Robert Joe Stout
The Clerical Supervisors Eat Lunch on the Lawn
the spooning of cottage cheese
and packaged tuna treats.
They nod my presence
past a redwood
shedding bits of bark and browning foliage
on the lawn surrounding
them with green.
I carry their whispers
up the courthouse steps
into offices where young clerk-typists
lean on cluttered desks
and the smell of new-mown weeds.
Real de Arriba, Mexico
pocked by slag-strewn openings
of long ago abandoned mines cut
through cornfields’ rustling green.
Peligro!—Danger!—warned a bent
sign pocked with bullet holes.
The bus lurched through gouged
out ruts where rains had washed
out half the curve and swerved uphill
towards swirling clouds, then huffed,
geared down and pushed through brush,
the crest surmounted. Look! The town!
Twin avenues of pink and blue veered
around a gray stone church beyond
a “V” of crumbling masonry—what once
had been a mill that processed gold.
In corners purpled by the shifting breeze
black-shawled women nodded, hands
twitching like hurt birds. Their whispers
brought the shadows of old miners through
the haze of progress onto rusted earth.
At the Neighborhood Restaurant
My wife reaches for my hand.
Pain... I hear her voice repeat
in cadence with a voice behind me.
Half-turning I see a girl I used to party with
stiffen in the cook's embrace.
I'm getting my life back together...
she seems to be saying. The side of her face,
from the corner of her eye to the lump beneath her jaw,
is a ruptured purplish-black. I block her out
and listen as my wife describes what treatments for cancer
are doing to her mother's eyes.
A diesel outside gears
to a stop. Haven't slept for days... the girl
I used to party with says through my wife's pinched lips.
I nod. Voices from other times
that I've hung out here surround me
with other fears. My wife
squeezes my fingers. Through the window
neon stripes our clenched hands
with pulsating red. The diesel revs its engine
and the girl I used to party with
murmurs she'll somehow endure it. Or is it
my wife who says it? I start to reply
but a voice intercedes: It tells me it dreamed
that angry mice
ate her toes to the bones
last night. So much pain..! someone cries. I clench many hands.
The diesel grinds through a green light.
Threads of Cigarette Smoke
Because we spurned the water of life,
our mutual thirst rallied against us
with greater ferocity than we thought it capable of.
In such an atmosphere, uninvited guests
are known to thrive. On the alternate side
of the alternating current, the latest trends
were coming to a head. I careened
into a realization - I hadn't ever "thought" before.
What I had believed to be thinking
was actually a sinking into the present moment,
drowning in particulars and concrete imagery.
So I bought a new suit of clothes.
I declared myself a vigilante
of the imagination. Consciousness,
startled by such a development this early
in its pupal stage, shifted in its chrysalis
and folded back into sleep.
Spirit folded as well, but on another level.
I glimpsed you as you moved
from pageant to pageant, askew,
the prospect of the infinite glinting
in your eyes, and this spectacle,
combined with the blushing breeze
trembling in the shadow lit landscape,
revealed a different view of myself
and the space I've come to occupy.
I would put it into words if I were able,
but I only have this set of shapeless sensations
at my disposal. I never did comprehend
their relation to the ensuing downward spiral,
nor why, in such a context,
a downward spiral would ensue.
Darkness moves in ways that none of us
can fully grasp, seeping through the pores
of the vast project to which we've committed
ourselves. This is part of the appeal, I guess.
The thrill of conjecture.
As it stands, however, I remain pinioned
to the fringes of that undertaking, drowsing
in the musky dusk, drifting
like a paper boat along the surface
of a muddy stream.
We venerate the older miracles.
The smoldering sense of having
been mislead spreads like breath
on a windowpane. New damages
drain the sky each night,
and each day, we wake up the same
people as before. Within
the battered core of everything
we've envisioned, a revision arises,
one whose power is exercised
in the form of a cancelled stamp,
and so its existence clamps down on us,
pinning us where we are
on the far side of memory.
Inevitably, a new kind of failing
thrusts its heels into the ground.
The seals, which formerly kept
the seers from running rampant
with their revelations, have finally
broken. As the unspoken ambassador
of these token truths, I've taken up
the task of masking their development
in strips of ticker tape. No matter
how you shape the scene, smog
is always present - an unpleasant
reminder of our all-too-human frailty.
Words, you mustn't fail me now.
Even if your meanings do.
The First Line
Cold cluster of syllables,
taken from the jasmine tinted sky.
A new darkness lies over the street
intending to swallow it whole.
It's apparent that I spend
too much time wallowing.
Lately, I've become quite proficient at it,
which isn't a good sign.
The bond between this thought
and its expression dissolves,
and a volatile scenario results.
Too much tumult in my temper,
too much to remember
but not enough to savor.
I ought to pay a visit to flavor country
for a sampling of cancer.
But this isn't an answer, it's an avoidance.
Tonight there's coitus in the clouds.
A heavy rain is coming
and it's likely to crush me.
Waiting on an unlovely stretch of the shore, the jellyfish
has surrendered its own will to the will of the ocean.
The ocean is far away now, but the jellyfish trusts it shall
return, and who am I to argue with a jellyfish.
The jellyfish can live on the land and in the sea, and I
have not yet perfected either art. Perhaps its secret is in
the way it exchanges one existence for another, the life
of a fish and the life of a jelly, without seeking to belong
to either world. Water becomes air, air becomes water
the jellyfish knows, and in this knowledge alone lies still.
The jellyfish on the sand is not trying to go anywhere.
Its will is the will of the ocean. The immense power
received in such an alignment is what makes the jellyfish
curiously frightening, gives it its sting.
O anxious International Arrivals
clustered around the baggage carousel,
watch hopefully the thick black rubber veils
which still reveal nothing! Another soul
waiting to cross the Styx, I’ll take my place.
The grumble begins. The belt shudders, drags out,
baiting the ringside crowd, a zippered case.
Soon hands reach like needles drawn to magnets
for similar luggage, browns and blues and blacks.
A lone bright red suitcase goes sailing past.
The procession meanders on to its climax
of things checked in as fragile or outsized:
an over packed valise with strapped on wheels,
held together by parcel string and tape;
a Baluchi carpet-bag jingling its bells;
an umbrella; a cardboard poster-tube;
a folding-chair; some other assorted junk
all labelled with the airline’s barcode tag;
then last of all, a Louis Vuitton trunk
goes to the lady with the matching handbag.
The crowd thins, as a windfall, down to me
and that red suitcase, left on the conveyor.
It isn’t mine. I take it on my trolley,
stroll through Customs, with nothing to declare.
The wind wrestled the city; the insufflation
down closes, knife-cold, snaking through the haar.
That night she was returning from the shops
along the cobbled crescent. The bags she held
suddenly weightless, her arms began to float,
puppet-stringed. She smiled, tiptoed her feet.
Like a leaf whirled up a vortex, she was propelled
on past the moon, to the Pleiades, where she stopped.
Her body, loved by the god, changed to a star,
can still be traced amongst the constellations.
Learn to plug the gap,
Turn off the synapse,
Get the brain to stop whirring.
It’s inspiration I’m feeling.
It’s as if I’m suspended from the ceiling
Looking down on the minute processes
The breathing of my wife
As she’s sleeping,
Not for me right now that state of being,
I’m wide awake,
The mind is an amazing thing,
Even though you may want to control
It’s beyond that control.
Steer me on the right course,
Let me find the right feeling within
Take me to new lands and new modes
Islands of habitation within
A great sea of energy;
Waves never stopping, sometimes calming,
but always potential waiting to be stirred
I can see those waves extending
Into the known universe.
The nearest stars touch my face,
Caress my retina and free my senses.
They are bright beacons, lighthouses,
In an ever shifting and surging ocean.
Retina to occipital lobe,
Occipital lobe to frontal lobe,
Frontal to parietal to temporal
To limbic, hippocampus, hypothalamus,
Reticular formation and Vagus.
Slow down, slow down, slow down.
Calm yourself, you’re only human.
You have to live in this body you know,
You have to live on this earth you know,
You know so well.
Take the Κyβεrpοετica, treasure it,
Make it an electronic extension of
From end to end the blue flame runs,
From the centre to the extremities.
Cardiac plexus. Home.
Begin to move now, move to another place
Where once was bad is now good,
Where once was sadness is now joy,
Where there is respite in an ever
Soon we will wonder why we ever
lost the innocence of childhood.
There will come a natural progression
To an innocent state once more,
Where we feel an extension
And oneness with all nature:
Animals, trees, plants, rocks and
Water flowing like the blood of the Earth
Through deep veins and rock-hewn arteries,
Miles below the surface at great heat
And never seeing the light of day.
Beyond the patio the light drains slowly
from the afternoon’s biblical instruction,
the twins fiercely hurling swears
from their gateway as you passed.
Your grandmother may be upstairs
harbouring a soft tang of disinfectant,
or she may be in the cemetery
that is somewhere close by the church on the hill.
Either way she is cold as the animals
whiskering with frost in the beds
and you shut her from your mind
as forcibly as from that mind you banish Jesus.
You watch The Chronicles of Narnia
and you wait for your dinner
to the radiator’s warm gurgle and click.
Outside, the roses pass singly into the dark.
You! Something like a
shrew as a shrew is depicted
in anatomically incorrect paintings of the past,
but froggish on your high elastic toes.
In the body long and low,
stealing from the thick grass under the perimeter hedge
by the side of the road: a miniature local doghead,
all out of proportion. Your nose twisting to the point
of a corkscrew; your big, Dumbo-defying ears.
The look to you of a century’s weary wisdom.
Mouse mage, reality’s upended cage –
by speed both killed and rendered possible.
The kind of thing we could only purloin at 40 mph
from the cache of a deserted winter’s night.
He’s walking like he’s legged
with blades of scissors –
one sticky hinge at the navel.
Into the road, then out again,
into the road, then out.
The big boom of the radio,
if his ears could smell,
would be raw gas, odourless.
In my – veering – in my sky
blue walnut shell, I pass.
When they come, will the cops
find any person matching up
to my description? If I drove
right into him, would two
bodies collide? All the journey
I’m tortured by the notion
that he must, must have been killed,
stalking crazy in the road like that.
But nothing makes the news
and no-one follows up my call.
till your bones are fear
the other woman is a pergola of cicatrices / as green as new grapevine / the other woman is a cirrus-haired nocturne / a map inked by factory smoke & spiderwebs / is the hand of jeweled verbena / is a mermaid with ribs stacked like quarter-moons/ hunted/ from the warmed mercury of the arabian sea / the other woman is a bathtub full of vintage rum / & purple candlewax / a language carved from smuggled leather / the other woman has eyelids like knife handles / has a tongue that curls around the duende of his red root / as a muscle-memory tourniquet / the other woman leaves here talon-trails / on the chipped alabaster urn of his spine / in an excavation of hieroglyphs / unearthed on a boy pharaoh’s ivory-gold grave /the other woman laughs / in an echo of basilica bells / the other woman laughs / in an anthology of wolfsongs / the other woman climbs into my bed / a mythology of mirrors / the mouth salted raw between her thighs / opening / like the sharpest venus flytrap / the other woman is i / is the eye / is endless
Memories of Baja
Yesterday came like answers on the back of flashcards –
in my pocket, a stick figure drawn on a napkin
with coconut breasts titled ‘ándale Lorena’;
my tongue rolling
against the roof of my mouth
stops the margarita brain freeze;
brothers with ridiculous names
and darkness –
sweating bodies, dancing bodies
bodies like puzzle parts;
a toilet bowl, a saddle blanket
and señor cockroach outstripping my brain.
Mexican tortilla is similar to a Spanish omelet, only bigger –
a sponge of egg whites to rest my head on.
If I stand by the cactus, waving my thumb
I will wilt. This is certain.
Charles and Darwin are outside with a car.
Who the heck are Charles and Darwin?
Peanut butter pretzels are a triumph;
I like the way they crunch in my head,
the way they drown out Darwin's endless chatter
I like the way the land looks starved
tonguing the ocean,
always on the verge of drought.
4th of July
We trade fireworks for lobster on the beach.
Later, we burn the car’s Thorium engine
and dance like children
arms swirling towards the sky.
Charlie’s tongue leaves a snail trail
from my neck to my sternum –
it’s radioactive, he tells me, meaning the fire
but I’m still too invincible to care.
You Imagine A Night In Martinique
You say, ‘Look sun-kissed,
look as though you spent the day
reaping the fields,’
how did you put it –
‘bedroom games are fashionable,
and you do not want to be alternative?’
You take me –
first in your hands,
then in your mouth,
fashioning me into Josephine
à la Créole –
as mindless as a doll’s.
‘Work harder,’ you rasp,
‘the sugarcane will sour
unless you cut it,’
your tongue circling my ear
like a buzzard
perfecting its descent.
I held my breath,
the Kadapul flower
with evening –
in one long
to the curator
as passing clouds;
us water –
we may be here a while –
as if we would wilt
without 8oz a day.
In the space
of her whisper
the blossom opened,
raised its head
A churlish tongue
of fanned pearl,
a spray of pollen
perfumed the air,
a deviant cackle
trailed from sight,
in its wake,
of crumpled silk.
CIVIC PLANNING CLINIC
of Times New Roman barbs,
theories, they all land
in fragmented traffic lights.
The librarian’s face flushes red then green.
satisfies the need
with a finger
the slime feel
from the rim
of the bed side
the kisses of
Claire Lucille Trévien
The Most Comprehensive
For the Clipperton gang
This world does not behave like billiard balls.
We are noisy images
harnessed into cooking rotas.
Our windows shift everyday
from cliffs to sea, to an upturned boat
with shower facilities.
Steadily, we record our ghost towns,
buildings conjured from conversations,
streets swimming in wine.
Some days, the tide runs strongly,
others, we hear three pieces of music
at the same time,
a sea both too flat and too sharp.
Approach with caution. Eat it
drenched with colour speckling
(First published in Astéronymes, Penned in the Margins 2016- reprinted with permission from the author)
[That when we] I never thought [fizzed down these
[a twist in our gurgles,] we’d be ghosting [laughter chasing our feet]
[That the bar we were] the shuffle of weight [locked into, curtains]
[pinned to hide our boozing] dragged out of sight, [bodies from pigs.]
[That we pollinated] and the bar is burning [from seat to seat,]
[with our scraps of cash,] up with art, [That we chased]
[the right fold] assaulted by flowers [in the rock]
[to get rid of the] the specials framed [tongues we didn’t need.]
[‘Shit’, you’d say] by notes [when our
[looked shocked] ... [‘wrong language’]
That I’m racing home,
the streets not [quite] dark enough
with an energy that’s not [quite] mine.
Idle adjuncts sneer from the selvage
of grander spectacles at amused mobs,
a glut of pampered voluptuaries
overdosing on maize, sucrose, and molasses
while ogling at the presently staged array
of idiocies and oddities on offer:
ragamuffins of questionable provenance,
preternaturally tensile contortionists,
the congenitally defective, hideous ogresses
and steroidal strongmen, enflamed jugglers,
manic clowns with inane antics, ludic dyads
engaged in raillery, potboiler routines all around.
Off-duty hours breed resentment not merely
at their contumely but at paltry wages,
meager benefits, limited opportunities
for advancement or professional development.
The tuxedoed sword-swallower, after all, aspires
to exchange his flame-retardant habiliments
for a pediatrician's attire, while the aging midget
still yearns to transcend his habitus to learn the oboe.
Children's smiles suffice for the nonce,
miring veteran players in type-casted roles,
and ten minutes from now they'll appear
in their turn brimful of gusto
before salted popcorn aficionados
and discerning connoisseurs of the freakish,
dutifully delighting in time-honored fashion.
The Graphic Novelist
He toils defiantly, undeterred by criticasters
who label him an unrepentant man-child
at the vanguard of an infantilized generation
collectively mired in interminable nonage,
carefree and inured to the silent threat of time.
As graphomaniac and artist, he painstakingly
sketches and stencils mental imagery
until pads enliven with storylines
and characters generated preternaturally
from a combination of memory, rum,
amphetamines, and sleep deprivation.
He glances around, momentarily affronted
by the spavined condition of his leased loft
now irradiated through the pierced aperture
by the dawning amber glow catching him
red-eyed, disoriented, and stubbly.
For breakfast he sops brownies in black java
and carries on limning his newest hero,
a mysterious eidolon, ethereal and vulpine,
whose principle is the talion and whose
modus operandi takes no prisoners,
particularly when it comes to his arch-nemesis,
the underworld's supercilious demoness.
In just under six months' time,
when pens fall flat and inkwells run dry,
he will reluctantly bathe and groom
then meticulously prepare his handicraft
for submission, anonymously or pseudonymously,
steeling himself for the publishers' critiques
and casual but god-awful suggestions, then,
goaded by guilt, phone his neglected mother.
The Academic's Confession
I'm only admitting this to you because you asked,
it's almost midnight, and that was damn good merlot.
Of course we're frauds; there's no denying it.
We spend all our days engaging in futile chatter
and immaterial inquiries ("research"), poseurs
trafficking in concepts untethered from relevance,
pedlars in abstractions and overly subtle distinctions,
nonsense mongers fixated on the trivial, animated by the petty,
captious quibblers sharpening critical barbs,
staging tensions, qualifying to death, reveling
at regurgitations in unregenerate echo chambers,
hailing logorrheic lunatics ("theorists") as gods,
purloining lingo from more consequential disciplines,
reflexively elongating words to appear more learned,
interrogating everything while believing in nothing,
motivated by the adolescent impulse to flout norms
even though our devious nihilism only hastens us into
murky clouds of thought to choke on our own noxious smoke.
Truth be told, entire departments the world over
consist of little more than pompous impostors
and their pretentious acolytes
hopelessly lost in a mist of their own making.
At best, I can only aspire to the rank of epigone or poetaster;
only six colleagues and my mother read my work, albeit grudgingly.
At one time I yearned to contribute usefully to society,
but navel-gazing proved a more lucrative sinecure.
And don't get me started on tenure, the greatest fellatio I ever had
since that fetching grad student whose theses were also persuasive.
The day they superannuate me to make room for some
four-eyed geek sniffing around for my corner office
is the day I bid adieu to the greatest gig I could have ever contrived.
Come morning, you must forget everything I said or else
I'll quash your grant applications, fail you on your candidacy exams,
and slander you throughout the field. Clout's a bitch, ain't it?
It can’t be as simple
as stupid people say it is
or as vindictive
as cruel people say.
Those who need to talk
about it most
seem completely unhinged.
They knock on my door
and then act as if
every sun-brushed corner
of existence is theirs.
They act as if I knocked
on their door,
as if they alone can offer
shelter and hot cocoa
until a black and white
squad car arrives
to take our statements.
They don’t seem to know
that their pamphlets are hideous
and don’t seem to share
my concerns about dying
or learning this world
well enough to craft
ink and paper into little
squares so intricate,
full of such lively dreams,
that anyone would be happy
to spend eternity lost
within those boxes.
The Bedside Book of Avant-Jazz
City street on a handkerchief.
Maybe an eerie green button.
That false promise of legs
softened and secrets
that slowly twist the flame.
Sun Ra at the electric piano
wearing our solar system
as a crown,
music’s future artifacts.
The notes go backwards and forward.
Handkerchief in the street.
Day becoming more remote
low-riders and scraping.
Lois Lane drags
her All-American alien boy
onto the dance floor
as the Glenn Miller Orchestra
plays “Moonlight Serenade,”
but what of the melodies
What music spins
in Lex Luther’s head?
excluded chunks of green and blue
sewage and space
On an alligator shoe.
Is just as bad.
Just as badass.
The Third men
I follow dead men to the picture house.
The once-plush velvet chairs now occupied
by private eyes, shamed by malpractice,
by South Pacific veterans, deserters still in
shore leave whites, and life insurance investigators
forced out by legislation. They’re here to watch
their films noir. They light electric cigarettes.
But this afternoon their attitudes,
their dubious morality that no amount
of drink restrained, their incorrigible silence
troubles the modern audience who have
come here to escape with their sodas
and their popcorn from the ethical impasse
of their intellectually unrequited lives.
And although there’s half a century
and the Atlantic separating us, I can’t help
but identify with these outcast pessimists,
doomed in every future, unacknowledged
poets who have forced open the manhole
to the sewers to investigate the darkness
where their shadows roam without indemnity.
Discourse on Noir
The diner smells of black and white, of gasoline
and smoke: detectives, salesmen, veterans,
woman-haters. Men. Marie reads to read and dreams
of reading the contours of the highway’s page,
indents in tar, potholes in words, where the key
has been struck a little too hard and the letter
has burst through the paper; a bullet through the heart.
But Marie, there’s no hope of leaving here, unless,
that is, you believe in noir, and any minute
a man might walk straight in from a bus ride west
to sweep you with his dead-eye stare, and like all
good men according to the rule of 1940s film,
convince you of your worth, lend muscle to your idea:
slay your husband, the nameless chef, and take you
far away from here. A woman’s work is murder.
And say it plays out like you’ve read it, you
and he holed up in a motel beyond the county line,
the red O of its neon sign on the blink to shed
a little shadow on your otherwise success,
as an engine cuts in the parking lot, its door
shut with just a hint of pessimistic fatalism,
and a figure appears in silhouette, grown backlit
from some desert moon at the room’s blind,
room: triple six. Is this your considered present?
Or rather, is it his? His past, come from east to west,
to collect what he by rights never should have owned
or never even knew he did, his life, your kiss of death.
The Eleven Percent
I know that eighty-nine percent of Wilder’s
Double Indemnity unfolds in a flashback,
that Walter Neff is only given eleven percent
to sort affairs, and think towards the present.
What ratio of my life is spent in recollection?
I’ve cooked the books since childhood
to calculate the times I’ve prised the lid
from the old Roses tin, or started the red-book
conversation: this my life laid out in stanzas,
flashbacks to my other selves through steam
from ovens, kettles, plumes of breath
in gardens, fields, and smoke, pre-ban, in pubs.
Like Neff, I leave my typed confession
to know I’m done with before, with the ghost.
Stay for the lock-in, drink out your liver,
commune with the ages through empties,
I’ll slip out the back-way, unnoticed. From here
on it’s me and only me, and my percentage.
Sade Andria Zabala
FOR ALL THE GIRLS WITH MESSY HEARTS
be honest here –
I am not the girl men fall in love with.
I am the girl that men want to fuck.
I am a conquest. A prize. A show.
I could count on five hundred fingers
the number of people that have professed,
“I like you. You’re different. You’re an interesting girl.”
Apparently I’m not fascinating enough for you
to want to hold for more than a one-night stand.
as I finished swimming a sea of blankets
and got left stranded on the shore,
I asked myself:
What’s wrong with me?
What am I doing?
Am I not good enough for anybody?
And right before I could drown again,
the sun woke up and said,
You are enough.
Forget the men whose hands have groped your hips
in search for answers to questions
you’ve never even heard of.
Do not settle for people who do not appreciate you,
who do not know how lucky they are.
Remember it is a privilege to be loved by you,
or even just
to be touched by you, and
the warmth of another body does not define your worth.
These men –
they think that they can own you
with their drunken stares and roughened arms, but
I have circled the earth
a thousand times
to feed the light flowing inside your skin.
Do not waste it by illuminating those who
can not even be bothered
to learn your last name.”
So that night when
the moon tried once more to pin me down,
I told him:
I am made of sunlight, crashing waves, and fireworks.
You think you can tame me
and cool my flesh?
I am the girl who plays with matches,
and trust me I play it well.
Lord knows I’ve walked through villages leaving
a pile of destruction in my wake.
My heart is a bushfire
and the next time you try to control me,
darling, make no mistake –
I will burst out and ravage you in flames.
(This isn’t a test.)
9 WONDERS OF THE WORLD
years ago a cosmic collision
gave birth to a child of the stars and
somehow after siren songs we discovered
the wonder of your body next to mine.
as your lips play snakes and ladders
down my chest, and this is a miracle.
I breathe summer into you,
and this is a miracle.
You stay despite the fog,
and this is a miracle.
You leave and I wait, and I wait,
and THAT is a fucking miracle.
You come home to me for fifty-five days.
Every time you open the door
my heart goes
Do do-do da-do,
Do do-do da-do-do!
IV. When I had you I had the sunlight on my fingertips.
drew portraits in the sky
and spat in the face of anyone
who told us we couldn’t be gods.
pull the moon and I feel it sink
its teeth until my body cracks.
am a firecracker banging against the cage of your ribs.
You fill me with such light they see
the sunset bleeding out of me.
put daydreams in your eyes and
in turn you show me seawater and nebulae.
skin, it tastes like the edge of a galaxy.
The earth, it spins for you, my love.
mind is springtime for all seasons;
your room, a bed of roses blue.
We time-travel and three months seem like a year.
We were on the precipice of something great.
cascade down my back like waterfalls.
You look at me and I am all
shivers, and want, and yes, yes, yes.
IX. You leave. There is no darkness.
is music and I am dancing
to the ring of your laughter in
another lifetime. Can you hear it yet?
I am okay.
'tell me every terrible thing you ever did and let me love you anyway'
Become The Rain
When I’m sad I’m going to die,
or I’m worried about bombs
and things bigger than myself,
when the strobe lights and the late nights
get too loud
and I have lost myself
I get in the shower.
I’m too tall
for every bath I’ve stretched out in.
Too much made of elbows
and pink, bare skin that I don’t like
to look at.
But I can let the steam soak my mind free
from all that grit and glitter,
all the flirting and flittering,
all the fast pace, heavy bass
“I’m so off my face” neon nights,
and all that city smoke.
I can let the sticky whiskey kisses
and all those pointless conversations
Burn off bad decisions
with the strong-smelling perfumes
The best water
can be found in secret pools.
Not like that big, brash ocean
that waltzes with the world,
and swallowing sailors.
I’m too small
for every sea I’ve stretched out in.
Too much made of bones that break
But I can let the tide lead
and carry me, like I’m blossom
on a breeze.
I am lighter
in the rhythm of the waves
and its consoling to know
that my crying, may,
become the rain
that I use to start again.
No, the best water
can be found in those secret pools
Framed by untrodden tanglewood,
warm light and witchcraft.
Those pools where insects fly
just above the surface,
carrying the sun on their backs.
Here, the water hurries
over warm stones, or sits
quiet and content.
Its cold when you jump in,
knocks all the train journeys
and television from you.
Here, it is all green and golden
and I am the perfect size.
It Was Summer Outside
we were in bed.
You still had your shoes on,
all lazy and stoned and laughing.
We were listening to an audio tape
That day was fresh,
and new and we were too
and we were so excited.
We were women
and women were
We were the new craze.
And there was so much
still to find out,
out of my mind on love
for that room
and that moment
and that you.
You were sat up,
talking about feminism.
Slurring on your slow words.
I always liked your face,
and full of mischief.
Small and blonde
and your eyes so blue
The audio tape was talking
about pubic hair,
“do you shave down there?”
that sort of thing, but,
we had decided
that we didn’t fucking care.
It was a revelation,
to talk about sex
and women’s rights
and broken boys
and … wanking
It was summer outside,
and we were going to change the world.
It was summer outside
and we were cocaine,
and you were electric,
and I was a feminist
and your eyes were blue
and hey, look, mine are too
We were going to move in together
and live like this always.
all cheese-cloth and opinions.
Sexy to be strident
Manu Chao on the radio
I’d be dancing in a dressing gown.
A waterfall of tangled hair
down my back
I’d be beautiful.
You’d be smoking on the sofa.
It wasn’t Paris,
but we’d pretend it was.
We’d drink whiskey
make friends with the old men in pubs
who had stories to tell.
We’d find new ways to get in trouble,
play dress up,
fuck pretty people
and go on walks on Sundays,
when I wasn’t working in the bookshop
or working on this writing thing.
‘Cos we were young women,
and that was so exciting.
Please Excuse Me
Please excuse me
for I am not myself, you see.
You should see the real me.
She is cool-legged and cruel
and drinks too much coffee
outside bars in market squares, where
sunshine rests in empty mugs
and music plays.
Oh, you should see the real me.
See her when she’s sitting there,
she does not curl fern fingers
round elbows, or wrap up in herself.
Rather she unfolds, as ivy does.
Fingertips tapping the table
searching for cigarettes,
she lets careless words trip down her tongue
to be caught and, like butterflies,
pinned to paper.
The real me is a muse,
both painter and painted,
She smiles and smokes and sings
She leaves an impression, a bruise
like ink. Like footsteps in the snow
both cold and delicate.
Not melting, more
So no, not white as snow.
Not innocent, more
blood-red lips and opal eyes.
and more endless.
The better me is thinner,
and will grab your waist and whisper,
and then suddenly,
Moved on by the fish-hook moon
that guides her tide.
I magpie, a stealer of shine
but she’s not one for sorrow,
just a borrower of light.
So, please excuse me,
for I am not myself, you see?
You should see the real me,
she is lighter and more rhythmic.
I am pinned in place
by meat, and pain
and good intentions.
There are lies laced in to the lines around my eyes
and they are less like kaleidoscopes.
So, she is the better me.
Not so much human-shaped, more siren.
Not so much flesh, more air.
Not so much care, more
moving on through memory
as a wicked woman,
with brilliant mind and filthy mouth
that you think of fondly
from time to time.
So, please excuse me,
for I am not myself, you see?
Not quite the self I’d like to be.
Wrestling the Everywhere Angel
You, who I don’t command,
can’t outsmart, won’t outlast
Stern parent, disobedient child,
enemy and enemy of my enemy
Dream so strong I must
work myself into a real frenzy
just to call it strange
Space and time are intertwined
and isn’t always very kind
The consolidated father of obstacles,
for reasons inadequately or too-exhaustively explained,
disapproves, and so has removed much of the control
to which I feel entitled from my hands
And so each day promises
a death as uncertain as life itself
You, who I meet at the boundary of fortune and my will,
where unreliable ones warn of a perverse, subtle communication,
where the rules fade to rumors,
Where new rooms and strange abilities abound,
never a surprise so much as something mildly forgotten
and instantaneously recalled,
like reality, like the Kingdom of Heaven
Enough to Live
I went into the tunnel of drunk
exploring a wound
because the wound
was the only thing that gleamed.
I think I hear things no one says,
they are really saying phone numbers
and yeah and really.
In the air, I hear: “I didn’t want to drink,
but to descend on an amber rope of whiskey
into the cavern of my own heart and shout
until I was torn apart by the echo.”
But it was probably just a sprained complaint
that things are not like they used to be
or that people are not as they seem.
Phone numbers, really—questioning and emphatic.
Floor to ceiling—ghosts floating through ghosts.
I needed an answer so badly
that it was there more than anything.
Where equilibrium is impossible.
Gleaming like a wound.
Just past the ditch and rampart of oblivion.
I ran to it, singing the revelation of it:
I may hate life
A Fractured Rapture
Maybe when a part of me dies,
it goes to heaven.
Tonight, that part, which fought every inch,
fought every moment, fought every fantasy
and fought every fact,
is at rest so blissfully.
The rest of me has only a bar before
and a breeze behind.
Every new sensation
only makes me happier.
Telling the bartender thank you,
that’s all these songs are.
Am I alive, you ask me and yourself
gazing into the water the face the underbelly.
Am I aware: plaque of white froth
revolving under the bridge, flat and articulate
lace, plate of rowan blossom, every
petal of its huge flowerhead pearled foam.
Air swallows water in vast invisible
drafts where mist boils up from rocks,
a cross-section of rainbow haunts the air
where I seethe, veined and glassy, leaf-dark, viscous
boiling like jelly, green-white a molten
jade fractious to its depth with bubbles.
After rain roads turn
to rivers, paths are becks,
all of them feeding a fury.
Light clears to the raucous chime of a pheasant.
The wren finds its slit in the wall.
At twilight owls toss hoots like weightless
streams of blue glass bubbles
from one limb
of the forest to another. Timeless I hurl myself
into the stone, the one
who gathered me whom I carved
slid over pierced broke myself against, a gendering
ancient and shattered beyond what flesh conceives.
Funny how death arrives. So quiet sometimes
like an echo that’s taken years to reach us,
or light from a star already burned away.
Finding you died four years ago, Bert Jansch, I feel it
mostly here in my hands. For it was they –
fingers, wrists, thumbs – pressing, picking,
stretching the string that little bit to get the bend of the note –
that knew you best, when I sat on St Ives
harbour, age seventeen, playing ‘Needle of Death’
or tried at home to sort out the blizzard of notes
in ‘The Waggoner’. I haven’t touched a guitar
for thirty years. But still find one in my hands
occasionally in dreams, and myself still
moulding the music, as if out of cloud or play-dough.
That’s from you, Bert. The hand I write with now
would be differently-muscled, just slightly,
had your music not been there. My left fingertips
softer, less spatulate. Now you’re gone,
and knowing it, I become different too.
I’m an onion (we all are); and one of my layers is you.
peel back the pink skin –
smearing pink jelly.
stone from cup.
The needled tree shivers.
The red cup is sweet,
you have been told.
It sticks to your thumb.
Taste the fruit, taste it –
a reluctant faint sweetness.
Taste it, taste it.
You have been told.
Note: The fruit of the yew is not a berry but an aril. Only the hard seed at its centre is poisonous.
It would have, unrolled, a small book’s
surface area. My first was a gift
from the man at the next table
of the pavement café at the Hotel Inglaterra.
He worked, he said,
at the Partagás factory, where they read
the newspaper aloud all morning,
and in the afternoon novels and poetry
while, adept as conjurers’,
the workers’ hands rip, stuff and wrap. More words
went into it than I shall ever draw out.
The tobacco-god is a bird with scarlet plumage
and mother-of-pearl eyes. His four
attendants are the green
spirit of the fresh leaf, the brown of the dried,
the red spirit of fire and the blue of smoke.
The red visits only for flaring instants;
is fickle, demands nurture. The green
is memory and imagination. The blue
is a girl dressed in feathers: lapis, lavender, sky.
When she kisses
her tongue is sharp as seabrine, chocolate, chilli.
She says the word tabaco is Carib,
from a language whose last speaker
has been dead four hundred years. But the brown
lives in my hand this moment, brittle
and crisp as a chrysalis. Filtered
through his crushed spirals,
molecular poems thread themselves
into my genes, become part of the air I breathe,
the words I speak. Both of us end in ash.
Apple-red, streaked and speckled apple-gold:
poma granata , ‘the grained apple’, fruit
that’s mined and faceted with grains of ruby.
Garnet, your favourite stone: Latin granatum,
from the pomegranate, whose seed it much resembles.
So the names coil round upon themselves.
Like a small bomb: grenade, Spanish granada,
a pomegranate. The fuse, the flower, has gone:
at the serrated neck a brown dry powder.
All Hallows’ Eve tonight. I watch you slice
through the red ventricles, crushing out pink juice
to eat with chicken in the early dark.
Your knife blade bleared the colour of a winter
sunset, you discard the leathery membranes.
Feed me a few seeds from dripping fingers.
(these poems are re-published with permission from the author- selected from Rebecca's first full collection Beauty/Beauty Bloodaxe, 2015).
Give Yourself A Slap
Larkin said it was mum and dad
Beauvoir said it was men
Miller blamed unrealistic aspirations
Hemingway whined about war
Salinger said it was society
Everybody blames someone else
Just accept it’s you.
You are the Arsehole
Poetry is full of hate and sadness
You shouldn't read it.
It’s written by narcissists
With too much shit to say.
Between mouthfuls of beetroot and carrot salad
she tells me how she takes each day as it comes,
and how this time last year she was at The Tate,
standing beside the suspended shark preserved
in a tank of formaldehyde, the piece that’s titled:
The Physical Impossibility of Death
In The Mind of Someone Living
by Damien Hirst (who she’s not overly keen on
to begin with), when she got the call on her phone
from the hospital; and how she thought, at first
it was about her Aunt, who she knew was poorly,
but was swallowed up in one leviathan gulp
when they told her it was her son laid upon
the table and they couldn't wait to operate.
Such Is Life, Then it’s Not
After the morning’s rain
no one expected miracles
nor imminent Armageddon,
most were pegging hopes
on a sunny Bank Holiday
so it caused more than a casual
double-take when Sam
in the corner of Centre Square
beside the library
a patch of scorched pavement
and a singed tatter of coat
coiled in the gutter
and a sulphur smell that clawed
at the back of the throat
as shock rippled out
from the spot in waves
from where she’d stood
just a moment ago –
had she been arguing on her phone
her hand shaking with rage
lips drawn into a snarl
at the unfairness of it all
had she been laughing at a joke
she heard or she had just recalled
from last night’s staff party
to celebrate The Queen’s Award?
before the flash?
Meifen Jeung posed for a photo
by the fountain, smiling at Ling
who squatted to catch a low angle
neither noticed anything
Mildred in the bus stop
expecting number 17
said she heard a sound
like a zipper, a lift door closing
saw a flash reflected in Perspex
felt the palm of a wind pat her back
The mayor, plant potting
a small housing estate
on the green belt
spotted nothing untoward
from his window of the Town Hall
No one filmed it -
The cctv cut out -
said it was the return
of the fugitive gods
to mark a turning
the end of time
“this destitute time!”
“this destitute time!”
Others spoke of a suicide bomb
But here? But Sam?
This wasn't Syria or Afghanistan
But our enemies are everywhere:
“We could hijack this tragedy
for our very own agenda?”
They circled, at a distance,
the black spot of absence
made mindful of their presence
by a quick police cordon -
yellow tape marking
the edge of this new abyss
drawing mortals to it
like moths to the glow
of a window at midnight
public gawpers and reporters
on sweet speculation
the sunny bank holiday
swallowed the sound
Sam, in her absence
became a sign
that things just
weren't quite right
She wasn't the first
She won’t be the last
freed from attachment
to the photographic self
spreading Valkyrie wings
to drift into the light.
From the Musical Instrument Museum, Berlin
(especially a violin made by Jakob Stainer in 1654)
A build-up of heat all week, and now
darkness accumulates above the Tiergarten.
A sprinkler flings, whirls, and flings its plume
over the dry lawns while, in my headphones,
Sol Babitz plays, on this very violin
in the display-case, the presto
from Bach's sonata in G minor.
Sol, Jakob, and Johann Sebastian
are playing an orchard:
bird's eye maple, pear, and walnut
rise and ramify in twigs of light;
arpeggios glitter with prefigured rain
and in the garden, thunder prowls
through patterns of lindenbloom and leaves;
between the rainbow chords, those triple
or quadruple stops, I hear the grass grow
while wind bows the branches, and birds
dive for cover like black notes on the stave.
A man comes running out to tug the hose
inside. Sprinkler and violin die
as rain spots the stones then drums
fortissimo on the glass roof.
… – no, more blue than that:
like tatters of the Morpho butterfly.
Elizabeth Bishop: 'Under the Window. Ouro Prêto'
My grandfather, a hard-up rating, brought
daubed and lurid souvenir of Rio
home from the war: done with childish brio,
a Sugar Loaf on dark horizon caught
in crusted paint on glass. It seems the war
has got into the sunset, for red bleeds
all over the bay, so each wave wears
a stained feather, while palm trees lean and feed
on tainted dreams of Eldorado. Stare
at sky and ocean: where have you seen a blue
like this? Think azure silk; think angels' wings:
great Morphos that once fanned the tropic air
lie pressed in petalled rows; sad residue
of beauty among dregs of family things.
black is the new black
(from Monochrome Attic)
This loss of light—of appetite: long
gone the taste for blood, for blood
orange, for juices roaring red diatribes
down chin. With blacktooth eyes
I gnaw the din of bone-dead jitters,
locked in this box by a jailor who shares
my name. The trees have garnered
a gallows glow, here in woods
where once we hung our new skeletons
out to dry. You are still the throb,
racing the crimson capillaries of Earth’s
insatiable curve, while in my blackout
glasses, I am the sound of footsteps
receding: tiny echo
that beats in Zero’s hollow heart.
After the Burning Bush, the First Firefly of Summer
I'm in no hurry, what with lightning-bug text messages,
wobbly bricks in the Willimantic sidewalk, spilling moon
or glass or fragrant You-Know-Who at a party.
God be in my head, the fence ablaze; your name
doesn’t matter. The years I begged to dig holes
as a way of working through you. I am proud
to share my candy corn with other kids like me.
One should have the appropriate head: orange lilies,
my co-star cast against type this time, and dangerous:
the cold, cold syllables like ripples on black water.
And then I sprang from the yellow taxi, the driver
with the checkered past fuming with a light
corrosive breath, a half-molten microwave beef
and bean burrito in the coagulated Connecticut heat.
There is also a dark district where one may
do whatever she tells me, and don’t ask questions.
Behind the barn, behind the gingerbread yurt, sex,
and the city schematically conveyed. Tender ones!
You jam love on pawnshop Stratocasters.
I’ll mock you until I’ve had enough, like a drunk
sergeant singing in bed. Not sin, but satisfaction
at first light. I would want a copy of that photograph!
Is this happening? Or is it a mirage of parachutes
and pretty sex, precise as brushstrokes after a six-pack.
A pomegranate. A red, red pickup truck. People say
I’m killing myself falling into my own aortal puddle,
but they can’t see You-Know-Who and me, the volcanic
sunset, the red night clouds. One of us dreams of water,
one of us wears pajamas made of fire.
Fragmentary Egyptian Papyrus
…she is/(you are?) there '(then/thereupon)... Say:… ‘Tomorrow’.
She will say: ‘Where?’… Say: … (Poet will say) ‘Where is …?
(Say): ‘Tomorrow… immobile like (…/the) astronaut about to break
through the atmosphere’… (Say): ‘… ‘heavenly…’ (She will say):
‘this (has?) four tassels… a red border,’ He will say, ‘… has it been
wrapped... ’ (He will say): ‘(‘How?)… did you receive/inherit?'
Say: 'In a panic. She will say (you are): '…breaking up
in the mesosphere, fine like linen on the washing line.’
I don’t know where to begin. Poet visited all the places
I visited. Listed all the books I read by 2.42 am.
Sleep won’t come. The hours are mountains.
Mountain hours don’t grieve. Hindemith taught me that.
All my life I didn’t know what to do. Now I don’t know
what to do runs across the page as we run together
pink orange violet the Alps sea urchins x-rays crampons
touch don’t touch the world stops and starts with fireflies.
I am told to raise both arms. I raise both arms.
Not a single cell the same as seven years ago.
If every single cell renews itself why would it still be
—stand still please— still be me?
Certainties, white lies, a bottle of shampoo.
I stand naked like a Neolithic jar.
Anxious jealousies, boarding pass:
the examined life is short-lived tyranny.
Is it a seed or is it a tiny spider?
Poet discovers a seed dangling from a hair caught
between the top of page 48/49 in James Schuyler’s
Collected Poems. Either that or it is a shrivelled spider
“naked beside a black polluted stream.”
Poet was reading ‘A Grave’ which starts
“While we who wished to help stood helplessly by.”
Today I have faith in the invisible
in the fragility of time and in multiple division.
Her shoulders lifted men from their sleep,
boys from their borderlands.
Neither human nor loving creatures
their hands bled an oblique path
for her to burn through,
to bury her skies – part her thighs
and let the soot-rained wet
slip like oil rings over feverish grass.
It was their constant confession.
What they loved was cancer, what they dragged
they hated and loved as their mothers,
the doctrine of the stoop
labouring under her big wheel
their torches were moon heads
her worm heads. At dawn
the sky divided
her return brought the sky-chain ringing
people singing in droves
dragging her blowtorch godhead.
Were she to have stood /
on her hind legs
the sky would have dipped forward.
Were the sky to have dipped
she would have clambered between stars
to cradle the cycle of their star-work.
But being Black, and of the Country
she ploughed low. Lifted the belly of her coal
to her back, and with the weight
When men came away
they dropped to their knees and prayed.
The moon is a high engine
the slow migrant dust, black night
drags its slow migrant workers.
Two strikes of the match
ignite the screaming sky,
loose trees flare, hang between this world
and my bed –
our mouths are steering upwards.
We are only partially aware
of how deeply
this place rocks
how dry the dust, black night
how luminous our river.
Our hands move their smiles
over each other’s landscapes –
Where is our guide?
The moon turns our eyes in her glass
she is envious of our wheel,
its almost silent turn,
our blind sale gasping and rolling
through ligatures of dark.
We know who we are – the moon
hangs a shell, our lamp
and is afraid. She knows our faces
are only the beginning.
You know how things get when hope springs external
to the expired parking meter moaning like a trombone
once the mongrel packs have curled in alleyways
and dozed off. You know what it is to be
cut in half by a fruit fly while standing
in a vacant bocce ball court, that sly fly
using you as an experiment. Your unique
perspective on the Gettysburg Address liberating
because you once emigrated to Treasure Island
and peered over Gauguin’s shoulder while
he painted Tahitian women in shades of tanzanite
and Sunday morning. You drive precisely
as directed, down a one way boulevard,
abiding traffic signals. You find the math
compelling, checkbook meticulously balanced.
Whistling sweetly, you enlist Morpheus
by working overtime in the museum of dreams.
In your rational mind you automatically luminesce
wherever a meteor makes an impact.
You manage to squeeze the most from pollens,
frog ponds, Alpine peaks and fabulous canyons.
You maintain solid state construction despite
rank commercialism and bouts of hives.
Your inner driver the intuitive wisdom behind
the wheel of vision that steers as well as
plants you, while it roves and shimmies along
an amorphous, endless and roundabout track.
The Emperor of Monterey
If I were an emperor why would I rule? Over what domain
and for whose purpose? Would my ego confirm who I am?
Or would I merely be storm surge in eternity’s wake? And
which of the erstwhile anointed rulers would I emulate?
Emperor Norton? who proclaimed supremacy over all of
San Francisco. This despite the fact he was a fruitcake,
swaggering down the streets with his admiral’s hat,
rapier fixed to his side and babbling incoherently
at flummoxed pedestrians. Maybe Kennedy? who sacked
the modern Camelot when he admitted to Jackie that
he had made it with Marilyn. Perhaps Jesus? king of Jews,
nailed to a cross and crying out, inquiring why his God
had forsaken him. Saddam Hussein? hanged, his women,
blood oil and grand palaces swirling down the drain of
history. Napoleon? conqueror of a continent, his gut
bloated, alone on a sweaty island, in agony, dying from
rat poisoning. Beethoven? deaf, in conflict with himself,
conducting the Ninth Symphony, completely delirious.
Or Louis? who bankrupted a country to build the most
opulent Versailles, fulfilling big fantasies, but in the end
losing consciousness by way of an unforgiving guillotine.
Descartes appropriately declared “I think therefore I am.”
My corollary is that anything I think is assuredly real.
If I dreamt I was Napoleon’s aide-de-camp when he brushed
the pope aside and crowned himself, this is just as factual
as the rising sun that decimated the Japanese at Hiroshima.
Considering such undeniable realities, one must be sensible,
consider what it is to be be a true emperor, claim territory,
and develop some parameters, parameters to be met
without the larceny that follows popular assent like fog.
The first parameter set must be within context of the fact
that time and space and place don’t coexist. Never have and
never will. And it’s folly to think that credentials, much less
accomplishment have any significance in the celestial rubric.
For anything gained is immediately lost except in the rear view
mirror of an unfortunate, misinformed audience. Harbor seals
that vie for supremacy atop a rubber buoy, seals that dip
and leap around the buoy, darting at the one seated atop it,
trying to knock it off while faint, colored warning lights
blink at the harbor’s brink, will only trade places in accordance
to what consequences their fates demand. So any supremacy
mustn’t be taken as something akin to permanent domination.
If I were to simply declare myself emperor of Monterey, who
would have the authority to disprove it? What mad clashing
of sabers, blare of harrowing sirens, boos, tossing of eggs
or jeers could demote me with a crown of sharpest thorns?
And who would be necessary to enlist in defense of my claim?
Keats need to be summoned, nightingale on his shoulder,
to ferry me like Charon across some imagined river Styx?
Would father Hopkins high up there in heaven volunteer
to visit my soul with the windhover in tow? Would Frost,
less obnoxious than usual, grant me passage over the road
less traveled? Would Eliot dress me up as Prufrock, blindfold
me, twirl me around then send me ambling without assistance
of a seeing eye dog down a crowded Alvarado Street?
Would Ovid alive as a fertile ovary act as a guide through
an uncharted galaxy in search of Homer’s nebulous grave?
Would Steinbeck and Jeffers, raised like Lazarus from
the dead, declare me their heir before the screeching mob?
Dylan said the answer is blowing in the wind. I buy that.
But if so, whose wind, and toward what unknown portal?
The lasting impression that is stamped in the sand on
the beach where a bonfire glows and teenagers roast delicious
marshmallows, that shall be the latent legacy of the foremost
unsubstantiated emperor of Monterey, as he defines himself
with every word uttered, every step taken, each thought
released as long as there is identifiable ground to be gained.
I hold my husband in plastic bags.
He’s whispering like a soft, worn thing,
Drop me here, drop me gently.
Everything is terribly light — incense,
ash, the thinness of his voice falling
into waves, disappearing.
The sea picks up my life,
empties it across itself.
I see it spilling over, dissolving.
Here are the forgotten parts —
A pink night sky, broken bangles,
a fisherman walking away from the light.
There you are, held up with wind and sails.
If you would turn, you would hear me say,
Come back, my arms ache from all the carrying.
Underneath, you’re lost in a place
where everything is scraped together
and nothing is thrown back.
You sink. Colours dissolve.
You move hair from your forehead,
salt from your eyes. You’re left with greys —
calling out to me, bubbles
instead of words. It is a silent death:
one I feel before it happens.
Was there a child then? The child I could not have?
With hair that shakes and shines as though a sun
were gleaming under her roots. I want to stroke her.
Lean over and touch her. Come here, let me hold you.
I want only daughters — a thick rope of black
around her neck. She calls; the beginning of your name.
If I were really a mother, I would do it quick
and painless, out of love. Take the hair —
twist, yank, drop; tilt her over like a bag of sand.
It would be done then. There would be less
to clean up. She will never be like me.
The death of her child will kill her.
If you must collect pictures, take them
when I’m looking away. Here’s a beach again —
the nets spread on the sand drying,
A fish in the corner slapping its tail.
Nothing matters then,
We’ll meet when we’re warm and dry.
Take this picture — my shoulders, the bone,
the shine, the criss-cross of white straps.
I’m eight-years-old, running into the sea.
Run in, my mother says, Go on then naked girl.
Nobody cares, nobody’s watching.
The sea pulls me in around the ankles,
grabs the sand from underneath, shows me
a glimpse of my life, what it will be like later.
It was all calm once, long ago, a teardrop
between apartment buildings. But here in my life;
Hiss hiss. This one is no good.
This one doesn't love you.
This one doesn't know what you need.
Leave, let go, stop.
The frothy fingers at my throat,
the voice pouring into me,
a terrace of vanishing blue.
You will leave this one.
You will leave this place.
For a while you will know nothing.
Love in Carlisle
Girls were crying yesterday in their ball gowns;
holding each other up like poles of wilted beanstalks.
I wanted to carry them into the streets.
To the unused railroad track in the middle of town,
unwrap the past and lay before them
a fragile girl I once knew, walking towards love
in a thin, determined way. That she should live here too —
in this town of carefully-guarded houses
and old ladies in rocking chairs
in fake pearls and printed button-down dresses.
Girls are crying in their ball gowns and boys
are holding them up and taking them to the streets,
to warehouses or backs of deserted pick-up trucks.
A troubadour waits on a wooden porch
for the faultless girl, to speak her name,
undress her, give noise to her that is new and violent.
The old ladies form a line and hold photographs
against their faces where the skin used to be unbroken.
They step out from their dresses and kick off their shoes,
cross over the barren tracks in their solitary dance.
Therapeutic Support Staff
Recon mission: listening outside
a closed door. The new TSS
asks my son questions in monotone.
He answers intermittently. She sighs
frustration. The angel has left,
the therapist she is attempting to replace.
They always go on
to bigger better things, countries
as far as Australia, grad school, jobs
with benefits, their own
children. Elsewhere. My son
never seems to notice an absence,
just a new name to learn, a new face
to touch. New Girl isn't smiling. I can
tell from my sniper’s position in the hall.
Audible anger. Hers. But he is losing
patience with her
lack of. I do not know how
I know this but I do. I tune in,
and what I hear: silence. I am
listening like my life depends on hearing
Where do you
see yourself in 20 years? (Writing
prompt for first graders). The teacher,
blonde, mid-twenties, blonde,
provided some suggestion for props
for corresponding photo.
For girls: dresses, high heels, baby dolls.
For boys: dress shirts, ties, briefcases.
The teacher’s ignorance incited
a rightful rage in my kitchen where I vowed
to send my son in drag, holding a baby
to his breast. I pinned the note to the fridge
as a reminder. The exaggerated curls
of the font, probably comic sans, perfectly
articulated her gender-encoded message.
Who needs correct grammar (or punctuation)
and equal rights when you have a baby
and high heels to contend with?
Little God, What News?
From Little God, What News?
After the nightmare, little god
(three times I was immersed in it –
slept and woke and slept and woke
and slept again) here you are,
but further off and quivering
like the high leaves on a tall tree.
Could you have threaded into it
that silver, hopeful strand:
‘This isn't really happening’?
The dread of being ill-prepared.
The horror of inspection.
like me, in fact, you don’t give up –
beak-like you tear
at the ligaments of the dream.
Little god, your sun sleeps
beneath the eyelid of the day.
Intent on waking it
the twin dogs
of the past and future
rush in from the heathland,
can’t stop leaping up.
No one can restrain them –
their enthusiasm, their ferocity.
Little god, a wordless word
could raise the eyelid of the day.
A frog squirms at the side of the field,
a dusty frog with a red gash on its back.
I daren’t put it out of its misery.
Little god, the surprise of its blood!
I thought there were so many colours -
and now I'm convinced
there are only two.
Red is for life and boldness,
everything else is grey.
A deep-sea swirl held in glass,
curling plants smooth as eels
and masses of tiny bubble specks.
What use are you to me, little god
submerged in the water-weed? A fin
moving through pale cool green.
Little god, in the frostfire of an iris
in the gunshot of a pupil
in an eye behind an eye
a miniature world is spinning.
What news from it?
What makes it turn and turn again
far far away?
An unexpected thing
like memory with its thirst for detail.
(three of these poems were published in Critical Muslim)
BEFORE THE STORM
At no age at all you've started to feel
how a life gets mired in memories,
the way each backward glance
is like a noose that tightens.
Across flat versts of muddled terrain
your distant city glimmers –
reduced to a few bright rooms
where you were first indulged
and then became accomplished.
Working through grammars
and the language of flowers,
your music opened
at some tricksome bagatelle.
Each week the house would echo
to the rites of the samovar,
the clack of heels on a floor...
But in this straggling barracks town
which you must now endure,
accepting the slavishness
of the overlooked, the weary,
you hear at night the cries of wolves
through birches, can sense
their luminous eyes,
their restless, circling hunger.
On Cleethorpes beach the tide is out,
where gulls dispute their stretch
of puddled sand: a paradigm to taunt me
as they snatch what gain they can,
their broken cries a colloquy
that's tough and unforgiving,
while against each blast that freights them
I hug my collar closer. Optimism –
It's like a string of toytown lights,
bulbs that vie
with the elements' big effects.
Madness like Medicine
I have waited for you
in the hours before the bursting dawn,
smelt your metamorphosis in the
open refrigerator, while you slept,
knowing nothing of your own power,
blistering, erecting through the sheets -
flesh crying out, laying over a door that will not open,
a door that gleams like a set of false teeth, with an
unattainable aura - gleaming Venus with plump
breasts and a lustful smile or Zeus with his absolute
authority, dominating your backside, your frontside, even
the interior plane of your strangling moods. You,
I have poured everything down the sink for, not eating and not
pale, but waiting - at peace with my jealousy and my
impatience. Will you hand me your slumber of
self-defeat and bitterness? I am not a dove.
I have slaughtered millions. I have waited.
Are you spreading, gathering, ready to be stripped? Still
sleeping, my lover, tight in your exile? Still brilliant,
but only in dreams? It is time for a shower - to claim your nakedness.
We have no use for memories. We are lavish and
you are bare and brave and you do not believe it,
but you are ever so strong, at the moment just
before perishing, exposing
your warm, undeniable
Months behind my eyes
splicing nerves, bonds, virtues
that have kept me solid.
As I look, my desires are dilating,
taking more in, red with abandonment
and wanting to germinate but not here,
not beneath this sheet, but in the breeze,
to grow special, purer than a weed, expand,
not interacting with the elements but part of
them, geometrical, saving space, knowing passion like
a labour - confined to a pattern, somehow
boundless. Joy. I stand a virgin in your honeymoon.
I am made up of sunsets and dreamy afterglows. I am
putting this on, demanding as intoxication, kneeling in this
costume, assuming I am dependable, but
I am not. I should close these shutters, marry a
soft genuine smile. I should care more. So much
that is done is done, fatal, heavy as a hanging. If I could
dig behind my sockets and make a window, I would. I would
walk away, but lust is water, and more than lust
is worth every star.
Bram E Gieben (Texture)
Only as insecure as the eras that I've lived through,
Never achieved, my dreams are out of shape and out of focus,
Found you in those dreams and then tethered you selfishly,
Looking at parallel realities which emerged from
The death dreams of the successful. Less artefact
More anomaly. Inversely-charged mote of temporal flow
Adrift but detached in the time stream.
Disappointment exists in the faces and expressions
Of those who used to be your cheerleaders,
Youth passed by frantically like the weaving paths
Of staggering drunks collapsed in the sub-zero.
Nothing about this place inspires parabolic curves
Of escape velocity, can't even write in a straight line.
Past the point of no return policy, financially backed
For loss optimization not adjustment...
(frankly, the wilted flowers and turned earth
muddle your graveside like handprints in bruised flesh,
the stubs and spills I leave behind are empty gestures,
breathless, restless as a phone call unanswered in the grey light
of an unsecured symmetry... I was licking my wounds)
CALL THE CLONE FACTORY, this model's dysfunction
Cannot be cured with yearly doses of psilocybin
(not my fault you were so quick to sell out)
Psychological forces and certainties collapse like
Demolished tenements, poverty in the abstract,
Fatal construction: “We have built a prison-box
based upon internal kaleidoscopes for disappointment!
A panopticon for failed seekers! Gut busted
Rusted hulks in a graveyard for interstellar cruise-liners!
Mysterious action at a distance!”
I'll relinquish my obscurity for no-one,
Content to decomplexify my own structure,
Face melter, suicide strategy by inches,
Plugging the gaps: “Throw yourself down on the mattress
in roach motel architecture, bitter and scabbed.”
You have reached the midden heap where
Desolation and ideal process come to rot.
This is the place where strays go to become abandoned;
Where orphans dictate the weight of abuse to be
Measured out in the parental guidance of good fortune.
This is a crucifix of your own description;
A refreshing carbonated beverage brewed from your bones.
This is as close to home as you will ever get;
Wedged in a narrow alley between an ideal past you imagined
And a future which nobody deserves.
Spirit of the age of collapse, a psychic vampire
Feeding on vacuum souls of equal emptiness.
“No-one gets away clean.”
And when the hordes come knocking
There will be no escape vehicle waiting.
“Pare it down to essentials;
Question your right to breathe freely, are you
Just another obstacle for those more worthy?”
And if you see it differently, please tell me
How you figure, the pressure of your trigger finger
Traps me in indecision, scared to make the incision
Because “The first cut is the bleakest,”
and I'm sure you already got there.
“There is no wave because there is no future.”
Everything can be bought and sold back to you,
Regurgitated like a bird's first meal.
It's the twenty-first century,
It's fucking dangerous to feel.
Once you switched on your winter code
I called electricity beauty
the swabbed mystery of the connection
between your body & the gross
understatement of your environment
made us cooperative at last
against the best judgement of science &
art. Flowering in winter, just once at nightfall
as the cold snapped my filament & style
I passed my life, trunk, soma, memory
over to a collective hush, acquired tics still
discharging down neurons to be bathed in
the living body of the collective earth
harmonic seed bed fed on jelly
& black earth turned. We haven't attained
light or transparency, just the competance to flower
bedded in error I wear my winter weeds, ears & organs
sprouting madly from dumb plans & unwritten nature.
steeple lights pierce
a collagen-silted sky,
the badly drawn pencil line
in a softly thrumming now.
There's no easy way to explain
how architecture withstands
cannon and shot thumped
and leather, civil war renegade
short change disinterred
by football, swollen geographies
splintered from parish to parish.
shipwreck strategy is
the tidal symmetry of
the boneworks ablaze.
Atmosphere: bone dust,
glue, the breath of housebox
balance sheet neat
and stretching to the sea.
Gig lamps catch
the pig's bladder stitch,
lampblack strips between each
fret of gas light.
Strobe beacon, time ball,
the beep of stocks and stones
under the scolded
boots of the Poor Law
press the kissed field.
Lit air, hum ash lagoon.
Neither sunk nor swept
government parcels paced-out
with the beaten bone and ear from the
Her voice is
black ice forming
and when the note is held
she is slender, a wind-heaved poplar,
a dark vase with one pale flower
about to drop its last petal
on the blue lips of the dead.
Her body is the corollary
no one dares touch.
She is all the time left to us,
suddenly declaring itself at once.
Her voice is candlelight
feeling over brickwork
in the deepest wells,
she is the one to follow,
drawing us out like poison
from the last deep excavation.
A BRUSSELS PARK AT WINTER’S END
After the drawn out winter, the sun
ordered people back into the park.
For them the swans languidly applied
make up to the plain pond.
A few on benches opened books.
They had an armed guard of dreams.
The peacock tossed its tasselled head
and a child overcome with the smoke
of its birth careered into the mesh.
A few climbers appeared
on the summit of a certain happiness.
Two donkeys in an enclosure
stood side by side, so still, Balthazar…
the eyes dark wells where the moon
will later stoop to drink its fill.
Eyes that vainly record the human,
dark slates on whose surface every
atrocity is chalked up, every joy.
Watch the little ones leap the low fence
and run through the blown litter of doves,
maypole dancing their curiosity
around the burbling aviary,
educated by each explosion.
The woods secreted clues.
Golden clusters of seasoned leaves
swayed like Shakespearean pages
from the chartreuse branches
of dense trees; medallic decorations
carpeting the entombed weeds.
Her midnight walks were new.
A raw mourning had convoked
since he died; bereavement
was in vogue and occupied
the mind like a demonic night-shift.
Wild-flowers appeared crucified
under the bewitching, lightship moon.
Hunting hounds habitude
led them to babbling gullies,
jabbering calumnies like the follies
of their youth. The truth hid
inside the bell mouth of the wood.
Tossed cautions of cheyne stoking wind
waltzed with star-shaped driblets
falling from thunderclouds.
Helicopter light hiccuped erratically
like religious vows in the name of God
then enshrouded in doubt,
the search party was called off.
Doyenne of the picture house chattels, the cleaning lady
nestled into adopted kinship, bereft of a crumbing castle
where the fountain-heads of a thousand relationships
had inaugurated; greenhorn pupils to tried and tested.
Evangelical signage detonated bulbs, clanking goblets
of illuminated glass fruit. Beheaded skulls
exposed the bloodroot of circuit boards, metallic wires.
Crowds absorbed the seductive fires.
In thick, congesting smoke, she drifted upon rafts of chronicles
into wistful head-notes. The year-long pong of popcorn
lodged in her throat, and the sultry, viscous of used condoms
forsaken in the back rows of neglected raincoats.
She beamed at the time she moonlit as a counsellor:
A pretty young thing left behind, assembling mascara
in a dinky, compact mirror, whose veritable tears
were as black and white and beautiful as any actor.
Rain shaped seaweed from her hair.
Reception’s jukebox wheezed as silver tongues
of millionaires melted, squeezed into rock n’ roll purée.
Elvis was digested by an ageless eternity.
Lunatic hoses ran amok, snakes lashing in pagan frenzy.
Swarms seethed in the aftershock, absorbing official liturgy
about failed smoke alarm batteries and overheated movie reels
while the cleaning lady vacuumed the black char of her thumb,
still raw from the heat of the lighter’s wheel.
The Cats in Lorca’s Garden
Huerta de San Vicente, Granada, 2013
Grand sweeping park,
high apartments rise
and enclose pomegranate trees,
beer cans, benches, flies,
sleeping in the bushes,
empty waste bins,
and ledges of a home
where a family
never can return,
with a wedge of swans,
pear trees and weeping lilacs,
stale roads built up
their constant ocean wind.
Lines Written in Wax
In the dark,
the unrest of the trees.
Misconceived violins sing through rain
while dogs bite patrolmen in defense,
and the roots intertwine with my heart.
All the leaves
disconnect with the wind.
No one wants the machines any more—
they’re writing music scores in rust.
1. the long version
step 1: memorize: red = subversion
step 2: do these exercises:
red = revolution
red = happiness
red = love
red shoes for Tom Waits
red square for Malevich
the inside of a plum [not the outside, the outside is plum]
cadmium paprika cinnabar quinacridone li hing sindoor
step 3: now believe:
red = melancholy
red = nostalgia [or grief, because it burns]
imagine: red sunflowers
think of a red planet [I remember]
red chocolate or red coffee
a powdery red elephant wandering soundlessly through the night
red neon signage for water
a red road with a white dashed line in the middle
a Pushkin poem about red snow
red spring leaves
oh, but you get those, Ficus ingens, Bridelia micrantha
then imagine an unspeakable rainstorm washing all the red away
leaving everything clean and grey
rushing down a torrid river
staining the river mouth red where it kisses the sea
smearing red around the ocean's lips with this abandonment
blood tattoo ink
breath of love desire a prostitute's porch light
and then this love abates
laying down a thick red sediment over the knees of the ocean floor
red red crayfish
red sole and manta rays
red humps of lost treasure,
leaving the telephone booths postboxes hearts
grey and bereft
jasper carnelian corundum a gibbous moon a werewolf's teeth
tongue after eating a raspberry popsicle
flags feathers junk sails stigmata
all the red things not named here but that you thought of when reading this
all the red things not named here that you didn't think of when reading this
the one last red thing hidden underneath the rubble in the aftermath of the rainstorm
2. the short version
red and beautiful
THE SKELETON OF OUR OBLIGATIONS
A request that feels like an ambush.
You name it. You hope to know it
and know how to stop it. One day.
Today a complicated conversation
regarding literal and figurative bears.
You name these years The Bears.
Sometimes you change the name.
Sometimes what is hard is that you
don’t. You are looking for an expression
of peace. An expression of space.
An expression of goodwill. Of grace.
Find more learning. In this hallway
there are nine doors. One that leads
to nowhere. A region of knowledge.
The precinct, the province, the area,
the line. A line of bears. A bear behind
each door. A turn of the mind. Another
turn of the mind. Take a tone. Make a
tone. I’m all alone. Another thing I have
said. So many have said. You are the lion
part and the cage part, but know you are
really the lion part.
You lifted me by the door by the deck.
It lingers in my back. Your back.
You express a reaction to the action.
Every once in awhile a reaction
that compliments the action.
A unique location, this memory.
The science of sharing belongs
to a certain kind of sharpness of mind.
Or sometimes it does. I want to refine
what I said. What I say. You’re back.
But the deck is gone. Gone with
the water that once was there.
What can I do? Take me to the signs
and symbols section. Let me live there
for a little while. In the water.
I don’t like it when water is in the way.
I like it when water is the way.
FAMILIAR QUALITIES WE ADMIRE
To be praiseworthy and principled.
To be kind and caring. To be perfectly
daring. What if you could sense a magnetic
field? An electrical field? Some animals can.
To recognize magic as magic. It’s time-
sensitive. Your sensory input of stimuli
tells you one thing and your basis of
knowledge tells you another. It is good
that some astronauts love David Bowie.
I am eating a biscuit very slowly. Drinking
the old water. It’s over a billion years old.
The recognition training a broken photograph.
Cool, smart, and nice are commonly used ways
to describe someone likable. Seems simple
listed like that. Enormous language! Enormous
music! Please make me a summer storm.
Change becomes a chance. Draw a circle. Draw
a line. Draw another line. Draw a triangle.
I said to do these things. Do these things.
Now explain how to do these things.
DRUNKEN GOLDFISH WALTZ BLUES
(For Zarina Zabrisky)
Drunken twilight, city lights turn into goldfish.
Eternity has fallen from the sky and dies
As a black beetle on the sunken pavement.
The boulevards have swallowed up the destination
And I drift past endless windows lit like billboards
In which laughter advertises anti-solitude.
Never-ending rooms where people stand on ceilings,
Grinding out the same refrain in different keys
And drinking reassurance in a different color.
I butt my head against the concrete sky
And cry for help, but no one seems to notice,
And I wonder how they know which way is up.
I stumble every time I try to face in their direction,
My feet refuse to grip their common ground, so I go down
And hug the chandelier to keep up the appearance.
Invisible, I float from room to room,
Deciphering encrypted meaning
In the smiles, the winks, the fluttering of lashes,
[But see their heads filled up with bumblebees,
Their veins pulsing like horny octopi,
Their stomachs tense as frantic wildebeest.]
Forever doubting when the water started rising
And never sure if I will drown with my next breath,
I track the years to look up days when things were normal.
I trace the steps inside my head and see the sun
Nodding approval as I skip with both feet on the grass
Where leaves and petals don’t betray their colors.
Never a day of solitude went by in this green wonderland
Where rabbit holes could lead to treasures and where
Freedom let you take its hand to dive into adventures.
The dive was hard. The green spilled out as seaweed.
When frazzled stars had settled on the bottom of my eyes,
Freedom lay motionless inside a pile of debris.
Black bug eternity had always rested on the pavement.
The water had been surging since the day I didn’t look.
People had been glued to ceilings since I started breathing.
Goldfish, goldfish. You’re my kin. Waltz me into infinity
Along your boulevards that only know how to descend.
Find me those who speak my language and resuscitate my dreams.
My father went out to hunt a beast nearly extinct,
a vintage Triumph Bonneville, his boyhood dream.
He took it up the street twice, then chained it down
like a chrome Minotaur in an asbestos roofed garage.
I could show you it if you want - it’s easy to get to.
The maze it resides in is all in my father’s head.
Andrew F Giles
‘To this day sometimes I dream about her, arriving fresh from Germany in full gaiety’
Letter from Jessica Mitford to Debo Devonshire, 1960s
She attuned herself to the clockwork of traffic
on Ludwigstraße, thrilled that each car
could conceal him & his steadfast
Days Unity spent in her room
with toxic glues & paints, sticking armed
birthday warriors in tiny howdahs
on elephants – his card,
the hard work placating her. The midnight
bent of her mission comes to us in
these archived, or lost, images -
Hannibal, sitting wolfishly astride
a misshapen beast in the foreground,
swearing blind farewells to the Alps -
the prow of a craft
schlepping strange sciences across
the oceans - a brain of flint or metal,
a brand-new machine that will read
the degenerate code of the past.
There are the distant souls of her sisters too,
whispering a fanciful boo at her reflection
trapped in the glass of the Osteria Bavaria.
But the mirror is always full of heady days
of amateurish zeal, of whoops of praise -
of our slavishly immutable love of change.
February 1935 - their first Osteria tea
& while this particular shard has lost its place,
Unity sits apart with tears in her eyes as,
for a moment, time seems blissfully
unchallenged, bright in his uniform.
'Nothing exposed, it is just flesh,'
that's what I heard, outstripped,
by men, staring
from behind their Morning Star
on a beige Tuesday, was it November?
I kept nibbling with
the sugarcubes on the saucer,
grasping the cup for fear of breakage,
slurping bitterness for heat.
Come to think of it, nakedness
reminds me of the lion park.
Everyone wanted the rare, white goddess.
The tamer called her The Empire of Closed Eyes.
We were taught to stroke only her back,
keep fear away when playing.
Some visitors came loud,
but went suddenly, silent.
Some crept hidden, left bitten,
told later tales of heroic fights.
I felt I was The One, tingling
like with palms on the spine of the Pine King.
Lions don't purr, she was just smiling,
then yawned, 'Haaaaaahhhhhhhh… You should go now,
learn how to touch the human skin;
how to wear yours,
without shame, wide awake.'
Persians love all things sour and bitter
best of all bergamot’s green rind
and cut scent of rain
that pricks my eyes with tears.
We only have
my fine bone cup’s spiderlings of light,
your horn spoon, freckled with thistledown -
and shared grains of an unseen coast,
whisper of perfidious winds.
Longer than old-womanhood
and the moon’s recede/return, apogee/perigee,
longer than all desire our journey:
the brew is hot now, perfect,
let there be kindness enough and time
until the end of it.
How The Honey Changes
Snowdrops and crocus work into a first dark dew,
then blackthorns’ fume, plum and sycamore’s
spoonfuls swell and glow so that slow, winding
and intense, all brood upon the spell, and early year’s
my stranger’s introduction:
summer’s for servants, then,
bramble, clover and last days’ drowse
brew miasma of limpid ambers
and bruises bloodwarm,
lightning infuses at the window,
stormy autumn transforms and deepens
these sad kaleidoscopes.
Somewhere out of the rain
my queens are sleeping.
Rob A Mackenzie
If tomorrow the cigarette you would have smoked
in February’s doorway lies in the packet
unused, and if the morning rush becomes casual,
without a pitched plate, without laughter afterwards,
and if our neighbours stop scraping their bread-knife
down the body of your Ford Fiesta for a crime
you may not have committed, at least let me hear
you sing that outré French number you learned
from Piaf herself, or so your story goes, the one
that casts you as a waitress in a low-life bar
in Paris, where I mark time below the stairs
among empty bottles, my nerves frayed by
your vintage Irn Bru’s frisson in the flute,
which stirs my tongue to chant against the cold.
Violent tiredness has stripped
our mouths down to this skeletal
talk and grimacing silence.
Tongues once swaggered
with muscles of mirth, now flap
at the table, starved of all rapture.
In a bootless attempt to replenish
Lost joys, you pluck from the napkin
a tale for the telling.
With a flurry of arm wags and plasticine
face, you spill all the beans
for a flicker of awe.
I dispatch a dim smile and spy
on the gossips, as the swelling dead air
rots the menu between us.
Back to Bed
You rip off the blankets
to stop me losing the day.
I dream in epics, you see.
Sometimes you think I won’t wake
and might adventure without you.
I’m a drawer fully open
now something has to be touched.
You list my bits that you prize,
drop a kiss to the belly.
What a waste of good fawning
when the flattered is sleep-swooned!
Instead it’s the chill of your spit
and the wind you’ve let in that shudder
me back to the room
and this ordinary morning –
all thumping in sunshine,
I wish I could bin.
I abandon your bed for the bathroom
and the griffin-clawed tub
which squats under the window,
cupping the punctured clouds of your lather.
I pussy-foot into the tepid,
the yellowed porcelain squeaks as I slide,
wheel the hot tap with my toe,
veil my face in damp flannels
and in the snug of the soap-swamp,perfect my vanishing act.
Painted roses and ivy scratch
a tangled stairway up the wall,
twist an arch around a false
front door, perfunctory and sealed.
The windows are criss-crossed
clown eyes, paneless frames
shedding black silence.
Unhook the face of the house,
peel it open like a page,
every room surrenders itself,
perfectly furnished for no one.
A tall lamp mourns an unused
armchair, a hat stand presides
in the corner like a winter tree.
My hand is the ghost and god
of this home. Fingers drift –
intent for the solid, skate over
the hexagonal table, the velvet
dining room chairs, roll back
the eyelid of the bureau,
pinch open famished drawers.
Fingers scramble through a hatch
into a mock mahogany bedroom –
where the wardrobe is cluttered
with air and a mirror has forgotten
how to watch. The hand pauses –
shrinks from a familiar bed
where a spider closes into a fist.
Richard Miller is an aspiring avant-garde poet residing in the wilds of southern Pennsylvania. He is a member of Paper Plane Pilots, an international writers' collective, and has previously published a chapbook entitled "Separate Instances of Loneliness." He enjoys climbing trees, standing on street corners waiting for no one, and making life very uncomfortable for his friends and family.
Irfan Merchant grew up in Ayr, and has lived in Edinburgh and London. His poetry has been published in diverse places, including various poetry magazines such as New Writing Scotland, The Herald and The Scotsman; and several anthologies such as Wish I Was Here: a Scottish multicultural anthology and Out Of Bounds: British Black and Asian Poets.
Drew McNaughton is a musician and poet who was born in Concord, Massachusetts and has greatly admired the writing of Emerson and Thoreau for many years. At an early age he also found that he was particularly drawn to the poetry of W. B. Yeats which has continued to be a major influence. Now living in Scotland he has recently been listening to Gaelic musicians and singers such as Julie Fowlis and Karen Matheson and also began to play the clarsach (celtic harp). Inspired by the natural surroundings of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh and the Enlightenment era poetry of Erasmus Darwin his poetic influences went off on a classical tangent in which the Muses play a major role. Conversations and guidance from notable poetical authorities, Tessa Ransford and Ronald Black, helped to encourage the creation of his spoken word and musical work, Kyberpoetica.
Miriam Gamble is from Belfast, but now lives in Edinburgh. Her collections are The Squirrels Are Dead (2010), which won a Somerset Maugham Award in 2011, and Pirate Music (2014), both published by Bloodaxe. She is currently a lecturer on the Creative Writing programme at Edinburgh University.
Lauren Pope is pursuing a Creative Writing PhD at the University of Edinburgh. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals and online publications including the Edinburgh Review and Etchings. She is a recipient of a Greenberg Poetry Fellowship, an Orkney Writers’ Bursary, the Grierson Verse Prize, and was shortlisted for this year’s Jupiter Artland Inspired To Write competition.
Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters and is the author of three chapbooks titled: Set List (Bitchin Kitsch,) In Stone and The Most Awkward Silence of All (both Cruel Garters Press.) His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Conduit and Cloudbank.
John Challis was born in London, but now lives and works in the North East. He is a recipient of a Northern Writers’ Award and a Pushcart Prize - and also holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Newcastle University. His poetry has appeared in many journals and anthologies including Butcher’s Dog; Clinic, Magma, Poetry London, The Rialto, and has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. His debut play The Next Train To Depart premiered in Hexham in 2014.
Iona Lee is a poet and art student from Edinburgh currently studying at Leith School of Art. When she grows up she wants to be a polymath, but until then she performs poetry, makes film poems and drinks a lot of cider.
Colin Dodds is the author of Another Broken Wizard, WINDFALL and The Last Bad Job, which Norman Mailer touted as showing “something that very few writers have; a species of inner talent that owes very little to other people.” His writing has appeared in more than two hundred publications, and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Poet and songwriter David Berman (Silver Jews, Actual Air) said of Dodds’ work: “These are very good poems. For moments I could even feel the old feelings when I read them.” Colin’s book-length poem That Happy Captive was a finalist in the 2015 Trio House Press Louise Bogan Award as well as the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award. And his screenplay, Refreshment, was named a semi-finalist in the 2010 American Zoetrope Contest. Colin lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife Samantha. See more of his work at www.thecolindodds.com
Siefried Baber was born in Barnstaple, Devon in 1989. Since graduating from Bath Spa University with a degree in Creative Writing, he lives and works in the city as a freelance writer, and as a barman in Bath’s finest pub, The Star Inn. Siegfried’s poetry has featured in a variety of publications including Under The Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog Magazine, online with The Compass Magazine, And Other Poems and Ink, Sweat & Tears, and as part of the Bath Literature Festival. His debut pamphlet When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid is published by Telltale Press.
Grevel Lindop was born in Liverpool and now lives in Manchester, where he works as a freelance writer. His prose books include The Opium-Eater: A Life of Thomas De Quincey; A Literary Guide to the Lake District (a Lakeland Book of the Year, and now in its 3rd edition); Travels on the Dance Floor (a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week and shortlisted for Best Travel Book 2009); and Charles Williams: The Third Inkling. Carcanet Press has published seven books of his poems, including Selected Poems (2000), Playing With Fire (2006), and Luna Park (2015). You can read his blog at www.grevel.co.uk
Abby Mckenzie was born in Edinburgh and currently lives in London. She holds an MA in Art History from the University of St Andrews (2014) and is currently completing an MA in Art Business at The Sotheby’s Institute of Art. She originally trained as a classical ballet dancer, and has worked in a variety of artistic sectors including theatre; film and visual art. With an emotional brutality and raw sensibility her work often depicts an exploration of vanity within creativity and introspection.
is a poet, playwright and senior lecturer in creative writing at
Teesside University. He has performed at numerous festivals and
venues nationally and internationally, including The Royal Festival
Hall – South Bank Centre, Theatre Royal Newcastle, Crossing Borders
Festival – Amsterdam, Kiasma Museum of Modern Art – Helsinki,
Down By The Laiturri Festival – Turku, The Haganum Festival – Den
Haag, The Dylan Thomas Centre – Swansea, The Poet's Café –
Silvers, Portugal and The Poetry Café London. He has received
commissions from Arts Council England, The Hydrogen Jukebox Cabaret
of The Spoken Word, Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council and
Hartlepool Borough Council, The Laing Gallery Newcastle and Helsinki
Refugee Centre. As well as collaborating with musicians he has also
worked closely with visual artists on public artworks and with
theatre company Three Over Eden. He has
published in many anthologies and is the author of 'Glass
Characters' published by Red Squirrel Press.
Anna Crowe lives in St Andrews with her husband, the writer Julian Crowe and their children, though she spent some time living in Fance. She is poet and translator of Catalan and Mexican poetry, co-founder and former Artistic Director, and an Honorary President of Scotland's International Poetry Festival: StAnza. She is the author of two full collections from Peterloo press, and three Mariscat collections, of which Figure in a Landscape won the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award and was a Poetry Book Society Choice. She was a runner-up in the National Poetry Competition, and twice won first prize in the Peterloo Open Poetry Competition. She has also translated, for Arc, an anthology of work by Six Catalan Poets, and her latest book of translations, Peatlands (Arc 2014), features the work of the eminent Mexican poet and academic, Pedro Serrano. In 2005 the Society of Authors awarded her a Travelling Scholarship. Her marvellous translations of the Catalan poet Joan Margarit, Tugs in the Fog (Bloodaxe 2006), was a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation. Together they translated over 140 poems by RS Thomas, published by Proa as No hi ha treva per a les fúries in Catalan and English.
Brent Terry is a Professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University and author of two collections of poetry. His poems and essays have appeared in 5 a.m., Pebble Lake Review, Hunger Mountain, Rain Taxi, and many other publications. He holds an MFA from Bennington College and is former poet laureate of Minneapolis' Linden Hills.
Alben’s most recent collection Ai! Ai! Pianissimo, was
published by Arc Publications in 2011. Alben has been described as “a
new and original voice in English poetry, serious and uncompromising”
(Times Literary Supplement). Her poems, essays, translations
and reviews are widely published in journals, magazines, newspapers
and anthologies, and her poetry is translated into several languages,
including Romanian, Slovenian and Chinese. Alben is the editor of
three art/science anthologies: Findings on Ice (2007),
Findings on Elasticity (2010) and Findings on Light (2015),
published by Lars Müller Publications. Her next collection,
Plainspeak, an alter-ego-thinker-out-louder book, will be
ready in about a year. Alben is a Royal Society of Arts Fellow and
Wellcome Trust Fellow.
To hear her poems visit: www.astridalben.com
Helen Calcutt is an English poet and choreographer. Described as ‘radical’ ‘uncompromising’ ‘much like Emily Dickinson, surprising and new’ her poetry marks the presence of a ‘compelling new literary voice’ (Perdika Press 2013). Her work has received global publication featuring in journals such as Equinox (Aude, France) The London Magazine (UK), The Salzburg Review (Austria) Poetry Scotland, and The New Yorker (U.S.A.) She has worked with institutions as diverse as Poetry By Heart, Poetry International and the National Trust.
Calcutt is the author of ‘Sudden rainfall’ her first collection of poetry, published by experimental English publishing house. She is currently working on her second full-length collection titled ‘Siren'. She is also the founder of radical new interdisciplinary project “écriture corporelle” a 'Bodily Writing', which explores the lines of dialogue between dance (potential poetics) and poetry (choreography of the page). It is currently the only project of its kind happening in the UK.
Piekarski is a former editor of the California
State Poetry Quarterly. His
poetry and interviews have appeared in Nimrod,Portland
Cream City Review, Poetry Salzburg, Boston Poetry Magazine, The
Journal, Gertrude, The Bacon Review,and
many others. He
has published a travel guide, Best
Choices In Northern California,
book of poems. He lives in Marina, California.
Tishani Doshi is a widely acclaimed poet, dancer and writer from India. She graduated with a BA and an MA from Universities in the United States. Then after working in the fashion magazine industry in London for a while, she decided to return to India where she met with leading choreographer Chandralekha, and spiralled into a prestigious dance career.
Her first book of poetry, Countries of the Body (2006), won a Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Her second collection of poems, Everything Begins Elsewhere (2013) was published in three different countries simultaneously. Her first novel, The Pleasure Seekers (2010), was shortlisted for the Hindu Best Fiction Award and has been translated into several languages. Her honors and awards include an Eric Gregory Award and an All-India Poetry Prize. Her most recent collection Fountainville: New Stories from the Mabinogion was published last year.
She features at festivals and events around Europe for part of the year, and spends the rest a hermit writing poems and prose on the beach in Tamil Nadu.
April Salzano was recently nominated for two Pushcart prizes, she teaches college writing in Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband and two sons. She is currently working on a poetry collection and a memoir on raising a child with autism. Her work has appeared in journals such as Convergence, Ascent Aspirations, The Camel Saloon, Centrifugal Eye, Deadsnakes, Visceral Uterus, Salome, Poetry Quarterly, Writing Tomorrow and Rattle. She is also co-editor at Kind of a Hurricane Press.
Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and came to England whens she was a few months old. She grew up in Hertfordshire and studied at the Universities of York and London. She has received a Cholmondeley Award for her poetry, and is the author of many Bloodaxe collections. Her latest books are At the Time of Partition (2013) a Poetry Book Society Choice and shortlisted for the T. S.Eliot Prize. Her versions of the French poet Jules Supervielle as a book-length poem Homesick for the Earth, was published in 2011. Europa (2008) was also shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and Split World: Poems 1990-2005 (2008) includes poems from her five previous collections; The Country at My Shoulder (1993) shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot and Whitbread poetry prizes, A Bowl of Warm Air (1996), Carrying My Wife (2000) a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, Souls (2002) and How the Stone Found Its Voice (2005). She currently lives in Norfolk and tutors the Poetry School.
David Cooke won an Gregory Award and published his first collection, Brueghel’s Dancers in the 80’s. His retrospective collection, In the Distance, was published in 2011 by Night Publishing and a collection of more recent pieces, Work Horses, has recently been published by Ward Wood Publishing. His poems, translations and reviews have appeared widely in journals including Agenda; Ambit, The Bow Wow Shop, The Critical Quarterly, The Irish Press, The London Magazine, Magma, The North, Orbis, Other Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry London, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The SHOp and Stand. His new collection, A Murmuration, will be published by Two Rivers Press in 2015.
Allison Grayhurst is a full member of the League of Canadian Poets. She has over 375 poems published in more than 190 international journals and anthologies such as the Blue Fifth Review; South Florida Arts Journal, The Brooklyn Voice, The Milo Review, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Dalhousie Review, The New Quarterly, Wascana Review, Poetry Nottingham International, The Cape Rock, Journal of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry, The Toronto Quarterly and the Boston Poetry Magazine.
Her book Somewhere Falling was published by Beach Holme Publishers in 1995. Since then she has published ten other books of poetry and four collections with Edge Unlimited Publishing. Prior to the publication of Somewhere Falling she had a poetry book published, Common Dream, and four chapbooks published by The Plowman. Her poetry chapbook The River is Blind was published by Ottawa publisher above/ground press December 2012. She lives in Toronto with her family. She also sculpts, working with clay.
Bram E Gieben (Texture) is a Glasgow-based writer, journalist, emcee and musician. In 2013 he was named one of Canongates’s Future 40- the list comprised of the 40 best storytellers in Scotland. He is an acclaimed Slam poet, having won the National Slam in 2006 (team prize, first place for Scotland), and the most recent Big Word Slam in Edinburgh (solo prize, first place). He helped set up the label Black Lantern Music, but also produces his own minimal electronic music- making loop-based hip-hop with dubstep, electro, and lo-fi influences under the name Texture- playing gigs such the Kelburn Music Festival’s Viewpoint Sessions and the Wickerman Festival. He also hold a Masters in Creative Writing from Glasgow University and writes for The Skinny.
Samantha Walton has lived in Edinburgh and London, and has a PhD in psychology, law and selfhood in inter-war women’s writing. In 2013 she joined the school of Arts as senior lecturer at Teesside University. Her poetry publications include tristanundisolde (2010) City Breaks Weekend Songs (2011) the duplicate book (2012) and she organises the event series Syndicate that boasts a raw experimental mix of poetry, music and technology collaborations.
Will Stone is a poet and translator living in Suffolk who feels that it is mostly the Scots and the Irish that understand his poetry. He has an MA in Literary Translation from the University of East Anglia and has published translations of poets such as Charles Baudelaire; August Stramm, Egon Schiele and the Belgian symbolists, Georges Rodenbach and Emile Verhaeren. His first poetry collection Glaciation, published by Salt (2008) won the international Glen Dimplex Award for poetry. His second Salt published collection Drawing in Ash (2011) won the 3am magazine poetry book of the year award.
Stephen Watt is the author of Spit (2012) and is a poet/performer from Glasgow. After three years on the spoken word scene, Stephen has successfully secured the Hughie Healy Memorial Trophy and the Federation of Writers (Scotland) Vernal Equinox first prize during 2013, following his Poetry Rivals Slam win in Peterborough in 2011.
Caleb Beissert is a poet, translator and freelance writer born in Washington D.C and raised in North Carolina. He has a BA in English from WCU and his first book of translations Beautiful: Poems of Federico García Lorca & Pablo Neruda, was published by New Native Press in 2013. His work has appeared in International Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Asheville Poetry Review, Pisgah Review,Flycatcher, Red Earth Review, Headwaters Creative Arts Magazine, and The Citron Review. In 2013 he received a grant from the Arts and Science Council in North Carolina to teach poetry to primary school students in inner-city schools where he now serves on the board of advisor's to the literary non-profit organization MadHat, Inc. and produces the monthly reading Altamont Poetry Series.
Wilna Panagos is a writer (published in New Contrast Literary Journal; Gone Lawn, Otoliths, Museum Life, Prick of the Spindle, Medusa's Laugh Press) and illustrator (biology mostly). She has written and illustrated a few children's books and is currently working on her first novel. She is convinced that reality isn't fit for human consumption and should be avoided at all cost. She believes in orange and pigeons: has an imaginary dog and lives in Pretoria, South Africa.
Emily Pettit is the author of Goat in the Snow (Birds LLC, 2012) and three chapbooks: Because You Can Have This Idea About Being Afraid Of Something (Dikembe Press, 2013), How (Octopus Books), and What Happened to Limbo (Pilot Books). She is an editor for Factory Hollow Press, jubilat, and notnostrums. She teaches at Flying Object and Elms College.
Simon Rogghe found a home in the Bay Area where he writes poetry with the help of his spirit animal, a Siberian tiger, his belated twin brother and a sacred prostitute who frequents his dreams and saves him from the drudgery of grad school. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in 3:AM Magazine,Tree Killer Ink, Fiction 365, Gone Lawn and other publications.
Richie MacCaffery (b.1986) lives in Stirling, Scotland and is a PhD student at the
University of Glasgow, researching the Scottish poetry of World War Two. He has
published two poetry pamphlet collections, Spinning
Plates (HappenStance Press, 2012) and Ballast Flint (Cromarty
Arts Trust, 2013).
Andrew F Giles has work in Ambit, Magma, Equinox, Gutter etc, & edits online literary arts & culture journal NLP. He is currently researching poet Leopoldo María Panero at the University of Bristol.
Agnes Marton is a Hungarian-born poet. She has been working in publishing since 1991.
Pippa Little lives in Northumberland. Her collection, Overwintering, published by Carcanet Press, was shortlisted for the 2013 Seamus Heaney Prize.
Rob A. Mackenzie was born
and brought up in Glasgow and lives in Leith. His latest collection, The
Good News, was published by
Salt in April 2013. His reviews have appeared in Poetry Review, New Welsh
Review, Magma and Sphinx and his poems in numerous publications. He blogs at Surroundings
(robmack.blogspot.co.uk) and is book reviews editor of Magma Poetry magazine.
Rhian Edwards' first collection Clueless Dogs (Seren Press) was winner of Wales Book of the Year 2013 and the Roland Mathias Prize for Poetry 2013 and shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2012