This is a recording of Diazepam Diaries. My audio/video skills are very amateur so forgive me, please?
Today I am that moment when you look in the mirror and see only that one spot on your entire face. That cluster of blackheads on your nose, those few stray hairs between your brows. Today I am that hungover moment in a tube station, when you are scared your own organs might dishonour you, rack against your ribs and throw you onto the tracks all guts and squished electricity. Today I am corduroy rubbed backwards on your thigh on the way to work. I am the frizz of a curled eyelash when you catch yourself with a pranked lighter outside a squat party, trying to impress the girl opposite you chewing her bubblegum. Today I am still cherryade at a school disco. A text message which won’t deliver. I am a missed appointment, an irredeemable voucher. A dropped call. Today I am a retracted comment in a newspaper by an ex-Labour minister. That empty vowel sound of woosh as a door slams closed.
Numerals in snow or are these people?
Rubbed out pencil lines, a sketched city.
Tromsø’s Arctic breath.
Through a spattered window
the foghorn throat-sings.
Seal ships come in clean.
In the ice yard
breakers bob between cut-out ships.
I place origami swans among them.
We were in Morecombe by a lighthouse when the sky looked like Starry Night Over the Rhone. Lightning bolted the sea out west and we considered how many fish died for every hit and just why it happened anyway. We thought lightning had to hit the ground, or at least have some sort of channelling conduit. But then, I guess, we said, each to the other, that water did that. Wind made leaves dance erratically. They tugged towards air from their branches and then turning a tornado began to suck at the sea. The water rose, the sun left the sky and in the distance an accordion began its jaunty wheeze. We died. There was fear followed by calm.
Somewhere outside of time in a garden in the future I was bleeding. We hid under a slate roof. Towards St Paul’s Cathedral artillery guns shook the city. Massive helicopters resembled oversized wasps. You were there, keeping me sane. A man appeared dressed in old clothes, holding a pocket watch. He gave us two vials of gold liquid. He told us to go back in time and fix it. We said how do we know how to change it? He said you won’t but it’s worth a go. We looked right down into the brain of each other and kissed. You tasted like burnt toast. The world shifted and we were running through an abandoned street somewhere in Manchester. There were riots and people were chucking makeshift Molotov cocktails through windows and somehow the bottles didn’t smash on contact. Instead they passed through the windows, small entrances, and made fire like opening roses. We jumped in a shell of a car with a mattress in it, like those novelty bed frames you used to get in Argos. Someone to my left, a naked boy with glasses, said that this was an orbital. A way of travelling, not through time or conventional space. Instead the world tilted around you, moved the destination to you instead of the other way round.
III. A Cat
The dream fast forwarded. I lay in bed with a ginger spotted egg on my bedside table. It cracked and there was a small ginger cat inside. I blinked and the cat had human legs and arms and a body. Then the cat had a human head and purred. Then the cat was my friend Grace and she opened her mouth with her hands and showed me her mandible-divided sets of teeth. All four of them. We went off into the jungle of the city in search of people to make friends with.
The final part was in the future. All Bladerunner and Fifth Element. I chased a woman dressed in latex and PVC and a fluorescent pink wig. She called me Johnny and winked at me and waved a police baton as fourteen jet planes flew overhead and the neon buildings glowed through the smog. We fucked against a window in the subway. Two men watched and afterwards they gave us money.
Imagine two things separate from one another,
like Congress and swans, or maybe a jar of honey
and an umbrella that takes three attempts to open.
Take them both and substitute x
and y, let them equal z and you’ll be fizzing. See
how they shift, become a congress of swans,
a honeyed umbrella. Up there is the sun in the corner
of the poem beating tangential rays. Now,
think of a third thing, think butter or beacon,
or love, and watch as z squares.
The congress of swans eating butter;
a honeyed umbrella: a beacon to a lover
in a crowd of shadows on a rainy day.
The sun hides behind the grey sky;
the umbrella is yellow, amber,
orange. The swans on the lake plough
through tiny waves; the butter’s on the bread,
thrown by the kid, your lover’s kid,
who sees you across the water, chucks up his arm
into the air, waves his hand and screams
Mum, Mum, Mum.
Somewhere in the Milky Way somebody we would call an alien
is taking out its version of the trash and does not realise
that word is an Americanism. It does this with its version of hands.
This could be anything: looped tentacles with disc-like suckers;
a cybernetic retractable arm; bone and blood; an insect-like mandible.
We have never been there or seen an alien, but nonetheless
we can imagine their mix of horror and delight
when a spaceship lands on their front lawn and a bipedal being
steps slowly down the ramp with what looks like a fishbowl for a head.
They close their eye-slits once, then twice. And wonder
what kind of animal this is, what type of thing, for it does not resemble
their notion of what a person is. They suck on their baleen plates.
For years they have sent out messages: clicks and bleeps,
their understanding of the laws of the universe, tracks
from their latest carnivorous plant pop band. In a disingenuous moment
they veer too close to paranoia and the man with the fishbowl for a head
is taken away by authorities and kept in a small room with little light.
Later, nuclear bombs carpet this somebody’s planet
in an effort to eradicate a nation that is such a threat
that they would take a man captive and ask them to endure
such solitude. Meanwhile sometime in the future on Earth
a man reads a book, much like this, and cries.
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Wake in the morning and weigh your heart
against hangover scales and remnant palms.
Do not wash to hold him against your skin
sigh and feel the weight of everything …
As another comes with blue-eyed guilt, bed
dressed in morning grubbery in your mind,
hear his nonsense sounds and taste, smell,
feel the reek of his five a.m. breath. Kiss
let the image shift, ripple, flex, awash again
with dew-dawn, on a cliff looking out at sea
as two bodies bring in the sun and sink
inside, retreat your hands behind your ribcage
with fear and text, text your other-love
with furious hands as though he can tell
through satellites and instant-time
what you have done. Give him extra kisses.
When he replies with just one,
give him none.
Modern Love: Texting
We send each other text messages at work.
Discuss what we’re having for lunch.
Ether-joined by unlimited messages and pixel screens.
Two minutes after saying goodbye on dates
our phones jangle, vibrate,
‘I had a lovely time tonight :-)’.
The little xx means more from you.
You give me fewer than my mum.
I look and linger at them, there,
at the end of your miniature letters.
Save the sweet ones in a folder
and read them when down.
‘These are the reasons I love you.’
‘Do you want to go to the cinema at four?’
‘I’ve never felt this before.’
I smile when I see your name appear.
The lump is a plastic pebble in my pocket
heavy with the weight of expectancy.
Linked to everything, almost sentient
it throbs with the lives
of so many people a button press away:
Facebook, e-mails, Google
When people are gone: vanished.
Ephemeral ghosts that exist
but don’t. That breathe,
The wishing wells in which we shed our coins.
Our thumbs linger over ‘DELETE’
as though they’ll disappear from memory, too.
Punch. Gone. The love letter’s dead.
Think that’ll make us feel better.
When our hearts turn red again,
we’ll wish we had the numbers still
hello, hi, how do you do.
All the days to tread till I meet you. All the miles walking together around kitchens, homes and showrooms clutching our Tesco/Morrisons/Waitrose-trolley-full-dreams. Swearing whilst our kids watch us, getting in a huff over what type of juice is good. I’m young; I’m old, still thinking this. Every stolen pillow is a memory out of reach on a shelf with steampressed showers, clammyfucked meek and sweet. On that ledge there’s your bottom shaped in tea leaves, stained mugs and all the silent faceless dreams I’ve had. In nightcoiled alleys you’re lamppost-flashing, winking a morse code language from a daylight, daybreak, future-never-seen and there at a place I can’t reach you’re dancing, smiling all-knowing because my feet can’t walk through time yet. Try as they might I can’t get the dance right. This could be five hundred poems, and it has and it will, every sky I’m under is over you, too; every time I sleep I’m eyetight, thinking of you clearly. All these drinks I’ve drowned, toasted dearly, dear. Every moment spent ticks towards our meeting, starbound, trapped, heavy, heaving. Kissing. Like this. x. And this. x. And this. x.