‘Hear me, hear my silence. What I say is never what I say but instead something else. When I say “abundant waters” I’m speaking of the force of body in the waters of the world. It captures that other thing that I’m really saying because I myself cannot.’
— Clarice Lispector, Água Viva
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
— Adrienne Rich, ‘Diving into the Wreck’
On becoming a body,
the little abundant shines and its pores are clotted with dust.
I saw what sound it was a wave makes
when startled by gestures towards this torsion
a long beach, the false irrigation of beautiful islands.
The melody was a long intimation of losing faith
in what is meant by a certain colour, not
this blue which runs in the prussian rain.
I want to run up the spine of your back
and settle the amygdala city, tie
my lyrical wrists in mobius fibres
and return the rights to speech.
Do you want to continue?
He was born and beautiful,
he might have seizures. We interfere in definition.
The depression of time is a beautiful curve
in the small of morning, named
after the call you wanted.
Blue dust of feeling.
Blue dust of biblical name.
I worry for his tiny heart.
in the radical millions
when I say this bird
is a nameless bird, plotting
and pecking the wreck
I go down
in such hunger
I go down
The world is stuck.
I sing to you
in the echo, in the rich
and greatest loss.
Who hurt us?
I had a dream we were swimming
in the San Pedro Bay, just like the video
it was almost sunny. There will come a time
when my car won’t start
if I ever have a car
in a lightless world
the structure of passion is a ritzy hotel.
Your hour is a fucking astronaut.
Imagine Disney injected
Imagine a fire in the minibar
at the back of your mind.
As the relation to your wreck
I call it ship, I still want
the elsewhere conduit of thoughts
to sign my brain as treeware
in the black black gold
my oleochemical, fear of soap
and gaussian world is a kitten.
She burns it all up.
On becoming this back-lit
history of pixels, we pour into jars
the last of sea-glass, liquid shingles, I cut the bird
into salad I cut this sort of pristine hope
to feed the kitten.
I thought the picket
was shining in rain, a sound.
Something is drawing us out.
I make a romance from your shoes
and the kissable way of these days
is a no-show, mewing, the marketing
of genital shame, the apocalypse breakfast
tastes of salt. Come back into my life,
I always found you
with a breath laced in pesticide,
a currency of morphine
back like a thrush, I want to wreck
the multitude of this song
with its hyperthermia, its oil-made
hide of feathers.
You want me to be less literal,
littoral I like your wildlife.
what we see
What can soak
up the dark this good.
I like your messages.
I like to react with my abstract halo.
The rediagnosis read depression, to kill
not clean the long and beautiful rain.
Prising the daylight from its packet
I want April, a lot
of lilac song.
I go down to the nervous water,
deep in mammalian blood
I am, I am
not breath, not bird
my body is a poke of air
in the book. And it lets in
the crudest wind, reminder of gold
in the room where we woke up last October
in my father’s house
in the valley
where frost never leaves the cornicing forests
or sets its voice to speak
for the sodas and junipers.
If we could just avalanche into orange
like the song, Mount Eerie would be a genuine place
to kill or not kill the birds we oiled
in the prussian rain, they gleam
doesn’t in the colourless streets.
We share a little nest
of noctilucent materials.
I was jobless
as the natural light, listening
to your comedown opening chord
which is to say, I think we should stop
seeing, I think we should stop
seeing at all. I roll around
in the oil of this
to sob uncontrollable
to stop trying to see you
if a former love should fall
very cool, like a two-minute Uber
costs less than lunch.
could break me
the ultimate mosh is us.
I have said that he could and he could
I have said that too much.
To float like capital
back to your panic
I smooth my sleepless residuals.
Ducked it, ducked it
you come back, holding a blink
that time is a gleam, we had a guest speaker
passing out in notional
structures of passion.
I wrote everything down.
It is a wreck to think in the beautiful rain.
It is all that dissolves
I hope to meet in code someday
again, to set this
in parenthesis, very lightly
choosing to run
the artificial palms
horizontal across your eventide.
This was all ours in the poem.
Prospering, we’d know
so much more than mineral
in the flotsam
way, a lot of coffee
fills our faultlines
and the tar sands sing, and the quicksands
go astray, what of the waters
don’t touch what we were
to sing something
hurting, to rainbow
the quoted weight of your heart
is only debris
I go so long in the rain
to break her
I go so long in the run
as to make a beach
in loops of oil
to empty my purse
of mermaids, to feel like
the only decorated islands
in the United States of America.
This poem was written following a talk I gave on Energy (W)rites: Telling the Embodied Stories of Energy, as part of The Curatorial Fellowship: With the North Sea series at Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen. It responds specifically to Lana Del Rey’s ‘The Greatest’, where the mournful twangs of a classic rock ballad play out over sunset scenes of Long Beach in the San Pedro Bay, whose four decorative ‘Astronaut Islands’ were built in the sixties to camouflage offshore oil derricks and muffle their sound pollution. Classic rock is a genre and industry founded on oil: vinyl is a type of plastic made from ethylene (found in crude oil) combined with chlorine (found in salt). PVC, the resultant material, is a highly toxic form of plastic, for both our health and the environment. Perhaps it’s only ‘natural’ that Lana would style a kind of vinyl-nostalgia to sing of various kinds of tainted existence. If her earlier work was dubbed ‘Hollywood sadcore’, we might note this recent aesthetic shift as something more like ‘anthropocene sadcore’: where the cinematic eulogising of wasted youth, ‘the greatest’ American Dream, is played out against the false beauty of late twentieth-century petroscapes. But alongside oil there is also water, and the brilliance of light, tone and pigment. There is haze and trace and repeat. Lush tints within variant opacity. A khoratic space where the colours soften or harshen into each other and something of form is held between, with varying paleness or intensity. It could be Billie Eilish singing of ‘burning cities / And napalm skies’ in the apocalypse unconscious of her song ‘Ocean Eyes’; it could be a flare of orange burning into Grimes’ ‘permanent blue’, its elegia for opioid bliss and extinction. The weird pleasure vistas of a scene we can’t quite name. An improvised blur or break. What the water speaks as a force of shimmer. The accompanying visual works are by multimedia artist and sculptor Jack O’Flynn.