OCD

The city knows I'm leaving

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

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

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

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

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

Signs Of Life

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



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

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

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

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

Broken Light of the Dark God

I have to start from where I am and work inwards. noise of voices. lunchtime conversations and value-neutral music. latte machine hisses and shrieking female laughter. smell of coffee and bread and damp fabric, chair-covers soaked in weeks of sweat and milk-steam. pine veneer furniture and polygonal carpet patterns. retro-sepia photographs of forgotten places and times. outside the glass walls, perfectly rectangular blocks of hedges in brushed steel containers. geometrical mazes of steel roofbeams over a shopping mall like an airport terminal. what we call natural light: distant winter sun filtered through dense cloud and reflected off surface of dirty river. streaming thinly through clean glass. colours mute and washed out. we are only passing through this place. on either side of the river, a rage for order: the endless right angles of apartment blocks and offices, girders and concrete shafts and stairwells accreting gradually until we only see the skin of blank windows and sharp-edged balconies. no trees no grass no creatures. out near our horizon, mist-faded and grey, the tops of trees in a coastal park. an island for wild seabirds. a few scattered patches of green. we don't go there often. it's too sad to go there and return here.

>>

the dark god I saw in Las Vegas is here too. Belial, the demon king of this world. the lustful goat, the judging predator, the merciless accuser. the creator of history. in Las Vegas he danced demented on the spires and spotlights of the hotels and casinos, he sang in the slot machines and bathed in the baking midday sunshine. here he is slothful and depressed but still in power, and growing with every blank grey building and brushed steel windowbox. the god of this world is in love with prisons and repetition. he despises the weakness and stench of organic things and would destroy them at the same time as he slakes his lust upon them. his own lust disgusts him. he is lust and disgust mingled, eternally self-divided and dark unto the death of all beings, himself included. insane, therefore. to be pitied, but not to be saved. a cancer in every heart and every cell. Lord Foul, Beelzebub, Satan. the negative of every photograph of your dear memories, telling you that after all, your life is meaningless. the incarnation of measurement without value. power without wisdom. money separated from products. the final victory of blind chance and entropy against consciousness and life.

i have failed

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

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

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

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

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

Ragged Umbrellas

 

the sun is a dark smudge in the sky
for the ghost women of the birthday
pale fat arms cradling plates of apple pie
trailing smoke from a burnt out day

the clouds bleed quietly down for hours
and they dance under ragged umbrellas
singing about how they love to be powerless
the houses of ritual have made them careless

and sometimes the light shows their true faces
behind the opera masks - there are no words
for their expressions - there is no place
for comfort or for grace, the songs they heard

as children, when afternoons on dirty strands
became evenings drifting out to sea in dreams
asleep in the back seats of cars, hands
twitching in the rhythm of piano lessons, hymns

washing in from memory shores like wrecked ships
as sadness and failure like cold voids
suck the clouds and the sun down into their lips,
their skin, their hair; they frown, they get annoyed

by children who will not obey, pets who want to die,
dolls who will not stand upright, friends and lovers
self-obsessed and desperate, who cannot cry,
cannot speak the truth, cannot stay together -

the ghost women drift through parties and wakes
as the songs and the rain tell them in whispers
that they were once young, that the hand that shakes
is a punishment, the skin that is wrinkled and crisped

is a judgement on their innocence, and they watch
the children learn about loss, they watch the graves
open and swallow and close and wait, they watch
the works of the Lord, noting who he damns and saves,

what his plan might be, why he does not love them -
they gather between lifetimes where the water shines
dancing on the endless beach under ragged umbrellas
pale arms linked, lonely only in their minds

Old House

It's raining and I'm alone in the house.
It breathes in clicks and drips and gusts -
a ghost-paranoid person would find footsteps
in the noise of heating pipes in the attic,
dead relatives in the movements of the eye's periphery.

To me, everything is metaphor
and if the house seems alive, then it is alive,
along with every deceased ancestor
every wilful or beloved piece of cutlery
every book that opens at just the right page -

nothing is irrelevant and everything is musical -
the rabbits huddled together in the washroom,
the two years' worth of weather forecast clippings,
the plastic bags full of stolen sugar sachets,
the budgie's empty cage and the box full of his feathers.

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.

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.
 

Exposure

concrete mountainrange starshadow
the uncountable windowpanes
of the Sears Tower
dark outline, a figure in a dream
barely beheld, looming
we wished on a penny
thrown into the smoking, black river
we would have followed each other into,
laughing, shocked, overwhelmed

on a hotel bed you swam in the dark river
of your own mind, and I couldn't reach you -
face hidden, crying, pinned in place
by the pressure of all your past and future.
You said your face was not your own,
that your dreams were an alien landscape,
that you were afraid we would destroy each other.

I could photograph the Chicago skyline,
caramel sun, grey lake, jagged buildings
making us so small,
but not you - bigger, more real
than water and skyscrapers,
smiling in your sleep like a Buddhist statue.
I want to expose a film to your inner suns -
delicious alien light exploding in the skin, bone and eyes
of the destroying goddess dancing

Dark Night of the Soul

shrieking under folds of blackness,
hands clawing at the fabric of an unlit tent.
veins swelling in a vacuum, empty eye sockets wide.
the midnight of his memory full of monsters.
what we know as horror: the crossing of death into life,
the corpse walking with a blind smile,
the puppets jerking at their strings.
his mother's bloody grin, holding her own head by the hair,
and he ran out the door into the apocalypse they promised him:
the destiny of the destroyed atom, and a trillion ghosts
left to roam a nightmare planet in unfinished visions.

slicing himself for the feeling of bright sharpness, the reality.
sky on a frozen winter's day, the cloud diamondcutter.
the clarity when he first loved her, when he first recognised her
and became a river running to her. the deathly fear
when he lay awake in the living night-time, presences
crowding in his awareness, afraid to turn over.
when he took the elevator to the basement of his mind
and found the mutilated man, madness shining in his remaining eye.
the boy in the abandoned house who swallowed a living scorpion -
tongue numb with venom, his skin turned black and livid -
but inside he became a storm of daisies, summer light and wind.
someone who would love the demons and angels alike -
an alchemist, at war with the dead physics of his universe.

strange notes from the other side of a drugged mind:
"what the FUCK happens when we die?" and the feeling
of crossing into an unknown land. his only journey:
miles of roads lined with bodies and flowers, tiger paws,
daggers, vertigo footage from cameras falling off cliffs.
or, like faded newsreel, spotted and flickering, set to the sound
of muttering, whispering voices, old showtunes:
the body's last words,
spoken on a sunlit evening stretching into neverness.