NaPoWriMo - 17/04/2020 - Things Christina Knows

A bit of a cheat here, this was originally the first song that I wrote for my collaboration with Hallam London but he didn't feel comfortable identifying with a teenage girl so I put this aside and wrote Dance Crime instead.

Things Christina knows

Anne is in a coma, everybody says;
Christina hears but can't speak--too soon--
to Beth through Friday's endless afternoon
of double chemistry she tried and failed.
What can you say when someone's nearly dead
and all you want is never dying dance,
too loud, too bright, too fast; a crowded chance
to step out of control.  Perhaps enough is said?

And now tonight Christina knows that Beth,
locked-in upon a mission of her own,
took something hard and white.  She's in a zone,
unblinking, where nothing like a friend's near death
can interrupt her all consuming hunt
to find the perfect boy-stroke-girl and dance
enmeshed in rhythm, sweat and sideways glances--
she never takes them home, but surely wants...

...and so Christina knows
that everything is possible;
but also she knows
nobody's words are true;
and now she sees
the rising Sun eclipsed by tower blocks,
and this is life :
the trick is not to fuck it up.

Today through morning's shopping/washing turn-around
Christina struggles, wanting not to think
of how a body hovering on some brink,
might turn either direction.  Might be found
tomorrow morning asking after bacon
or might...  the nights are so long this week
and after she'd not slept she had to freak
Bethany by dragging her to visit Anne...

...and so Christina realises
that anything is bearable;
although she must admit
that everybody fails;
and she has seen
that stolen cars still smoulder by the underpass,
but she still knows that there is hope :
the trick is not to fuck it up.

Christina stands up now to dance, the World
is subtly rearranged, and she needs more
than strobing light against the dark.  She's sure
she never felt this way before.  No walls
seem relevant.  She walks through rain barefooted,
towards the hill of trees, towards the high place
towards infinity, and the clearing sky,
where she will dance as if everything is looking.

Christina knows
that anything is possible;
and thus she knows
the stars are in her reach;
and though she's longed
that simple friendships might endure,
she'll take each one for however long it lasts :
the trick is, as ever, not to fuck it up.


NaPoWriMo - 15/04/2020 - The Engine Subcommittee

The Engine Subcommittee...

...meets, occasionally quorate,
and every Thursday evening
in the longtime beer spill backroom
of the Dog and Gun.

They consider the case for turbine rotors
the glasses of beer, the ceramic or titanium alloys
the questions of low, high and optimum temperatures
and whether the peanuts should be salted

or dryly roast.  They consider the boast
of Nigel of the Flat Cap, that he can route
all the required pipes and wires
around the belfries and spires

without making a single decorated Gothic
flinch.  Watch the Master of Combustion pinch
out his cigarette and say
for the thirty-seven thousandth time

that he is certain all engine components
should be situated in roofs and crypts,
and not disturb the bats, or visitor collection box flow patterns,
in any significant way.

The subcommittee has been meeting for fifteen years;
the cathedral hasn't moved an inch.


NaPoWriMo - 13/04/2020 - After everyone has gone

This is not 100% new, in fact it is one I have had around for a while, but never quite got anywhere with it.

And I have found it hard to progress with it, because I haven't been able to tell whether there's something else needed for the poem, or whether it just hasn't worked for the people I've shown it to because they...


...well basically because they are not me.

e.g. the poem might be talking about something that only completely means something to me: a mood, a moment, a constellation of personality fragments.

Which is always awkward, although it can in someways mean the poem is very interesting, philosophically speaking, it's never going to be an easy sell.

Anyway, warning: Nihilism

After everyone has gone

I - The way things are

Everybody lies,
the reporter tells the gangster.
He does not look at Greta.
She does not look at him. 

Everybody lies, the reporter says again, 
but most hide secrets I'd not trouble to expose:
the sins against greengrocers, the weekends lost in bars,
someone's idle fantasy about the boy who shines their car...
These are zeros on a newspaper's balance sheet:
they must exist, but they don't add up.

II - The way things are done

The gangster grunts.  He is watching Greta,
seemingly marooned in possessive, pensive fugue.
He is huge in his overcoat.  She is seducing
her reflection in the chromium counter side.
I knew several men who died, he murmurs,
without telling what they knew...

The reporter watches the window.
Evening has been and gone.  Outside, Klara
stacks the tables, one on top of one; neat,
in her food-preparer's suit.  It's a distant world outside.
Unreal.  Floodlit.  Cobbled.  She has become minute,
mute, a solitary figure far away.

...those men blew it, the gangster concludes,
it was always about money, and on another day,
they might have paid far more to live.
He grunts again and, concentrating, pours absinthe
through the drain-holes in his spoon.

III - Seen to be done

The private detective mans his station,
a secret location behind the newspaper
with a hole punched through the sports page.  He has coffee,
debris from several bagels, a table by the door.
He has watched the reporter not glance at Greta
all through the evening's length
as businessmen and politicians came, went
and thick brown envelopes changed hands.
His theory is that everybody cuts a deal
but pretends they are unownedthe way he is.

He gets free coffee refills.
He only just learned Greta's name, previously knew
cleavage through telephoto
hanging off the gangster's arm.
So in his notes she is the moll and seems
so totally unaffected
as would disprove his theory
if she didn't keep not noticing the reporter.

It is dark.  The last bus lumbers.
Klara enters from the street.
She is older than Greta, petite,
and palpably more muscular.  She bustles brusquely;
fills the reporter's beer in time to catch him say...
 ...a Truth is a thing to die for, on some days.

IV - What people say

Klara pours her own drink; puts him right:

It seems this way to you, your favoured life,
your comfy chairs, travel expenses, people...

she does not look at Greta

...do things for you, but that illusion
is a luxury, and we who fill your glasses know
there's nothing and no-one and emptiness
none of whom calls for Truth.  She takes
a moment, a breath, an empty glass.
She and the reporter watch Greta
put on lipstick for her reflection

with the gangster watching.

When she talks of him, she talks about his car,

his house, his clothes, his horse, this bar;
and when he talks of her, he talks about her legs,
the way she fills a dress, and a thing she does
with a glacé cherry; but I  know,
Klara whispers, that he wants other men jealous;
and she...

needs protection for when her dad gets out.

V - And what they do

The gangster leaves in his big black limo
with muffled thumping in the boot.
The reporter kindly once again
walks Greta home.
The detective folds Klara over the counter
bare breasts on the chrome.

It isn't that he loves her, or even that he's lonely.
She is convenient, accepting, reasonable company...
He just wishes she wasn't gasping: 

no-thing... no-one... emp-ty...
no-thing... no-one... emp-ty...

all the time.