From Surveyors’ Riddles


At nothing o’clock
the light has no time.
A step and I’m anywhere:
each minute is mine.

Around me the frontiers
creak and crack,
slipping by the minute
in the blinding outback.

Below me the coal,
the nickel and cobalt
as I wait for the tankers
and the windpowered boats.






The time was a second to none
where the photon lost its face
I was one pace from being lost
and a mile from being found

I could hear the borders buckling
and the strata arching below
my eyes loosed from their sockets
my limbs were satellites

while a mile down from my footfall
minerals were crusting like loaves
the ocean had melted corporations
and left them for dead.



Nothing was late yet again,
the panting search teams out
but almost at kilojoules’ end
in the blizzards of the Home Counties,

making supply dumps of fingers and toes.
Then they glimpsed the nutritional church,
whose trolleys were clashing ice-floes,
its welcome towers Titanic icebergs,

where flags waved like lettuce.
They rubbed their unshaven chins,
and frostie eyes. Nothing was forgotten
as they scrambled for the vitamins.



What was on time was not
So they sent out feelers
And expended themselves in Berkshire
All for a waste of breath

And frostbite on their cornflakes
Before the great domed Tesco’s
The one on the ring road, just
Where the ice field melts

And the bean sprouts in their trolleys
Wilted. They had chanced,
This once, this never, upon
The fountain of doomed youth.



Resurrection Services were down
across most of the South-East.
Farmers wished back the Danes,
their law-and-order host.

Wilfred Owen was sipping
his platform tea, late for work.
He couldn’t get any reception.
Nothing for it but to walk.

Across the planet the bean-sprouts
were crouching in their trenches,
the bankrupt waiting for tranches,
the money wriggling like sprats.



Another Frankenstein Meat scare, this
time the horses were involved, herds
had been rerouted from Denmark
their DNA recoded as Hengest

while out-of-work war poets mumbled
into their dumb phones and station staff
moved them along. They’d heard of openings
somewhere near Staines, perhaps,

and would have to explain that the station
the train had stopped at was never
Adlestrop, closer to Hell, but the bonus
had been compelling. Maybe it was Slough.



The Dracula Fish were cleaning
the numbing seabed of the bacon,
as it sank like the limbs of Saxons
into their mouths. Like an army of clones,

a swarm of submersible mobiles
swam by in the sunless water,
took pictures and without waiting
posted them to Tumblr,

while sad station announcements topside
rang through Edward’s ears
in their Proto-Indo-European
as he headed for The Office.



It is time for ‘new blood’ if you get what I
mean. Let’s chuck out the pigs and stick
with those we can trust. If you weren’t born
here, fuck off to wherever you were.

This island nation is sinking under
the weight of the sun. Roll down your windows
and shout: we want to repeal
the human rights act, for a start.

Then to get the trains running to schedule
and reinstall the ancient line of
Sumer. Their descendants now work
in HR, and feel they could ‘move on’.



We are basically horizontal humans,
but less careerist, and cleaner,
in law enforcement a homophone,
left for the lady who does the cloning.

My appraisal with Ms Kubaba
resembled barbecue sauce.
She asked and typed my answers.
What were my current targets?

“A roof above my head.
Food on the floor.” The HP ink
kept coming. “Anything to add?”
My porcine rights. Oink oink.



When a manager is ‘on the level’
It means that their manager has
Already raised your poor performance.
They have tracked those emails you sent

On work time and have long
Been monitoring your lunch breaks.
Once you came to your desk
Circled with out of focus

Carrion birds and reeking of we think
Ginger, aura-flows discharge
Across the open-plan like
A herd of misheard homonyms.



“Ed, if things were down to me
we wouldn’t be having this talk.
But when your lunchtime takes
forty-four minutes, that’s more

than our shareholders will accept.”
I felt as if my firewall
were down, doused, circumvented.
I chewed my gingersweets. Meanwhile,

my inbox expands and expands,
though one far day in the future
it will start to contract to a featureless
single zero-mass point.



I was more than half way through life’s
wood, I would not say I was lost but I could not
see my way. I sat down and got out my sandwich
and before I knew it I was having 20 winks,

and the Lord came to me in my sleep
and lifted me above the walls of paradise.
He showed me my leafy grandparents,
just reaching for that decisive divisive

fruit. I woke to find my lunchbox empty
and no memory of having eaten my
‘petit filou’. The birds sang mockingly.
A squirrel dropped something from a tree.