A thick dark doubloon of bile
fused to the underside of sternum,
rising like rage forged bleak
and untouchable: all passive-aggression
like autumn’s thousand certain deaths.
A fire that flickers on the surface
of water, tensile beyond peristalsis –
a witty sheen of oily colour, wrung
from a clenched fist of gut, its shadow
impressed on fleshy folds of fat.
The reheated rot of things just passed:
spun between one state and other;
the undetermined, once simply true;
snug gold on fingers; honest work;
belly-swelled; cold cash; promises;
and faith. She lies in the space between
one day and next, feeling the dank
night catch at the back of her throat.
(We live in these parentheses: borrow eyes
from infants and pass them to the dark.)
it is forbidden to steal it back. the boss
needs you to forbid. run comrade,
you don’t need him. walls have ears;
the old world is behind you. forests
came before man, your ears have walls.
commute, work, the desert comes after.
under the pavement, commute, sleep.
to hell with the beach. open up the windows
of your boundaries. drive the cop out
of your heart. the future will contain only
your head. barricades shut down
what we put in now. no replastering the street
but open up the way. you can no longer sleep,
the structure is rotten. never work quietly once
you’ve suddenly opened your eyes.
they are selling your happiness – there is the enemy
like today when the sky is all day boozy
and ends as it began in the too-blue grin of night in a fifties western
as the rump of summer cheats from autumn
afternoons baked hard and slow
and on busy streets the tiny bones of feet
chatter as they creak and bounce along
and we smoke in the park only to pass kisses back and forth
hung like unspoken words on the tip of the roach
and we stumble through fizzing streets
where everyone is freshly fleshy and real about their sharp
bright faces before it is dark again
and everything familiar and singular again
and briefly it is not too much
briefly not much too much
and the space between us feels contingent
unimportant thin and pressed between our faces and tomorrow
and history is neither now nor England
though it feels not so very far away
So, yes, I will sit in your postcard pew, performing
the ablutions of custom: sing lustily and then
forever hold my peace. I’ll beam – and mean it –
as a puce-faced man links arms with you and speaks
his part. I’ll dab at a dignified eye and place
my slip-shod faith in your fresh happiness. These things
I can do for you. I’ll even think of other things
(between the hymned injunctions that you don’t believe in)
to put aside the chink of your buck-teeth
before you straightened them, your fresh grown curves,
their neat silhouette against the curtains drawn across
our conspiracy of amber afternoons: picturing
the lovely chaos of piled clothes and jam-jar lids
of dog-ends, you, shameless, sitting at the far end
of my bed reading aloud – your crease of belly
grinning in the sunlight. And then the twist of hips,
wide-eyes, clumsy tongues. These things I’ll try.
I’ll raise a glass, I’ll even dance. I’ll kiss your cheek,
wish you well then drive into the heavy evening
of your August wedding night where dusk is furred
with stories, motorway illuminations trail
back and all’s washed clean, forgotten. You will
wear white and be unhistoried. I’ll turn off course,
to look back briefly down the incline of the years,
to read the city that we whispered couldn’t live
without us, above which the stars will slip
into the constellations of your freckled back.
[In October 2008, s]ober experts [… ] thought there was a real possibility of a total banking collapse. That is, the banks actually shutting their doors and all the cash machines stopping […] Cheques would be valueless. Credit cards would be useless. With the cash machines shut down […] money would disappear.
Andrew Rawnsley, The End of the Party
And yet, the stuff was everywhere for once.
Children piled up pounds, played tiddlywinks
and learned shove ha’penny from old women
swapping stories from before the war of Weimar
scraping meaning from the bottom of a barrow.
New, this emptying of metal into metal, paper into paper.
Knicker; moola; motzer; wad and wonga; wedge.
sawbuck; benji; nickel; dime and quarter; bread.
Desolation tussled briefly queuing outside banks
until the vaults were opened in despair like Easter
tombs so crowds could come and test their faith
in emptiness while each sad Midas filled a Tesco
bag with faces piled and upturned, printed
on the past. Boys smoked tealeaves wrapped in Isaac Newton.
Scheckells; shillings; shrapnel; sprat and squid;
brass and bob; greenbacks; guineas; groats and quid.
At supermarkets money piled up until gluts
were blown from rooftops like a hard rain under
acrid seasick clouds of blue-green smoke – a signal
everyone could understand. We bartered metals,
grain, flesh and favours, swapped and fucked
the weeks away – and it turned colder.
Quittance; sterling; two-bit; bunce and pound;
dosh and dough; godiva, sov and crown.
We test ungoverned air between our teeth
and listen for the fresh ring of a hope between our hands.
Shake value from our pockets – we accumulate
footprints, birdsong, rain. We chant four hundred
freshly minted words for snow. We hear a discord
sound a bright new music, something new under the sun.
Archer; jacks and job and joey, kick and lolly;
biscuit; meg and monkey; ned and poppy; plum.
Take two pounds of sugar
and one pint of water.
Pour one over other
watch the bubbling air trapped
in sediment and silt
in creamy clouds unfurled like tattered flags.
Shake and stir unevenly
and slowly heat. Watch
satanic verses write themselves
in gasping mare’s tail script
under the surface.
Stir a twister as the clean clear
air shows through and stripes
the liquid thickening to spittle.
Turn the heat up more.
Watch the pot catch breath
around the edges, bubbles climbing
sheer cliffs stained with long gone
spice. Listen to the roar of water-sugar/
sugar-water hissing as they fuse.
Turn off the heat. Flavour some
with floury palms of elderflower. Drink.
Catch flies and wasps. Feed hummingbirds.
Star watercolour washes with a brush end’s drop.
Keep a jam jar by your bed
and shake it once at night time,
once after you wake and count
the lifetimes that it takes to wind
away ten minutes at the stove.
Form a shell with your hand and fan it round your ear. Listen.
Salt will gather in the hairs of your cheek. Your feet will give way
beneath the shattered scree of shingle. Wind skimmed from the tops
and scrapped from the hollow belly of the waves will sing a song
of words without music, crashing on a cochlean shore. Blood will lap
at your feet in waves and the sun’s fist will clench above the waters
upon which, your spirit, like a raven, will move.