Archives for the month of: July, 2017

They come and they go, people

They are complex objects | arrangements | of belovéd signs, places | we adore or wish to | forget

Atoms | compose them, they are | strung out into the past, the | playground, the family pet | the sound of | fallen leaves and shreds of | bark from a gum tree | scratching on the stone | slabs of the | back yard

intense | personal things, or so | they seem

cannot hold on to their own | shape, the same | ankles

They change with the light, they age, they each | must make their particular | assignations in time and this | essentially absorbs | all of their lives, although they | call it by different names

They have seen | at low tide | the little iridescent | emerald-clawed | crabs twinkling across the muddy | banks under | mangrove trees, they have | conjured angels from | desire, and sometimes those angels | might be crows | in a withered | pine | or firemen in yellow coats with | silver reflective strips | messengers and saviours under the | surface | threading the | banal with the | divine | fabricating | a house with | foundations of | moving | flames

No person ever | quite | reaches another, that is | written in the law of caresses and inscribed in the furling privacy | of our so- | sensitive skin, the recesses of | thoughts and the | presence of the tiny but | inescapable | moment inside us and all | things


come and go, they | make plans and | speculate | make love and | groan, kick and | sigh | their bodies | are sources of anguish and bliss, forms of | impediment and liberation | wrack and litter and emptiness

There are holes in people everywhere | absences | of thought | forms | of enquiry or | loss, places | the memories shine through and sometimes | burn

People are | often confused | They have all sorts of ways of dealing with | light, most of all, though | by moving on and | forgetting

They are curious, but they are not sure, really, why they are curious | It is just | a way the sun sets, how | the shadows extend along the beach or the filling station’s | forecourt | the way the plane crashes and scatters its debris for miles | the mute | soft | bulk of a foot | the taste of her skin | the pattern the words | leave behind as they are | abandoned

People start | inside us | and grow | necessary | but do we ever | know what they are, these | people?

Or what they want? Or where | they think | they are going?

from the series hypergrammar (open-ended, 2012–present)


Slipping back | after a struggle forwards | Then back itself slips, shifts | there are no starting | points, anymore | just | dinosaur verdure | infant stars | Before slides down | After turns to haze | Miasma sets in | Purpose gets bent around | and emotions grow superfluous | these are no longer | places to feel | kindness has grown | inappropriate | love is | unnecessary | hatred a waste of time | we just have to keep moving | please, just keep | moving… | Back returns | far back | deep back | Values tumble up | The spine collects | the head | rises | Somewhere between | ape and angels | eyes | triggered by dawn | open | and the dawn | flapping flightless stubs of wings | begins to crawl | forwards…

Sent back down | to the famous peasant earth | the ground | for breaking and for cultivation | with fork and rake | shovel and hoe | A place for knees | for wilderness | the basic place | somewhere to start, somewhere to end | Before the economies | it was sacred | then the economies came | and it was sorted | into reasons | and resources | square | kilometres | When the angels fall | in pelting crowds | and break their necks and skulls | open on it | it is real | If they continue on | melting into | springs | streams | blonde waterfalls | it is taken | back | into the poetic | the bald rock | the dry sod | the infection that | sends the grazed knees | messages of pain | the ground is swallowed | by a secret earth | a different ground | with graves too small for holding | like cups made right for spilling | with death too great for dying…


from the series fleeting pixel (series of 1,000 poems, 2012–2016)

Filling your mouth | with dust | then with sugar | sugar-dust | Do we have enough daylight? | Tarnish me slowly | your eyes | too pure for me, I can’t | count the miles | between us | Tilt my head | back | fill my mouth | with leaves | I don’t mind | the taste of | smoke and molasses | if you | have touched the fire | brushed the nectar | it doesn’t matter | if you don’t | understand the autumn | we can still talk | make our own | way through the hours | and when the right | time comes | please | angle my head | down | open my mouth | and pour out the dust


from the series fleeting pixel (series of 1,000 poems, 2012–2016)

Like a drop of ink | diffusing through water | in a warped | glass bowl | we | swirl round each other

Lying in your arms, I fend off | far-off | brutalities in the world, the | lost and the lonely, the | disappeared | despised | the abandoned

In love, embrace them, uneasily | half | hear their voices, because | I feel the breath carrying your voice softly | as it | brushes my ear, and | surely by these acts of | tenderness and selection, are we not | inviting others | closer | asserting our | covert humanity, which is | a quality we share, like a language | meaningless if | hoarded only by | one?

Too | fragile | these little forts of | skin and glances | who can hold them?

Their spindly gates | smashed by a | stroke of fortune, the | tiny mines in the blood, a moment’s | inattention | the path in the forest not leading | where we expected, the first | typhoon of the season…

To shut them out, to enjoy | ourselves alone | we kiss, but | what kind of kiss is that | that stops only on two | mouths? and does not | invoke a | sweeter and more desperate | bond?

To keep the strangers out we | hold each other closer, but | even in that quiet | enclosure | or rather | perhaps | at its heart | I hear | the new voice of the old | stranger inside me, the one | who was alone and found | in the emptiness of a floating life | a friend

Trying to carry the weight of the stars alone, to hoard them or to own | their light – a sad, heroic, futile fate | To reach their meaning, we need | just a glance upwards as we | shut a car door, or | for everyone to share them by | carrying their word | together for a little while

from the series hypergrammar (open-ended, 2012–present)

For those who owe their allegiance to a different order, life passes at a tangent, massive and undeniable, and yet with its intractable and relentless entanglements, which may lead to great suffering and despair, irrelevant.

The sun of the astronomers is not the only sun. And the geometers should not ignore their own shadow.

Supermarket chains. Conductors on buses, dabbing themselves on particularly hot days. Hunting for the tickets. Waiting at the hospital.

British Empire, with tattered colours, pith helmets and khaki. Musty aromas of kerosene and camphor. It is as if these uniforms are still worn, the lingo of wallahs and jolly is still being spoken. This, for big data or meta-fiction, for ripping up the clubs and click-bait.

The mass wearies with its noisy ghost, its unwittingly belligerent parade.

Won’t they ever shut up?

A distance enters all things. Our human distinction: our world of choosing. What power do we have over things — what power more intense and more extreme — than the power to forget them, to take the next corner? And the manner of our choosing is significance. Once, the Taj Mahal meant something to me. Once, the post box; once, the Who; once, the teardrops of Burmese jade. You open the old shoebox: you climb the ladder to the attic. Plato’s attic. The photos, the wallpaper with storks, the optical disk…

This too-solid flesh?… No, not at all. The body is a haze of arrows, a mist, a project forever postponed. The shoebox, the ladder — the souvenirs, the footsteps of climb: but each thing is only a honeycomb of distance, a spectral object constructed of the almost infinite number of ways we leave it. Will you ever kiss again, for instance?

The angle of the spirit is wrong. You don’t understand their slang, or want to take the drugs they take. But neither do you want to offend. It isn’t moral, this difference, or not especially: ultimately, maybe, it’s a question of mood, a particular gravity to your sensibility, a way the birds of prey fall in you, and not in others.

The distance. Locations, barren, remote, such as are sought out by lovers of glaciers and volcanoes.

Yes, of mood. The melancholy of looking at a person you were once in love with, but no longer love: the time that has passed, the water under the bridge, and then the bridges fallen into the water, and carried away. Later, the stream diverted. Later, the sea run dry.

The gulls in the centre of London have a particularly melancholy cry, as if they were mourning the loss of the waves and the end of land, but they no longer need either. Let the cold, beery waves crash on Silurian pebbles, the land bite out to its own gape and quiet, and the dizziness of the purely inhuman begin: the gulls on the roof of King’s Cross station have other interests, a separate limit to their concern.

All men are islands. All women, too. The continent is the sound of a stone rolling very slowly, gathering smaller stones to it — a dry, dusty rattle, and close up, a clicking and crunching drone, sometimes a roar. From the peak of the high summit, you feel as if you can hear the wispy clouds tearing on the sides of the mountain.

Blindly, from a memory that is only loosely your own, children fumble through the darkness, wanting what they must have.

It comes to them.


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

Putting thoughts into space | Blot out the sun with a thumb, how quickly can I get to | South Kensington now? | Like a box of toy magnets | flipping and | lumping together, mating insects | grains of Thai | sticky rice | and an X-ray | of a thistledown, just before the lips | pout to | blow… | Have to get my | head together | do the things that need to be done | Otherwise… they’ll be left, like | bottles, glinting | half submerged | washed up on a beach | No one will do those things | not even find them | and I… | I will have wasted my whole life…

The planet tilts, the storms have different names each year | Hurricane Angelo, my life’s work | in your hands, I beg you… | Pass by this island, where an old | weathered creature flops and shudders | has no interest in the Psalms or iPhones | but gurgles on a drip of sugar, licks up ants | hisses, growls, when a more | ethereal spirit teases | or the old slavedriver with his sextant and his London town | urges with lashes | work for a pointless purpose | There, Polaris, and there | the Plough | patterns and orders with no god to hold them | still or stable | Better to drop all these words and wishes | into a black | point of space, sleep in the coolest mud | wake to the withdrawn shawls of ebbing tides | flump to the shore | attracted by a star of glint | winking from a trawl of shells and the endless | creep and slump of the wet | grey sand…


from the series fleeting pixel (series of 1,000 poems, 2012–2016)

Too late, they realised they had been | analysing the wrong part of the data, and the pattern they’d construed | from all that | heavenly nature | was insignificant, and then | the summer took them and they changed

A world, afloat | in a bubble of | memory || Lost in the garden’s | undergrowth | an upturned | toy soldier | gamely points his rifle at the empty | sky


from the series fleeting pixel (series of 1,000 poems, 2012–2016)

Serene as unread words | calm and | composed | passive | having taken their place | in a different order | A world beyond | glances | The days settle like falling snow, like birds on the remote lakes of the north | fold their wings and | prepare for the night || They are | beyond us | We pass them | all the time, but our eyes | don’t see them || How did they slip away from us? | and why | do we not | miss them?

In a room | closed books wait | to open their forests of black type and to | show us what they are || In the silence and the darkness | of the crush of pages | I | kneel and breathe quietly | and the trees | grow greater around me


from the series fleeting pixel (series of 1,000 poems, 2012–2016)

At Tom’s. A sense of the drift of mores — of a culture at odds with one’s assumptions. Trying to remember the difference between stalagmites and stalactites. Kagemusha — the shadow warrior. A film about acting. Peter’s tragedy. Defeat in the stirring of coffee, the way the spoon is laid with a measured, clicking finality on the saucer; cataclysm in a blink.

Looking away: like the movement of a tide, the retreat or onset of an ice age. The actor who spends too long in her role — like a swimmer too far from land to get back. No self there, waiting. Just the shore, as after a great naval engagement, the beach littered with the bodies of drowned sailors, debris. Sarah still talking about the Cadillac.

We follow the seductive implication of our routine lives that there will be continuity, that the days have a certain architecture, like a building with a regular series of arches.

I realise I have spent too long at the angels’ tea party, and that I find it difficult to return to mortal company. The gravity seems heavy, my bones have adapted to weightlessness. The grossness of the vocabulary shocks me. The imprecision of the concepts is depressing. And the constant hurry — the desperate, avaricious, mortal hurry. Even the torpor is avaricious. The angels are self-satisfied, it’s true, and their levity unfathomable, given what is going on here. Scarab beetles, but human beings labour not with balls of dung but with slow-rolling boulders of hatred. Not to care is hard. Caring is easy. What mortals fear most, they also crave most: oblivion. What else drives every sentence? This one, and the next? The hurry, the hurry…



from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

Returning to old haunts | quarters of the city you haven’t visited in years, or perhaps only for months – how, with you, they’ve changed || An ancient churchyard, with its green gardens, surrounded and walled in by office blocks and skyscrapers, kept back like a secret or held in reserve | like a kind of spiritual fire escape | it isn’t quite how you remembered it || The copious rain of this summer has slicked and beaded and lubed the plants with moisture, the stone is darker from the years before, even the shadows feel wet, and the gloom of the interior, sliced into a slender vertical slat through the partly open door, seems almost submarine, belonging to the stoven-in hold of a sunken galleon, or to a building from a drowned village on the eastern coast || Today, as the rain cocoons the violet skin of your umbrella, you recall the signorial heat of last August, how the sun filled this courtyard with its direct light and late afternoon shadows, and in a corner the grass pulsed to the dry serenade of an urban grasshopper (how did it get so far into the city?) || Like oil floating on water, your consciousness flows over the mumbled headstones, paths and encroaching vegetation, a smooth but (to you, at least!) a sometimes unsatisfactory co-habitation, and the sea of the streets and buildings | carries you / as you carry them | away… || On that occasion, as you ate a sandwich, sipped from a bottle of Evian, you looked through a book by Luis Cernuda || In the end, you don’t have much time left, and who knows if it isn’t better to live like this, stripped of possessions, perpetually ready for departure | You kept glancing up, sensing this place was the location of a hidden and recurring | nativity | but the nature and identity of the thing being born seemed to fall just beyond the limit of your conception || Perhaps you already knew that those moments would be the subject of a gently fraught nostalgia?

If you stand and observe a thing for any length of time, presently the rind of your assumptions surrounding it begins to fall away, like a fruit being peeled, and what lies revealed is an entity without context or purpose, self-enclosed and serene, offering a scent of alien sweetness



from Semapolis | City of Signs
(series of poems, unfinished, 2012–present)