so i can see

“Tourist Trap”, a photomontage by Thomas Barbèy

the asphalt street takes women
children hats trams fences down
between the buttresses
of a rainforest grandmother tree
with thick spreading arms
Dali signs the brain
of the artist who Photoshops
so I can see
the entrance
in game worlds
with laws of physics
set by a programmer
my son meets his friends
on his Surface he makes a city
with lights in shop windows
hangs lanterns
meticulously over the square
using the tip of his stylus
Dali signs the brain
with thick spreading arms
the asphalt street takes women
at a workshop in a room
with purple walls
orange tables
and lime green couches
with laws of physics
I feel sick and take
a walk outside
the entrance
so I can see
the rainbow

Ten sentences about atoms

1. We say I’m made of atoms.
2. When we say I it means my body, brain breasts belly legs feet.
3. When we say atom it means some neutrons and protons and a vast space with a few bits in it.
4. To get a sense of the vastness, focus on the nucleus.
5. Why must my awareness be focused in this little nucleus?
6. The electrons are so far away, like stars.
7. Does the universe have hardware, or only firmware?
8. David Bohm thinks space and time are emergent properties of a deeper level.
9. Does the body have hardware, or only firmware?
10. Hardware, firmware and bits don’t make it a box.

0. We put in the zero once we had made the other numbers.

-1. Counting to zero is quite something.
-2. Counting to -1 is something else.

In IT slang ‘box’ means a computer, a machine.

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,
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

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