Archives for the month of: August, 2018

Forever trying to outrun yourself | to get a clear view | to get to the new place | first | The crowd of the years | disperses | each to a | separate home | The stations and the lakes fall quiet | Your hands look old on a spring day, it is the mountains look so young…

Thinking things into life again | A mind forever April | When the beautiful evening comes to an end, and the guests | disperse | and you are alone | why does the silence | feel so ancient?

 


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

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Sometimes, you become aware of it. In moments of weariness or rest, when travelling, perhaps, in unfamiliar surroundings, in a state of inanition. You have been you for so long, lived out the shape of the life you possess so consistently, and have fitted that shape so perfectly, it comes to you with something of a jolt to detect, inside you, the shadow of another living presence.

The motel room is bland, an identikit structure. Lamp, dresser, bed. In the bathroom, the mirror, light cord, complimentary soap, toothbrush holder. Sheets and blankets, with their antiseptic odour, washed clean of previous bodies. Pastel, restful colours, taupe, duck-egg blue, cream.

The neutrality of the room, its impersonality, possesses the discreet artificiality of a stage set. Night after night, this stage has seen the appearance of different actors. Day after day, the old actors leave, new actors appear. The room itself remains pretty much the same, the scenery only very gently deteriorating over time – a chip here, a small stain there, the onset of whisper, wheeze and bleed of a faulty washer, a gradual patina of pale green scale on the enamel. For each new actor, though, the room is simply as it is, simultaneously both new and old, familiar and unfamiliar – a motel room, in a cabin, part of a chain. Form follows function. Vacancy follows occupation.

Why, on this day rather than another, you fall slightly out of the normal shape of your life, you don’t know. Perhaps it is the character of the motel room itself, which fills you with an unusual feeling of melancholy, the slanted sorrow of all creatures who are aware they are to die and to be replaced, superseded, forgotten. You are on a production line, or perhaps, rather, on a series of production lines. In the motel room, certain parts are added, you are modified in a particular way, and then you move on, to the next stage, while right behind you, another human unit is checking in, preparing to take your place. The motel demonstrates the sequentiality inherent to life, the sense of items marching in series. Perhaps it is this, that has a deflationary effect on your sense of your own significance, leaving you exasperated, querulous, unsettled? Yes, perhaps – but there is more to it than that…

Who is that, living inside you? You test the inner boundaries of your self. There is the face, dimly reflected in the tv set, the features that belong to you. These are your hands. Your eyes move across the text, look at the bed, the picture of deer on the wall. Involved in this, there are names, pin numbers, relationships, addresses, gender, nationality, and other, more amorphous things – hopes, ambitions, a trail of memories reaching back across the days, receding into the darkness like a path of delicate phosphorus stretching away across moonlit seawaves. This is you, this is your self. Perhaps, as you will ruefully concede, it is not quite the structure of your athletic youth, the physically confident creature, who once possessed the psychic architecture of a sleek, singular building, but is rather more a collection of rudimentary shacks, like a cardboard city under a flyover, prone to decay and clearance; nevertheless, it is all still definitely you, all you have gathered over time, and collected under the umbrella of your name.

Yes, but what is that other presence inside you? It isn’t human, or not in the sense that the rest of you is human. It fails to emit the intimacy of your self. It isn’t part of that intractably wrought biography, isn’t stained with the unique dye of your personality. You couldn’t say that you ‘possess’ it. And yet, at the same time, it has found, in you, a specific and solitary method of existence.

You’re creeped out. For these few moments when your skin doesn’t quite feel as if it is your own skin anymore, you have the hazy notion of yourself as a dreamy host, which has gone through life innocent of the fact that, all the time, dwelling within you, travelling along with you, there is an immense, torpid parasite. It is part of your self, but your self is not part of it. Indeed, your self is not part of anything. The surfaces you touch, the sensations you feel, the memories you store, the people to whom you are drawn, the ones you love, the ones you pursue… they go into the parasite, and the parasite doesn’t conserve them at all. It has no sense of individuals, no charge of care for you, or for anyone, or for anything. It is simply life.

A bleak, uneasy thrill. At this moment, you realise, you feel more alive than you’ve ever felt before, but simultaneously closer to complete annihilation. You, your self, the thing that you’ve assumed has centred everything, organised it, filtered it, is revealed as a tiny, fragile, jewel-like thing, a butterfly riding on the back of an elephant. It is the neutral space, the anonymous components of moments, these endure – the rest is a mirage (albeit a mirage you fought so hard to build and preserve), a flare of silver mist across a mirror, water in the instant it is being chucked out of a pail, the scratch of a hard-bristled broom over a concrete pathway, the passive operation of algorithms in a computer programme operating the lights in an empty building.

Needless to say, you can’t quite grasp the significance of this parasite, its scale, the true nature of its relation to your self, nor can you hold on to the vision once it’s occurred. The parasite slips away, into the dark voids of your body – which, after all, belong to the parasite, and not you – and vanishes.

 


from the series superstyler (open-ended, 2012–present)
(this poem, August 2012)

After the ore was extracted, and the mine was closed, people left the area and | the forest came back for the land | The gold was turned to rings, and the rings were handed down | or lost or | melted down and | changed | The trees | turned the light into oxygen | The people wearing the rings | breathed

After the parable ended, and the people walked away | the words waited | The people searched for gold | The words | sank underground and began their long | journey through the darkness | seeking | form | When, much later, people dug them up, the words resembled bits of | worthless roots | Unwilling to dig their mine, feeling it would be | profitless | the people | started to walk off | through the forest and in the cold | winter air, their breath formed | small, pointless | clouds of white vapour…

 


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

We are close now. Up the steps from the main forecourt, to the grand entrance, opening onto the east, north and southern sides | The magnificent doors in gilded bronze | took only 15 years to complete | set in a frame of rosettes and lions’ heads | We pass into the splendid vestibule, and then on | through the famous “Bouquet of Lilies” doors | surrounded by their frame with stylised suns and various plant motifs | into the Hall of the Ancestors | Our feet click and echo on the parquet floor, the scent of varnish is overpowering | drowning the perfumes of the flowers on display | as if the living flowers, too, were somehow coated in varnish | At the end of the Hall of the Ancestors, we approach a tremendous pair of alto-relief silver doors | nearly 17 feet tall, and weighing 20,000 pounds | it is rumoured they are very difficult to close once open | Proceeding, we pass along the capacious, rather clinical connecting hallway, which was inserted into the building during the major reconfiguration of 1971–73 | The architects’ austere modernist aesthetic is evident in the pure white walls, and the white ceramic tiles of the floor, the side doors in African blackwood, their fittings in platinum | The hallway is very long, rumoured to be the longest in the world for a building of this type | In some sections, the lighting is subdued; in other sections, the lighting is very bright | We are walking for a long time, through opened pairs of more doors of African blackwood, and the effect is of moving through a rather dreamlike confection of a hospital, a lush but entirely anonymous corporate headquarters, with a hint, also, of an art installation, or a film set | Arriving at the end of this corridor, we find the discreet, black oak door, in plain frame, through which, in their time, some of the most famous and powerful figures in history have passed: this door may only be opened from the further side, there is no handle facing us — fortunately, the door was open, though unguarded, and we passed through

 


from the sequence of 100 poems, sentence (2012–2018)
(this poem, August 2014)

It was the beginning of the sun | That was how she fell asleep in my arms, so peaceful | The world rolled out of her unconscious hand | let others chase it now, and I | will chase it too | as you can see | Small birds upon the surface of the moon, they sing for her | and the snake’s young | twist inside their eggs, they feel they must | set out at once, on their journey, or else | they’ll never reach their end | Her sleep is my repose | For each | of the snakes within my heart | I light a flame, and to each | slithering flame | I bring a dark

I walked slowly across the meadow | That summer took its time to die | I watched a snake swim through the water | the air was glistening with thistledowns | quiet and still | as if mown | now and then | I heard crows | Gundogs came trotting past | songbirds in their mouths | the huntsmen in the distance | came nearer and we conversed a while | they were sleeping in her arms | and all the snakes inside their hearts | sensed the autumn coolness coming | signalling the end of light, the need | for months of darkness, they | know they must put down the fire and tides, the mice, the moon | put down the yellowing grasses | the breeze | the scent of hare and stone and soil | they know | they must put down everything that lives, they know | with absolute certainty what they | must do, they just don’t | know why

 


from the series fleeting pixel (series of 1,000 poems, 2012–2016)
(this poem, August 2013)

A bell not swinging in a tower | and the tower built for a different purpose | to the city’s current obsessions | The things you find in a jeweller’s dreams | for instance — jewels, of course, and feline | paws | black padding | of velvet display cases

Privacy is important, too | The carcass  of a limousine | stalled in traffic | the poet in place | of the chauffeur | The usual set of emotions | and lamentation is the key | because things are not as they were | and not as they will be | Remember, Shanghai, and Jerusalem

Swords | And Ariadne, from Texas | There’s no such thing as decay, the snowdrops | offer no gift | The order is as you make it, or as | you are made to make it, or | because we are too lazy | to change it | as we want it to be | providing | we can complain | Complaint is our archery

Grave treasure | and the genuine laughter of the young sex worker | it is not | reproduction | Gifts that outlive the givers | and the receivers | and the crucial commands of the era | Evolution | Spectacle | Exchange

Irony sometimes selects as its instrument | the most unlikely subject | as many | readers will tell you | or not | The troika vanishing into silver mist | or Yazidis at the border | her fierce blue eyes | of ineffable candour | or murderers | chatting about the game | Futility used to mean something | and perhaps, one day, it may again

What weakness comes to | skulls separated from spines | the bones piled up in mounds | or not | Inside Monty’s drooling mouth | his head slumped to one side (the right, as he sees) | words that won’t quite form | as the abscess, like half a duck’s egg | swelling on his anus | in the care home | prepares to burst | It isn’t a future | It wasn’t a past | Won’t they ever shut up | and show some respect to silence?

The lost | are just a little in love | with the maze builders | but the vain | don’t think too much of the makers of mirrors | Russia squanders her beauty on the magicians | and the audience | remains ambivalent regarding the trick | The solution, although part of a greater problem, remains enjoyable | to implement or to contemplate | The conclusions are endless | The resurrection is mothballed | due to lack of funds | I say I love you, but really | you are a place I put the diamonds

 


from the series superstyler (open-ended, 2012–present)
(this poem, August 2015)

Every spirit brings a perspective | Fold my awkward wings, give up the air awhile | break into the vacant house by the shore | use it as my own, a borrowed luxury | Sleep on my back on the sleek oak floor | contemplate what you’ve done to me, introducing | once more | this longed-for unease | rendered the sea a moth’s flight, the mountains | shiver in the dark | seeking safety | to the leak of wild | honey from cracks in living trees | turning the roots and earth below | sweet, and sticky, and shining || Is wild honey like that? | I don’t know | They have dropped from the tip of a telescope, are tiny, their voices | are so soft, and fine | like mist or silk, you might lower precious necklaces into them | to store out the turbulent era | bury the meat in the fire | Like chess pieces on a board, they must | keep to their squares | rook move in straight lines | the King one step at a time | When the cat disturbs | an abandoned game | I hear the figures clink and roll | Hours later, when all is still | I forget what you look like || Call it Siamese, call it a bear | It has made me its home, its den | works regular hours | keeps surfaces reasonably clean | watches the sun set from the train, is too | tired to read in the evening | Often, despite you, the flowers droop in their vases | Sheets go unwashed | You wouldn’t care for these things, but the end begins | when we started writing different kinds of poems, ones | only we cared for, bound by laws | most people couldn’t detect, never mind | understand | and the point | failed | You go against all of that, but | because I do not, quite, I | cannot bring you in here with me | to winter the summer through | or to survive | only by the thread of a stranger’s glances

Every spirit brings a perspective | You inspire in me a heightened | access to detail | respect for the nuance of matter and mood | the coagulated white smoke of the freezer | how the woods feel just before the storm | so very delicate | the trees motionless | the birdsong muted | any gesture would be lost in this, and so | I make one | Walk by the sea | recall your face | continue this | process of scattering | across the days | Like a monk, put the gold | to the ‘I’ | in a monastery cell | Drop out of school, waste my youth, then my whole life | Most of the time, the Marquess of Queensberry | had no mind for his rules

 


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)
(this poem, August 2013)

I will take you to the grave of the storm | You can stay at my house, there’s room

A green caterpillar chomping on the edge of a leaf | A child’s eye looms, this has no shell | grown round it yet

Silent type | unprotected | Using a road with fire to get away

Weigh the mountain in our embrace, what weight will we bring, what balance attain?

Oh, Mother of Pearl

Another girl

slips off into a new song, linking echoes into a glistening string | we walked over the ridge, below us | lay the storm’s grave | only a few dried leaves | scratching and scuffing over the stones | a hoard | of vanished lightnings

Daughter

At ankle height, there is also a world | boulders of sugar | black | samurai of ants | planets of thistledowns | what will our gaze | do to the snail?

Peace in a teaspoon

a tiny

portion for the brothers with oceans inside them, sisters | who have swallowed the moon | and are still | hungry

Daughter in the mist | a lap and drip | unseen | and on soft breath | half heard, half dreamed | the return | of elderberries in cooling September | fragments of dogwood floating in water | across | the lake can the small | voices come, even now | and save us with the exemplary | scale of their whispers?

Remembering the mountain and my daughter

of lost bones and fatal | decisions

where will we go, and what shall we do?

when the roaring voices rise inane, where | will they take us, where | will they go?

when the landlord calls for his rooms

even in Shibuya, among the flowers

what will be done | with the half of the dream | left behind

when the seas come for our cities?

 


from the series hypergrammar (open-ended, 2012–present)
(this poem, August 2014)

Even the stones and the branches | flung at him | they say | recoiled from | harming Orpheus | so beautiful was his music || The nightingales come | later | the girl in the basement | or the tube, with a copy of | Alaide Foppa’s poems | in her bag || They think that you have detached yourself from me / simply because you were born. || The river | carries his | head | in its pocket || His fate | is common | to be | torn apart | and scattered | into the keeping | of passing | strangers

Followers of the regime, who yet | secretly adore | the works of | banned and reviled | voices | The head | after death | still singing | One day, perhaps | the voice will | fall still | and, at that moment, the vanished will | vanish forever | the surface of the pool will grow | immobile forever and | the stones and the branches will | drop | dead to the | ground || Down | many | different roads | words drift | for now | into the passing | beauty of strangers

 


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

Referred to as nothing | Unknown to the summer, to the hilt of winter | Famous for emptiness, a bastion of echo and weed | derelict factory | awaiting a ghost story | Is that | a human | face? | Run through, right to the | final cold | an icicle swordsman | laughing for the duel in April…

Giants and mice | I want the nail, for the want of a nail | Slip off your shoes, let me see again | the arch of your foot | a slenderness | too precise for vagrant words | where have those | feckless | words gone now? | Soles | squeak on the parquet floor | the moments | give off a tiny smoke like | just-snuffed candles | What? | Don’t you | know who I am?

 


from the series fleeting pixel (series of 1,000 poems, 2012–2016)
(this poem, August 2013)