4, 7×7, Drive Home in the Rain

Outside this plastic-smell car
the rain whirls like a muscle
set off wonderfully, fine
brighted by the too-sharp lamps
in windy spasms of curve
and softens my face, cooling

I feel life has been jammed
like a filament burning
too hot to shed much lighter
than a dark emphasising
fizz and sticky resistance –
the rain and cold air soften

The car steams up, it’s human
my friends are drunk, I listen
to their lubricate jaw joints
It is strange and wonderful
music to hear them talk, now
In the dark roadway, I hang

I hang as the world unfurls
its scoreboard display signposts
a smashed out car, black wreckage
My throat twitches with a cold
surge, we fly home fast as time
I exit and crush a snail
sigh, the paths are full of them.

Music credit to Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow for ‘Ava’

Life’s Attempt

Do not debase yourself – you are gold, and you know
You need only find the friends that will hold you as standard.
And learn to expect a little less from life,
And see how we die, how we weren’t designed for this living;
Designed at all, apart from a certain sketching,
Loathe to confer strong lines, conveying our motion.
This earthly fact need not ashcut our hair with hot sorrow,
Though of course it may do for a moment, a dry-haunting phase:
Learning the blood and the tears that rest in salvation
Not dropped from above, in a white hot holy inferno
Of passionate revenge. No, these great tears are ours
Believer, as we bear up the world on our backs, and build
Our commune here on earth, our only connection
Where we tie our authority, where we can decide on our lives.
Not alone; these golden souls around us glimmer
As we pile together in a vast open treasure of days:
Supporting each other as cold water clings to cold water
Thundering slow as a star, and frantic reshaping
It glints – over the falls and out into darkness;
This thunder is purity, this thunder is gold in its forging.

And our blood belongs too, and it brings with it ancient foundations
Of life in the dawning of sacred human electrics.
We do not need more, I promise, and offer my words
As a jumpstart to show you how it can be: have you heard?
We only need thriving, we only need close interaction,
(and hoping for endlessness here will bring unbidden pain)
With the group of bright people called wonders who show us the way
To shore up our breathing, our justifiable madness
At having to live in a world that we have made,
Which teaches us we lack the spinning centre: We.
The people who beat the heart of humanities pace?
This is the horror, the shock and the shame of those
Who project with intensity, blinding sovereign light
On the walls and blind us, this is why it takes time.
To learn we can float, calm on our backs in the sea
Of a disc, on the back of four elephants, looming calm
On the back of a turtle, ponderous floating through space.

It is no easy thing, and there is no certain winning,
But if we can cope well, there’s a fell chance that so then can you.
Glowing human structures support this crowing communion,
Some shaking with white hot threads of dancing desire;
And yes there is violence, but here in the gaps inbetween,
Which like air are so hard to avoid, and yet so hard to see
Lie yet softer gradients of all of the earthier pleasures,
A glass of water, a book, a handshake, a look in the eyes.
A cuddle at dawn, a song, a joke, or a poem,
A long conversation, a cry, or some faith in your friends.
Ask not for justification, for there is no need.
In the grand scheme of things we are great enough. This you can believe.

Of Cultivated Quiet

Perhaps there is more?
Something to expect from things, a tangle, or some crunch.
Sings the body, as its silent vibrations
(to which we are blind and impatient) erupt
Into glorious assonance, and deep in my gut
That tiny spring of pleasure starts up
Only a trickle, and hesistant
As it might be cut short by rocks and bits of stone
Dislodged by the slow moving of tectonic life-plates
But quiet – it waits, buoying me up on its flowing
And little by little,

A moose, born from the trees
shakes off fallen snow, crosses a road and sees
out on the river, the frozen river, dark in the dusk
a quicker path, and tentative paces out
feels the deep crackings of the ancient water
echo through its soft-shined hooves

Just so, little by little, my life begins
To ring so soft, in bright cascades
Of cultivated quiet.

Pleasure leaps forth in orgasm, in winning, in commanding
And this leaping can distract (behold the heart’s hard landing)
from the budding growth of softer joy
The intellect, and itself, deploy.

Cold Car in the Dawn

Each and every bright city morning
Like countless fires extinguished falling
Dark and letting darkness reign:
The people wake, in bursts, a flood
Of living drowns the world again

And along the cold cracked-concrete roads
With cold-cracked paint, the living go
To and fro about the earth
And driving quickly up and down.
Each darkling dawn a swarming birth.

But in each cask, each bleary eye
Sees dawning sun conduct the sky
In symphonies of light and shade
And sometimes from them tears are drawn
By dawnings from which days are made.

Though sufferers may infuse the world
In screaming song, and shouting hurl
Sharp judgements out upon the head
Of human shadows, enemies
And screaming wish the world were dead:

Shadows vanish in the light
And leave the mind from time to time.
And wiping sand from out their eyes
The humans bear upon the sun
And bask resolving under sky.


Man stands against the boiling ocean of the possible
Silhouetted by a setting sun – striding
Out into the deep to be destroyed.
He could not keep the truth without dissolving:
A lone skeleton falls apart in the tides
And – drawn to the depths of darkness – this
Pile of white bones dances down – into the abyss.

But not this man, no, this man keeps
To bed clutching scribe’s accoutrements
Projecting a personality of dense defiance
He poeticises wildly in the throes of music
Waxing prophetic on the coming task of men
Struggling in pain to focus, but he knows.
He just can’t seem to formulate the premises in his prose.

Squinting in his nest, his moustache moist, and murmering
About the grand transcendence of the dark,
His mother brings him tea – his rough blanket
Covered in yesterdays crumbs and ink accidents,
Warms on his knees – the will to digestion crowing.
He takes his meagre meal, curses her and even
As she makes matrimonial suggestions, ressentiment quickens his breathing.

‘Woman is weak’ – he spits his damp crumbs wildly
Glaring at the matronly sign and signal
Of his own pathetic nature – he turns aside
Back to constant scribbling – by which he’ll teach
The world its wholly meagre worth in silence:
By embalming modern insights in his head
With half-learned scraps of Darwin from the papers, he will tread
Alone into the deep – and this destiny has said.
He has no one to go with him, not a single friend.

And rather than put this down to his unpleasant selfish manner
(A reason that never occurred to him) he sees his path and hammer
As the wind’s lonely self-justifying answer to the void.

The Value of Darkness

If you talk to me of comfort, my friend
And darkness, well I’ve this –

If the nocturnal endlessness of the darksky
Were placed against her, I
Would mark it as a grain of dust
Hanging in her beam of sunlight
On a summerday’s comfort,
Gleaming ironmetal to its rust.

But perhaps you’d rather I turn your head in surprise –

She is as darkness to me, how it flies
Curving out at equal speed to light
Enveloping all most shadowly in night
As we lie together sweating sparks of touch –
She is my eclipse, my thunderstorm
My oceandeep gloom, my envelope
She is the stranger standing in the room
Who disappears on waking.
She is my light and dark, she is my gloaming.

She is not sound, but silence, after chatter
Shook violentwise the eardrum and composed
A mindset to accept the wind and void.

She is not caress, but the lack of touch
On a breathless day under unfeeling sun
When all the cares of the world burn into my skin
In all noise and fury.

You grade the universe wrong when you throw this out.
We measure all things, and give them measure
And photon impacts per second offer death to the heart.
Measuring value in metres cubed…

It might be right to prefer the end of the world, and doom
To the end of the shining connection, holding in storm
The weatherfronts of myself and her.

She is my welcome gloom.

Depending on the Gallery

In Response to 25 Lines by Linda Pastan

Burn the place down, along with every inkblot.
Stains, oh stains, all over the walls, and the artists
Brought here long ago; now their lifeless bodies
Rot in the attic, dripping softly headwards
To the slowly rotating crowds deep down below;

Trudging through knee high palls of dark liquid, trudging
In the way unique to museums and T-virus victims

Dragging their children who hardly keep their heads up
While directors’ flickering tongues are showing the way,
While ashen boats bob as they rob them of coins for the crossing.

The dead haze of parrafin skins the inside of my nostrils
As I stop by a Rembrandt and take a quiet moment to see.

Those gloaming shadows, already they purge through the canvas
And the pale skin slowly sloughs off – to reveal there a carcass…

Stretched on a crossbeam of wood and its bare wrists nailed there
Its ribs open up to the world and the gaze of the painter
Whose eyes, bone-black darkness and oil paint, plucked in a cave

Look down honing vividly, haunted by corpses of children
And his wife’s lifeless body reflects in them, quietly lain.

A wild burning madness is wasting his swarming desire
Falsely committing his lover to rot in a madhouse,
He dies with no money, buried communal and poor…
Until his moulded bones were stolen and stored
In the crypts in the attic, darkly congealed on the boards.

I glance to the floor and I see the dark liquid is rising
Hear the screams start in the arches next door and I quicken
Raise my umbrella to part this heathen rain
I stare at at the canvas, I know I’ve not time, I remain.

The carcass has split and a figure resides in the centre
The wooden supports; hallowing a dark glass cage:

This papal recliner is drowning in shadows as I am
As the effeminate artist, whose eyes and thick brushes remain
Trained on a body themselves in a fancy hotel room
Who, drowned in the oil and the thin fumes, fills him with pain.

The gloaming has swelled as it foggily eats the events here
Whose squirming flesh is whipped with the causal chain.
After a brief interlude between life and death falls away
Wheezing, into the void, and the furnace burning
His urn stolen back from the vigil of gregorian chants.

As the pockmarked beams are collapsing, now raining remnants
Of the real, the pain and the passion, the thriving of life
Which is dust now, and crushed by the trillions of banknotes which follow
Dumped with the blood and the sinew of creatures, besmirching
Their effort, their trial, their crucifixion, their learning.

I turn now to run, but the glass cage, escaped from the painting
Surrounds me and quickly fills with the liquid, protecting
My skin from the touch of deep profit, the acid investment…
But something is in here, decaying, the flesh of the canvas
Now bathed in formaldehyde, its gaping maw drinking the blackness
A gormless requiem, purporting to shield us from death.

I turn and see funder and funded, whose open mouths mirror
The one in the tank, but their eyes drift upwards, sewn open

Distended they swallow as much as they can of the past
Screaming with unearthly screams they are blinded and fattened
Their pale eyes, quivering, are screened by expensive sunglasses
Made from the small stolen bones of Rembrandt’s children
They crying explode as the weight of the graveyard corrodes them.

I sigh with relief… but my skin also is loosened
And I turn to the sight of sublime nature’s irises hurling
Towards me through fumes, the sleek surface warping reflections
Till they snap on the match in my hand and I strike it and drop it
And the light of divinity illuminates the world once again.

No one, ever, was worthy of the works of the past
Who cultured them with exploitation, building
Foul industries upon the other’s blood
If only the life of an insect rests in the balance
it is better to destroy the entire history of art.

For value will always rest with the toiling people
They have these manifold shining works in their pockets

And their flesh and their body will anchor the work in its heart.

We dream the fever dreams of an ancient elite
That lost control, usurped and sent to exile
Disdaining our lives, and their simplification
Hoping for thinking deeper than we have received
Of late, but their lives rested in needless complexity,
bloated with capital, it’s time now to lay them to rest.

We are haunted by the blood of dead aristocrats
But their fill ins are worse, for they deal in faded skeletons
And those on their banknotes, holding their artworks together.

Ethical, art has never been, but now
Its blinding curse should willingly draw our eye
An ancient ocean marks these gaping lacunae
The halls where we might take art back, with fire.