• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 06

Dank Corners

On my one walk a day
I mooch along the quiet residential streets of Brixton.

I thought I would miss the park more –
the ducks and swans, the walled garden, the lido, the BMXers.

Instead, I look forward to uncovering dank corners,
those places where someone bodged a build,
a damp spot where two walls meet for the sake of it,
and where no light can reach.

You find them full of plastic rubbish
where a housing block’s been tacked on to another in a rush
and out the backs of warehouses where people
aren’t supposed to smoke.
When I find them
I pause
mouth ‘wow’
and wish they were portals I could step through
right out of here.

1

The Difference

A young couple are shown around a house with a red exterior wall. They think it is what they want. A bit different, they say to one another. This house is a bit different, it has a red exterior wall, they say to one another. The estate agent hears this through his earpiece and is pleased that the couple like the wall. Other couples have been put off by the wall. The viewing goes well. There is only one hitch, when a drop of water from the high-pressure shower blurs the camera attached to estate agent’s tie. But in retrospect this only adds to the sense of adventure and possibility which the house has come to represent for the couple. We’re the kind of people whose house has a red exterior wall, they think to themselves. Our lives are at least one-quarter different, yes. The next day the couple turn to one another. Was I dreaming or were the interior walls a bit flat? say the couple to one another. I’m so glad you say so, I was thinking the same thing. Why were the interior walls of our house so flat? The estate agent reassures the couple that this is one more exceptional feature of this exceptional house. The previous owners removed the chimney piece, at great cost, eliminating the hole that took up unnecessary space, like some permanent squatter, on ever floor of the charmingly different property. The couple looked up from the message into one another’s eyes. In those eyes they saw disappointment, even a sense that they had been betrayed. They forgot about the house with the red exterior wall.
2

On safari in a short space of perfect time

Poet doesn't have to answer to the laws of gravity.
He can make doorways smaller than people,
can slip into the mind of a tourist on safari through the human
condition.
Poet can make loneliness a downward facing dog,
luck a giraffe
sticking its isthmus through the hula-hoop of the universe where
he watches the stars skid cross-eyed on the tarmac.
Poet can get circus animals to stomp
red / green / red / green / red red red
red in perfect time.
He can raise a river under your dining room table,
make rainbow trout flap between your wet limbs.
He can make kindness a hand on the back of your chair,
always there.
He can place an emergency toothpick in an imaginary landscape,
now it’s a perfectly flattened arrow signalling north.
Poet can make a human body outlast the journey
can make two people love each other like ghosts love
ALWAYS THERE ——
Poet is in control of the construction of the whole.
Poet can make light go the other way
or words to the effect of yellow. He doesn’t have to have a precise
endpoint in mind: he
can break off in mid——

3

Might as well throw out this compass too

I tried to tell my child
about maps, that they were
once a thing, how they

were used; I tried to explain
that it was like a picture of
the earth, looking down, but

that was a much larger
conversation, as all my child
has seen of this world is

these two rooms and a
rumor of a window.

4

BLIND RUN

It's not like anyone expects a motorway through their home
It wasn't until I stepped away and looked at it from another angle that I could even see it
All that time, suffocating from noxious fumes
The spinning wheels, the gunning engines
The posing and posturing
Clichés hurtling at each other, night after night
A chicken race under a stolen moon

Did it stop the clock?
Doesn't look that way

Explains the skid marks though...

5

Watermelon Day

I look forward to this:
when a walk to the corner shop
is not full of jeopardy, watching
who is approaching; are they crossing lines
drawn in my imagination,
solid white two metre stripes, barriers;
My mind buzzes with energy,
synapses light up, snap, crackle—
diversionary tactics are needed—
follow the orange brick road, a real one,
do not stare at the faint copy,
cross the road to pass within a hair’s breath.
I look the other way, as if
not seeing will protect me, like a child
who thinks burying their head hides them.
Worth risking death, for watermelon day.

6

The Sacred Geometry of Human Motivation

Putin is not on Facebook
Coke™ was meant to be green
The secret to eternal order
(and studio graffiti)—
Tes-
              sel-
                             late
duality

Men do fine print better
Women can me-too
Love is not a rhombus
of Netflix reality

Everything starts with a dash
and 8 pm red
Breathe
Fold up transcendence
Call it morality

7

Side by side

We walk side by side, without even the slightest hint of a touch. The breeze, a cruel reminder of the fates at play. We had started this journey, on the same page, hanging on each other’s words. Our steps mirroring each other, never skipping a beat, the heart skipping many.

I glance over at you but you stare straight ahead, your path adjacent yet entirely separate. I reach out but you’re fading. Fading from sight. From the spirit. Fading with abandon. Fading until we’ll be walking side by side, but you’ll be with me in my memory, and I’ll be with you in the past.

8

NEW COURT RULES

Like everything else the city did,
it ordered basketball courts painted
at the most inappropriate time—November,
prior to blankets of ice and snow.

With no acclimatization period,
sand-infused, ultra-grip surfaces don't survive
even one sweaty, Summer season before a blister
and peel back to the same shoddy shape

it was prior to government orders—
stay indoors, self-isolate.
We were given six-foot radii;
limit the warm-blooded landing pads

for airborne opponents. Abandon
tenacious D. No more pick-and-roll.
Any time inside the key
a violation.

New court rules facilitate non-contact
sport limited to fade-away jumpers,
H-O-R-S-E competitions spread outside
3-point arcs. Take aim.

Practice the shot.
Follow the rebound.
Work toward future
smooth release.

9

Broken Line

The line is drawn.
The line is crossed.
Colors of the day bleed out.
Painted on the ground,
a sign that points to nowhere
is now standard rule.
Losing their direction,
people wander off grid.
Seeking justice.
Seeking peace.
Empty streets intersect,
while silence plays hopscotch
across the broken line.

10

Tracks

You drove gold, up to and over my tired red house,
then pulled out and away into a green night sky.
Except – I have a flat, not a house, and you came once,
but the roof makes the building look like a birdbox.
It is cosy, like there are not a hundred other holes
full of people I don't know who screech and fry onions.
I see you vanish over and over and over that hill,
past the pale graffiti rose on some quiet warehouse.
Your visit brought the little black cat out of hiding,
and at night she screeches, maybe fighting the fox.
You are mountains away now, poised at a piano,
and I fumble alone at my guitar strings, give up easily.
I have no car, am too far to keep our tracks aligned.
I pray you keep some place for me, come autumn.

11

I Can Walk in the Green Water

I stand on my balcony along the motionless street in Homestead
I hear nothing.

I look up to the cloudy sky.
I sway unsteadily.

I feel the breeze stroking my shoulders.
I look down uncertainly.

I sip my cold coffee.
I put it down callously.

I breathe slowly as if my life depended on it.
I shrug uncaringly.

I close my eyes and smile.
I hear a whisper.

Listen to me –
Open your eyes slowly!
Follow me –
Follow the red road!
Red, you say?
Take careful steps.
Red, you say?
Don’t stop!
Red, you say?
Stop!

Read more >
12

Blurred Borders

A view from my balcony
seems new today, not even
dull, not a repetition
of a scene I thought I knew.
No cars pass by, no one walks
here anymore, silence reigns,
the air is warm and scented
with fragrances sweet and new.
My house has been my whole world
for a full month now, like yours
for you, and theirs for them, too.
Outer limits cannot stop
one’s inner eye from roaming,
numb cravings from passing through.
It’s spring again, life will start:
Though bound here, I'll play my part.

13

Dayfall

We are uncommonly outside of the house
yet most definitely inside the house,
the phone wire curls away like so—
like a stone curlew adrift on the sky.

You are lined up on the waiting phone,
there is music to be had but not chirrups or tweets,
and that so-reasonable voice keeps breaking through
the free-roaming smudge of your thoughts.

Outside of this is a street lined with parked cars,
the day weighs heavy as a winter duvet on a summer night.
Getting through this with our treacle-coated feet is the aim,
you say, as you hand me the phone and head upstairs.

After ten minutes I long to smash something,
even the pigeon hooting down the chimney
seems to be sending a coded message—
I am free while you are shut in.

There is nothing that exists outside of
this lime green telephone receiver.
My heart is a basin of pudding today
its rim encrusted with burnt sugar.

I fall asleep and dream the word nefarious
spelt out in fairy lights on a fluff of cloud,
I dream of an empty road, no parked cars,
I wake to a woman’s voice asking me something.

14

Wrong side of the road

You cry when they drive on the wrong side of the road. You say you do, but you don't. You just make a note of it. And you try telling yourself it doesn't mean anything, but you know exactly what it means.

You're just too frightened to articulate it even if you never say any of this aloud. It's that you're afraid that all your life you've been going in the wrong direction. You think, because of how things turned out, that you did everything wrong, and them driving on the "wrong" side of the road, that's just a sad little analogue for you and your unerring hindsight.

But it's just as possible things would have gone even worse if you hadn't made the mistakes you had. True, maybe you never would have gotten married and so wouldn't have had to get divorced. And true, you'd be further along in your career.

Would more money make you happy though? Would never having learned all the lessons you did when you were married, would this somehow benefit you now? No. No to all of it.

Then why hate yourself just because the road is a reminder that you went in some wrong directions before coming to this place you're at now? You're right: it hasn't resulted in any of your dreams coming true.

You're not a husband, you're not a father. No one loves you, and your isolation was never a dream until you saw all that wasn't going to be possible for you, all that you'd never be able to make real for yourself.

So in this sense, yes, you've gone down some wrong roads that have landed you here, in this place you call very wrong as well. But in righting all those wrongs, how many more wrong roads would you have taken?

Read more >
15

Coefficients, Coenzymes & Revelations

Choreographed at
each turn
Yet not matching the
genetic sequence
A mutation at the heart of
our lapsed indispensability,
Like a time-trotter's oblivious
fantasy
Now hearkens at each
pavement corner
Like a hoarse hailer
of most uncommon regard
Neither yet heeded to nor
unheard of
A marked crosswalk of
peripheral and intersecting
distances
Popping up on equanimous
pulsometers
Like a thrashing gasp
about to go out of bounds
From the shackles of its
critical care;
Read more >

16

Adventure!

We will not follow the markers.
We do not bend the contours of our desires to any map.
We cannot go when others go, content to match footsteps in a dirt jigsaw.

Abandon the tarmac, the gravel, the railing.
We are the first ghosts to fall across the forest, the fields,
where the only direction is openness
and horizons lie second to unbroken ground.

As water finds its own path
before it becomes aware of the sea,
we too step without plan or fear:
a floor dense with pine needle
grass past the knee
and buttercups staining your shoes;
where your reward is a hiding spot,
a dead fox, a puzzled cow,
an unseen tree,
impassible and plausible.

We have no route to retrace
and the car park is a dream we might refind
the next time, or past the next bend.
Right now, we are walking
in the importance of detachment.

17

Negative Space

We define everything by opposition –
the absence of absence.

A house is
because everything around it is not.

We feel what we do
because we are not feeling everything constantly
       until we feel the absence itself.

Each word we use
isolates a concept –
a vessel defining its contents
in opposition to the negative space
which holds everything together.

18

You missed a spot

It is simple. You missed a spot.
Look at center right. You'll see a white blot.
So focused on the picture as a whole. Thinking of a thought.
Have you realized it yet? You know, what you forgot?
That is right. You missed a spot.
Take the time to think. How much have you got?
Take the time to respect. What others may not.
Now is the time. With stomach in knot.
One step back. You missed a spot.

19

Blood Points the Way

Blood points the way
Amber says get ready
Green, go
But there is a barrier
A right-angle
A triangle
A holy trinity preventing
The solution
Instead watermelon minds
Meld their answers
Into them and us
They are the ones
Who know best
Keep us apart
By a borderline
A tramline
Parallel lines blurring
Searching for an answer
To a pandemic riddle
Where the only response is
Who knows?

20

Uncharted

I feel my sole stick on this floor,
its history, mistakes and flaws,
ghost markers left, those trod before.

Bolder white line and coloured shapes,
belie the spills, slow fading past –
but why rely because it's brash?

I park on yellow broken line,
not here, unrecognised terrain,
an aerial of mixed up mind.

Which sprite at work, what tempest rules –
and who can prosper on this world,
where shapes are strange, logic unfurled?

Is this a playground, safety first,
near trees unclimbed, adventure lopped,
as Sycorax, bewitched and stilled?

Or is this all intentional,
spirits rampant, incongruent,
rank parade ground to be displaced?

This atlas clear, but key removed,
no context or perspective shown;
does partial sight often mislead?

21

Red Days

Today, I cried at being gifted slippers, at a happy ending that was wrong for the story, at The Burial of the Dead and knowing this may not be the cruellest month, at seeing my father’s face on video-call and being unable to say everything. The threshold is in the cellar and I don’t have a cellar. These are red days but which days have not been red since Caleta de Fuste? On Instagram, rappers are on live with amateur porn stars and influencers are sharing their skincare routines but not their cosmetic surgery doctors. And in a house in another city, a mother will never sit with her teenage son again, couldn’t sit with him when the fear overtook his tongue, when his mouth was parched and dry from the ventilator tube. I remember those days on the blade. I remember the moment. Time is a film and here is the frame. Here, the medics take your child and you stand alone. Take this baby elephant, take this blanket—my child—and return to me alive. Here is the phone call. Here a voice, saying your child has lived, come to her. A voice, saying your child has died, bury him. Bury him without wailing over his body. Bury him without clinging to your own mother. Bury him, your baby. A country of mothers weeps with you. Your country is red.

22

The Angular Supper

You house ghost! You peak to be trimmed by incisors! You check mark in the making! Before this dinner-for-one can begin...Before this angular supper can commence...Before this melon splits in two from the pressure of expectation alone...Let us say grace.

Dear Echo Above: Thank you for the emptiness of our plates. Thank you for the volcanoes of silence that erupt in the evenings. Thank you for the interstellar void between our bodies. May the galaxy remain free from idle wandering.

But to the pantheon as a whole: where have you gone? What mad calamity has emptied heaven of its players? Scuff and ruin were never what we hoped for – only what we got, complained about, dreamed of being free from.

And now? My tarmac? My library steps? My paving stones dancing about the park? Now we pray for the return of these bruised footprints. May the inside find its way out. May kindness overcome its curse.

23