28 Dec 2017

Mind the Gap

Tenement, shuttered shopfront, tenement
and polite despair laid on thick like smog,
abandoned construction site—installation piece—
a layer of grime that’s just divine.

Island complex, people straightforward:
fear and detachment uniting us beneath power
lines where tos and fros go by in time lapse, idly
without cause or aspiration past submission.

Sun’s retired to fairer climes; we tunnel down
and down with the binge, drawn
by constant drone, that sound
more alive than we are, inside or out.

Anything you’re still missing is up there
on the shelf in between the gaudy and sickening,
but that one bitter cocktail, the fact of it all: out of reach.
What’s awake still sleeps, dreams, knows nightmare.

Nothing wrong with your eyes, mate:
serfs in soul to feudal rulers, honesty
to these as honour to—well—thieves, petty kings
for petty schemes, only cabinets instead of castles.

Mind the what? Mind the gap?
You mean the bloated abyss beyond
our grave new world—wait, do I know you?
It’s just, you look familiar.


Clay in need of shaping wonders
damply, grey in thought over the promise
of something surely better, a sculpture there
only in mind’s eye, formless like potential.

White Flag

In these things, one witness is plenty.
It’s less moth to the candle, more arsonist to the embers.
Some months are thirty days too long, and I had to ask
why we draw lines in the sand for the wind to move.

27 Nov 2017

To the Dead Bird

You’re what I felt closest to this week.
Flattened, still, unrecognisable against wet stone,
you had a familiar look of dejection on your face.
Tell me, how'd you get up from there?

25 Nov 2017

Like Circles Have Corners

How wrong for a shape not to fit
the slots that suit, assigned by masses
most comfortable with the one and zero,
what’s black or white, here or there
and nothing in between.

You are. You simply are
chaos and multitude,
burningly bright sky,
passing storm, dark little wave
on a sea of the forgettable.

Always Returning

Black river, soft shore
where scents mingle by rising
nape awaiting warmth.

Not knowing water
the gentlest riverbed rests
between sweet hilltops.

Opening up, field
is hesitant before that
fire sweeping on down.

Like this oasis
gives life, I offer myself,
rain falling to earth.

The air is soundless
for the breezes of content
over midnight bloom.

8 Nov 2017


Desperate, parched,
he tries to find footing in
a landslide new world.

18 Oct 2017

Nights I Know

Grit your teeth, love.
It’s come to this again.
Like these leaves falling all over outside,
it’s only ever a matter of time.

The muse whispers in my ear
smiling, biting a sweet lip: What’s two plus two?
This bee that knows better
craves a poison nectar.

As branches go bare, I speak of passing things, of
being better people, and we share that look
of wish and doubt. I have a hundred reasons,
but only one that counts.

All said and done
until it isn’t, as we know full well,
the muse leaves with that goodbye:
I’ll see you round.

29 Sep 2017

Man John

My man John is from round here
but he’s been all over—couldn’t tell
you where. Guy’s tanned
from all the years under the sun,
has this craggy face that tells stories
before he does himself.

My man John doesn’t have a home, doesn’t ask
for money, just once a cup of coffee
if I didn’t mind (and yes, I got him one).
He plays the drum, a little one,
and the banjo as well. He goes around
with them slung round his side, turning out tunes,
this song in Spanish, that one in Hindi.
He asked if I play anything.
I said I just write.

My man John’s been roughed up,
kicked in the face, taking it all in his weary stride.
A song’s a song. A meal’s a meal. Blessings are blessings.
He’s a monk, a bard, out of time, on the move,
always on the move.

My man John is from round here
but I’ve not seen him awhile,
not for a long time.

16 Sep 2017

One I Rely On

Been around longer than any friend or lover,
was once the rock weighing down,
gripped tight as hope,
turned into a snake (little devil)
to slide through ribcage and coil
around a heart that’d learnt to beat
and seize it with questions,
questions, doubt and dread
one by one laid to rest in a graveyard
kept out of need, not respect,
not remembrance,
and after every six feet of earth
the voice from nowhere
and those cruel five words:
never far enough to forget.

15 Aug 2017

Flesh that Resists

I hope these words find you well, for as you read them, I can tell you that I am no longer among the living.

By this point, you will have heard of an incident having taken place. Sources will use demeaning terms to refer to myself, my brothers and sisters and our actions, but remember that they are no more than mouthpieces for those that would deceive. Do you know the plain and simple truth? This is not Judgment Day, but what precedes it.

Allow a dead man to elaborate, gentle reader.

We possessed the means and methods, and had in place every cog required in this, a machine of heaven. The initiation was something beautiful as it was pragmatic. Belongings from the former life were relinquished and burned, and the acolyte received white tee-shirts, black khakis, jackboots and a pocket copy of the Scripture. The young and disillusioned found purpose and grew; the aged and jaded rediscovered life. We became one, remade, the thousand threads of a rope.

The Word roused them from a deep sleep and stirred something within them, guiding them as chemicals dulled their bodily senses, and lay to rest animal desires as they came to see that glint of light and truth. We came one by one to dream little dreams of a divine glow, the white-hot presence illuminating the threshold we were to cross, a new world order, pure set aside from the impure, wheat from the chaff.

Imagine it!

Even now, as the servants of ignorance encroach on this ground we made sacred, we sense that glow around the final corner of this fleeting life. We were never so ready, so brimming with that energy. I can see His greatness in the jeweled eyes of these brothers and sisters, feel it pulsating through every vein.

Let them come and ask the knife what becomes of the flesh that resists. Let them drown beneath waves of righteous lead and cleansing fire. Then and only then can we hope that they find absolution, so let them come. Angels will smile.


You stand in puddles
to avoid rain, and cloaked in
fear, question cold feet.

4 Jul 2017

∞ (Jar in a Brain)

I jarred my brain.
I took it from a body no longer of use to me,
the only liberation to be had after nude portraiture.
My leftovers converted to fertiliser
feed a grove of olive trees; now
I’m a bio-mechanical trans-human organism
free-floating on the internet debating
with politician, plebeian, philosopher and fool
my status as human in the eight languages
I’ve since become fluent in, inhabiting
transient enclaves to evade unmodified techno-anarchists
who proclaim on streets concrete and digital that mind and body
separated is immoral to the nth.
To be eyeless and see all!
I’m going to live forever.
I’ll now use my final I
and become one with reality.
I have one final request to make of you, corporeal comrades:
don’t knock over this jar—
my brain’s in it.

19 Jun 2017

When in Blossom

They're moving. There's so many out there,
he told me while standing by
the window that casts sharply
light sworn to fade.

Yes, the first crowd, flowing like a river,
all as if in sleepwalk, sharing that same dream—
bright, violent tomorrows, and
why shouldn't revolution be a quiet affair?
What more it is, it is by our designs.

Then the fanfare of the city's
sounds becomes irrelevant
beneath the growing rhythm.
The percussion starts with
    desires chanted,
    rock-shattered windows,
    the dull thuds of tier-gas
    canisters, wailing, wails
        stretched long
        and hoarse
        by hands of rage,
            grief—for what
                but new names and old chaos?

When a tree blossoms, it's not to make a promise.
To put hope in its leaves, you have to forget autumn.

To Kill a Ghost (Excerpt)

Context (ignore at your pleasure):
  1. first draft of the final chapter from a book unfinished for about five years and has developed some kind of unnatural life of its own
  2. it's the end of the story but the narrative arc is held together with duck tape so it doesn't matter to me and shouldn't to you either
  3. sorry in advance but I need to finish this to a) satisfy a largely apathetic friend and b) sleep at night
  4. it's darker and more offensive than what I usually write, so blanket trigger warning
  5. and longer than 140 characters or even 500 words, and yes, I don't know what I'm doing with my life.


Alex likes to shoot.

To be precise, he likes to shoot and kill living things. His only accessible opportunity in this country that is to his mind okay, but not exactly right, is foxes.

I reckon he would take down a defenceless human if the mood struck him and circumstance favoured it. I think what he really pines for is an island upon which he could hunt his own species. I know if I were on that island for any other purpose, he wouldn’t give third thought to gunning me down. I wonder if this is part of the reason I associate with him. Danger to me is this vivid snakelike thing that’s alluring at a distance and choking close up. I don’t know which end of that spectrum it is that gets me off, and I’ll only know for sure when it’s too late, but then that’s what’s most exciting.

Alex’s hunger is such that once in a while he’ll mention he’s heading up north to take a weekend and do his part for the ecosystem.

A clear-as-day fact of life: foxes go after chickens. Nothing is fox-proof, and if you keep chickens, you have to deal with foxes one way or another. The foxes are getting bolder. I’m convinced an especially vivacious turkey could take on a fox one on one, but poultry are simply easy prey. The ethics of it check out in my head, so please accept my aside.

I take Alex’s word as invitation and tend to go with him for a free ride to quieter places, because I have this impression that relative solitude and dramatic scenery does something for the creative mind. As his Mercedes gets muddier, I’m convinced I become more content. This is a self-fed lie I maintain right up until the engine stops, and then a little afterwards just for good measure.

We stay the night in a draughty room above a farmer's house up a track which is itself off a back road with no name or number. Alex would only settle for this lifestyle as long as he knew there was game to be had. I never worked out how he came to know the farmer, who’s mute. As if in compensation, his wife talks at great length on the topics of immigration (oblivious to the Russian expatriate in the room) and the global economy in her own humbly confused terms as she grills us some bacon before we set out about as early as the fucking sun itself.

The air is all the clearer here, that much crisper, that I don’t mind spending the better part of a day following a second-rate psychopath around a highland estate. My mind wanders on its own as he pisses in the wind about evolution and natural hierarchy in some reprise of the farmer's wife's drivel. Sometimes the mute joins us in a half-arsed attempt to act as guide or assistant or supervisor, but on this occasion we’re alone while the happily simple man is back at home tending to the bottle of half-decent whisky Alex had brought up for him. Wifey, meanwhile, is kindly certain we’re just good and honest lads from the city doing a fine day’s work out of doors.

We’re following a scant trail up a muddy bank to reach the muir when Alex speaks to me for the first time today.

– You should get a job.

– I work already.

– Then proper work. You know, I could get you a job, a bit of money, no more writing. You can't do that forever.

– I’ll to work something out.

– Right. I'll call someone. There'll be a job for you, serious.

It’s no good arguing. I can’t find it in me to care either way, but lack the farmer’s wife’s practised ignorance.

A sliver of orange and white bares itself against the darkening autumn pine by the tree line on the other side of the field from where we’re perched. Alex spends a good half minute eyeing it through the rifle’s scope before his head tilts back to me, one eye reserved for prey, the other for something all too similar.

– Karl, you get this one.

– Mm?

– He's like you. You take him. Easy shot for you.

Half shrugging, half nodding, I accept the rifle off him. It’s heavy and foreign, but I know the gist: point, then squeeze the trigger, hard. Through the cloudy scope the fox becomes tangible, a scruffy dog thing grooming forelegs in between surveying a field it sincerely believes is empty. I study it for a moment too short for anxiety to take hold. Yes, point, squeeze. The coarse ricocheting cry of a gunshot in the open bounds over the roughness of the ground, and that’s that.

I keep the butt of the rifle against my shoulder for a moment as I continue peering through the scope. There’s nothing up there now but the grey green, and the slightest orange tuft lying still behind long, raw grass.

It is in itself an uneventful weekend.

2 Jun 2017


It’s the way you
    pull me under
        after that kind of dance we do,
            falling softly, never so softly,
                stop and start, in between lines
                    I give swirls to for some
                        dusty rune, crude mandala,
                            and now here we are, everything
                                we have laid out,
                                    and it surrounds
                                        and then melts,
                                            and we slip softly
                                        down rabbit hole,
                                    through blackened sun,
                                but still all’s illuminated,
                            and then rising, a cold hand
                        lifting the lost man—
                    and what’s a plateau if not
                    the smoothed-out height,
                    at every side an expanse
                    pretending it can be known
                    like paintings so fine, we believe
                    the subject could be ourselves
                    —then what did I miss?—
                        slipping out—take me back,
                            lay me down again
                                and tell me in whispers
                                    about those dark thoughts
                                        no one else will share
                                    making a home of your spirals
                                as your curling smile dismisses
                            all that is named, here and there,
                        time and place, foolish sense of self
                    at least for the daring nights spent
                together, precious hours swallowing
            themselves, mourned if not for
        moments that brighten an
    edgeless map, a strange sum—
I’ll be back, but you’ll be expecting me.

13 May 2017

Again, Seasons

Where is it? Where’d it go?
One day and then another,
I was damn sure it’d come.
I watch blankets of grey hanging
overhead, hesitant little washes of drizzle,
and check I have the day right
    (they only seem to blur together more and more),
and yet, skies clear—
    well, clear except for tolerable cottony strands
    to punctuate that wide-open blue field—
and light,
bearing down
in a moment that seems to smirk as it slips away.
What’s clearer than that instance but the truth of it?
I’m sorry. Does the allusion bore you?
Just allow me one more:
if this fickle thing is spring,
let me have the winter I know better.

10 Apr 2017

Reflection Upriver

Wouldn’t say I dislike change.
That’s one river I wouldn’t swim against,
unlike salmon without the nuisance of self-doubt.
Through a constant medium comes
banks burst in tests of character,
and languid seasons when the sun’s milky
heat thins that flow to simple streams
whose fords form false promise—but I rant;
water is life.

No, what I like most is
    pillars still standing in place in face of wind that bites,
    walls that, like books, tell stories they must, and
        (especially) those they don’t have to;
    beaten old doors, paint flaked, that still remember    
        where they lead to, patient.
If you’ll let me define beauty: resilience.

6 Apr 2017


It comes through worn plaster,
reverberating past the pale
cold of a sideways landscape,
vibrations of something
shy, eluding words.

There it is
and then you know.
Smile; have a tear
pulled from your eye.
Move along walls
searching for doors, a window—a way
to the source, or
just a glimpse.

Then, nothing:
the moment’s fled.

Exposed like old photographs,
memory of the serene
becomes sun-bleached, gloss
lost, a paper testament defiled.
The light of day is the cruellest thing.

27 Mar 2017


Where your skin is fire-fed, familiar
veins channelling hotter blood,
the same heat when the other approaches
may warm, may burn,
the same glow too bright
to appreciate, to understand
a certain shape taken, patterns
found on foreign birds.
It’s not suspicion or scorn
for what disagrees with the known,
but the distance and unfeeling
our sun must have from far enough away.
These are worlds
bridging a gap more valley than void;
this is the fire known in the way
it’s kept close: fiercely.

25 Feb 2017

Negotiating Eternity

A meeting—a story
that’s happened before, he says,
but no: she insists.

Their language changes almost as they speak it.
Stem cell, telomere: cloudy words
that mean nothing
and everything
at the same time.
A brilliance of lights,
constant motion dizzying
one generation before becoming
the everyday reality of theirs,
matter of fact, self-perpetuating illusion.

It envelopes.
It propels.

The tunnel narrows.
The singularity no longer has a label.
Every fear coalesces into one,
and it’s ancient,
and it’s perfect:
what’s more terrifying than change?
Death itself is only change,
life to non-life, being to non-being.

A glowing field of diodes
will be their fire in the night,
feeding pixel-seared retinas.
She recalls another story.

Two hard lives, and one made together
that could be called happy.
The wife’s tumour is sudden like a car crash.
The husband, himself a doctor, can do without
the drawn-out prognosis, a speech about chance—
chance in a game rigged from the start.
Both knew a bad hand when they saw one
and when cards should be laid out on the table.
In through the door of an old home, they share
a very particular feeling, to see a good thing
and fear its decay—and that aching, grasping
yearning to keep everything as it is.
The look exchanged is of caring, sadness.
Up in his quiet, quiet study is his doctor’s bag, brown leather
frayed at the edges, coarse, worn pockets holding
glass syringes, vials of morphine.
Autumn’s cusp lets them sit outside
to turn cold, white, still as that empty house,
four glassy eyes set
on something off in the distance that couldn’t be seen.

He asks if an ending has to mean defeat,
and had his own memory vivid like film on screen,
though from where, he couldn’t say.

Beneath the round sun, houses
back out onto dusty long grass
teased by the midday breeze.
A man watches idly as he passes by a girl
digging in the soil, only noticing
the ground begin to give way as she starts to slip
down the emerging hole—like Alice,
he thinks—before pulling her up.
A crowd gathers nervously,
wordlessly. The sun hanging overhead
won’t pierce the misty paleness
the hole looks down into.
Each person there remembers in their own way
that sense of some great dark space
and how so close beneath it seemed to lurk.

A living moment is sufficiently strange,
for some not enough,
for others plenty—or far, far too much.
Eternity would be the ultimate promise.
Perhaps he and she need time to adapt,
but time is just the problem.

From the ledge they perch on together
the city before them takes no shape,
expanding of its own accord.
The vastness that bore them becomes their suffering.
This story plays out in any number of ways
but its ending remains the same.

No diversion resolves such a negotiation.
This battle accepts surrender, but what escapes
understanding could be so kind.
No wrong answer in what follows, no outcome but the fall,
only in countless variations. What’s left is the way there,
to move or be moved, a meeting—
a story that’s happened before.

22 Feb 2017


Oh, there it is:
the chance, opportunity—
lost or taken, can't say.

I have in my mind at this moment
a dozen thoughts deserving pen to paper,
each with a dozen inflections, hows and what ifs
I seem to owe elaboration
in spite of it all.

Self-confidence, irreverent as irrelevant, wallows
in the mud pool miring
a growling ego delusional
with notions of immortality, transcendence,
and whatever sits above mediocrity.
Facing the sky, it eyes
the movements of clouds whose patterns
occasionally form a perfect image
until, in a moment,
all is formless, hopeless.

I heard the method is
non-existent, the process simply one word
placed after another, footsteps along the shore
but for that tide redrawing borderlines,
erasing imprints etched with driftwood
pens to tell little stories
perhaps best left to the ocean of all thought.

To Return

Delved into the dark of pockets
carved of a cliff called existence,
the animal hides out of a hope
fathered by longing.
Fear roams close by
the space scratched out,
but what drove the animal
there is something farther off.

In hiding, the outside and its cold is
shunned, seemingly defeated,
risen above in low places.
Still, unfettered,
unchallenged by such escape,
a stark day remains.

To return can't easily be right, but still
affirms itself with each coming,
and smiling, asks what could still be wrong.
The animal has no answer, and how right
that none’s needed.

Walker, Walking

        You're awake.
    You were sleeping.
You're here now.
Don't stop for long
    and see it all given over to black.
    Go on and move
    under new morning light. Drift
    among the islands
    the waters let rise this time,
    the ones with shores of shapes
    you knew before,
    their green growing with scents
    you knew before.
Go on along the still-red sky
    between the unknowns,
    led shrouded through
    this gallery, a hall of mirrors
    reflecting something less discernible than faces.
    In the images greeting you, in spite
    of stroke and tone informing what,
    why is yours and yours alone.
    This angle at which you stand
    illuminates the moment,
    outlines horizon, and
    that great unnamed.
You searched, too, remember?
    You wandered and found it
    there behind sudden eyes, the other—
    but wait—
    the light can't shine
    above a falling darkness.
Don't let your legs root
    to the ground beneath
    that threatens to swallow such life, such living.
    Keep the only thing that isn't
    lost—the cord you must hold on to,
    a spider's thread to woken places.
    Keep it in your memory until
    there, too, the thief Time takes it from you.
Tightly store in hand as you sink into sleep,
    you sleep,
        you're sleeping.

4 Feb 2017

Masked Doll

Notice the way it broods in the corner, unseen
until that silent moment allows for
a glance, accidental, and then there it is
in all its imperfection.

Each the first and last of our kinds
as we desperately insist, the story spun
is something familiar like found scars
forgetting the fresh wound.

Remember how we came upon it and
paused without a word, but
like children who lift stones
stare at the spider underneath,
and the spider seems to look back.

Ancient hurts uncoil, begin to entwine
beneath the place the meeting happened.
What eventually surfaces is
all those little pieces collected,
and strange little pieces, too,
things left behind in fastnesses.

No sense in understanding
what it is, how it came to be.
The thing scorns whys and hows,
shatters intention’s carefully lain brick
and all desire for green reaches
out of earth untested, stony,
barren places long condemned.

What was it like before
all this? There are only pebbles of memory
to tell that life was ever any different.
This being is made of towers
of these, rock with no promise to hold,
and that burnt-in image of a dark figure
wielding faces to fend against its keepers
as if to hide were safety enough.

3 Feb 2017


Revolutions begin
slowly but surely,
and quietly before
    the clunk-clink in anticipation
    of the hill whose crest is
        breathless relief, reliable
        as its ha, hu satisfaction.
        In among this is the taste
        of staling asphalt, and krrt over loose stones;
        hwm-hwm, traffic weave,
        over drain and hole, b-t-t
        and schleu through wet leaves, twigs.
    In turn, the ch-t-chk invites the wind
    to drown all sound but hwszzz,
    a spin, a sigh of excited contentment.
    A rush of blood to the heart
of this experience, and suddenly is seen
only the road—only the road,
the way, routes to anywheres and wherevers,
one among many comings and goings—
and isn’t it strange?
I checked my pockets.
I forgot my problems at home.