I sit at the graduation
courtyard outside the function tent
drinking a red velvet latte,
and eating two halved eggs, just think.
I hover over the dry grass
and there was quiet in the shop
where I chose my sandwich. I eat
and others join me in the square
where poetry seems a stand in
for certainty – a red brick wall
a landscape of reds, wires and vines.
It’s the philosophy building.
I take a mint from a blue tin
with 50 mints in. Lunch poem.
It was onion, and cheese – the kind
which has no name. In my podcast
academics speak of poets.
I take another mint. My, my,
so many things call for worry,
don’t they. It puts me on notice
and I press my index fingers
together and against my lips.
All this. Let these celebrations,
I freshen by breath, let them in
“I start digging in this medium, trawling and sifting through the past, without knowing really what to look for” – The Undercurrents
Leeds is a minor European city. It has a history, but that history is only vaguely, partially and sometimes present for me in my daily life here. We have a historical society but no popular or literary histories (or should I say, popular literary histories?) except one – the Hounding of David Oluwale. Its past is minor, imperial, and parallel to other cities whose examples might take its place in general histories of the twentieth century.
Berlin is different. It has been a capital, lost that title, and regained it, been near destroyed and separated, by concrete violence, into two smaller cities, and then re-joined. Like a churned riverbed, it shows several traumatic layers flowing together – its surface scarred. This is the surface through which Kirsty Bell moves. She buys an apartment on the canal, and spends her days of abandonment looking out of the window and seeing the past animate and haunt the view. Her book is a haunted book, about a haunted house. A house that is trying to speak to her through water.
A worried king came to me, lord knows why
to measure his luck against the Philistines.
Strange how an eldritch technique can change
from heresy to dogma for reasons of state –
anyway, for all my murdered sisters I gave
him just enough doubt to put off his aim –
he’ll lay down his sword from anxiety, then
lie down and slide along it, slowly, to rest.
I slaughtered a calf to give precursive thanks
and fed him libation to his own pierced flank.
When the gods ascend from out the earth,
justice sees tyrants come off the worse.
The slogginess and haecceity
of the evening away from you –
trapped in a metre that repeats
while dust mites settle on my face –
make me feel like a half-played game
packed up with cards badly shuffled.
The blueness and depth of the sky –
against the gold of these string lights –
that’s the thing that passes the night.
I send a picture of the sky
through the sky to you in your bed –
it looks inky black, you reply.
//Words encrypt me and decrypt me
depending on the time. Neural
phenomenology in dreams
has a logos before language –
and reveries are chained and flayed
by the stumbling explanation.
I try to describe a rain field
which constitutes a fraught meeting
but it doesn’t quite come across//
I have homework in the morning
but for now I will listen – there’s new
tarmac on the road and it’s crisp
You are engraved in the lines on the ceiling
You are engraved in the eyes that I love
You are not quite poverty
Because the poorest lips condemn you
With a smile
Love of kindly bodies
Power of love
Whose politeness surges
Like a bodiless monster
Sadness beautiful face
P. Eluard (The Immediate Life)
In the morning there is a veil of redness draped accross my eyes. For a moment I lie enjoying the peace which comes after waking in a new room, when I don’t know where or who I am.
The sheets are heavy. I push them off. As I dress, I think back to the night before. I dreamed that I was a whale, and I kept on trying to find someone I knew but they kept on being the wrong kind of whale for my purposes. Then I got lost in the deep and saw a gigantic, ancient hammerhead shark swim slowly over me, and it was so terrifying that I had to get up and stand in the darkness until I calmed down. That’s not like me.
The burial took place in Paris under a beautiful sun, with a curious crowd. So much black. My dad and me held hands with Anne’s old folks. I watched them with curiosity – they would probably come have tea with us once a year. They looked at my dad with sympathy. Webb must have told them about the proposal. When I came to the exit, I saw Salil trying to find me. I avoided him. I felt bitterness toward him and it was completely uncalled for… I can’t justify it. The people around us hated the senselessness of that terrible event, and because I still had some doubts about whether it was accidental, that made me feel a bit better.
We didn’t meet again until we ate that evening, both being so anxious about the sudden confrontation. I really wasn’t hungry and he wasn’t either. We needed Anne to come back. I couldn’t stand to think of the face she’d had on before she left, or her grief and my blame for it. I’d forgotten my patient schemes and careful plans. I felt completely uncentered, without a lead and collar, and I saw the same feeling in my dad’s face.
It’s funny how destiny enjoys choosing faces that are unworthy or average as its avatars. That summer it chose Elsa’s. A really beautiful face, if you like, and so attractive. She also had an incredible laugh, expressive and complete. You have to be a bit dull to have a laugh like that.
I’ve said so much about Anne and myself, and barely mentioned dad. It’s not that his part wasn’t the most important in this story, not that I don’t think he’s interesting… I’ve never loved anyone like I loved him, and of all the emotions which drove me, back then, those I felt for him were the most stable, the deepest, the ones I held onto the most. I know him too well to speak freely, it feels too close… But it’s him who I have to spend the most time explaining, to make him seem acceptable.
The next day I woke up and felt fine, barely even tired, though my neck was sore. I must have pushed things a bit far. Like every morning, my bed was bathed in sunlight. I opened my curtains, threw off my pyjama top and offered my bare back to the sun. I rested my cheek on my folded arms, and looked at the thick weave of the canvas curtain and, off to one side, a fly on the tiles, cleaning its eyes. The sun was soft and hot, it felt like it was massaging my bones under my skin, taking special care to heat me up again. I decided I would spend the morning like that and not move at all.