river

Doors In The Dead Cities

In between the river and the roads,
day or night, you can see sparkles -
ocean slowly pulsing into tidal river,
transfusion for diseased city, and
in between the movies and the ads
sparkles invade your mind -
split seconds of nothingness -
splinters of dead air and dead cold
whispers of a million words on bookshelves,
a billion chords on compact discs,
a billion beating locust wings,
desert roads in the mind, green blurs
on mountain horizon: trees, fields,
steaming volcanic lakes, whales and herons,
landscapes internal forever -
and lost at the moment you die?
at the moment you die,
lost forever?

You find portals beacuse you need to:
the museum behind the fake technicolour castle
with the prayer wheels and jade knives,
scraps of ancient bibles and screeds,
where they play chants through hidden speakers
between the glowing display cases,
and between floors you count a few empty shops
stuck in the haze of winter and old cloud -
between shops and between hours
you find a space you recognize
where someone sits who died before history,
shaved head bowed before a newer moon,
still pool beneath willow bridge, sandals
placed carefully beside shawl, pen, ink -
knowing something that you once knew.

Between pulses that tell us were are alive,
between instants of stimulus and response,
between droplets of this endless rain -
words, notes, snow, kisses -
flashes of something familiar from long ago.
Between work days and sofa evenings,
in between years of shifting identities -
frozen windscreen wipers sweeping
centuries off eyesight of lifetimes -
strobe flashes and advertising lasers,
glitters caught on river water and
apartment block window fronts,
cranes dancing in winter wind
like weather poles and wind chimes
beside glass-still pool of mind -
in a pure instant between instants
you are bowed down before a memory
that you do not know is a memory.

As if in a dream, there are those
who try to remind us -
in between meals and games and
in between all the sparkles -
rituals built into the chaos:
of sitting before a wooden tray for tea
of kneeling before icons and cruciforms
of sitting with someone strange -
someone of still pools and dead blossoms
someone of dead screens and dying rivers
someone in between the moments
of attention to this or that lifetime -
intersecting universes, colliding realities -
someone we find in the place where we are -
someone who is a memory
that you do not know is a memory.

Like cats' eyes peeping out from the dark -
in between our madness, our fits
of distraction, racing uphill,
looking out over frozen ochre city,
wide harbour, lumpen island and white boats
and sunlight thin and red and distant -
in between making love among the trees,
underneath fallen roots, luminous
emerald moss, tiny sprinkled mushrooms -
in between desperate hours of stillness
heart pounding as nothing happens,
guts wrenching as nothing is transformed
into other forms of nothing -
and all the forms of the mind,
demonic, angelic, ridiculous and tender,
pour into this moment as a billion sparkles
and leave you as empty as an hourglass,
timed out and clear, in between epochs,
waiting for someone's hand.

Between images of yourself
caught on windows, mirrors, pupils -
an old, tired theme of searching,
so sad and desperate and surrendered -
and yet the one last desperate hope
is that in between these ghosts
and false gods, false selves and wraiths,
you might glimpse the doorway -
to the frozen land through the back of the wardrobe
to the unreal city below the lake's bottom
to the magical land on the other side of the mirror
to someone strange waiting patiently outside time,
as if enclosed in a pale moon heaven
that you do not know is a memory.

The broken worlds she showed me

they were dragging the swamp that day // was I alive or dead? the representation of a life // motionless in an important dimension // so she wakened in my mind a figure of power // the cold white man who walks alone in the killing fields // corpse with fangs // and from that moment on // from the last sunrise to the first stars // I was divided eternally / and night was my day // desiring salvation, my addiction was disintegration // blazing torches and abomination in the faces of the simple folk // an old house on fire, windows bleeding light into the night // the spirit rages to be free of the flesh and the flesh solidifies to a prison for what it doesn't understand // the cold man becomes two men // one desires redemption and creates hell around himself // the other thirsts for damnation and unknowingly walks the paths of heaven // he preys on them and plays with them // their blood on white lace and pale skin // whose hero could he be // and what way into the heartwoods could he show // and yet we follow him // hypnotized by his dance and his cancer // mistaking the disintegration of his tissues for transfiguration // i thought he would come for me at night when my family was asleep and I walked barefoot in the garden, my soul singing for release // surely, if he existed, he would hear me // and if he does not exist, another will come // surely, i thought in my pain, there must be someone who hears me // someone who sees me // someone who knows me // someone who will remember me // surely //

in my mind       the cold man       the dead man       breaking the lake ice       reaching beneath the water       we are anglers in the lake of darkness       as Nero was       such dark treasures we discover       returning to the world with dark gifts       the cold man only takes and cannot give       he drains and does not replenish       he destroys but cannot create       Shiva Nataraja unable to wake       old one-eye head first over the abyss       he met the girl who could have saved him and he hurt her       because she allows herself to be hurt       the dark dead girl who creates       the one who sleeps and dreams       whose death is as merciful and the dead man's is final       the corpse who stirs in her slumber       her hair writhing like eels and weeds on the lake bottom       a perfect animated doll       burnished hair glowing from ash to gold to copper to blood

// the dead man destroys
// the dead woman creates

you quickly realize that he cannot be killed       the more you fight him the stronger he becomes       the longer he walks the colder he grows       he is always there on the far shore       clad in ragged finery       wearing a savage smile       teeth stained red       patient as a priest       till the journey be ended       and memory drowned in night-time water       and you submit in exhaustion to his embrace //

no //

// that is not how the dead man is to be overcome.

his theatre is a world based on rules
-> the rules of dreams <-
he closes doors, never imagining that the can be reopened
living alone at the heart of your labyrinth
unchallenged and feared
he will consume all your loved-ones
and save you for last,
telling you as he drains your life
that you alone are his beloved.
he grants you the mercy of an end only
when all your life is in ruins
and you have betrayed every single thing you tried to love.

no //

// that is not how the dead man is to be overcome.

moonlight through a distant circle
at the bottom of a waterless well
on a mosaic of shining tiles
waiting as the clouds pass over
until the great lord sun shall come
and bless us to become ash
waiting for the disintegrating wind

who is it that you call your family
do they live near you on these streets
confined in boxes of their own
or in silent gardens and stone tombs
the sepulchres of the southern suburbs
temples of the dead man and his brides
where they lie waiting for the master
to take them across the river
and over to that voiceless, bitter shore

welcome the dead man's arrival
and prepare the hallways with gifts
ready a chair and candles
for the installation of his image
tell your friends to visit today
and bring incense and flowers
for the dead man's head and feet
because where he walks shall be blessed
and where his gaze falls
shall come the beloved emptiness

let your mothers and fathers hear
that their time has come to an end
that at last there shall be a new order
as the dead man calls to his own
and his lovers cross over with him -
he is the ferryman of the final river
and their memories shall be his payment

the dead man leads the dance of the dead -
his hands forming mudras, his face distorted -
glaring and grinning and yearning -
his eyes like glass beads in the sun -
the dance brings the dead rain that does not nourish
but scours the earth of its iniquities.
though he shall be named the giver, he will only take -
he takes away what is not God -
until there is nothing left but God -
and God is the dead man -
and so he takes until nothing else remains -
and he dances alone -
lonely -

the god of the vampires
the priest of the corpse ritual
the king of the city of bones
the golem of christ
anti-chaos, anti-order
the only dead thing
in a universe alive
with doubt and joy

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

A Mind of Glass

what they told me would come to pass     what I promised myself     a mind of glass     and shantih shantih shantih     the peace that passeth understanding     I promised you I would be so     sitting underneath library windows     long lonely afternoons     friends and classmates in lectures     rain gentle on chestnut leaf and windowpane     butterflies in stomach     mantra poised on recently kissed lips     lonely all the time     even in bed even at parties even in kisses     mantra in a library chair     2nd floor dark corner bare concrete walls     books no one ever read     lost in frozen time like me     lost in broken light like me     happy voices from the stairwell and the study desks     mind of glass     body of feeling swelling into the crevices     all my life just a story     called "lonely all the time"     written by my parents     and their parents before them     back all the way to curious monkeys     beached fish and bacteria and cosmic dust slowly condensing to stars     glitters in the sky on cold winter evenings     outside the library waiting for friends and lovers     for words and embraces passed in code     for minds of glass and minds of metal     for an end to the story "lonely all the time" to be told     and next day all embraces and joy and words and linked hands lost in time     lost into memory and memory to become glass     mind of glass lonely all the time     and next day to the library to sit alone     pine needles and sycamore leaves collecting near base of window     washed by rain and wind     grey walls and fluorescent light     and I am just a shadow you passed on your way to a lesson     what I promised my family     that I would turn them into glass     precious sculptures drained and peaceful     lonely all the time     blood washed from the doors and walls     blood washed from the car keys and the garden tools     blood washed from the bunk beds and the playroom     what I promised you I would become     something more than a silly monkey     something more than a selfish asshole     something to justify all the hurt I gave and all the hurt I received     a mind of glass and rainwater     joy in our hearts     where we stand and watch the moon fade and glow behind breeze-blown clouds     where we lay down and kissed underneath the trees in the schoolyard     lonely all the time     especially together, especially together

and then on fire     on fire in the cold sand     on fire in the conference centres and the musty cellars of the holy houses     on fire in the woods of stolen car shells and bluebells     every sunset and every shopping trip on fire     the creak of the front door in the early hours reeking of smoke     the dark hum of the painted hall before dawn     on fire the incense and the leaves     on fire the car engines and the quiet mind     as we walk away weeping     or as we walk away blind and burned and breathless     as we walk away into another life     as we throw away one of our most potent destinies     as we discard one of the universes that brought us into being     not understanding what we chose     all things remained true that were true before     dances still ended in peace     poetry still bled out of the mind     the light was still clear and blue and soft     only that we chose love over death     unlike Nero we cast aside our rod and dove into the mind's dark waters     do what you have to do

now lost in the mind of glass     rainwater the only everlasting thing in memory     what I promised myself forgotten     that I would not let it slip away     and what was I for those thousands of days but a window     between the mind and the world     reflections to each other     while I do what I have to do     sparkling river pulled through circuits of great machine     for generating the future     "lonely all the time" the story read to all the children     born into cells     here I am too     now that the confusion seems greatest     I might be as close as I have ever been     staring out through windows at trees or rivers or walls     staring at empty chairs and empty screens     all of it without end     what I promised to say     something to make you happy     something to help you to remember that you are happy     to do what you have to do     but all along I only wanted to become more than I am     more than a self and more than a window     and in the end as it all burns around us     we will see the flames caught and dancing in the mind of glass     caught a billion times and sprinkled into confusion     we are caught in a peace that passeth understanding     knowing that all of this is nothing     in the mind of glass

deserts and caves

we are where we are - high in the air in front of windowbank - we see riverside and flat metal boats - we see sun and red brick - wheels and gulls and white, red, blue, green cranes - treeline of preserved parkland and flash of light from car windows - everything that is dead and still and everything that moves - the zombie river pulsing and heaving at the command of necromancer sea - slain by we the apprentice sorcerors - our golems and simulacra crowding the streets while we huddle further and further into the great square caves of apartments and offices - what we have brought into being will not die - for it was never alive - and we who are alive will become the mind within the machines' cells - we will fade into myth and legend as the hermit creatures - the hidden spirits - the conscious ones in the cells - the ghosts in the machines - the spark of light in the empty head of the golem

lions hunting the trackless wastes of the Gobi - dune oceans of mirror sands - oryx moving in dust clouds - dune edge in shadow as if carved by knife from bone - parched skin on screen and skin of scum on river through window - all walking home to containers of the mind - all walking home skinless over grey bridges - so many undone by death - the new bridges shaking and crying trampled by feet in military lockstep - sand pouring off cliff edge like water and blown back by wind - brought to the edge of the desert we peer across in awe - seeing bluebells and buttercups across the valley floor - irises peeping through beached ribcage of ancient whale - grasses rippling down sides of skin-coloured rock

Grange Road

Grange road runs crazy
from between the church and the shopping centre
up to the foothills of what we call
the Dublin Mountains

and we know it for this small slice of time,
a year we've spent in a strange house
full of musty books and stale chocolate,
rusting knives and forks,
shivering patience of lace curtains
on windows overlooking the road,
catching the odd glint of red at sunset
over slate rooves and cold chimneys

we know it for what it has been for a year
alive at night with drunken teenagers
kicking over bins, smashing car windows,
hanging around Londis asking you
to buy them alcohol
they'll bring it to the park
they'll drink it hastily in the darkness
they'll break things in an ecstatic rage
and blindly let the road swim them home

it's a river of life and death
and apparently random decisions
we saw a boy in a red car lose control
around the tricky corner
and destroy 2 cars in a headlong collision
they both lived - this time -
residents gathered to watch, talking
about the other accidents at that corner,
the ones who made it and the ones who died
right there on the road
in bloodstains bleached by the streetlights

over the park wall among the dead leaves
you can hear the cars moaning past
you can imagine dying souls travelling home
there's a stream that follows its path
for a while, under and over ground, through gardens
it runs to join the Dodder
where this road is forgotten
its memories emptied into cold black water

prayers and curses for two miles and fifty years
and we've known very little of it but what sings
in the blood in the small hours
what beats in the heart in the wind
an infinite procession of hooves and then tyres,
young feet growing older, then young feet again
what is a road anyway
it lays itself down in your mind
and in your dreams you follow it
and every other road you've ever known
to the gates of your sacred city
 

John's Perfect Heart

John's life was a quiet disaster
of needles and computer screens and alcohol
bank notes drifting gently down
onto the bodies of his parents

pets asleep in the filth of a swollen toilet
doors and windows blown open
in his mind, lights winking down a river
walking to work in the rain and the rot

he saved lives and stole them, ran screaming
down stunned streets, smiled carefully
in shops as he bought suicide implements,
melted and shook and snarled in the gym,

drove endlessly along roads, roads, roads
as future memories swam in his veins
- he would marry and father sad children
- he would die at someone else's funeral

John's life was his own, and every choice
split the universe in two, each half perfect -
perfect in panic and pain, in rain, in madness -
such a heart raging in such a savage heaven

The City of Ghosts

no way out of the city of ghosts
mum and dad are asleep alone together in a burning bedroom
she always wanted her words to fly up to heaven
this firestorm is her revenge for every cold cup of tea
every plea unlistened-to
she had the rotten teeth pulled from her jaws
and replaced by beads of poisonous metal
while he worked late at the office to pay for this transformation
a red brick building on the quays staffed by wraiths and ghouls
and he himself was a golem animated by parental sorcery
unbowed and polished by two thousand years of storms
heartless and beautiful and vampirically cold

their carpet becomes a lake of blood and bile
upon which their bed-raft floats
as they cling to the ancestral photo albums
and mutter their own names against a tide of amnesia
citizens of a republic of isolated house-states
with language abolished by referendum
we worship instead at the church of the repeated image
we have built a self-repairing machine
our bookshelves come to life and chant mantras as Gaeilge
our rooves sigh and slide gently away to reveal unnaturally dark clouds
Dublin turns black as the stars cough up eons of cigarette ash
and the sun itself swells and prepares to inhale us

mother and father have forgotten why they had children
maybe it was because they were cold and wanted to get warm
when they reached for each other they annihilated two universes,
set the bed adrift on a bloody sea,
and here we are, babies with gills and crimson irises
foreigners in our own country and strangers to each other
the hosts of the unborn are gathering beyond the veil
ready for the puncture when it happens
when ma and da finally die
and the kids' memories come crashing back
through lost lifetimes like meteorites of archetypes
through cloudbank and starlight

we will know who we are
when the cafes serve only haemoglobin from living veins
when cars wake up and start eating people
we will know who we are
when every door leads to another world
a wilderness of Narnias in the wardrobes and hallways of the ghost city
when the statues in the churches come to life
and herd the wailing faithful to the altars for sacrifice
when the government closes its doors and settles its affairs
and the TDs take cyanide on the orders of their leader
we will know who we are
when materialism is known for what it truly is
the acceleration of the birth of a glorious but inhuman deity

it may be true that we are killing ourselves
our obsession with ingesting poisons, our love of weaponry
all this is legendary in the houses of spirit
but like the man said, what is man
but a bridge over an abyss
we are not the naked monkey in the marital bed
the monkey lost and shivering under unforgiving stars
we are not the ghosts in the city windows
and mammy and daddy will one day remember
that they always loved each other
and the unborn will come crashing through time
in endless lines through endless doors opening to one room

until I knew you I did not know myself
says each reflection to each face

Kendron, The Body

Late at night, screaming at the nameless bright stuff
Kendron is trying to get the drop on the insane
catch it unawares, rip it apart and eat it
sleep exhausted shivering on a shed roof

squatting on a rock by the edge of the water,
shoulders hunched, listening for bird calls
somewhere behind there's a presence, a mind:
ignore it, it doesn't exist, it doesn't matter

Kendron has a gun, Kendron sweats and screams
glowing blood-orange in an oven-hot kitchen.
He won't fuck you unless he loves you;
but it's okay. He loves everyone.

A marble in a bowl, chasing zero,
hands and eyes focused on a synthetic plane
tuned into the overworld, spine a shockwave,
a fish slingshotting up a cold weir,

a strangled gasp in a freezing fog,
Kendron can close his eyes and hold his breath
and suddenly, beautifully, he never existed.
Reborn every moment. In debt to every atom.

he obsessed over a terrible nightmare from his past
until it broke him: baby-killer locked and drugged
in an asylum, he lost 20 years of life and mind,
emerged to see his father, his wife, his own hands

lined and trembling. realization like the collapse
of glaciers. he'd been wandering the labyrinth
of his own mind for decades, thinking it real.
horror and loss, tears, waking and relief.

but the fear lingered.
how could he know what was real?
who could tell him?
and then, to remember:

I am Kendron, the body.
I don't dream and I'm not lost.
there's nothing but this.
there's no NEED for anything but this.

sun, frost, roads, branches, faces.
spirals and soft sounds. cats.
a star fading into a yellow horizon.
at last, dying and living for no reason.
 

The Golden Apples of the Sun

Tuesday evening waiting in a bus stop gutter
shaking off ten hours of travel and work -
from here I can see the bank building,
thousands of black blocks stacked
back to back, blank, reflecting nothing.

I stood on the bus's center circle
hanging on straps, turning with the corners
while a grey-haired man recited Yeats
somewhere in the back seats -
everyone window-gazed like it was normal.
He proclaimed: "The silver apples of the moon,
the golden apples of the sun," and smiled like a Siddha.
He didn't care. He moved on to Shakespeare.

The Liffey was low and lucid,
dark brown-green mirrored bridges,
totally calm, absorbing sound and light,
wasteland water full of traffic cones and mud,
and the rain held off until I got to shelter,
and I felt like myself again -
soft apple flesh rotting around a seedling,
I don't know what I'm becoming.