Monday, 10 December 2018

Listening to the Politics Results

We had Alien on the big screen. Clive watches it all the way through at least once a week. Then there are the daily screenings we let run each afternoon. He's writing an alternative version in which everyone listens to Ripley from the start.

Just then the film had reached the point when Ripley is trying to reason with her captain, Dallas, saying "wait a minute, if we let it in the ship could be infected".

We both looked up - I was reading a 90s novelisation of The Addams Family, while live-tweeting my reactions to it; Clive was watching The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner at double speed - a few seconds of peace passed between us.

"Listen to me", she was saying, "if we break quarantine then we could all die". We went back to our distractions.

We shared a part-time job turning down invitations. People out-sourced the writing of awkward messages - we were more than happy to write them for 25p a pop. Just then Clive was on shift and I could hear him tapping out message after message of rejection. All excuses and promises. Like me Clive probably wondered what we were missing out on, let alone our customers.

The only actual contact either of us had had with anyone in about a month, besides deliveries, was when a supposedly beautiful woman - probably a flying bot - knocked on the door, asking us to let her in so she could escape some "horrible bastards". Clive and I put the lesson of Ripley's caution to good use. We put headphones on to drown out the noise from outside.   

It was time for that quarter's national Politics results, so we turned the radio right up. Clive stowed his side screen. I put my tablet away. Even Ripley was muted.

"I can hardly breathe" - Clive was crouched down as he said this, looking like a man dealing with particularly egregious constipation.

"This is unreal" I said. "Don't even know how to think any more. I used to be so optimistic, but...".

Just then it started  There was the usual preamble - anachronistic language, unnecessary formality, but finally:"The ayes have it!".

I roared out in a way that startled us both and we started leaping about making a racket. It was the release of all releases. Once the initial shock and joy had passed I found that I couldn't stop pacing round the room. Meanwhile Clive was in floods of tears.

There was commotion outside. For the first time in months we opened the back door. Songs were drifting up from the street. Some incongruous whining could be heard from the balconies opposite us, but they were soon shouted down.

Clive and I joined in with the chorus of singing. We bounced up and down in time, great big grins on our faces, shouting "you're not singing, you're not singing, you're not singing anymore".

Sunday, 9 December 2018

1st attempt: magic 9

Recently I've been reading about the poetic form 'magic 9'. It uses an abacadaba rhyme scheme. I don't think the metre is restricted, so I've chosen to alternate between 5-syllable and 7-syllable lines. Interested to get feedback on that choice. Below is my 1st, quick attempt at writing in this form.


cosy evening in
while wind howls all round outside
sing with kith and kin
games together in the warm
no matter: lose/win
we discuss weather always
laughing at rain, Lynn!
watch the fire burn: it's Yuletide
wine, whiskey or gin?

Friday, 7 December 2018

Sins in the First Draft


First Draft Messages: to be posted under the line of articles where the sad transgressions of others have been revealed
  • I agree wholeheartedly that everything [insert name here] has done is reprehensible. He always did seem [creepy/like a proto-fascist...] to me. 
  • We must live in fear. There is no escape. Whatever you did, well, against that rough shit your face’s gonna scrape.
  • Above the clouds of Internet sit presiding judges with the cleanest records you've ever seen. In fact it’s possible that they have no past whatsoever, and have therefore never made a mistake.
  • The presiding judges of the Internet have lived in isolation among the caves and deserts of the saints and prophets. There they cultivated a fine taste for the distinctions in life. They sniff out slurs in ancient texts; tease out the tricky lines from traditional songs. They bathe in irony-proofing waters and drink down serious grog to sleep at night.     
  • Why write at all? Best simply take yourself off somewhere to reflect on the problematic thoughts you once accidentally dreamt up. "It's never crossed my mind" they say when asked if they've considered convention. They deign to smile benignly on us. Then they join hands and walk away from the vile desires that lay us, the damned, out on the rack.
  • I have sinned. I have sinned. How can I project to you, oh mother of all that is holy on the Internet, the joy I feel at the scorn you pour on me?

Friday, 30 November 2018

I think you are the ocean

I think you are the ocean
the depths sound the saddest song
a vein of emptiness splits the foundations in me
where the sun touches the peaks and sides of your every wave
a life rises up, dolphins in your wake
a murmuring choir of cormorants and such
darts thick as a single thread,
thin as breath across the entire seabed
your slow-moving eyes pass over a sunken kingdom
presiding Poseidon, you are the ocean

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

there are ghosts on the road

out in the Pingtung country
there are ghosts on the road
happens when you stop softly
the one sound's a single toad
making a single croak
in fifty-mile wide silence

this half-hour bike ride's on rails
stillness has become concrete
chill now after daylong heat
dogwood sports heads, roots for tails

and within this farmyard land
only odd streetlights at hand
stop near a tiny temple
hear music drifting gentle

cycling in silence alone
these are the things you are shown
plain as the river has flowed
there are ghosts on the road


I lived briefly in Pingtung. I used to ride my bike around a lot, including after dark. There was definitely something magical, and occasionally eerie, about the countryside there.

Monday, 26 November 2018

what we found under the tub


While fixing things up we have found many unexpected items. Today’s struggle involved sorting out the bath. We thought it probably wasn’t right to have water coming up through the floor. I mean, talk about having a DIY wet room/disaster zone.

It didn’t seem to matter until chunks of rotten wood floated up through the bathroom floor of our new home. That’s where we drew a grubby, damp line.

Now the tub is collapsed. The rotten wood is peeled away in smudges. We have tiles around us and a lot of something that seems to be made up of hair and ancient soap. Not a pleasant scene, but a starting point from which to find some artefacts. I’ll list our inventory below:

  • a potty brimful with murky water
  • an inscription beneath the sitting water - written in the concrete - this was something like Sumerian. I’m no expert
  • various screws  and tacks
  • pieces of pipe that were cut down and left lying around - the whole thing makes it seem like the plumber that installed this job 35 years ago left halfway through without tightening things off or clearing up after himself
  • a book - the most intriguing discovery, I think, as it’s somehow managed to escape the rot. It was above the sitting water by less than an inch and only because it had been wedged in against the tub. It’s not some literary classic, sure, but it’s interesting - a 1985 almanac that made us sad for the events we missed ever seeing

All told the most important thing we found was something of ourselves. Oh, and we fixed the leak. Watch this space for more DIY news.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Falling Asleep to Puppet Theatre

I wrote a poem about 5 years ago when I was staying at a guesthouse in Taidong in Taiwan - it was about falling asleep in front of the telly, on which there was a programme of Taiwanese puppet theatre playing. I've just been reading about, and watching videos of, the brilliant Murray Lachlan Young. The following poem is my 5-minute attempt to rewrite that old poem, while emulating Young's rhymes:

and when you slump down in your chair
vision starts to go: eyes dropping, drooping
whether it's bedtime or not, you do not care
your thoughts wander to ancient gods swooping
as your dreams gather your mind's eye sets
to lightning scooping

and though really it's just the telly noise
from where you're sat it's become really real
so that on-screen battles of toys fighting toys
become burning exchanges: every blast you feel
as one mystic being kills another again you think 
you yourself have been run through with steel

then you wake up and realise where you are
it's just a front room with a fan going and a TV on 
someone outside's just pulled up in a car
all that fear and apprehension might well be gone
but still on the goggle box
a wild witch floats past, graceful as a swan

what's puppet theatre anyway, when storms gather outside
watching children's programmes in a foreign land
I really do need a guide