Life: A User’s Manual

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Installation by Chiharu Shota at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Life: A User’s Manual

Like an apartment block with the front removed,
Perec’s novel of a thousand intertwined lives
and addresses, the logic of who lives on the first floor
at number 20, who lived there before,
how that’s relevant to the family on the third floor,
who emigrated, but not before they’d buried
the husband’s younger brother, the one with a flaw
so deep it surfaced in their dreams.

The dreams themselves are on another storey,
where the concierge uses the master key to let himself in
using the mathematics of the number 3,
a magic number, relevant to everything we do,
so our lives are in this book too, like the man
who makes it his business to track down the au-pair
who drowned his only child in the bath
using a series of calculations based on the probability
that any closing chapter ends in a rented room,
the television talking quietly to itself,
a couple asleep on their backs.

(taken from Out of the Weather, Smith Doorstop, 2017)

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