city

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.

The city knows I'm leaving

The city knows I'm leaving and although it reacts slowly its judgements are intractable and painful. The roads are becoming difficult — decayed patches in asphalt and tarmac appearing every day, collapsed in on themselves like cavities, like sores in a long grey tongue. The ghosts are getting angrier. Maybe it seems arrogant for me to describe fellow human beings as ghosts, but I include myself. To me they are all ghosts, the grey ones passing me in the morning, stalking their own rain-shadows to work - they pass through me without seeing me, leaving only shivers. I pass through them too. Their faces flicker past me and begin to merge like the images on a zoetrope. Laughing, shouting, frowning, empty.

Everything here seems designed to keep an obsessive mind occupied for all eternity. Late at night, where I used to stand feeling lonely on the balcony overlooking the apartment district, now I stand with a baby, gently jigging up and down. Baby likes to be rocked, and I don't feel lonely any more, but the view is the same: endless lego-block buildings stacked and jumbled like the unfinished projects of a child. Everything is square, rectangular, straight, reflective. Office buildings like grids with coloured flourescent lights, apartment buildings like gigantic nests of cubicles. The window, the wall, the building, all right-angled, calculated for spatial efficiency and economic maximization. Stack us in like sardines and charge us as much as possible. On our walls we have rectangular pictures, the frames strangling the scenes. The windows strangle the world. The buildings strangle the people. Thousands upon thousands of straight lines and right angles as far as I can see. The cellular automata we have created as our dwelling-places and artworks. Our legacy of lines and frames and grids, our blocks stacked to the sky, the triumph of the endlessly repeated unit over the organic whole.

I dream of myself as a country. I dream of myself as a battleground. I dream of myself as a videogame territory, gridlines and hexagons and cubes all bundled together, arteries like superhighways, mapped out perfectly, and those warriors, those soldiers, those thoughts, go to war over my cells. In my body's day they fight by the light of an inner sun and by night they light torches soaked in enzymes. Their feet stamp to the beat of a polka, to the tick of the metronome that replaced my heart.

The city knows I'm leaving and it turns its best face out to me sometimes. The sun sets over the river and all the glass office rooves catch fire and look like the citadels of Byzantium. The canal docks smell briefly of the sea, and gulls and herons gather on the jetty, crying. I can close my eyes and imagine myself at the beach, on the shore of an island, on a hill overlooking the ocean thirty thousand years ago. The pounding rain melts the harsh angles of the windows and doorframes and everything seems to flow in my sight as I sit in the warmth. The baby is asleep and so is his mother and my apartment sits in the sky like a bubble of safe warmth suspended over distant walking ghosts, boats, toy cars. That's how she woos us, the city. That's the bargain she offers.

One day I will miss these shining angles and windows and the million ghostly reflections of myself in windows and mirrors, but not today. Today I miss the trees. The silent language of patience, the way a stone is embraced and loved by moss and rain until it forgets it is a stone and becomes the ghost of a growing thing, a home without angles. The way I will walk ten miles without seeing a straight line that has not been broken by something chaotic - a crack, a branch, a slant, a collapse, a meander. The way I'll feel that obsessive chant in the mind weakening: the city's voice, her final siren song painting images of a timeless perfection. In the future, love, always in the future. Until it stops, and I return to where I was before; to what I always was anyway. Imperfect. Alive. Now.

Signs Of Life

In the crevices of the cityscape, high up on forgotten, unwitnessed rooftops, or deep underground in eternally-lit car parks and basements - tiny and green and clinging desperately, there are grasses and ferns, shrubs with browned leaves and loose roots - darkened with car-filth and stunted from shallow beds - fed on poor chlorophylls and glass-reflected sunlight - worming through gaps in the paving mosaics and the storm drain labyrinths, the roadworks fissures - or trapped in dry pots on balconies, island universes unpollinated, glass bubbles hurtling silently towards dying stars - new leaves and shoots for a cold spring - hurricanes held fast behind double glazing -



God help us, but there are signs - I wither in the wrong arms and the wrong gaze, my love - like the patches of green we see in the dead cities, like the tenuous flowers in your gutters, I am vulnerable - I feel myself change in response to sunlight, anger, coffee, sadness -  I miss my family, I miss solitude - I cannot turn the page of my book and I cannot switch off the television - children frighten me because they are still savagely free - and I don't know if they're better that way or better like me.

There are no bees for the blooms and no nests in the tall trees and the water is lumpy and sick with plastic and pollution - and yet there are swans patrolling the canal docks, there are willos leaning away from the tarmac and the concrete, leaf-shadows still move on the water's surface too. There are house cats curled up fat and sleepy in sunny patches on new hardwood tables in the steel penthouses and there are mosses and ivies creeping across the stonework of neglected warehouses and the walls of car parks, old stairwells, dull alleyways -

Where we lie awake at night in fear of the inhuman demands of the next day - instead of going insane we go asleep and are filled with new patience every morning. Our children run down corridors uncaring that the light at the end is flickering - for them the sun is the only sun and now is the only time and they have no memory of our failures - life crowds their minds and heats their blood and drives the words out of their singing mouths with their birthright savagery. This purity, this vulnerability, this renewal.

There are signs of life - music in the city squares and parties in the rental honeycombs - children free-running in the urban gardens and somersaulting off the statues - new expressions and new addictions and new perceptions in eyes that didn't exist only a few years ago. New eyes - can there be a greater miracle than new eyes? Where did that mind come from to see the light entering those eyes, what radiates, what binds? Lord, what soul is this that knows you? How did a new being come to exist, how is it that this world can be witnessed? Glory, glory, glory - or something like that. Words to do with dumbfoundedness. With crying for all those dear ones that we have left behind in time and will never see again, all those new leaves and secret green and glowing things, all those new eyes opening on an always new world.

i have failed

I have failed in your million rows of data     and failed in your moments of pressure     I have failed to become smooth     I am a failed machine     the lines on your wall do not describe my days     I have failed to be represented there     I have failed to arrive or leave on time     and everything I have done has turned out different to how we planned it     I am sorry     I cannot relax on your trains and I cannot enjoy lunch in your canteens     I have searched for purpose in what I do     I have been smiling and I have been polite     I have tried     I am sorry     I have failed in your vast network     I am offline

I cannot focus on my screen sometimes     and I forget my passwords     I send emails and do not understand the replies     sometimes out of frustration I am sarcastic or angry     when really I feel like crying     we are not supposed to cry in the cubicles     my friend looks at me like I am incredible     in these moments     when I have failed     like I am incomprehensible     like I have failed     I do not like the fluorescent lights     I neglect the time management systems     I find the project plan to be a work of surrealist art     I drink too much coffee     I fall asleep in meetings     I do not respect my managers     I have failed to be a model employee     I have failed to show initiative or to improve myself or my co-workers     I have philosophical problems     I have failed to flow     my diagrams make sense only to me     I have the mistaken belief that we are all good people     I have the mistaken belief that none of us take these things seriously     I have the mistaken belief that my reactions are rational and human     I have failed to be objective     I have failed to perform an accurate self assessment     I have cheated on my personality test     I do not function as part of a machine     and therefore by any proper definition I simply do not function at all     I do not function     I am sorry

there are fields of data in myriad forms     dates and strings and integers     we are creating harmonies between networks of order     we are transforming languages that no one will ever speak     I have failed to find this inspiring     characters have begun to blur in my sight     I have failed to become a cypher between databases     I have failed to become a key molded to a lock     I have failed to find a way to maintain focus     I am not clear and present     I would rather be almost anywhere else     I am sorry     I am an anomaly in this world     I am a glitch in the smooth running of the machines that employ me     I have failed to become smooth

my mind is a chaos     everything I have achieved has been by accident     I get headaches     I am not at peace in a forest of screens     I am not at peace listening to the hum of a thousand computers     I cannot meditate     I have failed to integrate the machine experience into my life     I do not collect the things of the past     I have trouble remembering who I was ten years ago     or even one year ago     I have trouble knowing who I am in this moment     I have failed to be consistent     I have failed to apply myself     I do not have a five year plan     I do not know if becoming involved with me will be good or bad for you     I do not know if I am a good or bad person     it is possible that I am bad     it is possible that I am wrong     I am sorry     I have failed to become something recognizable

I will try to escape your notice     I will try not to break the machine     I will try simply to live     I have failed to be assimilated into the glass eggshells     the concrete megaliths     I have crossed the river and I have failed to forget     the grey river and the grey bridge     the thousand souls walking the bridge in the morning     as the river swells in from the sea     as the light squeezes in through the clouds     I have crossed the river with you and not recognized you     I have failed to iron my shirt and I have forgotten my door pass     I am sorry

Wishsongs

the walls are crumbling, but only because so many were built - skeletal ruins in the style of all the dead kings together, dark against reddened clouds. licked by dragons curled around the rotten foundations. the players are picking the last tiles, one by one, placing them carefully on the green felt. white dragon, five circles, west wind. they are all holding and so the final end is only ritual, until the final brick is exposed and the wall is no more, and the board is washed by impatient, happy hands. the family heirlooms in the attic turn out to be empty rusted biscuit tins and torn clothes, newspaper cuttings from an imaginary country, unplayable vision reels and books in a script that swims and dances. this house is a person and this person is a universe, and the mind has swarmed through every barrier, lives in the abandoned cobwebs and spider corpses, the hunched, autistic corners of the sitting room, the god-intoxicated wishsongs of the One True Church.

The Meadows

We beheld a city of hypnotic scents and rhythms
looping trails of lights like fireflies
swirling around spectacular buildings
air vibrating with thousands of voices
chattering like crickets
electrocuted tumbleweed on power lines
interiors washed with overlaid sound
cool-air-swept and timeless
deep pile carpets and mysterious dials
interfaces for minds obsessed with chance
randomly built from desert ground
randomly filled with purchased anticulture

ten days could have turned into a year
until fallen from unreal horses we wither
as the unarguable earth drains us
reminding us about scale and size and time
the labyrinth of dreams and canyons
and dreams of canyons
and deserts apparently beaten back
that reappear as dreamed deserts
crowding the psyches as lights and sounds
deserts in which soul water disappears
and Jerusalem and Babylon become one

the soulless mind craves shining things
the thrill of risk and reward in the glands
hormones racing through tired veins
the heat, the cold, the heavy blue silence
and the endless dark layers of music
the mind wants to be seduced over and over
led through stranger and brighter ways
labyrinths of the real to match
the endless unreal dreamscape of every night
and led by the mind we risk being truly lost
becoming one of the unreal, shining things
a mirror image of a vanished someone,
dark energy rushing through hardened arteries

and God hardened Pharaoh's heart
and the plagues were called down
and the seas were ripped back from the sand
blood in the rivers and corpses in beds
and no land of milk and honey, only
sun-hot rocks, prophecy and stricture,
holy cities raped by every soldier nation
and the invincible, eternal desert uber alles

Twin Universe

now to wait for the truth, the root and the fruit, the voice that was supposed to be a birthright and has been silent, not the voice but the images, the dreaming flow in the mind and the unselfconsciousness, not THIS IS GOOD, not WHO AM I but the dreaming flow, the images that twist and shimmer and are never the same in the brain, liquid and milky and fickle, words written over and over like the name of god on the devil's book, words dancing like a face on the water and everywhere the image, the evolution of the image across a million years of a golden beach, erosion and sunlight and the footprints of fantastic beasts, buried monoliths and megaliths cracked and fallen, moons lost in memory and the words, the words, what was I saying - when I lie asleep sometimes I'm not asleep and that's when the other eye opens -

there's something in the symmetry of the floor tiles in the cafe where the old women mumble through mouthfuls of cake about the old rituals and the new rituals, and the rain thunders on the plastic roof of the shopping centre and the smell of chips - something that's reflected in the mind and emerges in science, in painting, in the rhythm of fingertips on intimate skin, something in the beauty of her obsessions as she sculpts her thoughts into something permanent, something that glimmers in an electrical web across the light years between stars - or am I being overdramatic - is it nothing but patterns averaged over eons of randomness - the laws, the edges of clouds and the incredible colours - blades of grass moon-bright -

another time I might have sung into my sleeve / I might have cried and hid my face / I might have stood in the shadows and watched you leave / another time I might have decided that it was time to go / peel back the air with my hands and peer into the universe under the skin of this one / the shy twin who waits

Grange Road

Grange road runs crazy
from between the church and the shopping centre
up to the foothills of what we call
the Dublin Mountains

and we know it for this small slice of time,
a year we've spent in a strange house
full of musty books and stale chocolate,
rusting knives and forks,
shivering patience of lace curtains
on windows overlooking the road,
catching the odd glint of red at sunset
over slate rooves and cold chimneys

we know it for what it has been for a year
alive at night with drunken teenagers
kicking over bins, smashing car windows,
hanging around Londis asking you
to buy them alcohol
they'll bring it to the park
they'll drink it hastily in the darkness
they'll break things in an ecstatic rage
and blindly let the road swim them home

it's a river of life and death
and apparently random decisions
we saw a boy in a red car lose control
around the tricky corner
and destroy 2 cars in a headlong collision
they both lived - this time -
residents gathered to watch, talking
about the other accidents at that corner,
the ones who made it and the ones who died
right there on the road
in bloodstains bleached by the streetlights

over the park wall among the dead leaves
you can hear the cars moaning past
you can imagine dying souls travelling home
there's a stream that follows its path
for a while, under and over ground, through gardens
it runs to join the Dodder
where this road is forgotten
its memories emptied into cold black water

prayers and curses for two miles and fifty years
and we've known very little of it but what sings
in the blood in the small hours
what beats in the heart in the wind
an infinite procession of hooves and then tyres,
young feet growing older, then young feet again
what is a road anyway
it lays itself down in your mind
and in your dreams you follow it
and every other road you've ever known
to the gates of your sacred city
 

Harehills

Harehills, choked up with red brick
and flowing with arms and legs
neon, rubbish, laundry and takeaway food
and trees, receding up the road towards Oakwood,
Gipton, Gledhow valley, smells of fruit and spices
from the grocers' displays and the restaurants
traffic endlessly flowing through a nexus
and the hills swarming with rust coloured terraces

everything is moving, snow in a snow shaker, storms
of thought and movement like driven raindrops
the hotels are half empty and the call shops are full
as everyone tries to reach home -
distorted words at 30p a minute, stories that now seem strange
and back to the neon, red brick labyrinth,
storm-stunned, hallucinated and now precious

Swallowing Hair

woke up making a choking sound because of a dream where I had swallowed all this hair and gunk strung together like the gunk down a plughole, and I was pulling it out strand by strand from my throat

dreamed I was in a huge, enclosed city with a glass ceiling, on the run to or from something, and saw a huge amount of ice from the ceiling detach itself and tumble on to a crowded part of the main street, squashing and killing dozens of people and flattening them into a red mush - I was horrified and kept walking with my hands over my face, eyes wide.

I was on the phone to a client from a job a long time ago and he wanted to talk to David, but David was out of the office and wouldn't be back till Monday. Martin didn't want to talk to him and made me fob him off. This made the client angry and he accused us of not knowing what we were doing. I got annoyed about this and asked him if he had a problem that needed solving and he said not right now, so I asked him what was the matter then. He said that to explain he would need to show me a demo movie from his company. My computer was in pieces on the floor and by the time I had it almost put together again the movie was over and it was time for the client's lunch. He was angry that I hadn't managed to watch it. He was just angry. Is this a metaphor?