Constancy! Isn’t that the queer thought?
— Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

To find oneself again in a place one once knew | and gather up again the powder of sensations | blown by the breeze hither and thither | mostly | thither | The evening light on the Englischer Hof | a warm dusk orange chilled with deepening greys | and characters in novels, with their manicured tales | details | that arrest the reader’s eyes | Martingales, Chiffney bits, boots | the magical | conundrum of narrators and points of view… | In the airport, unable to concentrate | putting the book aside | and, though ill, typically | English of the old school | not one to make a scene | To revive, in other words, the lost | passage of a life | to blow the dust back into flesh, the flesh | back into want, and heat, and time | and all the other things we have no charge of | The sex that night was great, but not the sex with you | that was just the same | as always | tender but a little wearisome | a loving chore | like winding an old-fashioned clock | that could never keep good time… | Sitting on the edge of the bed | smoking | listening to the exuberant melee of mopeds in the Vietnamese night | with nothing so cumbersome as a right or wrong | feeling I belonged there | precisely where I did not belong

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

It means “to love for the very last time” | Air in between the fingers | The slower moving of two flying birds | a ploughed field below them | soil a dry grey | the sky | Heights, everywhere — insoluble heights, and a little trouble | mixed in with them, nothing | to worry about | “Sure, fine”, we say | “Yeah, not bad, not bad” | “Good” | “Yeah, okay. Fine. Good” | An eternity for the phone to ring, the train to come | Handles fallen off the wind, birch trees, words like “sorry” or “long”… Can’t pick up | the Earth, no need to, anyway | In each moment, a subtle crisis, when will these feelings end? | A precipice in crumbs | in apple pips | A little more to the left | Maybe a little more | to that side?

Heights, everywhere — insoluble, and a little | heaven mixed in with them | Is it like an appendix, a gripe | from an earlier skull and monkey | a calling card from Eros, chevaliers, an age of sonnets and Zeppelin? | Could read | Montesquieu, maybe, or Montaigne? — the evening has its autumn feel | Camus too recent, too clunky | Not “seeing angels”, as the French say, but | lifting the Earth, like anyone else, then leave it off in sleep | lift again | haul a few steps | in this, or that, direction | And in the dawn, a little sunset, always a little sunset | in everything | and in the sunset | a little heaven | two birds, of different species | one, the slower, a crow, but both | flying the same way | across a wide, ploughed field | grey under the clear, cool, blue sky | one moving more slowly, but not | being left behind

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

distillate01, a print selection of hypergram poetry, to be published in Spring, 2020, by Apparent.

The paperback book contains 100 poems, drawn from various hypergram sequences.

A selection of Michael Ayres’ poetry originally posted online under the moniker “hypergram”, distillate01 displays the writer’s distinctive style and unique aesthetic. Although highly contemporary, and technically advanced, the writing is often informed with a tenderness and humanity that belies its intensely philosophical nature. Calm, elegant poetry, with a classical detachment of tone, even short poems possess a complex architecture, generating linguistic openings and spaces for readers to interpret and explore. At once rich and austere, cool and engaged, passionate and distanced, the collection reflects the wide range of impulses from which it was drawn, making distillate01 a fine, varied introduction to the most recent phase of Ayres’ work.

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distillate01 FINAL COVER thumbnail

We fall, for a while, into the sumptuous ravines | our bodies make for us

What can we find here? | These | small pots of stinks | slumps | sleep at the weekend | a flowering fetor, disturbed to ripples | in ancient waters, bees, and lotus blossoms, and snakes

Other things, too, pedestrian things: paper clips | new apps | desks | a whole tangle of debris the ordered | storm of our lives | assembles in heaps of rooms, in an emergency, patiently compiles | in dunes of beds, glances

Such things | Enough? | Enough | of… what? | What could “enough” | mean in that darkness?

If we were to look, if looking | were the right thing | look deeper | look for longer | what else might we find | when we fall | into the sumptuous | ravines our bodies | make of us? | Is there anything else, at all | rolling in this languid surf? | changing channels, not caring for much?

Will we find, in these ravines, our own bodies? | Like the remains of famous climbers | Alpine mountaineers lost | decades ago? | idolised in black and white, in ski clubs, certain tweeds?

But, no, the body cannot be | found | not today | the skull isn’t | where we left it | though there are ants | crawling over the teeth | bluebells | picking through | the white bones of the hands

Or thoughts? | Will we find thoughts?

Like rare

starfish crawling on the floors of lucid pools | among the rocks, while the main | effort of the ocean is far off, hunting, high and low, for a trophy | of honey, drawn | from the very | tips of our fingers?

What can we find here? Old things, or modern things? Only | familiar things — grazed knuckles, dates | crossed out in our diaries?

A dusty | library of caresses? | Texts for fiends, aficionados?

Whatever || We let ourselves | find very little | We are not young, after all | We are full of knowledge, that | weary | error | that excuse we give | for life, that | translucent leech, so and | so | such, and | such…

Tomorrow, with its uses | Tomorrow, with its uses

Through the curtains, dead still in the night, come | the sounds of ships, their horns | from the Straits | and the sea | reaches into us, thirsting | for that dark, pointless nectar | only we | produce…

from the series bliss point | angels of disorder
(open-ended, 2012–present: this poem, September 2013)

I was always thinking | “What will it be like afterwards?” | But there was no afterwards || I thought it would be very still | as they say the floor of the ocean is still | no matter what storms are blowing across the surface | but I don’t know | and never will

The day, entire in its beauty, faithful as it always is | refusing nothing | demanding nothing | engulfed him | and wrapped him in vanishing | and then we were left | poised with loss | and enigmatic in a common way | holding all the pieces of our incompletion | gazing out over the landscape | everything hidden as the thoughts | passing behind the eyes | of perfect strangers in photographs

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

For autumn, and my father

And in the dew season, I’d walk across the hills | among the wild chrysanthemums | My father | across the bandwidth | and through the satellites | Stags | with their heads lowered to the grasses | A country round | I live in the squares and the lines | violets, lilacs, sodiums, blacks | the rush of the push and the shove and the savings | double shots / banged-down shot glasses | tube trains leaving | the stations | with their passengers | sieving down stairwells and escalators | and frankly it is | lonely in the city | My father | I walked out on the ice of an inlet | of the Yellow Sea | and in a disused sanatorium | watched the clouds cross the border | over the barbed wire and the yawning sentries | Recruits | to different orders | volunteers | you a recruit | but me | a perennial | draft dodger | stuffed in the back of cabs or flats | a life lived on the run | in an age of conformity | of willing participants | in paid pleasure | loyal to the pressure of the next satisfaction | a stone in your shoe | a consonant | when there should have been a vowel | my days a futile | aimless rage | far from the squirrels and the wet lawn | with the ring of orange needles | shed from the landmark larch | a spree of saints | a grime monk | an espionage | My father | with the broken | spine of the message | the dominoes and velvet | the personal | the lost | the private | how did we | get here? | Say what they will, they don’t know | they were never you | they were never me | And after the war, my father | in the ruins of the bombed-out | city | orphans would shelter | and in the winter | freeze and starve | to death | Recruits to | different orders | Let’s step on | as we always do | call me | your son | and I will be here | for a while, at least | while the gawpers | and the talkers | and the gawkers and the stalkers | the mawkish and the squawkers | busy themselves | in the latest fashions | we’ll put one star | next to the new star | put our Tuesdays in line | and you will sleep easy | and I will sleep uneasily | while the boys run | like buffalo or caribou | into their clouded masses | and powerless fools | dreaming of power | stir in the morning with their waking guns

Belonging, not belonging | A yearning for solidarity, but not enmity | I met up with Tony and Frank | they knew a guy | and though I was tired | I wanted a good time | so there was hooking up and getting up | and hours of clubbing | and I never | got home that night | Squeezing in | utopia in milligrams | my busy diary | full as could be | And we met a guy who knew a girl | met a guy | met a guy | Woke up | watching a film | a beautiful young assassin | snapping clip to Glock | with a girl | and a guy | and some other girls | and you | and some dead guys | Want to | buy my way out of here | but can’t | lay my hands on the funds | Slept late | like all day | and then there were deals | there always | needs to be deals | and then Tony and Frank | and Kat and Millie | and some other guy | and one of those | sixties’ American cars | a barge of chrome and petroleum | and there was | lime juice in my hair | and a scent of sugar, and violets | and a highway | north, along the coast, in California | and of course, overhead, there were the clouds | great, white clouds | grandiose steamers | and guards at the gates | and luxury and ease | on the other side | of the dream and the razorwire | and the techno | just devolved | into some thudding noise | and I saw Millie with Tony | and Frank | I couldn’t see Kat | and Frank again | with some other guys | and a kind of surprise | glimpsed myself in a mirror | with my father | and Frank and Tony | and some other guys | and some dead guys

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

Dazed, they emerge: so long missing, it is unlikely they will ever quite shift the sense of a dream, their neighbours look at them strangely, then forgetting returns.

In chic bars, in far-off cities, gold has flowed into the rings on the fingers of wealthy, professional people: sunlight glints with the sweep of a racket, wave of a hand.

It is as though a giant fist has bashed their hometown, causing the whole settlement to buzz faintly as if still vibrating, impossible to get an accurate picture, a signal too weak, forever dropping out.

In the darkness, their skin has taken on an alien pallor: the new caress is not the old caress, enters at odd angles, cannot connect with what used to be, and lovers look unsure, smile nervously, sadly — loss has brought the foreign home, missing had become a state of mind, return too unexpected.

The blow of absence in a subterranean world has jarred their spirits, dislocated their souls — they move at subtly different speeds to all others, as if they carried the earth of the burial with them, cannot muster perfect focus, or own again the streets they pass through, show delight in the new devices.

The sirens call, the gates open, the smoke rises: it is all as it was before, but not for them. Try as they might, the trivial has engulfed their lives, their children have grown so tall yet lost weight, the ones who replaced them are callow and naive, disinterested in talk of endurance and fatigue, will not share in the promotion of legends.

In twos and threes, in huddled groups, in poor and unfashionable bars, they gather in shadows, seeking to eke out the precious remnants of the elapsed event — it is rare to grasp, at the time of their rising, the peak of lives, the rest must be a descent and lessening, possessing the lightness of afterthoughts, a gentle belittlement, right to the touch of babies’ skulls.

Some are not even sure if they really have survived: some — the best, or the worst — mourn the passing of the disaster, and wish a return to the darkness, regretting a death so deceptive they’d thought it home.


from the series Silver of the mine of gold (open-ended: 2013–present)
(this poem, August 2013)

Hunters | bring in the dead things to show us | pelts of velvet brown partly | stripped off | smooth | pinks and crimsons | They show us their knives | to open the sloppy | jewel boxes for take-aways | to stews and broths | We say we wanted | living things | How true is that? | Not wholly true | We cannot | account for these | hungers, we found them | inside us, we cannot | escape them, either, no matter how we | run, and run… | Hunters…

Thoughts like gas drift through the room | They make us torpid | I have this feeling… | I want to go outside | and run and run | Find some altitude | some place away | from you and invites and porcelain | We drag in | lolling carcases | of stars | the heads of state | The clubs are full | the streets are buzzing | the city juggles pulses | I say | I want to die | but there is mist in the morning | a fresh | calm | clear and pure as the light | in a young boy’s eyes, a light | he doesn’t know | is living there, and I | am hungry…

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

It was already the end, but no one moved | as if staying in their seats after the film | like generals commanding dead divisions | The channels kept up their broadcasts | shops were full | signal was good | Soon we floated into another story | decorating our apartment, carefully | choosing the wallpaper to illustrate our taste | making love like | nesting in nothing for a few seconds | planning our holidays | Driving into the desert, Russ’s old Dodge | an olive meteor with a tail of dust, it felt | heroic, and yet | too sudden | like a hat blowing off the head | of a passenger standing at the rail | spinning up and away, into the sea | very small, and the waves | very many | On the other side | waking to a sound of gulls | then hiking for two days | all the time, feeling as if we were building | what we approached | At last, after camping in a hollow on the ridge | we came to the cave system | known as the Giants’ Dreams  | Google it

Wishing the words back into life again | As if in a medieval parable, puzzling over | a choice of apparent evils | to take the road which leads | to empty success, or the path | ending in honourable failure | Looking back, things appear | less clear-cut | life’s insistence on fertility, entanglement | draws into league the saints and fools | the knaves and angels | often leaving mere mortals | marooned on isles of bemusement and rue | In any case, I soon left that town | and, swiftly | this ceased to be my story | The rhododendron forests were in bloom | the air at altitude so pure | we felt there was no atmosphere at all | Was there no hope? Of course not! | We had the young | to fashion a simpler tale | For you, though, irony grew | inescapable, like a form of gravity | Finding yourself jostled | in a crowd of hermits, forever | glancing towards the exit | while far to the north | in terrible snows | dead soldiers broke | free from their frozen posts, and reached out | to take up their frozen guns


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

Fugitive colours | How autumn stole the sun and | roughly | a quarter of your life, lie | still against me | Tame the heat, and trail dead | tigers by their tails, a story of | poverty overcome | maraschino | cherry red in a steel town | but later | banish the personal | the forest | breathes and sings | A detective | novel | and the reader | king and queen of the | castle of sand | Even black, why not | black?

With the onset of winter | the trees are bared | So much a knife | and the cold a blade | stretch over | and kiss me, laugh your | small | snorting laugh and mumble | what sounds like | “Egg Sunday” | Curating a | flame | Trudging over | the frozen surfaces | of mile-wide lakes | a genie | wrapped in a cloth, worn | burlap and moleskin | Measure of old feet | poor boots | the creak of the ice | so many prizes for the plunge, why don’t you | take it? | Naked armies of the sea, far off | ride to a war on land, but you | have the castle | keep of a dry plain | and months to go before | spring sets its green, sweet | traps again…

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