Archives for category: Poetry

Resting tenderly, like tiny bubbles on the underwater stems of cut flowers, the bouquet bound together by frayed string, in a half-pint milk bottle once belonging to the Co-operative Dairy Society Ltd Guildford. Tenderness and repose: two qualities I treasure, perhaps because I am cold, selfish and ascetic by nature, and my spirit is restless, so that both repose and tenderness are rare in my life, dedicated as it is to the cool greed art has become in this era, at least insofar as I am capable of making it. Lethargy is different to repose: lethargy I possess in abundance, a terrible internal sloth, like a slag heap amassed over centuries of mining, a mountain of black waste that has permanently changed the ratio of earth to sky, and which can’t be shifted — all that can be expected of it is a trivial modulation in topography, a creep and trickle at the edges, the wind blowing dust on the surface, nothing moving at the core. If the women who lay by my side could have sensed this doomed landscape within me, would any have stayed longer than, in the end, they did? Why would you? There are lost causes too lost for a person ever to contemplate even an attempt at futile loyalty to them. Certain kinds of futility may be enjoyable, in an odd way, and some may be beautiful, but remaining loyal to a species of unwitting treachery is just stupid, a pouring away of life. I should know this: it takes us back to that cool greed, takes us back recessively, insidiously and yet, as well, emphatically, in the fashion in which, according to that description by Yeats, a good poem is meant to finish, with the sharp neat click of a closing box. Words and self-regard are never far away. Hence, a cycle of wandering and fear, emptiness and restlessness, Ulysses under the Tennessee pines. Which leads, in turn, to the language of Bedouin and Hottentots, of tumultuous, silent Patagonian clouds, of stooping and kneeling to drink with our bare hands from Arctic streams, the knife-cold waters entering us with an atrocious clarity, worth the sins we committed to get here. But this, as you will have realised, is beside the point. Tenderness, and repose: wonderful in themselves, but together, inexpressibly lovely. The text begins to put off its own references, we are heading out to a place of indifference, like a waking sleep. If it is lonely there, it is lonely because of those hands that may still reach forward, and touch, those lips that have not yet lost their taste for kissing: the space, I mean, is very fine, and renders us, even now, very sensitive. The old war has cleansed the bones, the new war is yet to begin. We can take our time, knowing that death has its own rules, and we have earned our rest, after a long and honourable race against oblivion. Leaving at dawn is endlessly postponed, but the freshness of dawn and of the unknown prepares us, a clearing of decks. Stillness comes. I don’t love you.

 


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

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All the mothers are walking towards the sea.

They aren’t going to be mermaids, or angels, or anything like that, and they aren’t going to be motionless for too long, or food for worms — although, I guess, some of them will be mermaids

for a little while.

All the mothers are walking towards the sea. My mother, first.

The sea raises its old white head, and makes shapes — strikes poses, not even from memory, for it is beyond | memory, and before

memory, too.

The mothers are walking towards the sea, the ones who died in their cars, the ones who burned, and their mothers walk in front of them, their children straggle behind.

The fathers can’t make sense of it, so instead | they do what they always do, and watch, impotently, as the sea | dumps its tons of white carnations | onto the beach, they have things they must achieve | before they die in cars, die from inhaling | smoke: they have money to make, and money to squander, they quickly | grow tired of watching the waves | foam into the sand, and their children are calling.

All the mothers are headstrong, they insist | on walking towards the sea, your mother, first.

Their beds were green, eyes | peeped out from between the leaves. They loved the evenings in the city | in summer just after rain | the lights were tender then, the future stretched wide, like a plain, and their bodies | came upon them over and over again | like king tides.

They go in lines, towards the shore, it’s not a matter of will, not a matter of thought or of design, not a matter of fate, and the fathers | can’t make sense of it, they start running away, although I guess | with their children calling, why would they linger?

The sea raises its young white head, just for the mothers.

Along the coast road, as night falls, the traffic builds, the vehicles put on their lights, it will take a while | to get to the city. Put on some music. Sleep in the back.

What’s the worst that can happen?

Let me tell you: it’s already happened.

All the mothers are walking towards the sea. Their young children | struggle to catch up.

My children, first.

••


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

Shadow on the edge of nothing | Faint, almost translucent | Hints at body but has no | volume | Dependent on the light | yet itself | Palm | leaf | stirs in the breeze, fades | even further under cloud and | is helpless, and the sun | is helpless, too

Helpless clouds | cross the face of the sun | The definition of shadows | fades | We call out our names, and the names | hold us | and silence | holds the names

 


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

A compromise, like the cloudy film of a cataract. A saga of sinew and steel, but great loneliness, an unsayable distance inherent in humans.

While in tight alleys, street yakuza battle for animal turf, their bosses fly over the huge construction sites of post-war cities, eyes on higher crimes, the future of business.

You will lose brothers and sisters, and attempts to anneal the tragic brittleness of your family’s mettle will fail. Swordsman in an era of guns, as glory is engulfed by matter, battle will become your motto, battle like a form of prayer.

It was a commercial failure, and the studio folded. Alone from her did he elicit a performance of such chaste violence, though she had only three years to live. His attitude brought upon him the hatred of the extreme right: several times he was beaten, and once his face was slashed by a razor.

Crushed by the wheels of context, events are given a false balance: of life, perhaps 97.5% is wild, and cannot be tamed, but along the margin of the 2.5%, as along a bleak shore where poppies grub a bloom from dunes of coarse sand, we eke to live out our days. Thus to a highly organised cult of delusion do we subscribe, while our bodies howl and he felt attacked by the beaks, talons and screams of treatise, tome and tract. There are fireflies in the north. Your wife will slip from you, and your honour be lost.

Fighting amongst white hens, cooped and hooped among mackerel and barrels, their bright swords essay slashes of crops and wings, the doomed blood writing.

Certain heroes seek relief from the war, the out of woodland streams and cool water palmed to dry mouths, the faint echo of skirmish rightly sang down by the incessant duelling of nightingales. Night falls like a different ethos. Violent truth gives way to the illusion of peace.

Buddha cannot save us, our desires teem like fluid schools of fish in the sea, their sides like tin flash and foil in the thresh and fade. Pent swerve, volte face. Yet meshed in silver, still only fish, the sea a prison, thought an element.

To die in a caustic landscape, winter’s junkyard and crucible, a place bare of pity or hands – even an enemy’s hands – crimson of wounds announcing ends and other in the fields of pure white snow, what could be more fitting?

Allege your standing, fantasise your exit. It is no shame to release yourself from the most savage of life’s clauses. The studio goes under, the crews must seek other work.

Silence, the uncompromised; silence, the complete. The slightest portion of silence may contain millions upon millions of words.

Feverish, he could not right the boat of his reason. In the early hours, in a time lost to clocks, at the base of his skull, with the glittering intrusion of the bit of a drill, a goblin’s voice, squalid and shrill, gibbered and gibbered and gibbered…

 


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)

Under the wrath of life he found me | Carried across the logs with the amber moss | my slender body | blood that comes for the weekend | My tender | horns | still green | robin’s eggs and pine cones | in my pocket | one hundred yards, never been so far | the cliff to the sea | mist to the ground | no softer than his touch | Under the wrath of life he found me | Under the rush of music crowned me

Dab of lint, snowflake charter, and Dettol | sweeter than Chanel | it was | a different story | Legs too fine | to take the jump | the sea immense and its stroking fur | so close to my ear | so far | Hidden, hidden | from myself | what I had been | what I am | what I will be | until he | found me | Who | wants to be numbered | among the strong | when a break | a hop and a | graze | can lead you here | among the pine cones | and wet | fragments of shells | I know he | means to love me | Turns up the music | to drown our secret’s | coming | More tender | than my first real sleep | Softer | than than the cotton | wool’s | red blush | The acrid sting | stronger | than the kiss | which tells | Softer than a long decline | Sweeter | than Chanel

 


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

To go back to what was never there | to find a fact made of wishes | a corpulent genie painted in gold | with a bottle of nightingales | slung over its shoulder | in its brainless head | no detail of the Khmer Rouge | or stamps to tie in a name | but some powdery dust to start a new desert | and no sign of a path | forged through unknown constellations | is it the true way | or an ideal form of evasion | a dream eventually | purged of dreams?… | God encompasses us all | Pink tigers with azure stripes | tumbling from a pillow | the trees in bronze acrylic | the cab slows | through the festive season | bodies under the mistletoe | a drowsy | Ulysses of the bars and clubs | heading not for Ithaca and home | but away | hoping to set sail again | before the first stars form…

Historical accounts of dreamlike slaughter | A touching scene | of butchers with their children | the business, the need, the doting | Wrapped package | holding the fragments in | gold foil of a saint’s skin | Mies van der Rohe of the pipeline kings | the blueprints in Illinois | a green light at that hour | like shallow water both poised and posed | at dusk | At the edge, where the pattern runs out | the ghost begins its own account | in a locked head | the tumblers roll | the dream secret in the skull’s dead safe | waiting to fire and to blow | a new glass vessel | a pretty inferno | a design for automobiles | a tract turning to oil | a heaven-sent peace as I fall | to the kitchen floor and they go back to talking | about caravans and macaroons | or somesuch thing | the poles and position | by spirit, want, obligation | and GPS | the cab rattling in evening traffic | taking us to our next appointment

 


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

der Tod ist ein Meister
Death is a Master
— Paul Celan, Todesfuge/Death Fugue

There was smoke rising, and the traffic moved slowly | Right, perhaps, today, and you may be safe, but left | who can guarantee anything? | To the right, we went, but | it was tomorrow | and there were helicopters, barricades | The weight of my body | grew upon me | those long summer days | I tended more easily | to love | We see the faces across the river | are very like our own | We know the roots lead in and down | to a heart | and from the raw | seed of the heart | a person trees out | how instantly | there are freckles, deltas | shacks on the banks of the river | the red colour | the makers call | Terre de Maroc | painted on the study’s | walls | a portrait of Mozart | the taste of her fingertips just after | she had peeled two oranges | the scent | of his breath, Marlboro | and peanut butter and cheap | white wine | The specific is | too touching | too close | to home | Cartoon the land | lemon groves | on top of the houses | temples where devils | preach and breed | tiny pink devils with eyes | of a glass blue | harder than piercing | No other place | one may run one’s flesh | take a long | vacation from the war | All is the same | the sentence | says | the same | words for children | We must look to the Master | within us | no | Master without | What? | the Lord | might say, clicking shut | his fan | Will you “must” me again? | Who needs, who wants | these bodies now? | under the stones, under the forest | branches | combed | the shadows in your dark hair, Mohammed, the shadows | in your dark hair, Naftali

 


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

Into an Anglo-Saxon sleep | or along a mirror’s edge | what was lost | or left behind | in the search for love | Here is the place they pile the shoes | here, the books | for paramours and moneymen | students and burning | a tornado demon | the ogre of | disinterest | a rumble of dust mites | in rustling herds | grazing on nocturnal carpets | in cheap motels | on the shore of a dream | scooped up in a nap | a place you remember | with nets and racks | outrigger canoes | tumbled locks | magnesium lakes

You return, but the way back doesn’t bring you | back | You sleep in Deutschland | with a near stranger by your side | You half wake and wonder | how you have drifted into your teens, again | a net curtain’s August breath | of air | stirs in the corner of your brow | Cornish skies | a chapel’s haul | of mounted sermons, peaks of emptiness | puzzles | ad infinitum | books you fell into | as into strange cave systems | half-finished books | half-asleep truths | Her flight was not for three hours yet | she flitted round the room | like a trapped butterfly | stared down from the window | over the half- | finished city | the perfect location | for her half-finished life | And here is the place they pile the books | the books for tearing and for losing | settings for superb equations | lions’ odes | recipes for decadent cakes and other | items of confectionary | On the mantel | books you read long ago | idle and moulder | mothballed revolutions | and their words are like trapped butterflies | sewing the constricted space | of lifeless rooms | with flakes of sapphire and pollen | no cleaner for days | Beneath your sexy head | there is a faint, impenetrable vibration | the engine of unknown connections | working in the stillness | of the winter evening | the sound of settled loneliness | in a merchant seaman | slumped reading in his bunk | on board a Danish container ship | carrying consignments of cars | through tropical waters | the sea | totally useless with no re-invention

 


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

Dream too great for dreaming | Slipping through the | gaps in the law | in the rain | in the thoughts | Leave me under your | cushion | tuck me | into the waistband of your | knickers, and run, run, run | Vault the | clouds and the river | Oh | You spill me | backwards and forwards | I am always | falling out of your hands | The heat in your mouth | The sun in your diary || Aztec and | worth all the | winter | I’ll close the door | Lie down | curl up | in the clinical light | among the ice, the fish-fingers and the milk | of the | dilapidated | refrigerator | Oh | Life too small for living | Your throwaway words | are tidal pools | littered with the scuttling | whispers of | the Devonian and the Jurassic | Oh | Hey! Listen! | In the rain, everything is | related to the rain | Fire too bright for burning | You put the | darkness back in the | shooting stars we all | miss as they | pass us by, you | stress the line at just the | wrong place, you | are too bored for the | rapids, for the | spinning chamber, or for the | umpteenth game of | pool | in a Malaysian bar | Oh | And your King is too | exposed for taking | Days too sure for waiting | Ride too fast for | riding

Echoes of the swords of her promises | May they haunt me forever | Broken beautiful things | cut through the tedium of | curricula and stratagems | You want a place to | throw your heart? | She will | give you a | chance | She doesn’t even | mean | to be | anything to you | And you will both | be arch-deceivers | But you never listen to me! | She will throw you to your heart | like the Tartars threw | children to the wolves | Echoes of the swords of her promises | will ring your head around and around | and all you’ll ever remember | is the shape of a | meteor you half | guessed | was passing | and in your sleep, feel the shadow | almost touch your | head | as it goes | a ride too fast for riding | a dream too great for dreaming


from the series bliss point | angels of disorder
(open-ended, 2012–present)

It’s where we meet.

In a restaurant, or an airport lounge.

You look older.

But you don’t look wiser.

On a concourse, by a left-luggage locker.

It’s where you wait,
settled on a suitcase,
for existence to come back in.

Tomorrows pile up, Himalayas and sugarcubes,
and life is mostly made of futures.
You’re saying Location is everything,

it’s where we live.

It’s where we met:

in a kiss, fingers sticking in the ridges of my spine,
and something moves in me like snow subsiding
melting from beneath by a gathering thaw:

it’s how I changed.

In a café. On a platform, or at reception.

Listen: I was there
when the ambulance was first called to Heaven;
and I was there, in the black neighbourhoods
in Detroit, in summer, when the sound of Kraftwerk
spilled out on the street from window after window:
it was me, and I was there.

A brilliant spot of colour
like the sunstroked sapphire
of the roundel on a butterfly’s wing:
you have to go now.

You turn and she says something small and calm,
the pine trees on the hill cast very precise shadows
in a light which seems to have crystallised
into a feeling softer than anything you have felt before,
yet something so vivid and so pure, which enlarges you
mysteriously, even as it happens you know
this is significant and it will haunt you:
you have to go now.

It’s where we loved.

In a day, or a few hours at least.

In a motel, along the main drag.

It’s the end, where there is no ending.

You try to live in the tears you cry,
but you don’t have the right.
Someone comes in and moves you on,

and the wheels on the bus go round round round.

It’s where we built.

At a rendezvous, a formica table:
little teaspoon symphony, milky steam from the coffee machine —
pyramids of boredom for desire to lie in,

tomorrows piling up,

but we are not in them.

It’s where we meet.

They clear out the squatters with torches and guns:
you have to go now.

It’s where we love.

In the stale scent of air-freshener in the transit lounge.

We have to go now.