- Vol. 09
- Chapter 09
Utopian Dystopian Future Vision
We are Gen V.
We speak a visual language.
We are visually literate.
We come in search of words.
This issue of Visual Verse is in collaboration with students at Wangari Maathai International School (WMIS). The artwork is created by them as part of a programme called Generation Visual. These students have been using art as activism (artivism) inspired by the school's formidable namesake, Wangarĩ Muta Maathai. They present this image to you, writers of the world, as a call to action. What do you have to say?
A Rumination On Where To Fit
the city is a moon I think an irrelevant moon I suppose
I try to remember though I have never been the city
is a place where the dirt and the sky smell of man steel glass
and I will not go there no not even if I am dead bad moon
bad bad bad moon hovering above my tatty head no room for pink nose licking long tongue wrapping the grass lapping the cud no room for the horns I wear in the shape of
a question in the shape of gnarly branches I suppose I try
to remember the forest by growing two effigies of it
from my skull my curly-wurly burden I thought
these appendages into life my screwed extensions
heavy heavy twisted spires oh tooth and neck oh coat
of golden rust the city is a poisonous dream where
does a cow fit between skyscrapers trees bark roots rock
mountain river where do I put my abundance of stomachs
my split infinitive feet oh sweet water sweet sweet water
is it you or is it leaves the colour blue or the colour green
Our friend paints cows with human eyes.
The death of the 'Big Eyes' painter
has just been revealed.
I wrote a piece about
roadsigns and laughter.
But rural life is not a total idyll.
Nor urban streets always despair.
The beasts in the field
around our track would make
a mire. A mire of heroic proportions.
We'd have to shoo them away
from the gate
just to make it home.
I remember playing
in a milking parlour.
We pretended, my cousins and I
to be eating chop as
the heavy gate clanged
behind our udders.
Until I clanged the gate shut
on a little finger.
That was on a different day
than when I stepped
upon a salient nail.
a sky mirror
dry and crisp
rocks tough on the teeth.
Brandy sauce clouds dribbling,
stick hard in the throat,
sore for swallowing.
An altered lunar view.
The cow’s curly fringe
snuffly wide nose
one bony horn
in the rhododendron skeletons,
Twining in the shade
good for hiding
And cold cold lake
fresh and clean,
good for drinking.
The top-half of the moon
The top-half of the moon is made from glass,
a crystal hemisphere holding in a blue-tinged
bubble of air punctured by skyscrapers.
A red-haired highland cow caught the moon
on one of its spiral horns— the moon was never
as large as you thought, and it often gets dragged
under the weaving bows and branches of trees.
Looking out from under it tousled ginger fringe,
the cow lost a horn shaking the moon loose.
There is a lake in the mountains where the cow
goes to forget its tangles with celestial bodies.
Snow falls on slopes around the lake like stardust.
Red Ox Staring
It stares at you face on,
ox eye to human eye,
and you think of oxeye daisies
and ox blood Doc Martens,
disparate yet related parts of your world.
Like clearwater streams and polluted oceans,
virgin forests and concrete cities.
The ox keeps staring,
its horns at angles,
one pointing to earth, the other to sky,
planet and universe united
in a shaggy redhead,
its pink nose soft and warm,
innocent and unaware of its destiny.
She stared at its misshapen horns. Its face looked like the water buffalos of her home. The thought made her wonder if they still existed—her home and the water buffalos, that is. Instead of pondering more on the matter, she shook her head and focused on what was in front of her.
Many assumed that the only animals left were the ones that looked like her. Some were nice, a lot were not. They mostly scavenged now for survival. Foraging was done at one's own risk. After The Incident, it took a while before they realized everything that remained was irrevocably changed, regardless of whether their appearance was altered or not.
She gazed at the creature in front of her again. Was it on its way to the nearby abandoned city? Last she checked, it was deserted. What if someone was already there in the time between then and now? No, maybe she shouldn’t worry about that. First and foremost: how did this survive? Were there others like it? Did this herald news of other beings existing other than humans?
Its head turned towards her in a swift motion, the action appearing clunky due to the strangely-shaped horns, not to mention its near-skeletal form. She puzzled at how she was detected, only to realize it after a deep inhale; right, her breath perpetually rasped within her lungs now.
Well, this wouldn't do. She was here to search for food, relying on past experiences to see if she could recognize anything edible in this overgrown forest. She wished she could recall if she had been here before but all of the sceneries seemed to meld into one in her head at this point. All she knew was that this was her first time encountering something like the buffalo lookalike peering directly at her.
Ah, yes. The animal.Read more >
IT SHATTERSI dream. It is one of those dreams you dream half awake. I dream of a shattered world and realize that my uneventful day spent in front of the television follows me. I am seated on the rocky shore of lake in a valley. The mountains rise high and are steep, my dreamful gaze lowers, and I see the lake. It is calm, except for irregular waves that crush against the shore. I reach out with my leg and brush the surface of the water with my foot, it is cold, and the waves invite me in. I jump, and the silent sounds of the valley disappear. The water turns mud and the waves to roots. The lake is gone, and the mountains flatten. The sun that had so gently warmed my body, was now hidden from sight behind the thick leaves of a grove. My dream has shattered. The woods here are thin and tall, and white like bone. They twist and rise higher and higher. Two branches break from one, and it goes on. The leaves are a beautiful green. Thin and weightless they are rustled by the wind. I cannot see beyond, but I see a cow. Auburn hair covers it hide, and the hair on its head looks curly, as if the cow had been to the barber earlier in the day. Beneath the shade of the grove the cow observes me, and I observe it in return. It stands so far from me and yet I can see it with a clarity that surpasses the imaginable. In its right eye, I see the light of a setting sun shine on a city I do not recognize. The clouds are blue, red, yellow, and purple. In its left eye I see a dark moon that glows a weak pink. Slowly the cow opens its mouth and speaks, “wake up.” The words ring like muted bells, and my dream shatters one last time.
DREAMING OF GENIES
In the tangle of the world a cow contemplates
the clutter surrounding congregation.
Slagheaps encroach, concrete & glass rise
as if throwing money into the air is the only way
to evolve. The cow ponders trees, and water
in its path; it’s happy in its allotted space,
willing to share, probably, as long as peace settles
on the grass, and noise doesn’t raise a rave.
Also, somewhere an image is solid but just off
kilter enough not to be touched by animal-mind
that those who interfere with everything, could fly,
just float off, leave a creature to graze, sleep…
wander in good rain, clean air under skies that
sometimes race into blue. The dark cools long
nights, lets dust rest. Quiet is free, and easy.
Twenty Years After the Supreme Court Squelches Environmental Regulation
Awash in oil, sewage, and coal dust, the city
of onyx skyscrapers drowns. Plastic and corpses
bob in hot water while locked in dim, airless condos,
we all watch. The Supreme Court flies to Duluth.
At a zoo near Portland, Maine, the ox bears this heat
as she bears all things. Staff lumber through solid air,
past tropical trees, to feed and water her. No one else
visits her anymore. Her web cam flickers out.
No one visits the zoo. Refugees flee the city
of onyx skyscrapers. Others arrive, escaping
worse things: worse heat, drought, war, starvation.
Prince George marries Blue Ivy tomorrow.
Far to the south, mountains emerge from
ancient ice, the one cool thing in the world.
The last snow clings to them. The retired Justice
streams a video that no one will look at.
Even here the polluted waters rise.
Your cities built on collateral
litter my nightsleep—moons dark without their suns.
The roar of your cities drown my ancestors.
Their bellowed ballads once hung in the shadows
of every night as if held by barked haints.
When these fertile lands were hushed
except for bittern and blackbird
my mother’s father’s mother as her mother as her mother
heard the time of their own ending.
It was our way to listen then stance and swing
slowing girth until giving into the current’s grace
rocked downstream until sinking to redmud grave.
As my daughter’s son’s daughter should know, I knew
where to find the psalms of my departed.
To lay ear to request and to answer as loyal descendants do.
To leave the grains they may need in their next.
Coalescing conurbation encroaching on this—
my lineage, my stories, my lowing lamentations.
They nevermind my bawls and caterwauls.
It is not a country but every nation of men,
men meaning man and woman, men meaning well.
My hide no longer dampsoft with rivers and tradition
but upstunk with loss that cannot even be mourned
as city composition replaced the songs between us.
"Many, many long moons ago,
Climbing upon a misty Munro,
I heard the footsteps of a Big Grey Man
Filled with fear I ran and ran"
That tale of auld lang syne,
Is no man, but a beast of anither kind,
A huge horned coo, towers ower the Ben,
She's greater far than any grey men.
Her ancient dewlap hangs upon the ridge,
Her fringe flicks away the fearsome midge,
She laps the fresh loch, her thirst to quench,
A hairy, hoary, horny wench.
For it was she that toss't the moon,
Which split in two and held, like a runcible spoon,
In its bowl, a silver city scrapes the sky,
Do you believe such tall tales? Och aye, och aye!
has become an
extension of the dreamlike collage
of images that run randomly through my mind.
My world is fast being engulfed by the darkness of the very moon you had promised would bring me the light.
The arbitrariness of reality is disconcerting
and I am lost at a wild sea;
O my anchor and my compass
you have shape shifted into nothingness
and once again
I am lost.
oh holy cow
you have endured
of all creatures
mighty and small
you found sanctity
in the cradle of civilisation
an idle being
you remain untouched
by no incarnation
that steps down to earth
flesh so sacred
to know your taste
milk so holy
constitution so pure
the one who holds
the world in his mouth
would play his music
for only you
oh holy cow
you are revered
Progress has shaken the earth
and built over the bones of the past.
No longer a haven of what was,
barren grey fields of cement
grow out of dusty dry soil.
In exchange for the future
we plundered ancient tribes
and the buffalo roars and asks
who will return what was mine?
The Truth of What Happened to Dandy Meters
Dandy Meters always twisted reality to his will. He once saw ghost gum trees in a book about Australia, and got an idea. He tapped the book with his finger, and sneezed. It was a simple, little sneeze.
Hundreds of ghost gum trees sprouted, no, they exploded out of the ground like the long, frenzied arms of zombies. There were no more sidewalks after that, just ghost gum trees, as far as his eyes could see.
That moment changed Dandy’s life forever. He knew he’d never be the same. For one thing, he met a nice girl named Bettina and turned her into a Himalayan cow.
He wanted a change of pace, “so anyway, wild cows are cool,” and Bettina became his companion.
Dandy made everything smell like chocolate for a while. Then he switched over to sour gummy worms. Then lavender, “cuz sure.”
One month in particular was a whirligig of action. He had at his command tens of thousands of shiny baubles and tiny airplanes spinning dizzy around his head. An army of colorful toy bots zipped underfoot, all doing his bidding. Usually, they’d bring him ice cream, but after a while even that got boring and he upgraded his minions to something better.
“I don’t want you to fetch me treats anymore,” Dandy sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Now, be blades of grass. Just grow and feed Things, like Bettina.” He pointed his stubby little finger and wiggled it a little. Then he made himself sneeze, and the change was made.Read more >
A Taurus Moon
I've been playing the Minotaur for about four months now.
Hooves. Horns. Snout. The lot.
The girls seem to like it – I mean, I guess they're objectifying me, but I'm okay with that. I protest, of course – but they know it's in jest. The more human I insist I am, the more animal they say I must be.
Astrology.com tells me my moon is in Taurus, so I guess it makes sense.
Astrology is different, though, since they started building skyscrapers on the moon. People are being born there, and that's a whole different globe-game. It's a whole new world for the industry – Luno-astrology.
The Zodiac's the same out there, and the planets' place in it too, for the most part; but there's one notable exception: none of the moonborn have the moon 'in' anything.
Instead, from their vantage point, it's the Earth that travels through the animal-circle: from Ram to Bull, Crab to Lion, Scorpion to Centaur to Sea-Goat and from Fish to Ram again.
And if any of this 'means' anything at all – which I accept is a stretch of astronomical proportions – then what might it *mean* to have the Earth (and everyone on it) traversing Libra the moment you were born? To have the whole of humanity, and everything they ever wrote and did, and every other living being, and all their fossils – hanging in the balance?
Don't ask me. I'm just some earthbound brute. My moon's in Taurus. I couldn't possibly imagine.
Visuals and verses
We are scouring the rivers and
skylines for remnants of alphabets.
We look for them to find ourselves lost
in the mighty national parks, in the dark silhouettes of tall buildings,
In the curved snaking horns
of the mammals.
We don’t describe the darkness of night
We can’t put in sentences
the vast blueness of the oceans,
we are at sea when thinking of
words that bring out the crispness of
the air we breathe,
Instead we exchange emojis,
Instead we capture pictures of
everything we do
see and feel
We are in the autumn of language,
trapped in the glitzy visuals,
We hide behind a smokescreen.
Where the Heart Isn’t
Scotland: sings in the back of things.
I: am unable, swirling, languid, wasteful, whirling, thankful.
If you've ever met Glasgow, you'd know she's a pure soul:
Rugged, like my broken skin; but
Patient, kind as any place.
If you've ever met glass, go – you'd nae seize a pure soul:
Ruddy, it breaks my skin; and
Leaves me but a patient in this place.
Lochs outline the cities:
Something's got to dam up the warmth,
Stop the poets escaping, to the countryside.
Out of line, I am locked out of cities:
Some things get too damn warm up there,
Stop the post-ops, I'm escaping to the countryside.
Comes from nowhere,
A loaded bull,
About to wear me inside-out,
It's grinding mountains into molehills.
"S'where do you come from?"
"S' a load o' bull."
"Let's go inside, you're wearing me out."
"You're making mountains out of molehills."
If Scotland ever starts to sing,
I'd return, to the back of things.
This place is haunted by shades that Hades
Didn’t want. By now, though, you know the heart
Of the Labyrinth by heart, its smooth walls
Cool to the touch. You bellow in the dark,
Pursuing the hapless tribute, chasing
The sound of screams that echo down the halls.
The tang of human blood on your tongue rings
Through your head like a gong. One horn, stained orange
With blood and ochre; the other one shorn
Off by a would-be hero, a youth who
Could not yet string his father’s bow. His bones
Rest neatly in a dead-end. Still you see
The placid lakes, the verdure, the rugged
Mountains of home, where everything made sense.
fragmented disturbances encountered
in derelict landscapes of
future retinal pessimism
belies the vestiges of underlying
surviving beyond the built fabric.
strange botanical specimens
as yet unknown to medical science
and residual mega-fauna
they survive in an
THE ENQUIRING EYES
It’s never meant to be a hallelujah,
just a cluster of natural colours,
out of which a pair of enquiring eyes is
lobbing a question at you in parabola.
But you’d like to put that question
aside, or better, clean out of your mind:
no urban myths, no apocalypse ―
there’s no time, there’s simply no time.
A nightmare above, an idyllic dream below;
you worry about both. Loneliness
is a nocturnal form; chances are,
it’ll soon be gone; and yet
you’d rather look for a moon somewhere,
where you don’t belong. None of this
is the kind of things you care to know,
what you surmise is, there’s no way swords
would ever turn into ploughshares
― non sequiturs, hullabaloo…
And yet you keep asking yourself:
Where is the Other? Where, O where?
A question that makes no sense:
Why, all the shapes have become circular!
It’s an anthem for the wretched,
a most unlikely siren song;
whereas only the young
are to be seen, even though
they’ll inevitably grow old,
and one day they’ll have to be told.
Recollections in (& of) the Rearview MirrorThe beat-up Chevy touted new tires Fresh rubber ready to burn on fried gravel eager to taunt geese Supplies (CDs and a map) and sustenance (saltines, sardines, and a pack of Juicy Fruit) / all plastic wrapped – in the passenger-side compartment The couple took a basket full of cheddar and rye then hit the road Both knew the levee was dry and the bank empty Neither knew enough about detox or credit blocks to care The horizon had always appeared bright – also brighter than before Time both relative and tricky Better than the processed bologna (Oscar Meyer) in the fridge and the sliced load (Wonder) in the bread box Better, too, than the nearly sour Hellman’s (hell often derivative) and the tainted golden fryer (purchased at a deep discount) Even the market had run out of milk Consumption on overdrive As the Chevy guzzled gasoline, American Pie played on the radio The right speaker stable / the left down a wire The tires made dust as destinations dangled just beyond the horizon, then disappeared in plain sight Pearls / of wisdom (he had promised her a strand, likely from a roadside stand) and want / of players and those played / depleted Mollusks and steady money both endangered The woman rode shotgun, with a buffalo-plaid checked scarf around her neck Her head turned (& tuned) to the rear-view mirror She had just finished another book (and another’s story) Reading history both a hobby and a handle on reality As the engine exhaled, she recalled women before her / all part of a journey with neither destinations nor official designations Journeys to wear and to bear Journeys of a woman named Nell And Alice Of gasoline broken over radiators In a golden flier On a five-month cross-county / no corners cut / road trip Alice and Nell had packed wide-brimmed hats, plumes, and talking points, then toured for 10,000 miles Supplies (cranks and corsets) and sustenance (chicken pudding and applesauce cake) tucked in the passenger-side compartment Their wheels (of multiple diameters) churned alongside stops Read more >
Trees rifle through heaven's drawers,
Plastic people become undone,
Liquify the great outdoors,
Oceans replenish salted stock.
Purple, bald mountains catch a break,
Cities devoured by continent rock,
This society business takes the cake.
Five feet deep in the primordial soup,
Genus unravelling, tide by tide,
The hollowing out of the peak of K2,
And placing Liverpool and Texas inside.
Oceans cease to bubble under a wisened sun,
The world cannot be killed in a way that matters.
Tomorrow is today’s dream (after Khalil Gibran)
Today’s dream is full of bombed out cities,
mothers burying sons in back gardens.
Woodlands waving goodbye to swamps,
slick feathered birds flying into extinction.
a Highland coo
bellows back at the doom,
dinks a one horned salute my way.
Carry on, it says
in the face of
The loch is inviting
I swim like a brick
so I stand on the shore
like the Stone of Scone
I wake, ready to take action.
to leap, must
there be a gap, an
or can one
simply aim toward a distance
and hope there is no
between here and there?
inside something else, re
shapes context―and if
it all be
comes a circle in
the end, how
do we find
the return in before, the
answer in after?
Alive / DeadOver the flat hum of the lake you ask me who, living or gone, I would invite to a dinner party if I could. I think aloud that I’d like to sit and eat with my father one more time. I would meet him at midnight by the glow of the refrigerator, and the pair of us would sit and feel the meat between our teeth, melting like fat on a hot griddle. Inches of bacon rind caught in out molars and going to our thighs, eating slice after slice of cured meats and hefty steaks, grist and grease, devouring them whole and us with it. You tell me that doesn’t sound much like a dinner party, and I suppose I already know that. It’s not the answer you hoped for, not Elvis or some long-gone queen, still, you let me have it. Overlooking the water, the moon appears as a grand reflection of planetary rule below us. I think it looks like a grand wheel of cheese, and imagine my father slicing it for his burger, the immense black of the sky a window into his enormous gullet.
Do you see?
do you see do you
judge my twisted horn
not so cute perhaps
cull do you fear I might contaminate
the gene pool
you must understand you must
you are experts in causing destruction
your cities your mess your pollution
can you read my thoughts what you think a flaw
comes with your disjointed planet
your doing your doing
shattered beauty all around
flooded lands in a sea of plastic
drought and fire the dying
you conjure from your debris
is all we have is all
draining like sand falling
through the upturned timer
look into my eyes
can you see a future
I dream of lands, seas, lakes:
places I’ll never see
as even a forest is a stretch —
beyond perimetrical pastures
where I chew the cud,
over, and over, and over;
like spaceships spinning
into new orbits,
I long for pastures new.
The moon is a spectre
mocking me at night
while I gaze upwards,
held and transfixed,
by its metallic silver markings:
the inverse of cattle tags
that rattle my ears
as macabre tags of ownership.
I’ve never stepped into water,
sensing watery tendrils
smoothing my clumpy calves
as fresh showery rain
during sweltering heats;
I yearn to frolic in open waters,
dipping my head to cool
like paddling ducks
who see not fences,
chained gates, padlocks
I’ve caught sight of you.
I know you are there,
standing like a wordless
beast, filling the horizon
in your camel haired coat
among the ancient trees
and the spackled mountains.
You are not a shadow
that no one remembers.
We hear you bellow.
Even these wrong words
tell me something
about you and your search
for a better tomorrow.
This is all you have.
Cherry blossom at nightbreak
To the boy who wears too many caps in the spirit
of trying to belong to the lovers who won’t have him,
remember that the city is always remaking itself,
and all of us in it. You see the changes best at nightbreak,
when the waking moon slides into its future as trend
forecaster – not fortune teller, as that would be gauche
in the micro apocalypse. The reflection in the capsule
brand shop window tells you: mount up steer, be a plastic
t-rex in a flatbed truck. Swish your tail, and talk the most
powdered hornswoggle to the girl with the bob and the golden
nose-ring who says stop treating love songs like contracts, and
instead sing to me that the best place to be kissed brimful is
under the cherry blossom every Saturday night, before they
float away into the crown of July’s heat of forgetting.
Ease of Handling
I find a rust-red beast overlooking the mountain
where late snows sketch gullies and depressions
oh the lake water will be freezing it will be cold
beyond it all the trees talking amongst themselves
the trees singing into the ground and the ground responds
I am your brother your sister you are my mother
I have moisture maybe an idea I have a cure
(even for the scrubby green cushions at the lakeside)
nothing standing aloof though the knife in their hands
carves out edges for ease of handling
it is not the truth of the rust-red beast or the mountain
or pale trees all thighs and elbows supporting their leaves
the ground with its complex songs buoys up the city
sky and earth of the linear city blown heavenwards
Snipping at landscapes
to stitch on skylines.
Cutting out mountains
to chop on marble.
Drawing on sun
for a fake orange glow.
Stirring and merging
fragments and clippings.
The technique and
of fabrics arranged and, stuck
on bending backing,
as a holy cow
pulls on roots, tears at grass.
How to Lie to Children
How to lie to children:
Now out – out – out
Try, little ones,
to keep it suspended
there above your waiting faces,
above your upturned, opened, too-seeing eyes.
You are not saved safe.
the black moon warns.
Our adult ladder lies grow.
The night-filled moon comes lower, closer.
Children’s emptying lungs cry out,
“We’ll huff and we’ll puff so it can’t fall down!”
Its blackened soil and blanked out towers limp slow across their nightmare sky.
“And we’ll puff and we’ll huff!”
but we can’t
and it can.
The Aching Heart
The aching heart
of the earth
the twisted limbs of trees,
resolve to survive,
Time is not friendly.
Greed is our enemy.
Hope is not enough.
Wanting something to not be true
does not make it so.
bitter sulfur, smother bull buds
in bacterial nectar.
drink fallen ash above,
see red, snap sacrifice,
nostrils boil blackened air,
crush descending ascenders.
of a dying world.
penetrate crescent flesh.
contaminate branched path.
The long haired cow
She does not choose
To feed you and me
With winding horn
Stands centre stage
At the centre of the storm
You chew the cud
You’re not to blame
What do they call you?
I’ll give you a name
Look into the lens
Nymph in thy orisons
Be all our sins remembered –
The earth shrinks
Only you, Ophelia
Could save our sanity
Your part in the play
Must end, you know
Sweets to the sweet
It’s time to let you go.
the day the moon fell down and all its superskinnies with it
bucket-listing swinging into view into forest—I couldn't
make out the grisly details the gnarly details of sky and leaf
and all that blotchy skin—that was the day I woke up
and remembered how the snowmelt once dipped around me
cupped by rock grass and water hyssop when I played
horn-of-plenty horn-branch horn-thicket in the waves
of tree-knees when I remembered I am blood and water
leather and wool big of nostril placid beast at the placid lake-face
and when that fallen half-moon dangled overhead in threat
the trees spread their knuckles my big head turned away
and the thin little towers rattled their bones and fell and fell
Untitled – after The Poetic Edda
The world is evergreen
a sacred tree suffering agony
more than men know, more than humans
who think they have the monopoly
on pain, as they carry out daily atrocities
in decaying cities.
The world is a beast
with horns, a soft snout
and sea glass eyes, out of its depth
lowing its distress on desolate beaches
lined with waves of plastic
which can’t be held back.
The world is a soot globe,
hardened to diamond
buried deep beneath
mined and plundered, glittering
The world is invincible, we rotate
cutting and burning with impunity
the damage happens, too slowly for us to see
but from below the poison seeps up
until all that is left are bones and shadows
and the world is an empty husk.
There is a place where my heart goes,
It has no door nor any room.
It’s here my inner self explodes,
Inside the vast horizons of the world.
Through its surroundings unknown.
The battling bulls of my demons inside,
Take a bow and leave me aside.
I hover over mountains and rivers,
Watch everything like the eye of a drone.
A place my heart takes my tired mind,
Whenever this world leaves me torn,
Into the forest of my troubles,
Walking all alone.
We dye our cow-coats fox-red in the constellation HerculesFourteen hundred light years away, in 2019, The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment records a stellar nursery and something never-before-seen, almost perfectly round and lowing brightly strawberry blonde. They name it MW7, AT2018cow, or simply Cow. They say she was born on the half-shell or in battle, soaked in milk and carbon monoxide. If we were born like that, we’d be more like her. She’d take our first bites of grass in Orion’s fox-red firepits, running our globulous tongues along the constellation Hercules, its frozen forests, weedy asphalt spheres and shorelines. We would be born cow-like into a field of unmapped carbon monoxide signatures like strawberries, almost perfectly round and lowing in the Mandel-Wilson Catalog of Unknown Nebula. I say, we would like to be more like you. We’re wondering what you’re up to. She chews deliberately, almost perfectly round and strawberry, her strawberry cud in her cheek like a gassy sphere of bubblegum, her fists in her lap like hoofbeats around her busfare, rounding her light waves back to northern Chile, counting out her change.
Ten Feet Above The Grass You Will Live
Grandad is building a planet in the trees
for you to hide from aliens, cook pizzas,
stretch your voice box to the moon,
be a cow, melt like water, turn into a conker,
send an email to a duck, wear a cloud as a hat,
build steam trains, paint your nails, invent
dance moves for worms, create languages,
learn about your skin, negotiate with the birds,
cooperate with the thoughts in your head.
From within the bubble and hum
of city gates he is transformed.
In service to the many dun lives
lived at dizzying heights, his pound
of flesh is their day’s end reward.
His name lost over the clink and chink
of cutlery on crockery. His wildness,
his memories of water and wood,
and mountains higher than any
false palaces, made quiet as snowfall.
To one day leave this existence
Is to dream of a far away moon
Where my nativity is fed
With spoonfuls of story.
Where marshland devours
A concrete army
And trees reign
upon higher thrones.
Laughing at the blocks
of glass and stone
That crane their necks upward
Grey with envy.
GODS OLD & NEW
Immediate interests are a tangled wood
In which we stumble, fall and lose our way
We call for help but those who should are deaf
To cries, entreaties; we can only pray
To old gods, stir them from their age-old sleep –
Europa! Use seduction to subdue
The bulls of finance who ignore the truth
Before our eyes: urge measures to break through
Their disregard of what is all too true:
Wildfires consuming land and human life
Global warming making glaciers fall
Drought and famine now where crops once were rife.
Oil men, you’re smart, but nature’s smarter still,
When drowned in ice melt, who’ll then pay your bill?
Hey Diddle DiddleThe cow jumped over the moon. Or maybe not. Maybe she didn’t feel like it. Maybe she curved down on her milk-wet knees and tried to kiss the world better and maybe it tasted city-sour. Maybe she wouldn’t run away with the spoon but stood her ground instead. Maybe the fiddle was out of tune and the cat’s whiskers were plucked instead and no one, not even a little dog, laughed. What was there to laugh about anyway, behind all the untolds tucked up under the nursery rhyme?
Nocturne in D minor
You call me in the middle of the night.
Somewhere in Wardour Street my next
lover is kissing another man. I pretend
to be asleep, you whisper words of lead.
The ceiling drips, brow tingles, suddenly
the moon tastes of blood & it smells like
your grey wedding suit. Someone should
photograph me dying here, underneath
the canopies, wearing only my favourite
cashmere jumper (had it not been forever
borrowed by an architect I dated for two
weeks). See, this light is the mother of all
quietude yet at this hour the glass cracks
triumphantly, there’s honey in your voice.
Onyx skies infiltrate these forests & I am
reminded of shiny droplet constellations
sparkling on your chest hair as chainmail
after you shower. The phone still chimes
as the blossoming bells of my hometown.
It is late, a desolated Manhattan bar sees
another ex swallow vodka martinis (three
olives) cold as perpetual snows, all of this
just before noon; & he googles “psychics
near me” – they will tell him all the things
I once gift-wrapped in little purple parcels:
the fool, knight of swords, reversed tower.
Change Up World
When it slurps against granite façades
wormless raw umber sludge, lifeblood-less
glacial meltdown bogs spring up queer
bright green mossland meeting sun, un-filtered
udder nourishment destruction un-foals
all milk takers, no givers, calf-less
Mother Earth drinks her sea, quakes
beneath horrified stone creatures, un-found.
And what of the trees if all life leaves?
One girl sits quiet in her room, candle-lit
she takes nil, wings out hopeful-ness.
One frantic man treks the world over, sharing
mêmes before too late has already gone.
Come on tree-planters, soil-wizards, mammal-whisperers,
Wise ones usurp naydoers.
One + one + one + infinity is us all.
of blood-bathed sand crystals
reverberant echoes of Takbir*
a palimpsest of Passions
a relic of Ashura*
an unseen, unheard,
yet perceptible melancholy
I swim into the tactility
of lactoderm-tender head
as grass, of cardboard-stiff horns
as trunks of trees – I swim
like a dead moth in the tactility
of this forest with petrichor
of sacrificial tears
that evanesce, that coalesce
into the congealed blood
creeping into the blood-gutters
of his guillotine knife
for the innocent's sacrifice
congealed blood came
congealed blood went
the Feast of Sacrifice* awaits us like
a bittersweet chocolate in the fridge
firming up before it's relished
reminiscing its birth and death
By a reef
Collapsing in a heap
The detritus of industrial waste
Along the unseen paths
Frozen inlays of an
We never catch the bull
By the horns
We exterminate it
To avoid its pointed gaze
The earth is made of
We smear it around
Like toxic dust
Inside engines of growth
Chugging away at our
Is it a false ring
Or shall we have
A final gathering
She grazed the heartland's last stubble
chewing those purple flowers,
swatting away flies with her tail
|and taunting them for being
such hangers-on for life.
But she is calm,
has always been,
almost stubborn in her grandstanding
way of just observing life,
one day at a time.
That was until she found polythene,
her mortal enemy,
ingested with crystalline pieces of
lying foul in her intestines,
like a snake in the grass.
***Read more >
In the dream world,
we colonize the moon.
We live on Planet B, C, and D.
We colonize galaxies
with limited consequences.
But in the real world,
we live on Earth.
We breath oxygen created by plants.
We eat plant flesh, animal flesh, fish flesh,
and berries, seeds, eggs, and milk from the above.
All our food comes from this one planet.
There is no Planet B.
Science fiction dreamers of old
envisioned dystopian worlds without
The lone traveller struggles to find food,
companionship, and shelter.
Or skyscrapers full of nature deprived humans and cyborgs
live on synthetic food and struggle with loneliness
and an existential longing to see long extinct animals.
However, there is a fatal flaw in both scenarios.
Where does the oxygen come from?
Without biodiversity, plants and animals struggle to survive.
Without bees, very few plants can pollinate.
Without pollination, plants can’t reproduce, and species die out.
Without plants, there’s nothing to breathe.
I am speechless. I mean, literally. It’s not that I don’t have a language, because I do. But I can’t communicate with you. Also, I don’t want to. Because you’re an asshole. That look I am giving you is one of scornful disbelief. You probably interpret it as “dumb bovine gaze”, because you are incredibly stupid. I mean, any smart creature knows not to defecate where it eats.
And yet, here you are. Having summarily taken over the only home any of us species anywhere on the food chain hierarchy has ever known, you have unapologetically screwed it up beyond recognition. And instead of making amends to other species, or slowing down the destruction, or even showing the slightest bit of remorse for this annihilation through your actions, you now brag about wanting to colonize the moon, and Mars! With high-rise buildings, and plundered resources from Earth, no doubt. Well, gravity is a bitch, so good luck with that.
Melting glaciers, rising temperatures, increasing sea levels, deforestation – all for the sake of wealth. Is there anything of wonder or beauty that you don’t mess up with your Sadim touch? HA! You didn’t realize I knew about Midas or all your history and mythology that would have taught you lessons had you cared to learn them, did you? Homo hubris sapiens – that’s your scientific name.
Have you heard the proverb “Stupid is as stupid does”? I’ll just leave that out there for you to ponder. I’m drained and exhausted by this vitriolic outpouring. As a normally taciturn and placid Highland cow, I don’t usually get this riled up, but you are the only species that not only takes pleasure in your idiocy, but disguises it as intelligence, and brags about it. Thanks, and good luck with that “shining future” thing, moron.
A Noble Presence
In a mixed-up
A Kurt Schwitters Merz
A Neo DaDa Twizzle
Cowabunga, Babe !
Why so mournful
in your Theatre of Trees ?
Tell us, Horned one,
Do you contemplate
skyscrapers at jaunty angles
a mud-sunk end
to civilization ?
Do you scoff
at our absurdity
our end-of-days psychodrama ?
do you hear ever-nearer rumblings ?
And did you ever expect
such fame ?
It was called Earth. Terra firma,
the mysterious greenhouse.
Nothing fancy, it was what it was.
That’s how books described it.
The green years.
Once upon a time in hallowed dress,
earth was all in green leaves,
and lily fresh, and we spoke weary
in the languages of history.
All those uppity languages, those
thick tongued wishy words, and
drafty voices clucking agreement.
But all was too late, all lost.
And there came a mysterious sound
as the earth fell back into roots. We’d
lost our taste for earth. We groped
and buried it into a greenery tale.
And the young boy handed his mother
a book, and said –
Read me a story. About earth and that
one-horned ox who ate thunderclouds,
and lived in a tangle of tree bones.
Back when green and lily fresh ended.
Prayer for the worldIt’s the shapes that entice, spliced into curved shards of soft greens, gritty browns and plashy blues. Like a sloth her lazy eye works round the image, undecided on the most interesting part to settle on and explore, or pray for. Shapes move with the contour of her eye, blur at the edges making crevices of snow weep into dun, dull rocks. She could almost feel the rough edges on the bend of her knees as she imagined kneeling to meditate. The moon/not moon is flat bottomed, curious but familiar in a rock album kind of way. Floating amidst, God-like the wide-nostrilled beast looks bored, tired of witnessing the world’s demise. She moves her eye, intertwining with the bending trees, sliding away and towards. Boughs catch impossible light and the deepest of shadows, tossing them about, moulding them in the fingers of leaves and tucking the doughy splodge in between the twigs and roots. White horns and boughs brush up against each other, tussle for her attention, her prayers and she looks up, skyward, trying to decide if there is a man on the moon or not.
They were a team with a problem to solve. Not that the group ever saw each other face to face. They communicated in code. You only saw the physical properties of those whose sector you lived in. It was a way of avoiding judging people for the way they looked, thought and spoke.
No prejudice, no emotional empathy just pure logic were the hallmarks of their job. Unlike those who’d created the challenge they were facing. Couldn’t the earthly tribe have foreseen that deforestation, eating more animals than was necessary, living in tall concrete boxes that needed energy to cool and heat them would be destructive to their human habitat.
The pus of misuse, overuse of their planet’s natural resources for their own self, hedonistic purposes was now about to take its final toll. The floods had started as the ice caps melted, rivers dried up, fire was licking its way across continents.
After all the opportunities they’d had. However, it wasn’t the team’s role to pontificate on or debate ‘might have beens’ and ‘should have dones’. Their role was simply to contain the mess and limit the consequences for the rest of the universe.
There wasn’t any quick fix and so it looked as if they’d have to do an emergency clean up. They would get rid of everything. Then put it on the repopulation list for action in a few millennia. After all they had had to do it with the dinosaurs.
Feedback flowed in from the team. Everyone was in agreement. There was no short-term remedy. The ‘depeople’ button was pressed and humankind vanished.
We, humans, desecrate our hallowed world –
build high, deep and wide reckless, regardless
of what we damage. Now, skyscrapers list
and topple. Fierce heatscapes pound life
from fields and rivers. Meet the bison's eyes.
Without words she knows who did this.
Forests shoot branches, split enfeebled hearts,
while 'wake up' thrusts down, messaged in sap.
Truth darts through and shreds excuses. Hear
cries cacophonise from children's mouths.
They dare to stare beyond short-term today,
dare to demand, scream, make grey heads turn.
Angered, they beg, 'Grow up, take care, protect
our umwelt, our inheritance. Do not turn away.'
I grieve for the water I lost – I am longing for the sea I must have
As much as I try to quench my thirst
it comes back stronger
And it will end not with sweet water
but deep – rich salty
because I am a stranger to this land
but my presence permanent
So tell me
How can I find balance
when the grass around me grows wild – tall
concentrated in city centers?
The nature is so confused
fragile on your actions
which are more important than you think.
The time passes – comes –
she will be gone – and you with her
Walking with you beneath the mangrove canopy,
hand in hand we march.
Trying to forget about your words in the car,
and how you twisted my arm.
I wince, and think of all the good times;
midnight in Portland, picnics by Loon Lake.
Feeling the warmth of those memories,
I don't hear you say my name.
And, with bull strength,
you twist my arm.
No animal of the night
ever shone so brightly
in the wooded dark,
to the city of stars above,
the glittering waves below.
Perhaps you don’t belong here.
Perhaps, neither do I, but
we are all pieces
of the same collage, and
you cannot hide
from the photographer’s eye.
Stare me down through
the camera lens, if you dare—
I’m not afraid
to lasso the moon.
An Ox Dreams
The ox sometimes dreams of the metal monoliths;
Their final gasps before the Earth's embrace –
City-lights-as-stars flickering shut one by one
Rippling like a wave
Pounding the shoreline.
Unaware of the constellations of causation,
It now observes –
Allowing us through the windows of its primed perception:
A collage of canopy/river
Nature remixed through
Our Future and My Past: A Double Etheree Sequence
barefoot and feral,
through both field and forest;
following animal tracks
down sinkhole-strewn dusty dirt roads;
stuffing tadpoles, grasshoppers, fireflies,
worms, and June bugs into a Mason jar
with air holes punched jaggedly in the top,
only to let the creatures go free
when the evening symphony played,
featuring bullfrogs croaking,
the howl of coyotes,
and hungry hounds’ bays –
ready to hunt
The Final Recipe
Ingredients: anything that hasn’t
already been destroyed
Or uproot a clutch of skyscrapers
and dump them into the bowl
of the Amazon forest, ripping
away the trees with a sprinkling
of wildfires you’ve home grown
Add in a head of highland cattle
with its disgruntled face,
don’t get taken in by its cute fringe
or look it in the eye, it’ll complain
about the heat wave or something
Just pretend it’s all fake news,
turn up the air-conditioner
while draining the water of a lake
(whichever one, it doesn’t matter,
the result will be the same)
Now toss them together, season
with a dash of plastic, a glossy shot
for your social media display pic
Voila! You can’t go wrong when you’re
doing everything right to disappear
Ruins of Nature
"Miles and miles"
Unending silence in discoloured evening,
The stretch of ruins lying asleep,
Birds mourn and time weeps.
Capital of city, prince of people,
Was the site of a great city,
As people say.
For ages, the king held his court,
Gatherings of artists and philosophers,
Discussions on war and peace,
It was once Athens of Greece.
The discoloured eve,
Smiles as I leave.
Ebay item #389551401173
Earth. Only one available.
Rare example of life-sustaining planet, in used condition. See photos.
Outer layers are denuded, eroded, damaged and heavily soiled.
Inner layers have been stripped of deposits.
Earth comes with an incomplete set of flora and fauna, with many in poor condition.
It includes numerous, diverse humans, but imbalance of storing and draining resources is evident.
Whole system is overheating.
Requires urgent repair and restoration.
Or may be used for parts and spares.
Gravity, sausages, and 9 to 5The city has weak gravity – people attracted to the crescent moon shine of a landscape growing and changing like a woodland of cut glass and car fumes. Choke. There’s a bloke with an umbrella crossing the street – look both ways – he choked down the promise that being surrounded by people would make one less lonely and now he’s stuck in a pricey box getting busy busy busy. And oh the mountains are so far away and don’t ya know that you can’t replace a lake with a glass of whiskey? Give me a summer breeze singing through the leaves and I’ll give you 9 to 5 in an office in a suit and tie but ties are just dead tongues lolling beneath our neck and sausages are the rotting flesh of cows squeezed into shape and I guess that’s what conversation feels like in a city that doesn’t sleep. Doesn’t rest. Low gravity. Low sanity.
In the forest beyond the mountains,
beyond the lake of the last man,
lies a creature unworshipped.
Once, he sired a pantheon of gods
and temples were raised,
where vestal maidens
tended to his followers,
offered charms and alms and prophecies,
oracles of a future where priests claimed
the heavens and left the gods behind,
preferring moondust to earth,
sterility to nature, progress to ether.
His children objected to this usurpation,
but he ignored their despair,
for humanity has left his home
and he is again lord of all he surveys,
he is God in his heaven.
And the man in the moon has hidden
his face, buried beneath a pilgrim swarm
who breathe in nothing but their failure,
a marooned colony forever presented
with the prize they abandoned.
Bitter are their tears beneath poisonous skies,
whilst clear run the waters of earth.
The God of the woods is sanguine,
all is right at last with his world,
as it was before, so it is again.
You need to stop blaming me; take some responsibility. Little by little you hurled us both into this black hole.
Some things are in my nature. You always knew that; never hid any of them from you. Sometimes you say you've changed, that we'll start again, that you are sorry and apologize; that you want to make me feel better. Yet you call me toxic, ruthless, unpredictable.
Please, don't hurt me any more. Can't take it much longer.
If I didn't care, I would have given up on you long ago.
From your Gaia
Made by Nature
The industrial weight
of the path humanity chose
rests atop natural beauty.
The flow of the river
transports our machinery.
The horns of the bull
clash for our pleasure.
The barren land of the moon
is ours to expand upon.
The eye of the beholder
no longer gazes with awe
towards the beauty of
mud and stones.
The earth is hanging on a tree,
might even be punctured –
a tired football.
The cow is lost up a mountain,
escaping from the sea
like a phantom.
All that’s left is a small rock,
so let’s head there –
a wasted prayer.
It’s staring us hard in the face,
longing us to make a change
like a desperate priest.
There are layers of meanings,
this collage of earth, wind and sea –
a tapestry for life.
The trees are our lungs,
their corridor our rib cage
like a green embrace.
Just look at the longing in that face,
horns curling in contortion –
a last resort.
Man On The Moon
Man on the moon
build a barn in a crater
somewhere to shelter from the
monstrous towers tear the ozone
resentful islands rise from the water
things will get better
fields flourish on the dark side
the animals breed
in the ice
the home has expanded
the forest is sown
man on the moon
hide in the shadows
cower from the creatures
that cackle under the stars
Harper’s Ferry in June
The road to the cabin flipped and flopped,
sat high above the ditches with sporadic
splashes of gravel. Road ruts. Twice we bottomed out.
Listened to the undercarriage scream and scrape.
When we turned the last bend, we saw her.
Perched on a nest of stilts and rocks. One
all purpose room and a gazebo for coffee
and wine time. A Whoville House in Harper’s Ferry.
Citified, I waited for the bears and the wolves.
Predators to scoop up the puppies. Hunt us
down for dinner. They never came. Not once
during the mini-vacation.
Instead, relaxation and calm baptized me
with the sounds of the Shenandoah River. Only
afterwards did the predators appear. When we
descended the mountain, pulled out into the blacktop, traffic.
Headed back to being back.
Coo at the End
The coo dipped down his two chipped horns
Into the wave of the rising second sea.
His hind legs retreated against the forest thorns
As his nose stayed pointed accusingly at me.
The coo called to summon his alleyway friend.
Down she jumped from the arch of a bough.
Thus the planet reached its watery end,
And this is all that the end can allow.
The Wild State
Sadness was hard to lose, until I dreamt
of mountain tops. I had insomnia.
Before, I worked nine to five in suits
and high heels, until I slept on rocky peaks.
I slept amongst ice, frost and
an ocean breeze. My phone became trees.
A text was no longer an honest conversation,
compared to the giggles of sticks and leaves.
I became powerful, natural, but lonely.
I wished for love, watching a lake of leaves
cut and crack through rock.
But I soon saw the truth. I saw humanity
in its wild state. Black mould. Petrol that
drowned fish. Skyscrapers that blocked the
velvet blue of our galaxy, with artificial pus-yellow light.
Compared to nature, it was ugly.
So, I betrayed a city. I flung it away.
I crunched its roads together
and pushed it into the moon, until
its bright lights became a light bulb
that shined upon true beauty.
It was the Earth, in its wild state.
It was natural and I became happy.
Grasp the Gasp
I drown in the gaze of the crumple-horned cow,
Crossroad decisions flooding over me,
Eyes challenging me, spurring me on.
An unlikely lure into the dense forest,
Where woody fingers bend and beckon,
Not the gatekeeper I expected.
The placid face almost shrugs,
They don’t care what I choose,
No skin off their back if I walk away.
Holding my breath, I pause.
Do I ask to be flown to the moon,
Or will it hurtle into the deep cold of the outer lake?
Is my last gasp under water, or out in space,
Asphyxiation either way.
Moonwalk, spacewalk, city sidewalk;
Boardwalk over the water baby,
It’s the only way to fly.
A snort of hot sweet meadow air,
The horn begins to turn,
If I don’t grasp it now I’ll regret it.
Drawn by the call of the clarion,
The tail swings as we take the first step,
Bursting moon bubbles along the way.
The metallic drip of blindness,
The drip over the green heart,
in wordless praise in the distance,
The metallic drip,
dripping over the landscape,
A landscape swallowed up into the knowing,
The knowing of loss,
swallowed up into the encroaching years.
Now we all gather at the foot of the distance,
All gathered in wordless praise,
All gathered in wordless distance,
All for the green heart,
the heart beating,
in a wordless landscape,
Tasting the metallic construction
of the jungle,
Tasting the restructuring of society,
A society on a leaf,
With a wordless green heart.
Big Red, the destroyer of worlds, watches. She has watched for countless turning’s, through numerous judgements. Her soft gentle brown eyes see everything and everyone with a passive regard that is totally misleading. On her magnificent head Big Red carries a set of massive horns. One horn curves gracefully downward and around itself into a blunt nonthreatening knot. The other horn juts straight out then straight up skyward ending in a fine fatal tip with a promise of extreme violence.
In her mind Big Red holds two contrasting images, images ripped from the pages of a long, long forgotten book. One image is tranquil and beautiful with calm blue seas, glorious clear skies and bountiful clean earth. This is Big Red’s template of a good world society, a society on a safe healthy journey. This world society cares for and about the earth it dwells upon. The other image held in Big Red’s head is a dark gloomy over urbanised, over industrialised earth being slowly poisoned and suffocated by greed and stupidity. This is the world destroyers’ template for a world society gone wrong, very wrong.
When Big Red sees a world society has evolved down a pathway past the point of no-return she stops watching and acts. A sweep of her massive head one way and a blessing is bestowed and that world society flourishes. When her head sweeps the other way however, it is a curse, the final curse. The sharp deadly tip scours clean the face of the earth removing the parasites that plague it. Scraping clean the canvas for the next turning.
Big Red, the destroyer of worlds, is watching, for now.
I wake up to the noise of construction next plot. Standing by the window, I gawk at the growing concrete giant. I miss that patch of land where they cultivated marigold and rose. People have to live; they need houses to live, cheap, featureless houses.
I walk into the kitchen and keep the teapot on. I flick a teaspoon of roasted Darjeeling tea, watching water assume the color of the horizon. I look outside the window and feel thankful they stopped at five floors. I still have a patch of sky left. But is it my sky?
I get out and take a few rounds around my apartment. I see the same flower five times as if walking through an endless simulation. Sometimes, I stop at the gate and peep outside.
The village outside isn’t my village. We don’t speak the same language, eat the same food, or celebrate the same festivals. I know very few villagers—the milkman and the grocery shop owner, but I am sure they don’t recognize me. It’s my home but not quite home.
The apartment stands like an island, gated and protected from the external world, the real world. I venture outside and walk through their village, not a single smile. I miss being stopped every few minutes by people who talk without pleasantries, who know my parents and grandparents, who understand my language. I am so far away from them, trying to make life—a half-baked life.
I float around their village like a stranded time-traveler—not quite here, not quite there, in limbo.
Where Will You Go Lords and Ladies?
I am looking at the news,
from my comfy chair.
In between the wars and human problems;
There are burning lands and flooding villages.
There are dying turtles and falling forests.
They posture, they shout from podiums,
Make promises for Next Year,
the year after,
thirty years time,
Whenever sounds Good
(as long as the coffers are heavy).
As long as the oil wells Pump,
the Votes come in,
the People don't complain
The Earth is fine,
some folk in lab coats,
working for The Man.
Says it's okay
Don't listen to THEM,
Over There, THEY know nothing.
Enduring a City
I’ve got City. Again.
Didn’t even see the eye of its blade
shivving my lungs,
butchering my throat.
Where you sleep with someone else's hand
around your neck.
Where every noise is a needle
to your balloon-head
from everyday necessary acts of survival.
Where the showers only wash
away the sweat, but not the time,
where our sofas make us
prostrate and prosaic
so we don’t even care.
I’ve gone walking in the country,
looking for an antidote. Found it hiding
in a field of buttercups; found it peeking
through tree branches viewed from the ground,
green on blue, the only portrait you’ll ever need;
found it running alongside a river
wondering where all the fish went too,
trying to ignore the outlets and the garbage.
Pull back the curtains, see me, chosen for my mournful face
yes surly even in view of my bad reputation.
However, today I choose to be the poster boy, cute and centre stage.
Around me the trees are fighting for the light and above me floats a balloon. Look inside and remember the concrete jungle
scraping at the polluted sky, sucking life from the soured soil.
Come close, see me peering out over a cut-page image of natural ice melt into the blue. Remember blue, it worked with
the sun's yellow to give us green. Come closer, touch my red fur then know how to tell your children, smell decay, then taste
You know the disastrous situation, you know the answer.
Today poster boy is halting his plaintive groaning and blowing
his horn. We are all gifted with choice, use yours.
School Trip to the Old World
Welcome to the first world, citizens.
Step carefully over the dust, mind the fragile fossilised tree –
Use your InfoPad to see a picture of a living example – don’t scream –
And do not under any circumstances touch anything,
This world is one colossal war grave, show some respect, girl,
Take pictures, follow the authorised path,
You’ll soon get the hang of gravity,
Exit through the gift shop,
Do not remove your respirator
Until we are safe in the last zoo’s geodome atmosphere
Wherein her stasis-field lives slowly
The last cow on Earth
(Or indeed anyplace in the solar system).
Interestingly you can see she is fed
With vitamin-enriched plasma
Injected through a canula –
No, no, they are not tears, just conditioned reflexes, son –
And try not to vomit at the thought of your grandparents
Eating its flesh or drinking from its body,
Just thank your lucky stars for vat-grown meat.
Amusingly, our forebears named her Cassandra
When a century ago
She stopped producing milk in the last unpolluted pasture
And so as to save her, placed her in this time-bubble
Where she passes pointless years
Chewing a plastic cud once each decade
In unthinking honour of the slow-motion instinctive memory of her ancestors –
You look at us like we have done something absurd
But we are only the same as the rest of our herd
Out inside forms, front to back shapes,
Down upside patterns and about around makes
A confusing abstraction, so many distractions
From seeing the sounds as we listen out loud
For the creak of the world tipping sideways
The quiver of forests on a lonely cascade
The shake of the lakes in unfamiliar ways
And the whispering scream of a shadowy moon
Orbiting round a wavering view
Brightly reflecting our cut and paste tomb
Where tower blocks blossom, factories flower,
Subways still sprout and cities are in bloom
Other threats are omnipresent, omnipotent and now
From ravishes of war to crisis of cost to virus resurging
None of it stops
Lips fatigued with service and virtues over-signalled
You may think we forgot your orange fringed stare
But we, the person, knows one of us will lead
Starting tomorrow, we will surely take heed
Holy Highland Cow
“Look!” said the Highland Cow
“I can’t jump over the bloody moon.
Someone’s built a skyscraper on it
Mining its natural resources
Until it becomes so light it leaves
the solar system along with the tide
and the ebbing seas
and the poisoned rivers because
they have nowhere to flow
and the trees will die, even the petrified ones.
We will all fly up, no gravity, when that happens
And you will say
“Holy Cow! How couldn’t we know?”
I say, “You clever humans, top of the food chain,
if only you had listened to all those scientists
all those experts
all the hippies
You don’t listen because you
and don’t speak Cow!
all you hear is MOO!
THE BULL OF WALL STREET
The golden bull roars and its shriek resounds around the world, in the savannas and forests, among the sacred cows of India that roam free through the cities, distributing the gift of their milk But the Wall Street bull is like a minotaur, worshiped by great and small in their greed He is the one who overcame the borders, in different ways revered But there is the wild ox, the ox that just bellows in the meadows of the planet, old friend of children and those who use it in their work, drags the plow with his strength, on whose furrows the food from tables and street markets in small towns Bumba Meu Boi - sings Northeastern folklore In this region of Brazil, in the midst of the caatinga, in times of drought, of great droughts, they lose weight together with skinny children and men with their heads down; of the heroine women who walk many kilometres with the water can on his head Bumbamy ox! The ox died of thirst The wild ox lives in the swamps of the ends of the world and of time For some, strength and sustenance For others wealth Others more the refinement of New York restaurants The ox of Spain in front of the mother-of-pearl bullfighter and the screams crowd: Olé! The human being, in short, as cattle irrational in a world without nations and without borders!Read more >
She coughs. This grass is too strong for the morning. Still in her bed she watches him bending over the cracked sink, splashing and rinsing his face in cold water cupped in his palms from the running tap. Then, ‘Hey,’ she says louder than she’d meant to – ‘don’t scrub your face with the towel, just pat it dry darling.' She holds her breath: ‘darling’ had slipped out unintentionally, in just the same way her mother says it to her. She knew her mother would have called him ‘a beast’.
His voice comes back muffled in the towel – ‘It’s nice though,’ he says ‘– refreshing: a good scrub dry.’
She was thinking ‘Had he heard the darling’? She hoped not.
He was thinking ‘Did she mean it?’ He didn’t know if he liked it.
She continues thinking. ‘He’s cleaning his face on my towel.’ Then she glances at his crumpled jeans and t-shirt dumped on the floor right next to her chair.
He continues thinking. ‘Why hasn’t she got a plug for the sink? She doesn’t use my name much.’
Both of them recognize this is a tipping point and it’s come too soon.
We are forest and river
mountain and sea
an ocean a tree
rocks and silt and leaves and moss
bear every human print
perches on the sky line
inside a moon confused
money chatters in the wind
and keeps on spinning
we understand everything
and nothing so completely
we can’t explain away
the doleful cow’s accusing gaze
ice caps weeping on their mother’s lap
the quick sharp eye of a bee
at the entrance to the hive
At school we made a collage; What Describes Us Best,
clippings and cuttings from magazines and catalogues
whose corners peeled blithely from when the Prit-Stick
dried before being glued down to the page.
Images from the fabled toy section of the Argos catalogue
alongside cut-up photographs and print-outs of
cartoon characters all orbiting a crudely drawn,
unrecognisable pencil etching of my face.
Twenty years later I still think about that collage, and
about how an array of things came together
in an attempt to form a picture of a complete
person with any sense of cohesion.
Sometimes the inside of my head feels like that piece
of old A3 paper with facets of my personality
blithely peeling away from Who I Am because I slap-dashed
down to impress someone else, many someone elses,
most of whom would look at my crudely drawn face and
neither know nor care if it resembled me in the slightest.
But if I were to let these cuttings peel away my collage
would be empty, so I take my Prit-Stick and glue the
corners back down just to make sure I have something
to show the teacher when they ask me who I am.
I see a future
with me not in it
the greenery is gone
and that's my home
the water is gone
and that's my heart
I am no longer wanted
I am waned
I am warped
once seen as an asset
but now as an
irritant to the land
to the environment
to the man
as I am no longer
wanted in the meal plan
Before the apocalypse of hollow bellies _
men's insatiable hunger for more & more.
We were just seeds in our mother's uterus
waiting for our turn to bloom before any mint
we were just birds perching on the gift
our mother endowed
& there she stood wide & vast
green to the heart
streaming with pristine waters
before we became bulls claiming territories
capitalizing on the roots that hold us
at the expense of her body
Thy crumpled horn
Holds up the troubled sky
Our high risen homes
Our dry burning roads
Even the moon
And your feet staunch in mud
Stamp new life into birth
Great green branches
Enwrapping your face
Your rusted coat nearly hides
Your kind trusting eyes
Dear one may you find
Tender grass and cool earth
May tender leaves shelter
Your soft moist snout
And may the cool lake
Welcome us both
City and storm drains sewers shake,
collapse, create tropical valleys; swamp
reeds push through mud, human waste,
and vestiges of soiled Charmin replacing
grass and sedges. There, water buffalo
sink to their knees…examine wet silt
one horn curling—tribute to the past—
the other one thrust forward, dominant,
threatening, defensive…constantly searching
for babbling brooks, clear streams, natural ponds.
Chevron shoulders curve into regal crescents
hound dogs cry out for help in neighboring boroughs
Neo noir secrets greet natural selection’s child;
perpetuating existence in the mind’s eye,
a bovine matriarch wallows and shovels sludge
in the environmental pastiche, dismisses
encroaching corporate invasions as precarious
caged dreams enclosed in metropolitan snowglobes—
contents riddled with skybridges, glass towers,
and art deco high rises that pierce layers of mist,
transform ice heavy air into smoggy halos
illuminate fragile bubbles of invention that burst.
What Goes Around
the trees above our heads
soon they'll be sprawled beside our feet
the waste (sprawled beside our feet)
rises above our ankles
it goes nowhere but to the sky
many, many layers
until it reaches our tallest buildings
the dust in the air
millions of men standing on each other's heads
(assuming they don't fall
the clouds are holdings hands
forming a circle, but it's not overcast, it simply rotates
(assuming the waste came from below, going
a collage of pictures
front of our eyes, proving
the sky and the earth does a full 360 going
what goes around
look the other way (north go south, south go north)
Is a guzzler
Its violent ferrous claws
And blood dripping teeth
Tear apart in the dark
Its umbilical cord
Cut open womb
Of the Earth
Of trees, fruits and flowers
Glaciers, rivers and mountains
The swinish swiller
Finally have its fill
When will it let out that belch?
The nature is still forgiving
Not half as brutal
As your utopia
You human being
Collages of Death
Glued, all that we've left of life: remains
cut, ancient stories long since burnt, before
beef was anything but dangerous. Trees
erupted, spread, enough at once to keep us safe, now
scorched remains, nothing there but epitaphs.
Looking down from second life, Moon born kind
potted history survives, what green must have been,
life in Goldilocks' perfect world; as greedy sliced
existence into ruin, broken for commercial gain
never for its joy to breathe again.
All that's left, in pictures, billions of selfies
selfish looking inward, never out: perhaps, if
everyone had thought, turned phones around,
pixels might, altered trajectory's plunge...
except, all that is left, forms Collages of Death;
more people should have listened to the ground.
Egan awoke and shook his head. It felt heavy and swung oddly. His vision was blurred and he blinked slowly. The sunlight reflecting off the lake before him nearly blinded him. He winced and stumbled around to face a forest, one from which he must have just come, but could not remember.
Egan closed his eyes, trying to remember last night. The last thing he could recall was a laughing face, beautifully lit by the light of the full moon as he stumbled out of the thumping music of the Nightshift Club. They kissed and it was wonderful.
Wonderful, until he was bumped, or bumped into someone. He wasn’t sure. Their kiss turned into clattering teeth and embarrassingly bumped foreheads. He’d looked up into the dark eyes of a plump woman, and told that ‘fat cow’ to ‘watch where she was going’. Then he had laughed and howled at the moon. Everything after that was fuzzy. He had a sense rather than a memory of great sex, laughter, and moonlight.
Why would he be fuzzy on the best parts of the night but clear on that last glimpse of her dark eyes glaring at him? He moved to frown, but his mouth felt dry and his tongue thick and heavy. With extra effort, he raised his heavy head to look up at the rising sun, then sneezed at its brightness. The sneeze shook his whole body, and he felt a long string of snot drip from his nostril.
He moved to wipe it away but nearly fell over as he lifted his hand. Then he disgusted himself as he felt his tongue instinctually move out and up to lick away the dripping trail. Egan looked down, at the grass and rocks and lichen below. Then he looked further down, a sense of dread filling his belly.Read more >
This is the cow with the crumpled horn
And the moon in the sky
And the bar set high
In the sky that stretched from sea to land
From the crackly rocks
To the golden sand.
I made me a menhir with my pack
And danced on the waves,
And the waves waved back
To comfort the maiden all forlorn
Who scattered her tears
In the welcome dawn.
So the moon blew low
And the cow leapt high
To dance with the maid in the moonlit sky.
The pipes of my music made no sound
But the moon was flat
And the earth was round.
encase crooked branches.
Green hands rot beneath slush muck, crushing crunchy roots below.
Cranberry essence soaks travel garments, blood pumping shattered horns impaling you.
Lunar paradise carresses longing flesh, promising bountiful pleasures. Bow to Bull, offer tender flesh for safe travel. Rouge velvet gets you flayed.
Curved horns impale trespasser guts, snapping off torn torsos, lording mineral mountains.
Crystal towers distort earthly vision, cut bleeding palms, and spill bitter wine to the lord of the whimsical.
Mine moon rocks, swim neptune lakes, climb crooked mountains and reach utopian tips.
All Worlds Are Connected
In the world far below the stars, you glance out of your thirty-fourth floor corner office to the echo of a former duck pond. Local officials dug down during the drought, two summers ago, looking for water. They found only more brown earth. Like governments everywhere, they then turned their attention to river water extraction, drilling for groundwater and desalinating sea water. They left the bare earth as a city centre beach, a temple to the lack of rain. Your screen lights up. The mayor has just issued another ten thousand home well drilling permits. It would be a busy day. As you leave tonight, the climate protesters will scream that you’re pillaging the planet. You tell them it’s just a job to feed your family. They don’t listen to your pleas.
In the world far below the drills, the highland cattle were getting concerned about diminishing rain. Leaf canopies were becoming brown, grazing land less productive, and watering holes shrinking rapidly. Bovine scientists identified that soil moisture content was still high, despite the reduction in precipitation, and concluded water was in the ground. Cow digging crews began excavating the watering holes, deeper and wider. Water began seeping into these cavities. Cows drank deeply, not knowing how long it would last. Cattle agronomists argued that the grazing land needed the water. No-one listened to their pleas.
In the world far below the water holes, the fish knew their habitats were shrinking. Long submerged rocks were emerging. Snow was disappearing from the mountains. Plankton becoming scarce. The carp called for a gathering to bellow at the world above. Everyone else was waiting for the rocks to fight with each other. The fish knew the cause. They’d known about it for decades and couldn’t do anything about it. They’d sent emissaries to the human world, but they were put in glass bowls with plastic castles. They didn’t listen to their pleas.
The worlds had already toppled.