Abandoned | cities of the heart

The empty rooms, decorated with photographs of the dead, the wallpaper | dated to a sunken decade | all | flooded | by the waters of silence and passed time

Places lovers tried to keep themselves | in reach | with lovers | sought to | keep pace with each other | though one was forever | running ahead, losing | touch

All the gestures are archaic

Immersed in nostalgia, in a green summer, traffic lights turning from amber to red | the ghost cars and | aphids | queue for the translucent | door to the past and, under the smoggy, humid stars of dusk all | eventually | go through

These streets have petrified, their map | outdated | sits in an atlas in an obscure | second-hand bookshop which, itself, has turned to stone

Through all instants, the sublime | glacier of the ages | seeps, carrying and freezing | each delicate and each | monumental thing, even | our | dreams

Here, at the centre, where the statues of | broken-nosed | soldiers and | laurel-crowned | poets and | late-coming | angels | convene an atmosphere of | stoic endurance, the | mayfly atoms of | forgotten moments | tremble and float

Of course, here the traffic is at a | standstill | and as you wander, searching | for a way out through those | same | translucent doors, you start to | lose track of time and | cease to recognise this | shore by the | interior ocean where | all your drifting life has fetched up | in pavement cafés and on | dusty ledges behind | the broken blinds of the windows of | obscure museums

Your friends and your lovers have fled | the punishing | heat | and even the strangers, too, are leaving, but you | drawn to a detail | linger as | the night and the day | melt into one | silent | modern | event

Abandoned | cities of the heart

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

Over and against | the storm, the solitary raindrop | that touches your face | is out of balance but is | what you feel | a sharp cool | point of salience || I am empty | like a ship that has | had its cargo removed | grain or salt | tractors | toys || Float lighter | without purpose | awaiting the grip | of a burden which | never arrives || She wrote that the clouds were like mourners | awaiting the birth of rain || Trailing a squall of gulls | up the slope | the farmer | steers and climbs | the ploughed earth’s | pleats curve and | swirl the field | When the wheat comes | and takes off its dress | the ripening is so | naked…

Holding up the next sign, the new | sign | the one you care for or are | paid for | the horned sign, the crooked | sign | the most pressing, the inevitable, the essential, the necessary | sign | this sign || that sign || How fast it all | seems to happen | these days || Yes, and he was | right | how the current of the | past | takes us and we | push on into it | ceaselessly with our | future wishes… || Night is gliding | over the face of the Earth and the dawn is | breaking | over the face of the Earth | one chasing the other | a dream subsiding | into the grind, the grind | shot through with | threads of Eros, strands of adventure! | on-rushing | to subside in | a new dream | or maybe | an old dream you have | forgotten? || Bonding | all by | choosing some and | losing all | that is the scrape of | fiction and life | the hot | gates | we form, for better or for worse | we open our global | mouths and | bite off | some fragment of a | desired locale | the quiet bed, the | orange trees in flower, the | nursery with BingBing and yellow | velvet-skinned | Boulogne || But don’t be | fooled || Like the carcase of | antelope or | deer | In the Graveyard of Ships | the beached hulks | rust and | are lit | by the abrasive | stars as | angle-grinders | take back the wounded parts | towards the shining cave | of another whole••

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

Wanting the cups back into shape again | and the salmon-coloured walls with their screens | of sleep and unloving | projected | Our shadows, though | aren’t quite right | some novelty has | crept into them | What is different | about our caresses? | How did that hint of a | river slip into them? | What has changed? | Why do they feel | less intense/more | intense, less | natural, more | desperate?, less | passionate, less | rehearsed? | More | strange? || Focus | once again | has slipped, there is this | shimmer under | the images, an | uncertainty to do with | moments || How did we | reach this point, our bed a | memory of hands reaching up to | feed voracious gulls? || When did this | process begin? || And where are you going | with those trees and their | footsteps of roots and earth so steady, like the tread | of armies or of blinded hearts?

Coda || The calmer times | How the wake settles | after our rowing boat has | surged on a few more | cycles of dipping oars and floating | oars with their | images shattered and | collapsed and | forgotten || Put the walls up again | sip tea | out in the courtyard garden | Hang the south in its | usual place | needing the sky | to behave like a sky, to be called | a sky, to | make its standard | connection with the tops of the | pear trees and the memory | of the sycamore the storm | broke some | years before || ‘H’ after ‘G’, asking | the hours to honour | their order, even to the point of | moving too fast, now, taking too much | now | Wanting the eyes in my heart to stay | open | the paths to lead | back home, to the office, the deli, the theatre… || Or do I? || How does it work out | in the end? | you say | your voice | dropping crumbs of | toast and honey | the edge of your mouth | tingled with silver || How still the weather | seemed that day I | can’t | remember || Building the wreck may | take a lifetime || Call this poem, “rain check”?••

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

How did they get here? A map of interests, with hazy borders. Zinc. Potash. Iron. Gold.

Feathers and pearls. Winding the gramophone, as the shells come in with a whump and a crump, over the dragonfly-haunted lawn the air is jaunty with tunes, young scions practise steps to the latest dance.

Access is blocked to the source of oil. Bearings brittle. Across frozen tundra, in camouflage whites, the sons of labourers and beauticians trudge with rifles, sights telescopic, try to see through orders for better futures, willingly slaughter according to past culture, expressing themselves in rapid live rounds, easily tempered, obedient to a Cyclops regime.

Borders in the tongues, as well, in the burr, the slang and the brogue. Attitudes to the sun inculcate infidel slants, sort at birth the buckets for the true religion, the buckets for the right and pure, the buckets for the sacrifice. To these, gods grant absence of pity for their enemies, boys and girls who, under an impossible moon, might have glanced across to each other and gone the way of flowers, open with scent and touched to nod and sway by mild evening breezes, the sound of fiddles and songs wiring them to a new location.

Precious resources, the water and the loam: coal for power. Warmongers haunt anvils, forge unions from molten states, whipping on ghost horses, building the race right to exclude. Through the limited visions of little spirits, meat is invited to the abattoir, meat comes to the menu whole.

They stand alone who die alone. They die together who fear to stand alone. Kill together who join together. For who can stand alone? In the bones, the rattled marrow, after the rats, the bones of the wrist, after the fish and the worms, bones of the fingers, after the months and the fire, carpals and phalanges, the sabres are curved quiet in rivers, and the bones of slain horses and their bold cavalry riders will live eternally in the memory of the nation, later vaporised, slipped to a different name, annexed by torpor or viral meme.

Invest in the makers of flags and munitions. Prepare for contention: they murder for justice, the motherland weeps, the motherland is hunger, the motherland and the fatherland, the fatherland demands, the motherland pleads, how long can the fatherland accept, how much more must the motherland take, suckled by wolves, washed up among flint and sapphires, handed a branch with a magical bird, spewed from a volcano, slipped from the womb of a tiger, whipped from a god’s tears, established by saints, claimed as home, given forever beyond migration, and in the bunker of the skull, the sublime leader digs in, issuing directives, assuming this great task, bearing the burden, hardly sleeps but makes no fuss, thinks further, plans vaster, unworthy, and yet higher than us.

Crematoria, too long idle, are poked from their sloth. There is still time to measure your coffin. Write home, while home still stands. The graveyards are coming, dressed in scarlet and khaki, and all our sons and daughters look so fine in their cool fatigues. God put death in the foundations: but we get to choose the building we hold.

Those who will not belong, must be expunged. Those who belong must gather more and more, obey deeper and deeper commands.

Sleeping through the barrage, we imagined it was music. We waited to find what would happen when the music fell quiet.

Has it stopped?


from the series Silver of the mine of gold (open-ended: 2013–present)
(this poem, June 2015)

It was just knowledge, anyone | could have learned these things | They weren’t important

Followed the stream for a while | Under the trees, I think they were alders | they led to my death | like the other things | Not one of their lichens | was accessible | their strange-fangled | blotches | colours like new | pussy willow in spring | purpose | impossible to say

It was just ratios and Aristotle | metaphysics and drag, anyone | could have understood those things | and the sun and the moon of last July had | lost their fuses | They just led to the same places?

They just led to the same places, no | secret side to show, no | keel to them, no | shell lipped out by the slow share into | plough earth and the brooding sun

You noticed his upper lip by the violet and lilac | flare of the moment, you held his hand | It led to my death, like the other things | all of them | tilted up on the board and sliding | the trains, the girls, the words | objects and expressions | fireworks and expressions | the stuffed-in | puffball of grief with its | smoke of spores | how the sea’s hands are not like | human hands at all | their grip | with a stench of Jurassic and shark | and cold and teeming | life

You remember the bridges of your childhood? | Conkers and blood and pen-knifes | Orion and Samedi, such an immense | clutter and critter, creep and crack | of stuff (and shift, and crawl) | sharp | upheaval of splinters where the millipede | unwinds her piece of clock and makes it | run / all of these things of my life, each with their swerve, each with their obdurate, cantankerous | mood | and the beautiful | written stillness under the trees | maybe alders, maybe | ash?…

It was just Cameron, just Mao Zedong, they were just | leaders, anyone | could have followed them | They weren’t important

Down the red | throat of the funnel | poured the ticks and the tacks | the lost and the found sensations, lost | sensations, the memories | of the kisses dripped and spattered, the memories | lost | dried up their kernels | stiff and crooked | it wasn’t just | Argentina or scuba, not anyone | could have known these things


No one | could have known these things

It was a fine ship, built for sinking | it leaned and rolled, and the sailors | cried for the shore, they were just | passengers, after all, they didn’t | matter

Down the black | funnel of an eye | of a nerve | of a sentence, too | you poured | the ferocious waves | and their | thrust and hanging | foam | glittering as it falls into | the well, their hands | hold hard but | when they let go, oh!, that is the | thing | their torque and wrench, the flipping | to and fro | their drench and sputter, gulch and plunge and | flicker | such cool and teeming | death | lit with granules of salt and shattered | fragments of crates once used | to package peaches

They were just poems, anyone | could have read them, they weren’t | important

Not by the lamplight, not by the moonlight, not by the morning | light of a Parisian sun | Lay beside you for a while | no longer expecting | results or deals | your slender fingers | reached across Verlaine, stroked the paths of | Machado | the wheat fields too | rich for reaping, the | sailors | waving from the side, and their ships | so smooth upon the water, and, after all | there are days when it is | too foolish to set out | on the superfluous | gesture of a journey, there are | days when | to complete by moving is | a kind of sin…

By the lamplight, by the moonlight, by the morning | light of a sun of Madrid | Carried our bags on board | found our seats on the train | Around us the world was swirling | What choice did we have? | We couldn’t have | followed the others | This was our way | and the fruit | severed into new segments | fell and was filtered, even | lying still, we drifted | and the pips | spat out arced a juice and | gleam of detail | hinting at the | haunting of kisses | each one | dipped in the | purse with | black lining, each one | the motion of a separate story

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

Titan husk | living in the ruins of the city

Airless, still | resonant | trapped | the plants are slowly dying | there are no seasons | or the seasons are fudged | sometimes birds get in

Stagnant | unattended | pockets of space where time passes | little moves | auras build up | very particular

No sound of car horns blown on the breeze

Not even a dream stirs | there are no heads

The secretary waits by the photocopier

The lamp stays on | The screens | hold dead links and the TVs | show frozen scenes from ancient series

What the thoughts became | fragile skeletons, wings outspread

Rain and wind | and the forest | sways | thrashes to and fro | palm trees | for miles and miles and then | the coast

Dwarf city

Now | all kept in

the traffic, the clubs, police choppers | hovering over floodlit blocks | the ladybird | on the back | of a young girl’s hand | postage stamp | nine black spots and a scarlet message

In the storm | the mass and crush | the mill and grind | of saint and sin | immense | dinosaurs of crowds | lumbering, bellowing | intricate | personal | rituals by the washbasin | in mirrors cracked by previous tenants | shaving foam not wiped for weeks…

Airless, muffled, still


birds get in

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

Heat martyrs | Peach one-piece, pool a patter of vanishings | lush spray | shot to vapour in my indolence, Sir Sun | thou art an… errant… | Time’s indigents, we no longer strut or | tauten to the faintest | zephyr of a caress | but sole-flat pad and flop, grin | with a silvery arthritis | mouth gnawed on gleaming crowns | Knowing many | ways of knowing | still I am a dunce | at summer school | the ta-ra-la-la of tiny | ethereal trumpets | rattle in my ear | fanfares to oblivion | A monster of torpor | accumulated over the years | no thing for chat shows | only for webcams or | lairs in zoos | denizen | of a former era | apologist | for a corrupt | regime | At wit’s end | laze in a stupor | set aside my tools | of Sappho and polygons | ignore the shade | but bake and glaze | almost free | of any need | for liberty | Today, rather a cloud | casting a juvenile shadow | than the light | with its ancient machines | inane and floating | registered only to the art of rain | Not oneself, that’s how it goes | a conversation | like choristers | gossiping before choir | And always too early to say… | As to termini | the young have a lithe wisdom | I kid myself | they’ll carry my long body | as the tribesmen bear | the great serpent into the city | maybe they kid themselves | they’ll be sure | when the time comes | of precisely the right moment | to put me down

Staked out by the metal rays | hung on egos | from trees | ghost-formed by unchecked kudzu | simmering in perfumed oil | plunged to gasp and writhe | in freezing water | only the silvery peaks of the most regal | skyscrapers | escape the tendrils of the climbing weeds | the mental state | grown sclerotic | clogged with damp and rot | from miracles of flowers | chat of gods and antimatter | of black holes and social justice | mushes | slips in sludge | sideways | gloops down | pools in cisterns | drains | tunnels | your entire notion of reality: doze | Oh, Meneer, your musket has crumbled, and your beard | is full of the flash and smatter of wings | and buskin, baby, is long | out of fashion | do you want to start a trend? | Is this your “look”? | In Toytown | explosions occur | almost daily | assassination is a constant threat | no one’s heard from Schneewittchen for years | I heard she ended up in the Valley | and, naturally, she was doing drugs | Connected | but the dead spider doesn’t | feel the fly | convulse and judder in her web | Hordes of kids | out in fast cars | searching for the next sensation | I hear their hunting horns | the breeze | carries across the rooves | of the poorest suburbs | treasure of aspiration for weaker minds | Here the nymphs | text and cuss in a sudden slang | I am | a sunken wreck | upon my back I lie | at the bottom of the pool | rigid and holding out | my arms to embrace | the whorled and rippled sky | through the hazed fathoms | of chlorinated void | and with a sput! and fizzle! | out of the morbid | vines of my brain | once in a while | a flower of ruthless jewel-like red | fires and glories | Did we make a | massive error, all of us | the citizens | so terrified by the squirming lengths | of mercury and black? | We thought the natives were bringing | from green jungle | the snake into our city | but was the danger not ingress? | Instead, were they taking away forever | the terrible serpent | leaving us to a safer future | in calm cafés and pop-up bistros | a secure life | clearly ruled | by Google and frappuccinos?

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

With increasing fragmentation into neuroses and suburbs, hotspots and passions | fracturing east | devolving into sunsets or stock markets | the maze of orchids and techno | subplots or side alleys | the notion of a state or a grand reality begins to erode and the public realm is lost, becomes a rare or mythical beast / glimpsed in a forest of haze / a dragon or white leopard || SENTENCE no longer belongs to anyone, and its cornucopia of cities spills and sprawls into the electric complexity of a single head, a glimpse of seagulls in a blustery wind | in a bleached photograph from 1958 / an esplanade in an English seaside town, on a day in summer / forgotten by everyone || The more, the merrier the saying goes, but | Three’s a crowd | In this flawed synopsis, the individual begins its long rise, a figure haunted by society, its SENTENCE fraught with competing or ill-defined or / contended or / gloriously unconstrained or / deformed meanings [and/or], each one a home to which one never gets back, a lover one casually discards but then, later / when one tries to remember / remembers as beautiful || Solitude and anonymity, those two astonishing conditions, affect these increasingly labyrinthine individuals, and they tremble as their commercial existence, their value in terms of capital, fluctuates | moment by moment | Clouds of money cover the sky, and the flags hang limply on the flagstaffs, a great storm is coming or so / I’ve heard

Whole lives lost in illusion / whole cities vanish into mistaken aims / Is it the case that a few words might have saved them? We cannot know, and in any case | the words were never said, or if they were, were never heard


from the sequence, sentence (2012–2018)
(this poem, June 2012)

Elegant, but without purpose | In remote caves, hermits | polish their isolation, peg out | their spirits in a speechless sun | to writhe and | truly | be | Pervasive, yet unfelt | ambient | unnoticed | A riddle | no one is asked | intricate | punning | On TVs, murderous bombast | from concerned politicians | softened | into byways | sidings | pallid ferns | seen through frosted glass | Natural, like the growth of horn | nail | Rolls and spins | not yet | altered to arrest | pinched, vicissitudes in winter | Fenced back, but ended in a motel, lost hours | startling | young deer in a green glade | Made a | hollow | by sleeping heads | inane | fronds wave in glacial currents | shed wings | stood | walked and shed | bones | shed | seeds | lay down | slithered, shed | scales | clumped | hunched | grew | slower | emitted spines | disclosed | unsettling perfumes | popped | shrunk | shed thought | shed care | ceased | dreaming

Collecting holes | Secret | momenta | what the rain | needs from the walls | Follow | the contours | Flow round | the obstacles | Tickets | in pockets | discovered | later | journeys’ | dust | Distilling | occult | liquors | Run for a train, drop | your newspaper | Glands | swell | Heads | burst | Contains | disappointment | Roots | curl out, feel | Sleep very deeply, gliding down | like snowflakes | falling to snowflakes | scarecrow of nerves | gossip | Seeks light, claims | space | Mushrooms indifferently across highways | Flowers | in graveyards | Made sense, but only to a few | Rode silently through town at dusk, for some, their last sunlight passing••

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

By the time we got there it had already changed | We wanted it to be like it was in the photographs | from the 1950s | Arriviste summer | spring overwhelmed and the green gross | blasé | Given head, it rushed and sprinkled | in its veins, it was its nature | a cathedral drowned in grass, butterflies | adapting to a drier climate | a camouflage of dirt and concrete | Winter gold was how it should have been | not with fruiting persimmons | lovely enough to drive the monks to burn it down | not a replica | Sure, it has its secret, but we feel | it isn’t the secret, anymore | not the proper secret | allure has spilled and leaked away | we don’t really care what it says, and perhaps | it doesn’t care, either | It made me weep | to listen to you on the plane | home | to feel the old pull | stupid and hopeful, as are we all | that should we go back | we would find | the buildings had flipped again, the mood | turned overwhelming, like a first sight of the ocean | that the day | had been carried into itself, once more | and had altered everything | to remain the same

Indifference massed around it | shaped in photographs and flashes | the sluggish yammer of guides and tourists | hiss of bag on slicker, plump | billow of stiffened umbrellas as the rain | (ageless and inscrutable) | gathered the temple into a thunderous shower | a pulsating bag of murk | with enough silver to betray | millions of gods and buddhas | A stick broken off from the main plant | somehow survives a long journey to | split out of its skin | first burgundy buds, then | green of the youngest and most delicate | of mayflies’ wings | Everyone was writing in those days, not because | they were any good at it, but because | they felt the pull towards | the notional audience | but there was | nobody, for the most part | just empty theatres in flatscreen | LCD cities (also | abandoned) | and the cruel | goblins of vanity | slowly scratching away at our spirits | making us more desperate, bitter, hungry in the name | of others and beauty | We made it a temple, but in truth | it was gold leaf and ancient pine | tile and bronze and teak | it trapped voices as it always had, though | dwindling numbers of them | and, oddly, we were either stupid, and stayed on, or | we grew less hopeful | it was a strange | time, given the wealth we had and the luxury | of hours and | resources to burn… | Sometimes, you do still find one | among the longer grass, at the woods’ | edge | near dropped nests | slumped in its own muteness | hurting itself to shine again | as if | nothing had changed, and words | still meant something more than | words do | as if | you could take it entirely apart and discover, at the end | a secret, perfect and intact | the significance | of the skies and rusting | prams and | weeds and tiny bones and scattered feathers at the heart••

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