A Personal Dog
for Vivek Narayanan
it isn't matter
isn't doesn't matter
does it compared
with what shan't
have known your
lines are all
lines of approach
this dog's eyelids
this delhi dog's
intentional eyelids, this
doorway dog, this
dog fellating beggars
delhi exuding matter
nictitation cannot extrude
America to england
the third nictitating
poetry is over
eyelid cannot eject
America to england
large foreign bodies
poetry is over
over and out
surgery rarely happens
over and ours
dogs aren't loved
over here, here!
sufficiently foreign bodies
remain requiring incision
mind yourself it
happened before you
as you go
you're nothing cold
sunshine practised apprehension... more »
FROM A BOOK OF HOURS: FROM AIDONEUS TO ZEUS
The dilemma of the people who are unaware that it is night. They have something to say to themselves: some kind of question.
The steps taken by the people who wish to begin to be aware that it is night.
Pyjamas: put them on and move about in them. That unaccustomed feeling of breath: the body has that, not tied in at the waist as it is during the day. The shoulders collapse with gratitude.
So: the feeling of relief: is that the reminder of night? No: self-forgetting, that is gradual; relief is no constant reminder of night.
You cannot go outside.
Think, then, of taking the lights off.
Toe nudges towards switch, the black plastic ridges of switch discreet on the floor, spade-shaped foot, barely calloused.
Still from the street the amber glow, a terrace of houses stuck together by the sounds of putting-away. The day is being put away.
Honey! Is that night?
It's not right.
The steps retraced by the people who put the lights back on because it is no use that it is night.
Think, then, of those places where there are no lights. No lights, nothing at all; and the sounds, they do not sound as if they can be put away, this is it, this night, territorial absolute, it is not the brief interval before day advancing.
No! They don't count. It's as if they exist in a time slip - those places; they're as good as -
The dilemma of the people who... more »
At night, you see, there seems to be one lit room. Who is at its exit, in the doorway, back turned? The soft rectangle of human frame widens. Who waits within the metal edging? In this state of nervousness, forearms go cold seconds before hands catch fire, excessive lotuses of flame. Would you - two dark torches loose at your sides - would you walk into the first of the long dark corridors in a building that consists more nearly of corridors than any that should ever have been designed? Each corridor runs like a spill of milk on a black tile reflected in a smoked glass ceiling clapped on the width of one layer of a hotel. These corridors are dark; you would feel them all like paleness? Though there were light I could not name their handcrafted nougat colours, gentler, intentionally washed-out. I walk in the dark, and you feel the walls' paleness? For we ourselves are luminous. Except we do not give off light.... more »
FROM BETWEEN: METAMORPHOSES FOR LIZ IRWIN
A palm tree sprung up just within the gate to the park. Nobody would remove it; the park was not due for refurbishment for another three and a half months. It was not the kind of palm tree that anyone would normally try to grow in England's climate, though it was not impossible that a palm tree of this variety could survive even the so-called severer winters in the ‘Home Counties'. However, it was growing abnormally fast for a palm tree of any variety in any climate. Having started off like the green ridged dorsal fin of an earth fish sticking up through the soil, it now presented a solid stump covered with a furze of thorns. The crown of the palm was several-fronded and not soft. It grew fast but was not equal to the head height of most of the adult local residents. The freak tree continued to look the same, but taller day by day.
A crowd of people near the church down the road was discussing whether the palm tree really was of the variety that the person who spent a lot of time abroad and sometimes gave lectures in the community hall had identified it as, and whether it should be removed or protected. Distilling palm liquor was not an option. It could not be tapped for gum - it did not seem like a source of aromatic resin. It had grown fast but borne no fruit. Its shade was less than a clock hand, dependent on the sometimeish English sun.
As I do not go to church and was only passing alongside the friendly group, I heard some of their discussion but cannot report what they concluded. "Why don't you write about that?" these friends called out, meaning the tree at the end of the road. But I did not want to write about it.
One day a strange bird roosted in it, but before anyone could decide whether the wild thing should be culled as a harbinger of disease, it had flown away, leaving one feather that somebody who was not local picked up, took away, and never mentioned or displayed. I think he had connections in the fire service.... more »
FROM PERSON ANIMAL FIGURE
The animal who has a leaf in its mouth is not to be comforted. It chews on the leaf to keep bitterness fuzzing its geranium tongue. It believes itself to be under siege from internal parasites. It chews the leaf, and chews the leaf, in no real hope of a cure. It chews, yet never gets further than the stem. Believing itself forlorn, it shuns embraces. It shines bright gold with misery. Forgiveness is beside the point; this animal seeks justice. It demonstrates extreme patience while remaining uncondemned by the world. It is willing to wait for condemnation. If told its faults, it stiffens its back and walks on, chewing. It knows itself beyond improvement, so will not hear of its faults. It tries to get it right. It is never enough. It behaves as if wedded to a leaf the shape of a centaur's arrow. Such an animal makes a very faithful companion for those not seeking a pet. The animal who has a leaf in its mouth will stretch itself and vomit over one's feet, thereby getting rid of the leaf while making its one sure demonstration of trust.... more »
'I Love You'
for Geraldine Monk
'I love you,' he wouldn't say: it was against his philosophy; I-love-you
didn't mean what it meant, plus the verray construction of the phrase
nications-devices damage; saying I-love-you damaged love, subject and
object; plus he could prove this in two dense and delphic languages
suitable for philosophy, opera, cursing, and racking the nerves of arti-
ficial intelligence machines that perhaps could love but would be
hard-wired giammai to dare say so. So what moved him to not-say
I-love-you? What wake-up-and-spoil-the-coffee ashtray-licking djinn? I
have to start to agree. The verbness of it impropriety (eyes glob up the
syringe when you're giving blood: semisolid spiralling): perhaps too
active... I-love-you, I sand you, I drill you, I honey and set you for wasps,
crimson you like a stolen toga, add value applying dye, fight owner-
ship, I cite you to justify skilled outrage, put your name as guarantor
on an astronomical mortgage, I admit desertification comes as a relief,
from I to O, O my oasis, O my mirage. Maybe the verb is a tending-to-
wards? A tightrope? A tropism? A station? But that's meeting him on
his own ground; plus I can't disprove entire languages; plus those
three little words aren't meant as saying. An icy drink in stormlight. A
looked-at leaf left to transpire its own way until... And sans I-love-you
the centuried moon rose above dinnermint stone; many men contin-
ued talking; a woman lifted her sarsenet skirt, peed on green lilies and,
utterly gracious, walked through the archway to join the mixed group
delighting in — word! believe it! — fresh air.... more »
Investigation of Past Shoes
INSIDE THE GATEWAY: 1970S RED CLOGS WITH SIDE BUCKLE
The forever shoe, which points homewards, belongs to my mother.
When our house was being built, she stepped onto the driveway while
the tarmac was still wet, still setting. Ever since that step, the driveway,
which slants upwards, bears an imprint of her 1971 footwear. Her foot-
print says, Climb! Come with me. Whoever steps into that impression
becomes, for a moment, the leggy wearer of a fire-red clog with a pirat-
ical silver buckle on the side.
OUTSIDE THE TEMPLE: GOLD AND SILVER SANDALS
The sandals which will make a female of me belong to many women.
The front of the temple entrance hides itself behind shoe-racks. Vis-
itors enter barefooted, leaving behind the dung, dried frogs, spilled
petrol and ketchup traces of the streets. Hundreds of pairs of gold
and silver sandals wait here for the women who will re-emerge from
the vigil with the taste of basil leaf and sugar in their deep-breathing
mouths and carpet fibres between their toes. The sandals, gold and
silver, seem all alike. How can the women tell them apart? They do tell
them apart. It is as if each pair sings an intimate mantra to its owner,
audible only to her. One day I too shall return to expectant slippers that
stack up like the moon and the stars outside a marble building; one
day I shall not have to wear child's shoes.
SUNDAY BEFORE SCHOOL: WHITE SNEAKERS
Seven years of these shoes are a chemical memory. The Convent ruled
that pupils' shoes must be white: absolutely white. Who can imagine
a 1980s shoe that was absolutely white, without any logo, with no
swoosh, not a single slogan? Sunday evenings, before the school week,
I crouched down on the pink bathroom tiles and painted my shoes
into the absolute of whiteness; like the Alice in Wonderland garden-
ers repainting roses. This task was performed with a toothbrush and
with special paste that annihilated so many design features. Purity was
attained by the application of a whitener that stank of scientific poly-
syllables. Convent-girl identity. Tabula rasa. Toxicity and intoxication:
with good intentions, getting high on paste.
BAD MARRIAGE SHOES: SILVER BALLET SLIPPERS
When I met my ex, I was already committed to heels: black ankle boots
with four-inch stacks for walking through snow; French cream curved
suede stilettos for scaling fire-escape ladders on to rooftops to admire
the winter sky; even after I left him, scarlet satin bedroom-only spiky
mules to amuse myself. Early on, my ex said that the way women walk
in heels looks ugly. And my nails made unnatural social appearances:
emerald lacquer; cobalt; incarnadine. Sign of a bad marriage: I began
to wear flats. The penitential mermaid shoes, worn once and once only,
were a Gabor creation: distressed silver ballet slippers with netted and
criss-cross side details which would make the material seem to swish
with the changes of light on feet that go walking. Cool as moonlight on
a tourist coastline. But the inner stitching hooked the softness of my
skin, which has always been too soft; but I could not turn back, for we
had tickets to an evening of Mozart; but the paper tissues that I stuffed
into my shoes failed to act as a protective lining. Paper tissue snow-
flecks teardropped with crimson blood created a trail behind me as I
ascended the many tiers of the wedding-cake concert hall.
BAREFOOT: PEARL PINK POLISH
Sitting next to someone can make my feet curl: shy, self-destructive
and oyster-like, they want to shuck their cases, to present themselves,
little undersea pinks; their skin still is too soft, their toes still too long,
their ankles still too slender, for a modern fit. But he is not modern; he
sits like stone, and my bare feet are cool, they will not have to bleed.... more »
Lattimo: milk twist, mist hint.
Venetians pearled minerals -
lead, lime, tin lime - thicked
clear glass to quasi-Chinese
porcelain for simple painting,
birds & flowers. Fingers twirl
composite stems whose colour
twist rock-candies, snake-ladders
precious yellow, less-rare green,
birdclaw red, while blue, longed-for,
yearns like a certainty
expressed by convolution
but inwardly a wynd of truth.
Contemplate, for a moment
(l'attimo), how just as when
incalmo joins bubbles blown
separately - two, while hot,
made one - each listed item
here desires liquid, lips;
lights prunted below looped eyes.... more »
TIC TAC TOE
Dún Laoghaire pier: two men, as dark as I am, each playing an accordion, next to each other, brotherly, calling hello to the dogs that, preferring squeezebox conversation to the pursuit of seagulls, bark back.
The benches are painted sky blue, the sky manifestly pearl-grey, the lichens as orange as lifebuoys, the lifebuoys bobbing like blood oranges, the locks do not weep nor bleed rust, the rust looks as natural as metal, if James Joyce's snot was as green as this harbour he must have been snorting powdered kelp and copper, the oxygen makes me asleep, the phone calls out like a clock, and when I arrive inside the Lexicon the studio's shut and the poets beginning.
The question at home is how many lambs this early; which is not my home, nor my question; and like an unlikely birth I poodle along on welcome, uncertain feet.
OOX... more »
It was necessary to move, and at this exit
the beggar, cross-legged at the fork of the tunnel,
calls out Love! A welcome, of sorts.
The night light fucks the suburb
into nightmare familiarity —
not like a shrammed nerd touting
guided walks and histories that contract
imagination for demolition work,
levelling today's housing,
restoring common greens,
lingering at sites orphaned of their fever
hospitals — by no means that hyperliterate,
poor entrepreneur —
It is the view, the barbed wire roaring into view
round and round the playground walltop.
It is the warehouse, warehouse windows blank of occupation.
It is lives, lives supplied in great number,
fulfilment of numbers.
It is the sense of something shared —
the tailor scissors razoring open
fishmouth stitches, the sewn-up pocket
of the new suit,
and finding something —
But it is new, all new,
even the gangs who graffiti chimneys
scrubbed and lovely, deleted
like the railways delete
the head, the occasionally payrolled head,
of the quartered commuters, of the vertebral week.... more »