• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 03
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The Planet Spins on its own Axis, Regardless

It's out of your control. Realise this, and everything is easy. Also much more difficult. Because you'll put your efforts in, dial up to the max, then wait. Nothing may happen, something may happen. It's out of your control.

One day you will wake up with the will to eat, and the will to walk, but not the will to care. Take it easy as you go into the new year. Where does it start for you? January? Or some other date that’s important to you? Unsolicited advice: select the other date as a re-set date. This is solid advice; it works. Don't join the resolution frenzy in January. Let everyone else turn over a new leaf; watch kindly as they stop drinking alcohol, give up chocolate, take up bouldering. Help them download their fill of health, fitness and mindfulness apps, if you must.

The will to better yourself will return. Feel free to rest until it does. Free yourself this January. When asked for your resolution, say, 'Taking it easy. What about you?'

1

The Ballad of the Accountant

He wakes up next morning in a black and grey world.
Reduced to a matchstick figure in a Lowry painting.
Sucked clean of breath and bone, he feels
Entirely made up of memories. Of her. Of them.
The empty pillow by his side carries the weight
Of her absent head. She has stayed and been gone
A few hours but he has already
Built a lifetime with her. The wedding altar.
The kids. The summer holidays on the beach.
It is a mistake he will keep repeating.
With every one-night stand he picks up.
‘You have a homesick heart,’ they tell him.
Cupping his baldhead in their hands. Stroking his cheek
And his face where the wrinkles run deep
With absent minded fingers and upset voices
They plead
‘This is a business transaction Mister, please, don’t anchor your heart in us.’
His heart. He sees it like a balloon-untethered, unmoored, flying aimless.
And him running after it, outstretched arms and weeping skin.
That was it – the dream that startled him awake.
Him skipping and tripping
And falling as he chased his heart; it floated out of view.
The alarm clock shrills into life.
He checks his watch, and dresses in a hurry.
And reports for work
Where he spends his days filing returns for sad-eyed divorcees
And gas utility companies.

2

Scream through nature

No orange skies
No blood-red clouds
No sun screaming through haystacks

I wake I wake
I ask why
I work I work
I ask why
I walk I walk
I ask why

for this scream through nature, in my head, in my bones, in my blood, caving in, exploding out, within the veins and the arteries and asking me why, especially when it’s morning, when that sun rises every day, expected to rise every day, and with that, I do too, to have the same, do the same and walk out where I have been to before, every day, and I think I mustn’t, I shouldn’t, for surely there is a sky above, grass to run on, there is somewhere to escape, walk out and you will be free, open the doors and there you are free, yet free to do what, free for what and whom, and then there is nothing, and while the thoughts and I try and the screams stop and there I am walking out again, the same path the same way the yesterday and today and tomorrow joining hands together in some macabre dance and I do the same as yesterday, and over and over and over again
and again

3

The Ticket

She hefted the suitcase down from its place on top of the wardrobe and wiped the dust off her hands. She really should have booked earlier. The ticket was costing her an arm and a leg. It had been half the price when she had looked online a month ago. There was a pile of ‘What ifs’ in her stomach. What if she fell sick and wasn’t able to travel? What if she got a plum assignment at the same time as her holiday dates? What if the airplane’s engine failed and it came tumbling down the sky like a cartwheeling child? What if what if what if. Next time. Next time, she would book well in advance.

The old handbag was lying inside the suitcase. She rummaged through it to see if there was anything useful. A few coins, a nametag from a conference and an old boarding pass. From another flight that she had booked too late and paid too much for.

4

The Second Coming

Yesterday,
Upon a cliff I stood.

Yesterday,
Upon a cliff I stared.

And pondered.
And as I did, I was gripped with fear.

The fear of falling. But also,
the fear of nothing preventing my fall.

What’s worse? I wondered.

"Anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

Brexit. Trump. Immigration. Walls. Borders. #Metoo. Crisis. Famine. Floods. Tsunami. Genocide. Drugs. Financial Decline. Intolerance. Populism. Climate Change. Terrorism. Illness.

Nothing hinges upon my existence.
Nothing hinges upon my death.

"Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.


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5

Free Will

  • I don’t even like Paul, bloody American schmooze! Why did I let him drag me to that dive bar? And why did I end up paying for the tequila shots? I’m probably in overdraft again. And I HATE tequila! Ugh and now I’m late for work. And of course Paul will be on time: not a crease in his stupid seersucker jacket.

  • I don’t turn off the lights because I hate my rippling thighs. Or because I’m shy of him seeing my orgasm face. I insist on the dark because I don’t love him. And it’s a little easier to hide when he doesn’t get to see my dead eyes as he thrusts over me, trying to dispense his duty and muster his desire all at once. Maybe his eyes are dead as well, who knows. It’s been two years of this. My son is five. This isn’t post-partum. Or a phase. Or work stress. When will I stop bullshitting myself?

  • It can’t be 6am already, WTF! It’s too cold, too dark. Maybe I can lie in just this once? No. No, no, no. NO! You’re a suet pudding! And puddings don’t get lie-ins! Why are you paying Kayla that monthly subscription for if you can’t follow her even a little? Look how she’s up bright and early on Instagram every day; with her rainbow salad, 100 burpees and Nike power-whites. She’s practically pleading with you to just do it! Yeah yeah, yesterday was crazy at work, I’ve heard that one before. You want to delete Instagram? Fine do it once you erase the cellulite first! Now run, Pilates is in 10 minutes!

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6

Ad Infinitum

I can no longer focus, on the task at hand.
Life sucks.
Yes I’m talking to you
In the red jumper and jaunty hat.
The eyes turn to me, clouded by confusion.
Or it might be alarm?
This, I say, my voice growing louder
I’m tired of this,
I point to the cubicles,
the LED lights, the square office space
that quietly surround us.
All of a sudden,
I’m no longer invisible.
People stop what they’re doing
They stop and they listen.
I am emboldened. Drunk and empowered
with my own voice.
Eyes roll upwards
and heads shake from side to side
but for once they stand rooted:
The pencil-pushers, the tech-geeks.
The grey suits and paisley ties.
Sooner or later we’re all going to die
I can hear myself shout.
So show me the meaning, the purpose
Surely there’s more, more than just this

I wake up.
The grey suit hangs in its usual place.
The day is
And I begin again

7

On earth, looking up

I decided to give up on being a graphic novelist, just like I gave up on going to space. I am nearly twenty-five, and will probably never be a professional athlete now. Maybe I could still master a skill, like chess or guitar. Though sometimes I think I am too late even for that.

I am not sure whether it is a relief.

My mother used to tell me not to get my ears pierced because it would affect my balance if I ever did sport professionally. She treated it like a real possibility. I tried to keep that door open. Now it is fairly much closed. I can breathe out. Move on. I don’t have to fly around the world training, go to the Olympics, give my blood for testing.

I could get my ears pierced, now. I could do anything, really.

Did I ever truly want to go to space? I used to love space. Stargazing. Learning the constellations, and being sad about Laika, and squinting to see galaxies. Did I ever really want to be in it? I don’t think so. I liked being in my little spot in the universe, on earth, looking up. Is it okay to accept a life that is not everything? To not want to reach for the stars, fill it with every beautiful thing I ever dreamt of? To accept ordinariness?

I guess I should devote my life to service, to some greater good. I do try. When I write, I hope I am saying something meaningful that will make people love the world. Sometimes I think I don’t know the world, and never will, however much I travel it, however much I study.

I have never felt any pull towards driving a car. The thought scares me. It opens up the gap between me and those around me, though—it is one of the things, like not eating meat, like not drinking, that makes me remember that to some people I am strange.

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8

bare and brave

supine
waiting for warmth

for the effete blues
to turn to action

but for now recumbent
a fungal outcropping

at the root of
a barren trunk

do humors
circulate through me

what gives me the
strength to move

through this rectangular
world, angling for

signs of greenery
the flush of a sexed

winterberry clustered
on a twig

asymmetry to muscle
me forth and back again

9

Resolution

New Year’s Day. And there, in my greyscale chamber,
I dully contrived a booze-botched self-rebuke,
conjured up from sleep’s strange panorama,
that mess of signals, that can seem a joke
sometimes—now knotting up to make me sick.
I came to in a blue despondent blur,
concerning nothing much, and hollered: “EURRRGHHH!”

Up I lurched to pose the classic poser:
“Why do I keep doing this to myself?”
How you’d’ve scoffed at that, you early riser,
whose side of the bed remained my wiser half.
“Airy stuff,” you cried, my eavesdropping sylph:
“Must your melodies mope at this dreary tempo?
There are other keys, you know, besides distemper . . . .”

The mirror only showed me further cause
to mope: an egghead lined with dreadful care,
that, mockingly, last year had made much worse.
Of harms and the mensch—well, who could keep that score?
I’d caught life, for which there’s but one sure cure,
the merest hint of which entrenched the dread;
and made me think again of what I’d had

by way of blessings: city living, friends,
all the normal stuff. Enough, perhaps,
to force the black dogs to throw in their hands—
enough to stave off, say, absolute collapse.
The year had begun, and roared “APOCALYPSE!”
But there I was, out in the greyscale street,
at least—ready to meet, if not to smile on, fate.

10

De-Atomized

We’re of, at the very least, two minds these days,
Tormented on the one hand, and simply observing on the other.
So says our therapist. He may be right. Who knows?

One day all our disparate selves will reconcile on a desert beach somewhere,
Or in the reflection of just-squeegeed skyscraper glass.
The ocean’s shout will drown out the scream we all heard again and again
And felt we’d never forget, even after death.

The ocean will swallow us up,
Embracing without rancor my selves and your selves,
And everything in between.

11

Broken Binding

The spine on the book has been broken
Bent too far by others seeking answers
Dog-eared pages of recollection
Lost in the pile for future inspection

Missing pages holding the answers
Sleepless nights seeking insight

No longer a human just a mere token
Questions taped together like the toes on a dancer
Lost in spirit with no conception
Just going through life’s motions to keep the deception

Missing pages holding the answers
The book of knowledge beyond repair

Once having a purpose it was contrived
Deliberate purpose providing a way
To avoid insane questions that would be asked
Destroying your days, living in the past

Missing pages holding the answers
Providing guidance for your existence

So here you are having never arrived
Down the same path through the haze of another day
Faking happiness behind a jester’s smiling mask
What was once useful is gone oh so fast

Missing pages holding the answers
Sleepless nights seeking insight
The book of knowledge beyond repair
Providing guidance for your existence

12

Wake-Up Call

I was dented in the night.
Something passing at speed in a dream
smashed into me then flew off across the fields
before I could get a better look.
I’m in the kitchen with a bitter coffee, fighting
for breath, checking everything for bruises
before it rolls up outside,
chirruping and dolled up in feathers.

13

Doing Nothing

If happiness is doing nothing
lie back and enjoy it.
Watch the rush
to earn more.
Watch the rush
to spend more
from your window on the world
or read about it
or dream about it.
Lie back and enjoy it
while the moment lasts
turn your nightmares into dreams.

14

Lacking the will to get the ingredients for a smoothie

he looks already dead to me
cheeks sunken, skin fifty shades of grey
that suit the day perfectly—
he could rise above it, push on through it
light a fire, make a smoothie
think about all the new, good things that could be done
be in the moment
but there are too many moments
anyway, it's all about that empty space
pillow undented
void unfilled
perhaps he will just pop to the shops.

15

Round round

that stuff I did with the cement
all those spades      spades shovelspades
not going to pin me any more down
not anymore anyhow
I’ve been that frog that rat
on the dissecting board
I’ve been the hand dancing
over the trip-switch
worn the white coat      shivered
when the whitecoat came for me
all smoothtalk and sharksmile

those circles circling I’m stepping away
that’s what I’m stepping away from
all that stuff I did with the cement

16

Poisoned Personhood

light breaks sleep into conscious darkness
crystalline salts emerge from souped unbeingness
I cannot escape what     I am I am I am
creviced light slices through dense mountain fog
I eye unknown heights define my lack of form
by pained escarpments
slope scaled in my imagination behind closed eyelids
I cannot unsee what I fear     sensory death
fights interminable life-span     palmed out forever
me-ness trapped in solipsism     outlooks     untreasured
invade the space between my ear canals
I am invaded     awash with uncontrolled otherness
     vessels of     a catholic lust for order
my lacunas ricochet obscenities
          across the deity's dead brain
Om Om Om and Hallelujahs pickle sardonic irony
in my stomach's acid     to dissolve angels
again and again     my ego's vertigo stings refrains
from liturgies of lost faiths
and my certain doubt

17

EXISTENTIAL DREAD

Some live in the fever, scratch the heads
off spots, aware of the gathering scars.

No need for panstick make-up, blanket
disguise of a pox-ridden, bell-ringing

through their daily grind. The evidence
drives itself in and in so they’ll ignore

resolutions...stay away from revolution
to trip the same old light fantastic year

after decade until epiphany weds age
and wisdom can pierce the surface.

These are the marriages that last longer
than any party – keep bubbles rising.

18

Nothingness and Being

Does Death ever get out of the wrong side
of the bed? turn to the wall and wonder
whether it’s all worthwhile? sit up and scratch
his head, lie back down—covers pulled high to hide?

Is Death like us—exhausted by routine,
day in, day out, showing up unwelcome
on your doorstep or mine or theirs, longing
for a break, a holiday? Why then so lean

and mean, slave to quota, ledger, numbers?
Consider rather what existence means,
the relevance of Descartes’ cogito,
Berry’s simple life, the taste of cucumbers.

After all, Death already knows or should:
Your stuff stays here—and only here is good.

19

How much sleep do we really need?

My body won’t allow for eight hours, not the sweet spot between the headline suggestion of seven to nine. More often it lies down at 10.30pm and clicks on a slideshow of the future with a side-dish of worries and a sprinkling of memories and feeds on its own exhaustion until 3am and then maybe the eyes will close

If I prime for sleep with alcohol or orgasm, that’s a 40-minute nap and then wake up and freak out about the black out and wonder who it was or who I am and where and why as if why can be answered from 10.30pm onwards my mind will shake every nerve and try for the answer and try and try and

Oh regrets but the whiskey tastes good but the gin tastes good and I never order shots but the shots taste good when someone else insists and spit the taste out with the toothbrush that night or the morning after

Which will begin at 6.30am because it does, because that is when life comes into focus and must be faced, even if I can’t move even if I can’t or won’t or don’t want to face it, the pets need feeding the job needs working and the hours trickle by shot by shot by stop by stop by slide by slide the news keeps rolling and the world is folding in on itself slowly slowly

Never fast enough, if it must, and never small enough, never small enough to be swallowed whole and tasted and enjoyed as if we could enjoy that bitter centre scented with what we know and what we do and what they do and the way it all burns down in every wakeful brain every day and night

And repeat

20

Dimensional Reduction

It was decided.
That raindrops would be flattened
into disks
and rainbows folded up.
Like hand fans.

That I would wake up the next day
lacking all perspective.

Unable to tie knots in my stomach
the spaghetti from last night
had folded into sheets
and gave me a migraine in four different sides.
Of my head.

Alphabets clamored around
in the vacant spaces.
Of my head.
Bouncing off each other from random collisions
in all directions.
Like billiard balls.
Unable to stick,
only two words remained.

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21

the day after

a lengthened shadow shapes one dark day
                          my short life imperfectly mended

my breath worn bare beneath this single
                          day after the day after

stacked one on top of the other nobody
                          I mean nobody can keep count

crowded shoved over the earth beside me
                          the whole time pressing down

each one darker and heavier than the others
                          drifting unguided it always finds

me cocooned in a hard wooden chair
                          traversing this unseen swelling
                          this doomed sea
                          this world of dreams at
                          my back waking me

wandering the fence line with the same sensation
                          of distance

and I still feel indifferent to it all and suddenly
                          the sun is standing in my face

only by accident

22

Turn this corner

the liquor store is gone—
history rolling over again
sunny-side up
with populist prohibition.

Send forth bare bones,
everyday, into the streets—
one metatarsal set in front of the other.
Social norms in stark relief.

I feel terrible,
close my broken-blind eyes at night
for the briefest increment of space-time—
gentrification walls grow.

Mini van soccer moms
park legally outside sterile,
faux brick cannabis retail clubs.
Every low-rent Rick’s Pipe & Pawn,

where we once hawked
parents’ Christmas gifts to purchase
dime bags from Jimmy Parking Lot—                                                                 displaced.

23

THE DAILY GRIND

You wake up in the morning,
desiring someone who can never be.

Born anew with every waking moment,
when will you awaken without being born?

The terror of consciousness screams
you are perpetuating a fraud.

Existence clings to the bathroom mirror,
like steam from the scalding shower.

The name you scrawl on the glass,
is neither yours nor someone else’s.

Aging, decaying, dying down the street
of a deserted city—there is no one but you.

A sheet of paper lies on the curb.
You have read what is not written there.

24

Maw of Kites

I woke today to forgive
the gum under the
table that fell on my jeans.
                       It the was most food                              I’d seen in weeks.
Skin still feels similar to the
the pocked kitchen tiles,
a-one-two-step-hop
down the stairs and a swing
around the banister.
I sang damn close
with the birds
on the window sill
                       (crackled and doddery).
Run around dawn and
tap its other shoulder,
to gleam and cheep,
to sail acorn caps in a pothole,
to get a whiff of a dumpster skunk,
the same drink.
But today,
so drunk –
Who knows what woke me?

25

Makeover

I’ll colour this in,
brighten stale sheets
with turquoise, stipple
grey walls with yellow ochre,
stencil a patchwork quilt
at the end of his bed. I’ll place
a cup of steaming coffee
in his right hand and change
the font to Comic Sans MS.
If I turn his head upside down
he’ll smile, before he steps out
into the street, enjoys the sun
stroking the top of his head.

26

Just Sip

The heavy steps of January
leave footprints in the snow—
the shadow of shoulders
carrying a cast iron pot.
We look up from our feet
to see a street light winking
in the early twilight.
Our eyes then drift to
the bus stop bench
and the pretty girl
wearing the faux fur, hooded jacket.
The lead heart lifts.
The snow becomes a mere dusting.
These feet could take you anywhere—
or nowhere, if you let the mind win.
The grey filtered life
walks with us
in these darkened sky days.
The bright lights of now
offer a parachute of promise.
The next street over
might possibly offer infinity,
so, we believe in it—
and the whipped cream topped cocoa
waiting for us to sip.

27

NIGHTLY MAELSTROM

The drop of a ring-pull on the pavement outside
is subjugated by the manic stevedore
hammering at the inside edge of my ribs.

Intentional smothering of my face as I cried
Into the pillow sends booming right to my core
Rattling foundations of puerile self-fibs
We use to anchor our sanity
To what’s left of our humanity.

It is only a matter of time, a short ride
on Merry-go-round Animadversion before
life’s passing glamour falters, as will my grip.

28

You Made Your Bed

You made your bed and now you lie in it
A double but only you remain
Keeping to your side
Leaving the other untouched
As you were when together

You made your bed and you lied in it
Falsehood and fantasy
Fuelling the greyness of marriage
On a repeat cycle
Until everything came out in the wash

You made your bed and pour lye on it
Strike a match to the covers
Bring colour back to your life
Banish memories
Of trouble and strife, all gone now

As are you, onto the streets
Preferring concrete beneath your feet
Stone for a pillow
A roof full of sky
Air free from dread words

29

One Day: A Ghazal

Who knows the sun may not rise one day
There may not be any butterflies one day

The leaves of calendar, the hands of clock
Machine survives while man dies one day

Why do I keep doing this to myself? A new
Theme of life I need to improvise one day

‘To be, or not to be, that is the question’
Hamlet’s fix will surely paralyze one day

If you keep walking along the beaten track
Conformity will surely fossilize one day

Her exit without a word has cast a gloom
Will it prove a blessing in disguise one day?

Why did you risk all in the game of love?
Your folly will open your eyes one day

Nothing grows in this barren, bleak world
Truth will amaze as a pack of lies one day

The rut of routine is a recurring refrain
Why doesn’t my soul rhapsodize one day?

30

The Morning After the World Cup Soccer

There once was an Australian stock broker
who stayed up late watching World Cup Soccer.
He woke and massaged his head
to sounds of regret and dread,
then wandered to work like a sleepwalker.

You see, this tired Australian stock broker
believed that his life was mediocre.
He kept walking straight ahead
while daydreaming of his bed.
He got to work and found deals to broker.

31

Where your ghost at?

I wake up, a familiar rumble begins.
Oh lord, please not that again.

Cranial volume cranked, inescapable din.
Oh lord, please not that again.

My ghost says: chuck your life in a bin.
Oh lord, please not that again.

My ghost says: you’re Icarus, forever falling.
Oh lord, please not that again.

My ghost says: not even a note in the margin.
Oh lord, please not that again.

My ghost says: is this the extent of your wins?
Oh lord, please not that again.

My ghost says: I’m playing a tiny violin.
Oh lord, please not that again.

32

A Table at The Blighty Café

I’m sitting at one of four tables
designated for smokers. Outdoors.
I’m drinking thick hot chocolate.
I don’t smoke.

And I’m watching a woman who’s
watching me. She’s lean. Slim.
Bracelet-thin. Not quite pretty.
Unless you admire narrow bracelets.

She’s … maybe thirty, maybe married,
maybe body piercings. Belly button.
The sort who has all her documents
in order, and for her next trick – she’ll

set about organising the universe.
All of it, including the blue sky caught
behind the sun, caught there thrashing
about on the horizon, like a landed fish.

She probably solves problems, too;
plastics and policies, plastic policies,
and recycling. She’s a think-tank of ideas …
ideas, but not enough time. You see,

I watch people. It’s acceptable to do that
in Europe. That’s why there’s so many
outdoor cafés. Smokers have the best seats.
As a kid, Dad always slapped me up the head

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33

Rime

Curling up on the bed under a blanket and watching the snowy caped mountains and streets covered with the swathe of white blanket.
Walking in the snowy path feels like needle in a haystack yet, the fragrance of mulled wine gives warmth.
Yet, the perspectives leads to a new path
Veering away from the frolicsome breeze
Winter days has made day desolate
Lurching from one direction to other
Threading the way out of dreary days
As the winter has begun to wane.

34

Forgetting My Name

I pour the first drink to settle my nerves,
throw it back with quick determination.
I snatch up the second to take the sting
out of the nagging bite of self- loathing,
swallowing temptations that flourish
in the amber depths of a tequila bottle.
I gulp down the third to loosen my tongue,
delight in the way it scalds my throat
and burns up the roots of inhibition.
I indulge in the fourth to feel beautiful,
drown in the seduction that warms my belly,
spreading like a potion beneath my skin.
By the fifth, I lose count and forget my name.

35

All That You Could Do

all that you could do
all that you might have done
was that which you did

change comes
when those propositions you entertain as visitors
scintillate within you
resound in the the organs to such a degree
that by some miraculous shift
the trap is sprung
and reason moves atoms

36

Automaton

He stares at the ceiling of his room.
A deep, long stare.
A dull ache flashes through his hollowed eyes.
A strange emptiness caresses his mind, pulling him out of his bed.
A spiralling darkness from within greets him.
An automaton. He tries hard to be one. A good robot.
How do you cling to emptiness he wonders. Automaton like he walks along the lane.
Uniformed human bodies move past him, staring at nothing. Hurrying along.
All of them move in a synchrony almost.
He too walks like an automaton alongside the uniformed human bodies.
Trying to cling onto something.
Walking the same path, each day.

37

Draw Me A Tomorrow

I feel like I’m living in a cartoon
The bald guy said
A freeze-frame comic strip
Just me and a bed
It’s the old recurring question
“Oh why do I feel so bad?”
Is it some bleak existential crisis
Or all the whisky that I had?

Though of only two dimensions
Of this is what I’m made
It don’t ever stop me bleeding
Or from feeling betrayed
And sleeping alone
Sure makes me blue as well as grey
So, easy with those speech-bubbles, now
I ain’t got much to say

Maybe this shall be the last time
And I’ll see tomorrow no more
My name but dust forgotten
Till they come smash down my front-door
It’s not like I ever mattered
Except to the cat, my only mate
And she’ll soon find another schmuck
To lick and fill her plate

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38

Night shift

EURRRGHHH.....I hate alien words sneaking onto
my pillow, sixteen capitals that graffiti my blank wall
stating the ....... obvious.

In the small hours while my body is sleeping with
the small moon I dwell in my orbital universe
in conversation with my head.

I fear the infiltration of a question that demands
the calibration of an answer

I slide beneath bare sheets to ruminate,
cast characters, eyelash tick each numbered
syllable.

I vocalise in the spotlight of the shower, lingering
long enough to face the moon's fade.

Exhausted, cleansed, I send my dormant body
to work.

But the haunt of alien words have created
a transient fault to this automaton
requiring storage for nocturnal debate.

39

Mutability

The colour of my eyes and the clicking
        in my chalky bones,
the falling asleep and the nodding off,
        the recurrent cough,
the weariness, the modulating tone
        of my speaking voice,
my inelegant poise and how my mood
        shifts like Birnam Wood
when my body leaks: a ruptured gutter
        that loves no other
more than my young self when vim and health
        were so plentiful
and drawing breath was not the death rattle
        that it is today.

40

They too are whirling

There is a cyclical monotony to remorse. We fail,
we fall, we begin again, hoping each time for a
different ending. We learn this from the sky.
It turns murky and desperate. Cleanses its insides.
Weeps. Finds itself unchanged in the morning.
Resets its congenital angst. Wouldn’t you like
to look up and find something different, it asked,
in all seriousness, one night. There is a surreal
potency in telling the sky about the waning
moon. In seeing its eyes widen. In watching it shift,
uncovering a few more stars. Unveiling another
moon. Will this make you happy, it asks, bemused.
Does it matter, I counter, in the sudden light,
but it can no longer hear me. I follow new stars,
they too are whirling. In the morning, they will be
gone. Hidden from different eyes. I will sit by the
window, waiting for the sky to turn dark again.

41

Miss Life Lost Her Finger

The forefinger of
Miss Life
Wandered away last week

She has searched for it
But she saw
Only
Pale-blue-snail-like-trace
on the edge of
the spring garden

Mr. Death
A handsome pale man
told her
(while they were drinking coffee at a café)
He saw her finger
in
Black shirt
Walking the empty streets
Yesterday
And

the day before

and
the day before
and the day before…

And he laughed.
(Mr. Death has a strange sense of humor)

Read more >
42

The Next Day

With cat-like tread
I exit from my bed
Synapses snap and quiver
A dark cloud descends
Thunder inside my head
Whyfore art thou dread?

This existential threat
Life’s meaning much unmet
I cannot stand and deliver
How can I make amends
For all the things I never said
All the books I never read?

What comes next?
A day without the hex
Nothing but the shiver
Of certainty and dead-ends
Where’s the life I don’t expect
The con without the context?

43

Angst

Each morning life is just the same
Relentless, pointless, spinning wheel
I only have myself to blame

Amazed that I still know my name
In circumstances not ideal
Each morning life is just the same

A poet, once of some acclaim,
I’m lost, my muse holds no appeal
I only have myself to blame

My solace only brings me shame
The altar where I always kneel
Each morning life is just the same

Extinguished hope, like candle’s flame
Not sure I even want to heal
I only have myself to blame

Alive, yet dead, I have no aim
Continuing has no appeal
Each morning life is just the same
I only have myself to blame

44

You Wake

And the world has been replaced
by its own drab shadow.
Not trees but their flat
cardboard imitations
no birds but crows
ink black against a white sky.
They have stolen all the shine
of morning
swallowed the sun
the way a snake
swallows an egg
taking down the future
in one smooth gulp.
You stare back
with eyes so dry
they can’t close
on the world stripped
to bone and ash,
even the oceans gone
into the abyss
leaving the earth behind
a barren waste
without a trace of rain.

45

Blue Monday – On Repeat

"Alexa, play 'Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?'!"
Kafka-esque weekday daily battle, mad jobsearch;
Stumbling out of bed, blue thoughts, blue Monday;
Self-loathing, angst, misery; job interview some day?
DWP cuts, threats, sanctions; feel like going under,
Socio-economic links with the real world asunder.
Universal Credit? Monstrous regime; to UK's discredit.

46

New Year’s Resolution

Danny lays on his bed. Outside, snow floats down under an orange, yellow sky. He thinks about lying here in this bed, in this small room, joined as it is on to all the other rooms, cellular, forming rectangles, joining other rectangles, spreading and spreading until they reach the edge of the earth.

He can’t move. He hears the others. There’s Sam’s voice, then another, deeper voice. Ed. Tall, bearded Ed, relentlessly clever, sporty, cool. Danny thinks of how hard he has tried to compete with Ed’s mellow, confident tones and endless surefire retorts. He burns with shame as certain memories crowd in, moments where he had tried too hard, where Ed had orchestrated the others to ever so subtly leave him out. Too late now to get it all back. His girlfriend, studying, his future.

He imagines magical arms, two huge hands coming in through the window and lifting him up from this bed cradling him gently out into the yellowy snow-clad day, taking him over the university city, past icy hills and up amongst forgiving white clouds.

He lays there paralyzed. He hears the others buzzing around, preparing for their day ahead. Songs come to his mind. "Help!" by the Beatles. He is trying to make himself laugh. He used to make the others laugh, or he thought he did. Did he? Shame burns.

“Falling behind? Come and talk,” say posters around the uni.

“Feeling depressed? Not sleeping? Mental health concerns?”

Read more >
47

A Sketch of Declining Promise

Thumb out, squint down.
You are a scrawlbler
who would blush
to be called an artist.
What a wide white expanse
of Bristol Board you have—
a sheet to the wind of promise.
Implements are laid out neat:
that sophisticated brush—
a sacrifice of sable,
every grade of lead so sharp
that they almost pierce skin,
and in pride of place
the refined nib pen
(shipped over oceans and plains
by unceasing mules and dauntless pigeons)
the metal tip glints knowingly
like a wry surgical tool,
and it's enough to draw a tear.
This unmarred blank part is fragile.
Hold breath and rule them panels.
Damn. Lines are somewhat skewed,
and you have a pencil scratch
that you can't remove
no matter how you scrub.
That distinguished pen
gives you a few good lines
and then bokes ink splatter
when you look away for a second.
Read more >

48

Dark Days

White sterile walls. No sound, only the pounding of my heart. No birds chirping, the windows soundproof. No humming of tunes, no radio or news broadcasts. The Whittle Clinic beats to its own rhythm, one of death and isolation. Each patient sequestered in a white room with nothing to accompany them on their final journey. Plagued by fear and rejection – their families cast them aside like worn shoes. No one visits them. No one is allowed.

I take my seat at reception. No phones ring. No feet tap across the marble floors. I am alone as I shuffle through the stacks of paper and my task of inputting the names of the dead into the database. Katherine Ann Cooper, 59, cause of death unknown. Robert Maxwell, 42, cause of death unknown. It’s always unknown.

My watch vibrates. Lunchtime. The roar of car engines, the chattering conversations – they assault my senses – so loud and I almost run back inside. The clinic was a reprieve from the world. An escape that I relished. Silence and isolation. I enjoyed it – no, I loved it. Now, I’m not so sure. It’s changing me. I flinch at a stranger’s voice. I fumble over words; my own voice sounds haunted. The clinic has gotten its claws into me. I dream of those patients, the names I add to the database each morning. How did they die?

Lunch is a sandwich and coffee I take back to my desk. The noise in the café too much for my sensitive ears. A voice whispers, 'Come find me Samuel.' I try to block it out. I always do, but today it screams. 'Save me, Samuel. Only you can set me free.'

I don’t know the voice. It could be a patient. It could be me. The isolation is getting to me. I’ve forgotten how to socialise, how to communicate with others. Soon I’ll forget how to speak at all.

Read more >
49

Dishonourable Heft

headache unbidden
heartache contemptable
of no substance/grit/fortitude
of decision/regret/
duress
not defendable\
unworthy heaviness.

one crunch to get up
no external danger
internal terror.

i wish
i want
to learn/desire/not regret
my struggle
to get up
to go stand under the light post drilled into concrete
to sit in the park and watch birds sing.

minimized duress/existential dread/mocked trepidation
not the
straights and strangulations
of my mothers/brothers/strangers/pioneers/refugees/others
an impasse/burden/weight
colourless/stretched/sketched/
excruciating heft equal
to
their abyss.

50

Egg Timer

I want to go to the desert and wake
baked flat down on the ground.
The desert is dry and unforgiving and the bathroom is too far away from my bed.
Why do we go where sandstorms blow and bury us? To blast our features away?
Now we look like everyone else; like people that have let their time run out.

51