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...



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
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


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
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.


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,
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?
...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.


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.


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.


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
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,
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.



  • "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.


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
the pills


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?


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:
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

"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."


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 wily 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.


NaPoWriMo - 2019 #8 - raven


rainwater hammered into the mud

until it's smoking
barns where my brothers sweated
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


NaPoWriMo - 2019 #7 - 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
red on white
signage and see
there's bold and
underlining of random
words as if
as if it means

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..."


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:
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.


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...

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.


NaPoWriMo - 2019 #3 - 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


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.


NaPoWriMo - 2019 #1 - 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