25 minutes of Mumbling and Melody 2:01: It’s not every day you get a private performance. 2:02: Your tea is steaming from the mug. Remember that time you put honey in my tea at the party, and I couldn’t speak to anyone because I felt the honeycomb wedged in my teeth? 2:03: I’ve only practiced this piece once (the Sun’s in my eyes). 2:04: It’s called the Cathedral. He’s stepping outside of the church. 2:05: Can you hear the bells? Or the rush of the cars? 2:06: Here are the bells. 2:07: The cars are in the frantic eighth notes. 2:08: You might not realize it, but this is the ninth time I’ve played for you. 2:09: So I finally talked to him on the phone last night, he said he was at a terrible party. 2:10: “You two will be happiest together.” 2:11: This last movement has an accompanying voice part—Patrice usually sings it, but I wouldn’t have you hear it. 2:12: Patrice sings like a goat. 2:13: And after our last performance she got too drunk, and tried to kiss me. I stuck my guitar nail up her ass. 2:14: What I’m trying to say is even if you wanted to hear her sing with me, which I wouldn’t want to put your through, you couldn’t, because she’s so angry with me. 2:15: This song I’ve been playing since I was 14. 2:16: Sometimes when you curl your legs under you like that, I think of old pictures of my grandmother. 2:17: Except she’d have a real drink in her hand—two fingers scotch, one finger water. 2:18: “A liver transplant costs about half a million dollars today.” 2:19: “It’s an encore,” I say. “Even if we become famous, we won’t be able to afford livers,” you say. 2:20: I don’t know if you’ll like this one, it’s not Spanish. 2:21: “Half a million dollars, that’s without the immunosuppressant drugs and follow up care.” 2:22: Sometimes I wish you hadn’t learned so much. Or retained so much. 2:23: “Everyone’s running so goddamn late today.” 2:24 You trace over your eyebrow with your finger like you always do when you’re annoyed. 2:25: If I were a girl, I’d want to look just like you.
The Porphyry The Porphyry is a little tree with a dark green frame and purple leaves; it grows in extreme temperatures, hot or cold, primarily in the icy Andalusian Foothills or deep amongst the heat waves of the Gobi desert. If you pick it out of the ground you feel like you’re holding a dough-eyed puppy or a clueless alien baby. It grows no higher than one foot tall, Its roots spread wide but not deep, Its body appears that of wild ginger, Only it is dark green in colour; The trunk is a distorted foetal mass Of healthy lumps and bulbous cysts, It is swidgy but coarse, like elephant skin; The branches sprout at irregular points, Needle out flat, never far from the trunk, And give birth to mossy pine-like leaves Which muscle out in a purple softy down; They are watercress, tree moss, soda bread. –It’s more an amorphous blob of mutations, Stocky leathery bumps, twitching Quasimodos, Leading up to stroking, beardy, pulsing cover-leaves –It’s more a mishmash of recipe books, exoskeletons, Racing-chariots, cassowaries, pig-skins, Richmond Station Than a tree, or a shrub, or a root. An adult Porphyry weighs about as much as a duck. And, at a very specific temperature, when the air humidity is at just the right percentage, when the tree is of just the right age, the Porphyry is soluble. It just melts, dissolves, bubbles away, dissipates into the ether; from a little tree, to a thin dying wax candle, to a stump, to nothing, the Porphyry just melts into the atmosphere. Take a Porphyry out of its natural habitat, take away its sun or its snow, and you’ll see it happen. And the reaction is a beautiful sight. Keep it in the freezer or a warm oven until you want to use it, and then take it out. Put it on the floor in your favourite room, find your favourite way of watching it, and just savour it. Mine’s in my room at university, Room 128, I put it on an old African rug on the carpet, While I’m sitting on the bed, cross-legged, Hugging a pillow and leaning against the wall;
I like seeing the contrast between the beauty Of the Porphyry’s thawing and the normalness Of my room – my paper-flung desk, my untidy-shelves: The stack-rows of books, the old rugby trophies, The birthday cards, kids pictures that sit on them; My posters hanging from the picture rail, the fairy lights Multicoloured, blue, green, pink, yellow, red, orange, White, purple, that I tack-pinned, trailing across the room. The front door, the wardrobe, the curtains, the windows. I put it on the rug, and I turn the lights off, and look at it react; The Porphyry begins to twitch. It seems to be rolling over itself externally, feeling its trunk and mossy leaves against the mid-warm and mid-humid air. The skin of it in immediate contact with the air softens and bubbles, slowly at first. All parts of the tree react, the purple-moss leaves, the green-cyst trunk, the wide-woody roots; all feel the tickle. The Porphyry begins to release its gases into the room, hissing like a coiled snake. The gases are colourful, powerful: The dark green of the trunk shimmers into the air, Turning metallic, light-verte, emerald, lime, leafgreen; The purple of the moss-leaves glitters up into the room, Making lilacs, violets, shadowy-black purples, Then marbling as it dissipates through the room With creams, subtle yellows, crackling in A pearlescent splendour! Infusing with the growing And spreading variegated green hues, the bubbles of colour Clamouring against the walls, spottering like Jackson Pollock On the ceiling, making layers of sunset-mist, orange-reds, Purple-yellows, all new atmospheres, rainforest canopies of An Iridescent Grandeur! in my room. The reaction burns deeper, into the paler flesh of the Porphyry’s trunk. It sweats, and tugs at its shirt-collar; it bubbles quicker now, whistling a sharp airy whistle like a fizzy-whizzer. The sound of it whirrs round like a Catherine wheel, as plumes of luscious smoke pour out from the convulsing trunk; Flashes of glitter spot themselves around the smoke Like lustrous clusters of diamond and mother-of-pearl In a charcoal-brittle volcanic rock; flickering like fireflies In the oil-slick lower tropospheres where the darkest Purples and greens have settled as rich velvet; lights Emanate harmoniously from the melting tree,
Some make flowing patterns on the walls, like an in-room aquarium; silver-fish of yellow and purple light marble together and switch and shoal over my curtains and shelves, Some crash and collide into existence against the ceiling, the fiery scarlets and oranges illuminating like fireworks: making new constellations on a sludgy-tar black sky; a planetarium! Some gravitate to the centre of the room, layering like rainforest canopies; large dark liquid-gas leaves below, growing higher as cirruses into lighter azures and yellows! The last of the tree begins to froth down, the room now filled with Iridescent Stratospheres of fragrant grass cuttings Opalescent Mesospheres of sea-spray coastal breezes Nacreous Thermospheres of rubber-shimmer leggings and Opaline Exospheres of planes’ and eagles’ steamy feathers. The Porphyry’s more a combustible resurrection of light, Texture, forest edges, celestial angels, Bricks-on-top-of-breeze-blocks, hairclips, Walls covered in kids paint hand-prints, daisy-chains, Marquees, St Petersburg, pension plans –It’s more a collection of nebulous rhizomes of oak, Watches and fibre optics and French pyramids, Burnt bridges and treasury tags and mandrake roots, Kids cartoons and graphite pencils and the noise thakkk, The Heimlich manoeuvre and an axis and coyotes –It’s more a resonant splurging of echoes and insanity And ravishings and envy and hatred and wild rapings A despotic herb crusher of canyons and pride and yaks And ravines and hurt and tofu and Jules Verne An amorphous blob of melon balls and World War I A slovenly bed of Guantanamo Bay and double-glazing An extemporaneous cat of the number 3 and witches A peanut telephone directory, hot and not cold, of keel And language and Spain and white horses and nightmares Than it is a tree, or a shrub, or a root.
The Dachshund Racer He raced dachshunds; you could see them on the Channel 8 News at nine. He was lucky, because after many years he had finally been able to cultivate enough of a following of dachshund racing fans to allow him to quit his part-time job at the local bookshop and focus on racing his dachshunds full time. A lot of other local dachshund owners had gotten in the fun and started racing their own dogs so the races were fun, exciting, “a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon: two thumbs up,” and certainly nothing less than completely adorable. You see, dachshunds are nothing like greyhounds. Instead of running like they’re always about to fall down, they run like dozens of small rubber bands shot from childish fingers, skittering and confused. Their ears flop as they bounce into the arms of their owners at the finish line. At these races they got head rubs and belly rubs and chest rubs; children fed them doggy treats as the owners looked on, beaming. And since it was apparent that all these owners loved their dachshunds; no one protested; no one banned it; no one called PETA to make a fuss. It was good fun, and the dogs certainly enjoyed the attention, plus burning some extra energy on Saturdays. *** AllofhisdogswerenamedBo-BoLittleTiny.Tokeepthem from getting confused when he called them (and not the other way around, for he could never get his babies confusedinhishead)therewasBo-BoLittleTiny,thenBo-BoLittleTinyII,Bo-BoLittleTiny1.5(retroactivelynamedwhenit turnedouthewasactuallyolderthanII),Bo-BoLittleTinyIII, Bo-BoLittleTinyIV,andBo-BoLittleTinyV.Henevershortenedtheirnamestojust“Two”or“Five.” Todosowouldbe demeaning to them. He took great care of them, brushing themandplayingwiththem.Alltheirshotswereuptodate. Fleas were promptly taken care of; heart- worm dispensed of with pills. And to keep his house from becoming a giant dachshundorgy,theywereallappropriatelyneuteredand spayed.Anywigglingtheydidwitheachotherwasnothing but platonic. It was only a matter of time before this handsome, caring bachelor met an eligible young single woman. She was new in town. They met at the post office, because the lines were always long and slow. The post office held limited hours on weekdays and even shorter hours on Saturdays. Not that he could ever get there in time with all the racing he had to do. It was while inching forward
toward the two person manned desk that he turned around and began to speak to her. He was mailing a birthday present to his mother, he explained. At this rate by the time he finally got up there he might have to mail two. She laughed and said she was here to register her new address, but, and here she imitated his tone of voice, by the time she got up there she might be moving again, so she would have to register an all new address. They laughed and chatted and he thought, my, here was a likeable woman he could fall in love with. It was time he got settled anyway, but he was never interested in any of the women he knew. She had short orange-red hair and a burst of freckles across her face. They were a good omen. During sex, for the first time, he saw the future. He saw them together growing old; her orange- red hair streaked with gray. Perhaps by then he would not have any hair. She would kiss him on the top of his bed, soft as petals and the grandchildren of his dogs would circle around them, barking happily. He sighed, content, and laid back. Then the excited dogs rushed out of their soft beds and leaped onto his large one. They romped around them like nymphs celebrating the rites of spring. He snuggled against her and asked her what she thought of them. She frowned and said, “Frankly, I’m not a dog person.” “What do you mean?” He asked. The relationship was still salvageable. “I mean,” she said as she pushed an overtly eager dog lapping at her face off the bed, “that I think I’m allergic to them.” She sneezed, as if offering up hard evidence. “I mean, I’m not too allergic normally, but I think five might be a bit much.” “I have six,” he offered, weakly. “I’m sorry,” she said, rising. “I think I have to go.” She pulled on her bra, her panties, her top, and her pants. She swatted away Bo-Bo Little Tiny IV, who was chewing on her shoes. She fished out her socks from Bo-Bo Little Tiny II’s mouth. Depositing the socks in her purse with a grimace, she pulled on her shoes and walked toward the door. “I...I guess I’ll see you around sometime.” And, that quickly, it was back to just him and his dogs again. But he was happy. Every morning he took his dogs out to the track, all six of the tiny wriggling things, and let them loose to run round and round and round.
Passages I hear cars from the street echo in the garden and it reminds me of the the empty sound inside a shell, cats mewing, faint stirrings, the damp earth smell. I am trying to sleep. Which reminds me. When I was young and couldn't sleep she told me to think of a train churning towards me, iron-steady, and wait until the second where it hit me and then, sleep. Lonely traffic. The sound of its motion fills the walled garden and again and again falling rain, the charged air that fires through the dark. And I remember, when cars rushed by us in the night, I heard their wind, a gasp and their passing, the slow pushing away, the passing of other pasts. The image returns, the train slowly coming before sleep. I pretend I'm not looking, not waiting because wonderful things don't often happen in waiting-rooms, in unknown in-between places on platforms, in hotel-rooms where the overnight stay breaks the journey, where the clean white pillows break the fall, and the burring of a black and white film set in Tennessee or else somewhere where a girl with a Southern lilt, a checkered dress and swinging plaits played on the lines, on the tracks, as the train thundered to the foreground. n
To the Farmer’s Daughter 1. Milk on your palm, Ropy fingers waxing white in the semi-morning; We hold this heavy-lidded love. We do it in an oily silence On the sawdust, Bathed in the diamond Clean balm of fear. Even the cows keep track of the light Stomping out the hours hoof by hoof. 2. Leathered with the cows, Reading the cornflower crops on your back. I beg them to stomp the night to me Impatient, blood expanding in the sun, Heat fleas crowding my neck and ears. The cows moan with my own voice; Bull gores bull. I can’t correct how they see us, I can’t ruin this for all the cows.
Sunday with Jessica
I am rowing to the centre of the lake. Jessica is across from me, hunched over in her seat. She doesn’t talk. I don’t expect her to. I try to blink the sun out of my eyes. No luck. We’re almost out far enough. Only a few more strokes. Paddles dip in and out. Little tornados ripple though the pale grey surface of the water. Ah. We’re here. I bring the paddles up and they clunk on the lip of the boat. I sit back and take in the stillness. It’s early. It’s real nice. Just me and Jessica and the light morning fog. The trees on the banks surrounding us are leaning in, craning their necks to eavesdrop. They’re disappointed with our silence. I bend over in the boat and swat away empty beer cans. I know there’s gotta be one left. I grab it and crack it open. I love that noise. It’s soothing. The can is speckled with dew, cold and moist in my palm. I raise the can in a toast to Jessica before taking the first sip. She doesn’t say anything. I stare at her for a few minutes as I drink my beer. I finish it and crush it in my hand. I drop it onto the heap of its discarded brothers. I steady myself and climb over to Jessica’s side of the boat. I nudge her to the side and sit on her left. I put my left arm behind her back and my right under her legs, cradling her. I prop her up and heave her over the side of the boat. She slides into the water with a dull plop. The weight tied to her legs carries her under the water steadily. I stand in the boat looking down at her. I wait until I can’t see her anymore. I sit back down on my seat and look for another beer.
Rag-Baby Blues When Mama sings, my rag-baby dances. She dances in fits and starts. She writhes up the curtains and climbs the walls, throws rag-baby voodoo in my eyes. When Mama sings, she resounds like a car engine. Her eyes shut half way and roll back. She clutches her breast, unhinges her jaw, and retches a hurt song out.
When she sings, the dogs slink under the house, rise up from the floorboards in sorrowful whines. They cry with her, they harmonize. The screen door swings out, swings back. Morning, the spirit exits the house. Mama stops singing, re-hinges her mouth. She falls fast asleep, and the dogs crawl out, their tongues frothing and thirsty. Mama, wake up and sing again. Teach me to unhinge my jaw, to retch out a hurt song, sing the rag-baby blues. Teach me to sing like you.
Wild Mountain Thyme Christmas day. We’re all at my gran’s house, The full, Catholic-size family, Cramped into the front room Like chestnuts in an oven. Bums ache on floors, Perch on arms of chairs, Settle into laps of relatives. Fields of Athenry tails off, (Too slow, Too sad) Leaving us to decide on Another song. Granny’s keeping herself busy Making Gaelics in the kitchen, Keeping her mind together While we’re all fixing Absences with cream, whiskey, Guinness, the whole room A-glow. A postcard with the robin And the snow and the fire And the misting-up Dickensian window. Bravely, someone intones The first notes to Wild Mountain Thyme, And our voices warm And swell around The sunken armchair left Empty since last December, Just over twelve months now. Our voices warm the space around it, Hide it amongst the blooming heather, Warm it, Pick around it. Our voices warm the space. Our voices, Warm. l n
Le déjeuner sur l’herbe On a far wall of the Musee d’Orsay Manet was hung and was surrounded by Picasso’s crude imitation of the same naked lakeside lunch that caused such a stir then. Now on November’s free entrance Sunday I’m standing in front of a grotesque woman with elephant tits and four shades of something called grass like this is a message Picasso sent to me that says ‘don’t you get it? look at how new, look at how abstract I am, look at that Manet dying on the wall.’
Butterfly ‘The so-called psyche or butterfly is generated from caterpillars which grow on green leaves ... After this it grows on and on, and becomes quiescent and changes its shape, and is now called a chrysalis. The outer shell is hard ... After a little while the outer covering bursts asunder, and out flies the winged creature that we call the psyche or butterfly.’ (Aristotle’s History of Animals 551a.1) What I’m about to say may not seem entirely plausible. To be honest it’s up to you whether you believe it or not. All I’ll say is this: think of it like a treasure hunt. Have your fun, let one clue lead to another then move on. It happened one evening when I was on the roof of my house. It’s a small terraced house, and the attic window is broken in a way that I can squeeze myself through it and out onto the tiles. Up there the perspective shifts - you can look down onto groups of people but not be part of them, and because you do not feature in comparison to anyone, you can forget yourself altogether. Basically that evening I turned into a butterfly. I say ‘turned into’; it wasn’t quite that simple, because I was still myself, with all the features I had had before but just with some extra wings. I think they were the wings of a Black Admiral, but I can’t be entirely sure because obviously I couldn’t turn around to see them properly. It’s like it always is when someone’s stuck something to your back and no matter how hard you crane you can’t ever see yourself from behind. But these weren’t post-it notes, they were wings. To begin with I couldn’t really believe it, as I’m sure you don’t at this point either. But since I could feel them, and even flap them, I knew that they were not fictitious but really coming out of my spine and I guess there’s nothing I can say to prove this to you. Since I couldn’t very easily climb back through the window again, I thought I might as well make use of the opportunity and spread my wings, as it were. So I flew off.
The first place I came to was somewhere in the sky. It’s impossible to say exactly where, but it was inhabited by a collection of very strange people, who formed an enormous conglomerate. They seemed to be playing a game. Like a flock of penguins, each individual was trying to get to the centre, but because it constantly shifted, as soon as they seemed to get there they were on the edge again. The strangest characteristic of all was their removable faces. Every person had a collection of about five or six faces strung around his or her neck, which they would occasionally change. This would make the people around them cheer and try and put on a new face to match. I attempted to join in, but my wings were too big so I kept getting jostled to the outside, and I didn’t have another face I could put on. What’s more everyone kept calling me a moth, and that annoyed me, because, as I’ve just explained, I was not a moth, I was a butterfly. Soon I found the constant moving and jostling and cheering very wearing, so I made my excuses and flew away. I soon met a very strange tribe of humans. All they did was walk in a circle. They weren’t actually getting anywhere, they just walked purposefully round and round, determined, grimfaced but slightly vacant. I tried to stop the nearest one, and ask him why he was walking nowhere. He didn’t stop to answer, but just kept walking round, eyes fixed on whatever was in front of him. I walked with him for a bit, his head at my feet. Yes, sorry, there was one detail that I’ve forgotten to mention, which was that the continual treading created a kind of moat around a pile of earth, and with each
revolution the pile got a bit bigger. Some piles were very high, and on top of each pile was a family; it looked quite comfortable at the top. I wondered that none of the people wanted to climb up and spend time with their family, but they seemed set on making a bigger pile. I walked a few revolutions with these people, but after a while I got bored and dizzy and decided to move on. There was a barren desert beyond this region (which had been made uneven with all the holes and hills). I walked through the desert by myself for a long time. Eventually, I came to a cluster of settlements on the edge of a very rocky terrain. These people lived in bubbles, giant glass bubbles, which they rolled like hamster wheels along a great nexus of interconnecting tunnels and burrows, which to me all seemed the same. I couldn’t talk to the people because they were inaudible through the glass, and anyway they did not seem very interested. I started to investigate the rocky terrain on the other side, and it turned out to be thousands of miles of broken eggshells. I don’t know where they all came from, or whose eggs they were (I later thought that maybe they belonged to the dragons), but on the other side, I could just make out a mountain. I decided to cross the shells. They were jagged, and it was painful, and when I looked back at the bubble people, they were all laughing at me. It struck me that they couldn’t ever get across because their bubbles would break. I walked painfully for a long time, feeling very exposed and vulnerable. It must have been about half way across when I found some respite, a smooth stretch of semisolid orange, disc shaped, which I can only assume was a giant yolk. I flew into the centre, and there, entirely alone, I saw myself in the pool below. I watched myself, myself at seventeen, when I thought I was in love. It was hilarious from this angle. From above I was just another lover, the other side of a clichéd pair, and I laughed when I heard my own narration. I had seemed so convinced by what was clearly untrue. This is what I said to myself:
“she wove him with her words, the broken boy (not man but on the brink) who sat apart I found him and we looked at friends from through a window I hated school, he hated school. Just out of prison because of his best friend, solitary, gentle, holds my hand. Beautiful, you’re incredible, look what he’s saying to me just listen. Grateful, both of us batting back the others, stay away and weave a web of white deception for parents to lie peacefully on. He’s stopping to kiss me all the way back home, three times now don’t think but feel. There’s no lights in the house I haven’t paid the bill so in pitch black, no eyes, we feel for the other and between the sheets we make each other weak.” And then I saw myself a few years later, in a towel just wet from the bath, speaking to him on the telephone for the very last time, and hearing gulped snatches: It would be terrible if we battled through by smothering the other’s insecurities We are different Clinging to a past version or subjunctive I Love You- forbidden now - and if we show it we’ll be worse Dripping O’ I’m dripping everywhere I left myself in the yolk and moved on over the eggshells to the other side. Climbing the mountain, I put one limb overthenext,pullingmyselfupwithmyarmsandflying the bits that were too sheer to scramble. I’m not sure if I want to say what I saw at the top. You won’t believe me, I bet you won’t believe me. But I’ll tell you anyway because it’s the end-point, it’s sort of the whole reason I’mwritingthisdown.Itistheonlypartofthisentirething that makes any sense at all.
At the centre of the plain at the mountain’s summit there was a man sitting alone. He was in the middle of a circle he had drawn with chalk. I don’t know how he had drawn it because he didn’t have any arms, he was a truncated torso with two stumps in different shades of red and purple with ligaments and bits of bone coming out like the inside of a plug. It made him look funny, like a question mark. He was sitting on a little stool, and staring out at me very intensely, his head cocked to one side. And in his chest there was a rectangular hole, with a concertina inside. Whenever he gasped in it made a sound, which was beautiful and pure, and whenever he rasped out it made a sound, which was raw, and pained. It rasped as he inhaled and gasped as he exhaled, so that with the rasping and the gasping he was breathing music. The pain was made for me to hear and that was enough. Standing in front of this man there were no subjunctives of would or could or ought or should, or comparativesthere was no grammar at all actually- we just were. He breathed the music, and the stumps at his shoulders wept droplets of blood; and my eyes dripped tears and I danced to the music. In the chalk circle at the top of the mountain I danced for the man with the concertina in his chest. I could say I kept my wings forever, and flew from one group of people to another until the comparatives reduced to qualities, and ‘more/less’ became irrelevant, because ‘they’ turned to ‘we’ and we learnt to understand the other’s definition. If I said that I’d be talking total bullshit.
From a pervy bureau of pirated things: note for Mariska Hargitay, my post-apocalyptic princess Show me your best iron fists, those galloping fists you’d used in to-the-death-beating downs of old misers sometimes: You forced from me a flower—so I won’t stretch truths for you, Mariska, when I put to picture your withering tendrils coiled to neck of a shovel that will serve as both your dowry and our ticket off of this island. I trust you’ll want to head for subways, your un-ironed pillow case filled, even pregnant, with canned vegetables and strapped to a two-by-four with rusted nails at its head—you are, after all, always so resourceful when it comes to treating a kill to dinner, ready to lop heads at the drop of a dime. Would you cringe if I admitted to wasting time on nicknames for us—Hargibargitay? Daltiska?—instead of stocking canned peas and scraps of the present? No. Nimble fingered and quick to point: Fuck the police and etc., is what you said, right?, twelve shots down on our first date. Never muzzled is what I hope for our tunneled years together, Mariska, to see what eats you from the inside and what you eat when food supply runs short, to have you scale walls and beat down the competition with your fists, fastened with a lock of my hair and thirsty for creation, or your club, a fright enough to shake meat from tunnels that we’ll scurry through like prowling bits of vermin: forgotten, unsteady. Even in rush, a shovel is one thing you won’t forget—which is how your body simply is: uneasy when beaten back, if, say, I take you from behind like my porno boys who look better from far away: you never turn back, never wait for the shot before lighting your Virginia Slim and slipping away, I guess, to a bingo hall or holding cell of the mind. Since I’m getting better at all of this, I’ve planned every love letter for our stay underground and named our kids something out of the Bible— I’ll have you know, Mariska, though they are only an idea at the moment, if you fancy to meet each of them as promised, take the shovel you so dearly mount above ground and thrust it through sod— for a royal line: on all fours and eager to feed.
Iceland’s grinning down my neck The pencil tip from which the laurel stems Tapping out the Morse from which The radio crackles to lose your signal There’s no sign of you out here No oil tanker crooning through the dark, alone The spectral surface whale swims, crying to the stars, Hurting for its own corrupt machinery And the men who drive it Hearing only violins over the airwaves, Striking up a cyclone, Filtering the echoes of unwed sailors, Stranded on underwater oases Beside their broken oars But once were hurt on the bow, Pacing up and down Looking over the faint fading save our souls Mayday, glaring on at lovers And how they’ve let you drop, Sparking revolving chambers Crushing the world’s doors open and shut Casting off the anchors, And away they go.
i am always standing on the outside, never within
let it take all
instant web of fickle wet nerves screaming inside of me
out letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s get out of this mess his door far behind me long before (abounds) this
if i could mean those two words
i run across the orange tiles dissolving in the corridor tablets in hot water (that girl is never mellow) white doors all around
her inside his skin resolve now
bright voices inside (laughter) from the heart what did i think was going to happen
him to me
following the lead a silent ocean of green and blue bricks moving
A Biography, in Pieces i. About the author The poet’s eyes are lovely and diseased with hunger for another self, hunger for one she cannot have. I. What does she think of being old? As her life wears on, she finds she has to close her eyes more and more often. II. What does she do at coffee shops? When the song ends all she hears with her hand pressed to her cheek is her watch. III. Does she get lonely? When she walks home at night she cannot tell if others on the street walk towards her or away, yet she is hopeful. IV. Is she lacking in patience? She takes her watch off to stop remembering but keeps looking at her wrist, waiting for her loneliness to end. V. How would one know her on the street? Her lipstick leaves bright red tags on her cups of tea and cigarette butts and on her lovers’ necks when in her dreams they love her and are hers.
when bloodless cries. VII. And in her free time? Comes home from work at nine and is alone with her thoughts, as they say. VIII. What part of the paper does she read? Frustrated by the unerring beating of her heart, young woman, 23, kills herself methodically in search of obedience from her body. IX. Does she believe? At night and on her knees she crosses herself with closing eyes, then sleeps uneasily. X. How does she sin? Sometimes she lets herself think that everything she’s ever known is just herself, endlessly repeated by carnival mirrors. XI. What does she do when she can’t sleep? Early the next morning the wind comes off the lake and in her ears and scrubs her clean of all her trespasses.
VI. What does she do? She bleeds all day and then at night
Frank Tailoring O’Hara slacks I’ll be frank, scarlet never was My colour or my kind of girl I’ll run instead of talking and I’ll sing instead of working and You’ll find me sipping coke Somewhere with one of many lovers In those lemon yellow shoes, the Ones that look American, which is Why I think you like them, which is Why you think I wear them, which is Enough for the moment, which is All there is. Like the starlings in the hedgerows With no notion of tomorrow Delighted by sunrise; This is the last straw Chewed to spite you By somebody else; In the morning I will love you Remember myself.
At the Theatre “I always enjoyed ticket-stubs.” Things perforated can’t be separated really. You look at me, two eyebrows arched for the raising shrug the question off, and you, place a smile on your mouth that misses the mark, turn and watch the queue in front. And I pre-monisce with pain, almost, how easily I will love you long after you leave, permanently I will ache for this: two perforated people, prepared for the tearing, holes always in our middles.
Breakfast, Balanced. At the Kellogg’s factory, cornflakes tumble into a stainless steel drum, rustling end over end as a high-powered nozzle evenly sprays out a solution of vitamins, coating each flake with diluted yellow-red riboflavin and ensuring that we unwitting breakfasters consume the recommended daily amount without realizing it, perhaps without even realizing our bodies crave riboflavin, or that riboflavin (that’s vitamin B2 to you) exists at all. When the Seneca cooked maize, they mixed in ashes with the cornmeal, unknowingly releasing trapped niacin deposits —live and be free, vitamin B3!— and keeping themselves from the fate awaiting the post-Columbian world: Lips red and chafing, tongue turgid and glossy, indented on either side to make room for teeth, Nescient flaky-faced drifters stalked the mountains of Italy, the valleys of Eastern Europe,
with hollow imagined coughs that deliver a man, cold-browed and solemn-eyed, into the waiting-room purgatory in his once-Golden city on the Bay. He will learn the truth behind the rattle in his chest, ACT UP, and become a case study for practicing perfect cocktails that blend in with his day after day after day after day after day—quotidian as brewing the perfect pot of coffee, or selecting the best wine to go with each supper. My friends devoted an entire summer to those skills, figuring out how to drink like grownups, reverse engineering restaurant dishes and never calling me for advice. That chilled blueberry soup from a café in Michigan could have come out right; they detected the orange juice but failed to notice the one missing ingredient: dry white wine. I hear one old Professor, however, can only work if he’s got a solitary Jack and Coke in hand to help him peel back pages in seventeenth-century ledgers, dogging quarto-folio intersubtext in a riveting
the marshes of the American South. A now-steady diet of plain corn corroded them from the inside out, neck arms hands legs bubbling, blackening, oxidizing in the glaring daylight. low-speed chase between the lines of history At night, their neighbours stared at darkness, until he stumbles, and catches his breath with an article-length project delving in patchwork quilts pulled to their chins, to the real socio-scientific causes each scurrying mouse surely the harbinger of intruders raging, scaly-necked, behind the myth of vampirism. ready to slice down to the jugular. His theory posits that it is probably not caused by rabies, or by tuberculosis, but rather Centuries later, Jerry Fallwell by pellagra (a grotesquely deformative deficiency will wave his good Book and caution us in vitamin B3, otherwise known as niacin.) against sowing seeds that “reap a harvest of corruption,” and vacant bath houses will echo Days after publication, letters pepper his editor’s desk and indignant specialists declare him an idiot, even questioning the authority of the wispy bundles of parchment from which he drew his conclusions.
When his editor prints the choicest response, does the spotlight burn the Professor from the inside out? We cannot look to the skin for signs of chemical changes, as New York City journalists sought to do in 1952, analyzing every glamorous puff Christine Jorgensen took of her slim cigarette as she recounted her stunning metamorphosis from George William Jr. into the very definition of a New Woman. Basking in flashbulb rays, a pillar of ambiguity, she doled out demure smiles to each expectant onlooker. “You seem to assume that every person is either a man or a woman,” she laughed. “Each person is actually both in varying degrees.”
The new building was so large it blocked out the Sun, dooming my tomatoes. I’ve been raising tomatoes every year for the past 5 years. My tomatoes are housed in a pot, which looks like a wooden barrel cut in half. I raise approximately 4 tomato plants per season, plus or minus 1. This number fluctuates in direct correlation with weather patterns and my dedication. In order to raise a healthy tomato plant I need to refill the patch with new soil every year. I also put crushed eggshells in the soil when I get the chance. The soil integrates the calcium or other nutrients as the shells decompose. When the breeze comes through the open balcony door it makes the whole room smell fresh and alive with tomatoes. I am a TechnicianConsultantforComcast,andbefore now we had been working out of a two-story building. Now Comcast has bought the shopping center our building was in, destroyed the other shops, and built a 38-story skyscraper. I believe it does technically scrape the sky because the windows on the 35th, 36th, 37th, and 38th floor are covered in condensation. I’ve never been up there, but that’s what I’ve heard. I live in a small apartment complex called The Village Lofts. It’s across the street from what used to be the shopping center. There used to be this little Korean market where I would buy apples, and milk, and the seeds for my tomatoes. I don’t think any of the employees there spoke English but the old woman at the cash register always smiled at me.
The Korean Market has been replaced by our new building. Before the new building I would have to ride my bike to work, and I would have to wake up at 6 in the morning to get in by 8. Now I don’t have to leave my house until 7:40 to make it in on time. Although it is convenient and I get 2 extra hours of sleep, my apartment balcony only receives sunlight from approximately 6 A.M. to 9 A.M. After that my balcony sits in the shade of the new 38-story Comcast skyscraper. Because of the lack of sunlight, my five-year stretch of working the earth in the Spring to receive tomatoes would come to an end. I searched the Internet for ways of sustaining tomatoes indoors. I found pictures of complicated systems of Sun lamps and sprinklers. I found an abandoned television projection light and I left work early, which I have never done before. I stared at my tomatoes shadowed by a monster, and set up my artificial sun. My tomatoes had to be relegated into my bedroom closet. I hung the lamp from the tie rack in my closet, running an extension cord through my dress shirts and ties. The tomatoes were kept company by my five white dress shirts, my red tie and my blue tie, my black dress shoes, my old New Balance sneakers, my father’s old baseball cap and the teddy bear I slept with as a child. The tomatoes would miss the wind, they would miss the rain, and they would miss the gradual loss of light, especially in comparison to the abrupt change from me flicking the lamp on and off. I watched my tomatoes fade over the weeks. I had followed all of the directions I could find. I put a fan into my room, periodically simulating gusts of wind. I drowned them one night to simulate a storm. My tomatoes knew they were in my closet, they knew something was not right. My tomatoes had lost the will to live. Plants aren’t really plants when they are stuffed into a closet. The building had killed
the Korean Market and they were trying to kill my tomatoes. I had to do something. My tomatoes would survive. The next day at work I checked in and went directly to installation. I used the Comcast computer from my cubicle to rush order Potassium Permanganate, Aluminium, Nitric acid, a few metal pipes and a leather jacket like Neo wore from the Matrix. I went to work the next day in my new leather jacket, checked in, and took the elevator to the 30th floor. I was trying to get to the 38th, but there is a separate elevator to get there. I explained to the receptionist that I had a meeting with Mr. Waz and regardless of what meetings he had I was going to the 38th floor. I asked her if she knew who I was. She said no. I gave the woman the middle finger as I ran for the elevator. The wait for the elevator was uncomfortable. As I hit the button numbered “38” I heard the receptionist call security. I didn’t care. I walked calmly towards what was Mr. Waz’s office and pushed open the double doors. The office was empty besides the leather furniture. The view was incredible; I had never been up this high. It was like the Sun was shining directly into the room. I took a deep breath and pressed the button on the detonator, anticipating a ten second wait. The Sun would shine brightly on my apartment once again. I stepped closer to the windows, stepped closer to the Sun, and bumped into something by my feet. A ceramic pot of tomatoes.
Roleplaying Edith Hamilton My horizon breaks in forests and hills as hymen, eyes closed, swans molt on the bank, and the moon lurches from clouds like drunk, its face blotched and beer-puffedâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; He says wet your fingers, and I draw the curtains; draw closer. I ask for my high school memories, my coming of age, whether I will always be beautiful. Nothing is better than shaving his face than lying together spliced on the mattress. He reaches for me in his sleep, and tonight I will not be lonely; will be clotted cream as he takes more of the sheet, and I dream of Bacchus with the skin of a tiger, dangling a bunch of wild grapesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;Rockabye.
Something about the transition from neck to breast that occurs at the clavicle it is the subtle but angular shift in the skin as two fingers that set out from the corner of the lips slip down the chin and pause to check for a pulse at the carotid before they slowly work their way over the suddenly solid but still smoothÂ still feminine and almost iridescentÂ and unreasonably appealing clavicular form before culminating their craved excursion on a more traditional summit.
Allegra’s Terrace ‘But isn’t it a gloriously hot day? I wonder if the Italian skies they talk about can be bluer than that—that little bit you see just between the oaks—there!’ Molly Gibson We sit together and fall in love with nouns. It is easy here - the swift’s windhover poetry tells of places, and people, and schools of philosophy which we watch with all possession. And the Sky is too blue for Gaskell - her Dickensian style is a finality to things that the city cannot tolerate. You too, Alexander, with your desire to own an of skyline, like a story. [You wept when there were no more worlds to conquer] So continuity continues. And we have found the place where photographs can lie they speak a thousand words you see and every one is false (and the sun cannot pause to pose).
Yes it is easy here to fall in love with nouns. Dante Alighieri can be the Father of Italian when he died a hundred years ago, and We cannot remember that frightful way in which he Spoke with his mouth full. With all the passion of the passionless English. So continuity continues. The seven sisters have forgotten their names They glow with perseverance (that we mistake for Human endeavor), and explain that continuity continues.
Skyscrapers Most cities remain nameless below a certain altitude. You live on the 18th floor and take your Sunday nap when the shadow of Brook Tower blankets 22nd and 7th. You dream of the cars below blending into a thick, molten steel, blind and remorseless. Yesterday a woman wearing galoshes salted with snow stepped into the elevator. Think of the red disks in your arteries flowing upwards in a string maze: now is your chance to be a Viking. At work, some growth rates locked in, certain ratios in question. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think. Focus on the slight dip of your fingers into the keyboard, the language of gods. This is your stop, this is your floor. Most cities are built along bodies of water. Some seem to stretch beyond the thin, blue horizon, white crafts spilling over the edge of the earth.
Son of Man You have been in the industry for over 45 years; If I squint, your once-blond tufts are slightly visible. Congratulations on reaching middle age! That is quite the accomplishment. However, I would like to draw your attention to form 8583, where our Passive Activity Loss Limitation clearly states, “Passive activity income does not include the following: income for an activity that is not a passive activity.” We really cannot tolerate any indiscretion. It would be safe to assume that your bonus has been revoked. Additionally, please clarify the significance of your Bowler hat. I have spent years trying to place its make, its tempestuous grey, your sponge-smeared dusk, that popping red tie, painted a viscous shade, inflated as your apple core, infinitely hovering just past the border of possibility, and those sickle eyes. You most likely paid attention during that three hour long segment on surrealism, at which the firm determined to establish in its IRS TM that you will find it a distinct help if you know and look as if you know what you are doing. Not that I can say it has helped, given your current circumstance. I wish you would look at me and explain your arm, the left one, cocked in indignant self awareness; I wish you would illustrate the imperceptible, yet barely visible hue of the wall behind you— lavender, aqua-marine, no, sandstone, really. I wish you would respond to this notice. Just Please provide the date of your death. The sea made your paperwork illegible. Sincerely, A Friendly Representative of Your Team at IRS TM (for Tax Auditors) Institute
And weeping willow’s branches slouch over the water‘s edge.
Reeds stick out of the water like sore thumbs.
A flock, yes a flock, of seagulls flutters up into the air as we careen past with our oars spinning out, out of control.
alive with that.
Happiness, love, pity, everything unexplainable and taboo in poetry. Everything should be
The water looks no more real than Monet’s La Grenouillere whose strokes propel the appearance of things forward into glorious uncertainty -
Me lunging forward awkward and forceful. Go, move, move.
You pushing out. Stretching your oar back, back, back.
We are incapable of rowing this boat.
We are Rowing
Writers Cambridge n Jonny Aldridge n Leila Morad n Sean Hewitt n Daisy Belfield n Pete Lockwood n Maya Haarup-Gregersen n Shani Cadwallender Okey Nzelu n Anon. n Justin Katko
John’s Hopkins u Stephanie Mezyk u Lucas Sand Amy Conwell u Jessica Phippen Texas u Elaine Wang u Sean O’Connor u Maggie Lea
p p p p p p p p p p p p p
l l l l l l l l l l l l
Zeke Clough Andrew Spyrou Lisa Wilkens Barry Clarke David Shillinglaw Emily Vermont Christina Thomopoulos Anna Trench Andy Gilmore Niels ‘Shoe’ Meulman Jamie Williams James Shedden George Shapter
Columbia u Nicholas Sanz-Gould u Rebecca Taylor u Dalton LaBarge u Erica Weaver u Liam Carney Chicago u Coby Ashpis u Anne Quaranto u Caelyn Cobb
Livi Kessel Meredith Whitton Dylan Spencer-Davidson Andrew Spyrou Grace Lawson-Conquer Saad Sattar Shannon Chiu Finbarr O’Dempsey Katherine Waters James Pockson Emily Vermont Georgia de Grey Katherine Spence
The Hill would like to thank Jmag, Johns Hopkins; Analecta, Texas; Quarto, Columbia and Sliced Bread, Chicago, for their contributions to the literary exchange in which The Hill’s chosen were also rendered most extraordinarily Stateside for the miasmatic worldwide revolting in styles. Justin Katko’s Love Poems Holodecke first appeared online on Onedit, at www.onedit.com. Thanks to Churchill CCRFC, The Comma Club, The Shop, The Varsity Society, and our readership for making the magazine possible.
EDITORS Pascal Porcheron Andrew Spyrou Lit.: Hannah Adler Web: Matt Henderson Treas.: Anna Herber
nupl All content © The Hill.