There are problems in Dreamland | Shipments | no longer satisfactory | these are the wrong lyrics | no signal | too much noise | the delivery is late | with boxes of words made up entirely | of consonants | the epic | voyage of the vowels | breaks down in the middle | of the first reel | the dragons are faulty | Too many strangers, of course | Your timing is off | and I leave through the wrong door | the walls aren’t high enough | the moat, not deep enough | the vaults are empty | reserves drained | the ingots all turned to air | their ambassadors | are cocky | the rebels | show no mercy | we are made to wear | either a Neptune hat or a Jupiter hat | in the violets and bluebells of Pluto, I | wandered through the gloom of deep woods, you | frolicked through the fire and tears | of raw Mercury, where boiling | was perpetual, and there were | no moons | With our history, we feel | we have somehow slipped | into metaphors of Carnival and Lent | with donkey-headed men | slapping us with smelt or herring | and denizens of mouldy fevers | in volatile and sickly landscapes | queasy with geranium | lava churning | and steam hissing | shit-coloured mud | puckering and plopping | Trees | grow up through the rides | The lovely ghost | haunts the Ghost Train | defrocked priests | bow their weary faces to enamel sinks and spray up water | into vulture or to tortoise eyes | the children are huge | the gamekeeper | holds back Carla on a chain and, shotgun broken in his crooked arm | shouts “Go back!” | The kiosk says “CLOSED” but its door is open | and Mr Octo has a missing nose | the snow | has reduced the bone to syphilitic lace | In their limousines long and smooth | financiers are worried about the copper and the cocoa defaulting on their debt | the buildings | are too expensive to demolish | inflation | is so high the state | cannot afford to pay the printers for | the money that has just been printed | on the notes | explorers and generals stacked on wheels | begin their decay still wrapped in plastic | the incinerator | has a berth for both Churchill and de Gaulle | among others | the dead little girls and boys | hold hands as they queue | slowly we realise | THIS is not THAT | and yet | is, somehow | and they | take selfies outside | the crematorium gates | and you | look so funny in your Neptune hat!

At night, the beggars shake their gold | and dance | beside the fires | these have been good days | Hurricanes | crate the fields above the trees | paedophiles | slip back under the flattest stones and the lids of pans on cast iron ranges | their tentacles curl and slither | just the tips | The house | smells of damp and old books | leather-bound | tomes | full of Confucius and Cicero and Mill | there is no | electricity | livestock that is not to be wintered | is slaughtered | and meat is in good supply | I | am third from the left | that’s me | I wear | a Saturn hat | as they ordered | the gaoler is truly | sick of his keys | beware | the transits of Venus in Gemini | the Sun in Gemini | and the indulgent peasants warn again | of the dangers of gluttony and impiety | the smart money | is on the move | the refugees | flee | a treacherous capital | removes or awaits them | or ignores them | the piper | sees clouds where sheep | bleat on the hills | and she forgets the stops and | how to blow | the floodlights | pick out the airship as it glides | down towards the waiting crowds | the incandescent norm | is glimmering hysteria and hyperbole | we are all stars and our heads | shorn | so proud of our manacles as we are | paraded | to independence and liberty | to the promise of a glorious future | all night | the fire guts our temples | the idols reduced to chars | and the sutras to mush | and look! — he’s coming! | the pouch of knives on his belt indicates | that he is a butcher


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