You lose yourself between the empty ticking of the clock,
The low-brow knock of tick-tack-tock;
The wayward, strident second hand
Beats to the sound of unmanned wreckage
Inside the holy-water of your heart.
You lose yourself between the leaves of sheaves of books,
The smell of well-felled plant-cells planted in antiquity
Permeates the dusty shelves,
And only time will tell whether
They will find a home again.
You lose yourself in stacks of stones and tomes and poetry,
A clustered, flustered, flotsam-jetsam meld
Of stories bound together by the past;
Held in ship-shape place for
Longer than history itself.
You lose yourself under night’s weighty deep-dark cape,
Walking the fleeting distance from one bright-bite
Pinprick of light in the sky to another;
Wondering under what thundering sky
You yourself will join them.
You lose sight of yourself, you begin to notice, in the meaningless
Of hypocrisy, and the view of infinity from your bedroom window.
So while pre-processed thoughts and lacklustre words
Pour from the jaws of immobile, ignoble people,
You lose yourself again in the empty ticking of the clock,
And learn to love its simple sound.
My fingers have ground to a halt,
Their prints run dry and blisters bloat the muscle behind my skin.
Words no longer flow with such fluidity now they’ve been rubbed so thin.
My sight is crinkled at the seams —
Exhaustion is usually a breeding ground for poetry,
But from this early-morning darkness I’ve spun out only fragments of stories;
If knickknacks were words and scrapped books came together,
That would be a picture of my poetry.
I can hardly breathe for fear and cold,
These empty words have stolen the hearth on which I warm my soul,
And I am left alone with little to hold, and time again ticks out its close.
New clichés are born in my head,
Whispering uninspired, uninspired,
To the body rotting in this bed.
We built this grizzled crust of a city
Off of traveller’s checks
And grandfather’s tears.
We broke our own mirrors
In order to call the misfortune
We brought upon our people
We revere the hypocrites
And trod upon the fertile soil of the soul.
What use is poetry in a world of technology?
We built this city out of the corpses of the enemy
Just to be able to truly call it ours.
And we have made homes for ourselves
Between the scrapyards and front-yard junk
Of our ancestors.
Forgive me, father, for I have sinned
Is a synonym for cowardice,
And now morale is wearing thin.
We built a obsolescent city;
It was always meant to cave in.
We built this city on the cusp of something great,
But we dirtied the river of expression,
And as of late encouraged oppression.
We built this city to be broken;
How could we have expected success
From a hyper-caffeinated people
Who toppled the columns of Justice, Prosperity, and Sleep.
We built this city from the charred remains of the last one,
So know that out of tomorrow’s ashes, it will rise again.
The power to bring change lies within our reach,
Nestled deep inside the circuitry we hold between our fingers;
It is now so easy to push the right buttons to rile up society.
The real issues rarely make the cover,
But the adverts, in lying bare exactly what the public wants,
Can be used to illustrate the dehumanisation of our age;
Where girls are given worth according to the length of wires
Wound around their chest,
And boys are given guns with no questions asked.
Media brings about knowledge.
Knowledge brings about change.
But for now, people still sit around cracking rape jokes
On the bus, thinking poverty’s the only way
To keep the unworthy in their place.
And so the boys with guns join forces,
And the girls with stick-thin legs grow tired of starvation;
Both take hold of their mobile devices
And promise to make
The power of the media is at their disposal,
And they throw it all to waste.
So the girls and the boys of today
Both end up chocking up blood-soaked vomit
And whimper the through the pain.
By then, the thought of change disgusts them
Even more that their own skins,
And like that you’ve lost a spark;
Like that you’ve let them win.
We hold pens and pennies in our hands until our knuckles cramp
And our nails turn blue; reciting wish upon wish that the world doesn’t fail us now.
We plunge our palms into the powdered softness of the sands
To convince ourselves that our touch can bring change to our surroundings.
Yet our backs are always turned when the sand pits we’ve dug
Sigh into themselves with a faint gurgle,
Back into the moistened bed of the sea.
The same hands in the sand caress the pressure points
Of a hardened shaft;
The same hands anchor food into the air,
Ready to be engulfed by the blackness
Behind our teeth.
These same hands find their ports
Clasped in the hands of others;
These same hands hold the gleaming trophy
And spell out V-I-C-T-O-R-Y to the clouds
These same hands mould into the same fists,
And just as in life;
Direction is everything.
We clutch things in sweaty fists, palms shut up tight
Against the world — willing them not to slip from our grip.
But we all get slapped sometimes,
And our hands only serve to nurse the wound.
That’s only the universe telling us to cling harder to the things we have,
The things we care about keeping, and the things we can trick ourselves
Into believing were worth it to have loved when we have lost.
The lake outside my window
Has taken on a resemblance to oil on land.
The water’s orange, in places, and brushstrokes of dark blue
Seem to give it depth in the wrong direction.
Only a slight shimmer on the surface of the blue
Gives the scene away as
A picture postcard.
The mix of sunset colours
Created a fog the colour of mustard gas on the shores of the other side,
And in the setting sun, the fall(en) trees
Look the colour of my sister’s hair.
There’s a pink, glowing cloud surrounding the ski slopes
At the bottom of the scorpion-shaped white runs —
And then —
And then it’s gone.
The moment passes and the light fades, leaving only
Slight accents behind the western clouds.
And as the clouds thicken for night,
Pinpricks of light filter out of the blue-grey hills
On the far shores.
The oil spill on the water has now mopped itself up,
And the shimmering waves collect shadow
As the lake quiets for the night.
I came up with a near-perfect beginning of a poem last night,
Sitting on the inside of a grimy, bright bus
Watching the darkened streets fly by.
It might have been a line about the girl curled up and into herself
On a chair in the front window of the police station.
It might have been about the reflections in the bus windows,
About everyone seeing everyone without the burden of eye contact.
It might have been about a pharmacy,
Or about the festive lights that drape across the alleyways and squares;
Little shining stars ashamed to find themselves so close to Earth:
A string of half-hearted message cards dutifully reminding people
That this is the season to be kind to others.
But most people here can’t stand that thought,
So the lights turn into haunting annoyances — a voicemail on repeat-
That no one dares take down or take the time to understand.
It might have been a line about all those things combined,
It might have been the one defining line:
One defining line to fill the emptiness inside the cracks between my bones.
But, of course, I lost that line-
I lost the whole damn fishing pole at the same time,
Swallowed up by the unforgiving mouth of the realm of dreams.
It bubbled up and foamed and dribbled out of my mouth in my sleep,
For my fingers were too slow to let the blood-turned-ink run out of my
Nail beds and sink into a page, if only to be sealed up tight
And left recorded for the rest of my life.
I’ve said sorry to the muses of the written word,
And the goddesses of buses, fingers, pens, and sleep.
And since I’ve lost, in return,
I’ve written them a poem entitled:
Lines to Keep.
I wasn’t lying when I said my makeup
Never runs — instead it walks, leaving footprints
On my face, and eventually the powder on my cheeks
Melts away like the snow in spring.
I am a wax doll,
And you are my flame,
And though I fear you,
You help my cover up my flaws
By giving me plasters doused with an
Antiseptic form of love in the shape of your thumb.
I wish you wished for the feel of my fingers
Running through your hair,
Or along your earthly back.
I would count the notches in your spine
And ask you questions over wine-
What would you do;
Who would you be;
Why have you let me see the inner
Workings of your spirit?
I’ve only seen the gargantuan sky
Turn purple at dusk, and for God’s sake,
I’m just how learning how to breathe,
Or count stars in the dark.
I think, in fact,
I’ve mostly made you up.
My eyes are raw, and my nails have disappeared,
Leaving canyons of red clay and crimson holy water
Creeping out of my capillaries.
And because we haven’t done anything but touch,
I would have broken the mirage
By asking you about yourself — so I had to
Make you up to keep you running.
And run you did — away from me.
I remember standing at a traffic light,
Talking to everyone but you,
And I heard what happened at that party
I wasn’t invited to.
Instead, I’d stayed at home and learnt my lines,
As if this play would finally teach me to speak when
I stepped off the stage-
But I know better than anyone that that could never happen,
Because the person I am between the two darkened corners
And five blackened planes is someone so different from me.
The lights illuminate, and the makeup hides,
And maybe, just maybe, I thought:
You could have fallen in love with me that way.
But at that traffic light,
I might have been transported back a thousand years,
Back to when that exact point was at the bottom of a river
And my feet wouldn’t unstick from the ground.
The last time that I touched you,
I disappeared for three weeks,
Maybe that’s what between us-
But look at me now.
I have come so far from yesterday or yesteryear;
I am alive and kicking.
I write to put at least the thickness of a page
Between myself and my day.
Pen on paper is my type of speech,
And poetry gives me more time to think.
These words will serve as my script for the future,
And have acted as a scrapbook in the past.
My writing is fairly formulaic;
I sift through the strings of echoes
And flashing words inside my head
To spiral in and in;
Trying to increase the accuracy of my words
To best reflect what I mean to say.
It doesn’t always come out right,
But I think it comes out how it best should be.
I write to be able to turn pages on top of
My problems and begin anew
With a crisp blank page on which to scribble
Out a message or a story
Or a story with a message.
My writing helps me put an issue in the past;
That I can then look back on and think:
I got through that — that’s something to be said about me.