Breaking Upward

Dissipation, concentration, fragmentation and consolation 2015-2022

These poems are original works in progress and copyright is asserted by the author over all material on this page.

Pea souper / / When it gets very bad and the higher parts of town – / the tops of the richer spires and the fairy-rings / of streetlamps circling the hill – go down / / into the grey indefinition of the mist that bounds / our seeing; when simple actions take a greater toll, when even / breathing thickens so, eyes round / / imagine you the image of an iron lung, the bellows heaving, / and walking stagger back mistaken, judgement reeling; when / the sharp, wet, chill night soaks the leaves / / in sodden banks which exhale mould, we stop, stripped barer / than the black dull-gleaming trees. I had a teacher once, a / man who’d lived before the war / / and afterwards in London fogs, pea-soupers, and who told us / how to get around you simply followed tramlines, listening / hard. If you were not flattened by a bus / / (the class laughing) and chose the right direction (laughing, all) / then you were home. Now he is dead, and you are asking me / how does a leaf know when to fall?

Pedigree chum / / When the dog, or the iron hand, or the pug-faced fist-gripping finger / set of white noise grabs you, bears you down, when that old fear brings a / clutching stabbing canine sharp to point the point of you inside / / when the old black dog steals attention sows its tension in the marrow of / your brain and wormlike worms the blinding tongue around the very / eyes, behind-eyes focus of the you, to smother-slaver dog-mouth paste / / when the red-gummed, toothed jawed drooling shutters round your mind’s-eye’s / holding place, the vessel of your image squeezing noise of breathing dog, high / whining blinds your safety-thinking-space and bears you down again / / when the pack of mewling dog-cubs thought-gasp suffocating brood / surrounds the void of you, inciting pushing you towards the ancient food / the she-wolf’s sucking-place, the cradle or the grave of our too-valued worths / / when this base in-mind-creature roams unsensing convoluted routes / within the grey-bound alleys of your skull, mouth-testing, sniffing boots / and shitting, small-sparking-lamp-post pissing, territory-marking / / when the muscle-mass, slick-sweating dog flesh settles at your hearth’s hem / sharp-toothed panting, eyes you, waiting, then remember: we domesticated them / brought them in here, made their round-and-round, reed-flattened beds our own.

Hydro-citizen / / “There is this river / we saw a duck on it too / and it looked dead scared.”

Gog Magog / / Tall coppiced trees, tracks in straight lines / straight limbs, low far horizon, wind blowing straight / across exhausted fields of broken earth / the colours of burned bones. Ash, beech, thorn / copses turn their backs on ghosts of streams which slough / rank sediment through straight cut deep / cut ditches mazed across this no-man’s land. No / birds land, one bee, blundering wetly, slow / along the landscape’s straitened fringe. // Strong sun, aggressive breeze, the blue / air flickers bare straight limbs of birches. / Around an accidental pond, abandoned in / the pool of an half-hearted hillslope’s low / fat pigeons rest from their assault on peas.

Chalk / / Sea and sky share / their absences // ruled across sand bars / trawled by shipping // Gulls standing half-submerged / unperturbed // the remnant of farmed wind / breathes no ripple. // Or how this thin boy stands / shins braced // against the topmost bar / how gulls stare // white against the unreflected / sea light, chalk // pebbles cast against / a softening dawn // then let fall. Gravity / betrays itself. // Stillness is an action too / the tension in arrangements // parallax alignments pull / against themselves, // the pressure of steel / impressioned in bone // the sudden pace of passing / ships, the loss // and the return of ground / by gathering tides.

Inhabit / / This room enclosed space / sun shadows on elephants / deep windows spider-haunted / softening lighthouse cloud light / snow melting from grass / swans anchoring the wind the / lake a sky snagged in the rushes’ comb pinned down by / slumping piles of stones / the hearth of topography / / Protesting unruly fire kneeling / knees protesting hard floor fire / cajoling wood to flame suck / air inhale consume incite / a draught flue flew blew blue blowing sky / the lake now blue moving against itself against the grain / wood grain pine-feathers contours / of internal space / this corporeal geography / / Inhabiting a space this room / its air its breath my breath the / muscles of my lungs beat the wind’s beat / across the tiles the beat of Planxty / 9-16 24-2 2022 / / pressing my back against / the floor and looking down / into the vault and keel of the room’s / hold my hold hold my / self pressed back / against the beating restless sky.

The Tao of Narcissus / / The lake / on a still morning of / no wind, pale sky, swans / climbing to the south / / contains / is is not absorbs and / reflects, present as / a challenge, our forms. / / The tree / shadow is and is not / the tree containing / the tree, its meanings. / / Am I / myself, or my shadow / self reflected self / in this thin, knowing / / calm? See / when the wind blows, I am / scattered too, far and / far too easily.

Another day / / Love grows in the / soil, in the half / light before the dawn / when the night exhales / cold breath onto lawns / / where cats pause in / stalking half-remembered foes. / There in the earth’s / intention towards the day / is love. The breaths / / which raise you out / of sleep, the recollection / of shade at sunrise / this mug of tea, / your feigned, again, surprise.

On the road / / It is night and the road is bending and fading / before me, blurring into / sharp reality at the nearside kerb, the threat / of a sudden journey’s end / perpetually startling. / / The radio fell silent miles ago with the fall of the / leaves wracking in the slip- / streamed darkness. Only the blown-back bubble-glow / of headlamps and the / constellations of the dash betray your form. / / We are all falling somehow you once said; through / our lives, and into sleep / together here and in my charge, falling forward / soundlessly, as in a low orbit, / toward the dawn.