cats

Doors In The Dead Cities

In between the river and the roads,
day or night, you can see sparkles -
ocean slowly pulsing into tidal river,
transfusion for diseased city, and
in between the movies and the ads
sparkles invade your mind -
split seconds of nothingness -
splinters of dead air and dead cold
whispers of a million words on bookshelves,
a billion chords on compact discs,
a billion beating locust wings,
desert roads in the mind, green blurs
on mountain horizon: trees, fields,
steaming volcanic lakes, whales and herons,
landscapes internal forever -
and lost at the moment you die?
at the moment you die,
lost forever?

You find portals beacuse you need to:
the museum behind the fake technicolour castle
with the prayer wheels and jade knives,
scraps of ancient bibles and screeds,
where they play chants through hidden speakers
between the glowing display cases,
and between floors you count a few empty shops
stuck in the haze of winter and old cloud -
between shops and between hours
you find a space you recognize
where someone sits who died before history,
shaved head bowed before a newer moon,
still pool beneath willow bridge, sandals
placed carefully beside shawl, pen, ink -
knowing something that you once knew.

Between pulses that tell us were are alive,
between instants of stimulus and response,
between droplets of this endless rain -
words, notes, snow, kisses -
flashes of something familiar from long ago.
Between work days and sofa evenings,
in between years of shifting identities -
frozen windscreen wipers sweeping
centuries off eyesight of lifetimes -
strobe flashes and advertising lasers,
glitters caught on river water and
apartment block window fronts,
cranes dancing in winter wind
like weather poles and wind chimes
beside glass-still pool of mind -
in a pure instant between instants
you are bowed down before a memory
that you do not know is a memory.

As if in a dream, there are those
who try to remind us -
in between meals and games and
in between all the sparkles -
rituals built into the chaos:
of sitting before a wooden tray for tea
of kneeling before icons and cruciforms
of sitting with someone strange -
someone of still pools and dead blossoms
someone of dead screens and dying rivers
someone in between the moments
of attention to this or that lifetime -
intersecting universes, colliding realities -
someone we find in the place where we are -
someone who is a memory
that you do not know is a memory.

Like cats' eyes peeping out from the dark -
in between our madness, our fits
of distraction, racing uphill,
looking out over frozen ochre city,
wide harbour, lumpen island and white boats
and sunlight thin and red and distant -
in between making love among the trees,
underneath fallen roots, luminous
emerald moss, tiny sprinkled mushrooms -
in between desperate hours of stillness
heart pounding as nothing happens,
guts wrenching as nothing is transformed
into other forms of nothing -
and all the forms of the mind,
demonic, angelic, ridiculous and tender,
pour into this moment as a billion sparkles
and leave you as empty as an hourglass,
timed out and clear, in between epochs,
waiting for someone's hand.

Between images of yourself
caught on windows, mirrors, pupils -
an old, tired theme of searching,
so sad and desperate and surrendered -
and yet the one last desperate hope
is that in between these ghosts
and false gods, false selves and wraiths,
you might glimpse the doorway -
to the frozen land through the back of the wardrobe
to the unreal city below the lake's bottom
to the magical land on the other side of the mirror
to someone strange waiting patiently outside time,
as if enclosed in a pale moon heaven
that you do not know is a memory.

Seven Seven

I was in Iraq, staying in a large house with my wife, my Italian cousin Francesco, and Saddam Hussein. Francesco and Saddam got on very well because they were both heavy metal fans. They especially liked a song by Bruce Dickinson called "Seven Seven", which they were playing and singing along to constantly. One of the lyrics of the chorus was "I am the mother of Touch Hero."

My wife and I were getting bored watching Saddam and Francesco get drunk and play air guitar together. Saddam's face was getting redder and redder, and the right hand side of it had taken on the colour and texture of raw beef, leathery and pink. He looked very unhealthy, close to death even. I was playing with a cat, who kept trying to crawl on to Saddam's lap and bite his fingers. I pulled it back and said "Silly kitty, don't scratch Saddam," and I nearly added out loud, as a joke, "Or he'll gas and torture you," but I stopped myself because it occurred to me that he might not find this funny.

I turned around on the bench we were sitting on to look out of the window. We were on the 1st floor of the house, and I could see people in robes and sandals walking on the path below. The air was full of huge wasps, each one at least as long as a human thumb, some of them even larger, buzzing angrily over the heads of the people as they walked.

My wife and I went out for a walk because we were so bored of Saddam and Francesco's little double act, but she turned back after a minute or two because of the wasps. It was hard not to panic, hearing them buzzing and circling just overhead. It began to rain, at leat at first I thought it was rain, and I thought, "Good, now maybe the wasps will go away," but there was something strange about the impacts on my hood and my coat. I looked around, and I saw that it was raining locusts. They were bright green, and they were falling from the sky in their millions, hammering on everyone's heads and clothes and turning the earth green. I ducked and hid around the corner of a building to get out of the shower. A voice in my mind told me that these locust storms happened regularly in Iraq, and that it was illegal to collect the locusts when they happened.

Finally I made it to a large, dark cathedral or mosque of some kind, a historical building which was full of tourists. I was glad to make it in out of the rain of locusts, but then I looked over to an alcove on the left and saw that it was a polar bear enclosure, separated from the rest of the interior by a thin rope barrier. There was music playing, and two of the polar bears were having sex in the missionary position while the others loafed around and read books. I was scared of the bears, and decided I wanted to get out of there. Then I woke up.

No Voodoo

My mother was crying
while I shovelled dirt into her cat's
shallow garden grave.

She looked small and lonely,
where in my old memories she looms
huge above me, smiling,
her hair the strangest and darkest thing.

Now she dyes it,
hides her face when she's in tears,
speaks too softly in public.
For many years, I've felt more like a father
than a son - calm and balanced
while she splinters and shivers.

Once, after a fight,
she turned my photograph to the wall,
and it was like voodoo - a curse,
for hurting her like so many others.
Now her curses have lost their power
and I'm just happy to see her,
even though I'm also glad to leave.

A long time ago (she says)
she lost me in a department store,
and she thinks it damaged me,
the wandering and weeping through the aisles,
searching faces and smells
for my one and only familiar spirit.

I was the best baby boy
in the whole wide world -
but I thought another might come,
better and brighter, and she
would take her light away from me.
Now, burying something else she loved,
I know it wasn't her fault.

Torn apart by dogs, crushed by cars,
hit by a heart attack on the office stairs,
or lying in the arms of another woman,
she's slowly losing everyone she loves.

She tries to find the Light, to breathe it,
because she thinks she lost it,
even though it still makes her cry,
it still shines in her face
that I would recognize in any world, any life.
 

For The Last Time

For the last time, the last time
I will not remember what they said
on the television between the exploding stars
and the million miles asleep in midnight red
I will not seem angry
when my friends neither live nor die
but freeze in a smile and a moment
like loved characters in their final episode

not because there was no more time
but because in my dreaming mind
I wandered, and left them behind

this is no voice speaking
rain of flower shades in blindness
just the sound of it behind cafe windows
the colours flushed from the streetlights
and birds burning and singing on the wires

it all goes wrong when I try to talk about myself
so I will talk about everything else
except that there's this question, "who's talking?"
"Who's singing, who's burning, who's sad?"

Who misses their nonexistent friends
who laments their long-distant dad
and the long-distance chats
sizzling along dark wires
and the moist fresh-dug graves of beloved cats
hissing with rain or vampire hostility
and can cats become vampires anyway
or can humans - reality and fantasy
are not much different for me these days

like the one about the beautiful killer
with the power to share his destiny
and of course he would choose me
and I would not care about killing
if only I could be beautiful and immortal too

surely it can't be time to review my life again
and all the crumbling myths I built
how are they still there, how am I the same?
how can I not have changed into something
extraordinary and entirely different?

bless me to let go of these stories
that never belonged to me
nothing glows like nothingness
and I have a weird craving for the womb
no, not even the womb - just pure emptiness
endless space without even one sparkling star
just an abyss without a face or a name
and finally I'd know that awareness
that they say extends beyond both ends of this life

wine from old arteries in a singing glass
images and feelings torn loose from narrative
here is a bottomless sea and a roofless house
no meaning, no weapons, no voices
and a yellow wind from below the horizon
and I will be made ashes in the furnace of the sun

Cold City Cat Food

Outside the front door, stars, in holes between steel blue rings of cloud. air's almost too cold to breathe, can't stay still, muscles jerking, body trying to survive blindly against the ancient glacier enemy. body doesn't know about time, and the warm living room waiting just a few moments into the future. mind knows about time, forces body further out, past the slippery first step, down to ground level, to see Mars steady and orange above the terrace roofline.

pick up the cat's food plate, pouring off the rainwater and dead leaves. the neighbour's cat likes tunafish, comes to our house every day looking for what we buy cheap in white label cans from Morrisons or Tesco. gets bored with cat food, I would too. domestication and boredom go together. but I remember when I was wild, and it's still there, not just as an artifact in my symbolic mind but as hormonal and cellular memory in the body, chemically-burned knowledge of the way the world really is, waiting. let a giant meteorite or comet strike the Earth, all of the cities fall apart, and watch the chemical, atomic body resurrect itself, rise up to take control. the fighter, eating roots and garbage and doing what's necessary to survive in the unknown present. meanwhile I'm getting a nice domesticated belly and tired eyes from staring at cathode ray screens. there's time for it all, it's all taken care of.

muscles getting a life of their own as the cold buries itself deeper into the meat. turn around to go back to the warmth, but then there's the terrible shrieking sound of cats fighting a few streets away. is it Jose? put the plate down on the wall, run to find out, forget about the cold. bare feet starting to go numb on the concrete and tarmac but they'll recover. breath steaming, jogging carefully, watching for glass and tin and stones to cut my soft feet. the fight's a bad one, someone's in pain, an ear or whiskers or fur torn, an eye scratched,  a claw ripped out? let's hope it's not Jose, he's such a soft little catthing and Stan doesn't look like he can pay too many vets' bills. not like my mother who brings the cat to the vet if he looks tired, at £30 a visit. learned how to manage money from my mother, what a fucking tragedy. still, at least she cares about cats. i got that from her too.

every street is cold and quiet and empty of movement, red brick terraces with lights out and chimneys dark and unused. we all have central heating or electric heaters. no one burns wood or coal any more and even the candles in the wondows for Christmas are electric. they have an artificial waver built into them as if to appear more realistic despite the fact that they are green and red and yellow and placed under curtains that would have caught fire. gardens are paved with concrete slabs and the plants are all in pots. feet numb now, no cats in sight, the fighting noises have stopped and there are only the factory vents and the distant cars and my own breathing. my lungs are getting chilled. I make miaowing noises but there's no answer and any minute now someone is going to wonder what psycho is creeping around the street in the small hours trying to be a cat. time to go back to the warm place. time for bed, even, maybe. no work tomorrow. the faint, faint mist of the galaxy overhead, reminding me how short my own life is. measured in increments between short, pointless weekends, and moments like this, mostly unrecorded, lost somewhere in time, "like tears in rain", like something that never happened. there was no catfight. next morning Jose will be scratching at the door looking for more tuna and luvvins, and it all goes on as normal for another day.

takes a few minutes for my feet to get warm again, held over the heater as i balance on one leg and try not to look silly. the vectors of the house take over my mind so easily, as I count off the next few steps mentally. a cup of tea, some time on the computer, then get ready for bed. lock the door, turn off the heaters and the lights, brush teeth, snuggle, fall asleep. i don't know anything about the stars and i don't know why every night i have to stand for at least a moment on the porch looking up at the sky. maybe something will fall out of it, or into my mind. maybe one day they won't be there. maybe i won't be. there's no story to the moment at all, no compulsion and no reason. like a marble in a bowl, i roll into the zero point and stay there until I'm moved again.

Kendron, The Body

Late at night, screaming at the nameless bright stuff
Kendron is trying to get the drop on the insane
catch it unawares, rip it apart and eat it
sleep exhausted shivering on a shed roof

squatting on a rock by the edge of the water,
shoulders hunched, listening for bird calls
somewhere behind there's a presence, a mind:
ignore it, it doesn't exist, it doesn't matter

Kendron has a gun, Kendron sweats and screams
glowing blood-orange in an oven-hot kitchen.
He won't fuck you unless he loves you;
but it's okay. He loves everyone.

A marble in a bowl, chasing zero,
hands and eyes focused on a synthetic plane
tuned into the overworld, spine a shockwave,
a fish slingshotting up a cold weir,

a strangled gasp in a freezing fog,
Kendron can close his eyes and hold his breath
and suddenly, beautifully, he never existed.
Reborn every moment. In debt to every atom.

he obsessed over a terrible nightmare from his past
until it broke him: baby-killer locked and drugged
in an asylum, he lost 20 years of life and mind,
emerged to see his father, his wife, his own hands

lined and trembling. realization like the collapse
of glaciers. he'd been wandering the labyrinth
of his own mind for decades, thinking it real.
horror and loss, tears, waking and relief.

but the fear lingered.
how could he know what was real?
who could tell him?
and then, to remember:

I am Kendron, the body.
I don't dream and I'm not lost.
there's nothing but this.
there's no NEED for anything but this.

sun, frost, roads, branches, faces.
spirals and soft sounds. cats.
a star fading into a yellow horizon.
at last, dying and living for no reason.
 

Invisible Road

everything we ever hoped for, swallowed
in the last desperate act of a suicide
refusing the places that the mind wants to go

the sound of the cat scratching at the door
the stars are biting the blue air and the moon
is lighting up the clouds like chemical flares

ambient music in the chilly front room
sound bubbles popping craters like raindrops in sand
a link back through memory to another city

the road ahead is invisible
and all the lives behind us
forgotten

Pendulum

the russian army officers shout in the long, cold darkness together with the barking of dogs and the constant, low whistle of the wind. starving in the arms of a dying superpower while new gods and angels stand astride the world. the sound of their horns brings the stars  down. the seas are filling up and the bread is all stale and they're selling their uniforms for milk. the body of the great god is rotten and the woman clothed with the sun is getting big and craving weird things. she's raging; she's nesting in a web of flame and waiting for the armies to build. the soil won't accept seed and the air carries no scent.

the warehouse streets outside the city shake at night with the roar of joyrider engines; and then it all collapses with the silence pouring into the light of morning and the burnt out car shells smoke in the wood. glass and charcoal in a blasted black circle and tyre tracks through the snowdrop patches. because everything is like that. like balance. your god is a marble rolling in a shallow bowl, a number dancing opposite its negative around the void. the superunknown. pendulums straining for the centre of the earth. your biorhythmic low, your wild mood swings, your unimaginable zero. fascinated and distantly watching the bathwater spiral away, wanting to understand. watching the sparrows coming back into the trees and the flowers tearing their way through the pavements. even the rock flows. nothing is solid.

we began on the grasslands and the marshes wading through the floods for food, holding each other in the dark and listening fearfully for the cough of the lion and the hyena's cackle. sky fire, rolling earth, and each other. the tower was struck down and the language broken, and there was no brother or sister any more. astral babies trapped in a birth sack made of thoughts and images and memories, knowing nothing but the surface, the membrane warped by touch. music swelling in the muscles of the throat like vomit and sadness, and the stars indestructible and indifferent in the dark.

there's an invisible thing in the yellow bedroom living in the quiet space between gestures, and if we let it, it would crawl into our warm lives like a child. a piece of fruit desperate to ripen. an inside cat, staring in fear and longing through the weird cold of the sitting room window. a tiny universe of walls and carpets with no time and no balance, just voices and smells from a temporary set of lives. water spiralling into the plughole, the pendulum falling forever. the cat growing sleepy and finally drifting sideways into the place of veils and confusion.

still, always, hopelessly straining for the real voice, the pure violin string in the centrifuge, the knife shriek in the earthquake howl, the mouse squeak in the menagerie madness, the impossible contact that puts you in the fusion core of the fever and shows you the truth. a pendulum seeking the centre of the earth, not through choice but just because this is how things are: they balance. you'll know it when it comes because it will be nothing at all. a mirror, a surface like the skin of a ghost, something pure because it protects nothing.

the old, broken king drowning himself in the eely water off the metal jetty. frozen moments of motion between intervals of blindness, like movie reels and zoetropes and memories. photographs of stick fights outside run-down cottages. moonlight on the crabs and sandflies on the shore of a calm sea. nothing to describe. the feeling of falling in a dream, the feeling of crying in a dream. lentils sprouting in a shallow bowl set under a basement window. chai tea heating over a gas flame and children's voices through the wall. nothing to describe. everything running backwards like a clock returning to the beginning for a second chance, and all the wars erased and all the words nothing but sounds. memories churned into a soup of poetry and understanding. something lost on the road beside the orange peels and the coke cans. an old branch you swung on, and that was the moment you first knew. nothing to describe.

the mind is a train ride through regions of light and dark. it's a girl in a blue dressing gown who loves you. fishing for something perfect in the shallow floodwaters moving through the mansion hallway. reading the sacred texts of an unknown and doomed religion with your head rising like a seed on a stalk to the ceiling. shaving without a mirror in ice cold dirty water in a rusty basin, tiny happy guru picture at the foot of the bed making everything insanely new. impossible; nothing to describe. traffic cones and pizza boxes and papaya and incense muddled together into chaos. something like balance. something like zero. a watch chain seeking the planet core. your body flat on the floor before the altar, seeking the centre of the universe, and when you got there, there was nothing left to do but come back again.

criss cross, words minced and chopped together. anger against the father, the cabala, the computerized testosterone death machine of chanting bible heartbeat sine waves marching towards death like breastmilk soldiers. napoleon's men starving and freezing to death thousands of miles from mother and home. the wrinkled monkeys panicking in the treetops as the eagle passes; panicking in the banyan roots when the leopard's snout nudges through the undergrowth. death from above and death from below makes you the zero where everything meets. nothing to describe except the colour of the good leaves and the taste of the bad; the waxy smell of the air as you bowed to your icons in the dark; the way every flower thinks it's going to be the bloom that the poet falls in love with. for one immortal, a billion forgotten lives.

kissing her finger, lying beside her while the morning swells like a tide behind the curtains, wondering how much of your mind she sees when you're sitting across from each other in the jagged warm sitting room full of screens and empty plates and words everywhere. words in your head all the time, hanging from axons and dendrites over the unknown, swarming around the swallowing point, pendulums seeking the centre of the earth. you come close to her and then move away again. light grows and fades in a blue haze and the night comes before you're ready. then the day comes before you're ready. you're never ready. sleep and waking don't mean anything any more except as markers, limit points on an attractor. back to zero.

always returning to somewhere that doesn't exist.
 

In The Country

I was in a large complex building very like the Leeds University Students Union, but as with all my dreams it had many more rooms and passageways and wasn't exactly like any building I'd ever been in. I'd just decided, after a lot of agonizing, to quit studying there, but I was still hanging around the campus for another few weeks. My friend and I were sitting outside a new, trendy bar in the Students Union. It was yellow-and-orange themed in a headache-inducing, cheesy-retro style. The tables and chairs were a bright, neon, chequered yellow and orange mess. Even the doorman was dressed in a kind of yellow and orange jumpsuit. I made a funny remark about the eighties coming back, and the owner of the bar, who was listening from inside, took offense and started shouting at me and calling me names. I wanted to explain that I hadn't meant anything offensive, just an ironic social statement and not an insult to him personally, but I couldn't find the right words.

Then I was outside myself, watching myself. I wasn't being someone else; it was an out-of-(dream)body experience and I could only do it by closing my eyes almost to slits. I was fascinated with how I looked as I did simple things. It was like knowing how other people see me, and I felt a kind of detached love for myself as a beautiful person. My hair was short and I wondered if I had looked better when it was long. This became relevant later in the dream.

I wandered around the Union a little. It was full of people. Parts of it were like the corridors of a hospital, with people waiting around in dingy rooms, staring at the walls. A group of black men were hanging around in front of a TV which was attached high up the wall. They were all eating pizza and drinking cola. I "remembered" at some point that I was supposed to get to the main office to watch a guy who was going to castrate himself after applying a local anaesthetic. I'm not sure if he wanted to become a woman or if he was just doing it for a bet. I really didn't want to watch but for some reason I knew I had to be there.

While I was wandering around looking for the head office, the Leeds University Students Union somehow metamorphosed into my old family home, and instead of a guy castrating myself, I was supposed to watch while my parents cut our cat Velvet's tail off. I found Velvet cowering in a cupboard, and I picked her up in my arms. I didn't want them to cut her tail off so I was trying to find a place where she would be safe. While I was carrying her she turned into a colobus monkey and started wriggling away from me. I managed to get her into a small room where I thought she'd be safe, but it was full of hostile monkeys of a different species, and when I closed the door I realized she'd be in trouble, so I went back inside and got her out again. I brought her out to the edge of the garden and let her go, and when I was turning away I noticed her twisting around and contorting. I realized that she was choking, and stuck my finger down her throat to fish out the bone that had caught there. After I did this I realized that saving a life is an incredibly powerful and significant thing to do, because you are adding to the universe. All the new possible universes that can be created by decisions of the being whose life you have saved are your responsibility.

I found a present from my dad waiting for me on the stairs. It was an old raincoat, and he'd left a note saying that it needed to be washed but that I might like to wear it anyway. I went to find the master bedroom, where I knew he would probably be. When I found him he was standing in the doorway. He was really tall and big, as if I was seeing him from the perspective of a small child, and he was smiling broadly. His hair was quite wild and long-ish, and he looked so youthful and happy that I almost wanted to cry. He hugged me, and I wanted to ask him what had happened, because I knew that he had been away "in the country" and I wondered what had made him come back so different and alive, but just then my grandad (my mother's dad) came up the stairs. Everyone was coming upstairs for a dinner in the master bedroom, which now had a large table and an oven and a fireplace. There was a pile of chocolate biscuits in the fireplace, and I took one and started eating it. My mother came from the oven with food on a tray, looking flushed and happy, and I realized that she and my dad had had sex.

I asked her what had happened to my dad on his trip to the country, and she said that she didn't know because he was being very secretive about it. We all sat down around the table, and I asked him straight out in front of everyone, "So, you have to tell us what happened when you were down in the country." He wasn't annoyed. He smiled and looked down almost shyly and began with "Well, now..."

Then I woke up.

My Fake Mechanical Hand

I was looking after my mother's cats. I can't remember the reason, and there probably wasn't one anyway. My mother has this cantankerous old black-and-white cat called Velvet, and I was carrying her into one of the upstairs bedrooms when she started to piss herself. I put her down gently and went to get a towel, but she just kept pissing, until the carpet was soaked and cat pee was trickling down the staircase. Eventually she stopped, visibly smaller than before, and with a strange and bashful expression.

I picked her up again, and she sank her claws into my hand and wrist. I tried to let go of her, but she just kept tearing at the skin until finally I got free. I looked at my hand. At first it seemed okay - just a few scratches and a few spots of blood - but every time I looked, it got worse - the gouges welled up with dark red arterial blood, which started dripping to the floor. I was trying to clean up the stains, and then I noticed that the cuts went all the way around my hand - they were so deep that I could see my muscle and bone, and it looked like I could have pulled on my fingers and pulled my whole hand off like a glove, leaving only the bones. There was no pain, but I started to panic.

Luckily my friend J is a doctor. He looked at my injuries and laughed, and for some reason this made me feel better, even though my hand was still getting worse - I wondered if I would get gangrene and it would have to be amputated. J brought out a carpenter's vise and I started to get really worried, but it turned out he was just trying to freak me out. He had this idea that people take their injuries too seriously. He looked at the wounds again and said
"This is going to be expensive."
"How much? Thousands of pounds?"
"Expensive."
I kept trying to call the hospital, dialling the numbers with my good hand, but I couldn't get through. Eventually J drove me to the hospital himself. He said he was too tired to do anything himself, but he got a friend of his to attend to me, a young doctor with blonde hair and a calm aura.

He opened up my hand along the line of the cut and extracted a long piece of metal from it. "How the hell did that get in there?" I asked, and he showed me my hand. It was a thin wooden box with metal hasps and a mirror inside. I started to laugh, saying "Oh my god, my hand is mechanical," and he laughed too and took the box away, revealing my real hand. It had just been a joke.

    At this point I woke up, went to get a glass of water, holding my hand delicately because I was pretty much convinced that it had been badly damaged. I went back to sleep and re-entered the dream at exactly the same point.

The young doctor used glue to stick my hand back together. He was in a rush because he had so many patients to attend to, and he was only looking after me as a favour to J, but he did a pretty good job. There were a couple of places where the wound was not fully closed, or where air had been trapped underneath my skin to form a strange kind of bubble, but I was happy enough that it would heal up and I wouldn't lose it.