V.91

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

V.90

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

V.89

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

The Field

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.

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Aphorisms XVIII

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.

*

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Paraphernalia

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.

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V.88

The lake surface is dusk-white noise –
Just so many cut paper gulls
and silhouette ducks – then the dark
cuts across this inner distance

I sit in the greying evening
reiterate a dead song-form
– that of assuming the stances
of nature. But nature is gone

and what remains is a dammed stream
and what remains is a lake house
– people moan and run from nothing
and wheeze. I can’t reach beyond it.

There’s only the monotone lake
whose forms insulate nothing from
nothing. An image of a false
image. I make my offering:

In the morning, a red dawn comes
and fixes the sky in crystal.
Intergalactic prison ships
revolt and institute the new

through law. But for now, the moon hangs
in soft focus, and swans are fed,
by fallen branches whose mirror
in the lake caresses the sky

V.87

The love of blue should not eclipse
the love of green – of mossy tiles
of algae bloom and ancient trees –
but then – culture does not feel pain

The sky should remain blue, and far,
so we needn’t worry to breathe,
its empire dissolved, its currents
tamed – culture does not feel pain

Whelks and shells of oysters bubble
on the beach and drown, and white flocks
of turrets spoil the darkling coast
and yet – culture does not feel pain

Cinema screens in a bleak world
play empty films to empty rooms,
sound whispered arguments about
light swords – culture does not feel pain

The stadiums of the still world
are filled with the crowds of the past
and sportsmen fight against hunger
because – culture does not feel pain

The boats upon the sea that leave
bodies scattered, should now be raised
cenotaphii to float above
white cliffs – culture does not feel pain

I Would like to Pay for your Chips, by Cécile Coulon (2018, Le Castor Astral)

It began at that so particular time of the night
where the end of one day bumps up against the start of another;
I went out in the rain, I was hungry.
The storm unleashed its warm hail on the flapping shutters,
no one else was walking in the streets
which were slick and seeped down to the square at the bottom
where the fountain overflowed.
Normally bony dogs would be having a bath there
but now, no barking, no whistles.
The night, the rain, the heat.
I crossed the road. A guy waved from the other side:
two fingers and a mouth ajar to ask
if I had something to smoke, I threw up an open hand
flapping, like the shutters, to show him that no,
and I went on, face buried in my oversize hoody,
hair full of the smell of a day
that wasn’t quite done.
By the sign, a young girl in a pink skirt and a guy
with a haircut that recalled the best moments
of Agnés Varda, waited their turn to order a kebab
with extra cheese.
The girl looked at the mounted flat-screen
on the wall showing clips of american pop,
the guy threw and caught a plastic bottle behind him
turning it over skilfully.
After they’d paid, the owner said
“Sorry for the wait”
I’d only just arrived, so that made me smile;
“a box of chips, with ketchup
okay
you can wait
inside.”
So I waited, standing, leant against the fridge
in front of the empty salad trays.
It was then that a man, soaked to the bone, came in.
I pushed myself aside to let him pass:
his clothes gave off a smell of cement
and cheap alcohol, his hair cropped short, grey,
held water
like the surface of a field at four in the morning.
He ordered.
At the moment I went to pay for my chips, he fixed his eyes,
eyes rounder than the beak of a Flemish rose,
the weak mouth of those tired men who drink
a bit too much and who accept it,
he looked at me for a while,
and stammered:
“I don’t know what to say to you.”
At first I thought he was winding me up, but all the same,
his eyes, his eyes!
“How’s that?”
He took a great breath, as if each word
tore from him half of a lung:
“I don’t know what to say to you, Miss”
The guy behind the counter listened with one ear
filling the industrial chip trays.
“You don’t have to say anything to me”
I responded, shaking my jumper.
“I don’t know what to say to you because I know who you are.”
The rain left lightly shining grooves, falling
from his skull to the bottom of his nose.
I didn’t know what to say either:
midnight wasn’t far off, I’d come looking for what to expect til morning,
and this guy, perfectly drunk and sound of mind, seemed
about to cave in on himself.
“I know who you are, you write books.
How do you do it?”
“Well, however I can.”
He gave himself a tap on the knees, and then
in one go,
tears, sweat
of the rain which comes from the inside
something humid and sincere came over his look,
already drowning in solitude and the bizarre night.
He turned towards the guy
who folded
the orange trays
with the precision of a dental surgeon.
“I can tell you that I didn’t get soaked tonight for nothing, no way!”
At my back, the fridge hummed.
A light smile installed itself, naturally
between my dimples.
On the counter, my chips were ready, well packed.
I took out my coin
a two euro piece and the drowned man said to me:
“I would like to pay for your chips, if you don’t mind.”
I sighed and left my coin between him and me, then I offered my hand.
He shook it.
“Thanks, mister”
and I left, my bundle of chips on my wrist.
On the way back, the characteristic smell of chip fat
invaded my nostrils, my hair, my clothes.
I will probably never see that man again, or at least, not like that.
Since yesterday, I’ve wanted to write about him, because I wonder
which of us in a few months, in a few years, will be betrayed
by the image they have constructed
of the outside world?
Will it be for others to shake hands
at that hour of the night
for a box of lukewarm chips and an iceless cola?
I would like for poetry to be as natural to those
who surround me as the emotion
that sprang forth that night, before that square
with the improbable ease of moments that might not have been,
but that happened all the same, poorly thought out
overflowing with grace, and impossible words