dynamics

i prefer roads to airports always will

let’s not playact we’re explorers grizzled under

an ornate moustache or two ounces of petticoats

never abandoning our coats in a bar never

losing sight of the objective

 

when is the moment of discovery? huddling in the rain

it’s a more contemporary sign of romance ho hum

i wrote this but also danger (i thought that) like knitting narratives

under a tap, thought plashing & my faux-corduroy nylon jacket

was just a projection backdrop reinforcing leftist beliefs as if

politics is a possum glimpsed with autoflash eyes or

a phase of the moon to pass through

 

‘on this day’ pls imagine things pictorially for me 🙂

a sleepy powerpoint will do, somehow graph idea / action

/ privilege thanks

 

there is no need for emotional labour beside your yellow

& purple fabrics see      constructing poignancy is hot

but also danger really, whether running through

that world of rain or perched on a walking mangrove foot

 

two thousand & seventeen was unpublishable anyway

 

‘a tree cannot walk’ (what does go mean?)

putting lyrics to music one evening, as above

you decide erasure is a the key failure to avoid but then

once i reviewed gigs in poems that too was foolish, exploratory

 

the planet can still smell of my cologne 20 hrs later

a playful elbow or two later, a mutter about

the swell of bass later, the muted harp later &

those sequins, like i said & wrote:

 

this year we sit on tree roots before we crest

new decades with your hair soft & ringletting

 

the persistent raindrops (white feathered leaf dodgers)

persist & rats make the drain-cover-call & yep i’m sloppy

with clichés & cartoons & this is a bouncy sobriety!

i’ll write more on the plane home (i write this) but also

 

don’t label-make      i thought this     like last time but

resisted writing & revealing we’ll see hey mate

Advertisements

is this

it happens like you’re driving somewhere while just a little stoned, you know, just a little distance too. but maybe you start to think about the kind of focus required for the different tasks in life. perhaps too much. even in that little distance, that short amount of time this evening, my mind wanted to linger on the very specific way each white road line marking appeared & glowed & disappeared. yet driving requires a shifting of focus across surroundings, mirrors, steering, pedals – you can’t afford to just lock in on one thing. it’s the same kind of stoned concentration that might allow me to play a chord progression repeating for 10 minutes and not notice or think of anything outside that. so. while driving i feel little flickers of doubt or fear, slight worry that i’m not paying enough divided attention to the driving task. i like to think that i’ve developed my country road driving skills to the point where i’m pretty good at spotting roos now but you never know. i may have even said ‘just stay focused’ aloud.

 

as i think these things and drive to a specific place in a focused and relaxed style (one elbow resting on the door-side arm wrest, eyes alert & scanning the high-beam-lit highway ahead), kendrick’s song fear plays. there is a very cool array of vocal tones in this track (i think that to myself); the lyric that is still stuck in my head now (repeated near the end of the track) is: ‘what happens on earth stays on earth’. i have decided this is great because of the imagery it gives me (& you). it’s threefold: you know how in near-future sci-fi movies & television sometimes near-earth planets like mars are colonised? this is how i can imagine a future where earth is some kind of exotic resort for only the solar system’s most wealthy to enjoy; secondly, i feel like the idea that ‘what happens on earth stays on earth’ is meant to imply the obvious, that there is no life outside of earth at present (that we know of), so we have a moral responsibility to look after the planet, because it is our definition of life at the moment; thirdly, perhaps the lyrics gesture towards a spiritual life, one inside the individual… it really is the only thing on earth you can take with you after death… these three ideas about the lyrics all occurred to me & sat in harmony for a while. kinda like bubbles, when a few of them come together gently in the sky to form a brief & beautiful multi-bubble. that.

 

maybe things always do occur in threes for everyone. everyone. what’s the point at which i realised these particular thoughts were going to be a small piece of writing? why it’s funny you should ask – it was at that point where i realised there was a third part to this writing, a third paragraph. everything comes in threes. many years ago in newcastle i presented a paper & talked about success & failure as applied to poetry, how binaries like that have a real impact on our creative work. afterwards, in response to a kinda vague question from an audience member i remember vaguely affirming binaries as things i found everywhere in life. i wasn’t particularly convincing. maybe there’s a third part to that i just wasn’t acknowledging. a trickier part. the grey area in between. my limited understanding of the trinity (i may have got this from an annotated dante translation many years ago..) is that it is used to represent the three aspects of god. god above us, around us, and within. the father, the son, the holy ghost. to be clear i don’t believe in any of those religious tropes, but in mythic stories that grey area is always the trickier part, the spirit. it happens like you’re driving somewhere while just a little stoned, you know, just a little distance. but maybe you start to think about the kind of focus required for the different tasks in life. perhaps too much.

urban camper circa 2018

twirl a parasol while searching on ‘dusky’

how it applies to eyes specifically while away

time picturing a quiet look while we talked

afterwards, disabused of all fucked-up-self-talk

under the fan, the noise

 

why fib i wasn’t searching all day & edit that out but

we are always trying things for the first time together

it’s a mirror view of broken hills underwater

 

like my drive home coming off meds, a fevery dizziness

when i swivel my neck at an emu, moved slightly

to tears by a taxi etc. how to distinguish boundaries?

either a raised threshold for dizziness or tears? scared tho

you swallow two tablets before even patting the cat &

muse: every album is just working through a relationship,

the dots of socio-political imagery just icing, or dots, &

each song a way to celebrate a being-ok-with-you-as-you,

mostly hopeful mostly lies

 

the attempt is uplifting nevertheless, so delicious

a recipe (we were baking after a long time

of not baking, a cheesecake-style slice that bubbled

then settled into a solid apex, this is why) frameworks

creep in as underthought, convenient as a distance in time,

two days ago, or perhaps maybe not (this should be

revisited for better irrigation of emotional landscapes) wrote:

 

‘irrigating your emotional landscapes since the 1980s’

 

slogans for my latest joke business venture: my only

reliable party discourse & i fall backwards so often:

a straw that is also a pen; a consultancy firm that articulates

the solution you already know you want, suggests

a rebranding to the colour red evermore      but we’re

too busy for realism & re-thread the threads

while reclining in a puff of smoke

 

static websites will make a comeback man & every email list

is a celebration of the drumming in Mayonnaise & look

the keyboard player died & it’s a leap but oscillate with me

to Dumbledore in the new adaptation of Little Women

& for a brief while local tribes fought white settlers but

they were always back for the watered country

 

i find my obnoxious approach to people still unhealed?

 

um counterpoint: everyone is a purist for the original

Anne of Green Gables that diffuse orange light

a mosquito net of protection from the contemporary

if only mosquitoes were individual doubts

about my individuality

 

(emma watson & emily watson should work together

on a film project / is that the toxic coating on my skin

talking / regardless, Beth is still about to die)

 

twirl a parasol while away time

picturing a quiet look

under the fan, the noise

please read

For me the one constant of personal/public writing is a feeling of regret. Looking back over written versions of the past with regret. It’s my own perspective I question, my own thoughts, my own way of analysing myself and events. Sometimes intentions become more troublingly clear after time; sometimes it’s all too clear that my thinking was totally self-centred…

I think I have held back with this piece of writing because of that fear. Maybe 5 months too long. I didn’t want to write it wrong. But the regret it always happens and here it kind of has to. My intention in this writing… I’m still not exactly sure, but it’s necessary. Part of a process. It is far too easy to go on with your life not thinking about things. Court distance. Avoid contemplation and just wait it out. I’ve done it before too much. Arguments, instances of severe social embarrassment, more drawn out failed romances. It’s not positive though. Nothing much changes in the underlying behaviours.

So. Last year I harassed a group of women after a literary event. I can’t describe it in the exact detail I’d like to because for me it was a black-out drunk period. This isn’t offered as an excuse it’s just the truth of what happened. A complaint was made and the verbal retelling I was given confirms that the evening involved: inappropriate verbal and physical behaviour on my behalf towards the women, being asked to leave the venue by the proprietor, continuing with some harassing messages via social media after that. All of these things happened and I don’t dispute any of it.

I work in the arts, both as a writer and as an administrator, where the socialising often is your workplace. It’s not a 9 to 5 job. The women involved where also artists, writers. After talks with my supervisors I took some enforced leave from work, began regular psychological counselling, as well as drug and alcohol treatment. This is ongoing. I was also offered the chance to withdraw from a literary event to not cause further problems. I know I’m lucky that these options were given to me. But then really, I’m lucky that my behaviour was reported in the first place. Because I honestly would still have no idea of the severity otherwise. I would have written off the evening as a mistake of way too much booze mixed with medication and continued on my way, letting it fade. Instead, I’m able to take the opportunity to attempt to be better. The work isn’t done yet but I hope it’s progressing. Writing/speaking is a part of that.

Communication after the incident in question was handled by a higher-up member of staff exclusively. I haven’t approached the women in question personally to make an apology, and at this point I am still unsure about doing that. I don’t know whether or not seeking contact would cause more trouble. But I do want these words to exist here should they ever seek them. I am sorry. I didn’t treat you like people at all. Not in the way I believe women should be treated. I want to own that. I’m unreservedly sorry for the pain caused to you. I’m also particularly sorry that I did this in the context of the literary social community. I have always valued the way the community of writers in this country has been incredibly open and supportive to me, both online and in person for many years. And this is the way it should be – noone should have to fear the inappropriate attentions or actions within that space.

Although this is the first I have written about it (other than talking online about the new challenges of sobriety) I want to make it clear that my response has not only been to seek help for myself, but also to tell every person in my life the reasons why and to talk openly of what has happened. I am by no means suddenly fixed. I don’t think I’ve displayed a pattern of harassing behaviour over the years, but at the same time, I recognise black out periods have been increasingly common for me particularly over the period 2015-2017 and I cannot rule out other instances of inappropriate behaviour. I know the way I’ve used messaging and social media has been questionable. Sliding into the direct messages of people I don’t know or barely know has been common for me. While it has sometimes been a positive thing, I know at times I’ve done it in a problematic way also, and have to change this. Online communication is a very real space and one where women and people in general deserve to be treated respectfully.

If anyone is reading this and want to talk directly to me about anything further please do get in touch. I do want to read more accounts. I hope non-famous men, men perhaps in small regional communities like mine, are now speaking and acknowledging their wrongs and complicity. We don’t have to be publicly named to do this. In fact the thing is you probably won’t be. And then yes there will be consequences to speaking. You might lose work opportunities, or people once close to you might remove themselves. Distancing yourself from shitty behaviour with time though, it may make the memory fade but that’s all. It needs thinking about openly, needs discussing, particularly now… And I’ve still got a lot more of that to do.

quiet

on stage she is a far superior version of her own shadow

 

on stage the plummet of fringe it’s front-lit like

navel oranges      suffuse in a past 11am winter

 

the friday after we discretely fought off sleep

in our nebulous gritty locations     perambulating

sleet will urge the city upon you     every time smudging

memory to actively possess     i was lost in a half-grown

hedge maze it’s called the country     in periodicals

 

you’re a real person under an identical rupturing sky

a warship on the bay while the tourists finger

the opera house (silliest acoustics in the cosmos     peer-reviewed)

literally you are you tho & i wrote: i am me! with a flourish ha

it etches exclamation across that council hanging-shrub-trimmer’s

life      he works his way up an infinite street misted & soaked

today it is     thursday

 

(i won’t even buy wine for pasta sauce now too

afraid of falling over     destroying the remainder

see instead you cajole half bottles

from guests & scribble out a list titled ‘tactics’)

 

the fridge is my gallery space but

we’ll go deep into the details later – past the canopy

microcosm & the vines of friends-of-friends, foggy

peculiarities hard to parse – or fuck it though am i right

 

i’m newly aware of ‘flight’

 

i’m leaving the city as vibrant & lit as i found it

i am myself or the world these are the same things

 

your voice is steady & always haunt in the best way

you have to dull the spirits of art-school kids fetch

warmth & quiet to an antechamber in the best way

you are warming into the fingerpicking & all things

make me happy like the neck marks     yours

this time & veiled     blearily

 

not hungover in the wrong terminal &

never again every atmosphere like

a set-pose: poem as situational comedy

poem with its back to the limousine

our designated roles for the next epoch flagged

 

when your closest friend is the voice of your map

mechanical & reliably one beat too slow

when you are nothing to former lovers

& you vainly blast your cortex ghettos

when you explore misted amazon cafes with

a broken public piano in each     when you tap on

for experience & hold up buildings in your palm like

an illusion or kissing in semiquavers

 

then i’m a nap expert a performance-space connoisseur

& a belligerent fuckwit – just part of the problem

 

the chamber is lighted & applause forgotten &

you can view me telling myself that i’m recognising stuff

not virtue signalling     still sick that people see

the reality of me while emending

any last conclusive statement

pondering a grace note

days

a first kiss after two months. slow & slightly past midnight. but it’s never the visuals of kissing that are described unless it’s the preceding moments of lips parting, perhaps an estimate of moisture. unconnected, i’ve woken with a sore shoulder, the hurt only reminding me at odd moments, say a left-handed reach into that low laundry cupboard to retrieve fabric softener. such pangs surprise me & remind me that muscles exist & keep functioning mostly unnoticed. it’s up to me to present things as if they are connected.

there’s been a history of people saying ‘yes’ to things in my life and maybe every life. generally it’s a professional serendipity, an email invite arrives at the right time, mid-point in the recipient’s hopefully life-affirming yes period. i’ll arrive in my own period thinking it was over for a time. i’ll say yes to a series of things that provoke an initial small jolt of worry because challenges are good right? at least during a period of deciding this is so. a poetry reading, coffee with a girl, getting my face painted. whether adding ‘et cetera’ implies a list too long to manage or experiential failure. i’ll revel in being a human of action & carefully edit the images to reflect a narrative.

i’ve noticed a different clarity to the living room & have tried to pinpoint the elements that inform it. it’s just one more thing in a life-narrative full of pinhole cameras, lighting up faces with a new torch on a scout camp, & the choice of reading lamps in the bedrooms of people i care for. nevertheless: the waxing spring light. the breeze that’s closer to body temperature on dark. the exactness of the wooden floor after polishing. the effexor limiting negative dalliances but not thought. images of that past love floating on the periphery but not able to disrupt. hoping. preparing a meal in a cocoon of sharpened focus.  never arriving home after a drink.

violet has taken to throwing the frisbee & it’s allowed me to theorise. she’s not athletically inclined so this activity is part of her well-rounded future. like me she’ll maybe never give over to the body’s pure exertion but might marvel at some kind of technical artistry. things the body can enable. i remember the rare beauty of landing a topspin backhand lob, the exaggerated racquet head speed perfectly fooling my opponent. that. or something similar. inventing ways to be.

parts

a return to structure:

*

About a week of obsessive practise was all it took to master the art of not thinking. I would make use of every spare moment I could find – as I ate breakfast, as I sat on the bus, as I watched the nightly news – to simply not think. I imagined myself becoming closer to a Neanderthalic man, pure animal and instinct, not bothered by the evolutionary glitch of higher consciousness. This is all I need to do, I thought to myself, during that week, in one of my increasingly infrequent moments of actual thought. Dwelling on the past or the present or the future is pointless. I thought this last thought while looking at myself half-shaved in the mirror. It was Friday. A week had passed and I knew I had mastered this skill. I thought absolutely nothing as my past heart-grievances persisted as a fact of history outside of my body. She would keep on living her life regardless. I did not think this.

*

Without a pre-programmed deadline on waking it takes me an hour to get out of bed. Swaddled and wallowing in the shafts of dust mote. I’ll wear the irrational mulling-things-over in my hair of course – the back now a bird’s nest of minor dreads. It’s a Saturday and so heavy bass is sliding through my venetians again but I try not to judge the life-choices of my neighbour. His electric green XR6 blasts the bass while he wanders aimlessly in the yard, singing off-key. Yes I had to arise to make the observation. Anyhoo, we’ve all been drunk at 10am and have wanted to share that particular joy with the world.. I tell myself things over some unremarkable buttered toast. I feel like my nervousness over next week’s travel plans translate into a small tremble in my teeth and hands, but can’t be sure. Regardless I attempt to smooth that worry and my hair under the shower. While naked and sluicing the steam I decide who I’ll ask to look after my cat. One decision decided. As always I try to leave the house quickly after dressing, retaining the water’s warmth as I meet the wind, briefly un-shiverable.

*

Inhabiting this screen, all I know I is that I no longer feel stoic. I may have, once. My life is now completely melded to the experience of the reader. I don’t just present a reflection to her I feel the things she does. When her brow furrows, as it does sometimes on a particularly early morning, I feel this turmoil. When she prances and smiles before going out of an evening I live that same joy. But all I can do physically is reflect. On those all-too-rare moments, she touches me gently and I touch her in response with her own hand. I only wish I could do more though. I want to speak softly to her. I want to smooth the tousled strand of hair back from her forehead while she looks at me, wearing only a towel, seemingly lost in thought. My life is a  curious prison that I would never give up.

wine quotes

written mainly to bump the last entry downwards

these lines will rove but not drill down, honouring

memory but moving through it, um maybe…

worry fucks me up it’s not a buzzword

 

begun in the office on a squalid wednesday

swimming in a glow of just one kernel of thought

grasped as my car sluices the river fog:

the time you spend alone at a lovers’ house

the first times     absorbing smell, accoutrements,

laundry processes, books

i missed that & why do i keep demarcating

 

is clarity ever gained by this though &

by afternoon i’m already more conscious

of a slight disinclination to kiss

 

nobody wants to pay too much attention to intuition

but it’s hard – this seems a clear marker of ‘things’

bubbling   stupidly in each moment i pour wine each evening

nervous to make each occasion a celebration while

only wanting couches & verse & cinematography &

careful touch

 

so much ‘and’

so much ‘each’

 

picture me carefully adding people & events

even though the shock of joining you at a table

a laughing last supper of unknown guests still

gives a lemon-acid jolt to the stomach

 

repeat the mantra that you have a lot: like

the only ever birthday i’ll need

 

the weekend whimsy of darren’s songline

‘what have i learned?’ feels the opposite of whimsical

as i turn it off & keep doing things – real or imagined

thought hurts, past & still-so-present-tense love

destroys my cadences idk maybe

it’s a good thing, this work becoming

at last understandable even

as you hone relief

structure calm

whittle me away