It’s uncomfortable to post this poem. I worked on it for about a year starting in late 2016, and it has sat in a file on my computer, developing more in two stretches of work in the time since. Then it spent about a year in limbo.
It originally took the form of a grand seven day epic, with plenty of adjectives and adverbs to build rhythms. The fullness of epic poetry is nonetheless concise, due to its narrative drive which brings a leanness. This didn’t have the drive, so the action wasn’t there to anchor the descriptive digressions. Which is to say, I didn’t have whatever it was that was needed to bring it off.
Anyway, I have since removed about half of the poem, and stripped it of enough that all the systems of symbology I had going on, if they remain, remain only in trace form. I was tempted to salvage a few sections as individual poems and scrap the rest, but I’m showing faith to the original event. It was an attempt at a modernist long poem in the grand sense, and now it’s a small modernist failure.
Anyway, it has some pictures of Leeds in at least. So there we go.
Seven Days of Late Second Decade Second Millenium
Night which towers over
like something’s pregnant belly,
hollow song of eternal return of the day.
Sing of the curve of the peaceful
who learned to rage
or lost interest or tired of the game.
Shout the shadow of planet-killer guilt
sing of the ink’s pooling
show us the emptiness of impatient questions
Sing through me, of the twists and turns
and turns and
Thrown into the world,
like fish into the trawler’s mouth
I walk now under rain
of the stars’ deleting gaze.
A body, an ancient question, shot
into the night by our stencil thought
or, at least a collage
like a dream, the meaning
drained out of, or a line
this infinite jigsaw
and this false paper page
First and last of people
standard works have said we are
don’t we puddle on the threshold?
Of something we know not
and all that went before, poured
through rhythms in the shape of hands
and feet and eyes and mouth and bones
muscle, spleen and bile and oxytocin?
piling a planet and groaning
Our questions lie under our feet like wires
rusting, greasing, fragments of a world
buzzing softly, they are ignored. Old question,
we answered you with a shrug
and why not
maybe we live as ghosts live –
an endless road with graveyard lights
greeting others to be greeted by screams
crumbled suburbs might be Silent Hills
if air-raid sirens screamed
I see a billboard, sticky with car sap
selling sex like they do it on the internet
You may later ask it
where to place the blame?
Two humans sit still
one looks at the other
the other looks away.
They pass in and out of
in precisely this stillness
They do not see patterns
It looks much like pain with
all the beauty of a
They leave in the star spray
They are absolutely
relaxed – their words are air
They each have bodily
loyalties and tickets
It is not straightforward.
– – – We are in you like you are inside your own moaning
Shut up, shuttup I am trying to sleep
– – – Ah ha, your heart almost stopped for a moment
Oh god oh god where am I please don’t
– – – Predators, predators, predators
I am sitting in a chair. I am trying to relax.
– – – You will need some adrenaline for this
There is nothing, to be done, but still you try
– – – Excellent you have found some food well done
There is nothing that could calm me down, the world could end
and still it wouldn’t
calm me down
– – – We fly, soft as storms from the sky
I am a blank page, I am a shell
which holds the organs
The planet is cracking
what will hatch from it
as an oyster pearlesces dirt
What will come may be considered beautiful
but not by we who burn to become fossil
we who laugh ourselves into a frenzy
just as the beak shatters an opening
We have never been more sure of anything
Than this: we are disequilibriate
But this is not so bad,
A bell, from the old spire rings
across the tarmac into the pub
TV shines out of the dark
A vast industrial
Swamp – freight train by-line on
stilts melting from the heat
sweat rounds out the heads pale
skull into a warmer shade
as the horizon thuds –
thuds in at all degrees
the carapace, tree split
dead tree vigil of it
rests where it came to rest
a host of soft split planks
and their wood-worm flock wait
as the sun shatters in
to an owl – perched on beam
and broken cross beneath.
Closed roads bring the crowd
I leave the shop, and blood pools on the concrete
composed by a bus and a badly misjudged step
into something almost but not quite
Tears crawl from my eyes
I have been learning,
how to keep calm as we hurtle, knowing little
hurtle like asteroids, into dark suns
I need a hug
– – – At this point slowly stop reading
– – – Leave the poem and close the door quietly
– – – Then wait a good while.
– – – Then open the door quietly
– – – turn off the lights and darkly say
– – – I cannot even represent death
– – – The trick here is to imply
Afterlife being: nine across.
a bricked up door in a wall
one floor up, in a ruined building.
Is all this just mould grown on the planet
left too long in the gloom – vicariousness
to the plant-mind nothingness.
I look up through silhouette of bark
over human heights
I THINK YOU’RE PROBABLY LONELY
On cue manuals of living swarm the doors
– Shit! I cry
frantically blocking them out by locking a chain
round the handles like you do on TV
vital syllables rend the air
Then a dog-eared bushido breaks the glass,
we retreat to the back.
A reiki handbook, a healing energy guide
blows out W’s brains,
I run out to help
“Thom, help me!” but a squealing bible
has latched onto his face
and apocrypha burst from his stomach.
“Sylvia!” We scan
but she’s nowhere to be seen.
Then, a no holds barred last stand
til – rubbing my eyes, I lock the inner door.
There is nothing good or bad, but
thinking makes it worse
Dust motes, in the solar beam
I think of the next human
her eyes shine
It’s the only job we can get
we gather like fauna around the inkwell
we boil kettles. We don’t talk, and
if we do it seems rude –
Why are all things pulled, crushed
down into themselves, trapped
deep in gravity traps?
Is the universe, like
because collapse and end
are what in now most needs?
sparsing a field of dense
folds into itself, black
pins marking finality
and then fizzing softly
in the full cold of dark
til nowhere is distinct?
The guilt builds up
our words just give it form
that deep-state in the head
Tonight the world mellows.
Residual heat from coffee dregs
has warmed the undersoil
a thousand little heads popping up
from the paper mycelium
I have seen the impatient and bored
constructing hells where those
whose metaphysical mouth is marked
can go to be cleansed, til they are clear
and concise and succinct and dead
– – – cos a mess is the worst ontology
– – – I will live with a clean cosmology
– – – If it’s the last thing I do
I try to avoid it, but fainting in the fumes
I spiral around the event horizon forever.
The air’s revving –
a soft dress moves
with the wind, shouts
as life thunders
quiet as a can
down the pavement.
But I am at home
watching the stock photo slideshow
I barely notice
Hey [oh no…] just let me interject,
there is something behind all this, and
it’s me [it’s not her] okay,
I plotted the downfall of a world
in detail down to the damp twig
not quite snapping on the pavement
and when you stepped on it to twist
your ankle, to send a twist down threads
of fate [call it chance it means just as much]
And bring things tangling, sparking
wires full of charge – it was beautiful
to see such a small thing as the mastering
of a world cause despair in all souls
[You float like a rotten plastic bag
caressed by gulf stream currents, you go
with the tide] It was all part of my grand design
[I don’t believe you] as I don my sharp suit
and with it shred the land [I can’t believe you]
Am I not the mask of all your fears
[A moon mask with nothing underneath]
Am I not the answer and enemy?
[Am I not bored and aimless]
But it was all a test… and you pass.
You know when you get back into
bed and realise the whole day surprised you,
you weren’t ready, and now it’s over?
[Yes] that was me too [I still don’t…]
and when you are having your breakdowns you
are not failing you are just living […okay.]
and doesn’t beauty just ooze from everybody!?
And engine white noise
The sunset world suffuses
about the pour of hills and distances
The eye beneath the brow of the cloud
in incandescent towering light
A moment of the world’s sinking
filled with birds
careening under the silver clouds
A storm is coming – or has it passed?
These last moments often last, and sing
as the world lasts
I stand by this trig which marked the hill
its lightfast verdigris skin
An ark retaining its smile
as useless things often reduce
to a molten sky
Here on the hill, this
skull-dome horizon, where
the dog barks and scampers out
a football thwacks the evening
people head home. and for a moment
No proof is offered. No answer.
I thunder through sparks in darkness
the bookshelves unfold for me forever
I see a page, tumbling in the breeze
In fragments, and weak
– – – You can fork lightning, you can stillen
– – – to the moments stillness
– – – All beyonds fall away
– – – and moments spring from the earth to engulf us
– – – and each moment is real as moment
It’s the brain’s tautological thauming
My thoughts fall away, laid within reach
What would we have
if not these?
let us not expect majestic answers
from a world that barely holds together
Silence throngs in darkness.
What was I saying? Dull brain
I swear I was saying something.
Or was I watching this video
I’ll try again.
Sun which towers over
As the forest moves toward us
I thought that they were clouds
but they’re waves