Between Contracts

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.

Economics

Sky Tower

Photo by V.Billot

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

Commemoration of the Comet Hyakatuke

 

Image by V. Billot

The front page notes a report of a comet

and how it came darting out of the void,

a small silvery fish in dark waters.

It zooms over southern horizons.

Named for its first witness, a Japanese amateur,

he must have combed the night relentlessly

to net his prize.

It carries its speed against the night.

It will not return for aeons,

its leash loose as it spins outwards.

I forgot to watch for it at dawn.

There were too many little things scrabbling

for my attention, and in this way

I missed its passing.

Congress

DSCF0674

Photo by V. Billot

 

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.

48° 14.5’ S, 168° 18.76’ E

sea

(Person Overboard, 70 kilometres South of Stewart Island, New Zealand, 24 January 2004)

It’s not a sea. It’s ocean.
Brood black skies and so cold it burns.
Vo Minh Que, 22 months of ship time, no kid,
picked up by the whipping line and tossed
like a doll into four metre swells
from a floating death sentence called the Tasnui,
slopping around due south of Rakiura.
They call them factory trawlers. Too glamorous by half –
shitbuckets splattered with rust,
with a tangled shitbucket heap of wires, gears, mesh.
Vo Minh Que, 33 summers deep in life,
remained visible for one to one and a half hours.
They threw three lifebuoys, ten lifejackets, fishing floats,
while he floundered, kicked then slipped away.
Down below, the factory floor knee deep with carcasses.
They slide around in blood and brine
while men rip fish heads off with buzzing blades.
Vo Minh Que, Vietnamese national,
no home town mentioned, no outrage,
no diplomatic incident reported.
His last link the sweaty office
of a crewing agent far from this sightless deep.
They pack bruised flesh in ice,
sweep the excess into the waves
for a trail of seagulls to scream over.
The report from the maritime office
was tidy and concise.
Vo Minh Que, your memorial is archived data,
and perhaps the tears of a mother.
At about 2000 hours, when the deceased
was no longer visible, the crew heaved in the nets
and informed the shore authorities.
Under Korean flag state regulations,
no records are required to be kept
on treacherous strands of wire.
Vo Minh Que, whose last haul dragged
writhing fins and gasping gills from benthic gloom,
whose hands placed this white flesh on our table,
and whose long days profited someone far away
from this place of endless wind and salt.
It’s not a sea. It’s ocean.

(From Ambient Terror)

Selene

DSC_0479.jpg

Photo by V.Billot

“Her great orbit is full, and then her beams shine brightest as she increases.
So she is a sure token and a sign to mortal men.”
(‘To Selene’, The Homeric Hymns)

On the silken mud of the estuary floor
the sea is drawn from the channel’s branching veins,
creeping semidiurnal under her spell.
In this ragged rainy corner of the planet,
stranded amongst white sand and clouds,
I listened to the dialect of waves long ago
as a child lying in bed, my window ajar.
Then perhaps in late evening’s cool,
I saw the sprinkled motes of our galaxy
circle in infinitude above, a dust of faint luminance.
On high, Helios’ cool sister stared down
upon me, as I felt a shiver of recognition
of time’s impenetrable magnitude,
an intimation of the transience of my kind.