Saturday, 24 February 2007


Another poem from the collection entitled VALUE. Once again, it seems like the work of a slightly deranged person I'm not sure I'd want to know, though some of the cultural references still mean something to me. Translate 'the new thingliness' into German and you should be able to track down the identity of Rasha, the black dove. Oh yes. The River Manifold, for much of its length, flows underwater.

‘The conscience is to you as what is known,
The unknowable gets to be known.
Familiar things seem a long way off.’

John Ashbery

Fool music from a country station
and the murdering king is accomplished out of clay
as the granite slopes wear woven caps.

He borrows a voice from the clack of iguanas,
he swallows a compass, he paces the carpet,
recoils from his maker into the head

of a Chinese dragon. It is there he can breathe.
Don’t scald his porcelain lungs with blue.

Crossfire. Blockades. The skeleton of his aunt.
Let’s play that tune again.
His lampshade chest is the new thingliness.

Requests from an imagined hospital
palaver with the painted feathers of song-birds,
the ochre-stained river. He whispers
his blood group into the mouth
of Rasha, the black dove.

Now there’s an address that could be yours.

I wanted to be what
you said I was
all the time I
was listening to the radio.

A specific number of dead
on the shelf
a portrait in wood
of a detumescent nude.

As the people walked towards the clinic
I harboured my boat and waited too.

Everywhere it was raining
alarm clocks
and opening hands
and disconcerted

musical gems were tumbling
from a silk-lined bag.
That was the season for speaking in tongues.

All the time I was listening to the radio.
Now it is the motion from one thing to another

or it is the place where bad stories are made
to convince us of the world’s bad use of us

or a kind of art denied the human figure,
vague cushion stifling our fictions of
life, love, death, avocados. To imitate
so many people becomes a kind of coin,
the impecunities of an even pettier trade
Poor naked city.
Was that where I was?

I seem to walking into an even more curious
war than the one I left so many years ago.

Capable of its most intimate reach,
a thong on the backs of giggling children,

that nervous flush in the veins of exchange
in a country whose crops are nylon and beads,
mirrors that reflect in the many images of the king
his fatuous dance around fire

like the magnetised needle in his stomach.
He shall become despised, he hopes,

as bitter water is despised,
a certain kind of popular air whistled between the teeth
while window blinds beat around a wooden bar.

His language is not held in common, his sex

is a question asked three times.
His arms are open at the wrist

as he reaches toward the pear tree.
He sucks out the fruit
from under the dappled skin.

The river goes under the earth
a second and final time. Timeliness as the dragon
swings on the calendar, as the music
arranges itself on the black caked
scimitar chest of the king.

He looks at the chart.
He folds his raw gums up.
He is waiting to be unsexed.
He confuses ‘war’ with ‘ward’ or the fanciful tangling
of a river’s art, frivolous and intense
along the boundaries of a fine
state to be in. He offers the doctor
his medicine. The River Manifold.

Articulate the soft bones of his anger,
supple as a glove or translucent fish, bury him
up to the neck in rats, words, death.
Bite on the bullet, death.
As to the leavings
something will come of all this.
Lick treacle off a pierced spoon in the nursery.
In that mirror all mirrors are touching.

Listen to all that water,
so near it hurts.

He pushes the leveller down to his knees,
his language the delicate pink

of entirely separate notes
in a bloodied stream, a good

number to follow. He wakes

in the cabinet of feathers, his earlobes
bleed like the entrails of a glass

and wounded gazelle.
His mouth is the deranged wardrobe

in which a seamstress, weeping,
points out magnetic north.

In the riveting lack of its
dark mineral growth the compasses
are what happen. He pushes a spade
through that crystalline powder
that is water’s revenge
on the garden. He asks his
penis for a little light relief,
he opens to the gurgling
passage of water, of red and
white cells, still wondering if the dragon
is out to get him. Too much earth
beneath his feet and drinking
deep is what the earth,
requiring him, will ask of its
own blood. He takes no more chances,
wrestling down the window. Myopic
children tango from the spar right
into the sea. Each new direction
splints the disarmed politics
of their wordy, glistening lasso
as it flashes back over the meadow
grass, the nightingale loop,
the vicious exactness
greasing their palms with a
tacky silver, residual light
that might as well nestle under the ribs
as become a sick bird fluttering
for its exit, tendentious
signature signing off the main
man. Listen as he takes off
his sewn white plimsolls, his
hairy blue sweater and rolls them up
and stuffs them into the mouth
of his household god. Hard butter
would melt into the shards of
prophecy there and then be dumb.

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