Friday, December 29, 2006

the smoking mirror

Dead to the fairies

Smoking Mirror, what is that whisper,
what is that shadow
that walks at noon,
the silence
that grows like ancient trees
whispering through roots
that do not seek water,
but the access of language
through all temporal lobes
all channels?
Smoking Mirror,
what are the words

that the shadow speaks?
A signal beamed from stars:
it runs like a bright thing
between the trees,
a hole, still smoking,
where something was taken.
This is the message,
this at this moment
is the loudest
the shadow will speak
the closest it will come
Here are the coordinates,
move to these places, and watch closely, attend,
speak from,

of, your body.

These are the other ears
the other eyes,
and without these
you will hear no words,
but only
the wind
as it dances down
to where the weirs and cataracts
are flattened
into rivulets
and the roar and the trickle
of them, the whisper
and the flood of them
are sucked back
up onto the watershedding moors
feeling for peaks
to alight from,
from which to birth again
into the sky,
convinced of your inattention
and the futility
of pressing the point.

Giving names - first few words of another attempt to write about poetry

I'm giving names to the part of me that needs to speak. I'm calling it Sensorium, and I'm calling it Monster. Sensorium, because it is all that comes in, and Monster because it is monstrum, it reveals, it uncovers, it demonstrates. Monster, because I wake at night, in fear, with it arched across me. I follow it into the wardrobe and down the steps through the wall. I see now that all poems are brought back at night from these journeys into the Land of the Dead. But it is not a land of the dead, it is halfway between waking and sleep, halfway between words and what is beneath words. It is that place that you know from sitting in sunlight, unaware of anything other than the dust circulating in a shaft of light. It's very close to that place, and when you are near you are somehow aware and not aware of the voices from the sensorium writing furious poems in that language of light, webs forming all around in startled air, disintegrating, spreading, dying, all of it taking No Time, and then you are back, befuddled and halfway through speaking of what plants you will grow next Spring, to someone who regards you strangely, then stands and leaves. The only sign of their presence a flutter in the hedge. Shake your head quickly - none of this was real.

assemblage of components for poems about poetry - first draft

Some words it is necessary to sacrifice at the outset. Some words have every intention of subverting the entire deal, and can not be safely included in any delicate work. It is important to establish right away which are the dangerous words and deal with them. So which words are they? They are probably the words you would write if you were a keyboard without a human attached to it, or some mechanical fingers clicking away in space somewhere, lacking empathy with anything anywhere, just a wired heart beating like a metronome in the cold wash of an alien sun. Throw these words down the well and let them learn what it is to mean something. I'm trusting that you have a well, as it's unlikely you would have even read this far otherwise.

Then it is necessary to assemble the words to be used. This begins with establishing intent. In this case the intent is to speak about poetry, to unearth what is going on beneath the nomenclature, and the nomenclature here means not only words and names, but images, sensations, all the multi-media assemblage of our senses. At this level, the inner landscape of my knees is spoken of in terms of playing fields, rain, sadness of school days, retreat into long corridors and cloakrooms, insistent tapping of childhood threat, bone metastasis, osseous dream-fixes - the hidden language of the dreaming of the body. This requires particular words and materials, those which have been made active with both deep sympathy and fixity of poetic intent. Furthermore, it must be clear at the outset that some degree of failure is certain. The most one might hope for is to open the door at morning and find oneself naked and bereft on the doorstep with a mouthful of ash and a glimpse of something that ran around corners up ahead, never quite seen. I want to talk about mathematics and morphology, but I can't. Something is wrong, and it's possible that I'll never know what it is. Poetry is a little like that - like the awareness of brain damage. And now the moment has died anyway... I'm going to come back to this time and time again.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

night don't stop -
black stars burn forever
at my door

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

the work of reassembly

The man rakes through knapped flakes
of flint, like leaves or blades, slices
of a body. He pictures unknown molluscs boring
into chalk, breaking down, leaving holes
that fill slowly with black, going bad, going hard;
thinks of an edge slitting hide, a heart flapping

in its own cavity. He finds the next piece,
sticks it carefully to the last, Superglue and blood
on his fingers. He's surrounded here by flint,
a thousand facets, more, spread out in shiny slices,
eyes staring up, frozen, each preserving an image
of a man swinging a stone blade, working flint,
moments captured in an immutable emulsion
of geology, fixed in leaching calcites and metamorphic
pressure - a record of clicking, grunting, industry

of rainfall or sunlight, smells of roasting
flesh, fur, cracking of fat and bone -
but he knows that these eyes look out only
from the impossible. These are not the flint roads
to a land of the dead, we shall not reach out
quivering hands to our mitochondria through this
avalanche of fossil. There are no sparks left
here, these fragments are cold as fish scales
to his fingers, this pool blind to both oceans

and the man refitting the scales, jigsawing through
codas of the Permian and Palaeolithic. He is precise,
determined; he assembles, he attempts, he rejects,
searches. He finds, growing in his hands, a nodule,
a flint - three dimensions, four, others perhaps
inert, coiled in a hole in the core in the shape
of an axe head. This is what he finds here

- holes - here in his hands, holes like words
transmitted from the Stone Age in its cataract
of sediment. He senses violence gestated, birthed
in these sockets, and his fingers sting
with the sensing. He knows the excitement,
the slight tremor as his fingers reach back,
adding more fragments, more of the hole, ignoring
the dreams that crowd upon him. He feels the void,

the discovery, absence, the discovery of absence.
The finding of holes. The shape of the absent -
he traces its periphery, its rim, feels the shape
of what has been taken. This is the beginning
of the work of reassembly: the finding of holes.
Later will come measuring and recording, cataloguing,
later still the taking of casts. Much later,
the tentative matching of specimens. For now,
he feels them in his hands, flints with no hearts,
light as pumice, warm as fists, dark as deep history.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


The following poems are more or less traditional haiku inspired by reading Matsuo Basho. I tried to use some of the common nature images familiar from Basho and his disciples. The first one (kireji haiku, which also occurs later) breaks a rule by including an extra word in the title, but I wanted to use the image of kireji (referring to a traditional cutting word in Japanese, used to divide the two halves of haiku). In this case it becomes a pun as the two halves might be both two seasons divided by snowfall, and the two 'faces' of the poem.

(Click the title of this introduction or see the links below for articles about the elements of haiku, including kireji.)

kireji haiku

winter snows
in late autumn -
two-faced year
8 haiku

a jumping frog
breaks the pond mirror -
a spring day shivers

summer rose petals
cover the pond -
pink carpet roof

autumn moon
eclipsed by a snowy owl -
see her white crown

winter snows
in late autumn -
two-faced year

the wintry clatter
of machines on fields -
a flower factory

sound of engines
on the cool spring air -
frogs are courting

a single drop
from the spring blossom -
a beetle sips wine

the rich man
throws coins from his balloon-
summer fields glisten

Plutonium enrichment - Ahmadinejad and the Axis of Evil

This is intended as a poem about the US and Europe, not about Ahmadinejad or Iran. It just struck me that there was something deeply racist and disingenuous about the West declaring an 'Arab' (Persian, actually, but how many Westerners know the difference?) state seeking nuclear power to be irresponsible, war-mongering and evil, and potentially grounds for military intervention. Okay for us, but not for them? What's the difference between us and them? Oh, yeah, the balance of power, the benign hegemony, the Manifest Destiny, the right, the power, the imbalance... Oh, it's a Found Object, by the way.

Now I'm the king of the swingers
Oh, the jungle VIP
I've reached the top and had to stop
And that's what botherin' me
I wanna be a man, mancub
And stroll right into town
And be just like the other men
I'm tired of monkeyin' around!

Oh, oobee doo
I wanna be like you
I wanna walk like you
Talk like you, too
You'll see it's true
An ape like me
Can learn to be human too

(Gee, cousin Louie
You're doin' real good

Now here's your part of the deal, cuz
Lay the secret on me of man's red fire

But I don't know how to make fire )

Now don't try to kid me, mancub
I made a deal with you
What I desire is man's red fire
To make my dream come true
Give me the secret, mancub
Clue me what to do
Give me the power of man's red flower
So I can be like you

I wanna be like you
I wanna talk like you
Walk like you, too
You'll see it's true
Someone like me
Can learn to be
Like someone like me
Can learn to be
Like someone like you
Can learn to be
Like someone like me!

(Bagheera: 'Fire! So that's what that scoundrel's after!')

I wanna be like you!

the apes storm the tower - solo climbing poem

...some dynamic of wind
that blows through
when you look down
some mathematical thrust
of stark distance
galvanising musculature
without attention or intent
(and there is movement
in the boulder field
something bright flaps
in the corner of your eye)

and the moment yawns
and expands
says No, says Yes,
says nothing
says Describe
the next clear movement
in increments of unconsciousness,
break it into fragments,
so tiny, so infinitesimal
that it is no longer possible to focus

and then the whole thing just happens
without you even noticing
in one dynamic sweep
that you won't really remember
like you will never know
what birds flew over
what mindless tune you hummed
where your tongue was in your mouth
in the long instant that it took
to make one clear movement
that fades suddenly
into heartbeat, breath
and the world
rushing in.

Does George Bush see Ahmadinejad like this...

or like this...

or like this?

I sometimes see him like this...

and sometimes like this.

Ahmadinejad King Louie Ghazal Bop

I wrote this as an attempt at a ghazal, as it's a pretty ancient Persian poetry form to do with longing, but also to do with fire and righteousness. One of the most famous ghazal conjurers was the pretty incomparable Rumi, and anyone who hasn't read Rumi should start now. It seemed an appropriate form for the subject, despite the superficial levity. 'Ghazal', by the way, is apparently pronouced something like 'guzzle', which makes me a guzzler, I guess. Anyway, I regard this issue about Ahmadinejad as more or less on a par with US civil rights, the Ku Klux Klan and any other Naziism you can think of. Not to mention the deep spiritual dream-disparity. Let's get real, huh? I remember Gore Vidal saying back in the 80s, when Dubya was still guzzling, that the advent of Perestroika had left a vacuum, and that America would now have to turn on the Arabs, and revisit the process of demonization. That process, of course, is what the ancient Zoroastrian Persians (with their lightbulb god, Ahura Mazda) might have characterised as Ahriman, the principle of the Lie. How prescient that seems now. Anyway...

He says give me the power
give me the West’s grey flower.

He says Oh I wanna be like you
and affect that hegemon glower.

Man Cub come lemme join your club
lemme share your fragrant bower.

Am I not a man and a brother?
I'm claiming now as my hour.

You got it there so let's all share
that there nucular power!

Da zapbangronee, oopdeeweep,
oopdeeoobiedoop power flower!

He says give me the power
that doobydooby nucular flower!

Saturday, December 16, 2006


it goes on
the chatter
the end of the world
crackle of failing stars
of radio on hillsides
forest, wounded brothers
like you didn't know
this river leads only
to the land of the dead
no one swims upstream
against this

current. Yes, it's here, here
this moment
I'm dropping in real time
like I'm stepping out
of a helicopter, laughing
and the leaves fall slowly
around me
like dead snowflakes
like words raining down
like it made any difference
like anything
just this:
look here
the flames go on anyway
the madness, the fluids
the smoke
the intimacy of men
sweating, with their eyes
what about it?
These 3am rooms
are dead places
I awoke with men
on my chest
pumping my heart
I remember passing out
looking at the ceiling
the moment stretching
and you were still there
when I came back
laughing in the corner
with a tube full of black blood
hanging out of your arm
like some evil dick
like a disaster.
I couldn't see it in the same terms
as you, couldn't see the joke
the bravado,
just the black blood.
All things became possible
way back, did they?
You all looked askance at the river
then dived
All things jumped together
I imagine you
were even holding hands.
You entered deep and silent
descended, and failed to rise
just bubbles swirling
and a bright hole full of nothing
where you fought briefly
then succumbed
to the flood.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

hands haiku

tiny hands
clutch at the sky -
a child chasing birds


Monday, December 11, 2006

this site - click

cold crow haiku

fog in white fields -
cold crow on a wire
hears me stamping

shewstone haiku

a backlit screen -
ghostly hands paint words
on my window

Sunday, December 10, 2006

chatroom haiku

busy screen at night -
hands making shapes
across oceans

Ambrose Bierce - to be expanded

This is just a short improvisation, but I'll probably
write it up into a longer poem about Bierce, who is
something of a surreal literary icon - surreal for the
details of his life and his disappearance, as well as
(in a sense) the subject matter of his short stories.
It'll be a bit random for a while.

Ambrose Bierce saw a ghost in his room,
telling him of the ice and the many ways of dying.
He saw himself hanged at Owl Creek Bridge, waking
under water, his head full of sunbeams, fingers
raking new life in mud. He dreamed his own history
from the future, plotted the murder of his dead
father, disappeared into Mexico, just walked
down the dry roads and the dream
of the Aztec sun where the dazzle
of hummingbirds danced in his skull.
It is not known if he drowned in Morning Glory
(ololiuqui) or just shimmered into invisibility
amongst the fireflies, chasing his last
story with a Corona typewriter
in a canvas knapsack.

Blood arcing into rainbows
in low light.


Cloud Chamber

He puts his head in the jar
they seal it
remove the air
then they let in the smoke
and blood
mixed with ash
and the intentional hatred
of several observers
after a few days
his eyes are sealed over
and his face
is more or less black
with the tissue coming away
and a low whine
issuing from his mouth
he submits without protest
to this experiment
compelled by loving voices
from the deep past.

sun in the south - haiga/haiku

midday sun -
beetles make sand rivers
down white banks

dry years

I dried out I was bone and gravel desiccated cartilage teeth joints that did not fit the wind blew through me whistled through my mandibles tunes of longing of emptiness of the desert high pitched vanishing aloft whipping dust into a shimmer of heat silver haze of distance my inner ear its tiny bones the dry clink of my phalanges my nails my baked core cracked my iron rusted my linen my leather my natron salt my alliance with the darkness fell in flakes in powder of stale herbs and dry poultice for the heart wounds I was discolouration on the earth stain of ochre lime rictus dream of waiting centuries to be borne into the future on the backs of white ants and scorpions gathered at the riverbed at half-moon sensing water in their chitin shine beginning the slow work of reassembly


The Egyptian goddess Nuit represents the night sky. The myth involves the stars, and especially the sun, being taken into her mouth every nightfall, passing through her body, and being reborn every morning at sunrise. This was seen as a cosmic sexual process, and I used some of this ancient imagery, jazzed up a little, in the Nuit poem below.

Nuit and Kephra: night train jazz Beat stops downwind of dawn
a soul-shiver through the fields
blows the platforms
into overcoat starlight
dust of forgotten days,
...............ghost-cries of memory
through the cell-momentum
of those
........who would ride the night.
eater of miles, moon-train melting
all down the Eastern pull
of the Milky Way,
blow all night from your black kettle
..............steamfusing with track
hit the last Great Bear tunnel
..........................with a shriek
from a mouth clasped
by the kiss
.............of night
blow like a whale
spray your ash on the backwash
of the backends of cities,
black hammers
..................of pistons
............dead mathematics
wailing beauty of steel
blowing the erections of landscape
clatter over the neck of Orion
rolling the dawn down the track
...............beetling and blowing
its beat pistons
up the last flat iron mile

blow, firebox, blow...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

god of the waxing year

This is just a context pic
for the following poem.
It's a carved foliate mask
representing the Green Man
or the God of the Waxing Year,
who supersedes his brother,
the God of the Waning Year,
at Yuletide.

Jól's axle: seasonal terza rima

A yellow light through mist amongst the trees:
below the frosted branches, freezing snow,
a flame is fanned by winter's quick'ning breeze.

It flickers first, then bright begins to glow,
and creatures creep from holes to see the sight;
then feel the shift as ice does turn to flow.

At yellow dawn, the bested year takes flight:
the wheel that creaked all night to broken rest
awaits the horny wrest of summer's wright.

That infant nestled in the mossy breast,
where earth and sky do suckle: doubly blest.

Alternative version - still working on this:

A yellow light through mist amongst the trees:
below the frosted branches, freezing snow,
a flame is fanned by winter's quick'ning breeze.

It feints and flicks, then bright begins to glow,
and creatures drawn from holes to see the wight
do sense the shift as light does start to flow.

At waxing dawn, the bested year takes flight:
that wheel that waned all night to broken rest
awaits the healing wrest of summer's wright.

Bright infant nestled in the mossy breast,
where earth and air do suckle: doubly blest.

Some stuff about terza rima

This form was invented by Dante Alighieri, probably for the Divine Comedy.
It uses a chain rhyme of a/b/a b/c/b c/d/c etc; and, in English, it's usually
written in iambic pentametre, as I've done above. I'm very much a beginner
at this kind of form, but it's a challenge, and quite enjoyable to have a go at.
The easy pitfall is the overuse of modifiers as an easy means to fill the metre.
I used rather a lot here, although they are fairly appropriate in this sort of
context. I also used a lot of internal rhymes, alliteration and assonance to
try and create some mood and symmetry, which seemed appropriate to the
context. It's rather more about the pagan associations of Yule than it is about
Christmas, though there are overlaps, of course - the latter having borrowed
much from the former. The symbolic associations with Yule that I've used
here are to do with fire, yellow, wheel etc. The title is also a link to a
Wikipedia article about Yule, if you're interested. For more on terza rima,
click the title of this note.

Friday, December 08, 2006

gnostic telescope

don't let them fool you
the sun is no flaming ball of gas
it is, as any eye can tell,
a hole in the sky
through which can be glimpsed
the unimaginable brilliance
of the world beyond

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Monday, December 04, 2006

words, don't fail

It was all dangerous
it settled over the river like smoke
and I had to look
there were bells ringing
and I lay there
looking up
looking out
clouds rolling in. Thunder.
You couldn't get away from this
for much longer. I knew that much.
I was trying to write the unwritable,
trying to find the courage
trying to summon up
what I was
before it started:
the chatter, the flowers
roots breaking my temples
but I just don't remember
past tomorrow
there is just the lying
in the dark riverbed;
the tar, the slurry;
the choking;
the way down;
the road to extinction.
Lies, all of it was about lies.

Nothing else.
I resist, for a moment,
then my words fail.
I have got to make a deal here
about tomorrow
and what it means.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

ghosts on Stairs Lane

Soon the orange shoulders
of Cock Hill and Stairs Lane
will sleep under snow
and grouse will huddle
in ditches
below the wind farm.
The children by the paper mill
at Goose Eye
will make ice slides
past the Turkey Inn

while the bus steams,
spinning its wheels
at Slippery Ford
watched by men
from the high intakes
remembering the thrill
of being snowed in.

lime mortar

The lime powder whips up
out of the bag
in a cloud
and sticks to his eyes
he falls back
into the rotating drum
of the mixer
and the flanges
catch his jacket
he rotates there
for fifteen minutes
half in, half out
head in the mortar
he wonders vaguely
if he'll die
a kind of peace
comes over him
and he learns to go with it
he surrenders to the spin
augments it
with quick skips
each time his feet
touch down.
After a while, his eyes
stop burning
and he looks into
that whirling world of mud
perfect now,
sticky and fluid
he prods it, smells it
it smells like a grave
he wants to taste it
to feel it in his mouth
to know its cold, its grit,
its heaviness.

He can't quite stand
when they turn the mixer off
he sort of slumps
between two of the guys
a dead weight
his mouth hanging open
full of mortar
and a crazy light
in his eyes
like an animal
or a dead person.

But the mortar flops out
of the mixer
just right, grey-brown
and firm,
ready to use.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


crows 2 by Deb. C

This was Deb's take on the 'crows' haiku. I thought I'd put them together:

wave upon wave
crows spiral
black stars


wave upon wave
crows falling
like black stars.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Beckett poem

I had this meet, see,
with Sam Beckett's ghost,
I was trying very hard
to survive,
to make something work,
trying to be well.

The river sent telegraphs,
black things that fizzed at nightfall,
that sat outside

(They were going to kill me:
that was all pretty obvious.)

That turkey with no head
rode out across the clifftops
towards Dun Laoghaire,
but we paid him no attention.
All day we shuffled
on the Liffy bridges
looking keen,
grunting through our cans.
Nightfall we drifted
down the antique hoardings,
feeling the gut
welling in our barrels,
doing the tour -
the poets, the Provos,
Easter 1916, a gun cache
in a wardrobe...

me invisible to myself,
Sam a gaunt hawk
like some other
Max Ernst-birdhead-Loplop,
as though
to remind all people
of the violation of childhood,
make them look,
make them look away.

That tower out there
past the bay (a Joyce-dish
filled with foam)
collapsed into the sea,
and we both went running
after John stuck on the train
his face full of alarm
waving under the bridges.

I was trying to ask the right questions
very carefully and slowly,
see past it all, what it was really.
Trying to stand alone
in the dark
with my omens,
with my stuff.

No one got a light?
No one?
Fucking disaster
of a place.

radio rain

the chair, the skeleton
I'll be here
when the dawn blows nails
through the heads
of the pumpkins
I'll be here
when the radio rain
turns to grey sweeps
across the fields
I'll always be here
in this chair
no matter how
no matter