• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 11
Image by

Doubtless other creatures would have come and gone, also of course

Victor carries a blue stress ball, its contours puffed out where continents might sit, their greens worn away so that his planet earth looks newly drowned, flooded. It is wishing a spell on things, this kneading in the hand that he does, as though constant touching, his tactile erosion, has a well-plotted force of common will. His very human hands, with all their plain fire and illegitimate plunder will destroy this world. He puts his rage in the ball, rubs at the skin with agitated fingers until his emotion is reduced to plain surface, to light and shadow. The ball shines strangely in the cloudless light, blue spattered daubings on its simple sponge. A plastic cake. It reminds him that this afternoon he will contribute to the party with his signature dish, Beau Monde Dip, a cream cheese base laced with thyme and marjoram, with shredded parsley and a sprinkling of marijuana crushed in, carrot sticks ringing upright fences around the edge. His guests will prod at it with forks or celery, respectable farmers conducting mining operations on a minute scale until they slump more relaxed, giggling softly with their sodas or beer.

Allard is cutting meat in strips by the stove, his ½-inch-wide cuts almost perfectly even. The bones and bobbled tangles of connective tissue are slung in a washed-out yoghurt pot, the cartoon illustration of a levitating man in yellow fez and purple harem pants newly splattered with blood that slips quietly down the side. The yoghurt sits pristine in its own ceramic bowl. Garlic powder, saffron and bald onions in another larger glass dish by their side. A warmed pint of skimmed milk, a rennet tablet. Water, fat, curd. The petty qualities of meats and minerals dropped into portions, into newly combined units of fuel value.

Read more >
1

Fire

He was going to bring the books that would unlock my future, so I met him at a place he’d chosen, the lounge on the sixty-third floor of The Address Hotel in my neighbourhood, which Dubai’s government had named 'The Centre of Now.'

Marcus, who'd driven one and a half hours from Abu Dhabi, crammed a valet ticket in his pocket. The ladies here, he said. They're all, you know.

I knew. They were like fireflies: they luminesced for men, but I always missed their flash. Real fireflies, the kind I used to catch in a jar with holes poked in the top, made a special enzyme that emitted cold light. If the light were hot, they'd die.

Marcus had forgotten the books. The books were from a business school curriculum that he had promised would be as good as getting a full Master's. Technically, Marcus hadn’t earned a Master's either; he had done a week-long programme at the extension school yet attended all the local alumni events as if he did have one, which was how I'd met him.

Marcus ordered an espresso martini. I had a negroni. He wanted to talk about his wife, who was still in America. His business, teaching Emirati policemen how to shoot guns. His move here, when, how funny, the shipping container had been stopped by customs authorities because he'd forgotten about a handgun in a cabinet.

I wanted to go home, but he had driven a long way, so we took the elevator 63 floors down to the hotel's club. A bouncer in a blazer with an engraved name tag stood at the door; the policy was that every man had to be accompanied by at least one woman. Inside, a wall was fully covered by LCDs screening 'Hotline Bling.'

Read more >
2

Solar Fugue

Some galaxies are in turmoil. Veils of dust
keep their hearts from our view.

If you want to meet your ancestors,
just look in the mirror and wait.

Weathering involves no movement,
only aeons, the long game of hoping time

will lick you into shape. That’s what gave my eyes
their cobalt glaze, the cave its sculpted,

loved-by-Iris finish. If you keep what hurt you
in a jar, sous vide, the fantasy of kicking out

its teeth can be the carrot to get through.
All things can be turned to milk or honey.

Sequelae? Remind me mañana.
A black hole is stirring up trouble.

Planets, only mirrors,
shine as bright as bodies

magnitudes away. Light is just light.
That’s why no one likes to read

Paradiso, no shade in the hell of always wanting
to be right, or why those who study stars

or wind erosion worry too. Only God
takes comfort in scale, in knowing

the hole in your throat will never burn
like a quiet day on the sun.

3

Ghoulish Butterflying Dream

As if a ghoul accompanied me
For a butterflying journey
Jaded skies merging
With empty earth
My prudish kindness
A simplified pendant
Of semi-precious stones
Teething uncertainties
On the edge of soft cushion
A brim of fantasies
Degenerating through dampness
Of spirit and soul
Am I complete, whole?
Or yet to sink to bottom
And rise

4

BLAMELESS

Small creatures chitter and fret within my jar.
It’s their own fault.
All I did was put the jam in there.
No one asked them to go in after it.
I only closed the lid; not my fault.
The sky pinwheels behind me,
blotchy as a watercolour.
Not my fault.
Is the sky really doing somersaults
or are fractals growing in my eyeballs?
Either way, it’s not my fault.
They told me, 'Keep up the medication.'
Forgot to hide the knives.
Blame them!
The hornet looks like my husband.
He has a pinched face.
No blood on him though.
I wonder if it knows where the knife is.
Not my fault.
My husband looks like the hornet.
Small. Buzzing. Incoherent.
He’s almost transparent.
Everything dies.
Not my fault.

5

A seamless transition

Boys will be men and men were once boys and what’s the difference? When Toby was a boy, he used to collect newts in a jam-jar and take them home where they would die slowly. He used to catch butterflies too because they were pretty, and the girls would giggle because they didn’t dare touch the too-many legs and furry bodies. Bees were nasty things, but his mother had a spray that got rid of most of them around the house. When he turned twelve, Toby was given an air rifle and shot pigeons because they were pests, his dad said.

Toby grew into a man and the outline of his face vacillated, became a bit flabby under the chin, and his waist thickened. He wore suits instead of tee shirts and short trousers, and he hadn’t looked inside a jam-jar in years. After university, Toby got a job with a multinational company that paid him a decent salary, and the effects of what his job did to the environment were so far removed from the executive development where Toby lived that he could, in all honesty say, he saw none of it.

There are no more newts at the dam, that was enclosed years ago in the sarcophagus of a commercial centre, and butterflies are a rarity. Toby doesn’t have to worry about bees any more (his employer is seeing to that ha ha—family in joke), but he turns up his nose at the pigeons that hobble and squabble around the dustbins where foxes lurk at nights, scavenging.

Toby has a son now, who doesn’t know what newts are, or were, and his knowledge of wildlife is restricted to Disney images with smiling, humanised faces. Toby worries about the environment, as much as all thinking people, and won’t let his wife use the same sprays and air fresheners, bug killers and sanitizers that his mother used. The environment inside his house is clean and pure.

Outside, of course, they all wear masks.

6

end of the world in thirteen lines

what did you expect when you opened the jar
jam sweet sticky bribery for your desires
I have a carrot but it is not temptation
these latex gloves are so I do not soil my hands
I cannot bear to touch you when I use it like a stick
beat you with the unnatural shape this forced distortion
you inflict on all you grow how you dissolve
what was rich sky hills hedges fields seas merge
to blotches on a feathered landscape pollution bent
sunlight like the halo of a dead God brings no warmth
I am the chill in your bones the shiver stare
of your retribution look on your ghost
this is what you have released

7

She Rises Out

of the stone walled well of my skull,
my eyes blue as hers blue as the open mouthed sky
aghast at the spiralled sun whose rays yellow
her face mouth closed she asks in her blue latex gloves
that all are safe, as her late husband peeps round
my cranium, raises a hand to still the voices,
or perhaps to greet those who look in at my
broken stars for pupils and the fly of imagination hovers
above my smiling nose the world is on fire with the unsafe, unasked for touch of deadly water. There are no masks looking out at masks.

8

You can’t imagine

what it was like before
plastic. The sun shone
softly over fields. Earth
buried the dead as they fell.

We didn’t carry extinction
in eternal shopping bags.
We didn’t swelter beneath
our once life-giving star.

The ghosts of ancestors
rested beside us, protected
us. Now the searing heat
has dried those souls.

We poisoned the waters.
The dust of the past
balloons as we shuffle
across our dead planet.

9

Harsh New Realities

I bottle things up,
specimens in mason jars,
to observe when Earth
becomes a super-heated gas.

How am I still here?
Left on an interstellar survey shuttle.
Knew there wasn't much more time,
kept things simple—

brought creatures with basic anatomy—
those with segmented carapaces
might survive harsh new realities.
I've been told I have a thick skin—

that's only a half-truth.
My father's criticisms haunt me,
they followed me here
to the far reaches of the quadrant.

A daughter: why couldn't I have a son?!
A vegetarian: where's the protein?!
At least he believed in Science.
I smile—

know he'd be appalled;
atoms recombine as humanoid
to morally harangue after death—
tethered to the same old concerns.

10

Girl with a Carrot

At dawn, I rise
Souvenirs to collect
         Bugs and pebbles
         Bees and bubbles
Collect till the jar is full
Return with even pockets full
         Brown and blue
         Yellow and clear
At dawn, I still rise
To smile at you
         For you too looked around
         When these were few
And this my dear
Is an aside for you

11

The Art of Preservation

Grandma picked and pickled the cucumbers,
set them on the basement shelf.
They would grace the table come Thanksgiving,
dill and sour and sweet like life itself.

My childhood world, the feast
turned famine, sickens, now, under a dying sun.
Then, I pulled stingers from bare feet,
cursed dead bees for what I’d done.

Grandma knew the bounty of land and sky.
Older than she was at the end of her life,
I yearn for a taste of pickled cucumbers,
to hear June bugs buzzing in the night.

I wish I had learned the art of preservation—
to let cucumbers grow and bees sip at clover,
to pickle that savory world for a next generation—
before the famine sets in and the feast is over.

12

Carrying Beauty

She carries beauty in a jar,
the buzz of graceful bees
a firefly she found
a few worms
graceful in grounded ways
but a bulbous ghost follows
someone uninvited
he beckons
torments
calls her weak
Romantic
as he did when he inhabited physical spaces
smelling of armpits and Schlitz
she immerses herself
in the buzz of bees
and the vastness of navy night before her
the moon bursting

13

Goddess

Her earwig mouth spins Catherine wheels
up to constellations reflected in her jellyfish eyes.
Her bee-buzz nose zings ideas, feeds fly-thoughts
caught inside the jam jar of her brain. Colour washes
stream and bleed on hallucinogenic evenings
when carrots ensure perfect night vision. Prim,
her clothes belie zany imaginings. At her feet
men puff and blow, inhale her mystic musk.
All is not as it might seem, it never was.
Lift her coverlet, or sneak in a stick to poke out
legion dust mice beneath her single bed. Don't
forget, before you go, place a gentle kiss
on her tracheotomised throat. The hole
made way back, when she required breath.

14

Mellow

Beneath the sunburst sky
Is a tie-dyed moment of fading summer
Golden with its whispered memories
Of marbles and bugs, pebbles and slugs
Prizes captured in the castle of youth
Forever locked in nostalgia’s keep as autumnal inks
Seep into days, mellowing the storm of age
With the glow of hope and promise

15

Salvation

We would send off for ladybird eggs,
tiny, many and orange in a plastic tub.
Out would hatch dots that grew, shed,
grew, shed, grew spikes, ate siblings,
cocooned, emerged orange and wet.
We let them go in the back garden.
The empty tub would sit atop the piano.
I would squint at it for any last life.

We pulled a dragonfly from a spider.
I sat hours with its cold helicopter form.
The poison or shock had long done it,
but I wanted to be a hero, like in books
about kids who raised and saved pets,
were surrounded by fur and gratitude.
Tough shells, droning wings, disinterest
were more what I was designed to love.

16

THE CONFIDANTS OF OUR SOLITUDE

Our eyes are the confidants of our solitude.
Twilight touches the fate’s basket hilt
where all the wishes are jumping through
we cannot remember what we knew
when struggle became a pleasure
when the rescue of drowning words
in the political flow became routine.
Afternoon. We play our life to a different
sound when the crowd, a puzzle, around
needs to be solved.

17

We are all having an event

We, all of us, every one, have
this exact experience, we find
our mind turning to questions

of how we came to be standing
just here, just now, how we came
to be standing, clutching jars, how

we stand, clutch, who's clothes are
these, is this our posture, is this
how we stand, here in the sun? We

all ask, all of us, every one, we lose
ourselves here, on these broken dots
of time, this torn map of place, we

do not know ourselves, but we know
that we are the ones who ask.

18

Ajar, Agape

In blotchy self-bleed scape surround,
glass foundlings jar, thingness to work,
bug buds for coins, snooker chalk,
words wrapped from chaos, tumble sings,
the febrile, boundless shapes that wring
communal bells, prize shared, win wings.

This salad plate, crashed then reboot,
drag, drop, compress, digit unpacked,
trap-door serpentine asteroid,
taut Ruskin, Hepworth, Oxford soak,
who dreamt this specie origin?

Of genii family but one,
as stopper torn, this Jinn escaped —
what installation may be boiled
between pen, cortex, bits and brush,
though tool-mix may unsable land;
Bregenz, Turin, the Europe tour,
Kunst without borders, broader line?

Two dials, sun rings, face orb eyes,
in foreground — I caught minnows, string —
perspective shift, fresh paradigm,
as Turner saw from Tateful days,
rash Temeraire, type, tugged to berth,
this midwife, forceps, Caesar lift.

19

Amelia in Nature

It isn’t always a mistake, she says.
Homegrown carrots taste so sweet
even if they must grow to accommodate rocks
left by glaciers on their way home.

Homegrown carrots taste so sweet
to herself and her child
left by glaciers on their way home,
like the hopping flight of a goldfinch.

To herself and her child,
they are a part of nature
like the hopping flight of a goldfinch,
or the neighbor’s hedge trimmer.

They are a part of nature
like her sweater the color of earth and sky,
or the neighbor’s hedge trimmer,
she reminds her son.

Like her sweater the color of earth and sky,
it isn’t always a mistake,
she reminds her son,
even if they must grow to accommodate rocks.

20

Jill Or Jeanie

She popped out of the vase
like a Jill-in-the-box
holding on
to the carroty snake
she’d prised from the glaze inside.
He’d rubbed the vase hard
to make her pop out
like a Genie from the Arabian nights.
So perhaps, he thought,
she’s a Jeanie not a Jill.
He’s sure that if he dreams hard enough
the answer will come to him
like magic.

21

On Seeing a Falling Star…

I wish I could preserve
my world in a jar:
mountains and lakes, blue skies,
and a honeybee;
why not? even a fly…
and a muddy puddle
(who doesn’t like one?)
to stomp into and blotch
everything outside—
scary ghosts of the past,
fears of the present,
the revolt of Nature
through water and fire,
the sick areola
of a dying red sun.

22

Vat’s Life

The strange kid in the old-fashioned clothes and a fixed azure gaze stood in his jar as concentric rainbow coloured rings burst all around him. Even the jar looked as if it had been painted by a child: a jolly butterfly with wasp stripes, a fly with a crimson painted smile; what looked like a dead hamster at the bottom. It gave you a migraine just to be in the same room, let alone close enough to reach out and touch. Not that I wanted to.

He hadn't moved in an hour, straight backed and barely even breathing as some little bald guy in white peered around the jar and blew toothless raspberries. A side effect of the process combined past and future into one weird package. Ever since the scientists developed in-vitro procreation of the species, next of kin visits for the suspiciously deceased were even harder. Ten years as a beat cop and then another five in homicide and psychic crimes, but the Jar Baby made me feel like a rookie on my first solo. His kind always gave me the screaming heebie jeebies but I had a job to do.

The kid's voice sounded like silvery laughter, no trace of compassion and nothing but supreme, detached disinterest.

"My biological donors," he said, "both dead."

"How did you know?" A slight pressure in my head as something wandered about uninvited should have told me that he already knew. The kid had known long before I walked through the main facility gates—a waste of time trying for the personal touch when an email would have worked just as well and saved me a trip across town.

Read more >
23

Sun and the Mind

Mother's kiss, a love betwixt lies,
Caught him at the throat;
He emerges from a jam jar chrysalis –
Clad in magic –
Into a real fabrication.
Bugs and butterflies
Shot through murderous wings
Echo a discontinuous reverie;
A carrot, the same blaze shade as the
                                         setting sun,
Is a stick against his guide:
A ghost with a crippled third eye and a
                                         waterfall beard.
The dead have nightmares too.
He becomes a sleuth in a
symphony-haunted world,
Hunting thundering hope,
Heralding revolution
Against imitation tie-dye skies which
Blister.

Too much, too much, too much! is not enough:
Man has played his role.

24

Head Games

Lightening bugs in a jar
along with other insects,
gathered at night
while wearing blue gloves.
Contrasting images
telling their own tales.
Glittering games of childhood,
captured for awhile.
lights and shadows with
other colors dancing, flickering,
inside a jar
returning to remind us
that deep down,
we are all still children
at heart.

25

Self-Portrait as CV-19 Survivor

My Covid Blue eyes and gloves. My spuds.
I hold the carrot against Peter Rabbit.
I shall make soup and cake, I shall roast and bake,
and the rainbow sun shall light my fire.
(Yes, the intubation – I didn't feel a thing.
Under. Earth-under, I knew – Our Lady
of the Blue Hands tipped me the wink.)
I arise from a jar of my own making.
Jack, in the green – no wonder he's jealous
of my elegant survival. I like
this sweater, my favourite blue. When
I leave the ward, I think of my allotment.
One day, when I finally do jack it in,
Composting, I shall go back to my roots.

26

Captivated

The caterpillar—
Captivated in her heart!
Never was transformed
Into a cute butterfly.

The caterpillar—
Captivated in her heart!
Lived with greedy hungry cat
And a gloomy herb.

The caterpillar—
Captivated in her heart!
Could not get wings of colour
To be charmed and fly.

The caterpillar—
Captivated in her heart!
Got suffocated
Without affection and love.

27

Renascence of Destruction

math is irrelevant to nature,
what exists, exists without
the need for stratification, without
oscillating curves or whole numbers
bridging gaps between humans and
unidentified microcosms

rebirth will live as a sun-basking
myth in ouroboros if it counts the
instances it swallows its tail

it all comes down to one fish in
stasis, wafting over bubonic shore
letting oceanic life ebb and flow around it,
the giddy platonic lover

the same shore, a home to anglers
glaring at sunny bonfires, fishing for furtive
ancestral tales, these paan-spitting
loud thinkers of “nothing comes from nothing”
these god-fearing believers of rebirth
being a soft-whispered euphemism for
renascence of destruction

if a plastic bag sways and flutters several times
against the wind: it is still no vicar of happiness,
the life inside it is only a life trapped inside;
breathless, and out of breath

28

A Mind Filled with Stars

Each day is a journey to the center of a tangerine sky.
The spark of an idea is the spiral in the storm,
our own light source energy expanding
and contracting like the heart’s beating muscle.
With feet planted in the roots of a memory jar,
winged creatures appear, reminding us
of the stairs we once climbed.
We live many lives,
morph between caterpillar stages,
walking with bare feet in the soil
of past selves—
the budding artist who dares to experiment,
the brave swimmer making that first dive,
the student who raises a hand to
speak up and speak out.
An electric grid of connectivity
streams from tender feet to a mind
filled with stars.
An ink blot of indigo guides us to that
new thought emerging.
With a solar flare burst,
eyes wide with wonder,
we hold in our hands the fragile creation
meant for this day.
We cradle the gift
and marvel at the muse,
before it disappears into mystery.

29

The primary impulse more often than not is linguistic*

I sometimes lean my head against the sun
and stare with eyes like new televisions
at the world I created one bored afternoon
and think of all the people who hated me
and wonder why I didn’t love them enough.

I pick up the family I collected in my glass jar and push forward to the past.

*Helen Marten
30

Kathi with an “i,” she’s the one you want to talk to if you want to set your world alight

No one told me about her blue eyes, how they matched her gloves, or maybe her hands and the ice-cold blood frozen solid in them like claws.

No one told me she’d look through me, and through everything I’d ever done. What she doesn’t say—what she refuses to say—is so much more deadly than anything she might have screamed.

But is that rosacea, is she maybe ill or something? Is the ghost at her feet the same one dogging my every step? Might we have more in common than not?

Might we have been friends in another life where I’m the one who approached her to tell her who I was, that I wasn’t a threat to her or anyone. That I was only trying to live my life…

And all of her friends she keeps in that jar, I’m probably the type to let them just be. Unless they needed help. They may need her and I might be making assumptions again.

There I go damning her and in so doing, myself, because we all know there’s a mirror at the end of every action, every gesture, every thought, every sentence.

What I do to her I do to the world. “This is what I think of you, this is what I think of myself.”

So of course I’m going to reach out to her if her arms are locked at her sides. And, yes, I’m going to ask if she needs someone to talk to because I know these days I do too.

Read more >
31

Maakt Niets Uit (It Does Not Matter)

She asks me,
what happens when someone
steals your face.

Do I become a mirror?
Am I more than pious dust,
or exotic bric-a-brac?

Am I a drip-tray colour
to coax from
an ancient alchemist’s text?

This woman, she doesn't
mind that she’s made of crippled clay,
that there’s a hole in her neck.

It’s a cross she bears. Wears.
It wasn’t in her
blue print, so she wears blue

to mirror her powder-blue eyes.
Her obiter dictum moods.
Her blue nitrite gloves.

She keeps pets. A limpet,
a banana slug, and fruit flies
in a 15-litre pickled egg jar.

The limpet is Dutch.

It says words she has to
look up. Like sepulchre.
And maakt niets uit.

Read more >
32

A FERTILE PLACE

I remember holding carrots in June as strangers knocked on my door. When I answered the door, I brought the carrots with me, not because I wasn’t thinking, but to protect them from bugs, which were everywhere. I was in Florida at the time, and the strangers were going to a memorial. They wanted to know if they could partially block my driveway with their car. Of course, I said, and went back inside.

I wanted to be as far away from crowds as possible, but a part of me yearned to be at the memorial, close to people, honoring life. Just over a year later and crowds would become more dangerous than I could ever think.

At that time, when I held the carrots in June, it wasn’t because I didn’t like bugs—but I was allergic to so many of them, especially the ants. Not too long after I held the carrots, I went to a museum filled with bugs, and it was marvelous, rainbows of bugs everywhere. Before the museum, I went somewhere else, to a fertile place. Corn busted from the earth, in some areas as far as the eye could see, and the most gentle bugs crawled on my skin. I later learned the kind, light-footed insects were called sweat bees.

Sometimes I like to imagine the earth covered in food: carrots, sweet potatoes, onions growing underground—dollar weed, beauty berry, cattails, orange trees rolling outward and outward and outward. Maybe the earth would feel at peace, then. Maybe we would, too, the humans on the earth, celebrating the rainbows of insects crawling about.

We would still have strangers and memorials, but different. We would never be hungry.

33

Jarhead Dreams he’s a Real Boy

His head is in the clouds
and the clouds are way up high
and the sun is just a giant eye
that spirals through the spectrum
like a migraine in the sky
while a dark blue storm drifts by.

The wind, (shaped as a man
who says his name is Harmattan)
blows across the rocky land
turns it slowly all to sand
and places something in his hand,

something long and thick
that’s both a carrot and a stick
both punishment and reward
so he grasps it like a sword

thrusts it deep into the sun
(that’s really just a giant eye)
and with a cry and with a shout

the sun blinks out
the whole world shakes

and Jarhead wakes.

34

Cocoons Of Hope

the wizard's blizzards have melted
dormant cocoons are wriggling
spring has exploded
out of the starter's gun
with an awakening bang
and the chirpy blackbirds
are chorusing a different tune
their winter blues songs have gone
suddenly, warmth and sunshine
muster in the air
heralding a new season
of hope and prosperity

35

Insect Collector

I watch Timmy from the window with his jar tucked under his arm, patrolling the yard for insects. The sun is beaming, and the bees fly past his head. His fascination with bugs astounds me. I don’t know who he takes after.

He enters the house with a full jar of ants and asks if he could borrow the sugar. Without hesitation, I hand it to him. He wants to see how quickly the ants will eat it. He lifts the cover slightly and pours a small amount in. We watch with astonishing eyes as they devour every morsel within a short period.

“Mom, I’m going to take this outside, free the ants and look for a small spider.”

I tilt my head and ask, “What are you going to do with a spider?”

“I want to see how long it takes to create a web.”

I suspect he’ll be a wonderful scientist someday.

36

Spring Cleaning

As the buzz of the swarming
Day
Enters the boudoir
Someone has the door swung open
To peek hazily through the rising heat of
The sun
That doesn't yet burn
As much as set the ball rolling
For the daily industry
Of the birds and the bees
As much as it slants across the
Conservatory
Making allowance for the spring
To speak up for itself
On the back of this insolation
Across the expanse of the gardens
In a burst of flagrant colours
While it slides across everywhere
In plain sight yet hidden
Bowing to the grandness of the season
And
As much as it wishes these things were
Spoken
Is at a loss for words
As it sees the glossy overcoat
Of fresh vegetation
While simultaneously viewing
The winter in recession
Read more >

37

Oscillation

the oscillation from Apollo’s lips
bury me, this womb of glass seas,
relief—a meronym of death’s faces
the last dream my mother gave
to me. Embalm the clavicle
of the tree, widowed
to the eyes, mesmerized
in celestial dying things;
broken sunlight(s),
and milk from the bosom
ancient of woman
in dark places. Bury me
with my fingers
lazuli to the Erebus
threnody, first a dream
within the red-hills
the moon’s décolleté,
as I kiss the hands
in an era with parallel limbs
to the autumn lotus, and veins
of perfume from Paris.

38

Ultramarine

Carry what you have in your left hand
A carrot on the second day of spring
I’m radiating a blueness: that is
otherworldly, a sketched figure
hovering by my right side

It is my third eye

The landscape leaks.
The wind washes dry leaves.
Sun rays melt the sky:
a shadowy cloud splits
embraces its other

dissolving on the horizon line

It doesn’t make it any easier
this warm air that hides its past
The sun’s searing circular script
hurts my eyes. I focus my gaze west
stare with equal intensity

blurry mess of colour

I take my carrots— yes,
there are two now, one in each hand—
the jar of bugs I collected as a child
Spelling wings, brash lines, eight feet
and continue my vigil

39

Kaleidoscope Conscience

Blinking eyes, darkness illuminated by the light on the other side of the lid.
Shapes formed in a recess of the mind, fitting perfectly into a grid.

A hanging bulb, dangling from eyelashes, keeping the inside of my head awake.
Glazing each corner of the room, tinted in colour, but still opaque.

Shadows don’t exist in a round space, unless I intrude to the centre.
Jagged edges protruding from my body, as I embark on an old venture.

No beige, or magnolia, just a constant rotation of glowing hues,
kept wide eyed by the reliance on the fuse.

Not a natural experience, more a man made interference.
Existing inherently, with no false appearance.

The vividness of life is all I see when my eyes are closed,
and all that is needed, is a bulb left exposed.

40

A Thousand Words

Summer quarantine in a jar.
The wasps warn
these September skies
with their swirling nebulas
are the collision of a boy
with crab claws trying to catch
on paper the dark matter
crumpled tissue of the clouds
bleeding into ink stains.
Haunted by the sun
which holds a million earths
but is only a smallish star.
The ghost of a face floating free
of the mountains in the bottle.
Wings, infinitesimally small,
still beating against the glass.

41

Emergence

Watch me emerge from the parts of my whole,
see me reach for the stars in a sun-centred galaxy,
spiral through lightless space, come closer,

let me show you inside, see, stones from the hem
of land fringing the sea, here you’ll find me, sifting
shingle for agate, pitted carnelian, pale Baltic amber,

cracking nodules for fossils, seeking out ammonite
whirls and twirls like labyrinths, look, insects, from my
plot by the train tracks, centipede, fly, a humbug bee,

borrowed from one of my colonies, come closer, put
your nose to the glass and breath, honey and wax,
all heaven exists in a hive, did you know that? So

what of the face, you ask, come closer, see, it’s a mask,
everyone wears one, I am the sum of my parts like a
poem, here is fire, air, stone for earth but wait –
              where’s water?
I need to add rivers or pockets of ocean…

42

Let us dwell, a little longer

Come my love, let us be with nature
free ourselves of Ennui’s grip
I hear the shores that nurture
I smell the salty tears of Plath, drip

Of conquering tea leaves she sang
Of undeniable hope, her pulsed meter rang.

See now Dear, steps – one at a time
sinking, deep – with each footprint surrender
wading through isles of vanquished History’s mile
that enticing hug of needy sand, felt between each toes murmur

A jar – as empty as the blue Sky, reflected in our eyes
A chance, to gather mementos that tease-out our smiles.

Oh, am I lost once more, to life’s unbearable strain?
Tell me: why do you choose to disappear so suddenly
and sweep away your half of our reverie’s tracks.
I see only one set of footprints, in this path we shared
where do your size 11’s sink to?

Are these, your farewell notes: jarring concoction
of insects and seashells on a carpet of gold dust glass?

I know nothing of their meaning
maybe they have none, though they each shimmer
with the unbending will of survival’s zeal.
Are you smirking at me? I feel you – teasing
out of reach you grow lairy, but be wary: I simmer
with far too much dedication, for distance to ease your fear.

Read more >
43

deliquescent with a crunch

Far away from the porn barons, fascisti
& mendacious politicos, a dream song blues
floats seductively from the Sierra.

See Master Vittoree, wild eyed & pensive
in beautiful blue kid-skins.
His collection jar offers a pastel-palette

of softlee softlee squashables, a pet pet
mozziestingo & the blue-winged waspy bug.
He beseeches his djinn for more delectables

to accompany his pistachio centipedalo
& his Parisian Heirloom show-stopper.
O luscious buffet, deliquescent with a crunch.

44

Insects and Stars in Jars

Grandfather helped her to capture
ladybirds, beetles and caterpillars,

any interesting bugs, of all colours,
shapes and sizes, but they always died.

When Grandmother took her outside
to introduce her to the night sky,

to a full moon and swirls of stars,
she forgot about the butterflies

she’d always wished for and tried
to catch the cosmos in her empty jars.

45

Same again tomorrow

Barely awake again, buried six-feet deep a hundred times over, packed between the tin walls of our lightning-powered vestibule, faceless bodies osmosing in and out, breathing in other people’s skin. What a way to start the day, every day. I really should not have stayed up mixing sauce and powder all night again, but such is the life of a baker, and a baker I am. I’m pressed skin-tight between a surly fella with a backpack – they’re one type, tortoise-men I call them – and some suit with a haircut twice as expensive and half as impressive as my watch, speaking of which, where is it? I do hope I just forgot to put it on again, wash-eyed as I was this morning; it would pain me terribly for it to have been relegated to the realms of memory along with so many other misplaced trinkets of mine. I really should pay more attention to them. The case in my hand is heavier than usual today. Fuck knows what’s in it. I never ask. I never look – but this one is definitely heavier than usual. Sometimes I like to imagine it full of something ineffable, something so profound it’d kill me if I stared too long, a dark chasm engulfing everything it touches – except the bag, of course; now wouldn’t that be interesting, to regard such a thing. Anyway, I never ask questions, as I said, and that’s why they trust me to do what I do. Besides, the real chasm’s out here. Sprawling heaps of concrete shit, towering monuments to our lack of imagination, and a million suits scurrying about, all bluster and nothing, all just to make time speed up or slow down, I forget which one. It’s all just painting in the rain. Futile, nonsense. Makes me sick and angry until I remember I’m one of them, too. I miss the days when they’d escort me around by car to do this, but they say it’s all too conspicuous now – better to mix in with the proles, plain sight and all that. I close my eyes and for a moment imagine myself in countless other universes, anywhere but here for a change, but I draw a blank. I try real hard and press myself – think colour and light, like Sondheim said – and a few images come to mind, but they’re all shit, too. Best be happy with my lot, I guess. Read more >

46

The Minor Leagues

Am I going up or going the other way?
I can’t recall, but I was told I was due
a spell in the minor leagues

and who am I to argue with manager/
coach/god, I mean have you seen
the size of the wad of chewing

tobacco he just spat at my head?
So here I am, on deck, next up
for the Utopia Mason Jars (on

Cinco de Mayo the Utopia Trapped
Bananas) and I have been hitting
.197 all season because what

are you gonna do when all you can
manage to connect with when you
swing are the ghosts you carry

to bed with you every night, the ones
who claim they’ll make it better
the way bullies do, silkily, sullenly.

I am so over it now, just strike me
out dammit so I can be farmed away
to the next affiliate, the *checks notes*

Treacle Town Shoulda Coulda Wouldas.
Maybe I’ll stick there for once, and
maybe that’ll be fine, I’ll be fine.

47

7 days

The tide floods my Sahara mouth, and I sit up and rest on my hands. I squint through the salt, my forehead smarting. Clogged sand travels between my splayed fingers and my naked body begins to sink. I raise my arms above my head and unknown hands gently lift me to my sodden feet.

I gingerly step forward onto the water and it holds. The steady charged thrum supporting my weight. It ebbs and flows beneath a sky of crimson.

A flick of a finger and the sea water swirls around me, enclosing me into a powerful screaming cyclone. Another flick disperses the water into fluffy spheres of white far above. Their soft exteriors welcome me.

I touch down, and the sand is replaced with soft jade blades that tickle my toes. Yellow circles with white petals and green stems overwhelm the field. I tear the white petals between my teeth. They taste of dry mud, ripping themselves apart on my sandpaper tongue. I fashion them into a crown above my head. An echo of my future children.

I fly upwards again, zooming past the clouds through cobalt to ink. I reach perfect darkness, before she turns and burning white ignites my eyes. She is hesitant at first, before letting go. The intensity pitches me forward, imploding my body with light, it gushes through every cell and fingernail.

I rest, and flowers bloom in my eyes, shooting through blue irises and threading vines through thick eyebrows. My bare collarbones ensnared in a field of cerulean and russet. My legs catch in soft black cotton. I cough once and stand once more. I find frozen mountains, punching a hole through and diving deep into a tomb of brilliant gold. He is there already. The hair rises on my arms and neck. Stolen whispers dart through my bones. He is younger than I was told to expect, his horns mere brambles through his brow, his hooves smooth and unspoiled on the charred rocks. We nod, uncertainty in both sets. I leave. Read more >

48

There’s a woman who

runs like silk
worms lit from within
clasped jars honey
smeared on bark
luring bears
to my wedding
vows clean as water
colour bleeding everywhere
gauzed antiseptic
tanks heaving toward war zones
in my pocket
pegs scattered
bird seed
in an empty tube
fat starlings pray
for rain
slicks the driveway
but she doesn’t fall
into metal
clasps pooled in bronze
beaches hidden behind hoarding
newspapers from when she was
young saplings glimmer
of spilled rose paint
from her shed
like snakes
in autumn

49

Overload

Sunday tastes of the sting of oranges. Jeremy’s tongue is spiked by hot prickles as he walks the woodland lane. Lilac ribbons curl from the beech trees. Skylarks. Then, as the wood pigeons call, soft blue clouds puff between them.

Her stone cottage is straight out of a fairy tale, everyone says. Jeremy sees it as a tired old man, drooping eyelids and an untidy thatch of peppered hair, as he opens her gate.

‘Grandma,’ he whispers, for the pleasure of it, tasting the delicate sweetness of marshmallow.

He knocks. The sound is buttercup yellow, as circular as the sun. He avoids looking at the number ‘2’ on her door, intimidated by his arrogance. His grandmother understands how multi-dimensional Jeremy’s life is as a synesthete.

‘I’ll change it to the word,’ she has promised.

It will only be marginally better. The ‘w’ will be ringleader, he knows.

Brown triangles rise like sandwich-shaped balloons and melt at head-height. Rudy, the dachshund, is barking behind the door, appearing at his grandmother’s feet as she opens it.

‘Hi, Grandma.’ He swirls his tongue and swallows the delicious word as she hugs him.

‘Jeremy!’ She ushers him inside.

Jeremy strokes the excited dog and he quietens. Commas swarm like flies as Rudy’s claws tap on the stone flags. Jeremy is relieved when he curls in his basket.

Read more >
50

A Jovian on a Journey

a Jovian on a Journey
once traveled through a dark black hole
to pierce blue skies in September
landing somewhere near the North Pole.

Bees, flies, butterflies, a carrot
and a wise man's discoloured Soul:
these were his treasured souvenirs,
kept safe in a closed crystal bowl.

I saw him on a Starry Night,
standing in a Van Gogh-like field:
his deep blue eyes sparked of insight
like a Knight in a knitted shield!

then Space warped under Gravity
to open a glowing red eye –
I smiled at my reality
as the Jovian waved goodbye!

51

Jar

I keep my emotions closed. Like a caterpillar in a jar. It occasionally squirms, seeking release. It sees the outside, but cannot touch it. Soon, the effort is reduced to an act of futility. Nothing will come of trying to escape. So it sinks. Deeper, further into itself, until it becomes an inactive husk. A memory of a moment, lost in the past. And so time goes on. The jar is slowly emptied, waiting for its next victim. It refills, and the process repeats.

One day, it feels different. It feels bright, it feels warm. For a moment, you thought you saw the husk move. It couldn't be, could it? Inside the jar now resides a butterfly. Will you twist off the lid this time?

52

Clarity

Sasha moved out of her house and into the greenhouse. I know what you’re doing, said her husband, you’re so transparent. He wasn’t even trying to be funny.

Her new home was not a greenhouse in the Victorian sense—a glorious wreck leaning against a warm granite wall decorated with the tracery of vines. It did not smell of lemons and tomato leaves.

No, this was the garden centre variety. Build it yourself in five hundred easy steps with an online video for the amateurs. It did not quite fit together, its right angles were ever so slightly wrong. The door fell off its runners with every westerly that blew across the lawn and was held closed with a brick. It was an architectural rendering of their marriage.

Sasha used a tissue from her sleeve to dust down the folding metal chair squeezed into the corner. When the greenhouse was just an idea, she had planned sitting on floral cushions, drinking coffee with a friend, out of the weather but still in the garden. But it hadn’t turned out like the picture. It housed the lawnmower and grass seed. Chicken wire. Bamboo canes. Pots from plants that were planted and died and pots from plants that were almost alive. Rusty tools and widowed gloves, the dregs of a compost bag, a plastic trug with a missing handle and an allium seed head she couldn’t throw out.

She wasn’t the only beating heart in the place. Each corner was home to a tented village created by generations of spiders and whatever was buzzing around her head would soon be invited to tea.

Using the same tissue she wiped a spot on the potting bench to put down her bag and her book. She felt foolish now. And what would she do when she needed to pee? Read more >

53

Man Netting Bugs on the Bank

In hindsight,
I thought it only
butterflies he was after,

but now remember
he gladly took
all he could catch

in his condition—
profound as it seemed—
and Zen with the mission

of filling his net
with whatever
he could get

be it butterfly,
or moth,
or air

as I stared
across a shore
in all my dumb wisdom

mad that no nibble
tugged at the end of my line
to fill my creel that night,

so saw the hours wasted,
and because I did,
was right.

54

Bee in a Jar

Glass walls shimmer like eyes
Amongst a swirling consciousness, searching
For familiar shapes, a foothold for existence.
The implosion of an galaxy;
Connections swarming from
Constellations –
The world and its assorted contents
Gelatinous with honey
Activating the old rumblings of Earth.
A corner illuminated in perception
Spreading like heat,
Remembering the natural world.

55

A Celestial Faith

The sky was white.
Its blue had melted away.
The mountains bathed in blue, akin at times to the inky indigo, at others, to the pale, liquid oxygen.
Concentric circles of paraffin formed on the exterior of the mountains, with pillars made of wicks and mosaics made of silvered glass.
The mirrors glint. Light. The concentric circles melt. Heat. Together they are Fire. There’s a Chill too. Fire and Chill, a fiery chill, that renders the world inhabitable.
Lands that seek oasis, sands blowing around listlessly in dust clouds.
Lands that seek oasis, while humans walk around haunted by spirits.

Spirits that speak of fear and shame,
Of lost causes and of efforts that go in vain.

The woman, with a creeper in her hands and a glass jar, strides away from the conflicting elements.
The glass jar contains one of each- a bird, a bee, a stone implement, and an earthworm. Only one of each.

Alone, they set out. None understands the other, yet feels. Each unique by its singleness, yet an embodiment of the best/ last hope by their oneness. They set forth to remake the world with: infinitesimal amounts of heat, light, and cold. A sliver of land too, and just a speck of water.

An ethereal, celestial faith.

For in the fiery chill and loneliness, the journey itself beckoned toward the path of belonging.

56

Escapee

After the tunnel was found, it became obvious that many had not vanished but fled, fearful of what was to come. The treatments became increasingly severe with debilitating side effects. Once out, they appear off kilter, passably themselves, but hard to spot as they hide in plain sight. The one thing certain to help with identification is the unhealed open hole where the respirator once was inserted. Some say they have been traumatized by the disease, others say the treatment was worse than the disease. The government dispatched hundreds of ambulances to locate and rehouse these patients, and the sirens howl 24-7 through empty streets.

This one was located at the park. Victor or Victoria?—we can’t tell. Does it matter? S(he) appears elevated, standing behind or inside a mason jar filled with teeming wild life, insects of creepy crawling origin, Winged flits that suck blood, sleeping bats, thousand-legged blobs that bite, and yellow jackets, stingers at the ready. The respirator hole is visible and she wears it proudly like a cherished necklace. Vermin appear to enter and exit at will.

S(he) looks numb, befuddled and yet, overly caffeinated, alert to the nth degree. Eyes fixate on all and nothing, staring into the past or the future Simultaneously. Arms hang stiffly suggesting precise robotic movement were s(he) to suddenly animate. The face is pale but randomly discolored. The hands, primitive claw-like, hang loosely at her side. Blue gloves cover hands and appear to be plastic hospital issue, or perhaps the hands are blue from the inside, the first manifestation of drinking the cure for the cure. A carrot top juts out from back pocket, indicating an appetite exists. A wooden facsimile of a snake with a bird’s beak at one end is held, suggesting a wand or opposing purposes, the dynamics of predicament.

Read more >
57

The Collection

There’s a ghost of himself wandering the earth. Occasionally he sees it out the corner of his eye. A grey image, wizened and haunted. It reminds him that time is short and that no one will save him, but he can try to save them.

His collecting jar is full so he returns to the broken-down house and fights the climbing ivy to get through the door. Inside he wanders to the butterfly room where he releases his latest finds, watching them hover before heading into the lush bushes that cover the windows.

In the garden he inspects the hive and through the translucent wings of the bees he sees what is to come – the destruction of his world. In a short space of time the forests will disappear, wetlands will dry up, flesh will boil in the heat, and whole islands will be swallowed in the sea. Where will those remaining live?

He will need a larger house, more rooms, more land. This is a bigger task than he ever imagined. He mulls it over with the bees, his soft voice encouraging them to dance around him.

In the kitchen he realises that the garden is gradually encroaching into the house. He finds odd creatures meandering through the hall. Most were invited, but now others come as if they know they will find a safe haven here. He sighs as he thinks about the people hanging on to scrubs of land by their fingertips. He never thought he’d be a collector of people, but as he thinks of the ghost of himself wandering this diseased earth, he knows he must.

58

Red Shift

Months are moths round a tealight, all hope and smoke on a beachside veranda. It’s later than it looks, and I fiddle with my tax returns, counting and recounting as I singe receipts at their edges so they look like maps or manuscripts, or a pack of arcane playing cards discovered on the first manned mission to Mars. We were looking for ice and microbes, but found instead abandoned casinos with glitzy chandeliers and red baize tablecloths, a roulette wheel still spinning through at least six dimensions. Flashing bandits dispensed dreams like stars in small denominations, and all drinks were free. We returned with jars of moths and monsters, fire-red planets buried in our eyes; and although it was sealed tight in a conspiracy of silence, I add interplanetary travel to the column marked Expenses Incurred, and write off all debts for another million years. It feels like October, but the tide is scribing impossible dates on the sand and returning months are ashes in a waxy saucer.

59

Today’s Harvest

Blue gloved hands hold out nature’s bounty
Gnarled and twisted, caked in crumbling soil
Mother says she’s never seen a carrot so beautiful

But that’s not all of today’s harvest
Mother’s smile is thin as she surveys the jar
The black and yellow enameled bastard
Beats his furious wings against his tiny glass prison
His vindictive sting locked and loaded
But he’ll forget his revenge once the lid is lifted
And he makes good his escape

60

the summer fresh nymphs

on the brink of it all
such fierce trembling
fresh unravelling
my grand-daughter lies
on her soft belly
nose to little nose
with a still wet mayfly
readying for adventure
learning to live
she watches a filament
of cocoon dry
harden and drop from
its scarlet back
it flexes ghostly wings
considers flight and
new perspectives
her breath tickles
these curious antennae

61

Remember

The nights were Catherine wheels
burning through my weeks.

Monday jumped over Tuesday,
Friday flipped behind Thursday
and lingered under Sunday

like the crumbling stench of gunpowder
in the corners of November nostrils.

Your skin was the sky,
stretched like toffee
over the flesh of rotting apples.

I traced my fingers
around the shape of dead stars

like unlit sparklers
doing their best.

62

A MEMORY OF BEES

it had been said the end would come like this
a dim dawn of the sun
become erratic without clouds
dark dark blue sky as if
done in blotched water colour
instead of the real thing

some shades like ghosts already float around
prior to signing out completely
are criticised for just giving up
                    before it really gets tough
a woman looks bug eyed though has nothing
to do with the bees

                               already gone as life
becomes toxic in unexpected ways
at first they looked fine in all their variety
as usual blamed nobody for their constant search
inside flowers and pleaded that the world
should continue after its final days -
now lay preserved in heaps inside large glass jars
as memorial to their passing
                                             no exceptions
just that
               until the end
I'll retain a memory of bees

63

The Approach To Other Lives

Wildflowers began my crusade,
blossoming hordes of them,
baring the valley's heart.
Butterflies continued it,
temporary beauty
flitting from phlox to bluebell.
I admit even the insects
had me going, especially tiny loud ones...
the relentless buzz of simplest life.
By the time people emerged,
I'd jerked out a wildflower,
noticed how quickly its leaves
crinkled brown, its hues faded
once severed from its roots.
I'd caught a butterfly,
mourned how having it dead and mounted
made it so much more unobtainable.
I'd even captured an insect,
in a jar with not enough holes,
become the one unwitting source of death
in afield of life.
And I brought a girl here
knowing already what it was like
to bring something anywhere.

64

Awake To The World

Awake to the world spinning on a pin
This motion sick lover
This palette on a whim
To yield this unyielding life
spinning colour
spinning in your eyes
spinning on a pin.

Roaming the unsleeping night
collecting souls to hold
in see through observation.
Oh this circular spin
Reflected in colour
Reflected in sin.

Pull sustenance from the earth
Catch creatures in tin.
It’s all in your eyes
Your awake from within.
Awake to the world spinning on a pin.

Roaming the unsleeping night
Spinning colour
Spinning on a whim
Trying to yield this forever
unyielding spin.
Oh this beautiful wheeled colour of sin.

65

How to create the ‘perfect’ girl

1. A pinch of powdered turmeric must
be added to the finishing touches of
a burial.

2. Seed the chiselled boned animals. Sl-
ice the tufts of fur for a thicker cons-
istency.

3. Crusting the wings of the dead, mark
the chrysalis eclipsing a thin membra-
nous shadow.

4. Butcher neonatal names in a slaughter-
house; taste the redness. Add salt if ne-
eded.

5. Disbelieve that you can outlive the Man’s
imperialism. The recipe doesn’t allow for
that.

6. Your body is now a thing to notice. Serve
whilst hot.

66

WASTELAND

It had been a fine night out in the pub and then to a friend’s house for a prolonged nightcap – a welcome yet pathetic escape from the confusion of the Covid plague and the associated conflicting dogma which shied from the scientific while humping the leg of the arbitrary.

His eyes, as the vernacular went, were “standing in his head” as he made his way home, blurring the hateful reality into a pleasant fog and allowing his mind’s eye to supplement his chosen world with memories of childhood and ghosts of untrodden paths.

He wore no mask on advice from his doctor, and had drunk more alcohol than had been recommended by that same professional.

A jam-jar with a paintbrush in it, forgotten on a lonely stoop conjured images of spiders and caterpillars captured and coddled by a short-trousered version of himself – raiment he had abhorred for its tight or loose chill and embarrassing migration between his bum cheeks.

He laughed aloud at the thought and noticed there were none around to think him odd.

The town was dead at nine o’clock. Not even the winos or recently advertised homeless were to be seen in the wasteland of Covid.

An image of Charlton Heston racing through empty streets in a red convertible flitted through his imagination – a scene from the 1971 movie Omega Man and left an eerie aftertaste.

New normal? He thought not. He’d sooner…

He retreated to the prior fog and walked on. He was sure there was wine in the fridge.

67

Sight

Some people have it lucky,
the world is sharp and angular,
the shapes make sense.
I live through a frame,
behind windows
and without,
the colours run together,
distant people
become formless figures.
Some people have it worse,
their sight goes out,
the shapes mean nothing,
the eyes
might as well be shut.
I sometimes wish I could paint,
all the things I see through these windows,
every detail,
the intricate lines of the world.
I am lucky though,
my eyes open in the morning
and the light goes in.

68

The Episodes

All it can take is a sudden change in the light for everything to become different. To see things as they truly are. Audrey gets so flummoxed when this happens, when I have what she calls one of my “episodes”.

“I’ll need to tell your parents, you know,” she sometimes says. “If this keeps happening.”

But she never does. She needs this gig way too much. Times are hard. There aren’t many families seeking the services of a governess these days. If people do have kids, they have far more pressing issues to worry about than giving them education. Like giving them food.

Still, I try to hide when it happens, just in case her concern about my mental state ever wins out over concern about her next pay cheque. My parents wouldn’t do well here, in the real world. Their survival hinges on their charmed existence.

Today, my episode is brought on by a thunderstorm abruptly switching to a sun shower. My father’s study transforms, polished mahogany turns to piles of trash. There are no books to speak of, and instead of a chair I’m sitting atop a jar where the bottom half of me is concealed in a thick, milky liquid, something — most likely something of myself — pulsating beneath the sickening murk. I’ve never had it in me to explore further. I like to instead focus on my surroundings. Did you know that in the real world's colour is inverted, like photograph negatives? On these unexpected visits, I like to focus on the colours. They are preferable to the odour. They are far more preferable to the ghostly figure lurking in the corner.

Now Audrey is examining me, concern clouding her eyes. Even though I say nothing, she can always tell when I’m having an episode. I can’t hide the unusual shallowness of my breath, my sudden lively interest in a dull room I’ve known all my life. Read more >

69

and then came Autumn

she had made a portable world for herself
she has to keep her options open
isn’t the heart both chest and treasure?
isn’t the heart always ajar?

over the years she has gathered her words
she has sowed them onto the seasons
as she toils between tender and needle
on each page an ode to constellations

and then came Autumn

time to unleash the murmuration of starlings
time to shelter, here, the honeyed flight of a bee
as the wind starts to gather the leaves
one by one

like days
clustered in our memory, only just,
mimicking stars

that tell us, every evening, that far
is farther than it seems

70

SHE’S GOT A BEE IN HER BONNET ABOUT CATCHING A RAINBOW

I am a queen—I’ve always known that despite
being told my whole life I was a drone, despite
“that’s not what a female bee looks like” and
“even if you were, we need a fertile one.”

I was worried what would happen to the hive
when the queen dies, when they all die, and they
just went beating their wings against the air so

I’m avoiding colonies these days—the crowd, the
buzz, the stings. Now it’s just me and the Sun, and
I’ll find its place in the sky even when it’s hiding.

71

Jar full of Future

The heat of the earth beguiles the hairs on the nape of our chicken red necks
They stand like veterans; they stand like the mad waiting for death

No amount of raging wind can flatten our intent
To manipulate life
We all clamber to be the light
Dark matters not discussed as it’s not yet defined
We cannot see clearly through our egotistical eyes
We claimed a whole galaxy, now it circles in our minds
We claimed to be prosperous burning our time
We, we are like microbeams
Firing in vast quantities
Radiating the soil with our hungry economy
Our future is in bunkers and plants in a jar
All this was in fear of the feeling of azaar

They stand like veterans; they stand like the mad waiting for death

72

Just Too Long On The Beach

we hadn’t ventured far
apart from supermarket queues
trips to the doctors’ locked surgery
at the bottom of our street
for that was our lockdown

but with restrictions lifting
we bravadoed to the beach
the family
our pets (in a glass jar)
with an aspiration for chilling

under the summer sun
just off the autobahn
to the last square metre of free sand
face masks in back pockets
social distancing no chance

kept an eye out for enforcers
an eye for swooping gull
smelled the ozone develop
tide ripping at speed
yet no concern on our faces

we didn’t remain too long
just an hour or so at the front
the family
our pets (still in the jar)
until we were marooned on the sand

Read more >
73

CANNING

Did I remember
to thoroughly wash my hands
before donning these gloves

Just to be sure
should I wash them again
this time with awareness

Snap out of this daze
where I imagine my father
resurfaces creeping from ether

If I squint he appears
as does every microbe
that sent him away

Tonight the sun sets
earlier than last night
in this solitude

I have barely borne it
with the aid
of summer sun

When I preserve
the last cherries
I will fold into myself

A bruised blue batter
praying for a keeping ring
and lid to contain me

74

Five Bumblebees

I didn’t mean to harm them, I really did not.
I only wanted them to be mine.
I caught them with care, one after the other;
it was tricky, getting them all in one jar,
getting the new ones in
without any
                                                                       escaping.

I hadn’t thought what I would do with them;
I only knew I wanted them,
I wanted to catch them,
                 to own them,
                     to keep them,
they were so beautiful,
flying fluff balls the colours of honey and tigers and velvet.

When they called me in for lunch,
I hid them like a treasure,
                                       under the peonies in the grass.
I knew my parents wouldn’t approve
                                                          —and why?
I must have known it was wrong,
or maybe I didn’t,
but I think, if I’m honest, I probably did.

When I came back out and picked up the jar,
they were all still in there,
                                         but they were dead.
Read more >

75

Sestina With A Drawing I Dislike, And Agnes Martin’s ‘Flower In the Wind’ (1963)

There are times when I become intemperate
With the representational, as if a mausoleum
In Halicarnassus could be struck up
To hold it all, all the viney putti and lines
The mannerist curvature of the body—
Satyrs, fauns, mirrors, a right thumb trembling.

My bread, my butter, my trembling;
Vitruvius has a theory of which intemperate
Winds make the character of a body,
Spun up in orthogonals, no mausoleum
This, but a living thing, through-lines
JAN VAN EYCK ME FECIT, fecit me up.

There is, in an octagon, no proper up;
Merely an eight-sided tower in Athens, trembling
Horologion, their names. Boreas lines
The mouth with snow, Zephyrus, intemperate
With small white flowers, mausoleum
For the spring in autumn’s lithe body.

Her body, my body, the Sybil’s body
From preserving jars we rise up,
Smelling steeped of ethanol mausoleum.
The scalpel and the pen are prone to trembling,
The hand is easily intemperate,
What is the flesh but lines on lines?

Read more >
76

DIFFERENT MILLENNIUM, SAME SONG

They say that devils shadowed every soul
as the Black Death tore each from the flesh,
dealing with the desperate
eager for release
from the searing agony
which writhed within their chests.

Now the demons adopt a different role,
summoned to our homes to spout ganache
of mulched science: guesstimates
and measures to grease
paths to future dowries,
assuring that it is for the best.

77

Managing Millstones

Tie-dye sunburst fills the sky like
charging watercolor imagination,
creating streaming brushstrokes,
dabbing life’s colorful pallet to
accent character, highlight tears.

Why study me with wide open eyes,
round as waterwheels, marveling at
bucket motion, basking in moisture,
internalizing the energy of a falling brook,
flooding power through tributary veins?

Take me to dine among sunflowers,
grape vines, and mandarin oranges,
relate all your travels and travails like
a wise, repentant, ancient mariner…lighten
the weight of each albatross around my neck.

Eternally merge from encumbrances like a
puritanical genie rising or an illusionist’s aide
reappearing—lacy collar and cuffs, offsetting
blue patent leather gloves—phantom mask
ready: my canvas curiosa…a variegated wash.

78

Stellar Disintegration

Blue on blue on blue, cold
honeypots to the insecurities
in my brown blood.

Infatuated, glimpsing
your bugs and tics,
deliberately blinding

myself to categorise
them charming foibles,
damage to be loved better,

failing, deliberately failing
to note stings, mandibles.
The Sun rose, the Sun

set. I stayed, watched
them with needy complicity
consume the better

parts of me until my small
remainder lay dismembered
at your feet,

the pedestal of a statue
to predation, physically carrot –
emotionally stick, bathed

in the sunlight of our love:
the toxic radiation of
a sick and gaudy star.

79

Pickled Beets

Mildew blights are coming on.
We’ve had enough zucchini to last,
well, to last for months.
Withering tomato vines,
their curled brown leaves
and the sun goes wild gold fall
setting off at an odd angle
and down too early anyway.

I gather up the drying beets
from a crumbly sand soil,
scrub and roast them,
slice them with carrots
with too many rootlets,
odd remnants of a garden
which performed well
enough under sunflowers,
June’s hope turned
in on itself.

In that canning jar, leavings, lefts.
A scaley onion. Apple cider vinegar.
A little salt, a little sugar.
We’re back to roots,
to digging in
after heady grapes
and strawberry lush.
Blood-stain on my fingers.
Read more >

80

abracadabra

I ingested you, just as the scriptures
I had memorized as a child
I chanted you, just as chemistry amalgamates
I wished it would settle our inherent restlessness
I received you, just as intentional rooting
I counted my footsteps stepping through our doors
I gathered you, just as the shimmer of a firefly
I felt the glow, transparent through my closed fist
I preserved you, solstice to equinox inside my jar
I have risen a phoenix, to kiss these savage skies
I will stay
before me and after me
I will stay
in votives of submission
I will stay
till the stars weep
I will stay, ingesting, chanting, receiving, gathering, preserving you
until you consume me into your breath, or reminiscence into mine

81

Rules of Time

A flash of colours
a zombie dream
rising from a jar.

A thin long carrot
in hands ice-blue
situated in a land afar.

Adult horrors
childhood fantasies
clashing in the mind.

Explosions of light
absorbed into darkness
questioning evil and kind.

Blotches of ink
blending laughs and screams
ignoring the rules of time.

82

Spiders and Flies and Snakes and Nightmares

In my head, I’m old enough to stay up late with the grown-ups. I just don’t want to. I can hear them laughing and knocking their glasses together downstairs.

I skip over the attic floorboards as though they’re piano keys, holding onto my headphones. The music tastes golden green. I stand at the window just as the song reaches the gentle explosion noise and the guitar solo begins. It jangles against the glass and colours the heavy evening clouds lime, burnt orange. As the horn section kicks in, a sickly kind of yellow, too.

Mummy hangs the bunches of flowers the guests bring upside down from the attic beams. They move when I dance. She says hanging them means they will stay beautiful for a long time. The guests almost always bring them. Boxes of chocolates and caramels too. They glue my words together and make my throat feel thick.

Before the guests arrive, I take my Daddy’s records upstairs. I listen to the man who shares my sister’s name over and over. I can’t decide if he’s good or bad.

He scares me quite a bit, but I love him. He sings about spiders and flies and snakes and nightmares. Things that frighten me, but I want close to me, too. Safely in a jar where I can look at them, press my fingers to the glass and pretend I can touch them.

I keep dancing, twirling, trailing dust in circles. I click my fingers in time to the piano, throw my arms towards the dead flowers, press my face to the window.

83

Souvenirs

Everyone keeps something close
Folded like a handkerchief
In their pocket
Worn like a favorite scarf or hat
Kept in a box of stones and shells
And dried leaves
With the dust of summers past
Still on them
Or carried like an old book
Lined with their grandmother’s prayers
In a language they never learned to read

These are mine
Flickering like fireflies
In a jelly jar
Small lights I depend on
Holding the secrets
Of stories I used to believe
The rules of games we played
On the sidewalks and in the alleys
My dreams of trees and water
The first time I saw the ocean
And how I watched
the moon in all her phases
Rising above the rooftops
Promising some always returning
New chance
Even for the worst of us
Read more >

84

A Moment of Mind Expansion in Watercolors

O dreamers, O thinkers
lost in the sands of hourglasses.
Behold Socrates crumbling bust
thinking outside the jar.
The Id of Dr. Ruth Westheimer
a floating masthead in Macy's parade
above Sigmund Freud's dreams.
Hermann Rorschach blotching the sun
with Timothy Leary's psilocybin rainbows.
(A man Allen Ginsberg
called the "brave nueronaut").
All against a dark backdrop
where the myth of Carl Sagen's ashes
expand forever outward
through God's infinite universe.

85

Hyphens

On days when the wind
Plays with the pine trees and even
The wasps huddle in their paper nests
Built under the eaves
I close my eyes
My forget-me-not blue eyes.

I picture the birth-land of my mother
As I have seen it in sepia family photos
Or in the distorted memories
Of my one-year-old self.

It is a land
Where women wear six yards of
Every color save blue because
Blue is reserved for
The sky and
The tiles of religion.

It is a land
Where men massage their hair
With coconut oil and
Slice mangoes with the expertise
Their wives apply to make-up.

When I open my eyes
I am on my mountain
Where the pine trees play with the wind
Where women wear blue and
Men carry shotguns
To defend their altars from strangers.

Read more >
86

Not Anymore: A Ghazal

The dead fireflies don’t flicker anymore
Hope doesn’t glow and glimmer anymore

My indigo vision can see the unseen
They won’t pipe and twitter anymore

The inkblot test of love bodes ill
Maybe we won’t be together anymore

So what if this doom was our destiny
Cheer up, let’s not be bitter anymore

So what if we have everlasting winter,
Eternal autumn, no summer anymore

87

WATERCOLOR DREAMS

When the first two Facebook posts I read this morning were from friends recounting their exciting dreams, I was ready to go back to bed. You see, to my mind, my dreams from last night were not relatable. What’s a writer to do?

Write my own – with the outcomes I’d have preferred?

Slow dancing in your arms is possible again if there’s enough black paint to create you in your favorite suit – necktie gray and black stripes.

Hazy people somewhere in the background – in dreams I can move them here and there to fill spaces. Potted plants always giving green background to our cuddles with the music. We’re all alone in a crowd – it might be day – or night.

Blue everywhere – my sweater and my eyes that you loved, you told me many times. Bursts of bright color the pictures I talk to when I’m awake, or when I’m asleep or when I sense the rhythm of my heart talking to you.

My story of clutching glass jars full of captured bugs one you laughed at – something you never did and don’t understand. Of course we let them out – well sometimes it was too late and we made tiny bug graves for them.

Tiny graves that in reality have taken over as adult-size ones month after month and never stopping. I’m digging for friends and family in a world where physical contact is through masks and gloves, if at all. Goodbyes on paper or screen, cold imitations of the hugs we’d desperately like to share are all that’s possible.

Is it any wonder that dreams are sometimes more real than the lonely reality I’m enduring without you? Is it only in my mind, or is the sun shining just to laugh at my torment, knowing it will always be this way?

Read more >
88

Pupa, larvae and unborn butterflies

Everyone has some unborn butterflies in them,
They are kept in a glass jar within one's heart,
Some people keep only larvae, some people pupae,
Some people keep caterpillars too,

Once in broad day light,
While standing under the sun,
Perceiving its halo,
One can get the feel of unborn butterflies inside
And at that moment another being of self is discovered.

89

See More of the World

‘I’ve never stepped outside South London,’ I said.

The doctor, who appeared on the computer screen as no more than a floating head, ran a hand across his jowls and lips.

‘For the sake of your sanity, Mrs Barker,’ he replied, ‘you must see more of the world.’

I switched off the screen and called out to Bernard.

‘The doctor says I’ve to get out and about. Why don’t we take a trip to the coast?’

‘You go,’ came the response from the bedroom. ‘My back’s playing up.’

I looked out a jar, decorated the top with a crimped pastry case, and put it beside an open window. After changing into a corduroy skirt and my best jumper, I squeezed my hands into a pair of cornflower-blue gloves. ‘Those gloves match your eyes,’ my mother had observed years ago.

When I returned to the jar, I found a butterfly, caterpillar and moth inside.

‘You’ll be my travelling companions,’ I told them, placing the jar in my handbag.

I went to the front door.

‘That’s me, Bernard,’ I said over my shoulder. ‘See you soon.’

‘What am I going to eat while you’re away? It’s Tuesday. The cupboard’s always bare on Tuesdays.’

Read more >
90

The Tyranny of Light

The ghost of my grandfather was always present in the glass jars of desiccated insects he would collect. In amongst his specimens, lined in supreme organisation on a shelf so perfectly straight the room looked crooked, were rows of empty jam jars, vacant for the specimens that were planned for them but which never came. Their glass distorted my face in comic ways that made me pout and gurn like a toothless old man; I imagined myself old and fragile.

An impossibly long legged spider crawled above my head and a woodlouse scurried around my feet and I felt like a god, in a workshop of creation waiting to be animated, and sent into the world to work; beetles of semi-precious green and blue, moths and butterflies like falling handkerchiefs, handfuls of crickets singing like drunks, and then the flies bumbling into windows like idiots, incapable of escape.

In between the wall and the corner of the shelf, a blaze of quite dazzling colour caught my eye and I knew this must have been his prize: a beautiful butterfly with gold, blue, red and orange for wings. I had no idea what it was but I took it as my inheritance and placed it above my bed, its glittering gemstones filling my head with spinning light; it glowed in the dark with a bioluminescence that made me think of being in a cave.

I hungered for colour but the world looked pale. I could only find peace in the colours of the butterfly’s wings. I could no longer leave my room because the grey state of the world left me depressed. Food looked and tasted bland and soon even the sun looked dark in comparison, a black hole absorbing colour, taste, sound and feeling, leaving only a vibration in my head like the vibration you feel when laying your ear on a desk, or the muffled sound of wing beats sealed inside a glass jar.

91

Marcia or Martin

Is that Marcia or Martin in the distance – there by the old wall? Depends who got the upper hand after breakfast. I guess Marcia, always so brilliantly attuned, she couldn’t wait. First thing she said, 'I dreamt a large specimen, Limax flavus, squirming under the hedge', followed by 'bats in the blue jar, by tonight, if I can find them'. Of course, I know what to expect. She has that glare: never expects discourse. She slammed the door as she left and the inks toppled off the nightstand, ‘Lights of the world be free!' she called, a kind of manic crie de joie. l watched little tremors shimmer over the surface of the ink and thought how much like her, all that viscous potential. Remember the Island of Naath, her night vigil to find a black moth? That sort of fervour. And still the same blue gloves. I do think, ever since the tracheostomy, her ferocious rushing has become more pronounced. Which means Martin is more frequently kept at bay. So, it’ll be Marcia today.

92

Her name is Gaia

She dreams to save all living things
And with them save the world.
She seeks to recognise each ant,
each butterfly, each beetle.
Like sweeping up the desert sands,
she numbers every one.
She cuts and digs and saves,
collates, conserves and tallies,
adds her finds to databases,
plots percentages and grieves.
Ponds and hedgerows know her,
quiet laneways feel her tread.
She wanders fields and woods by day,
pitfall traps laid, her net in hand,
sets lamps for moths by night.
And then she counts the tiny creatures
certain that if all of these should die
the world will be dead too.

She seeks to heal the sullied earth,
for she is the guardian of the world,
the protector of all life.

93

iss da apocalypse so i stay high

in so many daydreams
i levatate
ova da burnin earth
ova da pollution clouds permanent purple

i’m close enuf ta see politicians
spill pepto when loose hyenas make kill

massage is essential!!!
is branded on da side of uh AK
                                          da same day baby girl took
rubba bullets

in so many daydreams
da prezeedent say drink bleach
but ain’t no lysol fo da hood
or tunnel tents
juss lemon scent & a prayer

in so many daydreams
i’m off da grid
& can differentiate
mushrooms in da woods
but i still eat em out da plastic bag
& write poems in dirt

in so many daydreams
zombies wanna eat me
& i let em

94

A Green Light At Night

He walks at night
when he can ask,
and hear, their consent,
their green light
pulsing in the brush.

He bends and waits
as they assess
his wholeness,
suitability
as driver.

Take us in your glass jar,
they ask,
lift us up and show us
the tips of the grass.

He does as he is
asked, transport for
the night creatures,
and thinks of the light
of her window,
not sent but seen,
not red, not green.

"I am yours, little egg man,"
he hears her say,
as foam covers the glass
behind which
he makes a fine specimen.

95

When is a door not a door?

There is a window to another world
If you come to my door
It's a jar
It's a-jarring reality
On these bright, sleepless nights

I’ll pluck off the flies
As I dig up my roots
Dig-then-dice them up
Then feed them to Grandma
Who sits by my jar

Night bleeds into day
Beetles play, I collected them
There is a window to another night sky
There, there, now; can’t you see
I caught it in my jar

I’ll dice up the roots
I’ll dice up the windows and worlds and words
I’ll dice up those bugs too
Feed them to the old woman who sits by the door
Feed them to the mountains
Feed them to my bright blue future

96

The Lost Soul

When the light bends
    in the morning,
        at the break of dawn.
            In a place and time—
                suspended in the unknown.

When I was left bereft
    of something never felt.
        Yearning to find things,
            that I had once missed—
                but already forgotten.

When scattered memories
    and a jar of trinkets,
        awakens my lost soul.
            Imploring my frozen heart—
                to find its way home.

97

The Growing Portal

As the whirling portal continued to grow, my world began to fade away. Not into solid black or white but rather a kaleidoscope of colours. Blues, reds, yellows, greens and various other shades. As the colours dyed their surroundings, everything else slowly disappeared. Objects lost depth, walls had no definition and the sole door disappeared. The colours hungrily absorbed everything in their path. All simply became part of the expanding rainbow tapestry.

The portal didn’t seem to care what I wanted and relentlessly sent out its tendrils into my plain of existence. Eventually the only thing left was me and the jar of insects I was still unwittingly clutching. I’d been studying them in my laboratory, I remembered. They were all that remained of that environment now. Why this was happening? When had the tear in reality first appeared? I couldn’t say. Thoughts were becoming foggy. All I knew for sure was that this was happening and it was real.

The portal was huge now and seemed to be pulling me ever closer. I placed the jar down on what may or may not have been a floor. As soon as I let go however, the jar too became just another part of the blur. I remained whole, so whatever this was, it seemed to desire me intact. There was no escape. I couldn’t seem to tear myself away. I could only float ever closer towards the now gapping, compelling abyss. Willingly or not, I was entering this vacuum one way or another.

I relented and consciously drifted towards the portal, the only thing real here besides myself. There was no point in resisting the inevitable. The colours swirled and merged around me in beautiful dance. I didn’t understand? Maybe I wasn’t supposed to. Strangely though, I wasn’t afraid, despite the seemingly ominous nature of the portal. Read more >

98

Bottled Bleu

Our bottled selves watching, earth exploding in colourful orange
masked, trapped glassed-in, a pupa, half a bee, muted out
the cobalt blue of her eyes, the tracheotomy hole in her throat,
She holds the planet survivors, as the greys and black envelops,
latex-gloved hands with carrot sticks to beat off the dread, the ghost
of our ancestors pale over the destruction again, future faint sun
ringing in the centuries, pain and glory, lessons unlearned. Stained
rained, strained, preserved in spices of eternity written, unwritten
painted in anguish the story of man, his glory, his downfall – nityatvam.

99

Loud Whispers

We can hear her heels clicking on the hardwood fasterfaster down the hallway.
We jump into our beds, squealing, pull the covers uparoundus.
The door
                e x p l o d e s open
and we cover our mouths, muffling laughter.
She
    strides
        into
            the
                dark
                    room,
looking for offenders of the curfew.
As she gets closer we realize with horror that weLEFTtheJARout(!)
It is sitting
                     in
                     the
                     middle
                     of
                     the
                     floor,
crawling
with spiders, grasshoppers and slugs. Our afternoon discoveries. Another step and she k i c k s it.
Steel toe in glass. The ecosystem escaping onto dusty pantyhose.

100