• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 06

Phones, homes and totem poles

One day, probably soon, every advert will look like this. Because they won’t even be adverts. Just reminders of where we sit in the metropolis, pedestalled above the mist, looking down, at our phones. After narcissism loses its saleability, after the self becomes banal, we’ll pan out to something wider, mid frame, positioning ourselves as a silhouette almost camouflaged in the skyline. A faint reminder that we’re still, you know, important, but, you know, small.

I think what I’m trying to say here is that they’ll have to find new ways of getting us to buy into ourselves. Animojis and studio lit selfies will only go so far. I mean, the script for World War 3 has arrived and these bad actors are actually giving it a read through, so mastery of a post apocalyptic realm might be the next hot sell. Higher than the high rises, jet black on rose gold. When the future finally looks old. When the whole world becomes a game of Don’t Touch the Lava, leaving you standing on a totem pole wondering when it’s time for dinner.

I read somewhere once that the top of the totem pole isn’t the most prominent position. Something about the bottom being the top because it’s the most foundational piece. Ok, full disclosure, I just googled it and yes, as I thought, the bottom piece is often the best carved - the low figure has the most value. Ok, real full disclosure, I didn't read that somewhere, I remember it from a lyric website in which some internet user somewhere explained that Jay Z was wrong to say he’s on top of the totem pole if he was trying to intimate that he’s more important than you are. The song in question is ‘Clique’ by Kanye West. Music might be on the ground floor of totem pole knowledge. I don't believe in low art. I wonder what's propping him up.

1

Where are you safe?

where are you safe? is it where you sit
with your back to the wall
the room humming and clinking
at your beck and call
the entrance in view, cut glass in your hand
when danger strolls through the slow yawning door
the sweet on your tongue prickling away

how do you flee? is there a back way?
a car in the alley revving and ready
what if it’s a stranger spinning the wheel
watching you in the rear view
hand in a pocket, locks sliding home
buildings slip by a crushed velvet sky

exit the car, cue the next scene
it’s an empty road, no one in sight
hollow housing on the left
lots on the right
there on the corner under construction
someone might wait
camouflaged by concrete
smooth runs of slate
so many ways to crumble and stun
so many fewer to rear back and run

Read more >

2

#Needleman

Today the sun was signalling its arrival by flooding the sky with graduated layers of orange as Martha rode the intercity to work. Dusky near the earth’s surface, getting lighter the higher her eye rose. She caught a glimpse of something startling. A figure, standing on top of the needle monument – a man, a silhouette, black against the glow, an outline like the skyscrapers behind him.

Evening. She’s alone in the apartment. She’s eaten her portion of the noodle salad she made with chillies, spring onion, and cashew nuts in front of the large-screen TV. She dozes before CNN.

The sound of the door wakes her. Dan walks in, shrugs off his shoulder bag, and opens the fridge.
‘There’s noodle salad,’ she says.
‘I ate at the bar.’
‘I’ve forgotten who you were meeting.’
‘I didn’t tell you. The Austrians. We did the deal this afternoon, all sealed.’
‘What time is it?’
He doesn’t answer, but walks towards the bathroom, carrying a beer.
She listens to him pissing, not washing his hands, coming back into the room.
‘Can I have a beer?’ she says.
‘No.’
They hold each other’s gaze.
‘This is the last one. You should’ve drunk it earlier.’
She continues to watch him. He continues to drink the beer.
‘I saw a strange thing this morning,’ she says. ‘There was a man on top of the needle monument. Just standing there… I wonder how he got there.’
Read more >

3

STANDING ON THE EDGE

Standing on the precipice
Flying into the sun
Wondering about my life
When my days are done

Spiraling out in endless circles
Like a stone cast upon a lake
Images flash before my eyes
Are they real or are they fake?

Once I cross that river
And pay Charon his toll
What will remain of my work
When I am a wandering soul

4

Unburrowed

Finally, I can see above the smog of Satan
and glimpse the rose horizon, filtered and new.
I am still marked by the long days below,
silhouetted dark and bent, as I wait, brow furrowed,
for the bright dawn of innocent, clean intent
No more drunken, shrunken days – hidden in corners.
My upright spine will stretch to the light source,
and force my blinking, blinkered eyes to see the skies.
I look across at towers, steeples, minarets erect
and understand the need of human kind
to rise above the dross and reach heavenwards,
owning all the toss and turn of months to come.

5

if you head east on the pulaski, you’ll see for yourself what it means to be alive

it was right here i was standing when the moon came out from behind the door where it hid most of the night, and they say we are not automatons, that we have our own mind if which we're all aware and which guide us through this world, but some mornings it feels as though our greater fears might just be confirmed: we are only accidents with consciousness running through this existence giving life and taking life where our collective id demands… have you seen them, by any chance, the ones frozen for all time, the ones planted in the same, the tides overtaking them twice daily?… have you seen them, the ones aimed at the east so that it appears as though they're welcoming the dawn when, if you ever asked, they wouldn't really know why they were there?… oh, i think you have seen them, we've all seen them, it's just that at times our memory won't allow us to access what it knows might send us all over the edge for once and for all… but do you see how beautiful the colors, how busy the scenery? –do you see how it all distracts from the question implicit and yet so obvious, it's just a farce of a farce that we're all not struggling with it: our bodies disintegrate a little more every day, yet there's the biological imperative to make us think we'll live on through our children, in our bloodline… we die and there's nothing at all can be done about it, so look up at the moon that inches every more slowly out of orbit, that will one day be gone, but no worries because your children's children's children might just be where we are now and struggling with the same question of consciousness, of existence… and what might they discover that we could never in our own lifetime?…

Read more >
6

Above It All

Sometimes
I need to be out of the fray,
above the drama
and the darkness,
look down on it all,
be part of the scarlet sky
and the jagged skyline.
Sometimes
I will climb so high
that I'll have no way back,
no wish to go back
only to stay
above it all.

7

BEFORE THE ALARM

I can’t talk about how to stand and stare
from such a height that stomach flies up
between lungs in shock and tongue halts
in its tracks and fear is 350 degrees of air;
there’s nothing to hold onto while thinking
in overwhelming gasps that falling is death.

And yet the evidence of human existence in
a waking world when dawn lights rooftops
creating skyline, not war-torn, myriad forms
mingling before breakfast side-by-side, tall
and gangly looking down at smaller family
checking to see if all is well in their world.

8

Flagpole

People use ta sit atop flagpoles
didja hear about that
granpa told me once
said he saw it back I dunno
years ago
the twenties or something
says he saw a guy just
shimmy to the top a one
and sit there for a week
perched there like a little danged bird
folks sending food and drink and such
up along a rope and
how did he bathroom but granpa didn't know
thought maybe he did it at night
when everyone was asleep
like little danged birds do
he said sometimes it was popular, yeah
popular enough that he had a dream once
where he got up to go to work
and every pole he passed
had a fella perched on top of it
waving down at him
and when he got to his job
his desk had been moved to the top of a pole
and he boss told him
ya know
what can you do
that's how it's done now
and you just can't fight it.

9

THE BIRTH OF SONG

there's something about feeling on top of the world
especially when you get there
even if your pinnacle is not quite the highest
not quite totally above all the rest

of manmade detritus – each pillar
its own point of no return
to the murky ground far below where
everything else is alleged to happen

while the main life decisions are here
always about to happen as you poise
yourself above it all at last –
search in your mind for a jaunty tune

once well known – on the tip of your tongue –
soon you will remember and begin to sing

10

Pink Panther

Philippe Petit drew a string from one end of earth to another.
Then he risked it all.
To look down would leave him with nothing.
Worse, it would take down hope,
from the millions who look above, for little mercies.
The New Yorker once profiled him: 'The wire is life', he said.
'All else is waiting...'

This is about the all else, the waiting.
No strings attached,
just the sheer drop from here to eternity,
in a matter of seconds.

But what grace. To stay on top, with the calm
of a mermaid in Copenhagen,
perched above, made to wait for dawn
before beginning afresh.

Look how she looks down,
at the tremors below,
at our little heartaches, in our little houses,
when the beast is fast asleep, still a few more hours
before it springs to life, on the street, inside the stock market,
with its bustle and the manic bull runs

But for a moment, the sun too takes a pause,
and wonders, with her, what makes the buildings
stay where they are

and what makes us, all, all bones and spirit,
move, a moment at a time, without any
thought of eternity.

11

To the Apocalypse

Looking at the city from above,
This isn’t how it was supposed to be.
Living in half light, the place I love.

My home that I once felt unworthy of
Is sinking now in mist, away from me.
Looking at the city from above.

The shock comes hard at me, a boxing glove.
Apocalypse that makes me want to flee.
Living in half light, the place I love.

The buildings now may fall with slightest shove
With orange carbon all that I can see:
Looking at the city from above

A cataclysmic gloom that none speak of,
Suffocating nature – every tree
Living in half light, the place I love

If only we’d let fly the mournful dove,
Made leaders listen to our desperate plea.
Looking at the city from above
Living in half light, the place I love.

12

Telegraphy

When I used to pray,
I imagined I held God's ear
in the palms of my hands.

I hoped for a better world.

Later I saw my palmar
crease as a telegraph line
line to simian ancestry.

I prayed for better beginnings.

Now when I clasp my hands,
I try to reach a future life
to ask them/her/him,

Was I remembered, loved?

13

Call Home

All he wants is the sound of a voice
a hello, how are you,
how is life in the city?

All he gets is unavailable, the chance
to leave a voicemail message,
he tries to make it witty.

He dials the house phone
just to hear his mother’s voice,
a recorded message in bitty

hesitant speech. It’s a comfort
in this lonely place
where there is no pity

for a new face trying to fit in.
He is a silhouette, a needlepoint
in the darkening towers, dizzy,

from it all and longing for contact,
a voice from home
to warm his chilly heart.

14

Stylite

With a clear sky I can see for miles.
I try to catch the bread and wine

thrown upwards as if the lobbers
feel – once caught – all their prayers are answered.

What is it about folk who decide to be alone
in caves, on mountains, on tall pillars,

cut themselves off from the nine-to-five,
regular grind blistered in sun,

buffeted by gusts, hailstone pelted,
rain sodden, bloodied by ice,

and oiled young bucks in gangs who wang
stones to dislodge me from this precipice,

seethe at my chosen difference,
see a hoity fella puts himself

above others, show off, poseur,
while others try to tempt me

as if I'm in a desert, promise money,
fleshly pleasures if only I come down

off my pedestal? Close my eyes, hear
city hawkers and hustlers, ice-cream

vans musical wind up and down streets,
prayer call of mosques, toll of iron bells.

Read more >
15

Kissing the Pink

In the pink, on top of the world, Ma
The shepherd’s sky is my delight
And I can almost touch it,
Reach out to pluck the rose
Blooding the world
As its petals drift down
Confetti flakes congealing
Into a blushing pillow
Waiting for me to close my eyes
And fall into that final sleep

16

Foothold

It was not you but your pedestal
that stalled me, foot on the pedal,
knotted my tongue with flame

You above the city
candles burning at your feet
marble and smoke-smudged

It was not your arms but your
inhalation that pulled me
up above the purple mist, wingless

You in my arms
without a safety net
breath of oranges

and me
afraid to exhale

17

Urban Wanderer

I spent hours in front of your alter ego
at the Kunsthalle, that hot summer in Hamburg,
trying to see through the mist and to interpret
those peaks one by one, and trying to imagine
his expression: wonder, awe, concern, excitement,
or mere relief, after the long and strenuous climb?

His light shades of grey and blue
have turned red and black for you,
his day is your sunset, he stands straight while you’re curved:
tell me, urban wanderer, what is it you see
in those peaks, through the sea of fog?
Is it your past or your future? Hope or despair?

Two dark-cloaked wanderers above two misty seas—
Neither will reveal what he thinks, or what he sees.

18

APRIL FOOL’S DAY

Who could have foreseen that the wilderness
Would evolve into this metropolis?
You know who.
I stood here at the top of this pillar
Thirty-seven years before I died.
When I woke up in Heaven I found myself here,
And the multitudes followed me,
And believed in me,
And they had to have somewhere to live,
And one thing led to another
In a linear causality.
They worship their own reflections.
All of their skyscrapers are like this pillar.
All of their works are geared to my fixity.
Now they have forgotten me,
Though I tower over all they have done.
I don’t know if this is wrong or right.
I don’t know if this is dawn or sunset.
I once believed in God;
Now I believe only in standing here,
My head bowed toward the abyss of the Machine.
Vague ideas of souls grope in the darkness;
My own soul lingers
Like a mist that bewilders the city that never sleeps.

19

Déjà vu (You’ve heard it all before)

A dull lull ...
The airborne copper chokes.

A slight green blip, you note, resists
extinction. Throats and throttled heights cannot.

No superhero swings
or swoops through town. No sirens summon help.

It’s your dry dream in which
the gaze snags on a lofty silhouette,

appalled at what it sees:
boomtown darkened. Humanity blacked out.

And yet how obvious
it is: that aghast figure, and the rest.

You’ve had this dream before.
you woke and watched your neighbour mow his lawn.

You woke (perhaps you’ve dreamt
this much) and watched commuters sway and snore.

You’ve had this dream. You’ve had
this dream already. Dreamt this stifled park.

You dreamt it all already,
this arid scream in amber. So you call

the future: *déjà vu*.
Somehow, it still sticks you to your plinth.

20

Carved out of stone?

He will not fall
He is on the mantle
of power, even if the
city is oblivious, hidden
under smog
don't disturb him
he wants to be left alone
and take a bumpy ride
on the cleft of the city
if he does (fall)
the morning rooster
will signal
otherwise sleep you city
this is a man carved out
of stone?

21

BALLAD OF A GAELIC PROPHET

In my brief time upon this earth
I learnt of great things done
and felt souls’ tendrils gather, swell
at wonderful tales sung.

Through all the wanderings I breathed
the air which The One spoke
and, after each bejewelled night,
supped of it when I woke.

But bickering came upon my kin
so petty that I wept
over which chief should be kingpin.
I drew my cloak and slept.

My slumber broke upon this shore,
stirred by malignant curse –
watched wisdom and evil grow;
world’s ears to truth averse.

But as I sadly walked the beach,
I heard sea-shells chuckle.
Beyond death their tan and peach
still held beauty muckle.

I see as from the tallest pole
a future without net
where some will strive and some will fold
beneath crimson sunset.

22

There Are No Lilacs

After 'The Waste Land' – TS Eliot

There are no lilacs.
Lies, in April –
forgetful ashfalls delay us.

Everywhere, elegies
quicken in the dead land
that I stand above.

My dull eyes
in the ombre evening
surprise me with neon.

Pinpricked, the towers
are a horizon suffused
with my vertigo.

Heap of broken images
the last sun
beats on.

I don’t read just words
on screen, but the wind’s message:
the ferrous tang.

I am the shadow
on the red rock, rising.
Hope of rain.

Read more >
23

April Skyline

There are few blossoms
in the city yet,
save a misty cerise-tinged sunset;
one can only imagine
a haze of cherry flowers
pinking up the skyline,
defining sooty silhouettes.
Who am I to criticise
a city dweller who climbs
high enough into the sky
to smell the distant scent
of the trees in my garden?

24

Brink

When you are ready to plunge into a new life in a new city you must:

surrender to the dread in your gut,
now writing daily letters to your head outlining
every single way in which this could go wrong

accept you will be lost far longer than it takes
to know the streets around your rented room
with the bold strokes of mould you were never introduced to
when you viewed the place

reach for the rose-tinted glasses that will cloud your vision
whenever the hell of that sketchy walk home
or tourist-crammed train carriage
slip over into physical torture

know, without reserve, that one day
looking down from a high window
or up from a grimy pavement floor
you will look at this city and think
"what on earth am I doing here?"

25

What There is to Lose

The man on top of the tower says he doesn't know how he got there. He's been there for as long as he can remember – all his life. His father and his father's father and his father's father's father before him each took up the post. The man on top of the tower complains of loneliness and tells us that we don't know how hard it is, that he never asked for this. But as he surveys the city and the world beyond it, the view is spectacular. All that is his, bathed in orange. Make no mistake, he'll stamp on as many fingers as necessary to preserve his spot. The thing is, from up there, he can admire the view, but he can't see the people below, on whom the sun is yet to rise. He can't see them or hear them or know them. And for a man in his position, surprises can be fatal.

26

ROOFTOPPERS

It’s our time. We are trending. In that moment we own our city. We are explorers on the edge. The city is fast but the shutter speed is slow, pausing time to capture the illicit perspective, the discovery, the truth. Placing us in our version.

Every day the sun goes down and they choose to be in the dark. We show you the city in light refracted by particulate matter. Isn’t it beautiful? We are wide awake.

They take away our liberty and we take it back. The heart stopping height distils life into its purest form. We press up against the boundaries of freedom and become omniscient. We steal our agency but our children inhale the rose tinted view.

27

Tall Ship Tilting

In the sinking play pit
Clutching tightly might be
Might not be inevitable
Path crack piss sinking pit sand
Avoid steep drop
Bulge rung empty ladder
Self-inflicted perilous divinity
Cherry-pick cherished thrills
Sea thrilling infidelity
Preferring shifting ground
Totem obscurity to low tide
Kite high fidelity precipitous
Grasping clutching hills
Vinegar piss waterfall

28

Vantage Point

From where I stand
Greed runs rampant in the streets
Knocking on doors
Stealing the joy of all it meets
Careful, don't look it straight in the eyes
The evil cold stare
Will take your soul as its prize
For it gives no thought to the pain it might cause
The hungry mouths that cry out
Sick children dying to live, filled full of outdated, overpriced drugs
It cares not for inequalities:
The poor become poorer
The wealthy pocket what's left at the poor's expense
As greed smiles sadistically, a blissful agonizer
When will the people of the world see through its charade?
They're signing deals with the devil
Meanwhile, greed's got it made.

29

Witness

We woke to witness the second dawn
after the collapse of the moon
and felt the grit beneath our tongues
of all that had once been.

We collected up each scattered part
in chunks and pebbles and dust
recognizing each fragment as grains of self
only the dregs that remain.

We knew the earth would realign
no less stable underfoot
but seasonless, no turning tide
and days raised like blisters on the palm.

We few survivors of the second day
after the sky fell down
must scratch our story on broken walls
and go to ground in early graves.

30

MEASURE OF MAN

At the twilight hour,
standing atop this fearful symmetry
I contemplate the palaces of art
and the stairway to heaven,
feel the air’s buoyancy as I watch
the traffic tail-lights three thousand feet below:
this world, a miniature menagerie.

The forests have been decimated,
no tigers roam there,
the hawk is just an outdated fighter craft
finding a corner in a museum basement.
The naked shingles of the ocean is a distant sound.
The dolphins call no more.
Forsaken and desolate are the gardens.
Only, cities catacomb end to end:
towers, tunnels, bridges, roads, connecting
nothing with nothing.
People swarming, jostling, running, clenching, clinching,
filling, pushing, shoving, tripping, falling, connecting
nothing with nothing.

The vision is fed
into an auto-run machine and locked.
The brain, the nerves, the heart
are scanned and wired and clocked.
The future prognosticated and docked.
In short, the clock chimes
of nothing else but good times.
Read more >

31

Aloof Aloft

Each day begins
with me
standing high
on my pedestal
Looking down on
shadowy morals
murky ethics
exotic mores
foreign values
questionable principles
of so many others
Small people in my mind
Invisible in their worth
My lofty ideals
dwarf their being
set me apart
high in my own esteem
and leave me
standing
all alone
in solitary
solidarity
at each day’s
end

32

DAINTY DUSKS

All night long, after dainty dusks
the city lights blink telling devious stories
of handsome thieves and studious cab drivers
who wonder absently which foreign language
– uncurbed ambition, avarice – will enter their ears each time
they pick a man standing listlessly by a crane
which forms an elegant line of defence
in the early morning skyline
of their youth.

33

dance angel bird, dance

you can only dance so far on the head of a pin, right angel?
fall closer to the left of the edge –
the cusp of dawn's twilight won't be cradling you tonight –
too many tongues are licking flames in this glow
you only remember the long shadows of a tequila shot bleed
your eyes pleading pale pink hibiscus tea tears
stagging for staggering as your mouth stuttered itself into guppy "ohs"
then shrieking, birding itself into a tinny siren wail "noooooo!"

now you find yourself twining to a mother-of-pearl translucence
it has reversed itself like a wet t-shirt
a second skin you can't peel away
standing in thisonthis outpost
feathering a tongue thick in your mouth
in this scraped scrapped landscape –
you don't know where you are for the vertigo
high below, above down
a shattered pocket mirror on the right edge
silently screaming echoes to the forgotten dead
preaching to the no one of yourself

there are too many nails here
but first skin bleeds into a second coming
scented with moss roses
you'll dance with the only now you've got
dive-inely clutching the promise of any . how
time cracking itself open like a freshly laid egg
coming to rest on a pin's head
this sizzle cusp crust, before you fly away

34

Standing on the Patriarchal Lens

Standing on the patriarchal lens – day breaks. The tallest peak to conquer them all, the mist and fog that surrounds me as I'm blinded. What is below when the world is asleep and I'm awake. Awake to it all – the duality of existence as conflicting rivals never rest. The only light that shines is from below – it's on and ready. Ready to start capitalism and fueled, engine rev up. Where I stand, I see it all, the mist is all around me, foreboding, waking, early – it's safe here.
35

The Rising Fall

The high and the low
Of the tiny
Upgraded world –
Swiping through the needles
Of these sky towers;
And jumping through the masses of
Clustered apartments;
It travels:
Here and there.
It moves:
Forward back;
And returns:
To its origin.
This huge dusky sky
And the infinite dusty roads:
Stand still –
the humanity
Rising and falling
From dusk
To
Dust.

36

Jump

I was a child who could fly,
a wisp of bone on the wind.
Dreams delivered me into the clouds,
weightless above the loneliness of
coming in last and failing to be beautiful.

I was a teenager caught on a spark of emptiness,
a witness to lives picked apart by disease.
Nightmares crept under my skin
and altered the rhythm of my pulse,
as I watched the memory of laughter
sink into the ground in a bruised casket.

I was 21 and stumbling into catastrophe,
a rage of self-destruction in combat boots.
Nights without sleep led me into the arms
of strangers who fed me lies and shots of whiskey,
elixir for mastering the art of forgetting.

I was 32 and going blind,
chosen at random by a mutation passed
like a dirty secret through the blood.
Darkness crept quietly behind my eyes,
slowly giving me the courage to see.

I was 41, a character in a love story
I believed would never be written.
Comfort soothed the ache of decades
spent searching for fragments of myself,
chipped away by the teeth of loss and grief.
Read more >

37

Above All That

I know a boy who's magnetic.
Steely. Has mettle. But he
giggles at rocks. And stones.
Sees the joke of them. In them.

Laughs his head off
when he holds one.

Says you can suck water from a rock.
From a stone, too. That made me
laugh my head off. He says rocks
and stones aren't the same thing.

It’s like toads and frogs.
I refuse to suck either, but

that boy walks in our ankle-deep.
With a shuffle. In what everyone
thought was recyclable. Rubbish.
Recyclable excrement, he calls it.

One person’s garbage
is still a spreading stain.

Plastic. Cups. Bags. Straws. Combs
and curlers. Pens and picture frames.
Window casings. Radios. Watches
that won’t tick and tock any more.

“I’m better than all this,” he said.
The sky sighed, “I’m above all this.”

Read more >
38

Fall Someday

My grandfather barely left the ground.
He stumbled his whole life, dragging
knuckles, head bowed, his body
a question mark, always asking,
is this safe, is this prudent?
Scrounging for the left-behinds,
he worked the streets and fields
of his hometown, a metal
detector, ear to the ground, hoping
for some indication that treasure
lay under his feet if only he never
looked up. He shuffled his shoes,
scuffing the dirt, and before
he knew it, his spine shrunk,
each disc dissolving, floors flattened
by earthquake. One year he stood tall,
the next, a pile of rubble, though
in all honesty, it was such gradual
demolition, we hardly noticed the dust.

I fight the gravity of any situation.
There's nothing beneath me worth
more than the satisfaction of climbing
to heights that appear to be just
out of reach. I'll defy every harness,
all glue and weight meant to affix
and tamp me down. As long as I fight
the insistent pull, I have sway over
my life. I ascend, climb, refuse to
look down until I reach the top. Read more >

39

After the Big Storm

People walk on tip-toes
after the electrical storm enveloped this city
built on volcanoes
in rose-colored smoke.

A man who’s not from the city
climbs a high concrete spire
and stands with rounded shoulders,
watching the entrance road –

No lights, no cars,
no one sane
seeks entry.
Only old skyscrapers breathe
this kind of toxic air.
Their bony fingers reach through the dust;
claw the sky’s eyes.

Sometimes he tells
the lookie loos
that he’s searching for his lost dog,
sometimes, his wife,
sometimes,
his lost life.

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EAR STONES

this is where i met you. this city. remember how the pink clouds fluffed out like cotton candy and along these empty streets do you remember listening – click click click – we could hear our breath settling in amongst the morning’s dawning. you could call it a chorus of cold water noises; the sound of other people’s voices rising as we padded past all the little shops and temples and houses with only our bare feet and open faces, past narrow narrow roads.

i’d suggested tokyo you’d said no – i want to go to shanghai. oh. oh, well then... in rome i’d liked the river most – there were far fewer tourists just the hot bodies of the homeless and large, unscalable walls. it doesn’t sound nice at all but it was quiet it was something it was just the city was too small too crowded but in china somehow i let myself go. i didn’t mind a crowd. china is allowed to be very very busy, all of my geography lessons since childhood will prove it

when you live amongst so so many people moments of silence are liquid gold you hear them in the morning, early, if you press yourself up against your bedposts with both of your ears against flat stones. i did that often, when you were sleeping, or pretending to sleep but texting other friends. i kept them under my bed, specially selected for the purpose – and a nice snug fit for each of my ears. my mother always used to tell me – richard, you are naturally profoundly sensitive. (if a word is in italics your tongue must bend it around your ears. but then again, i do not want to get side-tracked by ears)

the fact of it is this is where i fell in love with you – my mood for the whole time was paper thin, paper thin and open it’s disgusting really, it’s really something else. i remember so much stress amongst the mess of open cities – i grew up on a farm. Read more >

41

Pudong-Puxi, Shanghai

Shanghai smog surrounds
precariously perched bystander.
Daring if reckless camera stunt;
telegraph pole top he surmounts –
illusion of overtopping Centre Tower.
Still humid, broiling, sticky heat sunset.
– Peaceful interlude; CBD cacophony.
Unperturbed by impending darkness,
'Telegraph Pole Man' stares into abyss
above the stresses of pulsing city life.
Zen meditation, concentration...oblivion.

42

Emptiness

Cutting the ropes was easy
They were frail anyway:
Not free, not terrified.
Having to pull the words like milk teeth from a child's gum was so much harder,
My scream became a whimper.
The light was weak though,
No one could read the stories carved into my skin when I crushed the raw words with both hands.
Like this frightening city I am calm and empty now.
Waiting for my words to grow back I smile toothless into the foggy dawn.

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