Haiku #768 – #769

768.

I’m selecting cards
In a brand old patience game
No one else here plays.

769.

Backlog blockage tsar,
Latest government recruit.
Bizarrest title.

8-8-8

In the UK,
On average
Every three days,
A woman is murdered
By a man, and
More often than not
Someone she knows
Very well,
But also often
Not as she fell.

Our most
Blessed
Governmental
First
Response
As two more women
Died here this week,
That same way, on
This sceptred isle,
This floating exile,
Is to suggest
A fucking tech solution,
(No surprise when
The cabinet are in bed
With a silicon press)
An app, a number,
Because, of course,
Apps are now salvation.
It’s suggested
This bleak service
Could be named 888,
The numbers you strive for,
You reach for,
You fail to press
As another man attempts
To assault and degrade
And humiliate
One more woman
Again.

I expect it was one more
Male bureaucratic
Whitehall flannelist
Who unimaginatively
Dreamed of channeling this,
Missing nuances
Of the online casino
Entitled this same way,
Their peacock libidos
Obfuscated, getting
In the way.
This system is stuck –
Our chances of survival
Are synonymous with
Gambling, and luck.

Call the number,
Roll the dice,
And if you’re challenged
By fakeries of officers
Or mockeries of ministries
Do not think twice
To run from suffrage
And into your life.

House Of Ghosts

A road through rose-coloured mountains,
Arisen in moments less smoky, more bright,
Silently stole my bestowment,
Softer a focus in light.

All those times I solemnly demurred
To where this heart by evening burned,
In this heart my beating chest,
In these ribs now laid to rest.

All endless routes impassable,
Assembled stars loom darkly
Stern statues in a hallowed sky;
Beyond countless thorny doors

A final chance before losses advance
To yearn, though little is learned,
Which explains to you why
For those mournful mountains
I endeavour again to return.

Autumnal Gourd

Autumn, season of your leaving;
Still, these cool crisp mornings
Are relieving and on this day
Unremitting, interceding,
Somewhat less deceiving
Than callow Spring
Or clammy Summer,
Winter being the other season
Of your departing, laid bare,
Apart from occasional snows
To cover distances between
Stark rationales and reasoning
Of these unclothed,
Exhausted lovers,
These seasons, back and forth,
Timeless time, remote
And lacking touch
Or fortuitousness
In any form.

Season of kindling and sparklers,
Of uprisings and people living dead –
I passed one or two in aisle number 9
At my local supermarket as I
Balanced newly arrived varieties
In my basket, of pears
And apples and parsnips;
Butternut, and quince for squash,
And broccoli for a soup;
I search for gourds from abroad
Where vegetables grow
More fleshily, abundantly as
Only a more tolerant
Populous deserves.
On my walk home,
Drenched to the bone
Because I rarely check weather forecasts
For I do not see the point and also
Drenched because I have
An ongoing dispute with umbrellas
(Which is likely to run forever),
I realised that I am
Routinely grieving for
A one-off surface-zero event
Eternalised in pumpkin-coloured ice
And the life of a gingerbread house –
Eat a piece and the walls fall down,
Its roof collapses as though
Stationed just beneath
A recurring, inevitable landslide;
Yellowing leaves drift down
Dumbfoundedly, yet I am
Constantly striving
In battles baked underneath
A sharp Yukon permafrost;
And so each season loses
Or, like feathers, moults
Something of their meaning;
Time becomes,
Instead of a
Celebration as inherently
She should be,
During these feelings
And through exposures
Undergo retrogressions,
Becomes a chore,
A dull surprise,
Like receiving a letter
By post in a brown
Envelope, plastic window,
Probably a bill,
Edges slightly damp,
Or akin, perhaps, to
A toothache.

Nevertheless,
Even a mild tooth complaint
Tells me I survived.

Yet I cannot help but think that
It was not so much that I chose life,
No, but rather life chose me,
And when you left
And I was bereft,
What else was there to see?

10/10

I was at university in London when the first attack took place, although I have not ever studied at university in London. It wasn’t a terrorist attack, but something even worse. It was October 10th. 10/10, when the war commenced.
I go between London and New York. I don’t mean travelling, as if I am between offices in those two cities, but rather I can walk around a corner in White City or Shepherd’s Bush and find myself in Manhattan or Lenox Hill.
The first attack hits New York but it blacks out London at the same time. We are in a university building, a small crowd of bewildered students, lights go out and the mobile network goes down. There is confusion but also some resolve which is both innocent and youthful but also borne from already being world-weary.
I find myself in a white van with black innards, sat with a few of my peers, a handful of us, being driven in the dark through London streets stripped of any sense of their usual hums and buzz. I recalled we went to see a lake, earlier in the day, before this all happened – a large escarpment on the west side – and on the lake itself there were pedalos and, bizarrely, three of four hovercraft. I remember thinking who would want to go on the pedalos when the surface is being so disturbed by the much larger, aggressively-driven vehicles. Perhaps this was a sign I did not see.
We turned a corner, and now I am in New York. I live with you on a residential street, a town house with three or four storeys, on a street where all the other houses have been converted in the past into apartments. White furniture, wooden floors. People in positions of some authority are knocking on doors, asking if there is room to take in people made homeless by the attacks. I look around and there are about twelve adults already in our house, but I say that I can take another ten, no more. So that’s what happens. People are sleeping on floors, and I am talking with several of the more resilient types. There is nobody who is really old, most people seem to be in their thirties, I’d say, and of various ethnicities. I seem to have a role, a pull, a centre of gravity, though I do not know why or what it is. I look out of the window again. There are people carrying guns for protection. One of the men who was in my house is now riding on the back of a blue bin lorry, with a radio and mic and words of protest as the lorry moves off down the street.
It felt important to ensure that the front door was locked. I wasn’t sure about the back entrance – I recollect there was a gate and a small garden or yard, and then the back door. Standing in the kitchen, I thought to myself that my children would have liked this house.
We have to go upstairs but the stairs are broken. An older man with tattoos on both hands points to a contraption from which two series of steps emerge. He holds these ladders in place, which is how I notice his tattoos. For some reason there is now a bare bald razor in my hand, the type found in manual shaving razors but without the plastic grip and case. It is in three parts. It is important, that I have to carry this in my hand without dropping it and without cutting myself while I climb up the stairs. The steps are quite flimsy and it feels perilous, but I make it to where the original house stairs return in a usable condition, and I am relieved. Other people on that staircase had encouraged me.
I cannot smell or taste in my dreams, I can only touch, see, and hear. I now know this is also reflected in how I write.
I am outside on a wide boulevard on the edge of the city, somewhere near the river. There are a number of men taking the opportunity to peddle drugs. I thought to myself that their ink will run out soon, because of shortages, but I did not know what this meant. The men engendered a feeling of some fear in me, and we stuck together in a group. Later, I called my mother, who was on her own back in the UK, though she is not on her own. I remembered pressing the point that the connection was poor and that the call might come to an abrupt end. My mother was worried and did not understand what was happening. I also called my wife, although I am not married. Unsurprisingly, she scolded me for various reasons. I reassured her about the key in the door, and that also we should both be OK for money because of the government’s furlough scheme for public service employees. I could tell that her parents were with her in New York, too, although I never set eyes on them again.
From my lounge, filled with people I did not know, some of whom slept, all of whom worried about food and meals and supplies, I tried to text a contact who did have some answers, we thought, but the last three numbers were wrong, and the message was not sent. A meal is made from a group of foods, sometimes using a list called a recipe, and sometimes not.
On a street between offices and shops, police cars are responding urgently to nothing in particular, at least nothing the police can solve.
An angry, haptic, naphtha sky is over the upper city, and there are buildings burning in the distance.

You had to go to Swansea by train. I often dream of stations and tickets. You had kissed me on a dark misty golf course. Your hair is longer. Your mother had set your name in your phone to Scooch.

I woke in a sweat. I wondered what the ancients, the Greeks and the Romans and the Europeans and Chinese and Indians along the Silk Road would have made of it all, knowing what we now know, and having contributed to the source, the beginnings of it all, without a care in the world for the ending.

Flavit Et Dissipati Sunt

Is this the device
To restore me to life?
Aside from Time.

Aboard a forecastle,
Transshipping north,
I had for a while complained

On a dead-dream’s galeón
About that empty butter-dish
As a reflection of maritime

Indiscretion and, yes, indiscipline,
When, mizzenmast by mist absorbed,
I observed the strangest

And yet also greatest tactic
For navigating by enemy ships
My mind might ever deploy –

Such naval mastery,
Having praised the artistry
And admired the torsional

Balance of Riggers
With hands as thick
As a goatskin canteen

I recalled as a boy,
Crafted by one zahatogile
Who lived in the hills

Between beautiful old Bilbao
And her sister-ville, Vitoria-Gasteiz,
With the vigour

Of rumours
In human form,
I watched those sailors

See their majestic
Eponymous flaxen cloths
Unfurl like those enormous flags

High above God’s citadel –
I could only marvel, open-mouthed;
My porcelain soup-ladle fell

To the floor with a clunk
Of patterned petuntse on oak,
Oak above ocean

And bitumen stores, and bunks.
I witnessed that pernicious
Enemy approaching,

Those hawkish sea-dogs set
To embed their yellow jaws
Into Iberian hulls,

When with miraculous invention
And a surreptitious detection
The whole, entire ship,

From fore and aft
Ballast and derrick and all
Submerged slowly, deliberately,

Its seaborne form
Into much murkier waters
Until even our crow’s nest

(Which I once sat within
With telescopic lens to check
And did detest that

Vertiginous platform)
Disappeared from sight,
And the royal mast’s tip

With every man and boy
From Powder Monkeys
To a Quartermaster himself,

Sunk and sunk and sunk
Somehow, yes, sunk,
Under the surface

Our seven hundred men
Descended, by what artifice,
By what new science

I had simply no idea.
Time slowed down,
Saturated pumps immersed,

Until the advancing party passed –
Kittiwake-facing adversary –
And our loneliness checked,

Our gallant vessel
Rose triumphantly,
Independently from nature,

No fish in a tricorne,
No whelks in our breath,
All the saltwater pouring

Away from our death,
We sailed on, yes,
Impervious

To our future defeat
And descent, until
The English said

Flavit et Dissipati Sunt,
Our angels translate as
Repent, Repent, Repent.

Sometimes I Fail

You will move too, eventually,
To leave me alone with my grief.

Sometimes attempting to wash
Bruises away, I do succeed

With those internalised,
And sometimes too, I fail.

Ahead of me, as I thought
About you and patterns of

Dazzling sunlight, two
Overweight dog-walkers

Ambling and unaware
That their dogs had died

Some years ago, well,
As I overtook, in a hurry,

The nearest woman
Raised a flat hand

To just about underneath
Her chin, signifying

Silently that I am to remain afloat
With her only silent gesture.

Arriving home, I called my son –
The missing one sat opposite.

You said one word, repeatedly,
But the line was not so clear

And I failed to hear
What you needed the most.