Picking up again from where you left off | The golden drudgery of meaning | and you an alchemical clerk | minding the store | lead left in the jar | labelled, literally, ‘Pb’ | when the day is over | Wear an apron of cinnamon | an apron of mauve | They are talking about peak oil | the latest show on HBO | about asset management | the grey era | of dementia and care homes | there are clouds | They have different values to you | some of them are on lists | no: correction | all of them are on lists | of one sort or another, and subtly, and disappointingly | the lists strip them of numen | despiritualise them | they probably don’t realise | and the lead is there | again in the morning | the counters are stacked | with items to sell, or, if they fail to sell, eventually | return to the wholesaler or | simply throw away | The lists are changing | people are being filtered and sieved | added and erased | perhaps, after all, it is not so disappointing | to belong to the lists — some of them, anyway | the alternative is deletion | the effective assignment to some null census of oblivion | you happen to wear | an apple-green apron today | Several of the customers | are Dutch | their language sounds odd to you | full of clues and sludge and mussel shells | very attractive in a way | plenty to be turned to gold | in their portions of lead | Time, it must be said, weighs heavily upon you | throughout the quiet, resinous vacancy | of the summer afternoon | the store light but frequently deserted | there is a lining | of smooth, black incoherence | behind the surface of each bespoke moment’s mirror | and listlessly you recall | one term for oil is “black gold” | in any case | the hours pass without adherence | to anything | but people will make it up, anyway | that’s what we call | civilisation | sometimes | At night, you leave the store | lock up | the moon performs its duty as a human tool | for the use of alchemical clerks | the loneliness, the stars, ditto | Tomorrow, perhaps, the apron of indigo blue | the weighing of the grapes, the flour, the carrots | the sorting of the plugs, the tacks, the figures | the numbers | the words | Sedated on objects, people will come | to browse through the store | the different departments | lift and study the items | for sale | including the volumes | of poetry and the pictures | of saints and philosophers | and people | will stroke the sides of the objects, rotate them, inspect them from different angles | and perhaps purchase some — some, but not all | though, secretly, they may want to | But the lists will not let them | And that, you imagine, is a good thing | In the end, you need the money, and so each morning | twist the gold back to lead | and wonder | as you turn the sign | from CLOSED to OPEN | what colour apron will the new clerk | wear today?

 


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

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