Sunday, February 28, 2016

Felino Soriano, from To Myself, You Listen

Hands of Adam Kadmon Before the Pick, 
image by Daniel Y. Harris

from To Myself, You Listen


Why you lament
     this mis
-ery is why you
   misspell your name
into the mouth
     pressing sin
 into the fork
-ing of your unblemished


Why the sea whispers
you wear the answer
in the slight rise of your
shadow.  Dust
does this: erases clarity:
another form: of whisper. 
Here, you recall the body
that left markings, a
living bruise, 1920’s blues.
You sing halos, —you
talk of prayer while
removing scratched faith
from your knees’
contagious swelling.


Under your foot,
a bouquet of prior names. 

Rename them:

near-skin importance,
soft verbs remove violence

in the way your hand
ceases grasp

when death unpeels
the mirror’s final


Song to the Self

When young you
would bruise     to escape
the clarity of
comfortable skin.  Your
mother would
reject her tongue
to remove evidence
of questioning why.  This
did not disturb you:

your face provided
erased prose to     unfasten
of the escalated pain
drawing your
eyes the color of
evaporating crows.


You partition these voices traveling circles in your mouth.  Record them. 
Hold the one hallowed whisper nearest to your chest.  Breathe well.
The screams, you bury into flame. Believe in the father’s spectrum
of size.  When leaving he is largest.  Pain to augment the size of
your disappearing safety.  The city in you burns.  The bodies gray
into apparitional hours.  You watch to recognize past.  The silence
recognizes you.  The voices are perishing—the mouth tumbling
into mistaken company. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Peter Finch, Three Poems

Peter Finch, image by John Briggs 

John Ashbery Visits Lidl 

Everyone loved what they saw.
The rough displays, the mitre makers
The marigolds and the clothes
The persimmon velvet curtains
The garlic tea cloths
The passionate biscuits
The Slavonic chocolate
The wines from Cricklewood and Westphalia

The whole family are keenly interested
They arrive in droves.

The first year was like icing
The man with the red hat
The girls protected by gold wire
The music that never ceased.
Now they swear by tennis balls
the unknowable crispbreads, the meats in vacuum packs.

Sometimes they come because their cars do
Sometimes they are profligate
Sometimes they are radiant
Sometimes they shop because there is little else to do
Mostly though it’s pedantic Cindy without brio or élan.

The family they just want to save money
They always do
They have this furious passion.

They buy onions
They buy the weirdly branded tins,
the fold-up beds, the spread-on chocolate,
the spanners.

Clearly the song will have to wait
amongst all this great saving
How brave they are
buying marigolds when they don’t need to.

In the queue there he is but no one recognises him
why would they, the joker,
self-portrait in his trolley,
his New York face peering out of that so realistic convex mirror.


3 Feb, 1874 – 27 July, 1946

You are down here in the ground of
Pere Lachaise beneath a stone
big enough to hold you down.  The space
around you is full, names you’d know,
Max Ernst, Paul Eluard, Modigliani, de Nerval,
Perec, Proust, Pissarro, Wilde, Alice B, Appolinaire.
This is no humble place, it’s a city.
To get around you need a map

Given what you did I expected uproar like Morrison gets.
Excited girls with tattoos, young men with that
look of beat nonchalance that belies the roaring
they have inside their heads.   But there’s nothing.
It’s as if you’d not changed the twentieth
challenged its serial monogamy made it
ripple with how the brain turns.  There’s no bramble
nor trees near you.   No ivy growing across
your name.  Just a rose someone has left,
shrivelled  now,  and a stone in the
shape of a heart dropped  above
where yours might be.  You had one once.

July  the twenty-seventh is simply not prepared for.

Try to be try to be try to be try to be try to be try to be
be to try try it go on try just try to be try to be
it’s not really hard at really not not at all

Some Blats


for Ifor Davies

is England Green
is Wales Welsh
is Tzara a dadist
is money yellow
is love an illusion
is stillness silence
is time t9ight
is America there
is Barry really an island
is war needed
is money a failure
is black a colour
is the easywayout easy easy
is man an animal
is the poem finished
is yellow yellow yellow
is eternity locked up
is rock and roll here to stay
is the sun an orange
is the moon soon
is grass suitable
is moss small hair
is the language strong enough to carry a revolution
is the muse worthwhile
is the doctor really learned
is the Big Bopper on the right track
is laughter music
is sex an excuse
is sound holy
is death a disease
is rain too much
is a cold a prison
is Agamemnon a person
is red out of date
is smoke silent
is the stream sorry
is the sky strong
is the blutone drunk
is the moon somewhere beyond America
is a tree a large flower
is petrol a sin in the sun
is carbon paper
is the sound of one hand clapping no more than silence
is venus false
is the moon a martyr
is a monk brown throughout the year
is this time going to be the last time
is this side the other side
is hope worth bothering about
is the answer to it all in a bottle
is tomorrow when
is a wail free
is wine loud
is a vegeatable sane
is paper thinkable
is a tank a table
is a running man a risk
is thunder the sound of clouds bumping together
is fast and bulbous
is come on come on ready 4 the crush
is a lawnmower an object of beauty
is fire capable of creation
is destruction retaliation
is a roll a weak rock
is a guitar an instrument of depth
is ink the only obliterator
is black cloud a toner fog
is death the easyway out
is a gaz a stove
is metal heavy
is plastic alive
is blood forgotten
is air emulsified
is an ant a giant to a microbe
is an atom a star
is chess the product of bicycles
is seawater evil
is rubber hollow
is stereo vision three deamon
is fishfood malutricious
is the jaw no more than a door
is the head a hat
is music the lack of silence silencio
is smoke filled full of dreams
is distribution valid as an art
is fantasy votable
is voltage a distant relation to the sky
is impact possible
is the hand a mountain
is Ifor ivor
ifor ivor ivor ifor ifor ifor ifor ivor ivor ivor
ifor ivor ivor ifor ivor ivor ivor ifor
is ifor ivorivor ivor rrrrrrrrrrrrrr
is ifor rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ssvip
is really chuzz chuzz
is lipwork possage
id worthman plinleered
it is youngleigh light wooshezesez
id jomp a lerrkmmmmp
is a distraktengivor a bengingpop
is a toomwow a yearing vor tort
is a menmann gardes lompes gloo[p
is creakslis fanapzwash
is a salerang unda beatlum greal growl wow
is heartbustingflip le boutisgarg loopalaiy foor mee
is nonstap ifor ivor finnslerg god
is fishfled flags
is wishta ta
is goerdistfl longgonongham
is glad flijouy
is flomgsd flaggs
is fat loompnoph gius fat
is ghaj fgads westfring for
is hsfdomdom sloss tross ss
is flopssuu ususus s
is gadsas s
is flodsd ss ssgss hsf vr
is testraljss tsssghdes ss desssss ssssssjs sss
is sflossfgssssjss sssss ssss sshgs
is ssssjs sss sssskss ssssksss
is sssss sssss ssssslss sss ss
is sss sssss ssssss sss sssss s ss sssk
is ssss ssssss sss ss sssss sss ss s
is s ssss sssssks ssss sssssss s ssssss
is s ssssssssss sssssssssss ssss ssss
is s ssss sssss sssss s ss ssssks sssss
is ss sssss ss sssssssssssss ssssssss s sssss
is sss sssssss sss ssss
is sssssssssssss ssssssss sssss sssssssss
is sss sssssssss sss ssss
is ssssssssss sssssssss ssss sssssssssss
is ssssssssssss ss sss sssssssssssssssssssssk
is sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss ssssssss
is sss ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss ssss
is ss ssssssssssssssssssssssss sssssssssssss ss
is sssssssssssssssssss sssssssssssssss
is ss ssss ssss
is sssssssssssssssss ssssssssss
is s sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss
is ss ssssssssssssssssssksssssssssssssssssss s
is sssssssssssssssssssssss ssssssssssss
is ss sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss
is ss sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss
is s ssssssssssssssssssssssssssss
is s sssssssssssssssssss
is ssssssssssssss
is sssssssssssssssssssssksssss
is  ssssssssssssssssssss sssssssssssssss
is sssssssssssssssksssssssssssssss
is ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss
is sssssssssssssssssssss
is sssssssssssss
is ssssssssssssssssss ssssss
is ss ssssssssssss sssssssssssssks
is ssssssssssssssssssssssss
is sssssssssssss
is sssss
is ssssss
is ssssss
is ssssssssssssssss
is sssssssssssssssssssss
is ssssssssssss
is sssssssssssssssssss



Peter Fin sh sssssss


Here in Mirror, Obje is an App, image by Daniel Y. Harris 


When more involved strategies failed we put together a low, sad manifesto with our hands, which by this time had come to resemble little blue orphans made of glass. We had to get the people on side. Our hands had been through rougher times, but it was only recently they had come to resemble ornamental blue glass orphans. Did they taste of anything? No. Just the blank taste of glass. My wife and I took the tents around the wide-angled Shark Museum and set up camp with Derek and the kids. The kids had a toffee apple each, but the baby had a can of table-scraps the size of a car. Derek liked to spoil the baby – and there wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do about it: it was in the Bible.

We waited for the votes to come in, but secretly we were thinking of other things. I, for instance, was thinking of “making love” in the catacombs of “afternoon sunlight”; and some stupid advert for yellow paint which had been going on in my head for days and actually, I realised too late, was the same thing. Such is the power of the id when you wire it up just so. I was thinking of putting something about that in the manifesto, but Derek gave me that don’t try to be too clever look again. The others were thinking about their castles, back on the Hills – too small to really stand up in but handsome from a distance, backlit like pumpkins the way they liked to keep them. All of which was very good.

The Shark Museum was open, just like my father used to say. Derek made the sign of the cathedral and we all started counting the votes: one vote, two votes, three votes. Isa took the kids round the Shark Museum and they saw lots of sharks, alive and dead, but I was too busy counting the votes with my little blue glass orphan hands which gave off flashes of blinding light every time they touched something.

That made counting the votes pretty hard.

Derek lost heart after just ten minutes. ‘The hell,’ he said, dropping his match-girl tray of votes and letting the splinters calibrate and recalibrate all over the grass. ‘I can’t see a thing with these little blue glass orphan hands giving off great gouts of light every time I so much as pick up a ballot paper. I’m going to the doctor and see if he can’t do something about it.’

I tried to remonstrate with Derek, to tell him that the best thing he could do would be to tell no-one about the blue glass orphan hands – a clear loss leader – and keep them under a pair of thick gloves and hope they would go away and, if possible, not to touch anything as the blinding flashes of light tended to attract attention. ‘It’s a clear loss leader,’ Derek, I told him.

‘You may want to live like a stinking hermit whom everyone hates,’ said Derek, ‘but I’m going straight to the doctor and getting these horrible aberrations-’ here he held up his little blue glass orphan hands ‘-sawn off. Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!’

I watched Derek walk all the way to the horizon and fall off, then I went back to counting the votes, this time picking them up with my mouth and dropping them on the floor once I’d counted them. One vote, two votes, three votes. Damned if I could remember who the votes were even for anymore: it was beyond satire. Then the kids and Isa arrived back wearing shark hats and one of them was singing a shark song.

‘Your poor hands,’ said Isa.

‘I’m going to tell you a story, Isa,’ I said. ‘It is a story about why I insist on enduring, even in the face of hardship. It is called LAWN BOWL HISTRIONICS, and good luck with it is all I can say.’

Isa sat down obediently and crossed her legs in the manner of a school assembly and bid our children to do likewise. I cleared my throat.

“It was Sunday and I climbed from one side of the quarry to the other – this was a result of correspondence between me and another disaster outside of town. (EXCERPT: Performed by a raft. Sandbox gentry. What time do you call this? Grunts of the old guard. Some plasterboard Reykjavik you turned out to be). I arrived at the reception with my tartare sauce and screwy bow-tie emitting weak jokes under my chin. The groom was well-travelled and I respected this, enviously. I wanted to be just like him, but not in every single way – I hadn’t given up on myself yet and I wasn’t about to fold what were, let’s be honest, some pretty good cards.

“The night of the wedding, I was so convinced that I was secretly evil I couldn’t look anyone in the eye for very long. The little roast game birds came round on round trays. The drinks sent spirals of bubbles up themselves and the buttonholes didn’t so much wilt as become solid and feral, like an empty theatre full of hastily abandoned violins. What I remember most of all is the crunchy sound under my feet when I danced to ‘What a Great Way to String Out a Novel’ – that old Charleston number my Grandfather balked at in the newspapers back when they really told you something.

“It was a long song and I closed my eyes halfway through, only opening them again once the music had stopped – and I noticed that the room was empty and the tables had been pushed away, the chairs stacked on top of them and the lights were off and the car park, when I rushed out into the rain, was also empty, so there mustn’t have been any music for some time. ‘What a joke. They just left me here dancing on my own? Well fuck them.’ I said out loud. But then scores of little children armed with glue-guns and glitter capsules entered the room and I expected some form of reprisal. They ignored me at first and I was halfway out of the door before one turned on me and glued some glitter to my suit. ‘Get off me you brute!’ I yelped and, to his credit, he did. I had to call a taxi – which was humiliating – and the driver talked to me about the invention of Talcum Powder and that it was a kind of radioactive thing. He dropped me off at my house and, when I tried to pay him, said, ‘No, no, it’s nothing of a journey, I can’t charge you for that.’ I pocketed the twenty and bid him goodnight and he said, spitefully, ‘Yeah, that’s right. It’s the middle of the summer,’ out of his window.

“I wasn’t sure what had provoked this outburst, but swore vengeance on the cabbie. ‘Curse you, cabbie,’ I cried, ‘You’ll have a bum for a face in the morning, see if you don’t.’ And with that, we parted ways for good. Naturally I stuck my key in the lock and turned it three times and there was a letter addressed to me on the mat, inviting me to the same wedding again, tonight. I could scarcely believe my luck and ran upstairs to change into my B-suit. Thank Goodness for Everything were playing a benefit concert on the TV – but it was being filmed in the municipal gardens right outside my window, so I could watch it there, too. Something really nasty happened which I’m not in the mood to record at the moment. I took a draft of sherry for luck and checked in on Auntie Laura in her “room” – which she had converted into a little football pitch with proper grass and pitch markings and a football. I think that’s great and I tell her so frequently. She was asleep in the goal, so I left her to it.

“Out in the street I hailed another taxi – and this one was driven by a beautiful woman with what appeared to be thick, cat-like whiskers growing out of her face. ‘Wow!’ I said.

“Two minutes later I was back at the same wedding, and I didn’t think I was evil anymore, best luck, so I made startling recoveries and conversations out of them all and didn’t stop drinking until someone told me to. It was the groom. I had been dancing with his wife all night – holding tight to her arms and not letting her go. He explained that she was too polite and too scared to complain and that, while I could be forgiven therefore for not realising that she would rather be dancing with her husband on their wedding night, I had to admit it was pretty unreasonable all the same and a wonder nobody had said anything so far (we had been dancing for three hours). It’s obvious how I responded – but not very nice and I’m not sure it’s reasonable to talk about it. Oh, go on then. I grabbed the bridegroom by the face and kissed him long and hard, swirling my tongue around a) his mouth and b) his nose once he had successfully pushed my face off his mouth. He said, ‘Gah!’ By this point everyone was pretty horrified with me and a man walked right up to us and kicked me repeatedly in the stomach, saying that I had it coming and that I was a big fat piece of shit – which made me laugh because I’m actually quite skinny. So anyway, I went outside again and there was blood sort of pouring from my mouth like a tap turned on a little bit and a tramp said, ‘You don’t look so good. We oughta get you to a hospital.’ He took me to a hospital, but the sign we followed said ‘CAUSALITY’ instead of ‘CASUALTY’ so I didn’t hold out any great hope for myself. Indeed, I failed to stay conscious much longer and awoke to a horrible bone-like smell and bright lights grinning off the doctor’s shiny hat. I could hear the laughter of many doctors and one doctor, crying with laughter. There was a long ache in my arm and I passed out.

“I awoke in darkness, but a little party had gathered around my bedside with banners. This was lovely and I mumbled to thank them, but found that I couldn’t speak. And anyway, when I managed to focus on the banners, they were covered in really nasty swear-words and portmanteaus of frankly impossible acts. I looked at their faces and their expressions were hauntingly cross, some smiling, as if justice had been done. ‘What a welcome,’ I thought. And then a mirror was produced and I saw that the doctors had made lots of holes in my face and inserted little glowing rods and miniature twizzling satellite dishes. Instead of a mouth: a dog’s tail. You ever tried speaking out of a dog’s tail? It’s no wonder I couldn’t speak. And the satellite dishes picked up all manner of sounds and I couldn’t shut them out. I tried to wipe the sweat from my brow, but both of my hands had been replaced by seagull’s tailfeathered cloacas. I was becoming increasingly annoyed by this when a butler arrived and said, ‘Sir, you have been chosen to appear in an anthology of young poets; may I be the first to congratulate you? May I?’

“The anthology is called ‘I AM MARGINS!’ The mind is a mansion and I realise that now – what’s not to realise? I want to know what every word means, not catch a bus to Mr Circadian’s house. But I have to do the things that have been given me to do, just like lines get stretched from margin to margin: I am margins. So I get on the bus and I hand over a photo of a naked horse instead of a ticket and the inspector goes red and says, ‘That’s all right, sir, I’ll tell the constable,’ which is a code for something. What a lovely bus – it goes dub-de-dub-de-dub-de all through the town, the raindrops running down its windows like big weeping mourners. I have no patience with mourners. I always want to say, ‘Come on, mourners! Don’t be so negative! This is Saxony!’ It’s a tradition that goes all the way up, my tradition: that hopeless tradition of mashed bananas for tea and a lot of talk about the New Art before bedtime. Dad always said I was going to re-structure the whole world in everyone’s head and he wasn’t far wrong. The best wars are fought in heads. I’m so hungry I could join the mourners – and that’s saying something!

“MEMORY OF THE PAST: A big banging sound and the leatherette goons are weeping up my living room window, bike chains in their pudgy hands, chewing other bits of bike. I have no statement for their cross-wired Dictaphones, so I just let them get on with it. I’d clearly like to be somewhere else, though – look at those sparkly tears in my eyes! Look at those real teeth!

“So the bus pulls up right outside Mr Circadian’s mammoth place – an old Pasternak style house resembling nothing so much as a big top with a house blown all over it like a dribble-castle. Apposite, as Mr Circadian is “English” for Dribble Castle. Outdoor anthems and red martinis are the order of the day here, and talking in low-cut voices about high-end things. Mr Circadian likes them incongruities. So I get to talking to a pretty little thing in a plant pot then I get me own red martini and a chance to take the microphone.”

‘Please, for the love of God, stop,’ said Isa, crying a little bit. ‘My legs hurt and the children are so bored they’ve started to tear up their shark hats.’

God bless her she hadn’t moved a centimetre and I felt, not for the first or last time, grateful.

‘I’m almost done,’ I reassured her. ‘“So I take to the stage. ‘I’d just like to say how sorry I am!’ I say, happily. ‘I am margins! There’s no getting away from it!’ Then big chief Mr Circadian wrestles me to the ground and wrestles something into my mouth. It is a living shoe – the leather somehow reanimated so that it is breathing and a warm heart beats somewhere – a remote heart. The band plays reggae and ska and it sounds like sliced bread and Piggy’s Marmalade on an Autumn’s spoiled boiler afternoon: depressed Mather spending all his money on Monday’s Child ointments and code-breakers which turn out to be ovens with football watches attached and not a code to be broken in sight. We talk about Los Angeles – which is the remotest possibility, that we will go to Los Angeles, or “Los Aye!” as the locals call it.

“Somebody is making a breakfast movie again – one of those movies you watch while you eat your breakfast, and they want me to star. ‘Well, I’ve heard that before, really,’ I say. ‘It’s not my fault if I say no. I’m just trying not to be disappointed again when all I ever wanted was my own skiff and barge and a businessman to take care of the business end.’ The pies are little and short-crust. Sometimes I can see paint-spattered dogs lilting towards the aqueduct. The red martinis have gone right to my head. The breakfast movie is going to be called Toxic Proxy Funeral – which doesn’t sound like a good breakfast movie to Mr Circadian – who is also called Little Coco Bean. And here is a fact about his family: they stink. Steamed Dave is pretty steamed about that – he’s the producer – but then he wouldn’t be called Steamed Dave if he wasn’t always getting steamed about something. My therapist calls that a self-fulfilling manatee. ‘Give me some of that red martini,’ says Steamed Dave, the steam rising off his shoulders. He pours a whole trough of red martini over himself and then says he don’t care what nobody says: he gonna make this breakfast movie till the eyeballs fall out his head and every breakfastland in the tri-county area will ring loud with the sound of a new belle: Toxic Proxy Funeral will win eleven Oscars, he predicts. But that’s Steamed Dave for you: an optimist. Here is a fact about his family: he doesn’t see them very often and it is said by some that they have disowned him.

“As you can see it’s a depressing business meeting for Mr Circadian’s literary garden parties, all of us with our crushed dreams in our little trousers and the food being so useless. I regret ever being present in his life, Little Old Coco Bean, as I have found myself calling him too even though I despise the name and the way it makes my voice sound when I say it. My Napoleon hat is the same as everyone else’s. You make friends with these awful people and then they make friends with you and it’s like we’re made of clay, exchanging happy stories: Did you hear about J Edgar Steamed Dave thinking he was going to Spain when really he was on his way to Mexico? It took him eleven years to get the stains out! We roll about the hills when we can get the money together for a taxi, but usually it’s the usual chips on a serviette, children’s group representatives to give us some social conscience and a kind of whizzing noise coming from the horizon. The Forearm Show, that’s what they called us at first, but now they’ve lost interest. It’s the same story on any estate: ‘Stick it in the mud! Stick it in the mud! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray.’

“Then it was a parade: Can’t argue with a parade. But that didn’t stop other young poet and my arch-rival, Football “BAP!” Stevens from trying. He laid out all these china dolls on the roadway and built up a wall of them high as a man. I want you to actually see those china dolls in your mind’s eye – a six foot high wall of them. Their cracked faces, their green eyes and sometimes red lips.

“And yes, the parade came to a halt and they choked on their brass lozenges, the lot of them, wheezing and spluttering to an early bath. Football “BAP!” Stevens bought a new house with the proceeds and even married a woman – Twirly Clan na Gael – which meant she was brother only to the winds of chance and wouldn’t betime the spirits of hell itself visit his face too roughly; that’s the kind of gal she was, gawwwwds look kindly upon her and pay the king a blender. And they spent three years paying other people’s bills out of the kindness of their hearts, plinky-plonky mass-murderers though they be. ‘What’s all this about a bleak world view?’ said Football “BAP!” Stevens, whirling around. ‘Have you seen the fuckin’ world recently?’

“They went global after that and there’s not much left to say about it. I met them both for lunch yesterday and that’s where the fun really starts. See, I was hard-pressed to understand their behaviour recently and it was for that reason I set up the meeting. The little brasserie was gloriously naïf, dearie, serving only turkey dinosaur shapes and frozen peas and there were Bugs Bunny prints on the walls: literary fiction was the owner’s strong suit and he’d written several incendiary literatures all by himself. Ain’t got it published, though: too conservative. He’d just as soon pule a chicken than do that, he said. Too conservative, like I said; there’s Voice Workshopping for you.”’

I stopped. The children had drifted back to the Shark Museum like electrons leaving a crispy coated shell, even though children never like to go to the same museum twice in one day. I made a note to add that to our manifesto. But I was happy when I saw that Isa sat apostolically before me, dutifully gazing into my eyes like rain. ‘My darling Isa,’ I said.

‘And then what?’ she said. ‘Why did you finally decide against appearing in the breakfast movie when it was clearly a good career move? Why did Football “BAP!” Stevens fall out of favour with his small but dedicated audience? What was that sound of letters hitting a welcome mat? At what point did Steamed Dave settle down and get over his rage? And is this why we have all of the broken quarry machinery in our garden? Why don’t you still have the little radar dishes embedded in your face if, as you claim, medical science put them there? And who murdered Mr Circadian just before he was about to finally get his day in court?’

I smiled at Isa. And then I smiled at my little blue glass orphan hands which were hot to the touch and seemed, finally, to be at rest.

—Luke Kennard

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fotis Begetis, The Parchment, Variation

The Parchment, Variation 
Fotis Begetis 

Martin Stannard, Five Poems

 Red Infini of Strings, image by Daniel Y. Harris


If you go to school the teachers berate you
for your dress. They have no sense of
our predicament. The world we live in
is a haunt of shadowed forms, somewhat
difficult to explain to creatures parachuted
in from a bright

           and glamorous elsewhere. 
We have been left to fend for ourselves.
The butcher who used to give us meat has
moved from the neighbourhood leaving no
forwarding address nor any culinary advice.
The fire smokes; we are trying to burn poems.


They asked me to tend the trees
because I have “kind fingers”. So
I ventured into the forest even though I was
frightened of the shadows that persisted
all the day long. With me I took no tools
only a small canvas bag holding an eternal apple
and a bottle of everlasting water. My mother
always told me to value simplicity and frugality
and something else. Perhaps self-preservation.
When I reached
          the babbling brook I knew
I had reached the heart of the forest. If you listen
in the correct way you can hear it beating.
I set about my work with gusto. Time moves
more quickly when one is occupied by a task
that requires total commitment. In no time at all
I was an old man with no stories to tell except
this one, which is no story at all.


The office manager took me to one side
and suggested I dress what he called
“more appropriately for a gentleman of my age.”
This particular day I was wearing my Madam
Butterfly outfit; it fortifies me in the face of
November gloom. This morning, as stars
clambered down from the sky, the cabbage girl
had come to me with tales of

            another country
where all the jobs were made of crystal. Should I
compose my letter of resignation now,
and apply for a new passport, or find some way
for her “tale” to be confirmed? I asked the air
this rhetorical question, not expecting an answer
because none was needed. But the office manager,
standing on his pile of dust, answered it.


My new shoes were giving me gyp
and the thought of walking home was
breaking my mind. I tried to find a cab
using the app on my phone but nobody
responded - I was, after all, in the backwoods
and not many people come out here.
I could see the lights from the TeeMall
in the distance, and in the opposite direction

    curled up from cottage chimneys
built in the previous dynasty. Somewhat bored
I sat down, leaning against the trunk of a tree. 
After all this time you still don't get it, do you?
Indolence symbolizes the captivation one feels
when sundry emotions coalesce and you sense
divine grace. And the lack of metaphor
signifies  an acceptance, albeit reluctant,
of things as they are, unadorned.


The voice came borne on the wind ugly
as a gravel-scarred crone. It was impossible
to make out what was being said and, as
we have thought so often in these years
of ostracism and drought, we little cared to
know. The voice was little more than an
annoying distraction or intrusion. A file was
being delivered, and so there was a lot of
waiting around

          going on. We couldn't
move until it had been executed. If birds  
had been in our trees they would, surely as
eggs is eggs, have taken wing. Then, unexpected,
a shower of rain arrived, left a note, and
departed as quietly as it had come. “You have to
make your own weather.” And little black full stops
of flies flitted around my glass of red wine.

—Martin Stannard