Click “like” to save the countryside

This is a fairly dense poem which came about from being given a carte blanche to try and make poetry out of the tics of Tourettes Hero (Jessica Thom). It was a tough commission because I’m not sure I can add anything to the existing poetic qualities of the tics (for example “Grandmas Back to Work Scheme, let them piece together the fucked up nation like it’s a four thousand piece jigsaw with a picture.”)

The tic “search for my soul on a database of hay” led to a piece which explores the madness of the economists who have colonised various environmental debates. Although well-meaning, I find their thinking pernicious and troubling…if you can attach a spurious economic value to an “Environmental Asset” then it can be bought. And I find it hard to acknowledge an idea which seeks to put pound signs against our raw experiences of nature. What price can you attach to the moment when you stumble across bluebells lining the floor of an ancient forest?

 

Click “Like” to save the countryside

search for my soul on a database made of hay
I’ve backed up my thoughts on an encrypted wasps nest
you can link to my profile, it encompasses everything
the trees are rife with possibilities for networking

the sunrise project had considerable overspend
the meadow technicians provided inadequate documentation
I’m measuring outcomes in the back of beyond
I’m tracking the secret vendettas of swans

I’m quite frankly staggered by all this free content
the pinecone meme, the opened attachments of burrs in my hair
the perfect lifecycle of warmed-up numbers
the futile attempt to monetize rivers

notify me when the seasons change
I will be muttering into a foxglove dictaphone
toggling tabs on a brackish browser
& tagging the trail of the forked path rambler

Acomb Crescent

I was daydreaming in the sweating bungalow
lulled by tea, cake and well-worn anecdotes
miniscule excavations of the mineralised past

the hothouse was incubating the faces of relatives
in rectangular plots covering every spare surface

as my Grandma’s words tapped gently on my skull
I went deeper still into my reverie
shuffling antecedents until
startled by the insectoid clicks of a multitude of shutters
I witnessed the scene
through the compound vision of those who stared from the frames

the disintegrating map of the family
the family’s eyes
the last surviving sister holding forth to a toby jug and her static kin
in a house without a coal scuttle

and then it was just me sat in the room
92 years old
waiting for guests to arrive

Signal Failure

An oldie but hopefully goodie…my indignant response to the moment when the analogue TV signal went the way of the dodo.

This was a long time before the massive resurgence of vinyl. Even as we speak, the pressing plants are banging out fresh copies of Brothers In Arms at the expense of new, interesting music so that the legendary “fifty quid man” can snaffle it on record store day. As the major labels try to geg into the medium’s mystifying return to popularity and bolster the last hurrah of a dying distribution model, I’m no longer sure what to think about it all.

This one really is a performance piece, so please check the audio. It was recorded in glorious digital. I’m well aware of the inconsistency of my position.

 


Signal failure

when they turn the analogue signal off
any number of things might happen
exactly one thousand cowboys and Indians
will shimmer away with their wagons

the shipping forecast read through a vocoder
everything manipulated before it reaches your brain
Michelangelo’s David spray-painted silver
wake me up when it’s safe to be human again

I still want to get my ears dirty once in a while
dial “A” for analogue
logged in the annals, these channels of communication
the glorious conjuring trick of transforming
the clunking gearshifts of our lived-in lives
into a foaming sea of possibilities
but the final wave has broken

“one small step for mankind” worms its way through
the calls of parakeets of pop & click
a smoke signal is turned back into words by the receptive brain
and subtle sings the surfeit of static
into an attic in which sits
a ship’s radio

with a blast on my two-stroke engine
I salute the last real radio station
give me a stick and a patch of dirt
and fuck your powerpoint presentation

reject the emperor’s new code
oh my brothers and transistors
spit out your feeds and sow your seeds
just wait for my signal

 

The King in the Mountain

Carrying on with the subterranean theme of the last poem, here is my take on the potent nationalist myth of the hero who sleeps under the mountain with his army, waiting until things get really shitty up top to come out and reinstate the old order. This has been King Arthur, Charlemagne, Frederick Barbarossa or any number of militaristic bigwigs in different cultures and eras.

I think a lot of fascists see themselves as awakening a dormant national spirit which will wipe out the perceived decadence of the age, so I had some fun with the idea. It was moderately more enjoyable than indulging the terror I often feel about how things are developing in the geopolitical arena at present.

I started with a mental image of Nigel Farage riding into battle on the back of a clapped-out steed and took it from there…

The King in the Mountain

The king in the mountain
waits with his faithful retainers
until an arbitrary national unit
fatally shreds its moral fibre

his support team of analysts are
always busy
poring over febrile newsfeeds
scanning the diminished horizon for grim pointers
which signal the long-mooted emergence
of this ambered order
a narcoleptic bulwark of
heroes who trained long and hard for their calling
first during legendary lives in which they tilted
at whatever bogeymen history could throw at them
then during periodic tests of capability
where the codewords “up periscope!”
prompted them to sally forth from their subterranean repose
shivering and coffee-breathed
to half-heartedly chase cut outs of dragons around the snow capped peaks
before once more embarking upon their ageless sleep

these guests at a heavily armoured slumber party
consider themselves the six hundred and sixty sixth emergency service
but alas, the years have not been kind to the
crack troops of the cultural save point

their investments did not pay off
and the money which is left only gets you
Charlemagne’s beard
a deal with a mining company
downsized their cavernous domain to a meatlocker
their keen blades have perforce been pawned
replaced with litter-pickers
and a hoard of knackered nukes

but when the petri dish appears irreversibly fouled
and the sign on the wall reads
“days since last end of days incident – zero”
a chorus of vuvuzelas will summon this ancient cohort
and they will arise and set out on their emaciated nags
with flaking heraldry and rotting pennants
to recreate a miserable approximation of their glory days

lumbering liegelords Batman! they will be quite the spectacle
the living embodiment of mothballed values
seeking pledges of fealty from bewildered countrymen
whose forelocks will fall out before they can tug them

Inhumation

Following on from my last post’s megalithic theme, here’s a possibly over-ambitious poem which I completed this week. It attempts to link antiquarianism, the effects of industry on the landscape and death rituals over the ages.

I had a thoroughly amazing afternoon sat in the Stoney Littleton long barrow last year, a womblike space which has strange acoustic properties, silent save the occasional fly. It was a positive experience where I felt properly plugged into something very old…but the poem came out bleaker than expected and I’m not sure how or why that happened. Apologies for the sound quality of the audio – it’s recorded through my phone.

Inhumation

I am planning a raid on the territory glimpsed in the mirror
a temporary transfer from wood to stone
achieved by memorising the layout of black traffic cones at the crematorium
or discerning the path hinted at by the desperate signage
of dessicated offerings strapped to lamposts

I will follow this trail through the sagging high-rises
whose outlines are blurred by organic cladding
into sepulchral forests which frustrate the forager
where the giant thistle heads
of empty crows nests rest in skeletal trees

a cankered willow stoops to drink from the silted canal
which echoes with the soft knocking of
abandoned barges nuzzling one another
the rotten locks are permanently overtopped

I wish to shake the cold, dead hand on the tiller
To ask its owner for the words which will
prise open the burial chamber
so that I may present my gifts

this is the airless dream I don’t want to return to
yet this is the place which I always come back to
a wingless moth
circling the exhausted seams
spoilheap navigator, powered by the twitching pulse of unused tyre swings
looking to quietly nestle myself in the inverted turret of my tumulus observatory
to plot the smeared course of decomposing stars
and scatter worked flint for my ancestors to find

Castlerigg

Happy Valentines one and all. To celebrate, here is a megalithic love poem.


Castlerigg

the stones, the view
but foremost, you
momentary glimpse of balancing natures
a life less complex, distilled in this landscape

resting my head on the ancient rock
I close my eyes, but not to shut things out
on the contrary to open myself more fully to this feeling
your amplified essence, this circle we’re building

Lottery

A short poem about the time when I won the lottery.

 

Lottery

With all the ingenuity granted
by the random genetic factors
forming a conglomerate
of exceptional potential
in any particular skull
a figure was finally agreed upon
denominating exactly
what we had to lose

it takes a certain type of
gleeful foolhardiness
to want to better your lot
when you are free to
love the sky & share
intimate bonds with other
interactive miracles

like entering a lottery
when the real lottery
has been won inasmuch
you are touching pen to paper
in relative comfort
with full stomach
& roof above your head