Some pages from a notebook kept while invigilating The Palace of Humming Trees (French Street Studios, 2021) during a thunderstorm in August.
July was such a busy month but one of its delights was working on the design for this book, With the Boys by fred spoliar. I’ve been so buzzed about upcoming SPAM releases (more to be announced soon) and what better way to kick off our 2021 roster than with this vivid purgatorial rush of a book. The cover design is a collage layering of illustrations, colour effects and old woodcuts (including those vomiting sun battle scenes which divide the book into sections and contribute to the faux ye olde vibe) which gesture to the book’s primal scene (imo): the confrontation with the boy laying down >insert meme here: “you winning son??”< as the OG basis for all the boys, are we for or against them, might we let them rest? As fred reminded me at a recent reading in Crystal Palace Park, “masculinity is no joke maria” and this book explores how the cascades of climate crisis, austerity, property relations, ‘fake news’, ongoing colonialism, racial capitalism, transphobia and pandemic are all bundled up in the ancient, ever-mutating violence of patriarchy. The demands the boys place on us and those placed on the boys, we understand them in a camaraderie of the here-and-now that is our future ancestral citation, cracking a cold one for the world that is burning ice and going online. With the Boys is a book of post-internet poetry, an adventure story, a lyric dalliance with historical epic in synchronic form. It’s a book that refuses linear models of transition, progress and accumulation, and ideas of history as a totality; a book that finds residues of love and care among masculinity’s ‘trashfire’ (in Al Anderson’s words). I want to think of it partly in the realm of Keats’ ‘negative capability’, the idea of lyric identification as doubt, the pluralism of the boys as a quivering flame or rippling plasma, capable of being more than what essentialist gender ideology would deem the boys. Your ‘brain on elegy’, your ‘stupid hurt’, your ‘buzzcut chorus’ and ‘apple products’ – humming, ubiquitous, they belong to all of us, in a way.
There is something about a (re)birth in this book; fred has called it ‘a purgation’. Something been set on fire or released, the way of touching abysses of sleepless thinking and facing up, fuck, to the impossibilities of work and not-work. To morph, mourn, join together, be commoning or calling out, be warm or hard or wet or sore, be there and gone. One thing that resounds is the refrain, the sonorous sense (something Verity Spott commented on at our recent launch, and something I love about Verity’s work also) of lyric in the book as a musical sprawl, fever, affirmation. For me, this is totally synaesthetic and electric, ‘a crucial magenta song’ and ‘like aleatory dance departing’ in the sacred gatherings of the rats — the animals that survived 2020 (their epic and terrible year) and will go on thriving beyond us. Like, we are not supposed to be here. Like, we crawl over the language that won’t want to hold us and we throw out this ask. Are we to be comrades? Sometimes you read fiery poetry that enflames and hisses (kisses) and makes you want to attend the protest, make the call, offer your body to the line (the book’s closing poem, ‘kludge time‘, was written in response to the recent Kenmure Street anti-raid action), and With the Boys summons this fire, but also sings in the muscly erotics of its cinders. These cinders which catch in the breath before and after the poem, which can’t be reduced to this or that reading; which burn with occasional satire, twinge and catch of meaning.
You want to say the boys are a folk knowledge, they are song, they are the startup code that ceaselessly reboots until lyric glitches in ‘fertile crevices’. They are a compost, the dregs of bad schooling, an institution of historical impotence, a gesture of care and play (‘I push you on the swings’), an orientation towards the vibe, a grammar of suspension ‘stopping by the interchange‘, a big fucking ‘nova‘ that hopes to find you well. Hi, hello, hi. *WAVE*. Everyone in some sense knows them. They are obviously so much more. I’m this hush-breath away from saying the boys are a hyperobject. You decide. The boys are shoegaze distortion all over capital’s weeping, the road less travelled, dazzling and pregnant and ‘wilding’. They will do your makeup and hum the ‘harmonic law to / love to leave to love’ — bright pink and chartreuse. You better have a go at them.
With the Boys is available for £8 from SPAM Press. You can get in touch with the editors for review copies or to stock in your bookstore at spamzine.editors[at]gmail.com.
Excited to announce a new installation I’ve been involved in as part of A+E Collective. From The NewBridge website:
This online installation explores the relationship between sustainability and dreaming, offering a space to collectively share our dreams and have discussions surrounding these broader topics. The Dream Turbine was conceived by A+E Collective in collaboration with Niomi Fairweather and Jessica Bennett, as part of the Overmorrow Festival.
A turbine (from the Latin ‘turbo’, meaning vortex) is a device that harnesses the kinetic energy of fluid, turning this into a rotational motion which can generate electricity or otherwise ‘work’. From windmills to waterwheels, turbomachines are a crucial part of our energy history. The Dream Turbine is a speculative, participatory turbomachine for stimulating, processing, converting and sharing sustainable and postcapitalist imaginaries.
From Earth Day to early summer 2021, A+E Collective will be taking to cyberspace and installing The Dream Turbine at The NewBridge Project. In solidarity with The NewBridge Project’s values of cooperation, adaptation, environmental and social justice, The Dream Turbine hopes to promote alternative, non-extractive ways of thinking, desiring, memorialising and living through various ongoing crises as individuals and collectives.More information here.
A+E Collective website.
PART ONE: FLOWER NEUROSIS
There is a place where these supermassive roses might be planted. A harsh place that exists at thin resolution, we have to resample; I am doing the maths to know how 100gb permits her entrance. The process slows because this behaviour is not natural. Her entrance with the roses bundled in giant’s arms, and the long tresses of foam and seven neat words she has tucked in a satchel of crocheted pea proteins. She is attuned to a certain instant where it works that she plants the roses. They are gnarly, monstrous, thirsty. The roses are not sober. And the girl? She stumbles on her third negroni, abstracted, poured by the silent one who inhabits the hedgerows. Vermouth of sun, gin of moon, aperitif of the bitterwort and marshes, garnished with wedges of orange from overseas. These seven neat words I will not tell you with her lips sealed blood sugar, femme confection, a certain rain, a squall.
The clarity is lost a little when we adjust figures. But the girl is still there, in the corner maybe, bundled from sight with impossible flowers. What do we know of a girl and her flowers? She could be a waitress, a bridesmaid, a funeral attendant — but no, this is extravagance to belie all such professions. The flowers won’t fit in the picture this is. It is not merely to carry. Some say they are hyperobjects, but if so, what of the girl? She is also beyond human proportion; she would live a thousand years. Sprinkle hundreds and thousands of leap years merely upon breakfast, and yet at nineteen does she not look a million? If you were to splay the fine skin between her thumb and forefinger, you would begin to see the star stuff which flows in human capillaries. But at such resolution!
Of her face since nineteen, the narrator of Marguerite Duras’ The Lover [L’Amant] (1984) writes: ‘But my face hasn’t collapsed, as some with fine features have done. It’s kept the same contours, but its substance has been laid waste. I have a face laid waste’. So when the girl lay down for another of her size; they were a cloud, it rained, the girl awoke with child. But she gave birth to nothing but roses. She was a fixture of the processing plant. Initially, sealed in mousseline baubles, they were not even roses but rosehips clustered among thorned vines. And you would imagine these vines entwined with her spine, climbing them as if the destiny was always her neck. She would speak at night, tapping the fine glass, warming them as eggs. Give everything away: the rose-meat of petals and their pale, inward jam, hatching saps, their crying.
A cloud always passes, it creases the sky. Cars go in and out at night.
The fruit of rose, especially a wild kind
when I write of a Mary Sue
or brush her teeth, when she is more tall
than willow and yet I have set her colours inverse
so in reaching for rosehips she must reach into shadow
and isn’t that all
in the working day of dreams is deferral
of Edenic cinema, she grows in wilderness
also known as the fortress of lossy compression
where trees are shaky with original pixels
and her clothes are torn as mine would be
crying forever by the sea
with my dairy allergy for twilight
‘The blues are because you’re getting fat
and maybe it’s been raining too long’
and if she is me then I am she
rehearsing definitions for litany
via prayer, supplication, complaint
am I a melt vector on cutting board
you call me aslant with the knife tucked close
to cupid’s bow of my lips
‘she was noted for her command of dialogue’
but no one said anything
lipsticks: sweet chestnut, amarena red
tender rose and orange delight
shaking the rosehips all night for Roman god
of erotic love is just rare labour
of the shepherds in pleasantview, saying sorry
or what colour your blouse is, mine is damask
you could press to make attar
so I know how I love
is mother puts glitter on a wreath
of ivy and dying hydrangeas
to hang on the door, entrance Mx
I give you generally acceptable apples
the shop called jazz, they are wrapped in plastic
we look up to see the planets ‘almost touching’
but they are something else entirely
easy, lucky or free. These green diamonds
don’t occur in the wild;
she makes them from slices of apple
glitch effect plumbob
oil of rose is condensation
a playable simulation
novelist in decline
as I lick the sea wall
cast this upwards
to where another hour is ravished
you start to read.
PART TWO: SACRED PORRIDGE
Perhaps this would be enough of the rose-girl if she would stop haunting me. I dreamed Bernadette Mayer wrote a novel overnight, it was midsummer, she was 27 and had a fountain pen the size of the Eiffel Tower. Tell me what she was smoking, was it Marlboro or lemongrass? Maybe cloves? I get mixed up, I’m darks and pastels, nobody likes me. Open a beer to share regardless / Crude oil streams from her words. I became suspicious the rose-girl was a fiction of Bernadette’s, that I was stuck in the internet fiction and whittled away. There was a poem called ‘Thorn’ about a penis. Brexit or no Brexit, I was anyway hoarding tins of beans in the hope they would get me somewhere – a similar purpose to breakfast. Recite to me from memory these stats about lactose, creatine, muscle enhancement. I lift my arms to reach you, I am hauled to the new wall painted mint to match the green iris tea of your eyes, it’s Greenwich Park / I am spent with apple pips and cauliflower hallways. I want to be hurled across continents sprightly / put acorn in pocket. I am not her but she is me, here, in a harsh place. You are the smoothest nut! What was the novel? I don’t know, I have this line: ‘the negative capability of raisins’. Don’t kill the squirrels! Sunday you make porridge with peanuts, sour cream, biscuit, honey, drops of chocolate, muscovado sugar, extra milk of oat – why not acorns? The rose-girl watches. Her breath is a draught.
She is so huge you would miss her. All December the faint scent of her pea satchel follows me so I know I couldn’t possibly have corona. Plunge my nose in vegetal folds. I would be the aura of plasma around her sun, that’s all and merely. Does it rot? The size of these roses, really, is impossible to measure. Expect several hundred metres or miles, stumbling in the world of error where we go to buy bread. Is it for months you have been a tile, a talking head? You are very delicate and I stroke your nice hair, which loosens through the screen to meet me waterfall. I climb to the top of the beanstalk we braided from eating well. We read Lee Harwood in the rain, As Your Eyes are Blue, and drink mulled wine. I guess I am riding horses to catch up with the size of these roses, blue ones also, fat and mellow. Jackie Wang calls this ‘outlaw jouissance’; a phrase I wrote in my notebook, quickly. The line gets whipped! I think about Cy Twombly. The horses are all kinds of colours, but mostly the pearlescence of inside seashells, or mollusc aurora’d in a way that seems Björk or genital. I suppose the rose-girl arranges them nightly as saints do, genial; I suppose it is like Sylvanian families. Sometimes from copses of rowans, the tops of the miniature or minotaur trees, red-berried painted I read her Sylvia Plath. My poison voice must catch the wind exact, ‘The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea / And comes from a country far away as health’, as health shall be a human dimension, unrhymed, the rose-girl considers. She is the only one of us who has seen a corpse flower, in a third-floor apartment where somebody important had smuggled the seeds from Chicago, where was she. The corpse flower is not a singular flower but a cluster of blooms, and so is she. It all stinks, I say, so I don’t have corona. If you touch the flanks of these horses so smooth your hands will vanish in gossamer, they become other materials, still smell like hay. This viscosity to friction feels good, it’s lush with endorphins — why don’t you try it. The water is warmly you and me, like the sea; it comes from the eyes of the rose-girl, crying.
There’s still time to shop, you collect from store
towards a possible come on let’s go of the literal
it stings, who you would be in the dream
not the enemy’s eye
or the unripe banana
I stayed in bed til mid-afternoon
writing feel-thesis, correcting citations of Clarice Lispector
it’s Christmas, you know
I don’t have corona
on the phone to Avanti the songs are played in such intervals
of 45 seconds as to make you hate
the very nature of a chord progression
is desire’s deferral and will you secure a seat for us
at motion sickness
what is necessity feels like
Velocity is I am washing my hair
with tar shampoo and cider vinegar.
Come close, wish soon,
Should I call someone?
It might be you,
explaining multiplication to me, you carry the one
and the two, and then I never do
read my old diaries
smelling of blood and sleep deprivation
acrid bulimia, spray of A7
garlic mussels, scarlet muscles
my brother says he will donate his plasma
for medical causes, have I fear of needles?
Lady bird shell collect
bathroom dust, antibodies, I am clean
and typeset like the stars. You open my coat
because of this Reynauds, too cold
to unbutton. My anhedonia
is cyclical, I stick little poems to the wall
they go like
once upon a midnight weary
came the lovers on a ferry
they were drunk and very old
but never had they had a cold
over the hills and overseas
they could be you or even me
It’s like the Friday of 2019
I read Hannah Weiner’s clairvoyant journals
from low-res pdf festive darkness
crying in trashland
and couldn’t stop tasting purple for a week
of otherwise phantosmia, what I smelled was
the crushed illustrious rose of infinity
pinned to my bittersweet nasal cavity
as I am to watch corpse flower time-lapse
resemble green diamond, they erect an umbrella
and a rare titan arum bloom
typing at the library am I
bike spoke, a concept strike
for closing the erstwhile windows?
Click to know mood…
We keep going
We leap in a pool of pure negroni
and my lungs keep coming up blossom of orange
and call you
welcome back to the room, you can open your eyes now”
Like probably I have told you before
about the band I am starting, a synth-punk
deathcore revivalist outfit called Yoga with Adriene
I have her permission, she says
May all beings be happy
Move from a place of connect
Present and awake
Love your neighbour
Things get better, they have to
It’s a revolution of the muscular laxation
of the life you find cored
If you have apple belly
thick-skinned of futurity, there will be a chorus and verse for this
that goes like scream
Motive, Trust, Floor,
High, Kindle, Salve,
Soften, Strength &
My thighs are burning brightly, it’s the end
friend of my Norwich or Brighton, Manchester, Glasgow
and some kind of New York resemblance
is ‘cracking America’ at the top of your list
I have never been to the south coast
of an average celestial body
yet watering your houseplants
I won’t go viral in the night with pills and tweets
There’s no cheating in yoga, you make it your own
as I do cartwheels on a leap day of acid comedown
they say I do it too fast
the flight gets in and distant cat miaows
as I do kiss you
a lot they say
catharsis is found in the blues
and green laps up the rest is stretching
if you can only find it
like the sweet spot asana with arm across chest
I am become rowan tree, flexing queen of the prom
you pluck fruit pastilles
from inside me the sea,
first try is easy.
PART THREE: TENDER ALPHABET
A. will write in the time of commute
B. prefers spearmint toothpaste
C. is inside of me
D. the size of Paris cumulus
E. is all you can eat, ecstasy
F. who I love
G. has grown
H. the hendecasyllabic I fail to write
I. doesn’t rightly exist
J. sends endless emails
K. is a joke
L. for loosening jewellery
M. with dark sweet cherries and doubles
N. conspicuous passionate weekend
O. checks the notification
P. of classical pleasure
Q. minds the gap
R. is a rising rat-souled singer
S. supposes the cognitive deficit
T. exists in lyric saloon
U. then driving me up the highway
V. to frangible lust I am
W. of shimmer lamb
X. into cowbell rhythms we go
Y. yellow warning of wind has been issued
Z. is a property of citrus
PART FOUR: FLOWER SHOW
In The Besieged City (1948) by Clarice Lispector, ‘the flower was showing off […] it too was untouchable, the indirect world’, ‘exhausted’, ‘What is the flower made of if not of flower itself’.
OPEN LOOP (
BOUQUET ( )
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ) )
The flower exclaimed a soft orchestral impression of breathing. Adults no longer snack in movies. Spent five hours on a train, six on Zoom, three in the outside air is nice. A time-lapse corpse flower, the music being used, pace of light. Heat syncope of the sea, we dive. Someone is hired to recover her pearls or pears. My skin is peeling from sanity gels.
A fault language of shiningly happy teenagers. Rosettes for the nuclear pony. It’s all total showers today. Condensery of lemonade gemstone, sertraline, the lapwing massacre in a Sufjan track / so I am endlessly sorry.
PART FIVE: NATAL SMUDGE
When everything started to wilt, the moon was too late. Untouchable stem of a name, yet the rose-girl knew what to do. She swallowed the world like a gobstopper, a lightbulb, a tulip. The arrogance of sundown was only that it knew how to try.
Turning over, see the supermassive rose in her belly.
Superstitious gemstones include violets and opals, sleepflower, nightshade; don’t @ me if you think they are cruel or kind. Marlene drops cranberries from the wall and you piss twice as hard in Scarborough Fair, are you sad, buy me blue cheese, there is vigilance in the dead. Rosemary for memory, thyme for a life you led, who sells it. Marlene says she misses Alisha, that’s not-me. Pray you arrive here safely, smudge of tarragon, mushroom photography, lines of flight.
We, after Sophie, after Frank, say Ask for everything!
Regarding conjunction, something about publishing, spirituality, knowledge and authority figures. There will be tension with Aquarius principle. A slip of paper. I was born at 06:20, in a thunderstorm.
[Oh yes! x]
The rose-girl had an overture: she tore wedding pearls from her branch-sized clavicle, let them scatter from the tub where she lay and the tub was a cloud, the pearls were snow. At the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, she was a divorce child with her hair in two plaits we would climb up to kiss at the nape of her neck, that’s it, I play all my aces so we won’t die. These cards are beautiful, we turn them away. There will be no dying, not here or now. I thresh the rest of my skyluck, lager, my skylark. I’m lucky the mirror is showing up nowhere. Sometimes it is Freud’s voice, or an oil pastel. The foam from her brushed-down hair. Of the past you have given me everywhere, Andromeda, minipops, electronic renaissance. In writing the poem I am playing the cello, I am playing the cello of poem to death, why not?
It’s up to you
It’s down to you
Don’t be so mournful…
PART SIX: SCENTED AND GENEROUS
I had a dream about the diary with the days mixed up. Each day had its own fragrance:
Cognac, cannabis, dill pickle, mown grass,
libido enhancer, sweet vanilla, jasmine,
ylang ylang, who shares all, heart notes
of shrub, blackcurrant, oak moss, popcorn,
peppermint candy, lavender, ginger
castoreum, chypre, neroli,
understory, wooded and tonka,
ambery, orris, top note,
emily brontë rose, cinnamon,
hot shit, gold dust, brine of ocean,
roast aubergine cologne
near airstrip pheromone,
oil pipe explosion, special cinders,
vetiver, slots into psyche, balsam,
absinthe, cassie, frangipani, saffron,
strawflower aka immortelle,
black liquorice, lactones, myrrh,
sassafras, fruit loops, chocolate ice,
pamplemousse or french for grapefruit
martini and rockrose, peony,
tobacco, peppercorn, petitgrain,
scottish myrtle and soft fir,
nutmeg, new car, coffee brew,
pine needles, indole, musk of course.
Pitseleh means little one. Elliott Smith sings, ‘no one deserves it’.
I’m turning a petal to see you better / that I am someone’s difference.
If we were to wed in the childhood memory where you circle the prairie with diet cola and you always know what to do, I see the cherryade reds in you, sanguineous of first degree and alacrity pitching your letter. The post office is closed. I eat more peanut butter than Elvis and nobody stops me, I get it from Aldi. The day feels closure and we edge towards lockdown, I’m texting, Starbucks is open on Christmas Day, will you bring me something? Again, like the time we ordered starlit capitalist fuck lattes and dusted methamphetamine before shift; we were exquisite, fruit toast, the nourishing glitter in our hair was ace; we served 200 covers, sixty quid in tips, and you were scarlet in the uniform poem called A Scarlet Letter. Not the one or the many, just any. I knew this already. We had written them all! You have to have dashes of green to make red, tell Hilary, which is why I am writing to you from my rowan tree, fred asks is this a rowan bush, I say a rosehip, I don’t know what to do; the inchplant is coming up fast, it will ingest the television, I look forward to it. Brockley Station, Nina Simone, stomach cramps, star flood. Must learn how to climb / the branches brightly.
Write to me of conspicuous passions, such as aging, or the fairy fountain with permissible agelessness. Crystal arpeggio. The various glacés of Rome, ornamental corpse flowers, pistachio and your deep, carnal desire to dance. I brush all the sea-foam from the rose-girl’s hair and she would collapse in panic. What the heck is in this carpet. Can you send me again the dimensions, dots per inch in terms of the plant, or planet? There is much to do. I am sewn a yellow word and kissing you cherries to lemonade, black to blues. Needing earth for it, rich stuff, thoughts on allotments. Omnidawn is the word, when the camera pans out and one million people have streamed this song, the credits come up. O blush, Love’s refrain in summer! 500,000 ampersands, can you imagine it? My new grand dreams of porny conjunction…
You taught me how to shoplift the various accessories of girlhood; I’ve given it up. See how my brows disapprove!
December is cruel, the dark green foliage of tinsel and shrubbery, poinsettias, it’s kitsch. I learn a blue-grey song on guitar but it sucks. Mum makes paella for xmas eve etc. Pantone named yellow-grey the colours of 2021, Katy is raging as I might too; I had a poem about this from before f-sharp, it was all about cycling, snapped ankles, absolute melt. Get to you. The way you arc your arms just so is centrepiece: everything will be the same as the sum of it was, serving us dinner. Cryptocurrency, wrong-name, Tony Blair of bad air was trending, you do it last-minute, pronounce it soft, you wear a blue velour lace thing, fka misty. These are the suburbs where doors were slammed, and these were offered cookies. Fuck a lawn. But you dip your feet in scant oasis, you break off a piece of the dark chocolate donut. I have dreamed of this. Stillnesses are not without purchase. Another spam mail arrives, dear pal—
I am going out to buy us blowsy hours, belong and casual distortion. Black forest gateau and log of the roasted poem, emitting steamiest lines, pleasure days, no breaks just ganache is that thick language. We lay together, birthday of shadow work, wrote sunlessness. I draw dark green liner on their eyes like vines. Wish holidays longer. We enter the alone wood with natural lights they are strung they are simple, leafage pressed between them. 1800 dpi, virus gone, unmute the sea. You are warmly invited.
Mermaid Chunky – Gemini Girls
‘Til Tuesday – Voices Carry
God Help the Girl – Down and Dusky Blonde
Sunflower Bean – Moment in the Sun
Phoebe Bridgers – Graceland Too
M83 – Karl
Tomberlin – Hours (Katie Dey remix)
Gia Margaret – apathy
Felicia Atkinson, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – And The Flower Have Time For Me
Massive Attack – Black Milk
Björk – It’s Not Up To You
Cocteau Twins – Orange Appled
Yaeji – When in Summer, I Forget About the Winter
Laurel Halo – Blue Notion
Sun Glitters – Somewhere, Nowhere
Robin Guthrie, Harold Budd – Beau, As In Beaumont
Lana Del Rey – Summertime The Gershwin Version
Joan Baez – The Rose
Karen Dalton – Ribbon Bow
Lucinda Williams – Met An Old Friend
Pinegrove – Morningtime (Amperland, NY)
Elliott Smith – Pitseleh
Vashti Bunyan – Here Before
Zoee – Used
Julianna Barwick – Inspirit
Pelican Tusk – Not What You Meant
Neutral Milk Hotel – Where You’ll Find Me Now
Cloth – Old Bear
Lawn – Rats
Mush – Revising My Fee
Big Thief – Not
Joanna Sternberg – Don’t You Ever
Belle & Sebastian – I Don’t Love Anyone
Bloc Party – Waiting for the 7.18
serpentwithfeet – mourning song
Magic Island, Zoee – Agony (Yung Lean cover)
Anna Burch – Can’t Sleep
Kelora – Ultramarine
‘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.
There is this Anne Carson poem, ‘God’s Work’, which ends with the line ‘Put away your sadness, it is a mantle of work’. By chance, I was reminded of the poem via some post on Instagram that came up an hour ago. I want to think about this ‘it’, like how it is the sadness and also the work, and the pronoun of living, the abstract embodied. ‘Mantle’ is something that covers, envelops or conceals, it is a portion of the Earth, a sleeveless cloak or cape. Is it also the bevelled edge of a door? One can be mantled with a blush, the mark of a covering shame. Is it a mantle of work to hide your sadness, or does the ‘it is’ refer to some other thing whose outcome is that we must put away our sadness? We must close a passage of time behind us? Notice I am switching to a plural pronoun, because I have entered the poem, sharing the position of both addressee and speaker. I am the the person with this feeling; I am the person addressing this feeling. To speak at all, I am doing the mantle of work. There have been these tectonic shifts in my life of late, the underlying move or loss that is a portion of everything. ‘Put away your sadness’ asks you to imagine a physical form for the affect, a classic poetic move: my sadness is a bird, my sadness is a stone, my sadness is a rose, a scrunchie, a sea. These are things you can put away, tie back; or you can hide with a cloud, or you can dive in. Typing in ‘my sadness is a’, Google suggests:
a father introduced
a joyful dance
It seems these things are all correct, at the present moment. For instance, I drink from this mug and I think about Prague, and how it looked in the rain of a flickering image. That is a souvenir, but it is somebody else’s rain. The internet offers ‘Healthy ways to deal with sadness’, ‘Why am I sad all the time?’ and the old adage, ‘It’s okay to feel sad’. I have been reading Heather Christle’s The Crying Book (2019) and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (2005). Didion insists, ‘The way I write is who I am, or have become, yet this is a case in which I wish I had instead of words and their rhythms a cutting room’ where one could ‘touch a key and collapse the sequence of time’. In one of my favourite Laura Marling songs, ‘The Captain and the Hourglass’, she sings ‘Behind every tree is a cutting machine and a kite fallen from grace / Inside every man is a heart of sand you can see it in his face’. I love the pessimistic, teenage fatalism of this album, Alas I Cannot Swim (2008), its jump cuts of warning and love and familiar pain. Is the man the whole of humankind, or men in general? What if instead of words we had the bark of a tree, its abrasive shavings; a shaven novel or heart of sand in which to bear our suffering? Dissolve is imminent. There would be the rings of your life, the brief achievements of flight, but then the fallen linen, the tired old string, the particles blown. Didion wants it all at once: a simultaneous display of the frames, the scenes of a life. You would then choose what to cut, reassemble or stow away. What doesn’t matter to be dispersed. In the cutting room, a mantle of work is required. And what of the work that is to write who you are, when what that seems is only pencil shavings, sawdust and woodsmoke?
I have not walked in the woods for so long, and the last time it was with you. But let that not be the last. I was cloaked in so many layers; I could not get rid of the cold. It was a damp and green, needling feeling. It was not so much inside as around me.
Heather Christle puts it really well, this question of the cutting room and the cry:
Maybe we cannot know about the real reason we are crying. Maybe we do not cry about, but rather near or around. Maybe all our explanations are stories constructed after the fact. Not just stories. I won’t say just.
It is a relief to write while crying. There is something comforting about the simultaneous flow, as though letting two substances at once run through you: one being language, the other chemical; each in a woven relation. Crying, then, is the anarrangement (ana being Greek for ‘up, in place or time, back, again, anew — OED), of a state of things that are happening in life, in the body, in the social, in various temporalities. There is the before and after of a break; there is the running on, running behind, the sense of feeling this from ‘above’ or ‘below’. Like when for ages I didn’t properly eat the world was a glassy thing I was seeing from underwater, poking the ripples, falling backwards. To cry is to indulge in both prolepsis and analepsis, to slip and collapse, to blur and feel into. A friend says, you have to work through and not around it. I try not to cry about, but recognise the ambience of sadness. I won’t know until later what is really happening, what narrative this can all be placed in, or slip from.
Somebody nearby is playing a flute really badly.
The chime of a text message. It’s okay to feel sad.
In the office, friends and I exchange tales of election night. One of us is trying to fix a puzzle, the other drinks for sorrow; there is a mutual sensation of violence which can only ‘end’ in blackout, keying a car, throwing a punch, posting a rant or falling through sleep’s amnesia. For a while, I could only listen to songs that came out before this happened, and before the Tories were a bad new government, which felt forever ago.
What if daylight itself became elective, and that was the bold democracy of what it was to enter a day. Do you choose the light, or does it summon you? I just make playlists.
The moon has been flagrant of late, or was it right before. I remember seeing rainbows around the moon for days at a time. I remember that seeming too much, like I’d overdosed on the dust of this planet, like there were molecules of colour in my nose I could not sneeze or shake out. Like there was a terrible high about to happen.
I have not seen the moon at all this week.
I write this raining.
A thought of the before and after which remains unfixed and semi-colonic. It is to say and not say of what was said.
There is a special release in crying by bodies of water. I believe in a clairvoyant sadness, one that predicts some upset to come. It is the body’s sincerity of knowing. So you cry by the sea, or lately, a river. All that I have. Cry your eyes out by the Clyde. When you arrived, I was reading about the horror of purple, that ‘which hurts both sides’, ‘the horror’ (Hannah Weiner, The Fast). I wear it around my sleepless eyes. It is a bruise colour, the muscular failure to move through the day; it is a pile of clothes, a burgeoning energy of the horror. So I turn to blue, which is a star, or a gas flame because someone is cooking.
That line in Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’, from Blue, a lifesaver every Christmas, which goes, ‘Just before our love got lost you said / I am as constant as a northern star’. And it’s that ‘I am’ that I like, the moving throughness of it, the insistence that this is and not was. Because there is something of forever which is getting lost, or a wound that is hidden and cannot be healed. That is forever opening up. For we were so close, a year ago. And of course Joni flips, deliciously, to the mundane. She asks ‘Constantly in the darkness / Where’s that at / If you want me I’ll be in the bar’. As though to look down in your soupy negroni, you would find that hot abyss from which love is turned, over and over. And maybe you’d shed a few tears in it. And you’d struggle to say the location.
I remember dressing as a wise man for a play at school, wearing a homemade crown and parading slowly towards a manger. Somebody was acting the part of the star, and we followed them.
Somehow in a notebook I wrote, ‘I am going to be fine. I am going to shine at it’. To be shiny in this being fine, I wrote that in a café and I remember my hands were trembling, my earrings were not real gold.
There is this dream from last night where I wear a blindfold made of a banana leaf, and you are helping me cross this road, this road that is river.
In Goodbye, First Love, there is a hat that floats away in the river where Camille is swimming. This happens at the end. It is either too late or too soon, and she is crushed. This is the wiki summary. From the film I remember the widening shot of the river that flows on but closes, and the sunlight, and crying as I watched this at six in the morning, after reading about it on somebody’s blog, the link now lost. It was almost spring and I had not cried since winter. Back when I would add things to my weekly list like, ‘more on lattices’, ‘a setlist’, ‘a more explicit weave’, ‘reply’ and ‘pack’.
Writing this now, am I attempting to ‘put’ this ‘away’?
When he tried to be practical, mentioned ‘In the long run…’ I could only think of that song by The Staves. It was a churlish note, curled at the edge and not mine or yours. That night, there was a cat called Olive, a taxi to Greenbank, sleeping in a friend’s sister’s bed, waking up face to face with Sophie Collins’ small white monkeys again. In the notebook I had written in a slurred hand, ‘I wish I would cry now but I feel afloat’. It was the elated tiredness, the denial. I had a freezing shower to cool my shame.
Climate breakdown is also a breakdown of the heart. We have to admit that. Something is always stinging, ‘I’ve been thinking’, a mug of hot water. I could not sleep, I was reading Clarice Lispector’s Agua Viva in fits and starts, which is perhaps how it demands to be read:
I swallow a mouthful of blood that fills me entirely. I hear cymbals and trumpets and tambourines that fill the air with noise and uproar drowning out the silence of the disc of the sun and its marvel. I want a cloak woven from threads of solar gold. The sun is the magical tension of the silence.
A spoon of blood, not sugar, not jam. It is the hot lump in your throat when you cry and the blood that is anyway. About to. Remember I bled for thirteen days, or was it more. It was because of hot liquid, a rush, a pill. How you nourish yourself or not. A friend says, when I cry on buses and trains I listen to specific kinds of music and pretend I’m in a movie. Is it detachment we want from that? Would there be cymbals and trumpets and tambourines in this movie? I want you to put me in it, the noise. I want to stand at the front of the gig, be buffeted. I want to be bashed around like a note that won’t break from the instrument. I want to find a post-it note stuck to my back, but what should it say? Over time, I garner respect for the sun. It is not that my nocturnal years are ‘over’, but I am wondering what it would mean to truly love and rejoice in the sun. The giver of life, not Byronic darkness. To lie in a colourless sea. What would this clarity that Clarice writes of look like, the woven cloak of ‘solar gold’, its ripples? Is it the mantle one could wear to cloak a sadness? But what if the sadness was the clarity itself? I say, I think you are brilliant. It is a mantra. It is a giving away. When the van swerved and nearly hit me, I felt the sunlight so incredibly brightly. The east coast, the sense that this was someone else’s morning. The silence remains still, and I look for it in that ‘magical tension’ of the said and unsaid, and I am doing what Didion does with her grief, the magical thinking that is arranging all these scenes at once for something to emerge as possible. That is trying to sort a timeline or feeling yourself ‘invisible’, between things, the living and dead, an incomprehensible love.
In Ariana Reines’ recent collection, A Sand Book (2019), the pages of the final section, ‘MOSAIC’, are black. She introduces the scene that prompted this section with italics,
The sun’s warmth kept filling me, and what had begun as a slightly above-average warmth kept growing. It was starting to fill my body, and just before I totally surrendered to it, I had the inkling this might be something like the “bliss” I had heard about in old books. I had to sit down.
What is relayed as a religious experience, a spiritual experience, is then a series of transmissions (‘MOSAIC’ is in reference to Moses). But it is also fundamentally a solar experience. I think of Laura Marling’s heart of sand, something grazed by a coming warmth, the lap of a sunlight like the sea. A hot liquid thing that is coming inside me, causing the bleed, the bliss, the generous massage of some hormone. It is embarrassing writing, it demands a hot bright mantle. To feel it, feel through it, you have to sit down. You might go to the bar, as Joni does. In fact, I write this lying in bed, as is often the way. There is nothing to set out for or plan, so much as the needling of this ‘inkling’.
I go to see Little Women, and focus on Jo’s ink-stained fingers.
I have not been ‘on holiday’ for so long but if I did I would make a solar panel of my opening chest and lay where the river and the light would take me. I think the black space on Ariana Reine’s pages is just as important as the whitely capitalised text, ‘EARTH IS SPECIAL […] THERE IS NO “BACK” TO GET TO’. We can’t get back to any bliss other than what is felt in the present. And there has to be so much energy. Put down your phone.
Dorothea Lasky says she tells her students ‘not to have a plan, but to collect things and poems and then put them together’, there is this ‘holy idea’ of ‘emergence’. I write mostly by assembling quotes I like, streaming things down (for to ‘jot’ implies a decisiveness, an almost violence) whenever they do or don’t make sense. Text myself so the thought is received as though in reply. I have all these poems from the month I don’t yet know how to assemble. They are as much of the rain as the rain. Someone comments on a fresh sense of ‘scarcity’.
‘I wish I had a river so long’. And there is no snow here. The lines feel hard and overly sweet.
Candy canes hang upon the tree.
On Christmas Day, we walk by the canal and stop by the locks. The trees seem anorexic, as in a Plath poem; as though they had chosen to strip this pure and gleam on the water. They too will see from below, but they know a different renewal.
I can’t say a certain five letter word.
I want to know what the seven words are in the Weyes Blood song.
‘I wish I could swim in an ocean / As cold as’ a line I can’t finish, listening to Grace Cummings as though it were autumn all over again. But people on the internet are still going wild swimming. The world is not everywhere cold. The caption reads, literally all I want for xmas.
Two photos on different accounts of a landscape blurred by the motional train.
It’s funny, I even wrote, ‘it’s like The Topeka School and the failure of language’.
To sob into the warm, soft fur of a cat.
The want of a cigarette.
Astonishing winter light.
I couldn’t finish the wine.
In The Fast, Hannah Weiner writes, ‘I didn’t know any golden light people, but I knew a couple of blues. I knew I had to be rescued (I thought of it that way) by a blue, or someone near it’. One of my closest friends and I both Instagram a snapshot of ‘River’ on Spotify at separate points across the festive period. It is this secret, not-so-secret gesture of the living-on, the warmth and possible. I think she is one of the golden light people, in loops, and I wonder what I am, if one of the blues. Who else is a blue? But I have always loved green eyes. And the Earth, which is a globe of something like green and blue, (de)pendant on/of the universe. Whose. And I have seen the garden in four seasons now, but just barely. The scene is still swinging and won’t stop to focus.
What Reines writes of how there is no ‘back’ of the Earth to get to. I think of the back of a tapestry: a ragged collation of stems, snipped-off threads, criss-crossing lines. A simultaneity, a mess, a work in progress. When I am trying to write about the anthropocene, about what is happening, about the earth, is it this ‘back’ I am trying to write. It is not to get back to, but a back that is happening, the other side. I have been trying and failing to learn crochet; I think those who succeed are beautiful and perfect, I won’t turn over their lovely creations. In her song ‘Other Side’, Grace Cummings sings ‘The fall of a raindrop / Returns blue to the daylight / Your mind must return / To behind your eyes’. One drop of blue can restore the day. I think of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tangled Up in Blue’, living on Montague Street, in one or more stories. The worried thread. It is like putting on makeup to stop yourself crying, but doing it anyway, later in rivers of mascara and other clichés. When you are watching a movie and the crying is about to happen and you feel it as a sparkle, because it is not about the movie for which you are crying, but something around or near the happening, the space of it, being there in the other imaginary. And then what is going on ‘behind your eyes’. Crying happens in a space. It is all the prettiness we do while we can, which is a mutual hurt, a hot slide of a tear that catches your neck and means something small and inexplicable.
The Bright Eyes song ‘Train Under Water’ begins, ‘You were born inside of a raindrop / I watched you falling to your death / And the sun, well she could not save you / She’d fallen down too, now the streets are wet’. I used to think that song was about miscarriage, now I know it could be about any kind of love and loss. Remember when Jeremy Corbyn said something offhand about getting the train to Orkney? I dream about the sub-thalassic train sometimes, northerly moving, passing by jellyfish and flashes of shapeless light. Where are you going, where have you been. The milky unborn thing that we bear yet. Feeling sick from relative motion. It is the glassy way we watch from behind falling water, all of our lives. What touch do we really share of each other?
The air is a key change.
At the reading, Gloria says something like, we have all been thinking of writing as a practice of moving through the days, a practice of living, of marking time. Here are the days I give you in words. In Utopia, her little red book, Bernadette Mayer writes, ‘Everything you or I or anybody says always seems 100% wrong sometimes, unless you keep forcing it to be closer to the truth’. There is a truth quality, say, to the way plants photosynthesise or a starling assembles her nest. The percentage quality in which I can or cannot get out of bed, and whether you are ‘Active Now’ or in fact just barely online. Again, it is a question of green.
Marianne Morris has this beautiful poem, the last in her collection Word / World (2018), that a friend and I once read aloud together on a patio in summer at the XR climate café, the first I’d attended. Everything seemed shimmer then. The poem, ‘Lion’s Gate’, is a prose poem of some intensity. It is about what it means to love and to hate, and what is worth keeping. I really want to quote the whole thing but I can’t, so I’ll make do:
We do not want to go back with more questions pertaining to life on this Earth. We must learn them before we leave, loving every possible second upon this beautiful Earth, because we will not come back. We will move on elsewhere. It is like a heart breaking feeling suddenly, I see it all so clearly and I want this moment to stay. This feeling of certainty that the only thing that matters in this life is that you enjoy your time here and keep thirsting and seeking and do not resist the lessons, rush towards them and learn them all, so that you can die to yourself, die into light.
Green Day – 2000 Light Years Away
Caribou – You and I
Market – Told
Angel Olsen – Lark
Fleetwood Mac – Dreams
Pinegrove – Skylight
Rob St. John – Your Phantom Limb
Laura Marling – Tap At My Window
Karen Dalton – God Bless the Child
Joni Mitchell – River
Grace Cumming – Other Side
wished bone – Pink Room
Nirvana – Something In The Way
Wilco – An Empty Corner
Belle and Sebastian – We Rule the School
Vashti Bunyan – Winter is Blue
Connie Converse – I Have Considered the Lilies
Bright Eyes – Train Under Water
Big Thief – Dandelion
The National – Guilty Party
Organ Tapes – Simple Halo
Björk – Sun In My Mouth
Eartheater, LEYA – Angel Path
Mitski – Last Words of a Shooting Star