Issue #58

Spring 2016

From Analects: Carceri Sequence

by Ruaidhrí Mac an tSíthigh

I — Title Plate

History is the library of the prison of consciousness.

II — The Man on the Rack

Detritus of the world as would be apportioned to the world by a brain in fever... Too heavy, too heavy, the weight of history, that apportions ruins and all ruination to the shoulders of men, and makes men ancient under its great stone weight...

III — The Round Tower

From the quarry and the ruin of all that is and was emerges the round tower: mown stem and cenotaph, monument to the wilderness and infertility of the stony, weed-ridden debris accumulated in the vaulted hoard of history, that issues neither forest nor city, but only monuments — and here only this stunted, stone trunk...

IV — The Grand Piazza

A vision Abyssal: an arrangement of the world as would be engendered by the caprice of a delirious god; a prison whose deep-most depth is everywhere inside, alongside the capricious image of an unguarded exit in the visible distance, and the whole prison dimly visible deeper in that distance.

V — The Lion Bas-Reliefs

Freedom is but an effort’s inch away... But the prison is within them. Habit has tied the prisoners in a knot as labyrinthine as the prison corridors, and the fire of will with which they might burn away that knot is lit on too short a wick of vigour to outlast the effort demanded by the days and years.

VI — The Smoking Fire

Image: a world of malevolent, implacable meaninglessness; an uncreated and inescapable prison forged by the unreal demiurge — an image of the insurmountable world between a man and his reconciliation with it...

VII — The Drawbridge

The prison is built to perpetuate itself by its prisoners. They have tried to escape, but their tunnels have only added to its sprawl of corridors… They once found, to their despair, that they had built, between their attempts at escape, through mere habit, another two towers and a drawbridge...

VIII — The Staircase with Trophies

The prison is calibrated to the weakness of man’s habits, the pattern of his thoughts, and the limits of his effort. A creature the slightest measure stronger in resolution, constancy or vigour than the best of the prisoners would escape, but they are condemned to delusion, despair and endless rumination.

IX — The Giant Wheel

The prison, an engine to keep itself working and the prisoner where he is, is built on man’s helplessness to change himself or his world as he would wish. It turns man’s every meandering circuit of thought, his every inert habit, every rise of hope and fall into despair, to turning its own gears, and to turning man through the circuit that leaves him always where he was.

X — Prisoners on a Projecting Platform

The wisest prisoner said: Freedom is but an effort’s inch away, but the prison is within us as without; we must escape its tunnels in our minds, and let not our resolutions be lost in corridors of habit and despair. He escaped neither prison.

XI — The Arch with a Shell Ornament

The spiral-shaped seashell ornament on the arch was carved by a storm of twenty-seven thousand fingernail-scratched inscriptions, treating of visions of this prison and others under the partial jurisdiction of the Abyss; of corridors out of form, bones out of joint, sentences with sense ajar...

XII — The Sawhorse

The happier prisoners live in a richly-patterned and enduring delusion, textured, in mutability, like the earthly seasons and their countermelodies of daily weather, that their dismal situation is a brief eclipse, and will, for a variegated meadow of reasons, improve tomorrow, and make all well.

XIII — The Well

The unhappier prisoners live in terrible despair, structured like the prison itself and its unending sprawling by the tunnelling of rumination that reaches not light, but adds only more corridors, of their ability to escape or accept the prison, or their ever-tunnelling and imprisoning hopelessness.

XIV — The Gothic Arch

Unhappiest are the habitually deluded in their rare interludes of lucidity; who see not only their hopes to have been illusions, but their minds to have been looms weaving fantasies with so transparent and humiliating, and so necessary a pattern...

XV — The Pier with a Lamp

The impossible architecture of the prison — the circular staircases, the inconsistent angles — echoes the thoughts of those prisoners whose despair has submerged them in the depths of depression, and left them warped, and condemned to circulate impossibly, unendurably, endlessly.

XVI — The Pier with Chains

A group of prisoners sing, as they raise their scaffolds and build, that they are tunnelling out of the prison, and that the exit is in sight. They do not admit the truth to each other, partly because they are afraid of it, and partly because they are too tired to stomach arguing over it, or stop believing the lie.

Author Bio


Ruaidhrí Mac an tSíthigh, who also goes by variants of that name, is a student living in Dublin. He has been published in Icarus, Increature, and The Attic.