An uninvited guest

This poem dates from a period of anxiety a few years ago, during which I had to keep offering up excuses to explain my non attendance at social engagements. I was thinking of ever more outlandish reasons for not coming to things…which then evolved into a character who keeps saying that he’s not going to come to your party. But he definitely is. And he’s going to ruin it.

An uninvited guest

I’m afraid I cannot come to the party
as I shall be too busy sanding my teeth
do not waste your fancy invites
on the likes of me

there’s no way that I can attend the aforementioned social engagement
as it appears I cannot be trusted

I go to pieces in these sorts of situations
it’s an exhaustively documented fact
that my brain is likely to leak a resinous tar
onto your plush carpets

other commitments preclude me
from sharing in the festivities
I think I told you this already?
you will not have to nail dustsheets to the walls
there will be no reversal of gravity
or messy accidents with the cutlery

please think for a moment about the potentially scandalous fall-out
from the ill-considered and downright dangerous
forfeits I have been formulating for the last six years

the soiree will not be improved by the taciturn gentleman
boiling up a soup out of moths in the kitchen at three in the morning

besides I cannot dance with this live scorpion
sellotaped to my ankle
and I am unable to make small-talk whilst my mouth
is full of cake mixture

it is an unfortunate by-product of my non-attendance that
the fashion supplements will not be breathlessly reporting
the eyeliner made out of smeared bird-shit and biro-ink
which I had planned to model
or the rakish tilt of the
offal strapped to my head

look, have a great time, go on, enjoy yourselves
you don’t want to be constantly worrying whether or not
“Albert” might come out to play
incidentally, he says he’s sorry about what happened last time
and please can you give him his staple-gun back


Fossil Records

Finally finished recording a stack of poems tonight (thanks for the loan of the microphone Leon). To celebrate, here’s a poem about the wildly gibbered improbability of this moment, no this one.

Fossil records

what was supposed to happen?
whose instructions were half-glimpsed then forgotten?
reality updates, its worn edges crumbling:
the momentary fulfillment
of ambulatory dreaming

the song evolved into cacophony
the illustrious august personage was
just another trickster with a grudge
the abacus prostrated itself in front
of the system it served
the oracle was consumed by fog

sluggish centuries deliberately impede progress
we were working on an illuminated manuscript
the overwrought words of an idiotic story

the barrel & the fish, the metaphor loading machine
grey consciousness bemoaning the possibilities
presented by living
time-slave pinned to the dial

the ongoing struggle between circles and lines
in which this poem is merely a skirmish
between poorly equipped garrisons
of sensation
a pause before chaos creeps in

because they’ve called time at the tar pit
& the dinosaurs have stopped thrashing
& the person pushing the glaciers
has holes in his mittens
& the unbuilt cathedrals do not yet
transmit wonder

the past’s lack of ideas terrifies me
er, just stuff doing stuff until
witnesses can be beamed in
I have nothing new to add to the field of jungle morality
with my cave painting camera
and goretex pelt

how do you define meanwhile
when the jump cut skips the totality
what is this pen other than
incredibly unlikely
which colours have compressed under
the weight of millennia
which bright spark
thought to bring a scribe with them

no death-fear before sentient life
no arguments when the cells divide
the frayed curtain sways in
the unregistered space, marking
the beginning of a dangerous competition
& our unconnected molecules dance
in a billion places
waiting to be knitted together
no, waiting’s not the word, intentionality
impossible to gauge before
they are accidentally assembled into proud
questioning apes
who shiver as they remember
how to speak again


The Lost World

This poem is a long-gestating response to the Mitchell and Kenyon films. Mitchell and Kenyon were two Edwardian impressarios who took advantage of the novelty of the moving image by filming folk in the North of England and encouraging them to come and “see yourself as others see you” the same evening. Their speciality was rocking up at the factory gates at the end of a shift and filming the vast mass of workers pouring onto the streets. The films were discovered in a highly degraded state by shopfitters who were carrying out some work on a premises in Blackburn. A local historian realised their importance and they were comprehensively restored by the excellent people at the British Film Institute. I find them overwhelmingly moving for a number of reasons:

  • All of the people depicted within the films (and by golly there’s a lot of them) are dead;
  • None of them knew the First World War was coming;
  • They document a way of life that has almost completely disappeared.

Here’s an audio of me reading the poem.


The Lost World

See yourselves as others see you
take a correspondence course in cataclysm
watch earlier forms mining joy
doffing caps in front of prowling dreadnoughts
under a chimney-pierced sky

sifting through the buried meanings
pressing our faces to the fishbowl
unable to warn its inhabitants of the imminent
danger of the battery which is suspended
on a thread above the water

clay cities and drowned smokeries
posterity’s awkward bottleneck
crackling spectres polished back to life
the atomised citizens of Pompei resolved into
a purgatorial phalanx

there is a finite store of faces sealed in this drum
a proud procession languidly
strolling towards a tragedy
too large to be separated
into its constituent elements
dignitaries and deadbeats
snapshots of social strata
incomprehensible relationships
the same forces at work in the cemeteries
where the gravestones map out eminence

the cinematic seance raises them
whenever we wish to commune with them
they can only walk in one direction
towards the camera which pickles their bodies
in rusting cans of degraded film stock
before bombs and planners reshaped our cities
& tidal obsolescence engulfed the industries
they came past in their droves, the crushed
co-creators of the supposed zenith
empire fodder, smiling strangely to hide shit teeth
a flickering procession of human ectoplasm
with which to gum up your thoughts
intransigent Rotherham toughs
flicking Vs at history, boys with the faces of old men
leering unwittingly at their great great grandchildren
separated by ravaged genealogies
an unshared load
the dwindling remembrance of rust-coloured snow