I haven’t yet found the first word
The one that validates all others
So when I move my mouth to speak
I reveal the tragedy of empty sound
Would I accept this, my last decision?
I would walk to the quiet mountains
I would cut off my tongue and eat it there
It would better serve me in the form of food
Time is not a constant,
But porous, distended matter
And the mind must have mortal bones
That buckle under such complete encumbrance
As this, solitude in the early morning.
I lay still, toppled clay golem
You sleep, deep and animated
Against my joyless insomnia
(Dreaming of rabbits?) No, bone-saw
Flee, they turn and see you, now flee
Flee on short limbs, four red stalks
In my ballooning, musing ego
I put these tremors in you
This brooding traversed two skins, osmotic
Plasticine bull-demons, horned men
Stalk through blackened infirmaries
Casting voices of lost family
My violence becomes your twisted wrist
My frustration becomes your bruxing
I am fearful and so you shiver
Impossible deserts, impossible sea
Tunnel through glass dust dunes
Paint tell-tale scars across soiled skin
Rounded off, penned in
By the careless chattering
Of lesser city royalty
And aspiring champagne socialists
The five steps of composition
The evening staggers on
On in broken movements
As convoluted as it needs to be
Simple as sweat on walls
Sixty solid years of cigar smoke
Precipitate in a glass
On a lung, under tongue
Inside an ear canal
If I died now
It would be as a big, bald man of sixty
Face down in a bowl of lukewarm linguine
French ‘seventy-five in my stiffened claw
Disinterested mistress by my side
My face a mask of contentment
Her menu masking embarrassment
Scatters rice for ungrateful birds
Feeds the three black strays of the disused lot
At home, he was a shoemaker
Lost a finger to the machine of his trade
Paid for his mistress to join him
She took flight as soon as she’d landed
On a small grey screen
in my nuclear bunker
I watch you dancing
My friends and I are sat around a table. One friend comments on my new watch. I look down to see that it is upside down and on the wrong arm.
I am hanging from an elaborate wooden structure in a featureless tundra. My arms are bound behind my back. I am being used as a live counterweight for a noose. I am unsure of my relationship with the person who is to be hanged, but I sense we were once allies. Possibly even friends. I do not know the circumstances which led to my bondage but given that I am being spared the penalty of death, it may be the case that I was the one who betrayed them.
A small crowd has gathered. Men in dark blue uniforms bring a young man towards the giant weather vane from which I am suspended. The young man has dark hair and eyes, tanned skin. He is dressed in sandy-brown fatigues. From the severity of his punishment, I infer that he has rebelled against the dominant regime.
The man is raised to the noose, causing every finger of the abstract scaffold to sway and buck, triggering a counter-force from an opposing limb. Only my legs can move freely, and though I splay them in different directions in an attempt to steady myself in the air, I cannot stop my body from oscillating and rotating at random.
Before long, the man is being hanged. He speaks to the crowds in a way not befitting a man approaching death — he talks with ease. He jeers at them. He almost breaks into a laugh.
Meanwhile I, in a futile attempt at protest, stretch one leg out and try to stomp on the head of one of my captors, but he is positioned in such a way that I can only pester him with light taps and nudges. He looks up at me with murderous ire and I am reminded that they would readily kill me too for the slightest transgression.
The audience, silent and stoic, frown at the hanging man. A woman with long dark hair and sharp, aquiline features stands out in the crowd. She has a sympathetic air — could she be an ally or even a lover to the hanging man? Her expression morphs into a sneer. She begins yelling at the doomed man, taunting him, relishing his death. I am suddenly aware of a popular stigma against us, we captives. The crowd came here to shame us.
a little grey room
for a shrunken grey man
dead or nearly dead