gravity

Moral Terror

In the rainbow jungle the soldier said that you must make a friend of horror and moral terror and I listened not because I understood but because it was Brando and when he speaks we listen and when he dies then god has died too and we are alone in the jungle at last with all the other monkeys who fight and fuck and sacrifice and feel feel feel in their hearts sensations so real they can be weighed in ounces or metres or joules - the units don't matter what matters is that the heart emits a measurable force that is not magnetism or gravity - the monkeys are adaptable and can swim through those like void but the heart-force twists them shapeless and kills the cramp out of every cell of their bodies. the body is ash and mud and levers and sacks, it is a suit of armour, a cello, a computer. like the knights of god riding into battle waving the banner of the skull and bones, we charge headlong into the unknown journey of our lives with every breath reminding us of the end. Yeats said man created death - did he know, or was he just writing pretty poetry? I know what the mystics know but I am not mystical - I'm nothing but a flower falling off a winter stem. I understand everything but I don't have any words for it. I know who I am but I can't tell you. I've been spending my life trying to bridge the gap between the body and the mind - what we know and what we can communicate - and I think it can't be done. I thought if you brought the gap close enough that a mind would pull sparks across it like a synapse but I've never seen it happen and maybe it will never happen. The body knows. The mind can never know.

Moral terror is an old woman lying in bed at night praying to Jesus to keep her from shitting herself while she sleeps. Jesus doesn't care; if he's listening I'm sure he loves her, but her shit and dignity is of no concern to him. He wants to bring her home and he knows she can't bring the flesh with her. Her body will die like everything else and no history will record her shame. She says that when she brought me walking through the park when I was younger she never imagined I would see her this way and she cries and she says that we are only clay, only mud, what are we, what are we? In her dreams she chases rabbits to try to cuddle them. Every corner of memory in the house is emptying itself. The bird died months ago and the empty cage catches her eye in the evenings, and she calls herself a little bird. In the bathroom as she takes off her soiled nightdress she says that it's time for her to die. I told her that she still had things to do and she smiled and said "Like what?" She knows what we are and there's nothing she can do or say about it. There are no words for what's really happening to her. She says that she doesn't know what to say to me, that nothing she can think of suffices. I am more and more quiet. She's dying, whether it's a month or a year or ten years, and there's nothing to say about it because every pretension and hope and platitude is dead in the naked body.

Machine Code Raindrop

this droplet from dark twig mirroring glints of glows
of fire in forest canopy burning throat of sky
and raindrop falling for insect-lifetime from space-edge
gathering images forgetting purpose frozen unfrozen and high

this fierce bonfire mind calm in rainstorm ghostly
called twice in pain from abandoned chest-locked heart
end of raindrop journey smashed into blackened skin
and arms bruised to bone and ash-whitened flung apart

seeks language made schizoid by intuition
seeks subjects and subroutines rivered from fingers to flame
for crashing continents for kissing oceans
leaf-ash floating higher, falling on storm-inspired no-names

singing and dancing closer, the leaf and the lover
flower-picker sweet and bell-ankled and henna-tattooed
clear water pouring from overloaded palms, over-
whelmed eyes, overcome heart-deep by ridiculous truths

and once in loneliness on knees in winter needles
roaring forest for choosing madness over agony
and raindrop floating earthward for infinite lifetimes
soaking into skin soft forgiveness of entropy

the inevitability of gravity, the hunger of whirlpools,
lost incantations and lore of amorality of love
of lunacy of loss and ecstasy of laughter of organs and bones
and taste of god the droplet bled from sun-veins above

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.

Gravity

The lights are streaming past,
burning sodium starlets hurled
by the hand punched through the membrane
of the bedroom scene;
the bright faces plunging through the tunnel
of limitless space and time, forever;
the fabric glimmering of the air
and all those who slay in her.

The driving thrum of guitars,
the energy in her eyes, holding the wheel,
facing unafraid the darker coastline;
rising out of the warm, luminescent water,
stepping into a held towel and a kiss,
asleep in our wilderness, my companion,
stopping in the downpour to see the islands,
the sun holding the hills, the sun on her hands

In one moment to see it shake to a halt
her eyes curiously regarding you –
how suddenly you fell into the future of her,
stars and water and stone and all
blurring and flowing towards an invisible image –
the unknown heart of her,
her thoughts when you kiss her forehead,
the feeling in her when she smiles:
the sun’s dark sister, drawing us near.

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.
 

If that wave comes

when we saw the tidal wave coming we realized why the sky had gone dark and the buttercups had stopped glowing in the grass and I knew what the sick feeling all day in my stomach had been, and even though running was never going to do any good we ran anyway, up the steep side of the hill to get to higher ground, and for some reason we were all laughing, as if we realized that no death could bring us to harm in this version of a life

then the wave broke over us and everything speeded up, and there were sharks and trees and rocks and people all rolling and tumbling in that heavy grey jelly that pushed us up over the crest of the hill and left us stranded there, alive and cold, looking down at the crushed cities of the coast and wondering what happens next. then I did something none of us had expected, I woke up and my arms were over my head and my wife was breathing slowly beside me and the morning light was shouting through the curtains.

something about deep sea fish that had me fascinated. the photophores blinking through the black, the huge toothed mouths and slack bodies, the total silence and the crushing weight of miles of water, the moon-glow of shoals of lanternfish rising to the surface to feed at night. I wondered how it would feel to live at the bottom of the ocean, on the surface of another planet, in the screaming cold of the Marianas trench. as a child I always imagined them dropping a mountain into the Pacific trenches and watching it be swallowed up, spirals and waves on the bright surface and coral islands following it down to death.

instead I'm at the bus stop waiting for the plump little Indian girl, to give her wedding video to her so she can see herself on the most important day of her life – all the things she did, everything anyone said, everything that might have some kind of importance. Photographs, memories, screens and webs of faces and words boiling and spiralling around her little nexus, that day, her face, her voice, her husband's life, bound together by the energy that pushes the leaves out of the buds and the magma out of the soft bag of Earth. Like us on our own wedding day, hugging each other close on a huge soft white bed in the Clarence hotel, fifteen euro for a bottle of water but the television is free and the apples are part of the décor, arranged upside down like buttocks on a silver platter. we were hoping it all meant something, and maybe it did. I watched emperor penguins calling to each other across gale-swept ice fields, swimming frantically from leopard seals hunting along the margin of the glacier, and then I woke her up and we made love until we couldn't see the white of the sheets any more. everything spiralling around a single moment or a single person, an idea, a god, a magnet for the material of that other world.

if the wave comes, I mean if it really comes, the wave of water or fire or ice that brings an end to everything, the wave we're all half expecting anyway, the wave the media screams for during the nuclear standoffs, the wave the astronomers see flying towards us at a thousand kilometres per second out of the Oort cloud, the wave rising out of the island that falls into the sea, the wave of the ice caps bringing the White Earth out of the computer simulations of meteorologists and over the world like a mantle, the wave of the sea rising as Antarctica levitates itself and everyone starts to burn, if that wave comes and the dust is flung upwards and carried by the winds to turn the sun into a yellow smudge in the dark sand of the sky, if it comes to start everything again and turn out the light of thought and memory, if all the screens go dark and all our eyes are closed and all our minds lose their spiralling energy and disintegrate into a mess of neurons and blood, if that wave comes will there be anything left, will there be a consciousness that witnesses, a power that preserves, a script written in the ash and lava to tell the story of even one person, just one person, one little nexus, will there be anything left of everything we tried to do and be, any of the colours and faces and the laughter for no reason, the love that shouldn't exist but does, if that great wave comes and we are just minds frozen in time and bodies buried in each other and none of the science fiction futures come to pass, if we never make it out of these choking cities, if I never see the stars up close, if I never understand the shape of the galaxy and how I can see it at all, if that wave comes to bring me home before I'm ready let me write what I saw, let someone read it, just one person, I just want to show you how it was, how it is, how strange that I'm here to see it

if that wave comes I'll smile. it's like a hundred miles of basalt cliffs looming closer, eating clouds and jetliners as it comes, and the elephants are wandering in herds across the dry plains, telling each other in infrasonic rumbles what's important to tell before the end. the sky is dark and I'm holding her. it doesn't matter now if we die because we did what was important, we found each other. if that wave comes the traffic noises through the open window will fade and the Sunday afternoon light will flicker and die, and as we look at each other suddenly there will be no time and no reality and everything we ever said or will say happens all at once in that moment, and as the wave breaks over us there was no fear and there is no pain, because we're just waking up. and nothing can be forgotten.
 

You, The Marionette

you, the unstrung cello, with your factory hands and your crazy pale hair, what do you think you're doing? knives for the kitchen and kisses for the bedroom. you're supposed to be a healer. what else did you think would be any use? no physician heals the self

you, the bad actor, you live in a sea of mirrors, you're running through streets paved with faces cut from friends and family, you're always lost in someone else's labyrinth. you told yourself you were a chain on an angel but did you really think about it? your storm-smashed glass, your excuses to be angry. you, the maker of the sea. smiling shining everlasting if only it could always be that way



like furrows for planting seeds, red lines on your forearm. you, the unimportance of damage. so what does it mean when you stand in the empty white kitchen imagining yourself torn to pieces by knives. something is calling you - let me go. you said it was the closest thing to your dreams of flying, weaving through the rushhour animals with a mind like a razor, a razor through meat. let me go past the ring of hills into the psychic woodlands where dead pine needles crunched under the soles of my shoes in the silence of sleeping shadows. let me go out of the gravity well to swim in your space hotel.

you, the imaginary one. you met your twin and he told you the truth. he loved you and gave you the truth. where were you when the sky froze and the neverending mirrors toppled into the darkness of the sea, when the girl with no face danced the other universe open, when the star maker was visible in the eyes of every living thing, where were you when the fox screamed in the early morning through the fine mist of the woods, where was your heart when everyone else was given theirs. you, the island of the sun. you'd like to be marked. you'd like to be special. you'd like to be noticed. you'd like to tear yourself apart. you'd like to disappear. you, the one who was supposed to be loved and never hated, the gazer upon the face of the dark waters. Nero was an angler in the lake of darkness. we love for so many different reasons. we are shaken through space and time until we are free.



you, the mercenary. a visionary in the pounding aftermaths of your dreams, you're awake when you're invisible, forget what you think you know. your blood solves nothing, your thoughts are telegrams sent too late: when the door to the world of light closes stop you've seen all this before stop you've pushed the demons back a million times stop what new thing could you have to say now stop I broke myself, I lost myself, I wanted to eat the tendrils of the sun, they were made of gold sugar stop she told me I wouldn't ever die if I would only love

black windows falling. cold metal on your arm that you wish would bite deeper than you meant. oops - an accident. It's nothing. something bloody to show for all the wars you're going through. scars from someone else's battle. you, the healer. two homes high above the clouds, one a darkened pool of water that you fish in for tools, weapons, secrets. one a bright, quiet house, hidden between two leafs of a book with infinite pages. the clawed hand from the sky, the thousand-fired city catacombed through a mountainside. you, the hero, letting your friends pay the restaurant bill while you stare at the new continent in the sky. so strange you never noticed it before. I've been asleep all my life. crestfallen, ashamed, guilty. you stare at their faces full of love, at your own hands, twenty years older than you, the hands of someone shocked into silence and oblivion by a dead baby, a dark-eyed girl. never meant to hurt. you. anyone. dust and blood in spirals at the bottom of the broken staircase. the dread ringing in your ears fading with the grateful, lying thought, this is a dream as you give up the struggle and slip under the waves with your dark sister. sometimes it's true. if it's false, you lose everything, and start again with empty hands and a little more confusion. isn't it better for everything to be real than unreal?

your little comforts. the blue sky at the top of the mesa, the gravestones they turned into pavings for a park, dead acorns painted gold and hung on a string for Christmas. you, turning death into life. The mirror tells you that you’re dying with every second. life into death and death into life, the skeleton dancing in the valley of skulls and snowdrops. baby heads pushing out of the frozen soil of the suburban parks, the arcs of the suspension bridge lurking in the fog, bubbles and frogspawn collecting in the corners of the shattered cesspool. you, the witness, desperate for understanding. you, the mariner. you, the firm grip, the knife, the cut, and the end of the cut. you, the one who isn't harmed. you, the liar, the lie, and the truth the lie tried to hide. you, the menu and the meal, the map and the territory, the hand and the glove. you, the spiral flower.

offerings in the morning darkness to the empty chair, crying for a mother who never existed. you held her out of the bathwater until her death turned to life again. later by the wild shore raindrops closed your eyes, shouts from the hillside from friends hidden in the ferns and grass, hunting lemons and papaya for when the beach is set on fire. we'll set it on fire. we'll offer it up if you want. anything but what you're asking. you, the one who knows what the fire rituals mean, you, who kissed the sand at the centre of the universe, you, the only other person who saw the rainbow's end in the trees near the jetty, while the storm rains churned the sea and you floated with no dreams left.



the dreams came back. I am their playground, writhing between pillars of lightning. I, astronaut, caught in the birth of something that howls with flame and darkness. silent absolute zero burning through your bones. you, the one in the sun's heart. this is my mind. this is my gift and what it costs. to build bridges across a shifting sea, to link the cold cores of stars. this is the other world you wished for. I don't know how I didn't die.

Darkness Shaking

eyes closed
                      phosphor flashes
          earlobe heartbeat
pillow thunder
                      midnight quiet

prayers over
                      cool sheets
          cloudy blackness
growing deeper
                      sleeping shapes

hands vanished
                      air keening
          distant voices
faces floating
                      glowing weightless

heart racing
                      dizzy bedroom
          thoughts swarming
morning fever
                      darkness shaking