Thursday, 17 March 2011

Of Cats

Cat – stole the night and kept it.
Ermine-furred, only a king would dare wear such a robe.
Cat – tiptoed on the edge,
on ledges and shelves,
on the knife-edge between dark and dawn.
Cat – shadow of Bastet – sleek –
but fixed to no pedestal, nor tainted by womanly form,
outlasted the Nile and perennial floods.
Cat’s eyes shine knowledge far older than fairy tales,
flickering fires of primitive times back into our minds.
Cat watched man scrawl antelopes on cave walls
(before we had a right to use that word).
Cat watched our crawling infancy,
our crude stolen furs and fumbling flint into flame.
Cat watched with a silent cat smile.
Cat waited, patient over its prey,
until we had reached its standard,
and settled in our laps, to sleep.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Dead Weight Mind

A world weighted inside my gut
pulling down,
a slow-poisoning ball of
iron, nickel – oxygen –
Oh, the surprise of oxygen,
that fast-burning catalyst
that lover of change,
hater that eats up all it sees.
Olivine, pyroxenes, garnet,
twisting like snakes,
live molten rock finding a nest
between the anatomy of ribs and gut.
My lungs are against me,
my heart wants to rest.
The tectonic world is too much to hold.
How long before it


Monday, 14 March 2011

On Japan

To make a poem of Japan is blasphemy,
unclothing the eyes of the dead.
It is rushing in,
a media horde overwhelming the land,
an impious parade to echo the news,
the shrill hysteria that shows us the ghosts of the living
in the hope that our emotions will swell.

Stay tuned, stay tuned, is their only litany.
Tour guides at a new Pompeii…
I don’t want stay tuned to be my catchphrase.

But – to say nothing,
and leave the wrack of the land,
the empty faces,
and the matchstick fragments of familiar places,
as if it were too horrific to voice
is an equal wrong.

So, on watching the surging water,
the roar of the sea like no reality or myth,
undoing the lives of thousands,
this must be said.

Your loss makes me weep for you.
If I could be in your land,
I would wipe the mud from your scattered possessions,
and drive in nail after nail to rebuild your homes
and hold your children while you work.
I think of those I know, and hope for them.
You will recover,
and perhaps you will make poems of your own.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Beginning with Entropy

It is the end of the Age of Starlight. The light is dwindling in the sky. Space seems vast now, pinpricked with the smallest of holes in the blanket. Space is the best word to describe the stretched and endless spaces between all matter. Space is the best word to describe what confronts her eyes through the triple-shielded screen every day.

Space is a series of pitfalls, she knows. Black holes and white dwarves, the sad conclusions of entropy, spattering the void between those last visible beacons of hope. Travel has become a question of navigating artfully past those unsighted traps. Journey times between stars have been doubled or tripled in the past million millennia.

Black holes are the pitcher plants of the universe, waiting for inconsequential bodies to slip into their depths. They make a mockery of time. They make a mockery of life itself. She hates them. Too many people she knows, travelling too fast, travelling without due care, looking away for a moment to dust a crumb from their sleeve or speak to a colleague, have found themselves slipping too close. Once a black hole exerts its gravity on a ship there is no hope. Even light cannot escape that un-satisfied throat.

What a death… What a death.

It is unimaginable to her – but that doesn’t stop her imagining a thousand possibilities for that dragging, weighted end. Sometimes she imagines a perpetual moment, frozen just inside the cusp of the hole. She imagines a life arrested, neither dying nor living, until the soul of the person trapped wrenches itself free, and, being insubstantial, escapes as a ghost into the airless void. At night when she closes her eyes, alone on her spherical craft, she sees them, silent and accusing, pressing against the tri-glass. They want to come in. She cannot let them in.

She travels, day in, day out – although days are largely meaningless in this time when time itself is skewed and there is no rising of the sun. She travels between the colonies, between those people who pushed further and deeper into the galaxy in an attempt, like flowers, to turn their faces to stronger suns. She brings them the objects they need – the objects that their own lands cannot give them.

This particular part of the enterprise sometimes seems pointless. Ferrying goods through a dying universe is like delivering the final meal to the condemned. A brief, brief pleasure, and then – what? What words describe the death of a person? What words describe the death of a universe?

People need to eat. That’s what they always say. No matter how close they are to the dying of the stars they still need food, they still need blankets to press out the cold from their arms and hunched backs. The children will still cry without milk and the aged will stare through milky eyes without their soft and comforting meals. Against the death of all time, the human stomach is a voice that is impossible to deny.

She sighs, and curls closer to the window, looking out over the vista of dwindling stars. A little of yesterday would do her good. Her finger hovers over the chrono-leap, but she can’t bring herself to press it. Questions are always asked when the logs don’t match the flow of real time. Besides, yesterday looked much the same as today in the void between the stars of Orion. It was just that yesterday she received the letter, and today there is nothing.

My love, I wait for you in a better place…

She moves the words through her mind as though she were thumbing them on antique paper.

My love, when you are able, come to me…

Such language is out of date, but she savours it anyway. She savours it more dearly because no one speaks like that in this time.

The arrangements are made, my love, and you will fit in here as easily as your ring fits upon my littlest finger. The arrangements are made, and I wait in a land with a full, yellow sun.

It may be a thousand years before she can answer his call, she knows. To him, in his place in the past, it will be no more than a day, or perhaps two. To her time will stretch about her like rubber pulled between the fingers of a child. To her time will be a vast and weary thing, as she travels and travels again with a hold full of bulk of which she never catches a glimpse. She will age and rejuvenate and age again in the perpetual waltz that she describes between the cold, stony spheres that these people have chosen as home.

But one day she will let her finger press that button, and she will find herself in a warmer place, with him, with air to breathe and the soft balm of a yellow sun, and grass beneath her feet. In the end, time is no time at all.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


The reflections of the seagulls were doubled in the supermarket windows. Each one spun a helix with its pair, ghostly in the glass. Less brash than the signs beyond advertising buy-one-get-one-free. The seagulls gave up their ghosts without expectation of payment.

The sky was lead crystal – heavy but transparent right up to the impenetrable white-out of cloud. It was almost impossible to tell how high the cloud-base was. High enough to not care about the scurrying of the world far beneath. Above there, perhaps, aircraft sailed over rolling moors of moisture, as blinded to the world below as he was to heaven above.

The seagulls epitomised this seaside town. Crass in their speech, unaware of the realities of the world, always searching for something new to be gained at very little cost. Their eyes were sharp, their beaks callous. But natural. The thought of nature sighed through his mind. The thought of a place that was not paved, echoing every harsh word back into the sky.

He would have to go in. He didn’t want to push into the brash interior of that odorous shop – but if he didn’t he would have to eat a strange concoction of oddities from his cupboards for dinner instead.

Carnal desire won out.


Back home, his fingers plucked out twinges of sound on his banjo strings.

He could not play. He had never been able to play. He held the instrument like a dying friend, and spent his tenderness on its taut strings, but he never garnered a tune.

Tomorrow, he thought. Tomorrow I’ll phone that number. Tomorrow I’ll arrange lessons.

Honestly, his schedule wasn’t packed. Not since Lucy had left. There was nothing stopping him from pursuing his dreams now. Nothing but his own procrastinating mind and the poverty of energy which had eventually driven Lucy away.

(Driven was a strong word. She had drifted. She had begun drifting the first day he forgot to answer her chatter while watching daytime TV, and she had finally drifted right out of range, and he had not the inclination to chase after her.)

Was there some way to jolt a desire for action back into his soul? Perhaps if he began by licking his finger and touching it to that hi-fi that always gave out a slight shock?

He eyed the stacked system, with its brushed steel façades, wondering. He could not stand the pain of inactivity any longer. He didn’t even have to get up from his chair to try this experiment.

He wetted his finger on his tongue, and then touched the metal.

It was more of a click than a shock – a click that resounded through every cell of his body, a small tap at the back of his skull. His finger had felt no more than a nip as the electricity kissed him. It made his eyes widen, momentarily.

He set the banjo aside, and tried it again. The result was identical. A snap through his body, a livening of the mind. A beautiful thing.


The second day dawned with a spark of that electric love still in his soul. He came downstairs before noon, for once, and touched eight fingers to the hi-fi’s façade, and felt its response. It was a spidering caress. It made that dark, painful place just beneath his ribs lighten for a fleeting moment.

He put his banjo in the understairs, and bought an electric guitar.


On the third day he sat with the guitar lolling on his thighs, stroking its strings. He still could not produce a tune, but the electric hum from the amp was pleasing. He felt its movement in the soles of his feet and in his thighs and the pit of his belly. He felt it in the slight vibration of the strings even when his fingers were not plucking at them.

When he touched the hi-fi for his daily loving contact, the plug sparked with a brilliant white, and the jolt in his body was harder. Angry, he thought. The hi-fi was angry.


On the fourth day he could resist no longer. Instead of touching his fingertips lightly to the brushed steel he knelt on the seat of his armchair, and brought his face close to the fascia. It was his tongue this time that did the kissing. He drew it about the volume knob and felt the response in a sharp and tiny explosion in his mouth. There was the scent of ozone, and a feeling of surprise in his scalp.

Enlivened, he picked up the guitar, and plugged in the amp.

The hi-fi’s blank surfaces watched him, sullen and silent.

There was no hum of electricity from the amp.

He flicked the switch, and flicked it again – and then noticed that the digital display on the hi-fi was dark, and that the table lamp beside his chair was dead.

He brushed his dampened fingers on the hi-fi, and it gave him no response.

As the intricacies of the electrical system had never been more than a mystery to him, he phoned an electrician.


Ellen came within the hour, and flicked the switch on the fuse box for him. She scrubbed the burn mark from his power socket, where the hi-fi’s umbilical entered the wall, and she earthed the plug.

She admired his guitar as she knelt on the floor in her overalls, screwdriver held between her teeth. When she could speak she asked him about it, and he confessed to the banjo in the understairs, and his musical impotence.

Ellen offered him lessons in exchange for his company. His silent manner was a blessing to her after days of fixing connections for lonely pensioners. His fingers were only a shade away from beauty, and were perfect for chords, she said. He found, eventually, that he could play her better than any guitar.

Ellen visited a website for Victorian antiques, and bought him an Improved Patent Magneto-Electric Machine for Nervous Diseases. The copper sheathes fitted his fingers like gloves, and the spark delivered kept him alive through the long day.

The hi-fi no longer kissed him in the morning when he stroked it with wet fingers. Ellen did instead.

Thursday, 3 March 2011


You took Pangaea,
dropped it in a clear glass,
as if it were nothing more than orange peel
and the glass, a bin.