is there; a vacant socket, easily trampled, destroyed or cleared away. It is watching. Its obstinate grace squinting across the demonstrations of power. It is the light in the eye of the needle grown solid with anger, a fat sugar that clogs the passage to any kind of paradise. [End Page 221]

The Stumbling Block is a bell that sounds a deeper voice than the throats of men. Their image and cry shrinks the world.

The communication of global gossip becomes a barbed wind of trivial penning; television enclosures of wired indifference, the reduction of memory removes the open field and causes blurred shivers to be understood as the same thing. The bell hums as acceleration eradicates silence, the foundation for stillness is removed. The speed of language clones its own restless manic hunger. The portable telephone, miniature televisions, satellites and their collection dishes are the cutlery for this gluttony.

The inedible thinness they devour is obvious. To feed this addiction soapy fictions are boiled from the skin and bone of poverty. Tribes, villages, jungles and the very air itself can be wasted or burnt to secure a dry armpit in puppeted dramas of nightmare lives. Condensation is sweating inside the bell; a human modes sound that is unwelcome. It drips from the rim in whispers and pools beneath its limited protection. [End Page 222]

The Stumbling Block is a shape shifter, a spirit bench that dwells in the cuffs of the expanding city. Over its warn layers of woven scars many forms have been stretched, clamped and tasted, licked and cut; reshaped. Anointed by abstraction, they are put back on the blinking streets, patted and set loose. In the deep pocketed burrows of the bench, termite-size clones dream white directions to colour the tiredness of their somnambulistic donors. [End Page 223]

The Stumbling Block is a barrel organ dragged to the site of a crime. Its tin cup catching rain as it judders on the pounding box. The moon is caught between its throat and the water, and in the black gleam of its varnished vibration. It spills dance into the causeways, sucking revelers along the spindle of its cranked tune. They will spin and curl their lumpen massed centrifuge around the bellowing thing. The laughter is momentary but has soaked away the blood, only the scuffs of shoes and the scratched cobbles sing on. [End Page 224]

The Stumbling Block is not a coffer, disguised by a wig of artifice. It cannot offer erudition or...


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pp. 217-238
Launched on MUSE
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