she raids demise
tastes the threads
this mid-air theatre
is theirs is hers
a red art
her edits arrest me
I’m rat hare deer
remade as dream
In response to The Taxidermist, Shazea Quraishi
acting in a way that loses the mess
breaking the old patterns
changing nothing that’s gone
drowning in joy as someone
easy in understanding
falling once and for all
going simply to nearby water
holy this time
in grace and held by
knowing you are underway
leaving but staying
making up worlds
negotiating our divinities
one prayer at a time
pacing the temple
questions falling away resting in grace
soul packed in supermarket ice
under the law of the human heart
version of god
world of devotion
x rays of my insides
yes to belief
I am the good leopard,
Peppered with spots.
The shepherd has salted away
The shrill of frost
Under my boots
That crush the moonlight.
16.5.20 Mirror Fugue
Fall yellow shall bellow
Mal billow will mellow
Bill willow pill
Shallow bell fellow
Mell pillow fell
Fellow pill mellow fell.
Lying still in space is one thing, but to do so
so as to let your crewmate’s arm swing up,
up and down with any decent force
forces a body to get creative –
creative as the teams who built this can.
Can we still be heard at ground control?
Controlling the scope and strike is one thing.
Thing is, when the leather bites my behind,
behind the monitors, they might worry.
Worry the shrieks mean you’re space-bats, killing me –
me, the navigator (as if you’d be so,
so stupid as to strand yourself) – or that
that glance we shared as we buckled in
in Houston had become a full-on yes,
yes, mission-tanking marathon of banging.
Banging my head on the bunk as I buck,
buck beneath the swish and crack, I feel the thick red –
reddening with every whack – stripes rising,
rising like moons on the moons of my cheeks.
Cheeks ablaze, you break for air and peer,
peer sagely into the scanner. We are passing it now.
Now it is passing us – this ring of methane, ammonia, water.
Water? No, thank you. Onward, past what?
What might be described as a glorious,
glorious galactic fart. You take a few pictures for work,
work the buckle tooth this way and that.
That’s a big deal, I guess. That’s the reason we’re here.
Here, I mumble from my prison pillow. I think they might be fading.
Fading? Kuiper, the volatiles? My butt-marks, I correct you.
Correct, you growl and grin. Get back in position.
translated from the Portuguese by the author
A glass paperweight with a hippocampus inside.
Why were our old gods replaced?
See how these two sentences are related?
How everything resembles a carousel turned into ashes?
Beeeeeep — your heartbeat just died for you,
since you couldn’t do it for him.
Vendredi, peut-être – you said to yourself,
while you postponed the inevitable
around Aesop or La Fontaine.
All this is a zoo, that’s for sure,
but why the hell couldn’t we, like before,
dance around the moon’s reflection
in a salt lagoon?
So many questions – doubts, at least, to hold on to.
Or are they just balloons from the Feast of St John,
rising up in the air to get rid of the nausea of heartburn?
Far away – inside the labyrinth? – a barrel organ
plays a love song
(although it may be a military march dimmed by time
And, all of a sudden, a firecracker blows midway into the sky
and the hippocampus comes out of the redeemed rain.
God, or a little god, lands on the back of the hand that writes
and curls up between the hairs like a solid wine.
The poet sobs
— an audience of elderly ladies give a standing ovation,
a semiologist, in a corner, feels lost between images
leaves the room
and time returns to its normal pace,
a floor of vinegar on its way to a greasy pole.
You can never go home, not in the new executive world,
Civic waving at screens waiting for acknowledgement,
his entire form just a shadow in a world of lumens,
who decided he was cast from his nest? What cuckoo king came?
What sooted raven’s wing was flung before his birth,
some people just want to give, others need space to think,
and for Civic it’s the head’s padded cell, with no leaks above,
enough to flex the hare’s ear of verse, poetry’s thump,
rough ghosts spinning discs where a heart should be,
empty people casting nets & hauling up conundrums,
only the few dredge for ethics, kindness spun on a line,
a silver thing that hooks the bowed pin cushion of a jaw,
then is nothing, flawed reflections in a funny house
where spit & ambition is the everyday squalor of business,
whole weeks spent navigating a risk assessment on how to live,
the probability & severity of each attempt to become human,
requesting access to the back of house in public spaces,
green rooms sequestered for VIPs, communes requisitioned by MEPs,
organ donors questioned as smugglers, a world that shakes
for capacity & signage, where there is no middle ground, only edges,
a civilisation of throughways with no interaction, pinch-points
of hesitation, where touch is sacrificed for the blade of a gesture,
relationships ended by app, redundancies enforced by live screen,
personal possessions dumped into loading bays, a white noise
that is ever constant, building to a drone, deafening with bass,
a world where two friends would never walk the same path –
for risk of love’s entirety being washed from the earth.
Pete Astor led The Loft and The Weather Prophets and has continued to make and release music under a variety of guises on labels including Matador, Heavenly, Warp, Fortuna Pop, Tapete and his own Faux-Lux label. He is Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Westminster, and has written a study of Richard Hell for Bloomsbury’s 33/3rd series. In his most recent work he joins his musical and poetry worlds together in spoken word as The Attendant. Kirsten Irving is a poet, editor and voice actor based in London. She co-runs Sidekick Books with Jon Stone, and has edited more than ten anthologies. Her own work has been widely anthologised, published by Happenstance and Salt, and thrown out of a helicopter. She loves crows, robots and crowbots. Fiona Larkin’s debut pamphlet, A Dovetail of Breath, was published by Rack Press in 2020. Her poem ‘Rope of Sand’ was highly commended in the Forward Prizes 2019. She manages innovative poetry events with Corrupted Poetry. Chris McCabe’s work crosses artforms and genres including poetry, fiction, non-fiction, drama and visual art. His work has been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award and the Republic of Consciousness Prize. His most recent collection is The Triumph of Cancer (2018), which is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and his most recent novel is Mud (2019), a version of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, set beneath Hampstead Heath. He is the editor of Poems from the Edge of Extinction: An Anthology of Poetry in Endangered Languages (2019) and No, Love is Not Dead: An Anthology of Love Poetry from Around the World (2021). Robin Fulton Macpherson’s Northern Habitat: Collected Poems 1960-2010 is published by Marick Press [his poems are in the printed version, and various other places on this site]. Peter McCarey is the author of many poetry collections, including Collected Contraptions (Carcanet). His collection of essays on poetry, Find an Angel and Pick a Fight, is published by Molecular Press, as is Petrushka, a hybrid novel which, written before Covid19, is a shocking prophecy of a pandemic. Miguel Martins is the author of many poetry collections and has been translated widely. He is also a translator of poetry and fiction, a lyricist and an improvisational musician (see the album Dada Dandy — A Favola da Medusa, featuring George Haslam, Slam Records, 2014).
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