the third policeman


National Library of Ireland: Garda Directing Traffic, O’Connell Bridge, Dublin. 1963

by Jeremy Fernando


Sitting in the middle of a police station, you can’t help but wonder if these tales drifting their way to you are real. A couple confiding to each other how they both had hoodwinked their investigating officers — neglecting the fact that sound travels. Another who announces on her phone that she was sure she was being let off lightly because the cop might have been an ex. A man promising to forget another’s mug if he told not the fuzz what had happened.

For their sakes you hope ears have walls.

And that the cops drifting past are just drifters. Who seem oddly willing to leave you alone, sitting there — even as you were quite sure letting you be was the last thing that was going to happen. Though, as they wander, they did seem content to let you wonder, mostly about what you were doing there.

One of the things you were certainly wondering about was why there were always in pairs. Almost as if at any moment they would pirouette into a duel. With whom though, at least to you, remains a mystery. As were the fact that all of them looked pretty much twinned.

And how you even got there in the first place.

Well, a series of non-things;
that had taken on not only a significance but a life of their own, disjointed observations collected and collated.

All calling out to each other, making plans, plotting out their own plots — on a telephone



Still there, a quarter of your life is almost past, and you’re still not quite sure if it were strange and confused or confused because it were strange.

You were somewhat bored, but fighting against your boredom only makes you even more bored. Thankfully, sound travels.

Whilst you were sitting here, on the dock …



 Desire is always assembled and fabricated, on a plane of immanence or of composition which must itself be constructed at the same time as desire assembles and fabricates.

~ Gilles Deleuze & Claire Parnet

The possibility of extraction and citational grafting
belongs to the structure of every mark,
spoken or written.

~ Jacques Derrida



You’ve often wondered: what is the quest of a question? Whether it has its own path — and if this were the same road on which the one who put forth the question is traversing.

Let alone how this question found its way into you; and what even possessed you to adopt it, to hitchhike on the same quest, on this adventure you imagine the question were on.

It might have come when they were questioning you.

Provoke respect did said questioner do —
though, throughout question time you were never quite sure exactly how respect would respond to being provoked.

All you knew, if something you felt could be called knowing, were that time is out of joint.

It certainly felt that all of time was seeping out of your joints. Which left you floating, not quite above yourself, but certainly a foot to the right.

See the blind man
Shooting at the world
Bullets flying
Ohh taking toll

Where for the first time you found the sound of what you thought were your voice terribly strange: almost as if by coming out of you it were no longer yours, that exiting you also meant excising itself from you. That it might well have been speaking not just out of turn, but somehow also turning against you.

After all, the questions were not yours, were not coming from you, were being lobbed at you — nor were they truly questions. Their course had already been set up: and they had already rounded the bend from being accusations dressed as complaints and had now donned the accessory of the mark of a question.

Attempting to mark you — to get your voice to mark yourself — as an accessory.

The other thought that came to you, that you felt coming to you, the other feeling that you thought, being: how strange it were to have to use your voice to speak to the veracity of something. As if sound brought something into being — that without this resounding, it hadn’t happened.

Remember me
where Hamlet’s first act of betrayal, primordial moment of patricide, might well have been in scribbling on his pad; making a mark to make a remark to mommy and Claudius; consigning daddy’s alleged murder to the silence of a mark, to a reminder to defer speaking, to at least momentarily keep mum.

At the same time another thought you were feeling hit you: that you had to keep your body silent. That it were your corpus that was being put into the light, under the spotlight, in order to betray you.

That if it spoke, all it would be saying were, et tu

Whilst you were tied to a kitchen chair, even as there was never actually anything holding you there. You, floating in an unbearable lightness.

Little wonder that at some point the voice of Djuna Barnes dripped into your ear: “I like my human experience served up with a little silence and restraint. Silence makes experience go further, and, when it does die, gives it that dignity common to a thing one had touched and not vanished.”

Not that which you it came to will ever be known to you.

You were both the first.

Sweet child in time
You’ll see the line
The line that’s drawn between
Good and bad

No wonder he were there, had to be there:
a third where the said and the unsaid come together, where sounds and silences haunt each other.

That face though, his face — a jawline from a time before talkies, one which smiled a tired smile, a smile which had no longer all that much to smile about. Which knew he had to smile in order to summon your communication.

Après tout, la communication implique toujours, vous implique dans, un communiqué.



Sweet child in time
You’ll see the line
The line that’s drawn between
Good and bad

See the blind man
Shooting at the world
Bullets flying
Ohh taking toll

If you’ve been bad
Oh Lord I bet you have
And you’ve not been hit
Oh by flying lead

You’d better close your eyes
Ooohhhh bow your head
Wait for the ricochet

~ Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover

Dostoyevsky described hell
as perhaps nothing more
than a room with a chair in it.
This room has several chairs.
A young man sits in one.

~ Bruce Robinson



 You might want to say something sir, came a voice from somewhat afar. The lights were very bright, almost blinding, though not enough to keep me from seeing myself. The room was whiter than you thought white could be. In better moments you would have chuckled vana.

Not particularly, though I suppose I should

You who were so good with words, and then angels came — winged words with a tendency to take flight from you, even as they were leaving their mark on you.

Not that you didn’t want to say something, particularly something clever: but it’s not all that easy to escape the ropes of your own body, flesh, corpus. Maybe you were just trying to give something unspeakable a sound: after all, how is it even possible to refute a no thing, except with a triduum of negations — no, the no thing is nothing.

Leaving you with nothing other than the silence of sound.

Which be the danger Odysseus was well aware of: that it not the song that kills you — it merely lures you with its beauty, its sadness. All you have to do is to keep yourself from the water: that was what actually led you to the rocks.

For as Kafka continues to sing to us, “the Sirens have a still more fatal weapon than their song, namely their silence. And though admittedly such a thing has never happened, still it is conceivable that someone might possibly have escaped from their singing; but from their silence certainly never. Against the feeling of having triumphed over them by one’s own strength, and the consequent exaltation that bears down everything before it, no earthly powers could have remained intact.”

And that the frown on Odysseus’ face — the very sign that signaled to his companions they could release him from the mast, the expression that was supposed to mark the fact that he was no longer under the spell of the Siren’s song — was due to the fact that all he heard were nothing, but their silence.

Which might well mean that even though he escaped that one time, the song is always also awaiting him. Or, even worse, that each time he sees water, the memory of the silence, of the song that could have been, haunts him.

Even as he might have tried to put it behind him, attempted to have forgotten.

After all, as John Irving tries to never let us forget, “your memory is a monster, you forget — it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you — and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!”

Where each song, every song, any song — or, even worse, any silence, every silence — is quite possibly their song.

Awaiting the moment, their time, to wash over him again.

Where perhaps the very sound of death — if she even makes a sound — is the moment when the rocks and water collide: after all, should the Sirens have bothered with Odysseus, at least in their usual way, that might well have been the last note he would ever hear.

Or dreamt.



 Aletheia: ‘truth, truthfulness’,
from alethes ‘true’, literally ‘not concealing’,
which is a combination of a- ‘not’ & lethe
‘forgetfulness, oblivion’.

Lethe: one of the five river of Hades (whose
water when drunk causes forgetfulness
of the past), from the Greek lethe, literally
‘forgetfulness, oblivion’, which is related
to lethargos, ‘forgetful’, and lathre, ‘secretly, by
stealth’, lathrios, ‘stealthy’, lanthanein, ‘to be

Where even if what one remembers is true, contains a truth, aletheia, there might always be a certain forgetting, oblivion, lethe, inscribed within.

Aye, there’s the rub …




« Il s’agissait de changer en fichu une poésie », wrote Walter Benjamin to Gretel Adorno, about a line that came to him in a dream, in a language that was not theirs, not that any language can ever be yours.

It was about changing a poem into a scarf
always already running the risk that the piece of cloth might well wrap itself around one, like a noose.

Which, if you were honest, might not all be that unwelcome: as the overwhelming feeling that enveloped you was a certain disappointment. With the world. Or, if you wanted to be a little more precise, with people, certain persons.

Especially ones who were too certain about their certainty — despite being certain that all they could be certain about is nothing. But perhaps, certainty never needed any referent nor correspondence. Were always only an article of faith.

Where perhaps, like in a David Wojnarowicz dream, the only salve was “the appearance of night in a room full of strangers, the maze of hallways wandered as in films.”

You think you might well have seen this film before; perhaps this time it might just be best to leave out the side door (through a parenthesis).

Exit music — for a film.

In your head, a buzzing sensation …



Only one thing remained reachable,
close and secure amid all losses: language.
Yes, language.

~ Paul Celan

If you are ‘walking in darkness’
do not try to make the sun
rise by self-sacrifice,
but wait in confidence for the dawn,
and enjoy the pleasure of the night meanwhile.

~ Aleister Crowley



Writing for Berfrois has been one of the highlights of my last decade and a bit, i’ll even say my writing-life … Rarely does one find a place, a space, that fully allows one to inscribe freely, to feel as though you are not writing-to-fit-in, writing-to-try-to-please, but just writing … and for which, for Russell and all of the lovely people who have been involved in Berfrois over the years, I will be eternally grateful.

About the Author

Jeremy Fernando reads, writes, and makes things. He works in the intersections of literature, philosophy, and art; and his, more than thirty, books include Reading Blindly, Living with Art, Writing Death, in fidelity, Tómate un paseo por el lado oscuro del camino, resisting art, Writing Skin, A Ghost Never Dies, and The feather of Ma’at. His writing has also been featured in magazines and journals such as Arte al Límite, Berfrois, CTheory, Cenobio, Entropy, Full Bleed, Poiesis, positions, Philosophy World Democracy, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Qui Parle, Testo e Senso, TimeOut, VICE, and Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine, amongst others; and has been translated into the Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Serbian. Exploring other media has led him to film, music, and the visual arts; and his work has been exhibited in Seoul, Vienna, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He has been invited to perform a reading at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin in September 2016; and to deliver a series of performance-talks at the 2018, 2020, and 2022 editions of the Bienal de la Imagen en Movimiento in Buenos Aires, the latter at which he also curated a filmic omnibus entitled reading dreaming malaya. He is the general editor of Delere Press; curates the thematic magazine One Imperative; is the Jean Baudrillard Fellow at The European Graduate School; and the writer-at and co-creator-of the private dining experience, People Table Tales.

Image Rights

There are no known copyright restrictions on the article photograph. The post image is Michael: Skellig, Bantry, Ireland, 2017 (Unsplash).

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