Algorithm

Life is precarious.

If you made it this far
To read of me marred,

You are likely a star,
One in a billion.

Alaska

A kettle appeared in my hand
From nowhere,
And the entire land
Became orange and broken.
I remember you,
Spearer of white salmon,
Your heretical parents –
Those academic navel gazers –
Abandoned you to delusions
And a gnawing consumption.
No wonder you moved to Alaska,
This spoke nothing of you,
Glued to the hues
Of forest and tundra,
Of numberless lumbering
Grizzlies, lunar phases
Unencumbered behind secret
Nictitating eyelids,
And everything of them,
His head between a women’s legs
And hers wedged into an oven.
Sometimes, sub-arctic skies
Seemed so vast, so all-consuming,
Your bruised soul could slip
Off a precipice and
Into the basalt rubble,
And that, of course,
In time,
Is exactly what you did,
Standing in those atrocious
Foaming rapids, in galoshes,
The rod appeared in your hand
Just like this whistling kettle,
Akin to the miraculous
Echoes of odourless thought,
And in that moment perhaps
You felt alive so clearly,
So attuned to the hubris
That all of a sudden
You died, too.
You forgot how to swim
As your limbs metamorphically
Merged with sockeyes
And piny yellowfin.
The rifle appeared in your hand,
Also from nowhere.

No poet saved the world
Through writing alone,
Yet they should not have
Ever suggested
That you could.

Liverwort Blues

We live on a cliff above
A dank, oppressive marsh.
That’s how this place
Became itself, through
Our existence alone
And had its name bestowed.
We should have stayed in caves
Where there were no names before.

Everyone here is killing
Each other in a ceaseless
Pursuit of mistruths
And words like food
Turned stale, inedibly so,
Are crumbs scattered
From battlements and
Powerful tower-tops;
The churches lost their teeth
And the castles their crows.
Over there, the man
Who invented petroleum
Is being set alight
Every night;
His corpse is hosed,
The daemons breathe new life
And have him oxidized
Despite his ghostly moans,
All those protestations,
Only, they return in numbers
With a burning bridge in tow.

If a man tells you he misspoke
Then he is not to be believed,
For, prior to impolitic exposure
He said those very words
And so he shows contrition
With oxymoronic verbs.
Truth is his disease –
Even good people lie, he said –
But what is true and what is not
Are shuffled like cards
With the suits turned to spots.

Either exasperated or bored,
I pressed a poisoned knife
Through my psyche,
A mix of suet, memories,
Bratwurst with some liverwort,
And everything that’s past
Is unforgotten, recreated in
A future that evolved,
Fitfully and biting,
Into something even worse.

Crow Lake

Sarcoma days,
Tower of Babel skies,
I tiptoed across our dam
At the top-end of Crow Lake
Where we once stripped
And with youth’s fearless
Exuberance
Ebulliently we dived.
There, beneath obtuse
And lucid ways of waters
We swam together
Through shoals of mouldy
Long-drowned dreams
Before arriving, hands held,
At a blocked sluice gate
We remembered,
And a rusty pump,
Green from age and
Exhaustion,
Before Victorian weirs
Weaving weeds between
Words and memory,
Water and air,
You, the wharf-god’s daughter;
There, we found a forgotten,
Unexploded bomb.

Nowadays,
I want to blast myself open
So that you can see what is inside.
You missed how I found
The secret to eternal life
In that furniture store on the high street,
On a kitchen shelf disguised
Amongst the pans and knives.
If uncovered by anyone else
Then doubtlessly
This elixir, this
Canary-coloured liniment
Would be instantly,
Relentlessly,
Mercilessly commodified,
By gaudy adverts plastered,
Just as they sold us that very same
Water, and air, and life.
I stored it for a little while,
As always, capriciously
Unable to determine
A fixed course of action,
And then I decided
A reasonable middle path
By stirring tea leaves
Judiciously in that fluid –
I studied that substance
For years in a porcelain cup
On a worn antimacassar
Right there beside me,
Then thought, before
It was too late,
To pour everything into
A kitchen sink
In need of bleaching.

Here then, the other side
Of nowhere,
Huge cooling towers
Bruising the sky,
Testament to an older lie.
What did you find
Inside my stomach –
An empty bottle,
Some faded magazines
And a buzzard left to die.

Seven

My palm lines are changing –
Life is rearranging,
Slowly, piece by piece.
Scintilla soul,
Tesserae hole,
My apocrypha, at least,
Is over
For now.

A cloud that day,
That cloudless day,
Revealed its fury,
Furies revel
In sixes and sevens.
Spectacles covered,
Pigeons survived,
Dustsheets all over,
Sevens and nines.

Dead escalators.
Tokens to green,
Covered in dust,
Dust and debris.
Sirens pervasive,
And pervasive
We collapsed
Or scratched
Or stretched
As an inflexed
Naked armpit.

Asphyxia,
Suits say die,
So they said,
And so we trust;
Yet truth can be
Evasive.
Grey faces,
Early grey hair
Like a Lowry abroad.
Hatzalah paramedics
Abound in my
Parallel dreams.
I wake
In a sweat
Into boundless rust,
Into blue sky
And a useless sword
To thwart a seam.

Rio Grande do Sul

My life is the size
Of one grain of sand
On a beach in Brazil
Or faraway land,
Further away
Than the south Rio Grande,
Further away
Than the end of my hand.

Yet my soul beats as big
As the Amazon basin,
As bright as an eye
In the swan constellation,
Further away
Than the blessed and the damned,
At my window sill waits
For the ends of a man.

So if you are feeling
As lost and alone,
Remember the healing
For how hearts atone –
Your soul touching stars
Braiding sinew and bone.

I Am Not Unique

I am not unique.
There are another ten thousand
Just like me (sub-meaning being
I am far from irreplaceable)
In these unredemptive moments
Which fall like old snowflakes
In baubles and saucers,
In reflections and in tendencies.

I am not unique.
This sadness is ubiquitous,
(Engulfing and never retreats)
We are woebegone experts
In the ravenously bleak
Mapless frontiers with our
Purring batteries
And silent artillery.

I am not unique;
Stone-filled arteries
And bruisewort disease,
We sit in our cages
As cycles continue
On the last of the piers,
Or lost, haplessly,
While out at sea.

I am not unique.
By our army united
And spirit-siphoning industries,
We comb our hair
And wash our beards,
We go to bed,
Amazed when we wake up
The same way as someone else.

Unencumbered

I have no misgivings
That Life is for the Living;
Go forth with your luminous

Lustrous and flourishing
Heart! You are the beginning
For so much cherished and loved.

There is nothing so urgent
As the higher sirens unencumbered
Proclaiming emergencies above.

You are the dock leaf
To my meadow-nettle sting,
Salve urticarial rashes;

You are cotton-light soul
To fill such holes
Within my spirit-dwelling;

You are in my tested toll
And heavy eyes at nine o’clock,
Drifting asleep in the old armchair

Where once you sat and sang to me
Until the next alarm. Know this:
Just because I am gone

Does not mean you are lesser loved –
Do not believe all you are told,
Do not descend a buried half;

Do not be deceived
By pre-constructed episcopies,
Do not settle for their losses;

If something is free
Then you may be the product

Of consumerist albatrosses;

And when the expurgating racists
Run our ruinous parliament
It’s time to move abroad.

Life’s a little better unscripted,
A little less choreographed
For the garlands in your heart;

Regardless, I cannot yet
Apologise for the pieces in our
Backwards path those others broke

So long ago, a squandering,
Anonymous in their parts
And we are stranded, poles apart.

Another ending is a start;
For eternity you will be
The finest creation I could conceive,

Yet Death again is stalking me,
And though I called numbers
Their manual did not include

My quicksand thoughts, and I
Become his maddening habit,
He takes comfort in my residency,

The rest is just formalities.
I cannot forestall the inevitable,
I cannot distract tomorrow

From chasing the tail of
Its sadness in gardens of
Summer sun-drowned lambs;

All I can do is remind you of truths
Ever preserved in this poem,
For how proud of you, my son, I am.

Fog

Just when you think you are
Near that very end,
But you are not,
Like becoming aware that this
Interminable book is
Published in many volumes,
Cursing its unknowable author
For your youth and your loss,
Or a film the university tutor
Required you to study lovelessly,
Even though he himself yawned
Through his own seminar;
Teeth like a caught makerel’s,
Dark and doomed and sharp;
Only to discover there would be
A trilogy of liquifying dross.
He vaped, and looked you up.

Or conversely,
When you think you have
More steps to take,
Feet forward,
One at a time,
Wherewithal,
Seeing with each imprint,
Tentative rubber tread,
Success is the end,
Yet only to fall;

So this, then, is my life,
Like being on a pier and
Trying to make sense
In a dense unending fog.