The language engineers at work
in caves, at the timefall, at work
tending herds of grammar, culling
precious words. Tapping flints on walls
patiently guiding neurons through
submerged caverns, through pinching caves,
seeding fields in the deep. Alas
memory is weak and falling
And the dark is never ending
Scathing eyes and reticent laughs
fill the blackness. Babel was made
here, by someone, alone. The bricks
to build towers are clay and hay
which pour from loners’ joyful mouths.
like wildfire a new word comes
and burns the village to the ground,
No, it says. I have caught this fire
I climbed the black mountain alone
and god spoke, spoke in flame to ME,
PROMETHEUS, MOSES, but fire
is fickle – do not expect much
The terrain is rough, and fools rush
to smooth it out. I build, I sculpt
a language which must crack and fail
Hold your fist in the air. Support
the sky by leaving it there. Pride
of the world, you say, with your hand.
This elbow node of the culture,
bent at its soft angle. As if
to say, we are both atlas, and
if we fail each other, the sky
may break into pieces and fall//
Hail hits the windows, rattles vents
and the game console cools slowly
and out of the pattern of snow
on the window, and hot plastic
something forms. It’s an odd meaning
that shifts and cracks and congeals out
of the air. This passage of heat
towards the cold. In sheds, remains
of the past sit in the chill air
and spiders die among them. Peace
steps through the door in the shape of
someone who cares. They nudge you out
of a rut you slid into when
time disjointed. One day, the earth
will cool to a black lump, but still
we have lived and learned together
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
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.
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.
If you’re there, then now would be it
the time to let an autodidact rise
with the dreams of his grandchildren
And as I say this, to myself
under the graveyard tree, which is,
I think, nourished by the dead,
and yet lives, a breeze softly stokes
the leaves, each a red flag, and green.
A pile of ash keys against the wall
turns to dust, and the rain begins –
touching a white poppy in the field
but under the ground, under, waits
something, a crowd. A mass,
that moved once, and will move again.
For we know what happens,
when we bury a seed
Your face is golden in the sun,
your body glistens wet –
your fifties swimsuit draws my eye
I dream of its caress.
Sylvia, if I could be
a bather in the past,
I’d lift your head and kiss your cheek,
if you’d permit me that.
I’d draw your darkness with my tongue
from your deepest place,
I’d feel your heat, your grasping hand,
I’d notice in your face –
The genius of stranded souls
upon a crackling beach,
then words would form upon your lips
of poems you would teach –
the lighter horse, your latter ride,
and walks upon the crags,
some peaceful versions of your life.
Your death was such a drag.
Though it’s had a rough start, I think that social media will end up making us more dialogic, willing to consider other points and views. The same patchy start was true of the printing press, of books and pamphlets, right? It will take hundreds of years having all the impact it will have, and may never finish impacting us. Has the printer finished with us yet? Probably not.