The weeks constrict, pythons around my ribs,
under which the turbid valves of the heart
pump on with blind certainty.
Dreams of flapping wings outside windows.
A nest of telephone calls, letters, deposits,
routines in which I can submerge peacefully
and integrate with process, a limbed machine
conferring golden fries, cigarettes, tins of ointment.
Money is running out. No more dappled coffees, queuing with confident secretaries,
agency workers, neutered parakeets blinking in light.
In the engine room, plans are hammered,
pounded, blunted under blind iron
by agents with invisible hands, by necessity.
I do not want to know of life denied,
love cankered, ratty days, autumn grit on tired streets, sparrows tumbling in the cold wind.
Collecting myself with effort,
I use dead time to scan the creamy newspaper.
Everywhere is the code of violence.
Clotted blood. Broken bottles. A leaf storm of receipts
before the money machines of K Road.
Shouting and percussive, a Saturday night street is a cyclonic eye of thrusting fists
and fish eyed munters on the piss, deadly serious.
We avoid it. We avoid the blank gaze of dawdling homeboys.
We avoid long haired men with ruined faces and grubby suits.
We avoid smiling evangelists and devotees of Lord Krishna.
We avoid them all, and concentrate on our table, our jars of beer.
There was a commotion outside the window.
A million people arrived overnight and moved swiftly
to assemble petrol stations, delicatessens and strip joints.
Signs point everywhere you cannot go.
I think of the past to hold myself down.
There are more products than you can imagine.
Throttled streets lined with plates of black ice.
I sift endless papers that rustle with a faded sound.
Nicotine eyes watch from doorways
and stare without relief. Houses are pulverized
by hornet-painted demons.
There have been twenty nights of inexplicable terror
and black shapes twirling fire in the avenues,
banging on walls, screaming cats and violent pauses
between days and nights and days.
Everyone wears the same inscrutable mask.
The rain allows escape when we drive onwards
down the tributaries of the Underworld.
From Ambient Terror
She was shifting form, encircling and seamless,
swirling from moment to moment without apparent sense,
with sudden violence and traitorous appetites,
with knowing persistence, with perpetual conviction.
He was locked within a severe carapace,
contained by ancient heat, never acknowledging her lightness,
nor her storms that could last for nights and nights,
an urgent magnet tearing up within –
and they met and congealed,
constantly, never apart,
withdrawing and falling together,
until it is impossible to tell whether they are one, or two,
or many, submerged and unconscious,
their adversarial stances, their mixture and admixture,
of opaque, flickering jade,
of sullen, crooked shoulder,
of broken earth and quickening currents,
as encirclement stills anarchic hands,
as encirclement dissolves their torn faces
to dancing infinities.
Welcome, Mr Lucifer. Come up.
Mind the carpet, if you could.
I’m sorry the security guard had to ask you to step outside:
but no smoking is allowed on premises
and brimstone is prescribed
under Health and Safety legislation.
I see you have not been able to supply
either a clean resume, or evidence of actively seeking work.
A pile of ashes doesn’t make the cut.
I don’t make the rules – and it would make things a lot quicker
if you could prepare your job seeking resources
prior to these meetings. Yes, it is time consuming –
you don’t know the meaning of eternity, believe me.
You may well have led a war in heaven,
but in the current market, employers are looking for people skills.
I note a lack of IT literacy, and the failure
to provide references from a previous employer
is a problem. I understand you were cast into outer darkness,
which may explain the gaps in your employment history.
Slumping in your chair is not advised:
any positions in despair are already taken
by the Noonday Demon.
With the new incentive process,
we had to cut a certain jobseeker’s allowance by 50%.
I can’t name names, to maintain client confidentiality,
but I suspect you know the individual.
Mr Abaddon? (You said it, not me.)
Sloth is no longer acceptable under new directives
from the Minister. It may be a revelation to you, Mr Lucifer:
but times have changed.
I recommend taking up a retraining opportunity.
There are openings for those prepared to upskill,
human resources and marketing
are two growth areas which may appeal.
With your experience in middle management,
and a renewed focus, the future is brighter than you may think.
We look forward to some good news,
and if you could,
please mind the carpet on the way back down.