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.110

I’m stood in front of a hedge maze –
there are three doors and each is locked
with a different kind of black lock
whose keys aren’t quite biting the pins

There are thirty keys, so varied
in shape and their material –
the silver key seemed right but snapped
ejecting a tiny blank scroll.

I knew that here, invisible
was the map to find the lost key –
but I tried to heat it and see,
a lemon juice script darkening,

when the whole scroll just exploded
into a tart lavender dust
(I’m sure I can see lavender
through one of the keyholes. But which?)

I bend down to look again, then
lean unthinking on a handle
and its door swings sweetly open
with the sound of a barnyard latch

I step through quickly and so, fall
through a trapdoor into a pit
and that’s what loving you is like
goddammit! I must brush my teeth

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.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.101

This author will still be read, when
the sun has enveloped the earth
in a stifling embrace, and rock
again attains its prevalence

It will go down in history
down into the land, under it
with the rust, into the magma
where the planet forgets itself

The nation’s glory shall ring out
through the debris field in deep space
as comets impact planets, dull
armadas in the dead empire

They will still talk about today
when mouths are a thing forgotten
and the only concept is cold
Cold that stills the slowing atoms

I will remember you until
I lie on the linoleum
watching the inlaid glitter blur
until a galaxy appears

I will remember you, my love
breaking the law of the poem
We will forever have been us
There is nothing that can change that.

V.99

The world is not a game of chess –
A game of chess is not a game
sometimes it’s something more and less
When a world turns on an evening

When rain churns upon the roof tiles
and rain sounds dance inside the ear
and rain worlds are raised from the red
depths of the mind, a damp childhood.

In an oxbow lake three kids act
in a pirate film, and leap out
in the rain, to feel the warm depths
and feel roots in the dark water

touch their legs, and shiver. A fish
a dead fish bobs among the reeds
Its unused eye staring at clouds
dark with the shadow of water.

In a film a neat cottage stands
by the sea, and an old man gives
advice that, being trite, this time
because of something deep, and past

returning, brings with it a roar
like the sun checkmates the dark sea
and castles on the sand, kids hands
had made, are washed away. I love you

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 and Wales 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

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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

Hello Sadness 2020 – 2-7

A few days later, my dad received word from one of our friends inviting him down to Saint-Raphaël for a drink. He got us in on it straight away, excited to get some distance from this voluntary and basically forced solitude we were living in. So I told Sal and Elsa that we’d be at the Sun Bar at seven and that, if they wanted to come, they’d see us there. Unfortunately Elsa knew the friend in question, which meant she was even keener to come. I guessed there would be complications and tried to dissuade her. What a waste of effort.

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Calliope

I want to receive you like the bed after becoming so tired I cannot sleep and odd things run through my feverish mind

I want to sit stunned cross legged on the covers and reach over to catalogue you mindlessly at first, but then knit all of you together with my tongue

I want to hear your voice collapse like, in the grey fog, immense waves in a storm collapse on chalk cliffs, I want to collapse

I want your gaze to become decentred from the locus of your self, allow the sun to become everything of you, scattered over you on the forest slopes in the snow

I want you to think of all of your best lovers whilst we recall them by knotting together, and it becomes hard to untangle from the past to go make coffee

I want us to forget each of us which gender we are, at the moment of climax when all there are are damp surfaces and depths and the universe achieves its end smiling, I want us to sweat

I want you to feel your dark hair rise all over your body, feel it grasp everything like snakes as I become statuesque

I want it to be like tearing the book of your life in half from that moment each time, each time you look at me and laugh or sigh and the rain pelts jealously on the window

I often think of collapsing with you on the floor as soon as we cross the threshold, with a little ceremony and incense, the censer swaying back and forth over the carpet. I often think of you