memory

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.
 

Dark Lifetimes

I thought I wasn't human sometimes
like when we drank too much on the tracks
of the old railroad, and ended up
throwing garbage at each other
and I got sick on my own coat
and had to scrub it in a puddle
before I went home

Or when I was on the bus in the morning
and the tough kids were smoking in the back seats
and my elbow hurt from trying to sleep
leaning against the rubber window ledge
I saw two burnt out cars together in a field
bleeding rust into the long grass
- this year's Halloween blaze -
- will be like islands in a sea of oil -

I went crazy, I stole bicycle locks
and left the bikes behind, I talked to rivers
and made them promise to remember me,
I thought my cat was a spirit sent to guide me,
I screamed in the living room at night
when my mother was away on holiday,
only alive after dark, naked warrior for destroying
demons that existed nowhere

dark lifetimes lost for nothing
smoke from smouldering moments
I was a slow fire, lying alone
on my teenage bedcovers being a burning snake
a star in a strange structure of light
compare this
to the taste of cider in your throat
the smell of your own sweat in bed
the nothing you thought you were
and always would be

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.
 

No Funeral

dream horizon
    rising indigo
        swallowing the sun

no one owns
    the killer wave
        or the destroyed city

in the arms
    of new friends
        we’re drowning

ivy seaweed
    fish caressing
        our shocked skin

where we lived
    hammerheads
        circling the hearth

no warning
    no funeral
        for these memories

Wedding From Hell

I was meeting Liadain  and my mother in a gigantic shopping mall, after a play I'd been acting in, in which I had forgotten almost all of my lines. The play was being held in my old school and all the actors were my classmates, my teachers the directors, my friends' parents the audience. After the first act they didn't even fucking applaud, it was so bad. I was so embarrassed and angry that I walked out.

Liadain had written a song for me, and I sat down to read it. I wish I could remember the words. A friend of mine from Leeds, R, arrived and we started to talk about our personalities. I got really superior with R when he asked me to describe him, and I said something which offended him. I wish I could remember what it was. Anyway, he got up, hugged Liadain goodbye, and said there was "dissent" between me and him. I followed him to the elevator and told him I was sorry. He said that I had no right to say things like that to him after what happened between me and his girlfriend a couple of years ago. We hugged and made up.

For some reason, when I returned there was a wedding party in full swing. Liadain and my mother had gotten into a conversation with a real asshole, someone I knew and didn't like. He had long, curly dark hair. I kept trying to explain what had happened with me and R, and he kept interrupting me, so I stormed off and sat on some railings outside the building in a big huff. Liadain and my mother came looking for me. When Liadain couldn't find me, she turned around to the dark-haired asshole and started to kiss him. I was shocked, and I thought she must have forgotten about me completely.

When I went back inside to go to the toilets and splash water on my face to help with the shock, Ariel Sharon greeted me, handing me a fake cardboard dress shirt and a black tuxedo jacket. There was also a letter which began "I am a member of the Nazi party," and went on to describe his plans to cleanse Palestine. I looked back at him, and I saw that he and Yasser Arafat were leaving the party together! It was obviously a conspiracy. I raced back upstairs to see Arafat heading towards the car park. He glanced back at me, and all I could see were small, beady, gleaming eyes which told me I was going to die. I knew I was in trouble, and I started trying to show the incriminating letter to people: "Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat gave me this!" Someone said, "They're going to get you."

I had to find Liadain. When I tracked her down, she was different - her face was oriental-looking, and she was dressed in a black leather skirt. She seemed older. I asked her why she kissed that asshole. She didn't want to look me in the eye, and I suddenly understood what was going on around me: this whole party, the wedding, was for her! Her marriage was being arranged to someone she hardly knew. She told me that she felt "freer" now, and that she had discovered that she didn't need me any more. I said "Liadain, I feel like my life is coming to an end. Are you joking? Please tell me you're joking." I knew that once I left the building I was liable to be shot by Sharon and Arafat's troops, but I didn't care because all the stories of my life were over now anyway.

Dark Sugar

Younger than three, and my memory
darkens into ash, the remains of thoughts,
the nothingness from before birth:
soft darkness outside time.

I go back there every night
to watch it fill up with colour and shape -
sparks and streaks of people and stories
like spice ripples in dark sugar.

I build myself around a seed
of loneliness and sadness, the feeling
of the soft darkness, the stone wall
and the endless, softly darkening sky.
I'm stupid, but not that stupid; I know
you can't run from the end of your own story.

If I'm lost, it's been for a long time
and I've betrayed myself over and over
and I'm just waiting to crumble -
like dark sugar in a spoon, slowly
stirred into the seething silence.

Gravastar

Like the dust in the corners of the bedroom,
I need to suck out enough of my dreams,
write them down, that what remains
won't choke me in my sleep. I am a cord
that binds spirits, feelings, handfasted
until they recognise each other, and dissolve.

The girl who lives under the bed, huddled
over her only book, unable to talk. My grandfather
crying, telling my invisible mother how sorry he was.
He never wanted to hurt her. That time
is like a dream to him now, distant and psychic.
How the setting sun shone on the cold grass.

The real and the unreal melt together softly.
A nervous little ghost, hovering uncertainly
at the door. A gravastar: raining light, matter,
energy on the darkness of an unknowable surface.
My sandwich in the park, shared with pigeons,
while the alcoholic woman ate old lettuce, slowly.

Buddha and Shiva struggling from the corners of my room
to enlighten each other, deep navy against pale brown,
while the lovers wander near the blue waveshore. The pagoda
lost in a rain of bamboo and willow. Our kaleidoscopic photos
of family and friends, our coffeeshop conversations, these words:
a meaning that no single thing can hold.

Antimatter

solar powered, battery free hopeless incompetent hero drowning
partially helpless unclothed mystified you're my freshness and my sight
I'm outside everything, wiping a finger on the window of my dreams
fogged up and freezing, friends and failure, my god helps me to see into
the nighttime dynamo and the whirling metal glacier indigo
I'm not here, I'm not anywhere, I'm not a thing at all
nowhere, nothing, a twist in the sheet metal of the mind, a noise
in the storm of the mind, an image writhing on the surface of the mind's sea
all this is nothing, I need my own voice to come through
not some reflection of the screams and confusion going on in my brain
but my real awareness, how I'd want to speak to god, how I'd want to speak
to my own soul, my own heart, how I'd speak to my mother after this life is over
this is nothing, there's no reason for it, I can't see or hear, like something
not even born, wailing unformed and limbless, egg sac, egg yolk skin and eyes
not that nightmare, something real and ordinary, a fetus, an amniotic teabag
there's no identity here that stays the same across each moment and second
no ghost dancing in my bones, no woman drowning in my mind, no hero
puking into the dark river, no lion raising its paw to pull down
the screen of the universe and bring all pretending to an end
mama mama let me sing before the dark god coughs and the goblin claws my throat out
let me roll in the brambles near the reservoir, let me leave and never come back
fist, throat, name, hand, shoes, walls, sun, sister, road, knife, sky
a new style in the magazines or the third greatest novel in the history
of an insignificant country - another barefoot, smiling guru, another teacher
clawing desperately at a sick blackboard as the faceless students scroll by
on film strip winding around a prayer wheel, a maypole, a stick for entrails
three kilos of quivering calculating brain cereal, bone and meat, leatherbound,
decorated and stamped for approval and processing, rapid insertion into the equation
no purity, no home, no return - halved and quartered and divided until we are sand,
we are dust, we are antimatter, and our burning heals us, our screaming soothes us
I remember how I used to sing, and listen to singing, how I used to shout
when the birds and the frogs in the old garden woke up and the ditches shook
I am just a bag of memory, old stories repeating, sun and moon cycling, blood
in the veins and arteries, a system of systems, words and words and words
trying to find a new way of writing but my mind is empty, nothing comes
India, father, pillars in the evening, sand and kisses, the smell of the dead house
smoke from bodies, slow river, roots of mountains, clear water, the bellow
of an emperor trapped in a dream, horse rotting in a riverbed, flowers in eye sockets
fuck how I love to breathe, to feel it bursting in my stomach and my spine,
that insane loving energy shooting me like a maniac bullet at my own beautiful death

Honour

ice and cloud in the evening, walking home
to a feather bed and a glass of milk
only a memory of her skin in candle-light

the samurai a dancer in my mind
flaying the air in ecstasy
lord of the bracken and the ditches

leaving the flickering screens empty
hiding to listen to voices from the road
as the brown dusk brings mist

i kneel in her shadows
i lie down before her to see her smile
to me she is the flame of a cool fire

i swear we are not like this
this couldn’t be me, who kisses good night
hears his lover’s door close

stands on the bridge over the oily canal
unable to cry, no pleas left
scared she cannot love him as he needs to be loved

Samurai
cherry blossom on white robes
white like the eye is white

draws blade to strike the sun itself
dances before the sun itself
unafraid

only the ghost me is unafraid
only the ghost me needs no one
i’ll beg for the touch of her hand

i’ll never accept the ghost of the girl
the drowning dancer who smiles
and asks me not to ask her how she is

Cain's Machine

My dream resolved to a face, blonde and pale -
eerie blue eyes lost in the distance,
Cain's horizon without a sky -

hypnotized by unfamiliar constellations
points of light spattered as if sneezed
into the raw, frozen darkness -

he was trying to see to the edge of time
in a glass observatory on a remote moon,
steam pluming from alien machines -

trapped in his own dream of immortality,
to be unbreakable and unchanging -
the dream had become an agony of millennia

in the grip of his own revolving destiny
bound upon a wheel of fire
a point of life in the vacuum, heart-frozen -

eventually, everything of him was broken
like the fable of the reed and the oak
and the storm from the Chinese mountain.

He couldn't live and couldn't die,
his mind locked in amnesiac torment
haunted by voices from past and future lives

whispering their regrets, their lessons
the time he lost and the love
he threw away, the strength he didn't need -

he had enough will left to plead with her,
the only one who loved him,
to feed the unkillable flesh of his body

into machines built to crush him,
grind him to meal to be scattered
throughout his empty universe.

I saw him lying there, mind gone,
as she made the preparations, head held high,
though washed and wrecked by pain.

She could neither forgive nor refuse him
his escape from the machine of light -
the white centrifuges, the galactic octopi

boiling around their black hole cores -
their dervish dance of confusion -
the terrible rebirth of their collision -

he thought he wanted never to be hurt,
to live without the touch of death
and her promise of sleep after too long a day.

She spoke to me, sadly, dark eyes
full of a different kind of strength:
iron in her heart, for surviving -

she explained everything.
Cain was no longer there.
I was only watching the tragedy of her,

a lover, a mother, watching a man
go to his death in a war of his own making -
"the endless conflict of dead matter," he'd said -

and she only knew she loved him;
that he would return to break her heart again
until the stars died into the everlasting darkness.