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“National Grid” and “Mercator’s Projection”

Jon Glover
p. 16-18

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En hommage amical à René Gallet.

National grid

‘To my astonishment, I found that the great majority of the men of science to whom I first applied, protested that mental imagery was unknown to them, and they looked on me as fanciful and fantastic in supposing that the words “mental imagery” really expressed what I believed everybody supposed them to mean’.
Sir Francis Galton, “Statistics of Mental Imagery”, Mind 5, 1880.

1There are batteries whose positive and negative contacts are so close
that you can hold them on your tongue to feel if there is any power left.
And then not pain, but savoury, cold metal jumped, as if to twist at roots
I’d never known, and surface to come clean. It may be one way to make

the imagery display ‘illumination, definition and colouring’. Let go quick.
Untouchable? But with a sweet and acid taste. So off you go. What could
be put into words went off round the world. Galton wanted to say what was
in his head. A conscious choice then, and so still – all applicable.

But what if it feels as though the circuits are losing power. Plugs too worn, or
the fuse has gone. What resistance in a small light bulb? A tiny torch-light
seems enough to slow it all. Power generation, that’s what it all needs. Cross
country everywhere. I think I learned that as homework: chemicals and

voltage were rationed out to keep us going. Coal fired. So clever and rational
to lead it up the street to comfort the lot of us. Who would have thought it?
Though cables around the floor to run electric fires at home said it better for
me than a lab experiment might. Step over or trip. That’s no question so

watch it. There’s so much to acquire, with practice, of memorable raw
materials mined to be reclassified into proper workers: impedance, static,
potential, imperial measures to bring it in. Mile upon mile of force. I never
noticed the language; such science of the national grid used for its instruction,

all the metaphors of colonial power. Pick it up from any map with the red
countries enforceable and ordered. Those straight boundaries through Africa
were easily ruled through a surveyor’s sight-lines. Surely. Set it out at a
certain age like the threat of national service or some other hidden atrocity

and it even runs the future. All the facts to be loved and learned by heart, or
else. Shocking to look back on. Was this some geographic flux that left me
splitting wires to run another fire? I remember plaiting thin, bare copper
strands, to make sure they would hold, and winding them with insulating tape.

Hide the twists. Pull, to test them clean and safe together? Some curious and
harsh imperative wants to know. So close your eyes and feel; tug, it’s only
underneath, nowhere else.  Secure and humming as the next power cuts
prepared. You’ve got the picture, it’s so democratic, if pitted and grey, dulled

in a pale exposure to cherish in a family album. It’s simple to say it’s those
slowed-down nerves. Whose truth? Not mine, I’ll wish. You’ve got it now.
Screw your eyelids tight. Nothing’s too much trouble, so repeat it and get it
right, fitted close and warm to link the energy in a nice diagram to hold, just.

17th January 2008/ 11th February 2009

Mercator’s projection

2This natural world. What a choice. I sometimes see it
as an experiment with historic spectacles: all these curvatures –
of lenses, of the sea, spreading the twin towers. Leading up and down to
bend the truth. To my way of thinking, or yours. Whatever.

Mercator’s projection, there, like a carefully peeled orange.
It’s supposed to be the best for some purposes. My atlas gives
other versions. They look like bananas or pears, knifed with care
and pictured for the record. Obsession rather, all this lovely waste

that we live on. Skin, I see that everywhere, the largest single organ.
Chuck it. Scrape it off the chopping board. No earthly use. I remember
that early lens-grinders made money out of sight in the Netherlands,
Germany and Italy. Think of their announcements carried abroad

on horseback with, perhaps, a sample of a new combination of lenses.
Over the Alps, across the sea. There’s one timetable for shoeing,
one for food and water; staging posts and ports have their authority,
’though from where I am it looks like decomposition might be next.

Wait for a new focal length neat in my fingers like reins. That way or this.
Over the mountains, from language to language, to the highest bidder,
to instantly evaluate whatever might be approached absolutely, and be
placed on the map as soon as the cylinders rest unpacked. Baggage, with

contents precious to whom? For glass so carefully wrapped and, I wonder,
disguised in wood and leather. Slick preserves. I wonder, too, how it
would have been displayed and tried. So much to lose on the way.
Through the customs – it’s how it’s seen that matters. Does it sit

comfortably, like a new chair or a knife? Shift. The horizon comes closer,
a ship’s mast is so clearly sinking in the distance in the glass blower’s
liquidity. So how to spread that on the map, and lay it flat?
Some praiseworthy medical procedure? Inside, illuminated,

enlarged, a body’s so attractive. The circulation of the blood discovered.
Waves trapped in so cleverly, behind the objective. But now it seems so
obvious. Round and round. Grey tubes and dark red stuff in passages
waiting to rot. Skim the light. What’s left without it? Feel a pulse?

Bolton, 12th December 2007

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Jon Glover, « “National Grid” and “Mercator’s Projection” », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal, Vol. VII – n°3 | 2009, 16-18.

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Jon Glover, « “National Grid” and “Mercator’s Projection” », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], Vol. VII – n°3 | 2009, mis en ligne le 19 mai 2009, consulté le 20 janvier 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.66

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Jon Glover

Professor,(Bolton, United Kingdom)Jon Glover is the Managing Editor of the journal Stand which publishes new poetry, fiction and criticism. His most recent book of poetry is Magnetic Resonance Imaging and is published by Carcanet. He is a Research Professor at the University of Bolton.

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