alchemy

Biological Angels

Christ's face on a bronze crucifix worn smooth by fingertips. Beside a book about angels by a Spanish priest who says they are all unique, utterly magnificent, flawless kaleidoscope snowglobe dynamos of Divine love influxing into the universe as conscious spiritual energy. Angels for planets, countries, and even poor individual people like the smiling Spanish woman with deep dark eyes who used to see them rippling like firelight along the walls of her bedroom. They spoke to her and told her that she would have a daughter and a son and that they would both die; but she herself, Manuela Estes, was chosen by god as a messenger. He treats his dear ones badly so that they know two things: life is suffering, and he, God, MEANS BUSINESS. The seven thousand year old texts have been corrupted into fables or buried under the ash of liberated buildings so it's time to inject some religious methadone into the veins of a society that's crumbling and trembling to its end. If I was God I'd ignore everyone with any idea of what it means to be holy, or any idea of what society is, or even what a human being is; I'd enlighten a naked ape by a river somewhere, fill him full of such a glorious god-song that lacking language his skin would shine radioactive with it. Do it properly, you know? You can't talk about it anyway without being misunderstood for two thousand years, so why bother trying? Pour so much divinity, so much of the angel-energy into some poor mud-born creature that the mere sight of it would trigger reactions in other mud creatures; seizures and revelations and diarrhoea and suchlike. Let the cult of the Ape Christ begin, and may every notion of pride and sacredness be trampled into the mire of discarded bodies.

Today's list of desires: vegetable soup with a nice bit of chicken. White bread and butter and some lemon curd. A sardine with half a cup of sweet tea. Something woollen to warm the knees, and a nightcap for the head at night, because it sticks out of the covers, happily excreting half of the body's heat due to the inconvenient placement of the nostrils. Stamps for Christmas letters, and presents for the family; books for preference. Everyone likes books.

The sitting room drifts sideways through the afternoon shifting between universes - no choices are being made there after fifty years of gathering and fifteen of quiet dusty memorial: LPs, cracker animals, bills neatly folded in decade-long piles, artificial and dried flowers, books no one needs to read any more, out-of-date stamps and chequebooks; boxes of whitened, stale chocolates, congealed jellies and rancid nutty treats. Once every year the crib comes out and pictures are taken and saved in an album full of identical pictures, and at the end of our lives we will play with the album like a flip-book, watching ourselves decay. This may seem pointless but what else is there to do? Unless God is hidden in the chemistry of the cells and we're all biological angels with wings of muscle and bone and lymph and blood singing with mystery. Evidence for this hypothesis is slim but we refuse to give up hope. We have dedicated ourselves to the assertion of impossible truths and we will never give up.

Your White Chemistry

For what you are, I'm grateful
and if you get angry
and if you can't stand me
for a minute or two
and if I forget who you are
for an hour
and we become silent
memories singing in my head at dawn
chemical names to free tunes
and meaningless sentence fragments
gleaming shaking in white radiation
whispering you join me here
and thankful we creep under covers
if I forget who I am
and you get angry
I'm grateful for an hour
of singing fragments of tunes
shaking radio sentences I can't remember
creeping under what you are
joined by dawn whispers
and the radiators gleam silently
as I forget anger
I am shaking
I am meaningless
and your white chemistry sings to me
the gleaming tunes of your memory
an hour of whispering
under the covers
if the morning joins us
I'm grateful for what we become

The Circle

We caught a bus out of the city near dawn
and crossed the wet football fields into the park
after a night of reading and talking and no sleep;
thin psyches, sensitive eyes, amazed by simple things -
oaks and crocuses, birds, breath vapour in the morning air.

February sunlight on the sycamores and chestnuts;
flickering on the spinning edge of a boomerang
bought in a music shop, thrown in a ritual circle.
A dog grabbed it, chewed it up and ran out of sight
over the lip of the hill. The horizon's circle placed us
at the centre of a world that moved with us like an aura.

We squinted when the sun would break the tree cover
and catch us talking about the four elements and the spirit;
about friends and past lives and drugs and spiced tea;
water spraying from a dog's wet fur, geese croaking
over the flat lake water, street lights flicking off on the waking roads.

Everything became concentrated in the ritual of the walk -
up the oak and beech slopes to the edge of the golf course,
along the river gully and past the tall, scarred tree,
around the edges of the lake; our conversation
fusing our experiences and memories with this reality:
the alchemy of the elements. Lake, sky, sun, mud, and us.

Once in a while, something notices how scattered we've become,
and decides to bring us together again: poetry, pub stories,
sharing sandwiches on a cold bench, kissing under a crumbling wall.
We collect what we can, and offer it to the other for blessing:
an oak twig, shaved and sanded for the altar; the names and shapes
of seeds and leaves; feelings summoned into the material world,
like the perfect oak, alive in space and time until the final storm.

Dark Night of the Soul

shrieking under folds of blackness,
hands clawing at the fabric of an unlit tent.
veins swelling in a vacuum, empty eye sockets wide.
the midnight of his memory full of monsters.
what we know as horror: the crossing of death into life,
the corpse walking with a blind smile,
the puppets jerking at their strings.
his mother's bloody grin, holding her own head by the hair,
and he ran out the door into the apocalypse they promised him:
the destiny of the destroyed atom, and a trillion ghosts
left to roam a nightmare planet in unfinished visions.

slicing himself for the feeling of bright sharpness, the reality.
sky on a frozen winter's day, the cloud diamondcutter.
the clarity when he first loved her, when he first recognised her
and became a river running to her. the deathly fear
when he lay awake in the living night-time, presences
crowding in his awareness, afraid to turn over.
when he took the elevator to the basement of his mind
and found the mutilated man, madness shining in his remaining eye.
the boy in the abandoned house who swallowed a living scorpion -
tongue numb with venom, his skin turned black and livid -
but inside he became a storm of daisies, summer light and wind.
someone who would love the demons and angels alike -
an alchemist, at war with the dead physics of his universe.

strange notes from the other side of a drugged mind:
"what the FUCK happens when we die?" and the feeling
of crossing into an unknown land. his only journey:
miles of roads lined with bodies and flowers, tiger paws,
daggers, vertigo footage from cameras falling off cliffs.
or, like faded newsreel, spotted and flickering, set to the sound
of muttering, whispering voices, old showtunes:
the body's last words,
spoken on a sunlit evening stretching into neverness.

Red Paper

A dark-haired girl
   shy since her birth
burns once
   like a magnesium flare
in every twenty years

The wish itself
   is what she fears -
to bare her litmus skin
   and weep
at each electrochemical kiss