2019-09-24

Fowler English usage

Fowler English usage


The elliptical hyperhyphen:
used in punctuation
to show no relation
between adjoining clauses;
in speech indicates voiced,
or imaginary pauses;
and, in lists, is for items
that do not exist
or which should have been written
somewhere else.

Two or more can be combined
to indicate a state of mind
which cannot be properly punctuated.

As a general guide,
use this when you can't decide
between an m-dash,
and taking a razor to slash
the document into confetti.

Your keyboard does not have this key --
a pity, since it is much use
but you can add them afterwards
with ink and quill
or for stronger emphasis you will
attach the whole goose.



2019-07-26

WWSotM: Cassini explains perspective

And so we come to the end of micro collection, and we step back for a moment...







Cassini explains perspective

Everything you know;
everyone you know, have known, will ever know;

everywhere you've been;
everywhere you've never been;

everywhere you could be,
including even, if NASA would only play along,
the Moon;

every song that sticks in your head
all through some rainy afternoon;
every balloon, released accidentally
by any toddler;

every toddler;
every teen;

every thought you ever think;
every meme, you cut and paste on Facebook;

every face;
every book;

every member of the appropriate sex,
who has that certain styleall in

        In the sixteen hundreds, Cassini explained --
        for those travelling a long way --
        how to measure longitude with two clocks,
        the Sun, and careful observations
        of eclipsing Jovian moons.

        Cassini also observed
        the gap in Saturn's rings
        through which we today fling
        a careful dart and have it, looking back,
        photograph

that one pixel : this island Earth.

So I say: stuff your rather pointless election campaign,
pour your new recipe hair conditioner down the drain,
smoke or do not smoke, if you keep it away from me
because none of that matters
let me tell you about perspective.





2019-07-25

WWSotM: Earth-like planets...

It's bloody hot, so I'm just going to query whether we actually need the word "exoplanet" and get on with the poem (which I recorded on a far cooler day...)








Earth-like planets...

...where the hanging moment of morning
finds cloud unbound and the song moves on.
Where she sang that song, the one that rhymes
"heart" with "card" and where...

Here's another one!  Jake looks up from the machine.
it's like the universe is stuffed with the damn things--
and another, this one's pinkish...
 which means
if the Universe is filled with places of this sort,

then life cannot be killed... will always have
another place to go.
  He looks around.  She's gone again.
He feels he is in love, but that it will not work.
He'd like to buy her a drink later

except she never is about.  Never mind,
he calls, in case she is still there.  Meanwhile,
at the other end of the telescope, she spreads
her blanket on the ground, just beyond the pale

pink shadow of the untrees, opens the picnic basket
and sits down...




2019-07-24

WWSotM: Fast woman

And so we come to relativity, relativity and a woman.

The title of this seems less than feminist, fortunately (or rather by design) the title doesn't mean what it seems.

In relativity, there's a place called "the elsewhere" it's the bits of spacetime which are far enough from us in space and too close in time for light to make the journey.  There isn't enough time.  Nothing is faster than light, so the elsewhere is out of reach.  No possible information can travel from there to here, so we can't see it; or from here to there, so we can't affect it either.

Note, however, that spacetime is four dimensional.  So this doesn't mean there are 3D places that we cannot access.  We can see their past and affect their future; it's just an area around the present that's gone missing...

...rather like self-contained woman in this poem.  She was here, but now she's off about her own business; maybe she'll be back tomorrow.









Fast woman


Einstein-like, she chooses curves
for living space and all of her free-time;
meanders through the gallery,
coffee in hand, pursues the light. Behind
the paintings shade to infrared;
they glow with ultraviolet light ahead

while all I see is the faintest blur,
a fragile shock-wave in rebounding air
from where she spent a millisecond
staring at Matisse: the dancing one

imagine:
the daisy-chaining figures spin
faster,
their flesh transformed
to something rich and more robust
to keep breasts rounded
and hands clasped
under stress
of cosmological significance;
picture fauvism
conceding to relativity
a reference frame dragged slowly
to a closed curve
where all there ever was
all there every will be
is the dance

she leaves a hint of perfume;
a dent that appears
then recoils as suddenly to flatness:
an institutional bench cushion at rest.




2019-07-23

WWSotM: Golden age reasoning

A lot of contemporary politics insists on harking back to one or other golden age.

Q. Was there ever a golden age?

A. Of course there was not.

Except in Science Fiction.  The Golden Age of Science Fiction is well documented as running from from 1938 to 1946 and is superior to all other golden ages in three important respects:
  1. it actually happened
  2. it was limited, mostly, to the production of pulp novels and magazines; so we didn't overreach
  3. when it was over, we didn't go into decline, we started right in on the Silver Age
Another plausible candidate for a Golden Age might be the space race, an age of great promise and progress... however with my hardest engineer head on, I am going to call that a fools-golden age, because.
  1. it was politically motivated, there's not actually so much reason to go to the moon
  2. although a lot of useful technology spun off from the space race, it wasn't enough to completely enable a further phase: the technology that got us to the Moon does not scale to getting us to Mars
  3. we never went back
So, although eventually the Moon might be useful as a staging point on the way to other places (although Earth orbit is handier) I wouldn't say that getting there in 1969 was fundamental...

Unlike I, Robot which is fundamental, because, if I recall correctly, it contains the short story which finally addresses the question What is a human? (which matters because Asimov's laws forbid: harming a human, or through inaction allowing a human to come to harm...) and reaches the conclusion, that, to paraphrase another famous Sci-Fi author:

Any sufficiently advanced robot is indistinguishable from a human being.

Which gives us a different possible future for future space exploration.  We happily drop increasingly advanced robots on various heavenly bodies.  If the robots get more and more sophisticated, and if, at the same time, the people become more and more robotic (c.f. 'cyborg'), then we could arrive at people on Mars by a strange and unexpected back door:

Q. Is there life on Mars?

A. First let's define 'life'.

There was a point to this discussion but it is a bloody hot day and I have derailed my train of thought...  have a poem instead.









Golden age reasoning


Golden Age reasoning knows aliens
in the fabric of the air.  The tiny hints
of Chlorine breath are there for those who sniff
and have not bleached their washing recently.

Golden Age reasoning has to believe
that there's a real behind this real and you
can get there if you have that kind of mind
of course the trip back can be more complex...

although Golden Age reasoning does not
sweat the details: how does your aircar stay up?
Why do the robots rebel?  And hell, if I
know why the Fleed have got it in for us.

The Golden Age, a precious, dangerous
and brightly coloured place, but turn to face
it now and check the charge in your ray-gun
the seals on your power suit, the gleam in your eye.




2019-07-22

WWSotM: Space

"Space, is big..." says The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and then it goes on to give some stunningly bad advice about holding a lungful of air in order to survive in a vacuum.  DO NOT DO THIS...

If you ever find yourself needing to walk out an airlock without a spacesuit then you must let all the air out, no matter where in your body it is: lungs, ears or digestive tract.  Otherwise parts of you may burst.

Then, also, just try to (a) be quick and (b) have a bit of cloth or something for grabbing the metal handle of the other airlock; and you may be fine...  If you grab metal in space with unprotected fingers then you may freeze or burn them, depending whether the metal is facing the Sun or not.

Anyway, that is that, and this is a poem about a coffee table.









Space


Between my two raised hands
I show just how much width
the coffee table takes
and that is space

not a huge amount of it
something approaching three foot six
but the same stuff
that separates us from the Moon.


You're on the far side
of the coffee table now;
no matter how I manoeuvre
I can't bring you close...

...you say you need more space;
beyond you is the window,
kites flying in the park,
and beyond that, the Sun.




2019-07-21

WWSotM: The Red Planet Blues

David Bowie never toured Mars [citation needed]...

Edgar Rice Burroughs sent John Carter to Mars several times, but due to time-skew John landed on a fictionalized planet where the women were strangely attractive...

Curiosity landed on the real Mars, or rather Curiosity landed on a Mars that is inhabited only by machines.  This Mars will cease to exist the moment a human sets foot on it.

However, to this day, no human has ever set foot on Mars.  There are good reasons for that.  One is that that human would probably not be coming back, another is that even getting there alive is really hard [citation needed].

It would also be very expensive, and you might say we have better things to spend our money on...  However, as long as we are limited only to Earth, we're vulnerable.  One decent sized rock falling out of the the sky and it is all over.

We're not quite ready to colonise Mars yet.

We really should be working on it more.









The Red Planet Blues


Ziggy played guitar,
     jammin' good with Weird and Gilly...


There are no spiders
on Mars, spinning
in bone-cold canyons
to trap unwary space cadets.
There are no great domed cities, shining
pale in the brave red sunset. There are no get
of Edgar Rice Burroughs;
no green, six-limbed warriors
riding thoats or laying eggs
in odd moments
out there in the rusty desert. No Martians for the chronicler
to document their steady decline
after the Earthmen came.

Earthmen must come.
It is necessary.
Pick up the pickaxe.
Start digging a canal.




2019-07-20

WWSotM: That's no moon...

So in 1969 it was a moon.  I'm fairly certain...

If the astronauts had landed on a science fiction moon, I think we would have heard about it almost immediately...







That's no moon...



...that's a science fiction moon.

A science fiction moon is when there is
the tiniest sliver: a line of light,
a curving scar, where someone took
a razor to the sky.

A science fiction moon is when there is
three quarters: an asymmetric lenticulate,
a lens to view much stranger stars
and made by what knows who.

A science fiction moon is when there is
a big bite out of it.

A science fiction moon is precisely half
a moon, a thing that's clearly real and there,
yet also clearly not and gone.

The science fiction moon hangs easy
in my sky tonight, a circle, perfect, full,
impressively large, romantically dead...

...the science fiction moon is ours,
close enough to reach out with one hand and-



We Were So on the Moon

We Were So on the Moon in 1969 and everybody, but everybody, is producing documentaries, video game patches, t-shirts and "special edition" coffee flavours.

I had no plan to join in.

But I was paging through my old poems, looking for something good I hadn't shared recently, and the first thing I found was a moon poem.

Well who am I to oppose the workings of fate.

So please consider this the title page for a specially assembled micro-collection.

This is going to be seven poems over seven days, starting today, and focused on, not so much of the moon landings themselves, but more the areas around that: space exploration in general; our changing attitude to it; what, if anything, we might have learned in the last fifty years.



We Were So on the Moon

Contents:
  1. That's No Moon
  2. The Red Planet Blues
  3. Space
  4. Golden Age Reasoning
  5. Fast Woman
  6. Earth-like Planets
  7. Cassini Explains Perspective




Page one follows shortly: 10, 9, 8...





2019-05-01

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #25 - Copenhagen




Copenhagen


All things to all men the wave-function coming
and she is sitting, plain blue dresses on bentwood chairs,
every weekday for seven years...
inspecting such light rays as pass,
sipping gloss coffee, black from cups,
sipping flesh orange chilled juice from glasses—
in summer/winter, day/night according;
the features of a world which comes and goes

but lies and says it's real for all of that.
The notepad by her hand
is spiral, tattered, feint-lined, closed—
she filled the pages up with maths so long ago
and pressed them all to heart.  She does not read
reminders of whole lives' obsessing
each sheet pressed flat through a glass clearly
to the eyes of mind.  Inhaling brown coffee pheromones, she finds

a choice of landscapes from those
who trod this way before.  Heisenberg: all things
to things which are not looking,
and Schroedinger who makes the functions wave
but not to choose which way to go—
until they suddenly do.  Which inspires

Max Born to pronounce that everything's a chance,
that probabilities will dance around the dice,
and Einstein to scowl and mutter something Germanic.

And thus goes her life, until one afternoon a clarity,
a glimpse and... and... barely daring breathe,
she sidles, oblique, through systems
of huge mathematical brackets,
unzipping reality's jeans, easing it out of its jacket,
sliding one hand towards the hint,
the suggestion; while
drinking one last black coffee —v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y—
and finally smiles the smile.

It took a while, but here she is
at the very edge.
She writes a line of symbols
on the cover of the book.
Underlines it.
Twice.
Then drops the empty orange glass onto the table
pays with Euros/Kroner/Schillings/Marks
and artfully carved squares of bone; decides to go home,
party,
to keep it secret, tell literally everyone she knows,
and leaves in all directions.





2019-04-24

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #23 - Reference works




Reference works

So... Edward finally has the book.  It came
in Amazon's robust brown cardboard packaging
and the woman who lives downstairs took it in.
Thank you, says Ed, when he gets in from work
at seven p.m. but the woman — is it Carol? —
is blushing again and disappears.  Leaving
Edward with his box which he opens...

How to do anything!

(with diagrams)

This is the business -- and by business
he does not mean answering tech. support
queries for clueless noobs for eight hours every
day at what works out very close to minimum
wage, but business: the business of business
of getting stuff done and getting on.  Here we go...

How to debug Windows(tm) system-level drivers using a virtual machine.

Well perhaps this isn't where to start, let's try:

How to change a '64 or '65 Aston Martin gearbox.

--and the diagrams are great! You can see exactly
how to remove the clutch plate.  If only Edward
did not drive a smart car with a pushed-in wing.
Maybe the index is the thing?

How to sex aardvarks...

How to damp a gas-cooled reactor...

How to weld titanium in the vacuum of space...

All useful stuff but Ed to some degree
is aware of his place in the scheme of things
and this is not his metier:

How to turn a profit growing swedes...

How to hold a spade...

How to milk a cow...

How to duel with various blades...

And now Edward's starting to get angry
all he wants answered is one simple question
but is there an entry for How to meet nice girls?
Is it under "N"?  Is it under "G"?

Is this book even alphabetical?  Well nothing
for it but to read the whole damn thing.  Except
the doorbell rings and it is what's-her-face?
Karen?  Carla?  Katie!  That was it.  And it seems
she has made too much mushroom stroganoff
and would he like...?  Edward has too much
to do.  Too much to read...
Now, let's get down to this:

Chapter one:  How to recognise the obvious...




 


2019-04-22

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #22 - The big sleepers




The big sleepers


sensation returning the chiaroscuro moment
everything shadow the secret room
no lights on no humans present
until now the suspension chamber popping
possibly not even now there are
no fates except for those received
on the vacuum tube radio
which is dark
but two of us survive

everything smells like dust
abandonment
empty empty empty
the radio reluctant
and only after soldering
the city beyond the dust cake window
is not the one we knew

the radio is warming slowly you go
walk our perimeter tradecraft
I rotate the dial
hemi-human patience
rotating the dial
no stations yet
you have not come back
no stations
maybe we overslept
no stations
no stations



2019-04-21

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #21 - Poem that did not go where I expected




Poem that did not go where I expected

The blade of the scissors
which is half of the scissors
a scissor if you will
has a voice that sings a tiny tinny song
as it circles over and over
upon the sharpening stone
the point of scissors is that this inner edge is straight
and flat
so there is no jamming or binding
and no gap through which the paper can turn
and jam. Gracious

this pair was mauled
battered
looks like they were used
for cutting barbed wire
by desperate dressmakers
knee deep in the Somme
"Get that wire clear, Soldier!"
screamed the chief seamstress
and they worked the little yellow handles
until their fingers were ragged
until the ache ran all the way
right up their arms.




2019-04-20

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #20 - If Juliet...




If Juliet...


If Juliet should come to the machine, she'll sneak perhaps
past late night blinking lobby guards;
steal her father's access card;
swipe her father's access card through the reader
by the big steel door.  If Juliet should come to the machine

she'll stand a moment, glance around,
then press her hand upon the activator pad...
there always is that background hum but now
the little lights come on and settle down
to flashing,
businesslike
as only machines can be
and Juliet will freeze.  It would be better for her

if the device could slightly smile
although a wink would be too much
to ask.  What do you request of the machine
that has everything?  But Juliet has belief
that she knows what to do, asks carefully:
what if the apothecary was not true?


If Juliet should come to the machine
for the first time again
and she's old and grey, her life has not gone well
and if you asked she would not say that Romeo
turned out in later years a bastard and all
those kids just wore her down, but you could believe
it so.  She also will not say that in later life
she came to regret
having taken up with him at all...

And so what do you ask of the machine
that has everything: what if I never met Romeo?


And if Juliet should come again to the machine
again again once more
and she's old but vigorous but in her eyes
a subtle pain as if to say,
that while she's not been one to shirk
the book group and her tapestries
and the committee for civic works
and so has been busy and in many ways fulfilled
there might be something missing...

What do you ask of the machine
which is everything...?


—but at this point let us skip
three hundred iterations
of the non-time loop,
but take it from me you'd see her try everything
sometimes in several different ways:
What if Romeo was a girl?
What if I played the flute?
...ate more fruit?
...if I lived in Verona?
...was taller?
...smaller?
...the boy?

Until eventually—


If Juliet should come to the machine at all
she will, at some point in the sequence,
hit on the most fundamental question,
the one that none of us can call
a comfortable conceit,
but which anyone must eventually ask.

What do you ask of the machine which
can do everything?  Finally?
After the eternity of parallels runs out?
After everything else?

Possibly only now, does Juliet have a plan:

What if I did not exist?

—and the rest is silence.




2019-04-17

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #17 - The days of your life beyond recounting




The days of your life beyond recounting


The days of your life beyond recounting
waiting at the junction in the rain:
the cars, the radio, and what accounting

can there be?  The billboard over there surmounting
the traffic island's fertile plain;
the grey life stories beyond recounting

crawling past each day.  Even discounting
repeated visits, the number's are insane.
The tires, the radiators: what accounting

for metal in motion.  The tonnage mounting
as commuters fill the left turn lane
the lives of days spewed from a fountain

and then there's you--frustration mounting--
in the stasis of a queue.  You can't explain
the ways of a life beyond recounting,
the cars, the radio, the days... who's counting.




2019-04-16

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #16 - Towards a new "towards a new metaphysics"




Towards a new "towards a new metaphysics"



Professor Colin Ledgate taps his ream
of printed handout notes lethargically
upon the wooden desk.  It's five fifteen.
Most students have already pulled their coats
or jackets silently from under chairs;
begun to bottom-shuffle to the steps
that split the blocks of moulded plywood seating
but Colin's thoughts are on competing

with Dr Maggie Frust who came across
the concrete quad from the Dept. of Modern Text-
ual Analysis and other poly-
syllablic words to cross cerebral swords
on the topic of her latest on-line coup,
a pair of lectures jointly called: "What's can
hermeneutics do with you?" and though
Professor Colin's almost sure the viewers
can't be more than half a dozen fawning
undergrads or people who, like Colin himself,
want to derail the sharply tailored Maggie's
so seemingly unswerving glide towards
the Creftung Prize, which rightly ought to rest
in that little cabinet beside the stairs
in his own beloved Dept. of Contemporary
Metalinguistic Thought.  He ought, he thinks,
to do some sort of on-line thing himself
he's almost sure there is a webcam on the shelf
in the postgrad common room and he is sure
that one or more of them would be up for
the project, possibly something populist
with "metamodernism..." Hmm, perhaps...
He knows he is a lapsed postmodernist
and possibly it's time to address that
with something new...  The sky is blue

beyond the non-opening double glazing
and most of the students are gazing at that, or waiting,
impatiently, for him to complete his sentence.
Where was he now, oh yes:

So I'll see you tomorrow when we'll do
the most exciting part.  We'll discuss how prior art
cannot be separated from the act
of writing text, and how the consequence
of that is that critique becomes a part
of the document studied, and thus we finally
advance on Blitherheimer's stance that there can't
be semiotics without an implied ontology
which everyone ignores,


and with that, the class flee.


2019-04-15

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #15 - Leveraging agile methodology for a more perfect world




Leveraging agile methodology for a more perfect world



We groom the backlog every week
and it's a list
of national and World figures
who we could do without.
I am a grunt.
I don't get near the clients
unless
an operation's going to the wire
when the Elision Captain might get
me on my headset and say
"just take the razor and meander down
to the second floor,
our guy's just coming to the toilet door
and he's unaccompanied..."
So I did that

and they extracted me
with the matte black silent chopper
which was cool
and everybody brought me drinks,
watching the local cops
all panic via the hidden cams.  That's not
my normal day at all
I once spent thirteen weeks
beneath a manhole cover in Madrid,
listening,
to cleaners in a service lift, and once
we opened a restaurant,
an actual restaurant, outside the local
government offices in--

well let's not name that place,
statutes of limitations and the like.
We are the Deletions Subcommittee
Action Scrum Team "Kraken" and we do
what needs to be done, because
assassination is an important part
of Society two-point-naught;
we de-fly the ointment,
eliminating stumbling blocks
who thrust
their psychopathic personalities
onto a worldly stage which runs
more smoothly without their ilk,
or putting it more relatably

we do in those
who have it coming.  Anyway,
my daily stand-up meeting's soon,
so what did you...?
The suggestions box?
It's over there.  But don't worry;
he's already on the list.



--

Notes:

  • "Agile" is a family of software development methodologies, similar to lean manufacturing techniques.
  • "Scrum" is one of those methodologies.
  • A "backlog" is a list of tasks which may be done in the future.
  • "Grooming" is sorting, elucidating and tidying.
  • A "daily stand-up" is a very short daily meeting where everybody says what they're doing and what the problems are.
  • "Elision Captain" I made up, but is similar to a "Product Owner" being the person who makes decisions about what is valuable to a product/project.
  • It's a good thing most geeks don't actually want to control the world.



2019-04-13

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #13 - New challenges for modern policing




New challenges for modern policing


The crime scene tape and I am abuzz...
Jane Prendergast from from pills and Vice
had pills from a raid from Vice and she had pills
of which these pills the lab could not quite place,
so we all took one in a spirit of enquiry.

This guy is dead.  Live men have heads.  This guy
does not.  Has anybody bagged a head?  Woo dizzy
but the floor that looms its carpet, quite a pile
on it a pile of cash here by the bed... Is someone
bagging it?  And here I am on knees looking

beneath the bed.  Ah, here he is.  Funny how
I knew he would be bald...  and tall,
although I-- is that his other half and pills
having hysterics in the kitchen/diner?  Where
Prane Jendergast (from Vice) has found more pills.

Well, in for a penny in for a pound and now
my Airwave booming, suspicion blooms
I cannot after all quite know, that Rob from dispatch
is still the man I know.  I know, I'll ask the radio
about the inflatable bear.  It was there.  Yes.  Bob!

Bob!  The bear!  It should have had a hat.
The bear pills hat Bob!  The pills, the pills, the bear!
Oh, he's gone now...  I know!
Arrest anybody
who still
exists
after
the pills
wear
off...


2019-04-12

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #11 - I came here from...



I came here from...


I came here from Theoretical England,
in the Best of All Possible British Isles.
We do things differently there. We don't
flee the EU ––or Advanced Ethical Zone,
as we call it–– because we built that from
debris of World War II, which never was,
in our world, because when Neville Chamberlain
said Peace in our Time he meant he'd finished years
of detailed work to fix the aching wounds
of World War I (which also never happened).
And in spite of being scarred by neither war,
we learned their lessons and we learned them well.
Persons of rational demeanour don't
need shells to explosively unmake the man
next along, before they grasp with all their hearts
that war is bad and act accordingly.
Unfortunately we've no Vorticists --
you can't have everything. I came here from
a place that can't exist. Whose fault is that?




NaPoWriMo - 2019 #12 - What we can learn from alien machinery.



What we can learn from alien machinery.

Align the fixing lugs with care.  Keep clothing,
loose ideas and hair out of the works.
Don't shirk responsibilities, you are
the only one who can maintain
your interior landscape.  See how
the Centaurian Enveiglatron turns on

every nineteen and three-quarter hours, to brews itself
a cup of lukewarm surface-cleaning gel.
Try not to dwell upon a single goal
you can't control the quirks of fate and chance
see how the Nuclear Inflectionoid will dance

around alternative solutions and quest
not only for a task done well;
it's also seeking grace,
and to stop with every tool-head facing west
--we don't know why it does that,

and that's a lesson too!
There will be things you do,
simply part of you,
without a deeper meaning.  Do not ignore
the urge to laugh, or waltz,
or merely don your coat

with a perfectly unnecessary flourish.  You are a you
and like the Pseudo-de-crenalator
you're the only one we have.
So nourish yourself.  Make a scene, a song. a plan...
If you're not being you, then who the hell else can?



2019-04-11

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #10 - Earthman! Do you have time to talk about...




Earthman!  Do you have time to talk about...


"We follow our book," the thing explains, "the star
we need to find's described in there." It offers
a battered paperback. The text's a block
of triangles and squares.  I squint at it.

"I like your words," I say, "it's artistic
but also information dense." "Oh, that's
not ours." The blue man says. "We had to hire
a translator, "and though not all he said made sense,

I feel we got the gist, take this bit here:
'ALREADY AFFORD EXPOSED, DO GLASS, AND ALL
THE TURNING TURNING TURNING WINGS THIN WINGS
AND TOWARDS THE MIDDLE: EDGE.' I mean... it's not

transparent,  but I think the sense is there. Still..."
He leaps up from the chair and turns to stare
into the sky, at the Sun. "It's pretty clear
that this is not the one." He sadly
smiles.

"We'd best be moving on our way! So... greetings
from the Cosmos and all those things I'm supposed to say...
I'm sure another friendly UFO
will come your way, in not so very long."



2019-04-09

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #9 - Safeguarding the chain of evidence




Safeguarding the chain of evidence


The police has started putting crime scene tape
round places where no crime has ever been.
It's Captain Rawlins who explains to me,
while he's fencing off my cat, that the Universe
is both quantum indeterminate and yet

also subject to chaotic effects
and thus incalculable on the classical level.
"The problem is we can't assume that time
flows only forwards from the crime," he says,
"and wiley defence lawyers can make much

from that."  And now a team's dusting my fridge
for prints, and making an infinity
of possible chalk outlines down the stairs...
Hey guys!  I need to eat, or use my chair...
Guys...  Guys?  What? Oh sure, I can hold the light.






2019-04-08

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #8 - raven

raven

rainwater hammered into the mud

until it's smoking
barns where my brothers sweated
mindlessly
to stack the crop
the wooden post which is the first and last
sight of our land
in the rearview mirror this time
this last time
nothing more to unearth beneath it
a raven rising from it
as I take the highway




2019-04-07

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #7 - Everything




Everything



"What do you deserve? Name it. All of it.
What are you ready to let go of?"

—From today's "official" NaPoWriMo prompt.



Science Fiction brought me up wrong, taught
the long view — by which I mean a million years —
and only then to zoom back in,
through eighteen successive approximations
upon tomorrow's afternoon
where no-one knows if it will rain:
why do you ask?  And Speculative Fiction

urges me to walk away from your nonsense
politics, the everyday of a world that's not just gone insane
— Philip K Dick could handle that — but revels in its mad.
Similarly, it's not that you are bad.  That I could understand,
if it was done with flare, but by my analysis
there's nothing there.  No plan, no intelligence
(human or otherwise) there's just stupid

doing stupid things.  And always the critique
is SciFi is for geeks and in some sense not real
and I will not conceal my disdain
for you who do not get it
have never got it
have not a getting-it to reach
but I will always teach that futurism

is the philosophy to own
if you want to have a future
in a Universe that cannot see
your trending issues, and actually
is unaware of almost anything
you hold important.  It comes to this
— as Space Opera already knows —

that there are two futures for the Cosmos.
One, in which there are minds,
in which the churn of brute matter climbs
the imaginary ladder towards deification,
and subtle mechanisms and parks and games
spread and bloom between the stars; and one other future,
the one that's desert and deserted

with nothing but rocks
moving in curves.


So — to come a last full circle,
to arrive where we started and know the place
etc etc — to answer your original question.
Science fiction raised me wrong: to believe
that what I deserve is everything,
that suzerainty over creation
is the destiny of thinking minds

and I use an ungendered word
because I will give up everything,
should the chance come...
I will reach out with one hand —
metaphorically speaking, because bodies, I imagine,
are among the first to go —
I will reach out with mechanisms then,

with information and forces and atoms and energies,
and I will take what's owed.



----

Note: this is my second poem entitled "everything", it's not like the other one...

...but then it is a big topic to cover.

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #6 - exits exist



Exits exist

Things that fell
apart, the centre
never holding. Text
inexplicable in
significance,
red on white
signage and see
there's bold and
underlining of random
words as if
as if it means
something

like other
random words, authority
figures shouting.  Oy!
What do they
want now? What
do they want
from me?  I
cannot see. I
mean I can
see everything

but that is
too much.  Complexity
kicks me
in the head,
although a stumble
into a simpler
place, like the
library, could work.



(From Carrie Etter's Short lines prompt..."

2019-04-05

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #5 - I shall now mock you




I shall now mock you

Pick a country; choose a side;
pick a religion, all the while
insisting you and only you are right
and I shall laugh, while pretending...
well pretending nothing, I will just laugh...

Let's talk about the reality of things, solidity, substantiality,
versus the irreality of thought.
You have been taught to draw lines on the world,
to cut things up, as if this was a clever thing, to say:
"here are the boys

and here the girls"—
to take a popular example
and I am laughing again and shading with crayons
where your line goes multifractal in-between,
in the place you mysteriously cannot see...

Can you even see your pencil?
It has an rubber on the end,
or is that an eraser with a pencil on the front?
You know, I could stab someone with this
or load it in a crossbow

and though it would not fly so far or straight
it still would kill a man.
So is it a dagger, is it a bolt?
Are you clawing at your reasoning,
trying to find the fault?

Why does this pencil, this woman, this philosophy not classify?
I'll tell you here and now
the absolute and perfect reason why:
atoms.
It just takes atoms,

to show most human thought is pish.
This isn't a pencil, it's a grouping of particles.
It is what it is,
and it does what it does;
and we can't entirely know either case.

See?  Now I wrapped it in duct tape
and jammed it in the printer where,
because I could sharpen it to the right length
it serves to hold the broken toner cartridge in
until we can get a new one.

It's not a pencil;
it's a adjustable compression prop.
Your attempts to understand must have a stop,
not because the analysis is wrong...
Analysis is great, please do more!

Draw lines, calculate error bars,
shade some portion of the chart where dragons
provably cannot lie
but never forget:
things are as they are

the analysis is just our latest, bestist, most-partial guess.
So chill a little.
It's what it is,
whether you will or no.
Let it go.




2019-04-04

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #4 - Big Ben is Broken...

As the title suggests, this was written originally as a NaPoWriMo poem, but it was subsequently featured by Kinsman when they were guest editing Celebrating Change.

So you can see it there on Celebrating Change, where Kinsman also picked some other excellent poems.

...And now I'm adding a recording of me reading this, see just below.






Big Ben is broken

The PM will announce,
has announced,
will have recently been announcing
after revelations in yesterday's, tomorrow's London Times
that Big Ben is broken
and using science we have found
tick come adrift from tock
a pendulum that rocks erratically
from left to right to yes to no to maybe to furious
and back through quite depressed.
What is counted now behind the clock face,
one cannot even guess.

We've come adrift
in this week-last-Thursday afternoon:
East of Sunday Papers, West of some-or-other doom;
marooned in a rancid doldrum
where nothing makes much sense;
fey moods a-flicker
on the faces of an electorate
who are electing: insanocrats, defectocrats,
deselectocrats, talking cartoon animals,
and general nogoodniks of all persuasions
while all the while explaining
that they've nothing left to lose
which frankly shows
some lack of imagination...

Because...
there's no-one understands
that a country is a gift:
but also something bought;
that society (by which I mean your whole damn world)
doesn't work by golden-age magic
or prerogatives of kings
it is also necessary
for actual people to make actual plans
for actual things
and that contrary to what politicos believe
the bulk of those are not in Westminster
nor anywhere near.

There is no government mandate
to open corner shops on streets
it's just that if you have a world
where such an act makes sense
then people do it.  Similarly
while wonks do think about defence
**a lot** they strangely fail to consider
that it might make sense to guarantee
there will be street repairs
or a steady supply of students --
even if they will get pissed
and throw up on the front steps
of high street banks
-- which also ideally should exist.

The point is that societies/countries/governments
serve us and not the other way around
but Big Ben is broken and maybe
in some other world
we could send in DrWho
in a fifty-foot robot to inject
a team of crack horologists
but here...
but here, oh dear...
no such remedy exists
and the lunatic asylum next door
continues to froth
and though I am loathe
to suggest any sort of social cleansing
the urge to brick up the doors
while they're voting
is quite strong.

Ask not what you can do for your country
ask if your country has gone wrong,
and if it has...
ask what you can do
by way of running repairs.




2019-04-03

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #3 - Meanwhile...



Meanwhile...

along the high street and also down below
grounded in the subterrain
beneath the iron grating footsteps of the everyday
their Spring-chill lemon sunshine
their affordable shoes

along the high street also down below
maintenance tunnels of the self
an urgent task repair beneath
their very feet who do not know
at one and the same time

what expert desperation efforts
right below
none of the people here
the overalls and waders
spanners crowbars and handheld lights

handheld unsteadily all over
sloshing through the shite




2019-04-02

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #2 - The Q in Quantum




The Q in Quantum


Mud on this five-barred gate, there must have been
some other walker come this way...  And thus
I have observed them, however indirectly.
No-longer are they free to pass between
the old stones of the squeeze stile and thus diffract
across the whole breadth of the field; footprints
all scattered to the wind except where mud
and cow pats reduce the probability
to a tiny fraction of a Vibram tread,
or the deep pooled likelihood where many worlds
saw them chance to stand and watch the magpies squabble
the way I probably did.


2019-04-01

NaPoWriMo - 2019 #1 - Beachhead



Beachhead

the seagulls convolute the air and draw
the threads of it too thin to know and turn
above your ice cream cone
the ice cream seller's compressor drones
the hint of diesel pleasant
when it is this dilute

would it be dissolute
to go back to the headland
and sketch the bay again
would it be presumptuous to believe
that much in draughtsmanship or better perhaps...
to purchase cones of peas and chips
alfresco dining a la carte
the simpler pleasures
of someone else's art




2019-02-23

A soap bubble...

We went to a talk on liquids.  It was by a guy who had written a popular science book on the same subject.  He was an entertaining speaker, although overstating his case in the way anyone would to big-up his book...

He made a point that I hadn't been aware of: that the rise of literacy had been fueled by whale hunting — because lighting was the major use of the whale oil, it gave a superior light which people needed to read by...

Whether that is 100% true I do not know, a lot of other things were made from whale products, but it did inspire in me a larger thought.

That period was an economic bubble; people were building progress on an unreal assumption, that the supply of whales went on forever: the bubble would have burst when the whales ran out.

Which never happened, because gas lighting came along before that happened, and then incandescent electric bulbs, fluorescent tubes, LEDs and blah, blah, blah...  the present day!

But...

Buuuu..ut...

The bubble is still there.  It's here, in fact!  And we're all living in it...







A soap bubble...


...was blown
so long ago,
the wide-eyed, Wonderland-oblivious,
toddler of humanity blew
clumsily through the loop gripped
in one chubby fist

—billions of people will die—

and the soap film hesitantly bulged out
powered by bronze,
steel, the horse collar, crop rotation.
Sailing ships and steam engines
smoothed into the fragile sphere,
as were pickaxes, dynamite, production-lines...
industrial farming, the Haber Process,
internal combustion engines and the fractional distillation
of crude oil...  Fast-breeder reactors...
embedded in the almost imaginary skin
of this bubble we blew,
this quintessentially breakable world
we knew through all our lives,
and implicitly assumed was real

—and billions will start to die—

when it turns out it is not.  We built
a civilisation on stuff we borrowed.  We assumed
that fossil fuel in the ground
was a permanent state:
a natural condition forever.  We thought
fertile topsoil was a given,
and clean water another gift, temperate climate,
fish-filled oceans, the very air...

—billions of people are starting to die—

as our assumptions start to crack along fine lines
and this is a bubble in the purest economic sense
because it actually worked through all the time
during which it seemed to work,
until one day, suddenly, boom!
It's always been a lie.

If this island earth were a spaceship:
power failing, the food limited,
life support pumping dodgy air;
we'd get all of engineering there
and have a meeting to decide
who can be stuffed in lifeboats,
who can be stuffed in freezers, and who
—because engineers are nothing if not completely realistic—
won't reach their destination.
You can try to get that one
before the United Nations, good luck with that!
And not to be a bore, but...

—billions of people will die—

and I don't trust that lot to do much about it.
Although, also, I, with my slightly less than human head on,
—because I have one of those—I say: OK,
billions will die, it is hard to overestimate the size
of disaster facing us, but it's not the end of the world,
it's just the end of the world as we know it
and as long as we don't completely blow it...
and as long as we weather the change
ride the tsunami
take what life remains us, as and where we find it
and not go end-of-days-fucking-crazy
with a Mad Max style weapons stash
and supercharger
on everybody's Christmas list, then...

—for the billions who by chance do not die—

there will be some loss of privileges.
We won't be eating meat;
we won't be mining bitcoin; may not be driving personal cars
but we can hope still to be here
in some form.
We haven't been attempting the impossible
it's not that a planet cannot support an apical species
with a silly headcount.
It's just that we didn't do our homework.
We don't have all the required tech,
have not closed the carbon curve,
balanced the energy budget, or worked out
what happens when ageing plastics want to retire...

...not produced a society that can keep its calm
on pressure-cooker starship Earth...

...but it can be done.  Still, not a comfortable thought,
and it's going to take some time

—during which billions of people will die.

It's not the end of the world,
it's just a soap bubble,
it's the end of the world as we know it:
pop.




2019-02-16

Random Words for Profit or Pleasure (call for participation...)

I've had some success (translation: fun) assembling recordings from friends into variously poetical compositions.  There was New Muses and there was Cloud Crowd Found Sound...

At the time of the latter, I was torn between doing it with nonsense words, or using genuine approved dictionary-grade lexemes.  Well at that time nonsense prevailed (I'm saying nothing...) but the idea of doing something similar with real words remained and now...  it may be An Idea Whose Time Has Come (tm).

If you would like to play, then you can use the link below to get a short random word list, please:
  1. Click the link
  2. Increase the number of words to 5 or 10
  3. (Fiddle with the word-length controls if you want)
  4. Click "Generate Random Words"
  5. Record the words using your favourite computer or phone recording app
  6. (Try to do it somewhere quiet and non-echoey)
  7. If you are feeling keen, throw in a few commonplace words like "if", "but" or "was"
  8. Send the result to me (message me in comments or on Facebook if don't know contact details...)
If you want to participate, here is the: LINK


FAQ:
  1. What will you do with the words?
    Make some sort of post-modern poetry from them.
  2. Will we get credit for our input?
    I'll put you in the credits if that's what you mean...
  3. Will we get a share of the profits, then?
    Sure!  Just as soon as I've made the first million.
  4. This isn't an attempt to steal our bank details then?
    Not as such, how could I——
  5. Or our souls?
    OK.  Moving swiftly on...