Silence at night is a blank hex
something never meant. A ragged
breath was meant to be our white noise –
our cousins holding each other
The grass (which I imagine long
and paper thin, the pelt of earth)
is carving the air into noise
under the hectic stars. And we
lie rumbling and vibrating each
time the sun collapses, and all
the other times as well, our beat
and breath the bellows of our heat.
Our hearing is still a tension
that can hear. The walls just standing
in their cold brick heart, we have called
tinnitus. The whine of our gears
and the ruckus of our machines
– the fingernails, the comfort rub
of a duvet against toes, as
the delicate attention bears
upon the slightest thing, leaving
reams and reams of analysis
of the breath’s passage in the nose
and the roaring brain in the dark
Come to me now, being of dark
body, smooth and night sky-like. Come
being with a galaxy head
and lie with me under the moon
The night is passing too slowly
the clouds ensure a tempered glow
My window is fluorescent, dull
and shelves stretch to the roof above
But I have no one to work it out
come, body of the supple stars
touch my skin so I may feel you
the softness from which I am built.
You have lain in the sky too long
The moon breast, and the other, sharp
sun hidden under the planet
veil, I draw you back for long hours
The stars are the hair on your back
and I smell the warm air which climbs
up, having held your body, now
in my lungs, I hold your hot scent
and the metal in my fillings
melts, draining down my throat. Come now
sex of the night with the landscape
achieve your end with me and sleep
The hatred of brutalism and modernism is a kind of prolonged hate, by the children of imperialists, of something that was made by or at least sometimes for, in a really important way, us, the children of the workers who held the empire for them. These buildings we built, when the people were in real power for the first time, just worry those with that shrunken ideology that would go back but can never outline where to, beyond that road where we slaves were strung up, on the way to the senate. They are a too forward sign that the new did happen, and could happen again.
The fact that they are disliked, helps us to remember their importance. The first mass architecture stripped of everything non-secular, not taking the temple or the church as its model. Not a castle, but a standing commune. You don’t even need to look up who said ‘each Englishman’s home is his castle’. You just know they had a big house, and a big garden, and probably a servant or two.
The green dawn never came. This land
sank under the sea. We might have
been a new Atlantis. No more –
Now dark ships, tossed on the black sea
clash by night with our rabid guard.
A wall surrounds the island, seen
from the water as grey cliffs are
seen. So. Let everything old burn
that is after all, what you wanted –
was it not? You had rather seen
an old England, where car horns blare
nine coughing blasts and then we drown.
Enough of these childish things.
we can barely breathe. Let flames rise
and cast their shadows on the sea.
Each of you who brought this rank fate
will meet your avenging angel
in your dreams, burning and the sun
burning, burning. You take Blake’s name
in vain to sing Jerusalem.
Blake sings with me. Your hope was not.
And now as your voices raise up
in panic, I can only smile –
a great red dragon smiles in me
When you read an ancient poet
and find yourself or part of you
becoming-drift with ancient sands
always enfolding each other,
it is not something of success
or failure – to be the great soul
is to draw all strings into one
cord, and feel your sudden failure –
everything has its ancestor –
unwind one thread and say of it
this is my colour, my tenor…
It’s all a scrub with tiny blooms –
stone, shell, what more? Repetition
is never quite exactly apt –
this courtly poet whispers through
eleven centuries to tell
me of my love for you, clearer
than the scarcest cut ice, trekked out
across the sands and wrapped in palm
to impress the caliph. My song
is an alm on the tree which grows
and falls and grows again. Years pass
and the desert widens, but faint
movements stir the clacking branches
Pain in my hands as I hold them
grasping a book, obsolescence
staring me down across thirteen
futures, just those from that second –
Le Grande Chartreuse chants ply away
in chorus across the copper
and fibreglass, a chant of years
of imaginary journeys.
I can hear imaginary
thoughts of those who would use oldness
to justify anything new
they fancied the look of. Silence
for example. A lost image
which is strings of words and phrases
and none of it uncreated –
it was sung in old emotions
we learned (and we is a loose term)
in ages past (every term is)
when we were openings among
the trees. I mean to say that no
singer can by their song undo
hope, though the lost hope may argue.
No dice throw can abolish chance.
The new world will come regardless
That’s five years of this blog today, of me posting ill-thought-through poems and posts! Thanks for anyone who’s followed any of it.
An itinerant worker returns from a civil war that never quite happened, back through time to their partner, and on their way they see things in England that cause thoughts to occur. In sequence the field repeats, each one slightly differently. In each field a different voice, a different group. Maybe a village, or a city, or a bird. A chaos of significance.
Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius – The Borges story offers quite a neat allegory for the post-truth/propaganda situation. The fake encyclopedia begins as an experiment – can we create a world in detail without the usual connections between material reality and the conceptual scheme? Can we jettison praxis altogether and have its opposite occur? In that world, the concepts begin to cause things to happen, simply by being made. The markers of this are objects that propagate themselves, but slightly changed, exaggerating some aspect – conspiracy objects. Then the completed encyclopedia begins to disturb reality – reality as a scheme begins to collapse due to the overstrong influence of the unreal.
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. However, it didn’t have the kind of narrative drive, so the action wasn’t there to anchor the descriptive digressions. 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.