Mudflat Archive

The barn owl is an ancient vector
on the post in the blue silence
It slips a million years between
thin bones and structures of feather –
A predator engineered by galaxy –
Mudflats in the estuary pop and click
with the worms’ horrific cryptography –
Oyster Catchers read it as they pick
scraps from the crab corpse in the pool
then are torn from the sand by desire.
Tunneling into the cliff, the sea pops
and clicks rocks against recorded time
and daylight in the tunnel sketches webs
on the vault-line of the limestone –
Striations of land are sunk into the coast
the marsh holds a sheep skeleton –
The lady joins the doomed Gawain,
topless and expecting courtesy

We are ancient predators –
our eyes scan the front and the field
shifts and pulls towards us –
folds in the land are held straight
by our mind whose horizon is fixed
even while the body scrambles –
The lord of the castle leaves Gawain
to trek a last trek to the the rock chapel
in the green-black velvet valley –
cold in the morning – the horse
shifts and breathes under them –
the image of a single carrot impressed
into the horse-mind network
Mist lifts off the sweating body of the hills –
Sleep is slight like ice on a puddle –
We could not climb the stair quietly
the wood would crack and souls stir
stilling erratic movement of the eyeball

We remember dreams – of snakes
coiled around us, writhing on the bed –
of a silent goblin, watching, still,
until he fades – and tales of animals –
bouldering to find an adder nest
suddenly, and the shock was great –
a spider hides in the folds of a bag.
The engine pops and clicks as it cools
as the road humps over the land
holding us fixed, as the earth moves.
Swallows pop and click on the wires –
Geiger counters of each other’s name.
We are naked under these clothes –
she said it herself and I can feel it –
Scars on the land of the robes –
A bird warbles and beeps frantically –
then the fell runner whose hooves
scar the peat in flight from the lord’s hunt

Swallows struck from silver hang
in the sky like the bright moon
beyond three embracing drops in glass
and the black slate of the belfry –
the university where someone sits
in the library, feet up, on the phone –
and thrift clings to the rock pool –
small purple flowers held
for convolutional identification –
I hold the hand of an ancient woman
to help her through a gate and see
the old post office by the field.
We pass her later on the way
“I did think you would catch me”
I hold a red layered geode
someone had cracked on the beach
I hold a stone like a bearded capuchin
and bring it down to pop and click
rocks on the hard edged beach

My friends, there is no end
though the sun will soon expand
and the earth be smoothed
by the weight of the turbulent sea
There is no end – the habitable zone
will slip beyond us as we cling
by thrift, like thrift to the rock –
We might build a planet engine
to shift whole seas to tack our orbit
or we might not – it changes nothing
You want to preserve us forever
but we are preserved – I declare it
We are archived of ourselves
of this moment – I archive us.
Now tie these greens around your waist
and watch the grass move under cows
who carefully avoid (though they kiss)
the bluebells

Grange-over-sands

The quicksand and sea of mud
and the sea itself, running
with cold skies as long and deep.
Oaks step out from cobbled banks
with the train’s rumble stirring
the café in the pale house –
I cannot escape from this

barbaric lyric’s enclave –
with the way that the world goes on
how can I still find this peace?
Maybe I should have chosen
to be the gull, the shaggy
dog in the rail underpass
whose soft songs betray no-one

Metaphysick for the Tyrant

The picture shows the bottom of an ocean rift. Small lumps of mud or sand rest in focus in the centre and the rest is darkness.

This you?

*

Nihil of the world, ash and vibration in puddles of ash – your obelisks crushed
and sprinkled onto the beach for the sand to grasp and wipe.
Dog tags from the dead laid at your door will outlast you, scab of the world,
that architectonic of your emptiness, that emptiness of your nothingness, only delays
the time when the void will have its way with you in the way it will have all things –
your propaganda fails as it attempts to invent a face for a man who has no face.
And had you never existed, joy may still have lacked
but at least we wouldn’t have been forced to cope with your voice.
You are the white noise of the state, and entirely unnovel. Here is an overused phrase:
Forces you commanded lie sprawled by waves that liquefied their brains, and you
call meetings in vast halls and have others take the photos. Can you feel the plot?
All it would take for the world to forget you would be one shot from behind you
which would pass through the front of the skull and cause such blooms of flowers
to sprout immediately on the mahogany table perhaps inherited from a ship –
and from that same blood beautiful crystals would rise to melt the empire.
Those history enshrines, their people loved and white crabs tend to a vent in the blackness

*

The war stops. There is nothing else it can do when the soldiers have melted
Panting, you swim back and forth in a reactor pool, treading water –
glowing blue, you rest your collapsing ruins in the ruined body of the plant –
the sound of swan lake echoing through the corridors, over old tannoys –
over the sound of dripping water you breathe your last, while fireworks rear outside
as insects and raised dust whirl like a cloud of starlings above the forest clearing
Let us hold ourselves carefully and cause no vessels to rupture in innocent heads –
the void crackling across the years like glass on a car park floor, and more –
the sound of laughter like a morning chorus of birds being let out of a basement
There is much to think of in the slow walk in the dark back to the old bus
Even the smallest of our days like popcorn kernels that turn in the microwave
and conjure gunfire, or rubble falling from the roof until inside the pack a bomb
goes off and takes out the whole kitchen, leaving a cat yeowling in the rubble
What you destroy in emotion in the concrete city, all of it outweighs you
If even a small blackbird were caught in the crossfire, that would condemn you

*

May peace envelop you and absolve you and wipe you from the world, as quick
as bumping your head on the mantle as you stand up from the fireplace
causing a statue to fall in the desert and the wind to call – ozymandias –
Abel’s missile launcher smoking as Cain’s tank plinks cool in the dirt on the roadside
The charred turret of a tank becomes something ineffable in the dirt on a roadside
Given the unrestrained power of the state, all you could think of was pathetic
of metal whizzing around in the sky to strike upon towers of metal
Your name will go to rest having scraped itself from the slate of existence
as you scream. A tyrant opens its mouth and the wind of the universe blows,
raking the skin from animals and the bark from trees. A tyrant knows one word
and that word is dissolution but in a dialect of indelible slowness, one word
that is itself crushed by the vocabulary of a snail, or a thrush, or a thyme leaf
A tyrant knows one word which causes buildings to expel their insides onto the pavement
A tyrant knows one violently boring word, of unconfronted performance anxiety
A tyrant speaks of many things but always shows the turned face of his dying mother
A tyrant says one word and God places a hand over their mouth, offering silence –
the one word a tyrant says, is the final word, the word undignified, the word;

*

She should have died another time, you will shout – for this word deserves
a place for it to resonate – “Death!” But no, a cold concrete bunker will do for you both
Oh no, tomorrow, and tomorrow and the next day, and the following
sneak past like mice, each day along the cracks until the last echoes of your memories,
being dashed across the wall by a bullet, fade. And all your yesterdays will serve
only as entertainment for fools on their path to the final dust. Please turn off the light.
Your life is just a shadow that will pass. A clown that graced our screens for a moment
walking back and forth, wobbling – we will never see you again. You are a story
made solely of gunshots and screams, maintained by idiots. Signifying nothing

Reading: The Naked Don’t Fear the Water by Matthieu Aikins

What is the constellation of forces that makes a text dystopian? Weirder, what makes one want to create a dystopia? Consider this –

An owl is watching from a skeleton tree as people board the buses. The vehicles are old, but not in a quaint way, and some are dented. They seem scratch built from the leftovers of an imperial past, and people pack onto them, carrying bags, battered laptops, and cracked smartphones. The convoy wakes, the sound of engines soon lost over the city scrub, but the owl doesn’t seem disturbed. Its eyes blindly stare as the trucks disappear into the outskirts, picking up speed past the towns, the haunted tanks from a lost army, and abandoned imperial outposts, and goes on into the desert. The landscape isn’t safe, and speed is essential – rising dust from the column mixes with heat and fumes, and as night falls some buses split off and pass into the mountains. Onboard one of the rattling carriages an empire-adjacent storyteller has escaped the core and dedicated his life to following one of the occupied, Omar.

“The drivers did the fifteen-to-twenty-hour trip in one shift, often with the help of hashish or amphetamines”

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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.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 – Part 2-7

A few days later, my dad received word from one of our friends inviting him 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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Hello Sadness 2020 – Part 2-6

The next morning, I took my dad on a walk down the road. We were upbeat and talked a lot, but not about anything in particular. On the way back to the villa I suggested we go through the pine wood. It was exactly half ten, I made sure. My dad was walking ahead of me because the path was narrow and full of brambles, and he was pushing them back as we went so I wouldn’t scratch my legs. When I saw him stop, I knew he’d seen them. I came up behind him. Salil and Elsa were sleeping, laid out on the pine needles, looking rugged and happy – I mean I told them to do that, but when I saw them I felt devastated. Elsa’s love for my dad, Sal’s love for me, could that have stopped them? They were equally beautiful, equally young, and so close to each other… I glanced at my dad, he was looking at them intensely, without moving, and he was strangely pale. I held his arm:

    – Let’s not wake them, let’s go.

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01/07/2018

I can only think of
your blue bathing suit
over the brown sands
with their holes and emulsions

I can only think of
your legs lit by crystal shallows –
of the bruise by your knee
and the flat beach you gazed at

I can only think of
you at different intensities
as if a shell sound lodged in my mind
and the waves of you repeat

I can only think of
you, and your sunburnt lower back
you shouted, it was so sunburnt
I almost evaporated

When I try to think of
other things
you come riding back
standing on a wave

Hello Sadness 2020 – Part 2-5

The moment with the cigarettes wasn’t without consequences. Like some people who think a lot before acting, who are very sure of themselves, Anne wouldn’t tolerate being disobeyed or dishonoured. By being gentle, by releasing her tough hands from my face, she was going against that side of herself. She’d guessed that something was happening, and she would have made me confess to whatever it was, but at the last moment she gave in to pity or indifference. Because she had just as much trouble taking care of me, training me even, as she did accepting my weaknesses. The only thing that pushed her into this role as my tutor, my teacher, was a feeling of duty – that by marrying my dad, she was taking responsibility for me as well. I would have liked it if the constant disapproval, if I can call it that, could have improved to just annoyance. I would have liked it if I could have felt that she was just over-sensitive, because then it would have faded as she got used to me. But it’s much easier to get used to someone’s behaviour if you don’t feel like it’s up to you to sort them out. In six months she would have been tired of me, but in an affectionate way, and that was exactly what I wanted. But it wasn’t going to happen, because she felt responsible for me, and in a way she was, because I was still easily mouldable. That and stubborn.

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