water

The Factory

I was at home with my mother and sister talking about a radio interview. My granny called the house and left a phone message and it upset me because she was talking about her sister's death and she sounded so sad. Her situation saddened me, all of her friends and her husband and her sisters all dead. So I got up from the breakfast table without a word and left the house.

 
I went to university and skipped out of my psychology class to wander around the great building, right up to the roof where there was a gathering of people. Some of them were sitting right at the edge. A policeman told people to come back from the edge, walking so close to it that I was terrified. I had a bag full of my things - books, notes, clothes, a computer. Two of them were making fun of me and my hair and the way I dressed. Making fun of my self-image, as if I was vain and at the same time ridiculous-looking. I realized that I wanted to go back to university and that I had enough points - 79 - to do so. I could go to a foreign university to do women's studies and it would make me happy.
 
I went back through the university arts building to go home. On the way I met my girlfriend, who I had been forgetting to call or text (we had only just got together). This is something I used to do when I was a teenager, simply forget to call a girl I was supposed to be seeing. I made a mental note to call her. It was dark when I was leaving university and I had to walk back through a bad neighbourhood. A gang of young men - boys really - starting talking about the bags I was carrying, and started following me. I was just getting ready to run when a woman found me. She was older and very calm and she knew me, and the boys respected her and went away. She brought me to her house and said she would call me a taxi to take me home.
 
She started to read to me from a great thick paperback book she had, full of her own notes - not the Bible, it was called "The Factory" and talked about God as the Factor, the Maker. She asked me to look at a picture of the sea with the sun hanging over it, a great fiery orange ball. It left a flaming reflection on the water. Then all of a sudden it plunged beneath the water, surprising me and making me feel very emotional. Then several suns followed it underwater as if attached by a string. I felt happy and as if I was about to cry.
 
The woman seemed satisfied by my reaction and closed the book and went to call a taxi for me. I wanted to take the book with me but I realized that I couldn't because it was hers. I went into her kitchen and there was a phone message from my mother, who had been worried about me because I left so suddenly. She thought it must be because something she said made me angry. I said no, I was sad about granny. There was a message from my granny too. She was still talking about her dead sister, the funeral arrangements, the end of things. I wanted to cry again, and I wanted to tell her about my decision to leave and go back to university, and about the book that the old woman had shown me.

blue

the man from hope wears an aquamarine tie
for air and water and falling from clouds
for cosmic particles flying relativistic
-- night-time dark water for buried memory
-- then swallowing morning light
-- becoming full, transparent and radiant
your memories are there among the shells
under all that invisible weight
at arms length but unreachable

-- mother never wore any kind of blue
-- but saw it in your eyes and gave it to you
-- you were to become what she never knew
a great water, a great sky
for sinking her old nightmares
lions and tigers and bears and mother and father
-- turquoise shirts and shoes, denim jeans
-- baby laughing through the baptismal rituals
-- and then the slate-grey photos in the dismal rain
the ancient in the peacock-blue overcoat
fragments of a clear sky, an old azure mini
mother's pale face turned to the photographer

The Process

Eventually, I always end up being the strange one.
From normal beginnings, I end up lost
in your forest of meanings and your many roads
without endings, the labyrinths of your lives

and always this creeping cold in the heart
the organs growing numb and the throat closing
over years of gaining and losing friends
years of making the same old journey

from normality and acceptance to alienation
I push you away, I freeze you out,
I tell you, and myself, that I don't need you
because of the creeping numbness in my mind

beginnings of warmth and ordinary eyes and arms
and hard work and sensuality and laughter
as I encompass you and dazzle you, I become
what you project, I reflect your dreams

and then creepingly it begins, something cold
that I never before thought was my fault -
I look at forests and want to live there,
by the water. I look at the stars and want to go there.

I look into the deep water and want to sink,
sucked into the blue-black water and forgotten.
I rage through my dreams to find a true self.
I do not want to leave you behind.

I find myself on my knees in the night-time
clutching my own chest, unable to name my pain.
I pray to be good. I pray that I won't let you down,
that I will fulfil my promises and not betray you.

I don't understand what demon is in me
but it must be what tormented Bunyan,
the rotting core, what he called sin,
that made him believe he was the worst of men.

It must be what tempted Jesus in the desert -
that we have the Devil in us. That from beautiful
beginnings we destine ourselves for a Fall.
It must be what mocked Buddha beneath the bodhi tree.

I have done something to my own mind
and I don't think it can be undone. I travel through it,
I speak of what I see there, and I bear witness
to the dark places and the terrible beings that live there -

terrible purposes that I see in all of us.
The ability to kill, to rape, to demean, to betray -
as much the Dark Lord as the Hero, we are -
as much the silken liar as the wise magician.

The knife in the grey darkness of the hallway,
the killing word born out of bitterness,
the devil-rage as after years of surface calm
we suddenly rampage and reduce a family to wreckage.

All because we don't see the seething darkness of NOW -
we don't see how immense are the forces inside us -
how each of us is potentially angelic and demonic -
how driven we are every day by unknown forces.

How a tiny wound left untended can rot a limb
or a whole body. How there are voices inside us
that can damn or save us, if we will listen.
How complicated and perilous it is just to sit quietly.

If I betray you, I am so sorry, you have to believe me -
I never want to hurt you, or anyone, ever.
If I hurt my children, I will almost want to die.
I have no prayer other than that this should not happen.

What is the force that we pray to, but the living universe -
the incredible energy that destroys and creates
and discards all us poor shells and mechanisms in time.
Is that my God? Do I live and breathe that contradiction?

I would have gone insane years ago
and I could go insane now, if not for this journey
in words and images and sounds, this travelogue
of a psychic landscape, this map of dreams.

Every now and then I can feel the edge of it
memories of fever hallucinations when I was young
vast shapes crashing together in the air of the bedroom
hanging on to the reality of myself, barely

and then when I nearly died in my own mind,
sucked into a vortex, and cried out for my parents
to come into the bedroom, come into my life
and save me, reach in and pull me out of myself

wandering through Amsterdam streets with my friends,
sitting in a sunlit park as my mind tried to drown me
and I forgot who I was, forgot who they were,
remembered nothing except this strange story

of a boy who had journeyed to this time and place
and then been set free, set adrift and abandoned.
Behind the eye, a naked awareness, calm and fascinated
even as I fought panic and realized I was insane,

and that I might not be able to return.
My friends left me in the hostel and went drinking.
I slept and wandered in dreams again, where I was safe.
We all met again afterwards. I had remembered. I still do.

Nightmares of being committed to asylums.
Nightmares of killing a child, a lover.
Nightmares of forgetfulness, of loss and failure.
Through it all, a desperate poetry of redemption.

I didn't have to make this journey into the underworld.
I had a choice embodied by my parents - the one
a golem set at the entrance to Gehenna as a warning,
beautiful and cold and functional.

The other, a scared child lost in the wightwarrens.
I chose to go down in full awareness.
I thought that I was strong enough to handle anything.
Moriarty says that above all Christianity is the religion

that does not leave us helpless before the contents
of our own minds. And that is what I wanted -
to discover what darkness and light may be in me.
Now it rages below the surface and I can't ignore it.

I have a very narrow path to tread - not only that,
but I have set myself the task of recording the journey.
Very probably no one will ever follow. No one
will read the record of what I did to myself.

Still, I do what I have to do.

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.
 

Recombinant DNA

My friends and I had made a discovery which had stunned the scientific world: we had proved that there was a huge reservoir of water near the Earth's core, by analyzing its rotational irregularities and variations in temperature. I was giving a lecture to 2000 people on our results, and my lecture was focusing on two things: first of all, much of our knowledge about planets and the geology of our own Earth was simply wrong, and secondly, I was proposing uses for this enormous water supply.

About halfway through the lecture I took a break, and left the stage to go and change my clothes for some unknown reason. I sat down with a friend of mine from school called Cathal, and started to get undressed. Cathal pointed and said "Is that Shane?" I turned and looked to see a very old friend of mine standing in the doorway of the lecture hall. He saw us and approached the table without smiling, and stuck out his hand for Cathal to shake. Cathal didn't move, staring at Shane, and I remembered that when we were in school Shane had been pretty nasty to Cathal, in a subtle, underhanded way.

Eventually Shane withdrew his hand and I stuck mine out, expecting him to shake it, but he totally ignored me and walked away. I was really puzzled. I saw Liadain sitting at another table close by, so I walked over to her and crouched down. She didn't ask me why I was naked, and I didn't think it was worth explaining. While I was talking to her, another woman who had obviously really liked my lecture kept sticking her head in between us, trying to get my attention with an inane grin, and I had to keep looking around her.

"I just saw Shane, and he totally ignored me."
"I know, I saw. It's because our families are related."
"Yours and mine?"
"Yeah - we have the same grandmother. It's something to do with recombinant DNA. People are a bit scandalized because when a DNAunt and a DNUncle get together, there's a chance that their children will have birth defects. It's like one in several hundred thousand."
I'm very puzzled at this point.
"So you're telling me that the reason Shane won't talk to me is because you and I are getting married even though we're related?"
"It's the talk of the town. A lot of people are very angry with us."
"That's very weird."

I get up and walk back to my table to finish getting dressed, trying to get my mind away from strange friends and recombinant DNA and back to the Earth's core, but at some point during the process I wake up.
 

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.
 

The Dark Pool

My friends and I were clearing out the garden  of an old abandoned house - it was full of weeds and junk, and at the bottom of the garden was a deep pond, almost like a swamp. We had to clear out the pond, so we were taking turns to dive into the freezing cold water and fish stuff out of the bottom - old TV tubes, bits of wood, plastic milk cartons. The water was sludgy around the edges of the pond, clogged with floating weeds and mud, and some of us were getting stuck there, and had to be pulled out by the others.

Then P went to the bottom of the pond and didn't come back up. We were staring at the water, trying to see his outline, getting more and more anxious. We extended a length of black hosepipe down to him to grab on to, but nothing happened, so Paul decided to go down and get him. He took hold of the hosepipe and jumped into the deepest part of the pond. After a while he jerked on the hose, and we started to pull him up - as he got closer to the surface we could see that he'd found P, who had got stuck in some weeds at the bottom, and they were both holding their breath.

Something went wrong. The hosepipe came free, and they floated back down out of reach, so we sent it back down again. Everyone started to panic.

The next thing I remember, I was indoors, asleep, and I woke up to the feeling of sun on my face and the sound of laughing voices outside. I knew that something was very wrong, but I couldn't quite remember what. I went out and I was in the garden again, and P was standing talking to everyone. That's when I remembered that I had thought he was dead, and I ran up to him and hugged him really tightly, nearly in tears. I told him how happy I was that he was still alive, and he seemed almost a little embarrassed, but he hugged me back.

The mind giving birth to the mind

"I recognize you," she said. His face was the colour of pale wheat. He was hunched over a dark pool, staring at the space between his outstretched hands. deep in that space, a tiny spark. a white snake, a filament, wriggling and glowing. the force of his will heavy in the air, making a sound like the moaning of a high wind in the folds of the damp rock.

she shakes her head. this is not real. she says that she knows him. that they have been in this place together many times before. his eyes lift briefly from his work. the writhing light fades, and his attention returns to the space between his hands. she touches his shoulder and his skin is cold and hot at the same time. he is giving birth to his own mind and she knows that this must not happen.

my friend's eyes are so soft, his pupils dark with drugs, and he feels like everything is underwater. I felt that way once too, and there was no sense to be made of anything. he is sweating, smiling, in his mind he is naked. he leans close to me in the luminous dark and tells me things I already know. we are friends. he is lonely. his work is destroying his heart. in my dreams he is always just like this, like a child with happy, tearful eyes.

he's asleep under an old willow, like a faery imprisoned in a christmas bauble. the willow branches trail in the bright water. he doesn't know about the world any more and his brain is empty, full of sounds and tastes and sights only, and silly dreams of circles. he sleeps and wakes as if there will always be tender arms to hold him. and in my dreams, there always will.
 

Waste Pipe, Chicago 2001

I have a strange vision.
It's something about beauty
that words can only indicate,
but not describe.

Today it's a tiny brown lake
tinkled with sunglitters,
suburban home to ducks and gulls
snackling in the dull water,
behind a huge, empty shopping center,
deathly quiet,
ringed with willows and grass.

Thrust into the thin shale
at the edge, where the ducks
squat and ponder,
a concrete maw like the head
of a huge, pale worm:
a sewer pipe,
trickling naked waste
into the man-made lake.

It's hot. Car exhaust and slime
and willow-bark and birdsong
combine. I can't find it disgusting
or beautiful only. I only know
I am at peace
before my vista of water and viscera.

On the side of the sewer pipe,
in metre-high letters,
someone has written
"LOVE"

That's my vision.
That's it, exactly.

little

today im little
brittle bones under the sky
silent and lost on the inside

i feel faint
staring at the wet chops
in the fluorescent meat shop

the colours of the fruit
psychotic flowers
in the green grocers

i only want to sit down
lunch by the water
floating in the sun

just to hold her hand
little fingers, little sounds
in the park, children all around

little guns
for little killers
relentless and unashamed

laughing in the daylight
look mummy, look daddy
im mad, im running

water is my enemy
voices are my afterlife
love is my innocence

so little
under an insane sky, just
to hold her hand for goodbye