• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 11
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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.

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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.'

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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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