We drove west | first past the woods, then past the farms | then past the churches | then the malls | then we came to the shipyards | last of all | but there were no ships | Your bare shoulders | smelled of lime and vanilla | we thought we were free | or at least | that’s what they’d told us | We scrubbed ourselves clean | and threw away the guns | Soon, we wouldn’t matter | Then there were ships, and we were happy

Frank asked What’s your poison? | He thought he was in a film | he wasn’t | alone | This was why they had built the roads | and come to a new arrangement | with horizons | Too tired, perhaps too wise | to make a sacrifice | of either or both of us | you slipped into the shower | Those lonely farms, lit in the dark distance | the calm green cyphers of the fields | of the Midwest or East Anglia | stretching for miles across the plains | no one ever came back | but every one of them | thought they’d return | it is | an error we are all | destined to make | is it even | an error? | Once it was done, we chose exile | we weren’t philosophers | we didn’t | linger on such things | What was the point? | Then he really was | in a film | Then he really was | alone

 


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

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Your heart is a building, you step into it and out of it | It is the place you are most yourself, where you touch / the edges of the things which make you you alone and not the others, although of course / they are also in the building with you | Often you leave the building with them, and forget / even that you have a heart, sometimes it is a key or an umbrella, you misplace it, leave it in a bar or a hospital waiting room, where the impartial light shines down on it, a spider plant in a cherry red ceramic pot / sitting on top of an olive green metal filing cabinet / the stuff of the details of / your secret, undersea life, the moraine of the forgotten, the humble / debris of the overlooked || Does your heart grow over time? Gathering more rooms as you age, expanding its footprint / accumulating height and gradually / enclosing more and more space / turning into a skyscraper of memory in which / you may wander from apartment to apartment, floor to floor, meeting the guests of ghosts of / childhood friends you haven’t seen for 50 years or your lost spouse to whom / you sent your tears and caresses, the inchoate / messages of so many days / collecting / the clicks of a ticking clock, the seeds of laughter and care of routine / growing their mountains around you… || It’s all relative they say, It’s a state of mind or | It’s a point of view | As the heart is a city, so also the city is a heart, compounded / by tram rides or bridges | the recorded voice in the lift | pigeons milling round your feet in certain public squares, the innumerable / places you left yourself / silently and almost invisibly / an enormous and fragile / compendium of traces || Perhaps, in some ways, your heart / is the most elusive thing in the world / a destination you aim for / a location you can’t / quite find on the map | and at the core of you / is an indistinct, rather nondescript suburb / home to strangers / a far-off, ocean murmur / of the blood in your head / and on the edge of sleep / a soft, familiar yet unidentifiable voice / whispering in your ear…

We took a tube from Finchley Road to King’s Cross | It was a walk-through, in which you can see right down the length of the train, and we were in the front carriage | It was evening, and I was a little drunk | The bright yellow poles receded in a flowing series, and with the perspective I felt it was like looking into a modernist forest, the trunks of the trees these slender verticals of primary colour | I didn’t have my glasses on, and other passengers / rocked and swayed / and they were like / blurred nymphs and fauns from the hazy remains / of a classical idyll in my head | Just before we reached the station, we were gabbling away about nonsense, when you suddenly turned and gave me a small kiss on the cheek, I don’t know where | that came from

 


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

Shot through | Species with delicate wings | Forced by blizzard | to take a late flight | I met you

Quick to anger | easy to war | Uneasy days | in the glass showrooms | of TVs and phones | Small doses | of antidote kisses | shall we | kid ourselves | we escape | the malaise? | Taking a kinder path | while we still can | Soldiers | watch over us | In the shop, choosing fridges | Shells on the beach | You don’t mind I’m | washed up | What is coming? | Is it enough? | All? | Just | holding back?…

 


from the series fleeting pixel (series of 1,000 poems, 2012–2016)
(this poem, June 2014)

She’s my | CYCLING THROUGH THE FAIRGROUND AT NIGHT | own heart, I never | ECHO | get too far from her, lying | in the grass | FLOODLIT EMPTY RIDES | and all my veins seem to lead | round to her, though we’re not | lovers || Put the sky | down a moment | PICK UP a sound | someone else left | behind || Voices, crying or laughing | Leaving a trail of | PISTACHIOs | the stars and their | empty shells | Keeping, for a minute | GHOSTS OF THRILLS | pace with each other | And when I think of | someone I need to | talk to | it’s you and I | give you the train journey in the night, the one I found | under the trees || Isn’t that how | everything happens?

She took a train journey | In a poem, under a | SEA | she saw | the bones of dead mermen and mermaids | entwined and the long, languorous fronds of seaweed | PASSING ON INFO | floated to Florence || Copper green | and water in bronze | RINGTONES and | sometimes my blood is a haze of milky diamonds and | LEAVE A MESSAGE | In a cup her lover | sips | gold from Ghana || When we were younger, and she and I were close | RIOT POLICE AND TEAR-GAS | FACTORS | It is the | information | we pass on | We never quite | understood | FLIPPED | one pole to another | DUAL TEXTS, the present rendered / into the past, and VICE VERSA | How memories | fired and fade | FADE and fire | In a place my blood is | lincoln green and cat’s cream whispers, and I can’t quite | remember how that | RIDE | went, but | glimpse you across the room and feel | the translation by time | leaves | much | to be | desired…

 


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

Chipping away at Pan | This leaf and that leaf | A screen of trees | gives rise to a blue | gnaw and haze of horizon, the inexhaustible | green expires into pixels and | tinting psychology || Mood? | Washed out | melancholy || At last the starlight silence starts | to fill the cracks | the walls | agonise with rumours of goat-bells and nomads | Whole limbs roughed out, digits | scented with zest, moisture, juice | of sweet and bitter fruits | languor of a love unconsummated, a love | unfelt | unwanted… || Such a fuss to | infatuate the heavens | effort to | lime angels | the lies and half-lies | and half-truths | to calm the tears of | discarded models | so much | falseness | misguidance | fluff and | bubble and | bother | until, suddenly, unflagged, a moment comes precisely | sufficient to us | apt, graceful, fitting, and all the writers | put down their pens | the subjects | their rulers | the lakes | their waters | and I am finished | with the stillness of horses

 


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

The world is a work of art

We place it outside us, a great mound of glittering light and | shadow

Billions of pairs of butterfly | eyes | flutter over its surface | drawn to its enigma and its | dusty, routine | splendour (for where else can our eyes be drawn but | to the world?)

It shimmers because it is | not still, because | our hearts are not still

It can never be known, because it is always growing, built into the scintillating and fluid amalgam of futurities by our | desire, our | ambition and | our exhausting love

Wild animals cross it, at dusk, this immense | cosmopolis | and stones grind through it, snails | cling to dew-tipped stalks | in woodlands or the Shogun’s gardens | but all of these inhuman moments are | made inside us, worked | from the subtle and tireless | conceptual factories where | fairy semantic labourers | dart and glisten, and in a rainy, remote | corner of the city | heaven is fired up in innumerable sparks and instantly | collapses again into | a sound of dogs barking, the doorbell | ringing

Majestic and quotidian, modest and limitless | things | just exactly as they are | are | things | as we | decide and turn them | grievously and blissfully | out of ourselves

It’s not a big deal

Heaven and loneliness | a rusting nail, the colour of cocoa, in a railway sleeper | your daughter’s | face as she | is startled awake in front of the | TV | they are all | firing and fading | although we only ever | seem to see the fire | and when the doorbell goes, and you answer, you’re glad to see | a friend

At night, the anonymous | makers of it all | lay down their ethereal hammers and | rest their heads upon their anvils and | dream

The world is a work of art

 


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

Placing a stone | on a breeze || Holding down an edge | with ink, with | hope || Very quickly, you come to the valley of | generalisation | why do you | rush there so soon, can’t you let | life be, the ladybird’s | gambler’s trickle, the | line of freckles | recalling Orion? || Propping up a corrupt regime | sunrise or a lazy love | wanting to get off the train | before your stop | and your headache | a chasm into which | your own bones are falling, and the gong | booms a golden trash over and over, Who doesn’t want MORE money?… || Such a grand work, Death, intruding | into the piano’s subtle / birdsong music, the rain’s erratic history, the eternal battle between cats | and dogs… || Over there, the great forest waits | accumulated from birch and pine, the paths of all the myths | go here, whoever follows them | may not return, such is | desire || We will not | wrangle this thing into sense, not now, not ever | It is not made for the motionless | as sleep | is not made for the waking || No, we must make do | again | with everything | the fresh start | our character, for whom | surprise permits us | the limit of insight, for whom | the very nature of a word is otherwise

Wild love in a tame love game | It sometimes happens | Her slender feet in golden slippers | remind me of a beauty | oddly classic | a moment should be marked | by MGM or Universal | In such a way | I am sent down | to the humble things | the world of details – threads | creases | pins | not lit by a path of | principle or braced | by the scaffold of conclusions or ideas, but | broken away | into themselves, or at least, into what | is left of them | when the words have finished, and the final | dream of trees | begins

 


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

Floating in cyberspace

not you, not me, not exactly

Flotsam | Thinking the wreck back into place, over and over | studying the geometry of smoke | mumbling about hieroglyphs | and shooting stars | when THE GREAT SOMETIMES | intervenes

Melting down those gold connectors

Being a gravity | So we… | drifted into | each other

so much | that

we never left | it doesn’t have to be | Saturn or Jupiter

A big summer

on the Intact label

The rocks meant no harm | and it was only a fall from | a certain perspective | the masts and sails | laments of doomed crewmen | a lullaby | for tetchy young | electric eels and schools | of passing seahorses

Floating in cyberspace

not here, not there, exactly

carried

on kelp and current hearses

Melting down those gold connectors

Parsing shells on a dusk seashore

And they said, “Hey, Michael

how come”

Leave it a while, go back, all the reasons | are in the power of rhymes

And they said, “Hey, Michael

are we really here?”

And I said, “Sure, well

sometimes”

 


from the series hypergrammar (open-ended, 2012–present)
(this poem, June 2015)

The 7 days of Roman | a hypergram presentation / 4

With Wednesday, the mythical ‘hump of the week’ is being chased, and Roman has become a brine-pickled whaler under the command of a beserk silver-bearded captain with heart-attack eyes, seeking to harpoon the phantom monster of a rewarding existence / a demoralised knight in a faintly seedy quest, clanking in tarnished silver armour through a world of seething mutant briars and famine-razed villages, stumbling down a landslide slope of skulls, the chuckling, clacking, bobbing and popping bones of his colleagues who fell victim to the dragon of illusion and whose spirits still, trapped in the bubbles of marsh gas that now form their entire world, believe in the holy grail of a normal life and consider obedience to the system as the horizon of their ontology || Revolution in this immanently penetrated state is pleasure: the sensible indulgence in Class A drugs, the white water rafting adventure in a place which is, in essence, a glorified holiday resort or even (in the elastic miasma of Roman’s vision) a stylised jail in which it is difficult to say who, among the natives and the visitors, is the guard, and who the prisoner | Meanwhile, gigantic photocopiers blunder across the veldt, chundering and ruminating, and printers vomit | articles on cellulite and the bad days for Virgos || Roman, exhausted, in rags, with a parasol made of animal skins, must work late, and he weeps with despair beside his tree-trunk canoe | The server goes down, meaning that molecules don’t move, and the world warms by another fraction of a degree | The Mercury Lounge calls him: he will drink late and sleep little this night, but at least Dr Ethanol will anaesthetise him for a few hours as the next stage in the terrible operation of his life begins…

 


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

Moving things around with your wishes | Tending the faces, the memories | of faces | the shadows of faces | When your wishes are over | real people return | square arms | round heads | leaving their teeth | at the bottom of the sea, as | would anyone | Those fish, scavengers, are the “cleaners of the ocean” | that dish | is “melt-in-your-mouth” | We have the facilities | We have the arrangements | There are the courts | Disinfectants | The breezes of other | people’s conversations | the swirling leaves in them | and different species of trees, perhaps you could | name one? | But they have no need of trees | Setting the bones of the next | night down by the rest | it’s quite a collection | A reaped crop | including the farmers | all gone to that | dark market | a hit | a haul and | a score | with no one | to mark it | Slow | fate | falls | slow | the | drop | Thighs, and scapulas | wrists | jaws | and at the far, far | end of a | thought | the old mammoth’s | tusks | showing | how you loved her | still covered by the snow | you once wished | might stop

When a new voice comes | like a fresh breeze | who will care for the one | raindrop among all | the raindrops of the storm? | With its | faint taste of | kelp | salt | rust: | Atlantic? | Do you want | your bitterness to grow | so clear | it will be like | nothing? | How long will you wait | while the castle | crumbles around you, the demerara | freckles drift | down her arms and deepen, the weather’s | years awry? | The soft | blizzard of orgasm | blows | out of you | Now you’ve won | what will you do? | Why do you hate it so | when all your wishes | come true?

 


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