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.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

V.97 Nightingale II

It was probably a sleepless
thrush, or a lady blackbird out
In the morning to center me.
Later in the week a green tree

(green, you remember green, a sharp
asset, a zone) is filled up
by a murmuration. Words fail
to register all of the ways

that words fail. Over the next months
poetry leaves me as I hold
my black plastic controller and
curl up in bed as the womb hurts

curl up around an old and new
goal, to have the numbers raise up
and buttons click neatly and soft
as the shots of unreal guns sound –

As the game becomes my home, I
hold myself in the vibrant light
and lines cut to suit the dull eye
and suspended in a rest mode

I wait until the suspense that comes
from restraints, as in chess, or love
is suspended in turn and light
of sun over the river grows

V.96 Nightingale I

In the fume of the late world, I
lie in bed awake. Two o’clock
I turn the light off, finally
to end another day, and sleep.

A whistle, I hear, a trilling
out at the top of the north town –
The air is mild at autumn’s end
and a nightingale is singing.

I am opened up wide by it
I think of waking the whole house
Shouting to the street night, get up
a soft event is occurring.

Open in the window, with cool
air playing on my back, I hold
the phone with its small ear outward
Hoping to give my tired parents

sign of a small brown bird, city
bird now, or lost. I am awake
due to anxious spurrings, a world
that is inexplicable. Sleep

had it taken me, I don’t think
would have had resource to rival
this surprise which is beauty, and
banishes fear. If for a time

V.95 BABBLE

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

V.93

Silence at night is a blank hex
something never meant. A ragged
breath was meant to be our white noise –
our cousins holding each other

The grass (which I imagine long
and paper thin, the pelt of earth)
is carving the air into noise
under the hectic stars. And we

lie rumbling and vibrating each
time the sun collapses, and all
the other times as well, our beat
and breath the bellows of our heat.

Our hearing is still a tension
that can hear. The walls just standing
in their cold brick heart, we have called
tinnitus. The whine of our gears

and the ruckus of our machines
– the fingernails, the comfort rub
of a duvet against toes, as
the delicate attention bears

upon the slightest thing, leaving
reams and reams of analysis
of the breath’s passage in the nose
and the roaring brain in the dark

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

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