Museum Fatigue

Blue bed – soft sheets
And pillows in torn pillowcases
Pillows hard as matted pleats of hair
Quietly lying, thinking fine
Thoughts like twined-gold jewellery
Loot of colonial vessels.
Maybe – a staff made of whale rib, whale song
Or masks in the darkness
Of a glass room, speaking
Languages I can’t speak with.

I can speak the blue bed here
Heavy sheets and my drowsy shirt
All human elements heated
Til they propogate crisp museum light.

The City Moves in Me

Terror swims inside me like a basking shark
It’s my sullen wake, it fills the air behind
As I’m drawn along suburban stone.
I see the wild forgotten as a dream is forgotten
I know I dreamed, but what was it?

I stand on a hill and see the city
Draining down its valley plughole
Soft scars left in the grading air.
I see this city move as a scrapheap moves
Slowly downwards, churning the earth.

Waiting for a bus I wait too long
And my figure, mistaken for a statue
By some routine artist in a tatty book
Is selected for the top of the heap
Which moves, and the wild falls further.

In a shifting forest, in the past beyond thought
A foraging girl picks out an acorn
From a dry skin of leaves, her breath
Marks the air. She leaves it
And the earth hurtles out from beneath.

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response

Oh your voice,
It carries the geology of the tongue
In a startling language
Your saliva and its stones, caught by geographical time
The knot and bark of your swallow
Sussurations of your lips, of fur
Brushing past itself, salted in the night-forest
And your eyes muddy marsh
Sodden in the hills and routes of our conversation
Between moon-dragging planets.

Female, you shake me
Your strata bared by the sandblasting wind
The grass bent, rent and shattered by a foot
That mountain collapses and tectonic plates tear
You gulp in the nothing of my ear.

The Forest

The Tree says “Down! – thee
seeds and sapling usurpers
“I am the root and I the purpose
“Know my bark, it keeps me strong.”
And murders them with shadows long.

The saplings and the seeds chant –
“Up! – up the republic of growth
“Of varied ideas, and new things here below
“Until the wood is filled with variety
“Old bark can stay – but we’ll have our society.”

The forest is filled with kinds of desire
But all must drink – and bathe in the sun
The far spread shadows are death to some
“Until the dark dawn of some great forest fire”

Some hope to spark, to get underway
The falling, the ashes, it tends to gestate
Grand ideas of a sunlit glade
Though dappled light seems the best some can await –

Born as they are with stunted branch
Or lack of structured niche or dance
They tend to fall back on the law of the light –
that when shadow is cast, those in shadow must fight.

Either starving dark amongst the shoots
Or taking as model the climbing vine
Or cutting the old bark down to size
Or grouping and starving the heartless old roots
To scatter light out from the leaves of the few.

Mani’s Story

In ancient Iran there lived a prophet called Mani, who grew tired of the city in which he lived. He saw much pain around him and found it difficult to understand, but he knew that understanding takes time, and so decided to spend some years in thought. The seasons passed, and each year seemed the same as the last. But before too long there came a dark winter and, cold in the cave, he found in himself an idea. He went quickly out to the people of the city, and started to tell them about a new way of seeing the world.

He said “Friends, there is an eternal battle between the realm of light, and the kingdom of darkness”. But this was no simple battle, with each army grouped on opposing hilltops. He told his friends that there is dark and light inside each of us, and inside each thing of nature and of humanity. In a thunderstorm, the darkness battled against the light, but light and darkness were throughout – how else could we see?

And soon his story spread far and wide, giving the people a way to understand their suffering and persecution. They saw that the combat between light and darkness produced the world around them. They knew that they could join the fight against darkness, but it would never leave the world. They felt the darkness within, and this allowed them to accept and reign it in.

But Mani grew sadder as the pain and suffering continued. And finally one day, he gave in to something inside, and went out to the people again. He said “Friends, light is leaving the world” and he broke down in tears and hatred. But in the crowd there was a young woman, who stepped to him and quietly dried his eyes.

And she said “Mani, you have given in to the darkness” and he saw that it was true. And he breathed deeply. And he spent the rest of his life telling his story, and helping the people, before he died one day a thousand years ago.

And as the years passed, more and more people came to tell Mani’s story, until one day it reached the ears of the Emperor. And he didn’t like it at all. He said “Servants, I am the light, and there is no darkness in my land”. He told of the secret armies trying to undermine him, of how they were darkness, and darkness alone. He said “When I order you to defeat my enemies I do not grieve, for there is no light to be found in them”. And finally, he said “Mani is one of my enemies. You must tear up his stories, and kill those who follow his word.”

And so it was that another wave of pain and persecution was unleashed upon the realm. And the Mani-cheans (for this is what they were now called) found this no surprise, as I am sure you can tell. They quietly carried on their fight against the darkness within themselves, and within their families, and within their friends. But it became harder and harder, as they were slowly driven from this world by the Emperor’s knife and sword.

Then one day, the Emperor heard another story. He heard of the time when Mani had gone out to the people and said “Friends, light is leaving the world”, and broken down in tears and hatred. And the Emperor knew then that he had won, and from then on he began to call  his enemies Manichean, so he could give Mani a grave of lies. And after a while people began to forget what Mani had said.

But of course, we know the end of the story. We know that in the crowd there was a young woman, who stepped up to him and quietly dried his eyes. And she said “Mani, you have given in to the darkness” and he saw that it was true.

Many years later, the years in which we live, people are called Manichean when they behave like the Emperor, and see the world as a battle between my light over here, and their terrible darkness over there. And they sometimes believe it, when they lose and break down in tears and hatred like Mani once did. But we know that wisest was the young woman who offered comfort to Mani. She saw the darkness at work even in him. And she helped him to fight it even in the darkest times, to stand back up, and continue the struggle.

For where the growing darkness is, there the light is, also.

What is Historical Materialism (Variation)

The blood runs, and it sings of stolen things
to listen is the trick, its humming in the buried veins.
The flesh sits, marked with silent whips
and its past stays with it, gagged and subterranean.
We mine it, giving the gifts of rhetoric back
to its owners, not asking for excuses, crawling backwards.
We take the work as is, in fact and fiction;
not how it aspires us to be, with moral wishes.

We are not children, although we patiently read
of the childhood of all things, their concrete patents:
the darkness then recedes, and only then
when the light is followed back to its sources and signposts
– and the shadow is marked as shadow (for though it seems)
not all darkness is shadow, and darkness gleams…
It is the physical labour of thinking – it is not heartless.

We are not inhuman, although we may mock them, smirking
and use our long words simply to see them working
in truth we take humanity (this strengthened noun)
of the hold, the gaze of sibling to sibling, to found
as the heat and source of joy, the darkened world.
We find joy in revolution, in the placing of the joy of things
in the centre, tectonic plates driven by its turning…

The banality of joy of the courts, these admins of pleasure
of the commercial laboratory, is of no matter to us.
We are angels who watch closely the wreckage of history
tears in our eyes, but we smile, because we have hope:
history never falls apart, only people do that
and our goal is not to set them on a perfect track
but to allow them to explode with fire as a firework in the night.

Behind us stretches the vanishing future of work,
(the varied and varying plane of opportunity and chance)
where for a moment we will siblize each other, and dance
losing the property of our minds, and giving it to all.
We work by each other, and for each other, learning
and from out of the past of each other, quietly burning.
This is historical materialism.