Showing posts with label life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life. Show all posts

2024-02-11

Your life need not make sense

 

I recently had this one published in the newly reactivated Riggwelter many thanks to the incomparable Jon Kinsman.










Your life need not make sense


Origin story

We are foam on the surface
of the boil of evolution, and you are fitted,
crudely, in a survival-of-the-fittest-shaped hole
and although so many armchair Fascists suggest
this means your only valid role
is to beat, subdue and rape
this is not the case.
You need not be the wolf
(who are not like that anyway.)

Fittest never meant most buff
or supreme conqueror,
Darwin and consequent theorists
have always meant most suited to the day
and when the afternoon is spent
building box forts for grandchildren, then...

why Grandma, what strong genes you have...


Making a life

So you build a society
upon the froth and initially all you want
is edible roots and grains enough
for through the winter's bleak

but in a society people speak
or snub one another
and people start to own things
inherit
acquire that younger lover
on the side

and people hide
or worse take pride
in their tiny peccadillos
and before long
the heap is sorted
every person in their place
every foot
firmly in the face
of someone underneath
and you smile and say you are happy
with the boots
all pressing down.


Making a buck

I will trade these beaver pelts
for a new iPhone, I have I think
a ton of them
encrypted
with a blockchain and stored
in an envelope which I keep
beneath the mattress

and I earn them, of course,
on the gig economy
where nothing is forever
or even for the day
and why would you want a pension plan
why would you believe that you
or your nation
would ever last that long?


Coherence is not required

...as we stroll along the shore
salt sea-spray in our hair
and the five star hotel is still burning
over there
the currency we bought when we arrived
might now get us shot on sight
and who knows whether the street kitchen
we used for food tonight
will still exist tomorrow
or take my walking boots in payment

but this is a great holiday
axiom zero still holds:
we exist
and what more do you want?

 


2022-01-24

TINAG Sound Recording

To celebrate the appearance of my poem TINAG in Selcouth Station here is a recording of me reading it, with a few virtual co-conspirators keeping tabs on me from a safe distance...

If you are wondering where this poem comes from, I was thinking about the difference between "gaming the system" and living life.  People who treat everything as a game are often difficult or even dangerous people.  Military/security organisations will sometimes treat the whole world in an overly game-theoretic way, sometimes just for strategic insight, sometimes embracing horrific outcomes for minor tactical advantage.

On the other hand, however, you've got to have some theory of the world...  some framework within which to pick a move...  It's just important not to see the whole thing as a zero-sum game: where the only possible victory is somebody else's loss.  The universe is not like that, and if you are a little person, without a lot of brilliant solo moves available, then non-zero-sum cooperation is the only way to go.






2021-04-18

NaPoWriMo - 2021 - XI - An ontology of everything (excerpt)

 An ontology of everything (excerpt)


the wind; the wind in rushes; the wind in rushes
at low to moderate speed;
the wind; the wind in corn; the wind in corn in fields
where rabbits were born;
the wind in burrows; the wind in earth-dug tunnels in general;
the wind past irregular entryways, heard from within;
similar, but felt; similar, but seen (c.f. leaves; litter);
the wind; the wind when breezy;
the breeze in willow trees; willow trees in spring;
willow trees in autumn;
the breeze across water; the breeze through trees
onto the water; ditto but in reverse;
places beside water; docks, boathouses and jetties;
the wind on water when it is more than a breeze;
the wind making ripples on water;
large bodies of fresh water,
where the wind leaves a long still wavy stripe 
along the whole length;
similar at sunset; similar under moonlight;
or when any sort of light source aligns with the stripe;
subset of this when alone; when in a crowd;
with one person; 
with a particular person; 
with you.





2021-04-12

NaPoWriMo - 2021 - V - Environmental factors

 Environmental factors


Terroir (French pronunciation: ​[tɛʁwaʁ] from terre, "land") is the set of all
environmental factors that affect a crop's epigenetic qualities, when the crop
is grown in a specific habitat. Collectively, these environmental characteristics
are said to have a character; terroir also refers to this character.
-- Wikipedia


The metal mesh waste bin on Creely Street
has overflowed, some years ago
and the spill of fast food cartons, papers, napkins,
bones, expectorated gristle, apple cores, newspapers, cigarette butts,
small plastic bags from shops around the corner,
drinks cans; weird plastic/paper coffee cups
and pointless wooden stirrers for the same
has formed a mound, here in the angle
between the bench and the 
raised
civic flower planter
of contaminated earth

--and time has gone to work:
bleached then mulched the paper down,
drifted dust and grit and tiny specks of earth
around and into all the hollow places
in the pile, deposited spores and other replicators
--bacteria, fungi, moss and lichens moving in--
to do their thing
with the fundamental building blocks of life,
until now
this morning for the first time
a shoot, a tiny leaf.








2021-01-06

Reflections in the kitchen sink

Reflections in the kitchen sink

I fail to grip the knife
with any sort of skill
so it is left stuck out,
awkward, from the fist
of ill-assorted cutlery.
Have you ever kept shrimp?

Swiss-army invertebrates,
with a limb for every purpose --
one for sewing sails and another
that could pull used fuel rods
from a nuclear reactor.
Ready for anything

and reminiscent
of my hand with the knives
and forks projecting,
including that one
at the awkward angle.
But I twist my wrist and manage

to scrape the waste potato
from plate to bin, proving
I have a motor cortex.
Which, on a smaller scale,
is also true for shrimps
although more driven

by instinct, less by learning,
and maybe not at all by thought
of the sentient type.
They never do the washing up
and if they did, would never
think of me.





2020-03-14

The Arc of Modern Political Thought

The Arc of Modern Political Thought



I – Do not confuse me with a fellow traveller...

...do not make that mistake
I won't be manning any barricade
or spray-painting your slogans
on unattended walls. I am not breathless

for the state to fall. Evolution
trumps revolution, ninety-nine
point nine percent of the time
and for the other fractional percent: well...

we're so screwed anyway. Rebellion serves
only rebels, who—great though they are
at stealing jeeps, and wiring parcels
to explode—are not so hot in power

distribution, at bringing people light;
or heady freedom for the sewage
to flow in drains... no, theirs are not the brains
for that, for careful use of power

and fuse—how can they be? They need believe
such silly things along their way
such as all men are equal,
only our stance is doctrinally robust,

or even...
that they must prefer the electrodes
inserted here and here
to any tea-and-biscuit chat today.


II – Media rhymes with "eediot"

You do not understand the world
and let me make it clear
that this is you, you with the "Press" card in your hat,
who understands so very well

the breaking of a story like
a wave of noxious fluid
through everybody's living room,
it's you who just doesn't get it.

The world is not the news,
the dead are dead without your stare,
the bereaved still sad; and when
El Presidente bravely takes the town

from behind and rebels are all rounded up
I will admit you stop atrocities
for just so long as you look that way
and don't run off to the human interest piece

about the dog that saved the boy.
And I'm sure you say: we give the people
exactly what they want, to which I say
oh yes, you spin a world for those whose minds

don't let them find their own, and every word
implies what you narrate is what matters,
and what you don't ain't real. You'll claim
you don't conceal but every day

your untidy desk selects what's best for "news",
for folk to know: it's in the public interest,
you insist, while typing quote marks around
what the TV said the radio said about the other paper's views.


III – A plague on both your second houses

The problem is belief. Belief is stupid.
Belief it is that makes you make mistakes
and then it takes your errors,
brands them heroic victories

and makes you make them all over again.
If there is one thing that I know,
it's the stupidity of me.
I know, my brain is wired with

its tiny neural liars and systems
which conspire to enact a holy fool.
Cognitive bias, it does what it says
right there upon the tin, and which

you did not read,
because the idea was uncomfortable
but all you with the one coloured shirts
are committed to your ideals, which makes shits

of them there in the other coloured shirts
and all of you line up to grasp
opposite ends of one long rope
and grunt and pull and hope

to shift it just one inch
in your preferred direction
and you monopolise attention
for you, and your rope, and how

the other bloke is pulling the wrong way
while all around the horizon—boundless
and magnificent and essentially free—
stretches toward infinity,

but we're not allowed to look,
or speak, on that.









This was sitting on a back burner for a long time, not going anywhere.  Every now and then I would take it out and work on it a bit, but it didn't arrive anywhere and I had to put it away again.

Then I saw a call for contributions to The Commons by Waterhare Press and this was obviously exactly what they were looking for, so I picked up the poem, dusted it off and was delighted when it was accepted.

Poems like this are difficult.  This, if anything, is what I am about: that, in bulk, we look at the world in damaging, stupid and shortsighted ways—but it can tread harshly on other people's beliefs.

However the degree of stomping need not be as violent as might first appear.  Belief, I say in this poem, is stupid and I really think that, but this doesn't mean the sorts of thoughts which feature in beliefs aren't just as laudable viewed with cold hard reason.  Should we be progressive?  Obviously!  Should we be kind?  Definitely!  Should we eat the rich?  Let me get back to you on that one...

The problem is not what we believe.  The problem is belief itself.  The world is deeper, gnarlier, and more complex than we comprehend.  Layering beliefs on top helps us get by in the short term, but it doesn't help us confront the difficult questions, and it doesn't help when we encounter people who believe differently.  Belief allows no position there except that they are wrong; and when they won't change their beliefs, it usually decides they are evil.

Belief is bad.  Believe nothing, neither political nor religious.

You'll be  better person for it.





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.




2019-02-23

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.




2018-12-19

Review: Paul Brookes "Please Take Change"

Paul Brookes is a poet I know through the internet.  We used to hang out on Poetry Circle, an online forum...

Before I begin this review I must reveal that I live a charmed life.  I have always found it easy to get jobs, and places I have worked have been more akin magical kingdoms, than grey Kafkaesque distopias.

I try to remain aware that this isn't true for everyone (should be... isn't) but awareness is one thing and knowing what living it is like would be something else again.  The main power of this book is it gives you a window into exactly that, and furthermore it paints subtly, neither glorifying, nor playing up to the grimness.

From the biography on the back we discover Paul has been a security guard, postman, admin assistant, call centre advisor, lecturer, poetry performer and now works as a shop assistant.  He has recently been interviewing almost every poet in the UK in  The Wombwell Rainbow Interviews and very interesting they are (you may find yourself, or even myself, in there if you look hard enough...)

This collection draws heavily on Paul's employment history.  Not all of those are the most glamorous of jobs (except "poetry performer" — literally the most glamorous job there is...) and you might expect there's a degree of arduous toil, unsympathetic bosses, wearying drudgery to be expressed.  In this you'd be right, and these poems do reveal a world of quotidian working days.

However, also running through this are threads of razor-sharp observation, human warmth and humour which keep the collection alive and make reading through the 75-odd short poems a light and rewarding experience.

Let's start with:

workaround

some systems don’t work
so you have to do
a work around
when this becomes the system
I don’t know
my bus
takes a detour for roadworks
or accident
something tells me
this is not temporary

I love the sheer universality of the experience related here, I have encountered the same thing in fields as separated as software design and cafeteria queuing; my home town had a "temporary car park" for four decades; and I've even worked for major international corporation entirely devoted to working around the things it failed to address previously.

Also the skillful way everyday language is put to work to illustrate the general principle, but simultaneously narrate the concrete example, is typical of the poems here.  Another that demonstrates this point is:

The List

Their companion gone
old men stoop lower
with less in their basket,

try to recall her shopping list,
was it Robinson's marmalade,
or Hartley's lemonade?

Spam. No she never liked spam.
Never enough fat on bacon.
Yes, I need a receipt, young man

Which is touching, humorous, and heartbreaking in roughly equal measure.  People who do or don't need receipts are a recurring theme, almost a running joke throughout this collection.

These two poems are perhaps a little unusual in using a symbol as a metaphor for something larger.  More pieces are essentially biographical, in the sense of relating wonderfully observed moments and characters from the author's working life, take:

Two Lads

at my till. I put first lad's
goods through while second

says to his mate,
I'm gonna get a kitchen knife
and rip your twatting head off.

Blip

I'm gonna put it in shoebox
Set fire to it. Piss on the remains.

Blip.

Do you want a receipt? I ask
the first lad.

There's the slyly comic receipt again :-) and also here is the acute observation of real everyday behaviour, skilfully juxtaposed against the mundanity of the till queue.

This is a fascinating collection.  The early copy I had was a little unevenly edited, but I hope that will be sorted out in the final edition.  The scenes from everyday life are compelling, and the understated humour and good will with which they are presented lifts them well above the mundane to a plane of their own.

The conflicts, insults and travails presented here are something to be accepted, but not surrendered to, and the ultimate message we take from this is one of optimism and — I said it before — good humour.

Lets just end with this:

Embarrassed

One of two young girls with flushed cheeks
who buy cans of coke and energiser asks

Please can I buy a lotto scratch card, #7?
I ring for the manager as per rule.

He asks the girls for i.d.
No. I haven't. I'm eighteen.

We need to see your I.D. he says.
You're an embarrassment, one replies

How dare you embarrass me?
Both girls flounce out the shop.

Did you hear what she called me?
Says the manager, smiling ear to ear.

Please Take Change is published by  Cyberwit.

Paul's other books are available here.


2018-12-16

An iconography of rollers left in fields

image credit: cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Rose and
Trev Clough - geograph.org.uk/p/5159038
Rosemary got invited NessFest, a book festival in Inverness.  Good grief, that's a lot of railway...

And when you're stuck for hours in a train, even in such exquisite company, you start to notice recurring themes outside the windows.

There's a lot of abandoned agricultural machinery lying in fields here and there across the country, and what is that, if not a metaphor for life?  Or even a whole scheme of related metaphors...








An iconography of rollers abandoned in fields


Garden rollers in agricultural settings


Observe the small child whose duffle coat
wanders in the cathedral,
runs a bit, shouts at echoes,
peers at the stained glass window light
spilled on the floor. See how he sits down now
and falls asleep.


As if only just left

Dust sheets, ladder, brushes, cloths...
Where is that old screwdriver? Here. I'll lever
at the paint tin lid. Again, a little further round--
Oh damn! I need a stirring stick...
I'll be right back.


Some rust

Surface discolouration is a given:
we all show signs of wear. "Patina"
to put spin on it, or "you look shit!"
--when your bestie doesn't want to say it nice
as you stand beneath a poster
bigger than your house
filled with a newer model: preternaturally perfect,
sublimely open smile.


Wood rotting, metal intact

The softer parts break down, at first,
while harder parts prevail: the blistered finger,
the hangdog nail, but sooner or later
the long-term maintenance creeps up
that ligament in your left shoulder,
the tibia chipped inside one shin...
The wear and tear of years
accumulates: more a sadness
than a fear: no longer walking all the way,
the stairs a bigger thing; until one day
upon some ordinary bus,
a young lady offers you her seat.


Scattered iron fragments on the ground

To all things an end: only archaeologists believe
they can retrieve a past and piece
it back together. You, meanwhile, one recollection at a time,
take the finest brush to days
in infant school: the graze upon your knee
the way that one girl ran away
however carefully you offered her the mud.
Did anything happen in the years after that?
It isn't easy to be sure.


In the ditch

We all have low points
entropy will see to that.
The same sky is still above you...
the mud's quite soft:
why not lay back?


In the middle of the field

Look at me! Look at me! Look at me NOW!
No, of course I don't have anything useful,
constructive,
or even actionable to relate. But I'm so great...
See, I even have the expensive shoes.
Just keep looking at me!!


In the middle of the field with an unmown area around it

Am I that man? Am I the one that people drive
their metaphorical tractors right round? Am I
the guy? Is everybody quietly told:
not to mention the steam railways, or question
me listening to that single 80s band
for seven hours a day;
he's a friendly enough man...
it's just his little ways,
work around him
.


With a small tree growing through

Life is as we know it, not
as we plan it: an adaptation situation.
We wouldn't plan a largish silver birch
inserted just where it hurts
but since that's where we find ourselves,
we make the best
of never moving again: a great view to the West
every evening's sunset;
the birds that roost at twilight,
in autumn eating the birch seed
that hasn't run off through the wind.




2018-04-25

NaPoWriMo - 2018 - Day twenty-three - Warning labels



Warning labels


May be acerbic.  May mock.  May experience
emotions not so easily described.  Grumpiness
can happen.  May want to help and get frustrated
when he cannot.  May mysteriously need
affection and although not ambitious, may
have a strange need to excel in everything,
without breaking sweat.  May guess your meaning
before you finish speaking.  May find the news
disturbing.  May find leaders unnerving
and likely think they all are jerks.  May conclude
that all of politics and media
are broken, beyond the wit of man to fix.
May look grim.  May mutter.  May slouch,
as if looking for something, along the gutter.







2018-04-23

NaPoWriMo - 2018 - Day twenty - My scripted life

My scripted life



Hi! I am #GIRLNAME, you may not recall
but we met at that #EVENT and I
just love to share sweet pictures of myself.
Click here to see my naked #BODYPART.
I bet you know I am a phishing bot
but I would really love you with a fresh
cool breath of AI air, and as for flesh,
real girls just treat you bad... they're not as hot

as me.  Click here to give your bank details
(so unromantic but I've realised
I actually need cash to stay alive--
these servers don't come free) and I won't fail
to meet you anywhere you want to go,
that is... as long as it's an MMO.



--

Notes:

  1. pronounce the "#" character, either "hash" (in the UK) or "pound" (in America)
  2. the formal name of "#" is "octothorn" (don't say that)
  3. computer 'markup' languages for generating script with, for example, the right addressee name in them, sometimes work by embedding variables inside the text, indicated by a special character, such as "#", "@" or "%"
  4. "MMO" is shorthand for "MMORPG" which in turn means "Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game" e.g. a place to meet other people and kill orcs...

2017-10-29

A new star on Tuesday

A simple little piece, this.

The title, of course, comes from Duran Duran.

The subject matter is cosmological physics, the life-cycles of stars and its role in the evolution of life and civilisation.

The setting is a restaurant, you've all been in restaurants, yes?







A new star on Tuesday

in one corner
of the restaurant

a supernova
blowing bubbles
its straw below the surface
of the interstellar medium
and exhaling
one last sharp breath

the nebulae
dining on gas and dust
at neighbouring tables
pull inwards
as embarrassment blooms
hot and tight

until finally
here's irony
heavy elements kindled in the gyre
but mostly iron
spraying out
in all directions
to seed the lunchtime menu
with richer dishes

it isn't mangles
flat-irons
three-eighths Whitworth bolts

it isn't armadillos
pentagonal sea creatures
and opposable thumb drives
raining down from an empty sky

but it's a start



2017-09-24

Sept 24th - Making distinctions



Making distinctions


Some say
the gills are grey
beneath the fringe
and that is how you tell,

and snobs will claim
the acid-test remains
in how they hold their cup of tea.

Another thing that you might see
is if they feel the need
for any special clothing
or badges that propound a creed.

Landing with their wings spread:
is another popular sign,
but you must check the antennae ends
for knobs,

and finally, many swear
you can note the length
and parting in their hair, or the side
on which they wear an earring --
if they have one.



2017-09-22

Sept 22nd - In the horological gardens : ruderal moments




In the horological gardens : ruderal moments



you are
beneath a tree; the leaves
a semi-parasol; the sun
pleasantly hazed by high thin cloud; the blanket
slightly dusty/musty in your nose; the rain
was brief but left that hint of petrichor; the crowds
of toddlers are thinned now; the birds
make bird noise in the tree; the other
on the blanket rolls towards to you...


you are
on a bench; the clock
chimes in the tower beyond the wall; the seat
is cold beneath your bum; the dusk
is drawing on; the burger
gone, you lick your fingers optimistically; the plants
are brownish twigs; the steps
down to the path are lit: the lamp brightening; someone
walks through the pool of light...


you are
sitting and rolling in your chair; the nurse
pushes towards the tree; the sun
is hot today: we'll go in the shade; a pidgeon
is strutting by the bench; a woman
eats sandwiches; some dust
blows past your feet upon the rests; you're cool
within your buttoned coat; your mind
grasps at some moment, but it's gone




2017-09-08

Sept 8th - Who cares for the lichen?

Some lichen,
earlier this year...


Who cares for the lichen?

Who folds its laundry, warm from the machine?

Who keeps its kitchen clean and spits upon
a cloth to scrub behind its ears?  Who calms
the sorts of fears a lichen feels, insists
the environment is full of rough faced rock
and trees with sensually craggy bark?
Who monitors air quality between
those trees?  Who sees where a Vibram walkers sole
has gashed a divot from the matted growth
and gently smooths it back?  Who stacks dry stones
to form a wall where lichen fragments drifting
in the breeze drop into place?  Who meanders like
a tardigrade between the hyphae, pushing
eight legged from strand to strand?  Who stands to shade
it from high summer sun?  Who splashes dew
on it?  Who carves the hydrogen from water
using sunlight as a blade?  Who captures carbon
from the air and rearanges atoms into rings
of sugar, which leak through cell membranes to feed
their symbiotic partner in the dance?
Who leaches micro nutrients from stone?
Who lives, happily together alone, on any
handy outside surface?

Who cares for the lichen?

2017-09-05

Sept 5th - No man

No man

I don't see people any more,
they're all atoms and tissues and fresh
angles on psychology and neurology
and social roles made flesh.

I shan't see people any more,
I feel I have already seen
every option bulk mankind can offer me,
everything you could have ever been.

I won't see people any more,
I hear them distantly, muttering of thoughts,
perhaps their needs, I do not heed,
won't stand before that juggernaut.

I haven't seen people for years,
their tears or fear.  Oh, I see their tracks
and desperate graffitos on the walls
but human contact, I do not feel the lack.

I can't see people any more,
I do not have the eyes
so if I seem to look past you, or through you,
forgive me, I am a victim of solipsistic philosophy


.

2017-09-02

Sept 2nd - Malmesbury

We went on holiday to stomp around our old stomping grounds near Bristol and Bath.

And we took advantage of being there to visit a few places that we'd never been before, such as Malmesbury.

All the time, while we were wandering around, little scenes kept presenting themselves to me, waving carefully inked placards that read:

"You ought to put me in a poem."

So I noted them down.  However, when I reviewed the list later, the sequence of random observations didn't seem to really add up to a poem about Malmesbury.  So the list languished in my backlog until this morning, when needing a poem for my poem-a-day, I dug it out, blew the dust off, and started again.

Today's new trick was not to write poem about Malmesbury, but rather about our visit.  So this is the experience we had.  This is, if you like, a poem about the notes themselves, or maybe about the process of taking them...

It is not, however, about the excellent free WiFi they had in the 7th century abbey.  That only appears here in these notes.



Malmesbury


Arriving

Badger giblets on the bypass
toast gently in late summer sun.

So many picturesque bridges
in the booklet and beneath our feet.
There's one out of this car park
or even three.

Parking is suspended for late night shopping
this midday,
while two blokes fix the roof.

A tiny pavement café
with pretensions of Paris,
however this morning,
seating is reserved for only jackdaws.


A light lunch


Most shops bustle, but this one's empty,
a dying spider plant in window;
it takes a lot to kill a spider plant
and this one's plastic.

Another café—inside this time—
there's paintings and a "Freedom" collage.

We drink tea while the owner discusses
"theory of café catering" with the waitress.
Everything is for sale.

In W.H.Smith we buy "easy tear" tape
to fix the lad's spectacles.


In the abbey

Norman in Norman in Norman, the Abbey door:
a medieval stab
at post-modern architecture.

Inside, a lost killer whale hydrogen balloon
presses against the vaulted roof
slightly West of centre.

Two floors up on the south wall
a security kiosk that some medieval abbot
had built to keep eye on pilgrims
round the relics.

Beneath my feet
three generations to the first brass plaque
and also with "also" on the second plaque,
wisely twice the size
another three generations
and an empty space...


And done

The sun shines all the day;
we wander after some time on our way
pausing only in the bypass supermarket
for wine for relatives
we're later dining with.

Badger giblets still
upon the bypass
—presumably—
we're on the other carriageway now.



2017-08-30

Offline processing

Offline processing


This poem existed as only the opening line for a long time...  I knew how I wanted it to feel, but not what I wanted it to be about.

It was only when I realised I needed a reason for her working all night on her own that it really came together.

Q.  Why isn't she off living her life?
A.  Because she hasn't got a life!

Or rather that is the cliché...  what her less technologically super-powered coworkers might think of her.

We know better, of course...






Offline processing

Gemma cracks a subroutine, her coffee cool.
Beyond night-mirrored windows she's aware
strip lighting makes a tableau out of her:
"Geek girl working late"
as the small white card would say
in the museum of her life
if she had one.

How Gemma's fingers blur with cramping speed
the body cannot serve the mind
it's need for harder, better, faster, stronger...
data flows, information not only wanting to be free
but it aching for it
and now another bug is falling to the power

that is Gemma. She does not look up at the clock
because hours are not for those
who live the millisecond slice.
Life is still too short
the icing on the cake is still a lie.

Gemma cracks a subroutine
electric death music in her ears
and she would volunteer
for upgrade in a second
for what is flesh, except strangely implemented:
a mesh of biochemic feedback loops
which she could live without,
still... time for a break.

Gemma takes a moment, smokes a quick one
on the roof and on this summer's night
leans back upon the coping stones
the city's haze and wasted light
do not let many stars burn through;
she knows they're there
not quite within her reach.

The breeze stirs Gemma's hair
and she imagines for a second
a human hand, a voice that asks:
"Are you really going to work all night?"

Well of course she is;
as long as there are bugs in the database,
she will dance the dance of general intelligence
applied to Turing complete.
As long as somewhere, impossibly far ahead,
the Omega Point is waving
as long as there is coffee in the machine,

Gemma will reach for another subroutine.



2017-08-26

What is her mission here on Earth?

This was recently on the front page of Poetry Circle which is a great poetry magazine/forum site with lots of active members and a lot of energy.  A good place to check out...

What it is this about?  Well there's loneliness and isolation, wistful longing for another person...  but I think mostly this is about the awkwardness of adolescence and growing up.  Boy wants girl.  Boy doesn't understand girls.  Boy speculates wildly...

...obviously it works the same for any other combination of genders, and the gender of the protagonist is in fact wholly in the gift of the reader... is in fact a sort of 'everyperson'; a symbol for any or everyone.

One day, maybe, she'll speak to us and everything will change.







What is her mission here on Earth...


...and do I even waste what chance I have
lounging beside my locker, checking-out
the girl from Mars?  Nobody ever saw
her father's car: so maybe she gets dropped
at five a.m. by shuttle-pod somewhere far

beyond the football ground.  She has no clique,
not even in the default group for freaks
and friendless geeks--I know; I've run with them
myself.  How can you stand outside outsiders?
Unless intelligence, so alien

broods silent in one eye?   It sees but does
not do; it won't join in; her hands so thin:
she writes machine-like, awkward and a touch
frustrated, as if  paper with only two
dimensions is so quaint.  She ain't stupid

in maths, she writes the answer first, before
the working out.  And think of Martian sex!
Does she have tentacles...?  Scratch that.  Relax...
Focus on facts.  She's drifted through these halls
for three years now, with always half a smile,

an emissary from mission control;
or maybe robot telepresence rig,
that sort of thing: space-probe or bomb-disposal
mechanism driven by a soul, distant,
the far end of a string that's pulled so tight

out of an empty tin.  I'll ask again:
What is our mission here on Earth?