History’s Erotic Impossibility

IMG_6119I’ve always been obsessed with history. I wank against old walls, moisten while reading about the Spanish Civil war, the Crusades, the Inquisition in South America, the Russian Revolution, the Long March. It has taken me a long time to unravel why it is that history does this to me and why, when I visit places that have a narrative past, my skin is on fire the whole time.

Climbing the stairs of an ancient Buddhist temple in Siem Reap or Bagan, wandering through the narrow lanes of the Temple Bar, spotting the indecipherable insignias above the doors to the chambers.The faded oxblood tiles on the floors of Tuol Sleng, and the black of the monochromatic photographs turned to powdery charcoal behind the misted glass in the room where they hang the pictures of the soon-to-be dead. The pernicious, clinging sand of Jordan. The brutal insistence of the creeping vines that weave their way through ancestral tombs in Java. Nature unmakes us with every tick of the atomic clock.

Touching it too. The brittle, crumbly sandstone in Oxford abrades my fingertips. Cheek pressed to mottled, rain-stained walls. Decay and dust. Time erodes the world into airborne fragments of a past-bearing virus. It gets into my lungs, lodges there and infects me. And for days I am sick with love for the place. Not for the place now, but for what it has been. Even the greedy, green scent of the giant carnivorous trees of Highgate, breaking the bones of the dead to make their meat. The iron-red water, sleeping in ancient cisterns. Fish nibbling away at the feet of stone columns. The grit on the wind tastes of a thousand, thousand years of saying goodbye.

History is my pornography. The past doesn’t require my compassion or my pity or my measured response. “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair” said Shelley, but that’s not what I do. Not despair, but a throb between my legs. Perhaps despair and a throb? Yes. That, then. Both is better.

The past, however much we fool ourselves, is not real. The real is lost in time and we weave narratives out of what remains. We write histories. The monks, the starving children, the burning witches, the gutted soldiers and the drowned Jews. All dead, now. And what do I care for for their dead cares? I take their corpses as I please. Drink up the lingering stink of their stale miseries. A perverse voyeur of what is beyond my reach to change, or fix or even to remember.

It is the impossibility of putting any of it to rights, the sadistic discipline of time’s obscene rule. The longer, more savage great march forward. There is no going back ever. It’s forbidden. That’s why it turns me on to contemplate it.

7 Thoughts on “History’s Erotic Impossibility

  1. korhomme on January 8, 2014 at 3:03 pm said:

    There’s a Temple Bar in Dublin, but it’s a bit faux. Where did you mean?

  2. korhomme on January 8, 2014 at 5:09 pm said:

    You should visit Newgrange, Ireland. It’s a passage grave within a tumulus. On the shortest day, the sun’s rays at dawn pass through the ‘roof box’ to illuminate the central chamber.

    It’s now a State Monument, and visitors can get an idea of this when visiting, for there is a demo of what happens when you are inside, an illustration.

    It’s possible to see the real thing, though there is a lottery for this; I’ve never been successful. The spectacle lasts for a couple of days before and after the solstice; it’s more or less on time. More or less because of the precession of the equinoxes, so it’s now about 20 minutes late. Sunshine is not guaranteed in Ireland.

    Newgrange is about 5200 years old. Seeing what people so many millennia ago must be just wonderful.

    More here, if you are interested:


  3. Very interesting.

    History doesn’t turn me on, it just sort of breaks my heart. We know so much but we can never touch it.

  4. What an excellent suggestion Korhomme.You should definitely visit and check out our Newgrange RG.

    St Nicholas’s Church here in Galway is also definitely worth a look, a bit creepy though.

    • korhomme on January 8, 2014 at 8:38 pm said:

      Don’t know St Nicholas’s Church; tell us more.

      The 1:50,000 map series of Ireland has the antiquities marked in red. All these maps look as if they have had a severe outbreak of measles.

  5. It’s an Anglican Church dating back to c. 1320 – they have a website (www.stnicholas.ie).

    I’m not sure if you are familiar with Galway but it’s on Market Street where they have the Saturday market. It has some pretty intricate stone work and is linked to Cromwell and Christopher Columbus.

    Interesting place. Not as interesting as Newgrange but definitely worth a look if you are in the area.

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