Archives for category: Poetry

A moral arthritis, corrosion in the joints of the good and the bad, a crumbling of spirit.

Stiffened lightning exposes the scene: the migrant in the black housing project, the room with no windows or ventilation, the sleeping bags strewn like the punctured cocoons of butterflies who have failed to escape entirely their larval stage.

Knife tactics.

Parasite Bill with his hat of dangling wrens and felt and hide, coat of bone and fur. Skull-heeled boots, threaded with rat-tails, and a taste for chronic dysentery and rickets. Squashed fucking, face against glass, cheek blancmanged: listening to the Hideaways’ 1959 song Jalopy Serenade.

Cheeky!

Crushed-in, with Vampire Lil’s cheeks all sunken as if being sucked by vacuum cleaners from the inside. Three-bed semi, Rule Britannia on the old phonograph: gags in the garage. Concrete floor and acid, industrial detergent for the plastic-bagged. Cor, handcuffs!

Cor, handcuffs!

The route through to the heart is blocked, and all the little motive imps are stuck in the pass: landslide, checkpoint, curfew, crunch.

All the little motive imps’ bodies begin to rot.

Parasite Bill carries his guns, carries his guns, carries his guns, oh, Parasite Bill carries his guns in the morning. Shoots the little refugee, shoots the little refugee, shoots the little refugee, and skins her in the morning.

Jaunty jolly slapstick charabanc, charabanc. Whistle from the window, watch the green green land of home go by. Nostalgia for crime, the era of Nazis and white.

Disco Billy with their cocaine moan-job. Listening to The Exploiters’ 1974 hit, Coming True. Serial liquidation. Need for good staff. Bruises and eyes on nerves, contusions, a nice roast in the sewers: life in the hit factory. Packing plant.

Ding a ling a ding ding dong!

Smell of the old. The five signs of uncaring: stink, sore, crawl, twist, deaf. In cheetah-print pumps, Vampire Lil struts and grunts, hums and cuts: she enjoys decomposing.

Parasite Bill holds me tight. A beano, a blinder, a big weekender. Drinking immigrant juice through perspex straws. Listened to Raping Corpses.

Parasite Bill strings us up, one by one. We are not the victims: we are the middlemen.

Slowly I am milked for my venom. I twist (one sign of uncaring) and writhe, my head held fixed. In the holiday home, with the china bull, the stoned teddy bear, the shepherdess tripping through her porcelain idyll. Ropes and axes, bloodstains on the croquet mallets, shrink-wrapped bodies all in a row.

Shave it finer, slice it as narrow as you can, boys, narrow as you can. Get all the hair off. Fillet and flay. Parts in the pulper, extract the essence. Gristle in the blender, humming too-too-boopie, too-too-boopie, boopie-too!

Leave them to their bombs and anal. Happy shattered shell-shocked misfits. Waif propaganda, what about us? Powdered houses, just add blood. No water or medicine, toughen them up.

Parasite Bill, hold me tight! Suffocate me slowly. Take what you need, first; then take what you want; then take, last of all, what you like.

Generic apocalypse: the accountants do their cypher dance. All full up! All full up! No more, no more, not even slaves!

Well, okay, maybe a few more slaves…

Lucky to have it. Control over how you shrink, that’s important. Control over the hardness of your heart, who gets in, who is thrown out, and kept out.

They don’t listen, get what is coming to them. Crawl for a few milligrams of less pain, can’t you find it? Flap and drool. Rock and shit. Lie still, and then rock in your shit a little, and the faeces infect your sores. You just don’t do anything to help us with our position of not our problem, do you? You just go on, deaf to our indifference. What else could you expect?

Venom is in high demand: we need to up the toxins. Purify the state: separate the slaves from their masters. We need a gap: we need space. Therefore: venom is in high demand. And, milked, I provide it.

Dilute to taste.

 


from the series superstyler (open-ended, 2012–present)
(this poem, March 2017)

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Mr Farrago spent the day cleaning his collection of lies.

The collection wasn’t particularly distinguished — in fact, one cruel critic had gone so far as to suggest it was “hackneyed in taste, too obvious in the overall selection and, in the promotion of supposed masterpieces, simply lacking in credibility” — but it was Mr Farrago’s collection, and he rather doted on it.

(And in this tendency to favour a private, long-built, much-beloved collection of artefacts, Mr Farrago was perhaps not unique.)

He had been folded through illustrations from various planes to produce a donkey’s bray and a baboon’s arse. Small national flags, on cheap-looking white plastic sticks, stuck from his pockets. His garments were a veritable catalogue of Bros., Street and & Sons: tweeds, silks, polka dots, brogues.

Haw haw.

Haw haw, he went.

His limousine, with its imposing façade and Mock Tudor timbers, sat in the calm cool darkness of his garage.

His chauffeur, Peter Fluff, had the day off.

His wife — Mrs Farrago — was away in town, visiting relatives.

Her relatives.

They did various dances. They did the Poltroon. They did the Mosaic, the Fibber’s Mile, the Recession.

How the pipers piped, and the fiddlers perspired.

Mr Farrago was delighted.

Haw haw, he went.

Haw haw.

Who could have foreseen his rise? Transfixed by the beams, floodlit from above by droning airships, with his peroration in full flow — “Bloor bloor bloor bloor, faffle puffle, bloor, bloor, bloor… Bloor…” — surely, the more sane among the contestants must have been utterly bemused by Farrago’s promotion to host of the entire show.

Each man is an island, he assured his yeomen.

At night, he put on his wireless. He looked forward to his favourite programme: Live from the Bedlam — the world-famous Bedlam Theatre, of course, in Mayfair. They always had a good line-up: The Duke’s Minstrels, Vapid and Bunnie, The Burlingdon Quartet, The Six Stout Sons, all excellent and reliable artistes, not to mention the fun and fireworks provided by the ebullient compere, Bobby Bluster — the “Blonde Opportunist”.

Haw haw!

Haw haw haw haw haw haw haw!

Half a sovereign, and a penny for your jam.

What was on the telly?

Punch My Migrant.

Turn over.

Counterfeit Kingdom.

Turn over.

Some dreary avant-garde Scandinavian epic, The Passengers of the Titanic Applaud the Iceberg, utterly pretentious, who in the world, completely absurd, why would anyone applaud an iceberg, really, how do they get the funding, unacceptable, write to the Director General personally, we’ll see about this!

Turn over.

Independent Execution.

Turn over.

Name That Treachery.

Turn over, turn over, turn over.

Turn off.

Ah, the sweet rapture of nightingales in the haughty bower of the English countryside.

Words like “inalienable” — “inviolable”, for example.

Mud and brollies! Bulldog parrot. High jinks, low blow jobs, oooh er! Trilbies, fox-hunts, whist.

The village fete, designed around the theme of steam power and indestructible national ingenuity. Bunting.

One of us, and none of them.

All for me, and the last one out is entirely alone.

Sir Shut-the-Door, and Lady Rally.

Perks and nods. Knowing. Winks and bluffs.

Dave Camaraderie down the bar. Old shag. A light foam, and pewter dreams. A Hard Place, by Miss Doris Innuendo — turn a few pages before…

My work is done, thought Mr Farrago.

My life of toil and sacrifice.

My efforts on behalf of…

My eventual triumph, turn a few pages before…

Let others do the work now. Let others take the strain. I’ve done my bit.

Mon Dieu et Mon Droit.

Persona non grata.

Liqueur. Almanac. Confidante. Irish setter.

Garbage à la mode.

Monsoon. Dervish. Berserk. Chapati.

Grit. Scar. Pluck. Spunk.

Half a pint of Let’s Get Fucked, please, Landlord.

Haw haw, he went.

Haw haw!

Pompous, flatulent, fraudulent puffer of poisoned bubbles, we will fight them.

And fight them.

And fight them.

They’re having a whip-round.

The locals down The Proud Beggar.

How’s your father and who’s your tailor?

Eden of this silver. The birth of knowledge from the womb of error. Empires and umpires, tails and whites. Come, bite — mmmmmmmmmm!:

apple

crumble.

 


from the series superstyler (open-ended, 2012–present)
(this poem, July 2016)

Hi | We’re the Vampire Party | and we’ve come for your blood | no, I mean, your money | no, I mean, your vote | Your vote! | That’s why I’m here today | Sorry, I’m a bit | nervous | I’ve only recently joined | Please disregard what I say | until I confirm that it’s what I really want you to hear | Would you do me that | small favour?

Do you mind if I start again?

Hi | We’re the Vampire Party | Maybe you’ve heard of us?

What? | You heard what? | No! | That’s a complete myth! | What? | No! | Haha, no, we certainly don’t do that! | Well, maybe once | a long time ago | in the Carpathians | but absolutely not now | it isn’t allowed | we really forbid | that particular practice | What? | Really? | One of our members did that? | Well, my goodness, I agree, they should be held accountable! | Totally verboten! | I find it hard to believe… | You’re sure? | Well, if you say so | but that’s a rogue element | a freak event | I’m very sorry about your aunt | and your cousins | and their pets | but, honestly, really, that’s not typical of who we are | we, in the Vampire Party | are very strict on that, these days | We’ve reformed | We’re here to help you, basically | We’re a modern party | progressive | very keen on Green issues | equality | social justice | gender | all of that stuff | Look deep into my eyes | What? | No | I didn’t say anything | Look

do you mind if we start again?

Hi | My name’s Michael | My human friends — no, wait, I mean, my ordinary friends | Actually, could you disregard that bit? | I’m sorry | I’m feeling a bit dizzy | It’s so bright outside! | Where were we?

What? | My full name? | Well, it sounds a bit … | Well, if you insist | My surname is Báthory | Haha, no | not that Báthory | my family comes from Hampshire | originally | We’re the Hampshire Báthorys | couldn’t be further from Central Europe! | Haha, yeah | people do say that a lot | But no | Absolutely Hampshire | old farming stock | landowners | the odd earl | and countess | yeah, a couple of castles | but not my branch | I don’t own any castles! | Well | a small one | not really a castle, more a kind of fortified …  | But anyway, I’m not sure how we got into this? | Look deep into my eyes | What? | No! | Did you hear a voice? | Hmm… | Maybe the TV?

Anyway, we, in the Vampire Party, stand for law and order | We have always stood for law and order | We love law and order | Yes, I know we have made a few cuts over the course of our last term in office | but that doesn’t stop us being the party of law and order | And I’m standing here today to tell you — you especially, my dear — that we in the VP will protect you from all the evil creatures who roam this wonderful land | you know who I mean | they are largely | not from here | originally | they aren’t pale, like me, they don’t have my | curiously metallic blue if somewhat bloodshot (it’s the caffeine) eyes | my stare | Look into my | yes | we will protect you | we will invest in our police force | and in copious surveillance equipment | riot gear | tear gas | tasers | batons | clubs | guns | surgical tables | coffins | unmarked graves | cells deep deep underground in our fabulous dungeons | and using these means | which you | the backbone of this country! | you ordinary working folk! | the salt of the earth! | provide for us | we will prevent any bloodshed apart from the bloodshed of which we actively approve | no | not that kind of bloodshed | as I think we’ve established | those are myths | and propaganda from the so-called humanists and progressives | we’ve changed | please don’t succumb to their hateful lies | which can lead to such transfusion I mean confusion | it’s incredibly hot today, isn’t it? | I’m sorry | I’m feeling a bit transfused

Yes | we’re going to make this country great again | the one we’ve been ruining I mean running for the past decade or so | we’re going to energise it | once we have the blood we need | am I rambling? | did I say blood? | I didn’t say your blood did I? | Gosh! | I don’t think it’s ever been this hot in October has it? | I need some shade | the sun is incredibly bright | even with all that heavy cloud | doesn’t it make you faint? | it makes me … | You have lovely flesh by the way | The skin tone is exceptional | I like your jugular | is it old-fashioned of me to say that? | Look into my eyes | could I come in for a moment just to tap your veins | no! | not your veins | your phone! | I meant tap | no! | I meant use your phone | use | not tap | your veins | we’re going to use you up | drain you slowly | could I just come in | for a?…

Here | Here’s some money | I know it’s not a lot | But have it | and vote for us | the Vampire Party | the party that took | most of your money away | in the first place | but that was for the good of the country! | this great nation of ours! | with the corpses of its teddy bears lying out in the unploughed fields | and its children rented out | to geriatric arthritic syphilitic sybaritic sclerotic guys like my Uncle Boris | he’s from Transyl- | I mean | Penn- | Pennsylvania | there’s so much transfusion about these days! | I’m very transfused | it’s so | incredibly hot in Hampshire | ah! | ooh! | no | please don’t worry | it’s just a little smoke | my skin is very delicate | I think it’s from sitting around in cliques all day | with my network of chums | the great Mummies and Daddies | who look over us | and enable us to revel in our superiority | in our fantasy castles | in silk and velvet | in the dark | and lord it over serfs and rural types | like you | are you alright? | you look like you need to have | that beautiful jugular of yours | tended to? | it’s making a booming sound | in my head | the blood pulsing through it | booming and booming! | like a jackhammer! | hammering! | the blood | the easy, easy blood | the blood of the victim | who praises the parasites | who rule over them | and twist them | round and round…

Really | you need to lie down | in the dark | in the local | run-down | A&E unit | where we keep down | people like you | who have been drained | so dry | and worked | so hard | and made | so anxious | and worn out | and drugged up | and beaten down | and smashed in | sent down | sent back | to where they came from | hung in nooses | shot | stabbed | battered by our thugs | drowned out | strung out | worn out some more | flayed | pulverised | starved | degraded | hahaha | made to beg | shut out | locked out | kicked out | demeaned | kept out | dehumanised | passed out | on the street | in the hostel | in the shelter | public nuisance | sucker | such complete | suckers | no! | not us! | ironically | you! | you’re such a … here’s some more money | by the way | we’re going to spend loads | on ourselves | and a bit | on you | I must lie down with you | Look into my mouth | oh! | help! | my skin is | a bit of | sunburn | sorry | you’re coughing | the fumes | it’s so bright | ugh! | when does night | fall? | I must have…

When does night fall?

Soon, soon…

 


from the series superstyler (open-ended, 2012–present)
(this poem, October 2019)

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

— John Donne, from Meditation XII |
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

I wait for the moment | It’s what I do | Not yet, the dragonfly | although the leaves are dry and ready to fall, so they are right | and the sky is right | a poised, complete, exhausted blue | The bullies are in the correct position, they are so taut | they’ve been in the sun all afternoon, and, stripped to the waist | are sunburnt and lithe | they are on time | they’re not carpenters | and they shouldn’t be | they’re out of work | the summer has been too long for them, and they’ve been drinking | Who will they hurt? | Maybe no one | but I think they will | hurt someone… | Everyone falls quiet when the ambulance goes by | its siren sounding | then, although people eventually start speaking again, it’s as if there is a hole in the day | and so evening comes on | It’s a delicate matter | perhaps all things | are delicate matters? | the stones, as well as the flowers? | It might be the wrong century | or the wrong latitude | and the heart must be ready | the balance | needs to be perfect | the callous against the tender | the innocent against the wise | perhaps more defeat than victory | there has to be sadness | you will surely have lost | the people who held you up | when you were young | and those who | with the terrible gift of their departure | announced to you that you were young no longer | another | very delicate matter, do you know? | And it must all fit in | not just the lightning but the whole storm | and the sound of raindrops dripping | from the branches of motionless pine trees | not long after the storm has passed | a lovely sound | so peaceful | and much can be learned from it | even if this is not | the moment | There will be lovers | Not necessarily | nearby | maybe far away | but they will be involved | their potential must always be promised | or nothing would quite make sense | Children should be there | in the same way as the lovers | even the ones who are screaming | because they have dropped their toys | fiery little emperors | tsarinas of a whole world’s court | their lack of perspective is crucial | the distance they will have to go | the awful | vertigo of understanding | the nature of the impersonal | The bleached white concrete by the pool is right | the zoo’s flamingos | ruffle and preen | their sumptuous pink | that shocks still | is right against the concrete and geometry | of the pool | the sky | has remained right | even the dragonfly is right now | and I wonder | am I actually waiting anymore? | So | delicate | Perhaps it will be me | they hurt?••


from the series fleeting pixel (series of 1,000 poems, 2012–2016)
(this poem, June 2015)

And actually no thought or voice, but keeping place, marking | the silence | with a made-up sound | say, “meadow” | and a blue-and-white striped marquee | empty, overnight, after the wedding | the guests elsewhere | No longer building, but, with the sea, staving off | ruination | with moving lightly | like clouds in a dream | Admiring | the prettiest scar | driving at 3 a.m. | the radiance on the horizon | is the sleeping city of Detroit, where they built the cars

Also, as knights in a fable, lost on quests, pursuing phantoms | of a sorcerers’ agenda | a slow, inglorious fizzling out | drowning in their heavy armour | at the bottom of clear streams | among the lush, quiet green of a mythical England | skulls in helms | Those wounds | which bleed and bleed | enrichen and weaken | simultaneously | much to say and more to care | as supplies grow scarce | and the ocean’s porous fists | pound the crumbling shore | and every place more an island | with each melt | and fiercer thaw | Like castle towns in the distance | rendered vague by mist or storm | no grounds for betrothal | or at least, this was the feeling | of one of the parties | Like those wild, evangelical spirits | who embrace devastation | from calm rooms, down elm-lined avenues | As if, through a series of moments, each a puzzle, to arrive in a starving nation | where no puzzles matter anymore, but how to eat | Broken down, changing the wheel | of a sixties’ Packard | worried | we would not get there | Like being happy with the outcome | even though we realised | we had been conned | And actually, no ear or word | no call | no sound at all | but the chatter of wealthy brokers | proposing new problems | to evade love, an old solution••


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

Taking a train to the city | Contributing to the economy | Leaving your mark and your | lack of mark | Everywhere central | the June evening | diffuses people through the streets | in plazas | of course, we will | come to the flowers | waterlilies | floating in a pond | What do they want with you? | who survey but yet | do not notice you? | Step out of line | the cameras bloom | with struggle and pepper spray | Flee the disturbances | the cracks in the order | drive for miles, out into the country | sleep in the back of the car | a bruised | copy of Heine in your pocket | it just | happened to be Heine | At sundown | far from retreat | the moments assign | greater or lesser graves | And will you | go to the sea, or will the sea | come to you? | Willows, very still, and life | set to zero | stays at zero…

Ich Kann Es Nicht Vergessen | the shadow of a ladybird on the page | but then the white horses in lush meadow | seen from the car | somehow the sea | is coming for you | Riots on the news and fire | are the people coming back, after so long? | realising again | they’re not just people, but “the people”? | They are covered | The mood drifts | We were happy, laughing at the party | watching an antique magic lantern show | but the morning after | beside the canals | was subdued | a classical melancholy | The soul | is out of fashion | the body | all the rage | with its pertinent flaws and needs | then | with a shine like blurring aphids’ wings | a dream rises | tigerish | mauls the sodium and the clay | An “incident on the line” | delays your train | at rest in the warm evening | in a foreign country | the breeze | indolently stirs | fields of ripening grain | Don’t struggle | Be happy | You find | you can’t recall their name | find the e-mail | or the photos you thought | you’d saved | The years shear off | take a different path | but you’re content | and settled in a smaller grave••


from the series fleeting pixel (series of 1,000 poems, 2012–2016)
(this poem, June 2015)

Alone in a new town | Washed-out synths, shuffle of pads and clicks | You bring your music with you, the rooves, seen from the metro | train are glazed in early 00s’ | ambient or languid electronica | floating like leaves down a conduit | angular, rotating footprints of maples | trail of an autumn god | Time to put | your affairs in order | Fix the ontology | into position | back up the hard drive | lock snow in the Cloud | perfect the iambic | nod to the Masters | draw a line | under the freefall | pay off your debts | The office | rejects you like a grafted limb | Capitalism | sits uneasily with you | but isn’t it because | it gives you the hours | to ponder its magnificence, to observe | the glistening, radiant worm | of it twisting and mouthing | things like words | in your head? | Was the received wisdom all | gobbledygook? | Google it, Kyoto by Air | a tint of austere | melancholy | water-colours of | Japanese irises and frogs with long | slender feet | catching the tail-ends | of translations | the fall-out | fragments | the ghost you never | quite | turned into love | Building hotels | to watch | the glaciers crumble | panoramic views | of the disaster | you have made by your | exit | a connoisseur | of nymphs and wastelands | folding your treasured | flock of atoms | into the past | and leaving the most beautiful | poems so late | they simply cannot | last

Outside the apocalypse | paring your fingernails | the mighty | individuals | stomp over the world | gobbling it up like | Pitt and Boney | Allow me please to draw back | the curtain on your style of death | the carbon footprint | the dinosaur | dandy | the celebs | the glam | the self-expression | Uncouple | beauty from policy | what is left? | Throwing a rain of | particles against the glass | declaring your independence | by pixels and logos | on your jacket and T | your only answer seems | to swoon | leaving you out of it | a tearful | rebellion by champagne | subversion through tenure | Well, and when | shall we 3 meet | again? | A broth of grumble and whisper | sub-whispers and | bits torn out of an index, is this | all you have? | Failing | to make the junction | docking | with an empty ship | packing the sea-shells | with rumours of | the Devonian or the Cretaceous | getting ever more | remote and obscure | retaining your purity | by taking the hermit’s | path up the mountain | always higher | like the old Zen monks | preaching to stones | explaining the pine trees | to the dust | taking a late train | to a new town | finding your post | not all you expected | but manageable | disregarding | both the bells silent | and the bells tolled | threading the dusk | through to the dawn | passing your time | gilding the gold••


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

Larry couldn’t get high | Cut-up ships stowed in rooms | tarpaulins and buoys | stuck to the ceiling | a formalised wrack | forty years of sand | in stoppered bottles | and from a silver thermos | an acrid scent of brine | memories of beginning | of a watery love | in a white enamel bath | tiny purple starfish | pink diluted blood | a mound of scales | too much to fit in or to | take with us | so we throw it away | Everywhere an overboard | and the storms | tame, following us like pug dogs | In the eyes | compass needles | And the mouth has fragments of coral

Kidnapped! | Torch under the covers | A Barrett house | breathes | in and out | slowly | oxygen from a newborn typhoon | Splinters of shattered masts! | Crescendos of waves | the shock and smash and grab | chopping loose rope with crescent-headed axes | stoven barrels with a slew of limes | great upsurge! | Sleep and school | Street prices rising very fast | and his taste had changed | he found it surreal he had ever | admired Rimbaud | The ticcy-tac of their uncut claws | on the concrete | as they trot | Apricot fawn or silver fawn or black | clean fast strokes across the placid bay | the odour of pitch and fresh-sawn pine | At DECOR gallery, until the end of October••


from the series fleeting pixel (series of 1,000 poems, 2012–2016)
(this poem, January 2015)

“but instead of an answer, there came only intenser longing”
— Kawabata, Thousand Cranes

What is the boiling point | of honey? | Warmer these evenings, with a scent of grasses | across the veranda | moonlight eases its wedding shadows round, or the gaga | moon drops lumps of bone as it passes | Through the soft vent | we slip | asking for a single thought, arriving only where | it always varies | Hand slipping from the tiller | stars gape and beg for water | their silver cherubs’ faces like exhausted children’s | but we don’t | yet have children | So quiet here | helicopters circling over disaster states hardly | make the stalks of young wheat | sway at all | In this hot cell | know the wet flesh and caresses | so intimate as to grow confused | as to who belongs to | what, but | at the edge of the moment | still sense the snow’s flakes of dice | starting to roll | while the journey we beckon on | recoils but calls | endlessly, forever starting our only answer

Not enough | beauty to go round | not even in the wind | moving through May willows | therefore we want, therefore | we suffer | Brilliant as we are, what brings our brilliance | will not wait | to settle or to satisfy, it is | in the distance | Dry as we grow, dizzy | tottering where every | step is our first | we can’t | stop dreaming | or even for one instant | put down our thoughts | to quench with stillness | the ceaseless horizon’s gliding thirst••


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