The dust-encrusted crush

Unlike you, kid,
she says,
he never did anything —
just kicked balls
and chased rabbits

At 12 I watched him, 15,
tossing hay off the flatbed —
tanned deltoids,
torn singlet,
low-slung jeans,
calling to the cows

I never got to touch
his dull white scars
or hear his
baby cry

His was the cry of the power tool —
the diamond saw dividing a brick,
the rotating driveshaft sticking out of the back
of the tractor, the three-point linkage

I wrote him imaginary letters,
the dull white voice of the paper
flickering in my hands

Last time I saw him
I was 29 and married
The dust-encrusted crush
shook itself off,
rose and swirled in my head
like a ghost violin,
but there was nothing
we could talk about
Like she said
he’d kicked balls
and chased tails

The door with its old brass hook
where once I’d hung
my cowy heart
stayed shut.

First published in Creatrix

A ghost in the world

I stand on the doorstep.

What do you want to see? says the sky.

     I don’t want to see anything.
     I’m tired of seeing, moving, searching.
     I want to sit somewhere, be still, listen.
     Somewhere no-one will expect me to talk.
     Somewhere I am no-one.
     A ghost in the world.

Zhuangzi says chasing even that
is not the Way. You’re chasing an object:
something outside you that always recedes.
The quiet place is inside you
in all the sounds of space.
What do you want to hear? says the sky.

     No more questions, I say.
     I want to hear the lap-slap of wavelets at the edge of a lake
     I want to hear a dove coo / and another answer
     I want to hear a car pass without being afraid it will kill us all with its carbon
     I want to hear a man whistling / as he walks to his place / of work
     I want to hear the ten pm train / without wondering / in what year it will cease to run
     I want to sleep / without dreaming / that all the butterflies die at once and are not reborn
     Without dreaming / of a strange sour land / too hot to inhabit
     I want to wake up without that / in the back of my head

     People carry on
     as if death will never come
     Making five year plans, ten year plans, investing
     People carry on as if death will arrive tomorrow
     Eating, drinking …

In spacetime, says the sky,
or in Hawking & Hartle’s imaginary time,
every moment, then now when,
always
is
You can carry yourself
as if death has / already come
A sadhu, a monk, a ghost in the world …
Or just a practitioner
of wu wei:
not here,
not anyone,
exerting no
force

First published as part of “The Dream”, in my PhD thesis, October 2018

Let’s fly!

Found in Yinchuan, China, with the help(?) of Google Translate

Yinchuan double-flying day, we ride by plane
to Zhongwei Quanchuan Q… Shepherd Heads of the
Duo Dui Dedue Airport Yinchuan (big grease 530)
shortage head AL (or-step or so): the main stage
of the saleswear head — Gui Kangguan and the
Dali country of the Leader of the Yangsaw,
the concept of life and the future, the success
of the people of the Yangwan, the success of the
Yangwan, the success of the Yangwan, the first
suspension of the world, the final life of the
people of the river, the life of the gang, the
final and the like, the final achievement of the
dead invasion, the people of the life of the
guardian, the final achievement of the
environment, the final achievements of the
natural sandwich, the oval, the mountains, the
main tourism resources, the real emergence of the
natural sandwood of the environment, the
existence of the tourism resources, the real
emergence of the natural sandwood of the
environment, the existence of the tourism
resources, the real resources of the natural
sandwich, the overalls of the city of the city of
the city of the city of the toll of the city of
the city of the city of the city of the city of
the dawn, the talent, the tower of the city of
the city of the city of the city of the city of
the city of the city of the city of the city of
the city of the city of the city of the city of
the city of the city of the city of
the city of the year of the salads, the existence
of the same time, the city of the city of the
city of the city of the city of the city of the
city of the city of the city of the city of the
city of the city of the city of the city of the
city of the city of the city of the city of the
city of the city of the city of the city of the
city.

The above is a slightly edited Google Translate rendition of the following flyer. It gets across how I feel after two weeks in Yinchuan better than anything I could have written in the usual way. Apologies to anyone who reads Chinese.

Photo of found flyer

Man with a gun

In the queue in the chemist this afternoon
I stood behind a man with a gun
An armed guard from the ATM money truck

The gun was in a holster on his right hip
I wondered whether it
was loaded

I thought about the barrel
the trigger
the bullet at ease
in its little room

The gun had a wooden handle
smooth, honey-blonde
warm-looking
I tried to imagine
the man drawing the gun and shooting it
He aimed for the leg
I saw a suburb
a woman
a baby
I tried to imagine him
shooting to kill
The terror, the blood-rage
The eyes
afterwards
blown to bits

I have halved with a kitchen knife a small snake
beheaded with a hatchet a chicken for soup
clubbed with a log a cat-ruined mouse
but I haven't fired a gun
Not yet

My father had a butcher's knife for sheep
an axe for chooks and ducks
a shotgun for birds
a rifle for steers and cancer-ridden cats
I saw how he worked the knife and the axe
but he didn't teach me the guns

The man in the queue was no more than 30
He had short wavy hair and a pale neck
He asked for strong headache pills
Pulled out his wallet

First published in Creatrix 34, September 2016