&

Travel Postcard in the Style of Benjamin West’s Treaty of Paris

You talk of outset & I
echo you: we’ll set out

left-footers. Isabella?
Neither of us asks.

The sphere at my feet
becomes an ellipse in

your hands and I thirst
for coastline as you drink

in miraged mesas, switch
back ridges. The blur at

this image’s edge is the
unaccounted for absent,

the chasm in our thinking.
You speak aloud: Chiasmus,

and we don’t mention I.
Her blur is reluctance or

the pleasance of green
field. A national culture

we each want for the other.
At night, your incantatory

alliterations ward off wolves,
weevils that would diminish

our digestives. I’m altered,
struck. But one of us moves

on in a lope or stride. Stern
words wait for our mouths

to catch up like the carved
sandstone homes of Kiet Siel.

The eked-out gorges at
Cheddar, I mutter, almost

as though you hear me.
The blur—–Isabella—–is

one of us bleeding
into the vista, a portrait’s

unfinishable figure.

 

 

Daylight Savings Time (Redux)

By the artificial lake there’s a scene

of Victorian misery, corseted
from this new century’s flash: milk

store-bought from a computer,

electronic speech from overhead
that sounds Slavic, the jobless milling

in the Jobcentre next to the Italian

you recognize from three High Streets
before. But go ahead, I’m told, have

a biscuit then brush off your trousers.

Heat lathers its hands, gets to work:
warped rail lines, birds sent to dovecote,

lovers undercover (blankets in parks).

There’s talk of ices and iced cider,
holiday packages out of Stansted.

The swollen river is a rich brown.
The roads shine like wet mirrors.

Like the boyhood dream of being

a wizard or a footballer, I’m
unhurried by meaning, hypothetical,

without ethic & lost for a cross breeze.


 

A Non-Linear History of the Continent

We’ve followed the succession
……………………………….of your serial killers:

garrotte, shotgun, nerve agent.
……………..A downloaded file

infects our random access memory
………………………………………………and shuts everything
down. Tabula rasa as data loss.
………………………So we try instead your

off-the-grid, back-to-the-ecological,
………………………………………………self-build (militia)
movements. We find crossbeams
…………detached from sidings,

the empty spaces from insulation
………………………………………..cavities left roadside.
Flotsam, jetsam, Uncle Sam;
…………………………..as cast off as apple pie or

the security lines on a national holiday.
……………………………………………….The significant
ruins have either rotted, been
………………..recycled, or were never

mapped, and we draw a blank
……………………………………..in the bank’s antique hive.
We stumble into your sporting legacies:
………..the horizontal plane the body

of the athlete makes completing
…………………………………………..the series win: the spectral
backspin of the ball in the spectated
…………………………………silence: the production

of championship rings
……………………………….and their subsequent emergence
on the fingers of Russian oligarchs
……………………………………………..dead-ending us. Blank

as unmarked trophy. We follow
…………………………………..locked wireless networks
into dead ends. Blank, we wait
…………….in the national security line,

empty our toiletries into plastic bags
…………………………………………………..patented against leaking
out over the scant possessions
…………………………we’ve held onto along the way:

green bills, loose change, discount
………………………………………………..coupons. We shortcut
through metallurgy only to wait,
…………………our experience one

of déjà vu, history a mistake worth
……………………………………..repeating because what
else is there? Another roadside diner:
……………………………………………………….its context lost in

the tradewinds, sandstorms, windrushes,
…………………stock shifts, gallows
humor, gunsmithery—–all we’ve failed
……………………………………………………to parse since dawn.

Report From the Unofficial Countryside

Past edge-land, past
poker-faced places
grim in earth, garrulous
with weeds, we find

the past to be a factory
past prime, less a palace
of industry than a plant
for industrious rodents

and weather alike:
a loose corporation
of brick and girder, full
of dusty machines fit

only for sentiment (curio
shops): mimeograph, dot
matrix, VHS. Note,
among the rubble: camper

vans, makeshift tents,
muddy tarpaulin slung
low between preexisting
pillars. Here, plastic bags

pass for birds; birds,
in this peripheral city,
have long since forgotten
flight in favour of forage;

they circle puddles
like winged inkblots,
cock their tremulous heads
at the airplanes that pass

over oblivious. The sun
holds as much promise
as a chocolate coin.
The clouds are fresh out

of rain. Smoke chuffs
from a house’s windows
in a neighbourhood no one
but the fire brigade visits.

Scientific Hypothesis in the Style of Benjamin West’s Treaty of Paris

The cityscape

nauseous at the suburbs as if history
is only ever at the outskirts or advance.

Everything else melts before July’s Bunsen.
But even the shapeless has a shape:

if my sweetheart the glacier is nowhere
to be found I’ll simply direct my love

to the lake she has become. Suppose
Isabella has been here all along, just quiet,

her words the soundless whip behind
our own. She’ll emerge like a balaclava

from under our ink and I’ll wonder what
it means when our simplest tastes—–biscuit,

lemonade, suspender—–bask in mystery
on either side of this post-colonial

precipice while we, at Atlantic length,
consider the cultural furnaces that smelt

from our same lead the cool metal
of national vanity. The blur we witness

at the edges, in the assembly line of our
mouths, is heat resisting responsibility.

My science clouds within this experiment.
Let this undecided season stand postscript.

 

The National Consciousness

plains, plains everywhere
—–Isabella Bird

I

Was it shucked you’d meant? Disrobed, as in
unburdened, as in all things that have been
unleavened—–held back from their own departure.

A bootheel gummed to the platform stepping off.
Branch line buffer. The stuck gate at the racetrack
which cages the greyhound bent on the bet hunt.

I’d have said divested but since the Pope’s gone
walkabout it’s a cloaked word, suggests
a manner of beneficence or boon. Or was it forgone?

 

II

Think back: it’s the moment at which the see-saw
gets set aside. (Realised it was going nowhere.) Not
tipping point not balancing act but pacified poise

& we were done with return, with the cyclical. Saw
in the plains in the fields in the suburbs repeating
not the repeat but the chance we might just swing

up or thud & not return. The places we insisted
our tongues to be if the way back could be unsaid,
teased into erasure——

 

III

Did it trouble you, as me, the young adult science kit
had test tubes that bounced when dropped?
The relatives feared we’d felt ourselves immortal—–

igniting commixtures without a hint of safety glass—–
when we merely felt there was nothing we couldn’t
take back. Water balloons, asphyxiation, the cyborg

sheriff’s tin badge. Any given Monday I resigned
myself from each responsibility I had—–the plains,
the captaincy—–to watch myself taken aback again.

 

IV

What I love about the pilgrims departed (I think
I do mean shucked) is the story of the oversized
mast that creaked the hull, twice holed the vessel.

Considerations at a slant from the begun project.
In repeating the voyage were we hoping to undo
the inflected waves, the shifts to our language—–me

saying movie, iced, horizontal—–by repeating them.
Like rebuilding the Titanic, or like rebuilding the
Titanic. Instead, I’ve spent my days dismantling

the swing set, swingball, watching two of the five
spheres in the chrome perpetual motion desktop
measure my misspent time in non-atomic seconds.

I find what won’t continue on untroubled, but I
continue on, troubled all the same, knowing it’ll break
me. It’ll break me right down to my last departure.