death

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.
 

Snow / Flesh

it rained a lot / there's not much snow left
but last night was magical / we've been living like hermits
barely dressing / take-away food every night
cuddles at night for the body / but the mind has been king
ruler swayed by the wizard Internet / we're bloated with words
and people / but the snow changed everything
nothing abstract about a face full of snow / innocent
caught in a social web / but crazed beyond caring
no friends or enemies, only bodies / ageless white
dance mats for children / branches snapping under cold weight
I wanted to forget who I am / like everyone else
I was a ghost in the snow / slipping and staggering home
air frozen in the lungs / hugs for old friends
they'll soon be gone / the rain is really coming down
you could fill a whole mind with regret / for the disappearing white
but only the flesh exists / only the flesh is alive

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.
 

Colourless Fire

and then the rain of colourless fire
on the children dancing all night in warehouses
skin greasy like candles, dark wicks of hair,
chewing on rat poison, speaking in silent tongues
blind in the embrace of the mother heartbeat

in the living rooms of strange houses, black paper
holding the creeping dawn from the windows
sweat streaking the walls, bodies swaying
like fronds of seaweed, sleeping heads on stalks
drifting forgetfully down the dry ice river

when you're coming up, do you like to talk?
or to hug, dance, fuck, sing, laugh, cry -
to make a crucifix of yourself against the sun
something to hold back demons and daylight,
to exchange a year, three years of life just for tonight

magnesium babies burning karma, like sadhus
in their years of penance, palms pierced
by their own fingernails, limbs withered,
eyes bright, gaze unmeetable, bodies twisting
like saplings in a slow flame, the ecstasy kids

rubbing each others cheeks and bellies
chewing spearmint and smoking menthol
crushed and burnt and moulded into each other
this is how they learned to link hands
across their void, and they don't care how it ends

Infinite Eight

When I was a teenager my mother saw I was sad,
and told me to draw figure eights on their sides,
over and over. "It makes you happy," she said,
"Psychologists are just finding this out."
I drew the eights on my books in school,
at chess tournaments, on toilet doors,
even on my own skin, until the ink sank so deep
that after a week it still showed, like an old tattoo.

Owl eyes on the blackboard in maths class,
moth wings traced on the window with a fingertip,
sycamore seeds spiralling on to sterile concrete.
An old photo of a birthday party, taken
just before I blew out the candles - "I am 8"
on a red badge pinned sideways to my t-shirt,
like an affirmation: "I'm still alive. It's not over yet."

Around the sun and its dark, smouldering twin,
something orbits in a vast, endless figure of eight -
remembered in myth as Marduk, Sekhmet, Nibiru, Rajah Sun,
the great red dragon, the fiery cross,
the one who came and will come again,
something barely remembered, like childhood trauma,
made unreal, fading like ink into skin, waiting for renewal.
If it didn't exist, something else would take its place -
another comet, another nightmare memory, to fill the orbit
linking our bright and dark suns:
the life we know, and the death we fear until it finally comes.

A Ghost's Journey

The wind was driving the clouds insane -
terrified shreds flying off,
glowing sun-pink over the pine silhouettes
and foaming into a daylight moon.

We climbed the graveyard wall and crept
between the decaying headstones,
counting the years that have gone missing:
1843. 1875. 1912. All times as one.

Through a low stone arch, many tombs
like soldiers' markers in a quiet clearing.
The last time I was here, the sun marked me
as I invited the ghosts on my journey.

One followed, out of love. Now it was stormy,
and I'd returned, and no time had passed.
A new bench beside a new stone; statues
cut into an old sepia photograph.

I hugged her and kissed her hair,
feeling the energy between us. I wondered
if my ghost friend would stay or go,
if this was to be an end or another beginning.

Her mother sat smoking by the dead wife's grave
as we kissed, and the pines shook and crashed.
All time as nothing. All the death around us
had never happened - just life turning to life, forever.

Bookshop of Death

I was in a huge bookstore that I've explored in several dreams. It has several floors and many sections, and places to sit down and read. The shelves are black and the carpets are red. In previous dreams I've been looking for people in the bookshop, but in this dream I'm looking for a book about sex. I can't remember why I want to find the book except that I know it has pictures in it and I want to see them (I think this might be a younger me in the dream).

While I'm looking for this book I realize that there is somebody following me, and I remember that I am involved in a mystery of some kind. A man was killed and I was supposed to find out why, or how it happened. I was with a group of young people who were investigating the mystery, when a man had driven up to a gas station nearby with a young boy in his car. I knew that there was something wrong about the man, but I didn't act on my intuition straight away, maybe because I was afraid of accusing someone in the wrong. Then I remembered one of the "rules" of intuition, or at least one of the rules of dreams, and I realized that if I had this feeling, it was because I had seen ahead in the plot and knew that something was going to happen. I chased down the road after the car, but it was pulling out of sight. I felt terrible - I knew that the man in the car was going to rape and then kill the young boy. All this had happened a short while before I entered the bookshop.

I left the bookshop wondering what was going to happen next. I felt that the plot was rushing to a conclusion but I didn't know what was coming next. I stood beside two men who were talking about a historical novel based on real events, in which a man was killed by a group of English soldiers. He had been shot over a hundred times, but he kept running. Suddenly I could see it happening as if I was a movie camera following the man's face. He was wearing a red uniform with black boots, and a silver wig which was almost falling off his head. He was guilty of a terrible crime, and he was being chased on foot along a road in open countryside by soldiers on horses. They would shoot him, and reload, and shoot again, and with every shot he staggered or fell, and then get up again. His blood covered the grass and the gravel for hundreds of yards. The soldiers were fascinated and appalled. The man was dying, and he must have known that, but he refused to give up. Finally he could only walk slowly, his eyes far back in his head, and a soldier got off his horse and walked up behind the man. He put the muzzle of his rifle against the man's back and fired, and the man fell forwards and everything went black. I woke up.
 

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.
 

The Place Of Dead Roads

There are two cowboys in the desert. The older man is teaching the younger one to shoot, goading and slapping him, making him fire wildly into the sky, making him fire along the line of his bare arm so that the powder flash burns his skin and the bullet passes through his hand. Finally the younger man is driven past his natural deference, and turns around with a murderous, surrendered calm and levels the pistol at him.

The older man kneels and bows his head, mumbling "good boy, good boy..." He doesn't know if he's going to die or not, but he sees the iron will and the despair in the boy's eyes, the acceptance of manhood. He wasn't teaching him how to shoot, he was teaching him how to be a man, and the lesson is over.

The boy realizes what's happened, and lowers the gun. The old man asks him how he found his answer, and the boy shows his the wounded stump of his hand, where the old man had made him shoot. The boy says "This is my answer - what use is it?", brandishing his bloody hand angrily. The older man says "It's your answer, it's no use to anyone else, but it's worth everything to you."

They look up into the sky and the boy sees the madness of measurement, dividing the sky into fixed disks to be turned and manipulated, as if in the measurement of astronomical distance and stellar properties the measurers might escape the confines of the universe and its laws of mortality and fixity like Kim in The Place of Dead Roads, shooting a hole in the sky and watching it all come crashing down. The boy knows now that the bullet isn't important, just the will that would drive it and the understanding that would hold it back.