V.111

After a propagating night
on the space ship, the undulate
light and ambient bleeps and bloops
punctuated by our moaning –

A faint smile came up behind me
I engaged my boosters. Fleeing,
but the smile was fast. It could swing
across clouds on its curved wing-span

I used all the scant resources
of my mind to avoid it, first
thinking of everything I’d done
and nebulas of betterness

Then, just dwelling with the panic.
It wasn’t enough. The smile hit
and my dark vessel exploded
with an unassuming shockwave

and a cloud of steam and glitter
(gold glitter, with small silver hearts)
erupted, and I was falling –
the landscape of the alien

calmness reached across horizons
as the smile consumed me, fodder
for the ancient and bitter god
that wants me to be happy. damn

V.110

I’m stood in front of a hedge maze –
there are three doors and each is locked
with a different kind of black lock
whose keys aren’t quite biting the pins

There are thirty keys, so varied
in shape and their material –
the silver key seemed right but snapped
ejecting a tiny blank scroll.

I knew that here, invisible
was the map to find the lost key –
but I tried to heat it and see,
a lemon juice script darkening,

when the whole scroll just exploded
into a tart lavender dust
(I’m sure I can see lavender
through one of the keyholes. But which?)

I bend down to look again, then
lean unthinking on a handle
and its door swings sweetly open
with the sound of a barnyard latch

I step through quickly and so, fall
through a trapdoor into a pit
and that’s what loving you is like
goddammit! I must brush my teeth

V.109

Sylvia lies on oil-cool sheets
She breathes in shudders, (or smoothness?)
Her lover ponders with no heart
the burnt out sun of her bedroom

Their children are playing downstairs –
he gave them journals for burning
They tear out pages and watch them
shreds that jump up into the sky

This one says “I was loved and then
my lover’s brain smoothed quite over”
and the embers crawl along it
a gold wave that doesn’t come back

but just keeps going and going,
or like an event horizon
He knows that by sealing her mouth
with a sweaty palm, a quiet

encloses his act in reasons –
how could it have been otherwise
with a man that covers the tracks
to the death with an ashen snow

Who spends evenings in the city
learning new sex techniques, to try
and recover something, sad crow.
But marriage does not live in the past

Aphorisms XXI

Nothing on this earth scares me more than the past that we have forgotten. Accepting that past is like a particularly sneaky part of accepting mortality.

*

You can play a game as a past-time, like I would dabble in chess, or enjoy a board game. But then there’s playing a competitive game in such a way that it starts to shape your mind, quieten other pathways, reinforce and enlarge or complicate the shape that develops and queries the game-problems. You lose the spark associated with other parts of your life, you dream about the game. You shrink. To play a game well, it almost demands this total dedication in a race to the bottom amongst those who play it. It drains that elusive, bare kind of joyful ‘fun’ out of the game, leaving yourself with just angry bemusal when you fail – how can I put so much into something only to fail? You play to say ‘yes, yes, I behaved adequately there.’ Not to say, I had a great time. Or the great time becomes that crunchy moment when your team manages to overcome the adequate challenge. No wonder people fall into toxicity where hate drives their performance. There are entire ethics around competition in the Olympics, and a culture of admiration of the athlete. Videogames lack this, and the moments of humour are all that serve to outweigh the hate speech that infuses all the higher ranks of performance.

Game design tries to encourage this intense engagement, as determined by the capitalist drive to squeeze the player base and keep them playing. But there are signs of a better ethic somewhere. The anonymous player is harder to tame than the cultural agent engaged in a sport or IRL game. But with online community and ‘community engagement’ there is a better world to come.

*

Continue reading

V.108 Moth, after Rebecca Elson

Sometimes something someone says (light
of the morning through the canvas,
warmth of bed and skin) fails to hold
and the problem deepens, and fire

holding me, like a massive frog,
begins to crisp the edges of
my mind. Don’t worry, this one has
a good ending, a small firework

let off in a quiet district,
a single man, gathered to watch,
in the November fog. Happy,
watching the fire-flower unfurl –

a man who has been reborn, fire
leaping into the past, gently
to wrap its warm palm around him,
and give him life again, a chance

for a son, a friend, a wife
to ask, why. That happy. Silence
falls upon me apart from sobs
and whimpers which I cannot place

(they’re mine) (I make them whilst I think)
(think through this problem we have posed)
(you could say, like a moth with a flame,
your brightness has me befuzzled)

V.107

In the nightmare world, all love fails
not spectacular and justly
but just by being out of sync
and slightly too slow. Blinding love

takes hold of you a few days late
and this is the eternal law
– declarations unmutual
and your world is a roaring wind

where reeds wave under a grey sky.
In the nightmare world, your polis
ostracises the honoured ones
and your politics fail, not quick

but slow and janky, as love fails.
Your worldview is cracked and you sit
comfortable and quiet indoors
playing videogames. Easy,

the world begins and begins and
in the nightmare world, chronic pain
undercuts any coolness, and
people you don’t know are complex

as puzzles unsolved since Ur fell.
In the nightmare world, horrified,
people slowly forget their lives
and we stub our toes on the curb

V.106

And the hand stitched top you wear
and the thin cotton bag with leaves
and the boots with the yellow thread
and the twisted rings in your ears

And the velvet skirt, its crossed legs
and the top of your pale shoulder
and the nose ring on the pink skin
and the golden field within you

which is also all around you
and there is another person
for whom I would write this poem
but to do so would be a sin

So I have chosen you, my darling
in the queue for the walled garden.
I would walk to an old music
and blag my way through a doorway

to sit with you on the felt seats
as a band rehearses. Listen,
until the steward kicks us out
we can hold hands and whisper things

Let’s buy a memorial bench
and people will murmur our names
with sadness as we run across
some sand, skimming laughs off the waves

V.105 Loss

Simone Biles dances on the beam
and time is waiting for something
Time leans on us, and our actions
are heavy under it. To come

and drink the steeping tea, and talk
or pass the time in myriad.
Years go by in minutes, seconds
flashes of fire along a fuse

a dark cardboard twist to ignite
nothing. The blank air, its thinking,
delays us. And here is the knock
upon glass, at the door. Or bell

ringing out, as Guan Chenchen
stumbles into the Chinese flag.
And truly the most intimate
subjects are the hardest to reign,

to string into a net they cut.
That we balk at the idea
of putting fingers to the keys.
There is so much dead energy

cracking and cascading in us
Oh what a strange day it has been
as the brown sky receives a bronze
as the night wears on, and the night

V.104 Cinemagoing

Seagulls plot arcs over the door
over the hot cars. Here memory
is so thick it feels like human
history has culminated

Pearl and Dean a mythologic
aspect. Kids leapfrog the bollards
like I once did, like I know my
kin will manage to do again

for the end of times has no grip
in ideas that build themselves here
Like popcorn in its cabinet –
which is hot with old emotion

Or the tickets which are paragon
of what exchange could be – given
a projectionist with a just wage.
Here shines paper, now go through here

Here is the event, the dark room
where people wait, quietly pray
and laugh, and then titles, silence
Materialism of light

And after, that feeling of loss
of what has been gone through, firstly
then the door with star shaped handles
The carpark night’s warm gradient

V.103 Antipoetic

Heat without respite stills the voice
and dreams of redemption arise
stood microwaving a pizza
halving a scone, after a day

when digital ends, achieved, bring
a small smile and the motivate
gaping. Help me, I can’t stop plans
from forming out of computers

Better stop this hot dithering
the real does not suffer the fake
to install itself here for long
always some half muttered question

And scared of the voiding of life
I remember the hanging sun
at midnight when you were married
The drive to the naked ski slope

The stumble on the rocks. The week
of trekking with mosquitoes, bears
Hiding out in the empty, dark
forest of the distant image

Mounds of pine needles and their ants
You crying at intensity
of feeling, of the days that passed
when time became saturated