I steal these faces from random strangers
rendered mute by heat and humidity.
Patient one-eyed predator, I pounce,
ferry expressions home in a black box,
stash them neatly labelled with the rest,
a hide where August nurtures a flint heart.
Glints of winter wriggle out through the cracks
to the sunshine, steal the shape of rain
through the window, bouncing mad on the slate.
The sun returns but the heart remains chill.
My thoughts skirt round it like a survey team.
Where is the source? It shows no signs of thaw
reaching out to grab September’s shirt tails.
The faces point. It’s lodged behind my ribs.
Summer decays like a love unreturned.
Greens will fume to bruises, gaping scars
vexing warm with rage till they crumble, just
something we want to pass away, to die.
Half of September left now, the sun’s heart
still rages red, but waning. It lessens
like pain from a burn or a wound. He drags
his hot feet, gone all awkward to leave us.
I imagine me, holding my back to you.
We can’t set the leaves from their crimson turn
before they bleed into forgetfulness.
‘Oh well,’ they say, ‘That’s life,’ through parchment lips.
I count the leaves like sheep that will not jump,
or even try. Just wait there, shaded. Stained.
She wants to implement a dress code now
having slithered in just a week ago,
claimed a desk with a view of the orchard.
She’s started sending e-mail like a friend.
And she sings like the snake from Jungle Book.
Her coils are lithing round my office chair.
They leave pale scales, abraded, on the floor.
She’s squeezing me, constricting me to rage.
We’ve met her before in other gardens;
different faces, different sexes even.
It was her, that dead-behind-the-eyes look
as she hissed out ‘implement the dress code!’
Her name is Legion, or maybe Wardrobe.
‘Trust in me,’ she sighs. Holds out an apple.
I keep this secret of a sacred road,
whittle words into bright things with sharp points.
I give free advice to those who listen
I give the invoices to those who don’t.
I was sent godfree from the holy hills
to trap souls and save them in a black box.
Sometimes I mess with paint and people’s heads.
Comedy seeds I plant in the world’s hard ground,
small round jokes about the hydra’s back teeth.
I have a man who loves me as I am
I carry solar systems in my head,
make love like the guilt of a forgotten crime
I stalk the streets in search of mystery
but there’s a monkey on my back, driving.
Come with me. We’ll look for the old places
from the dawn of Amstrad when the net was
just a twinkle nesting in the eyes of geeks,
when you and I had hair and typewriters.
Unwind me from this, spool me back to the
super-eight clattering magic of light
and the night Nick Cave first appeared like god
from a vinyl circle, pointing to the sites.
I’ve sifted through the strata of t-shirts,
found no remains of our conversations
long drowned by buses rumbling away
like the passing of a saurian race.
Look! There’s a fossilised Olivetti
half-buried. Its blunt teeth may spell… something.
Racing like sperm for the welcoming bus doors,
old random act of desperate access,
we are somehow united in one aim.
Lost in this unnatural press of strangers
throwing instincts into a gene panic.
Though still we sit in pairs like chromosomes.
The oyster island stare is then deployed,
eyes glazing past the ears of those on board
these barrels of dodgy DNA.
They’re not accepted. Faces draw a blank
against those lists we’ve captured in our heads;
the tallied loved and hated, lost, betrayed.
These passengers could be first class but they
are just untested genes, at least today.
Everyone waiting here was once in love
They’ve been through this experience, survived,
and all have come to have the time preserved
like rich binary jam in this, the love machine.
It will rip their love to digital bits
then convert it to a small dot love file.
Users can log in to experience
the passion and the pain, the sublime bliss,
the agony of loss, red betrayal
staining the curtains, the rapture of sex
and the ubiquitous raging madness.
All can be rescued for posterity.
The queue is long, but they wait patiently.
Their love will now be truly eternal.
I don’t know why I let you drive me mad.
The meter started ticking when I flagged
your cab that night and it’s still running.
I’m in that seat beside you, cruising
neon days, weeks months of nightshift bonus.
Crankshaft oil and water, yearning fusion
by some absurd alchemical process.
Every time I slide into that old seat
we grate the spark to clutch, to rev, to go.
I hear the slamming of passenger doors
on a summer night but i’m here alone
waiting, road and streetlights, trees and I.
You are The Flying Cabman coming back
cursed every hundred days. There is no brake.
I want to be a businessman and dress up every day
tied and booted, shirted, suited in a soaring building,
one that gleams like a mound of burning termites at sunset;
thrusts its luminance into the river’s shattered belly.
I want to be a businessman with a mirror topped desk
and a view facing out across twenty-four towers,
shadowfingering the sun over the city’s timeface.
suits ping-pong like photons around the dial.
I want to be a businessman with a bluetoothed ear
and a browntongue mat for genuflexion.
I will slot neatly into the grind of the great machine
which sparks and hums across the pratosphere
with an esoteric logic of levels and worship.
There will be order, on demand. I will demand and order it.
i on my mobile outside the blue chicken shop
see you, bright bantam-eyed, watching my empty voice
bounce on the pavement like blanks from a rain gun.
do you have my face locked safe behind your face?
you’ve seen me before, i know, haunting your space,
just in case, just in case, you escape to my head
where your face is already locked safe behind mine.
i will carry this with me under the river
through tunnels, down stairs on a long twisted journey
home to the west where i sit and assemble
the negative space round your head, shape an absence,
but more, to have captured your essence in ink and
to know when i’m ancient that there was this moment.
your face will be there, as it was, framed in words.