V.120

I brush gently the leaves, and dust
pushing it from the dry black bricks
of my brain, and of the real street –
Its holes, gratings, posts, back alleys

stand in the bright cold above this –
the leaves replenish their yellows
and I breathe, letting life happen
despite it happening loudly –

Under the pavement, centipedes
slip around corners and thin pipes
cupped with silt. And wires web the town.
If you listen here, carefully,

place your ear against the drainpipe
that sinks beneath the street, you hear
like a half-forgotten dream sound
the far off ocean is breathing

and phantom children laughing – us,
but from a lighter, freer time –
the beach reaches both horizons
the one on the sky’s edge, and then

the other – where the wave’s instep
glows green or blue – glass in the sun –
I brush new sand from the black bricks
and then place my hands on the dunes

V.119

A laminated floor with chips
is cold when you place your hand there –
to pick up a dirty foam ball,
and quick throw it at some classmate.

The same floor is in the deep past
in the badminton hall where squeaks
happen and the thud and the thud
of an unknown body’s collapse

and blue face. I watch him dying
flanked by dark angels as I say
“It’s gonna be okay”. You lie
but do not know you are lying.

How can a floor, the floor you learn
collects grit, as your palm feels it,
with the rubber face of a doll
designed to resuscitate us

How can a floor, where I once danced
with my ginger haired instructor
whose smell made me blush, not knowing
why. How can a floor give resource

A blank floor. The sound of running
gets through the headphones. Electric
resources given by Four Tet –
in the gym I think of the past

V.118

The future never lasts for long.
And is there something stirring here?
On the drizzled streets of Skipton,
a voice comes, offering leaflets –

not as I might expect, or think
important, knowing the stories
of the humanity of God –
but this – “you think we’ve been to space?”

In these words the future falls dead
and deadens the damp atmosphere –
Will England march across the world
ex-nihil again, destroying

any trace of a satellite,
repurposing launchpads to use
as metal to build – what? Nothing
or a ladder to test the sky –

find patterns in the crystal dome
there where the stars are set by God
Where comets bounce off and vanish
back into the void, or heaven.

These people cannot feel safe, nor
accept the realness of defeat –
if they take power, death may come
and our souls fall off the world’s edge

V.117

A canvas: on uncertain blue
place a pink tear and a black plane
moving across the sky. Fragments
of torn cotton ringed with magma

beyond the train that collects thoughts
as it passes – dreams of metal
and paint, and nights of sweat on seats
of blue nylon. Dark reflections

in the glass as country lights slide –
each a knot in the night canvas
that rocks sleepiness into us.
Brakes squeal, and I am back again.

On the York train once someone put
a shopping trolley full of rocks
on the tracks. Metal squealed and tore
and I was mildly shocked. Around,

people glanced at the sidings, sat
still in their seats til the rattling
stopped, and the rain began. I sit
on this bus and look at the dusk

and use mindfulness to silence –
or some material memories
– dull you in my mind. I paint you
out but like sun you ramify

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.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

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