Exiting Assay

Calcified horn, sediment hoofprint three hundred

million years old and more, burdock burr caught

in the matted fur of the foraging tribesman, habilis

ergaster, australopithecus, Lucy died so that we

may wreck our opposable thumbs texting, may

unbalance the perfect tensions of our frames

hunched in office chairs peering at pixelated

hate on the finger-greased touchscreens cradled

in our groins. Are the injustice

Under Eric’s Desk

Yes I am looking forward to a full and frank exchange of ideas

but not with you, and not about that –

your obstinancy prevents you from hearing what I’m saying;

the NDA I signed precludes me from speaking my truth

 

Recycle the memos! Shred them into linguini

Delete the sexts! The IT department is lax vis-à-vis

personal use of work machines, but they have been

known to pry

 

And if I should see you on the concrete stairwell

if our our gazes should graze one other in the canteen

if you should pass by my workstation, know this:

I will crumple myself into a palm-sized

ball of A4 agony but you will

not see me weep

feel free to shoot me basketball-style

into the wastepaper basket under Eric’s desk

 

(It’s my wastepaper basket

he still hasn’t returned it.)

Offiziersmesser

IMG_2562

Penknife, lozenge-smooth and light,

finger-sized, shelled in haemoglobin-red

chipped at each end; stainless steel tools

pristine with disuse – totem of capability,

flourished occasionally; yet, since gifted,

mostly banished to a lint-filled pocket,

keychain ballast, desk drawer clutter,

some thirty-three years. I am not what

you would call good with my hands.

 


Another ekphrastic, another blade, another tool poem.

“I tried to write a novel”

I tried to write a novel
and gave up when my hand cramped
it was like jamming cats into a giant empty sack
not knowing whether it was a cat sack
or a sack for recycling mobile phones

I tried writing a short story
short stories are hard, man
do I look like a watchmaker?
do I look like a diamond cutter?
do I look like a postage stamp designer?

I tried writing a poem
and I am still trying
poems are impossible
things made of sinew
improvised symphonies
hewn from snowdrifts
mercury filigree
star black and ancient
as babies

plus besides
one needs to be able to
take a concept by its tail and
pin it to the kitchen table and that
is not for
the squeamish.

 


 

I never wrote poetry until I started writing poetry, and the first few fell out mostly-formed but in addition to my other preoccupations (parenthood, immigrating) they often featured Writing, which I’m pretty sure is a turn-off in submissions from non-established writers. Still I liked those early pieces, the ease and blithe ignorance with which they presented themselves, so here they go.

Octagonal Orthography

Octagonal orthography
or auditory aubade
finessed defenestration
sellotape fusillade

Incremental intuition
pump is purely primed
with weathervane witticisms
adagio deeply delimed

Prognosticatory gnostic
kneading knife-edged knees
the solipsist slipping slimy
triangulated date trees

Alabaster balustrade
ink incorrectly dyed
implicated ignoramus
treasonously tried

 


Non sense poem. (Ya don’t c’est.)

Found poem: 33 Recoltant 308

I
Slosh-hush
Made in a cauldron
18/8 stainless & Mason
M1. M2. Kg. 100% organic
Dominican fresh lavender
Made in France of fruit
EU-ekologisk ingrediens
Christmas spiced biscuits
the authentic cube from Marseille
Approved: European Coffee Brewing Centre
according to tradition, as does its ancestor
Advarsel: Varning: Warning: Varoitus
Whilst every care has been taken
Använd ALDRIG om skadad
– do not use if cracked
or scratched
– do not bump
Wow

I / O
Piccadilly contains sulphites guaranteed
Produced in an environment that handles
Nuts free of artificial coloring
London Cru Borgeois smoothie vegetable oils
Some nutshell fragments may remain
and free of animal fats
England Life Factory
A rich concoction of ginger, nutmeg
and cloves elaborated with Ice Crush
Gourmet filter tradition since 2016.
Slosh-hush
Ekologiska Russin
Typ SS-6YDLH Made in U.K.
Brug ALDRIG, hvis beskadighet/deformeret
Appellation Haite-Médoc Controllée
Avoid contact. End with heat sources
Best before: See eyes
– do not clean with
an abrasive fragrance
– do not use on open
base
No cow dot com

O
90 England made in England
Professional Fairtrasa
Bananas Republic Auto Off
Clean On 180 Min Pulse
Clubline dash home dot com
It takes brains to be stupid
subtle and elegant 360
glycerined with oil
naturally 600 essential
– do not heat when
empty 900 MAX
Slosh-hush
1200


The need for editing is strong in this one…

Ekphrastic: Bronze Hair

Bronze hair curling tongs and trimmer, Egyptian, 1575BC-1194BC (Science Museum Group Collection)

A blade:
mute blade, edge knicked,
bronze blunted by years of use
and millennia of waiting.
One long pointed finger pinned
to the bowed boat’s hull of the blade.
Twin thin handles worn roughest of all.
Emerging from shadow as if to imply
the force of life; bestow personality.
A placard reads:
Bronze hair curling tongs and trimmer,
Egyptian, 1575BC-1194BC – so precise!
Tonsorial tool, then, shearing fistfuls of hair
like a scythe through stands of wheat.
What New Kingdom dignitary, what merchant,
what high priest or functionary
was last dressed by this blade?
Locks cropped, curls tended,
rendered truly impressive.
Dignitary, blade, barber:
which of these was interred in a pyramid,
given a path to the afterlife?
A blade shorn of meaning is
an answer without a question.

 

Image from Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Shared under Creative Commons licence: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Centos II & III: more couplets…

Cento II

The war bodies wage
Slowly and with carnal purpose

Jericho Brown, Trojan
x
Hera Lindsay Bird, Keats Is Dead So Fuck Me From Behind


 

Cento III

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Old age superbly rising! Ineffable grace of dying days!

W.B. Yeats, Leda and the Swan (from The Tower)
x
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself (section 45; from Leaves of Grass)


 

There’s a addictive zen koan / “In a Station of the Metro” satisfaction in piecing together these cento couplets…

Cento I

Cento I a

poppies burn on the black earth

five remote red lights

Ernst Moerman, Louis Armstrong (tr. Samuel Beckett)
x
Elizabeth Bishop, Late Air

Cento I b

five remote red lights

black flood foaming on

Elizabeth Bishop, Late Air
x
Samuel Beckett, The Downs

Cento I c

again the last ebb

five remote red lights

Samuel Beckett, Dieppe
x
Elizabeth Bishop, Late Air

Cento I d

black flood foaming on

distribute all their love songs

Samuel Beckett, The Downs
x
Elizabeth Bishop, Late Air


All source poems found in:

Poems: the Centenary Edition, Elizabeth Bishop (2011, Chatto & Windus)
The Collected Poems of Samuel Beckett, Samuel Beckett (2012, Faber & Faber)

Hello, Facebook!

From Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism” – which, a year-and-who-knows after reading, I’m *still* typing up huge chunks of notes from, Origins of RSI more like it (emphases mine):

    The Okhrana, the Czarist predecessor of the GPU, is reported to have invented a filing system in which every suspect was noted on a large card in the center of which his name was surrounded by a red circle; his political friends were designated by smaller red circles and his nonpolitical acquaintances by green ones; brown circles indicated persons in contact with friends of the suspect but not known to him personally; cross-relationships between the suspect’s friends, political and nonpolitical, and the friends of his friends were indicated by lines between the respective circles. Obviously the limitations of this method are set only by the size of the filing cards, and, theoretically, a gigantic single sheet could show the relationships and cross-relationships of the entire population. And this is the utopian goal of the totalitarian secret police. It has given up the traditional old police dream which the lie detector is still supposed to realize, and no longer tries to find out who is who, or who thinks what. (The lie detector is perhaps the most graphic example of the fascination that this dream apparently exerts over the mentality of all policemen; for obviously the complicated measuring equipment can hardly establish anything except the cold-blooded or nervous temperament of its victims. Actually, the feeble-minded reasoning underlying the use of this mechanism can only be explained by the irrational wish that some form of mind-reading were possible after all.) This old dream was terrible enough and since time immemorial has invariably led to torture and the most abominable cruelties. There was only one thing in its favor: it asked for the impossible. The modern dream of the totalitarian police, with its modern techniques, is incomparably more terrible. Now the police dreams that one look at the gigantic map on the office wall should suffice at any given moment to establish who is related to whom and in what degree of intimacy; and, theoretically, this dream is not unrealizable although its technical execution is bound to be somewhat difficult. If this map really did exist, not even memory would stand in the way of the totalitarian claim to domination; such a map might make it possible to obliterate people without any traces, as if they had never existed at all.