city

Needles

Late at night, Liadain's asleep on the sofa
and the cat's curled by the heater - TV down low -
silence through the window behind me turns into hissing
then a thin thunder like the shaking of heavy chains
as a week of still cloud dissolves into 5 minutes of rain

I open the door and stare at the clear cold sky left behind
I'm a needle in the shallow groove of the street
held still by the stylus of the stars
while the planet turns, making weird music
I don't belong here, but somehow I'm still in tune

sometimes at night there are explosions, gunshots,
the roar of souped-up engines along the warehouse roads
the twitch of spying curtains, the cat's confused voice -
it won't go into its owner's house since his mother died -
a hooded face peering around the corner, perverts in the chip shop
and grey-skinned women smoking on doorsteps through the afternoon
the war graveyard tangled with sycamores and oaks, and the hills
covered with tiny red houses: matchboxes waiting for a spark.

I'm a needle in my own veins. The face in the mirror
isn't me. The voice in my head isn't me.
The stoned bathroom dancer, the past and future
of my decisions, the way my friends see me; none of it is me.
I'm a compass needle swinging crazily, magnetized
on an invisible lodestone, for an unknown purpose.

Sitting in Starbucks sipping latte at old newsreel doublespeed
sixties music from the speakers, soft seat cushions
everyone giving each other strange, secret glances -
everyone wants something. The end of the world,
the end of the self in someone else's smile. History
happening every second, ignored, misunderstood
and all of it just a thought, disappeared, already over -

we fight and make up, crash dishes in the kitchen
and go asleep in the Buddha room with foreheads touching -
we make love, we curl up in fear at night, we're caught
in the flow, passing like petals, it's all already over
and it doesn't matter. We're needles placed
in the meridians of the Earth itself, doing what we can.
We have to believe it's enough just to be as we are;
if not, then nothing’s worth fighting for anyway.

No-one's Garden

Parin tends a garden owned by no one -
bushes growing stunted in the red brick dark
between two terraces; old wooden gates
that only he opens; a path from street to street
never used and usually never seen.

With no alternative and no one to stop him,
he plants parts of his own mind in the dry soil
along with the shrubs and the ivy:
blue clouds blown across a cold red sunset
as he crested the hill at Roundhay Park on his bike;

the cold air and the noise the fox made when Sajid
killed it behind the school all those years ago;
the way the motorway noise never ended at night,
eventually drove the cat insane and made her shit
all over the house, until Dad wrung her neck in a rage.

Parin buried her in the soft dirt at the edge of the park,
because their garden was only glass and concrete.
The soil between houses is hard and thirsty, but he's healing it.
He remakes memories on the city council payroll
every day, in this dark little space between lives.
 

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.
 

Morning Laugh

this is my morning, hidden in the urban sprawl with sore back and axle grease on my arms, the girl I love is asleep in our bed and I'm not with her because I'm still trying to find a real voice, down here in the electromagnetic  screen limbo, trying to stir the energy, like Schauberger building spiral flumes down an infinite river in his dreams, then waking up again broke and giggling in America, just trying to catch a big wave in my mind and body and ride it the rest of my life, like all those friends who took me to parties and strange brown rooms in strange cities and got me high and watched me walk out of their lives again into some other future

this is my morning in a circle, on a train that rocks on silver tracks through foggy churchgrounds and pastures into a tunnel to the center of the earth. Some guys like to drink and fight and pass out, some guys like to fuck and forget, like starting fires in your own garden and then running away as a joke, like playing chicken with a brick wall. I like to look out the windows of my nightmare bus at the raindrops and contrails, or try to meditate squeezed tight between the woman with her walkman at max volume and the young guys smoking cigarettes and talking about death. They don't realize they're talking about death but I can hear it behind their voices.

I once wanted to change
and now I can't ever stop
it all went too far and now I'm going to be sliding
for the rest of my life
and if you love me you're coming with me
do you want that? You can say no
most people have.

in the evening when the kids have stopped cycling around the concrete paths of the estate and the horizon is dark aquamarine and the air smells like the air of a country I can't quite remember, but I know I must have been there - I can't tell if the house is empty or full. I want to go upstairs and hold her and make her happy. I want to write something down that when I read it again in the morning will remind me who I am.

this is my morning that no one can take from me, 5 years old again reading boy thrillers by the light of the landing and listening to my parents' voices, connecting. I want to connect. The phone is always where I can reach it. Hook me up, please, I'm like an island without a sea, I don't have anyone to tell me what to do and that's how I wanted it but when there's no sound except rain water in the drainpipes then I feel lonely and suddenly nothing fucking matters at all

pretty soon they'll bomb us where we stand, shred our skin and smear our insides across the walls of the places we lived all our lives. They'll shell the libraries and the schools and hide the dead children in the walls of the churches, burn the oil fields for a hundred years and fill the mines with sulphur. They'll poison the water and release viruses into the air, and for anyone left alive, shaking and singing in the ruins of their homes, they will save their worst, they will tell them that there is no life but this one.

this is my morning, locked in a white cell, masked and gagged and running on a bone treadmill, surrounded by electricity, staggering, starting to howl, as the lights flicker and the walls tremble and the machinery starts to speak - and the machinery in me translates - don't turn us off - I wish I was a fish in a tank, bobbing in the bubble column and hiding under the rocks, a fish tank in a happy restaurant, where the lights would go out after midnight and I'd float in the dark without a name, without understanding the concept of a name, without even understanding what a life is. Just me, in my cold water chamber, dancing in the cooklights, the wok flames reflecting in the glass

sleep is like a hand around my head, the voice comes and goes and I'm still trying to tune myself in through the noise - obsessive phrases, song lyrics, chess pieces blinking in and out of existence in patterns so familiar I can dream about them. One day I'd like to open up my head and tip out everything I don't need, but maybe that already happened and I was too crazy to notice. this is my morning and this is me.
 

Monsters and Islands in the Sky

I'm in the streets of a strange city, at some unspecified time in the past or future. It's hard to say if it's even on Earth, because everything is mixed together so strangely - the architecture is Greco-Roman, with low, white, columned buildings, wide streets, plazas and statues, but there are cars and restaurants and horses and the people are dressed in 20th century clothing. The sky is a pure, perfect blue and the air is hot.

I've been chosen as the prey in a national sport, as punishment for some crime that I can't remember. I can't remember exactly what the sport is, until I look into the sky and I see the head and arm of a gigantic monster, just like the Rancor from Return of the Jedi, but far, far bigger, a mile high, with eyes tens of metres across staring down at me. This is the game. This monster is to catch and eat me, and the citizens of the city will know that justice has been done.

I run and hide in one of the buildings. I know instinctively that there are certain rules to the game - the monster is intelligent, and will follow these rules. It is an embodiment of the judicial forces of the city, and it will not just randomly crush houses and kill indiscriminately in order to get me. It can only kill me, and it will take as long as it takes.

I can feel it trying to reach inside the building to pluck me out. It seems to be able to grow and shrink as it pleases. I nearly dive into a waste chute heading downwards from one of the walls inside the bulding, which is full of old clothes and baskets, but a sign on the wall says that it is full of acid. I leave the building and run across a square into a maze of narrow alleys.

Later, I'm ascending a hill which is completely covered with houses - a densely populated, elevated quarter. Somewhere along the way I've picked up a companion, a woman who says she can help me escape. I'm in no immediate danger from the Rancor, which I can see in the far distance searching a different part of the city, but the realization is starting to sink in that I can't elude it - the monster is tireless and immortal, and it will never stop hunting me, and one day I'll just be too tired or careless or forgetful, and it's hand will reach down out of the sky and grab me at last.

We pass a famous theatre where actors perform Shakespeare's plays on a balcony hundreds of meteres above the street, and we go from there into the warren of buildings that cover the hill. It's almost like the entire hill is a hive of people, honeycombed with houses and streets and shops and lit by torchlight. People who we talk to seem willing to help me, but there are also people pursuing me, who want to give me up to the monster, so we have to keep moving.

I reach the far side of the hill, where the city ends and the landscape opens out to something like the Arizona desert, with high, jagged mesas and lightning storms. It's getting close to sunset. I swim across a small pool of water to stand on the city wall, and I realize I don't want to become a wanderer out there. I want to stay with the people I know and love. So I decide to remain, and take the chance that the monster will catch me.

Days later, I'm in a restaurant having dinner with some friends, and when we come out I look up into the sky and I see an island floating there, green and blue and white, like a child's version of heaven up in the sky. Clouds all around it spell out its name, which I can't remember, only that it began with an A. Then I see the Rancor again. I realized I could always be found because I was electronically tagged, and whenever I paid for something, like in the restaurant I had just been to with my friends, my location would be broadcast to the authorities.

I wanted to give up. I thought I would just let the Rancor kill me and get it over with, and in that moment I saw the reality of my own death: no certainty, no heaven or hell, no inevitable return, and the loss of every companion, all my loved-ones and friends, all memory and familiarity, sucked into the universe and washed and forgotten. I was too afraid then to give up, so I ran again.
 

Medium

she wakes
to radiant dark
the sound of her name

whispering faceless
bodies without flesh
she's their lost grace

If my spirit wandered
I'd find her bedside
I'd whisper a prayer:

carry me
out of today's city
out of never sleeping

into your moonbeam
your gates of charity
your tearful dream

Reasons Not To Go Home

The city is drunk
and then there's me -
sober, surreal, softly
walking beside the viscid river,
witnessing:
her spangles, white and orange;
her patience, the way she gathers
everything in strange arms
as gifts for the ocean.

I have gifts, in a plastic bag:
a chocolate egg left from Easter.
A copy of Time Magazine.
Stray words in my mind,
which I will write down
because that is how I can stay alive.

My mother gave me the egg.
She wastes nothing, except time.
She never learned how to live
with time, and its gathering
of all the pretty things
to the mercy of their endings.

Alone in my bedroom, I can hear
traffic, voices from the street,
wind sometimes, and if it rains
I will leave my window open
and imagine that I am on a journey
across many miles of water.

I truly have no reason to be here
except that I'm waiting
to feel my lover's hands on my face -
I'm waiting to lie with her
and whisper that I remember her
from a lighter, more gentle place.

One day all the stories of me
will end, like the lights on the river -
maybe borne like funeral candles into the sea,
or maybe disappeared into daylight,
but either way, tenderly, without harm,
no one there to see or be afraid.

For now, I can only be a prayer
in the living darkness,
heard by silent companions,
stilled into the air's memory
even as I am carried without end
from moment to moment. And she
is the prayer that I am, the plea
that I make, the desperate language
that no one ever taught me -
no one ever needed to.
 

Magick

    woke up with hangover, sick and cold
    caught sight of myself everywhere
    in billowing light, water-clear;

    movement to and from became
    the growing and shrinking of things,
    the silence of their disappearance;

    sky built into an upside-down city,
    birds in fluid flocks curving
    out over the waste ground,

    sunlight like blood in our skin
    thickening our happiness until we bend
    under it, like snowdrops under their petals.

    Sat in a park to stay calm -
    hidden in a maze of drainpipes
    and alleys and fire escapes

    a place with a path of gravestones
    children ‘asleep in Jesus’ - maybe wake
    to the impatient tap of fingertips

    on the coffin lid - “You’re missing it all” -
    to see angels falling like meteors, like pips
    from an apple held over the ocean -

    this is the ‘other’ world - an hour
    became a century in my sickness
    and happiness - machinery for flowers -

Peristalsis

slipping in mashes of rotting chestnut leaves
halo of orange street light mist
“You’re pathetic, you’re so - fucking - juvenile,
“You know that? You know that?”
smaller monkey bows, lowers head
witnessing trees shiver into moon-darkness

girl getting high picked up on security camera
leaning on shiny black sacks of leaf-rubbish
eyes exploded; the ‘other’ world until dawn
and head-sick under hallucinated neons
closed shop-fronts, decayed fruit-smells
distant conversations in no language

priest finding baby rats drowned in a puddle
pink-brown, twitching in rain as if alive -
‘other’ - church turned black like a bad tooth
damp wooden stone, voice-loosened
foundations broke and it fell into the sky
showering maggots and skeletons - accelerating -

scream from an endless runway
aeroplane door bursts open in green UFO light
woman without gravity drifts gently out
stretched forever in three bare dimensions
- motionless - “they took my whole life.”
Quantum children finger the mystery of her skin.

religious vandalism of cars - the ‘other’ -
bricked-up flats; cellars and attics haunted
by suicides and bindweed; boys and girls
hand in hand from the Hypermarket:
enamelled meats; Teflon; curtains
of cured human skin, surgical weaponry,
orchid seed for shit-filled window boxes.

Krishna - Shankara - Akira - Sega - the Other -
heart-filled children in a perfect circle -
the last freezing fog touched the morning grass
and gills formed on their wrinkling necks
“The New Genetics!” and no horror left - except -
pianos loud in the emptiness - cats smiling
through skinless pain - slave ships sailing again -
unholy patience in the face of a dark sun: