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Commiserate March – JO Morgan

March 18, 2014

jomorganRyan and JO Morgan will be performing this poem along-side some mind-bending music and visuals as part of Decagram at the Hidden Door Festival. They’ll be playing with Lipsync for Lullaby & Hiva Oa. The whole event is going to be in the key of Major. More details here. Thursday 3 April, 7pm.

Ryan says: I am an unabashed fan of JO Morgan‘s work. His beautiful books from CB Editions are amongst my favourites and his ability to write a long poem remains inspiring. If you haven’t yet read his poetic biography of boyhood on the Isle of Skye (Natural Mechanical) than you are in for a treat and I recommend you treat yourself soon. By far this is the most ambitious collaboration I’ve undertaken partly due to JO’s penchant for the sustained and partly because I didn’t quite realise how many signs there are in the zodiac until it was too late. Enjoy! x

ALL
SIGNS

VAN WINKLE ~ MORGAN

ARIES

Today is a good day to think about Rome. Ancient footprints. Worn leather sandals. Blood and bile sluiced out into the streets. If you were born in the morning, ask yourself: what have you managed to build? If you were born at night, consider how even a paper boat may cut quickly forgotten paths along the gutter.

(Every country has its Rome: the pinnacle, or else
the pit, towards which every tributary flows,
and with that flowing: all the effluence that wants
for higher life. Although the gold, hammered out
to near translucence, does eventually flake off;
scratches are too easily made, exposing all that rot
so long ignored beneath; while those others who
live any great way from the core have lost all care
in such postures; have lost much care in themselves;
they gather together, form insular groups; they turn
circles, watch for the lone interloper; are astonished
when one of their number breaks ranks, and how
he departs with such abject abandon, to scatter
confetties of cranes, of lilies, about him as he goes.)

TAURUS

You’ll find yourself wanting to pay more attention to the hefted silver sickle of the moon, but it’s the shifting of the earth you should be mindful of. If you have forever lived looking out over the circle sea, you should try sleeping tucked in a doorway, once in a while. Otherwise, lower your head, shoulder the construct you never intended to build, and sharpen what horns you have left; now is the time to see red. There are rewards for breaking all the china.

(The question of piercings is paramount: some prefer
to linger in painful reminder of how we may never
maintain true liberty; that though some may dance
unadorned, their picture of freedom is no more
than mere fiction. For we all know it’s the gelding
who runs the longest race; that to hold yourself intact
is to lie apart, heavy with underused muscle, alone
within your pig-ploughed field; that sometimes there
are benefits in permitting yourself to be led by the nose.)

GEMINI

You feel inclined to admit you can only get rich by taking from other people. It’s best to abort all efforts to give new names to every visible star, to muse on what awaits you in heaven. It’s okay sometimes to think only of your own troubles. Before, you were an empty bucket; now you need filling with strong clear liquor, with wet smoke, music, fried chicken. Imagine yourself as a neat set of tracks in the dust, tracks that will soon disappear beneath the lightest push of air.

(Most are separated when still in infancy, and so
grow up never knowing of their doubles or that
they are themselves not whole, except for a niggling
suspicion, felt first at the onset of puberty, that
some where there is some one, some other who
may fully comprehend them, inside and out, and
who, with a mere glance sees through their everything,
and knows they too have likewise been examined, that,
for a moment, their similar souls have co-mingled,
spun, and again come apart – yet weightier than before.
These all-too-brief connections occur just as readily
between two shoppers in a hardware store reaching
both for blue methanol, as between two outcasts
combing through the warm red ash for rice grains
spilt from a corner-torn sack. The separation
is always worse this second time around. Most
are able to suppress their new yearning while others
may create a semblance of sanity only by repeating
to themselves in times of anguish: she is there
and I am here, she is there and I am here, she
is there and I am here – till balance is restored.)

CANCER

Childhood was a school of self-disgust and insecurity. You need to reach out and scratch those you love into some kind of wakefulness; things may grow beyond the point where you have any lasting influence if you delay. You have become an easy target for oblivion, sat alone on a raft of rot-wood, adrift on an ocean that’s set to expand exponentially.

(When the crisis, long expected, hits,
there’s no recourse to the coping devices
built up for your protection; despite best intentions
of being the last one standing, of beating back
whatever you’ve been forced to bear, still,
without warning, the carapace cracks
and squeezes your too-soft body out,
now fully exposed to what you know
you cannot hope to endure; all that remains
is to hide away your rawness under stones
till in the dark somehow you find the means
by which to re-harden your skin.)

LEO

Late at night you’ll wake turgid and sheetless, will understand that kindness is as scarce, as priceless, as the milk of queens. Because there is no moon, and no one will see, you’ll find yourself, rising, going outside, shrugging your robe to the lawn as you look for the deepest black between the spinning stars. Here is where you draw the draught of milk that asks you for no second gulp. Your friends think you ferocious, in your cravings, in your guile; even they don’t know of your timidity, the bleat of fear you muffle with your cloak.

(Out of strength came sweetness, though the bees
didn’t grow nor burst from rotting bones, they chose
instead to structure their house amidst the brittle ribs
of the golden corpse – there to manufacture living food;
food which, as milk, need not be killed to be consumed,
both juices freely flowing; though unequal in viscosity.
Now mixed and tinned for your convenience, take care
not to wrap your tongue too tight to the pleasure
of a dunked then swiftly twisted spoon, as you sit
cross-leggéd beneath the lonely spread of tamarisk,
while some scrawny thing, with hunger glowing,
stalks you from within the long dry grass.)

VIRGO

The sky and all its circles tell us that the ones we love must some day take their final leave. This is no shortcoming of the stars, nor is it laziness to remind us of the things we struggle daily to ignore. Simply, you must accustom yourself to the disagreeable taste and texture of another’s bread – how bitter it can be, how stringy, how dry. As soon as it feels right to do so: share a long-kept secret with a lover while they sleep; memorise the underlying blueprint of their bones; trace and trace again the soft green highways of their veins. For one day, understand, you will be driving, just driving; you will not be lost, you’ll merely realise how, today, you have nowhere to go.

(In the same way it can be hard to differentiate
between the melting sensation stirred in your gut
as your lover passes close and the nausea welled
as your driver feathers the clutch, so is it hard
to be sure that what you feel in interconnecting
your self with that one other self is in any way different
to how you’d feel with another such self so inclined.
Is that ignored uncertainty the best way for any new life
to be begun? If only there were a way to take out
what lies in you and mix it with what lies in her;
a curious magic that operates far beyond touch
while you both stand, calmly, before one another,
unmoving but for the shivers that ripple across
your naked skin, that could be mere coolness:
a night breeze slipping in from the balcony; or
some other sensation, growing, as yet unnamed.)

LIBRA

You might spend the day full-ensconced in your bed watching TV in nothing but knickers and vest dunking chocolate digestives in coffee kept hot in the vacuum flask that you stole when you were still in your teens. This is fine for the world beyond your world is too full of airheads demanding your participation in social engagements they only indulge in because it allows them to feel more connected to people as clueless as they are regarding their need to be seen taking part. Or you might spend all day outdoors, just walking, hands in pockets, while your shadow shrinks to meet you, creeps again outwards behind, to cover up the fallen leaves your restless feet have kicked aside. This too is good for you as you’ve been feeling very heavy, and you do not wish to give in to the weaknesses built up through lethargy, defeating dizziness by making sure your feet stay active, closer to the ground.

(The shelves may be lined with book after book
on the rules for proper living, written by men
who knew no more nor less than any other men;
while, outside the land is full of beasts, who,
being free, have no recourse to wrongfulness,
are free to fuck or rip each other limb from limb,
who look up with bloodied muzzle for the reproach
that never comes, nor even the shake of a head. But
man feels safe within the houses man alone has built;
can cast out other men who disagree with how
this house is run. And it is right to live this way.
Nonetheless, when the door stands open, be it
into frost or mud or sun-hot sands, and you
without your shoes stand on the doorstep looking out,
it is no less right to hitch up your skirts and go.)

SCORPIO

It is only an arbitrary conduit towards theoretical recapitulation; don’t let yourself get so heated by things beyond your control. People will spit the word phony right in your eye. Even those who live far away, babbling incomprehensively, understand that a foolish man is a man who hankers after childlike ignorance. Don’t worry about the scales that blinker your sight, most will acknowledge you aren’t the one to blame. Let yourself listen to songs nobody seems to like but you. Learn it’s possible to walk on water; how birds see air as just another fluid to be swum through. Don’t broadcast the link; not this time and never again; don’t send another positive word into the maw.

(I am the most at risk from my own violence.
A chance remark from you and down I plunge.
I wish to mark my mistakes yet can’t come close
in case the poison bubbled up in me somehow
seeps into you. Simple household tools transform
into potential weaponry. If the fruit-knife finds
a skin not fit to bite so its point will turn inward.
I dare not release the pressure built up in my heart.
All I can do to hold myself back is to race on
ahead of my thoughts, there to sever the cord
that connects them to action, whilst trying ever
to repair the faulty link. Don’t risk your sensibility
in securing my comfort. You needn’t endure this.
I am not fit to know you, nor be friend to anyone.)

SAGITTARIUS

All arrows; no target. You hold your head up, stretch the sinew, shoot, because – what else can you do? It might make more sense to close yourself into the basement; to synchronise the beat behind your eyes against the chugging of the pipes. If there is no basement: try the stairs. You are so full of points you can no longer move outside yourself with any honesty. You’d be far better off relinquishing your scattergun approach, to fix your aim on one green apple in an orchard as vast as the sea, as multifarious as stars.

(You may hunt to survive, or for sport, or as
a lonely act of war, though your technique
remains the same for each; your soft footfall,
your muscles taut, intent to kill, your greed
for being the only one left standing, till
on pushing aside dry leaves you see her
bathing in a oil-black pool, overhung by rock,
and as you lift your gun to line its notches
on the scoop of skin between her shoulders
so she turns and sets her creamy almond eyes
against your blue; she has you now; you’re hers;
but she is gentle in her wild possession, lets you
watch her wade yet closer; lets you see
the dark rim of her long lips tightening;
only then are you able to put down your gun
and back off, forgetting her – letting her be.)

CAPRICORN

What gets called new blood is so often no more than the same old red paint, just thickened and darkened with age. You need to make more of an effort. Delays on the subway will always require you to question your mortality. Make it look like you’re checking your watch, and for God’s sake don’t cry – it won’t get you anywhere near where you wanted to go. Push your shoulders back until you can be certain on the tension and length of your spine. Don’t fall for the trap of investing emotions in other people’s transitory problems. Being mostly water, through and through, remember you know how it feels to be caressed.

(Take two small goats, one fine, one average.
Keep the one of better breeding pure. Allow it
cream instead of milk so that its coat is glossy,
full, so that its softened skin is without spot.
Bring it indoors on cold nights. Sing it to sleep.
Put the lesser beast to the hill; strengthen its gut
with coarse dry grass; let its hair grow tangled,
thick as thorn; fill its belly with young; prolong
its pain in removing its pre-weaned kids, so that
each day it aches to contain such presses of milk.
And then, at the perfect moment, kill the other:
the coddled, virginal, hand-reared animal; let it
live on in the bound spines of books; as gloves,
fine knitwear; in casseroles, pâté, hors d’oeurves.
Let its sibling continue unknowingly, just as before:
more kids, more milk, its small neat hoofprints
divergent, repeated, for ever and ever, where
change favours only the fortunate, not the most fit.)

AQUARIUS

The things we do to try and keep our children good: milk always fresh in the fridge, but you never do know what may turn a child bad. A trip to the play-park ends in the dismemberment of a hitherto favoured plush toy. A bowl of warm apple purée for dessert begs a fire in the toolshed not long after the rains. Some mornings: an orgy of dresses, slapped over the front lawn, brittled by frost. Sometimes your only recourse is to leave them be; if you don’t you’ll soon find yourself flooded with exhaustion, unable to retaliate, unable to move.

(All light poured in is stripped out by degrees. Red
is the first to go, along with its associated warmth:
the blood drained, thinned to wishy-washy pinks
and peaches, juiceless oranges. Then yellow
gives up quick – as was ever to be expected;
its plasmic aide to the living condition, held back,
so that green is forced out too, can no longer breath.
Most try to hold position at these easier earlier levels
though some will push on to dwell within blue, peering
over its border into an ever continuing gloom. Even in
the midst of all that nothingness survival is still
possible, so long as the bright beam of your lifeline
remains intact; though you’ll need to compress
all of your wits not to fade away into the black,
which sucks as sharply as it penetrates, which can’t
be reasoned with, doesn’t love you, only hurts.)

PISCES

The rain comes down so fast one can forgive that inarticulate homesickness for anything-that-matters. As the seas rise think fondly of the whale, easing its bulk with the currents, blowing out hard before each breath new-held. The whale has no great aim, seeks no golden ticket, is as much a part of the stars as the dust it ingests. For weeks the whale is content to hang in a column of water, to press its face to the sheen of kept-out air, to fill its cold cathedral with lament. But here, if it rains for more than you can bare, you will be forgiven if you write in your diary: stretch me no longer across this rough and presupposing world.

(It’s like wearing yourself inside out, allowing
the world to flow over you, through you, to filter
the mica from the muck, to let that thickness
in which each small good dwells, pass right on
and out. Though it is important to move, to stir
the world-stuff in travelling through it; so that
what gets taken in is always fresh, is balanced
by what is given to gain it. With no movement
the stagnant home-space is soon exhausted
of anything worth having, yet still you go on
drawing in, to grow fat on mere stuff, such
a bloat you become unrecognisable, till in you
but a few grains of goodness remain, no more
than microscopic morsels, adrift in the gloop
that once was you, as your border dissolves,
as you join with all that other gloop, drift off,
to be filtered by a more deserving passer-by.)

***

JO says: “Having not given the idea of collaboration much thought, there was a certain amount of reluctance to take part in this; but Ryan is a guy it’s hard not to like. It was left to him to choose the subject we would use as a launch-pad for the work, and it wouldn’t be true to say I was in any way pleased with what he settled on; but it wasn’t my place to make a fuss, so I kept quiet. I had little idea of how it would all work so when his first bit of text came through I merely responded to it in a way I felt might be of some interest as companion piece. The parentheses seemed wholly natural to the tone being created. After that had been done, and sent back, I started to see how the full work may look; I started to get the shape of it. I liked it; liked what it could become. I don’t know what process Ryan used to come up with his half-sections; I feel he had the harder task: to think of something fresh each time. I merely needed to respond to whatever he came up with; trying not to think about the up-coming sign till his new block of text came through; and trying then to respond to it as quickly as I could – apart from on one occasion, where I became impatient, and a thought came to me before I had a chance to block it, and I sent my half-section to him first. I suspect I’m not such a good person to collaborate with. But I like Ryan no less now than before – and I like too the new work we’ve come up with; even if it is a bit on the short side, overall.

The Point is You Give: Camaradefest on the Culture Laser

November 5, 2013

The Camaradefest was a unique one day explosion of dynamic collaboration in contemporary avant garde and literary poetics. 100 poets aligned in 50 pairs, each writing an original collaborative work, written specifically for the festival and premiered on the day. We feature 4 of the pairs – Marcus Slease & Claire Potter, Stephen Watts & Will Rowe, Julia Bird & Sarah Hesketh, Ghazal Mosadeq & Ricardo Marques – and discuss the thinking behind the process with SJ Fowler.

Commiserate October – William Letford

October 31, 2013

Commiserate is a monthly experiment in poetic collaboration.

October, 2013: William Letford – The Beat is Your Foot

Ryan Van Winkle & William Letford

Ryan Van Winkle & William Letford

 

Says Ryan: I was very glad when SJ Fowler asked if I’d collaborate with my old friend William Letford for his epic CamaradeFest at the Rich Mix in London. The poem started with a text message Letford got during Reel Festivals’ UK tour and evolved with the help of some brilliant of curve balls. Comma cow cow yiki!

 

The Beat is Your Foot

I am reading your book
it’s pretty dark
where I am right now

sitting with another
life on fire
another job well done

Then

Yesterday, I lay down
on the tarmac
of a Tesco car park

and bench pressed
a shopping trolley
The kids knew

Some of the elderly did too
I’m happy for the rest

to believe I was drunk
or crazy  coma cow cow yiki

Now

people are going home
green purple salmon
our lantern, the soft moon

paved over rivers
something is going on
something is scratching

There are gaps of grief
coma cow cow yiki yiki ay
and art to shinplaster over

these cracks are contagious
coma cow cow yiki
and all the wolves

howl to get in
and weren’t we
roaring lions

No

You were the wolf
I was the lion
I still am, coma cow cow yiki

mice whisper and see
I was getting
your dark book yesterday

i was sober enough
two stories high
everything made sense

the trolly, the size
of my house, width
of my mothers arms

Now

I’m using my hands
tracing emotions in the air
sadness is an arc

you must not push – slide
happiness is a single point
and my heart beats

Yes

chiki down chiki dee down
down down gi doom bong    bong
gi doom bong gi dibby dibby

coma cow cow yiki yiki ay
chiki down chiki dee down

down down gi doom bong    bong
gi doom bong gi dibby dibby
It’s like my hands

are where magic is
and the beat is your foot
in my spoiled, toothless mouth.

Says William: Ryan was in Australia and I was in the North East of Scotland. I’m glad technology has moved forward otherwise our collaboration would’ve involved quills and month long journeys over land and sea and the death of some postmen, and the death of some sailors, and us growing older with painful dental problems. As it was i threw words in his direction which instantly found him and whenever they came back they were better than before.

We duet-ted the poem in London and I loved hearing it out loud. Smiled all the way through it. Even though we have the internet I suspect we’re growing older anyway. My teeth feel okay though.

William Letford has received a New Writer’s Award from the Scottish Book Trust and an Edwin Morgan Travel Bursary from the Arts Trust of Scotland. His first collection, Bevel, was published by Carcanet Press in 2012. He has received rave reviews for his work which combines experimental structure with cadences and accents of ordinary speech to produce “moments of transcendental insight” (The Guardian).

Culture Laser Collaborates

July 9, 2013

In this edition of the Culture Laser I have a chat with Ed Stack of Ten Tracks and Decagram about his project to bring collaboration to the music community in Edinburgh, Rachel Anderson of Small Feet Little Toes & Dave Wheatley are also here to tell us about their collaboration, and we get the chance to hear tracks from both of them and also the track Supersonic Speed Freak from Numbers Are Futile.

And it’s all at the click of a little sideways triangle.

Ryan Reads with SJ Fowler in the Enemies Project

June 27, 2013

3The next installment of the Enemies Project will be a two week exhibition of visual art & avant-garde poetry in collaboration at the Hardy Tree Gallery (119 Pancras Road, London, NW1 1UN) July 6th to 20th 2013, with the space open for viewing 12-6pm July 7, 11-14, 18-20, and featuring seven events over the fortnight.

I’ll reading from our ‘Suburbs’ sequence with SJ Fowler on the 18th in London as part of POW. POW is an excellent pamplet series, and Chrissy Williams’  Murder, She Wrote, a kind of dark love letter to Angela Lansbury, was one of my reading highlights of last year.

All the events are free, and it would be lovely to see you there. You can see a bit of the work SJ Fowler and I did on my Commiserate page.

Commiserate IV: Katherine Leyton

April 8, 2013

Commiserate is a monthly experiment in poetic collaboration.

April, 2013: Katherine Leyton

 

notes to a husband

I.

When I feed the ducks
my hard heels of bread

I hate how the black-
necked geese often do not care

for my crumbs.
That’s not really news

but it’s what I care
to report.

II.

The bed is cold ground
when you’re gone

my obsessions sweat
through the sheets
and I blink
at the ceiling

as it lowers itself.
In the morning
I think about our kitchen window–
the time a sparrow collided with our reflection

we’d been eating toast
hands gripping mugs
everything like any day.

III

When I swim
I know only swimming

this water remembers my body

you will come back and say
I’ve memorized every inch of you

but your hands will feel cool
strange and I will shudder the first time

your mouth moves for my skin.

IV

My bookshelves prove
I will keep expanding
like a universe, unchecked

V

When you are here
and sitting still
I make you read to me

I lay my head in your lap
and you get nervous:
“She gave him his eyes, she found them
Among some rubble, among some beetles.”

You stumble
and I reach up and put my hand
to your neck.

VI.

I don’t know whether to answer the telephone
or the emails or the door. I am too drunk

to eat fish. Windows or not,
your eyes are broken

and we have conversations
in my head like a television

on somewhere,
letters I don’t send.

VII.

Your job is to be forgotten
but present. A rattling

glass eye or some trashy
romance novel I never read

but refuse to throw away.

VIII.

Call me.
Call me and don’t say anything.
Call me and pray.
Call me and talk for the dead.

I will call you.
I will call you when my legs open wider.
I will call you when yolk sticks on the plate.
I will call you when night wakes me.

Call me when you buy carrots / when you feel like a run / it is raining / the bus is late /
you stop to help an old woman up the stairs/ I will call you

when i notice the moon again / when i rinse out the bottles / before the trash / must go out / call and there are no answers / no endings / i will call you when i remember
what it is / i entered / the kitchen for

Katherine says: I’m a bit of a fascist when it comes to my poetry, so I’ll admit I found this exercise very frustrating at first, especially since Ryan took the lead on it and decided both the context and the opening stanza.

Here, Ryan says, go anywhere you want, but only in this room. Or, in this case, be anyone you want, but only in the confines of this marriage.

In the end, of course, constraints are wonderful things because they challenge you to go places in your writing you normally wouldn’t.

And working with Ryan is exciting: what I like about his work is that it explodes in these unexpected places into deep grooves and melodies that I really want to get into, be a part of, and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to do that. I’m really glad he asked me to participate in this project.

Ryan says: Originally from Canada, I’ve known Katherine since her days of study in Edinburgh. Her mature, considered, (occasionally angry) voice and rare concern for The Poem struck me from our very first workshop together and, indeed, my first collection remains indebted to her eyes.

Since then she’s been at work on her craft and it has been my privilege to read her poems as often as she cares to send them along. Having just read her recently finished first manuscript, I remain excited about the future.

Katherine’s poems have appeared in places like The Malahat ReviewThe Edinburgh Review, and Room. She was also the founder one of the more exciting poetry projects I’ve seen in a long time — How Pedestrian. Without any funding or sponsorship, Katherine took poetry to the streets and got random people in random places to read poems aloud. You’ll want to dip into the project. But, first, have a read of our poem which was loosely inspired by a Tomaz Salumn poem which might have been called ‘Notes to My Wife’ (though, I’m not 100% positive) but was definitely in ‘A Ballad for Metka Krasovec‘.

Read More From Commiserate 2013

Commiserate the Third: Kirsten Irving

March 4, 2013

‘Commiserate’ is an experiment in poetic collaboration born out of SJ Fowler’s Enemies project. As part of his reading series at Rich Mix, he invited Kirsten Irving and I to collaborate.

March, 2013: Kirsten Irving

 

Kirsten says: I loved collaborating with Ryan. His initial suggestion of a title fired up plenty of ideas, and the process was pretty organic. It’s actually the most enjoyment I’ve had from writing in ages – it had the feel of a versus game, which really fitted the theme – and I’d love to do it again. The final piece was a mixture of pathos, strangeness and dark humour, reflecting both of our personalities while taking us both off at an angle. You need these kinds of collaboration to refresh your work and remind you that poetry can be massively enjoyable and surprising.

When we performed live Kirsten brought a mournful cello backing track and nemesis slide show:

 “Notes to a Nemesis”

 

Notes to a Nemesis

 

 

And yet, I want to see you again if only

to wrap in my arms if only
to hear one last breath, your eyes
green as shame before closing

*

How I worried when I met you that 
my third ear, my garish legs
would fast become a gripshift
for those neat-nailed hands of yours.

*

a smile is a shield
and like a shield can cover
or casket. Our minds contain
space and oceans dark 
but opposite

*

if you miss the tear
you miss the point

*

So come to me
when the clouds crawl in
like spectral sloths
when the pyrex cracks in the oven. Meat.
We are nothing but meat; hot on the table,
cold on the ground.

*

Where were you
when the police came?
When they took me away
in standard issue cuffs
and made me fill forms
as though I were not a day-god.

*

Back when I was engaged
with Frost, it was easy
to imagine an ice palace
a globe of glass and snow
delicate and easy to drop
what now, but rain, what now
but a globe of fire and ash?

*

Back. Back, I say,
and the worst thing is that you obey.

*

Maybe you have found yourself
and no longer fight as I do.
Maybe I should help the trapped blackbird
who, having hopped under my bike cover, 
is frantic and sevenbird, all a-seizure,
dashing his fine wings 
against pitiless plastic.

*

Onward to the parade
let the wild rumpus begin
the sad, constant 
march never ends, oh
the broken hearted living
the red balloon sagging
in a corner, what is heavier
the human heart or
the bald tires of a dozen
useless humvees?

*

You burned my house down

*

I’d do it again.
I’d hold my hand to the fire’s black heart
as though I were commanding it.
And when you came back, maybe
you’d think I was commanding it.

*

Twisted dishcloth of my belly!
Half-buried bulb of my jaw!
I would wrench off the furless front of me
and guddle out all the kinked guts 
like yards and yards of chewed calamari
if it would help. If it would change me.

*

Wasn’t I a painter
blue canal, red smear 
of breast, a wall 
of black you could fall into
a dot of light on the horizon
a train shuddering 
loose, a light you wouldn’t
hope to see.

*

And wasn’t I once a meteor’s harp,
tucked in its megafire arm nook,
bombing towards this planet
in my jazzy silver suit?

*

How I wish for my old stance:
the conch shell of my chest,

feet shoulder-width apart and chin
tilted up, catching adulation
and hatred, soaking it all up
under my slashed-in grin?

But it will not come again,
like the off-course shrike
blown to British marshes
en route to Russia, who will
leave us tensing behind binoculars,
as soon as he has gathered
his thoughts like bright little stones.

*

And the guy who was the most popular, 
sexiest man alive in 1889, in 1949? No one knows 
who the fuck that was. My wings bright and wide 
between the water tower and the moon
and how many looked up, who shuddered
the name Vulture? I was not put down
by the blue-eyed, by the pale yoga smile
if I must go, I go in the arms
of the one with the black cloak,
the one with sharpened fin,
the one I called brother, he
who we all must serve. he
I served well.

*

As I served you.
Sit with me, do, as the crow of night
tucks into the bones of the day
and I will show you just how well I work.
Even now, tingling with ambition.

Ryan says: I have long been amazed by Kirsten’s work. I first encountered her as an editor of the ambitious, pocket-sized, magazine Fuselit circa 2005. Since then, she (and editor Jon Stone) have built an invigorating publishing house specializing in curious team-ups, highly original anthologies & multi-media dazzle. (Seriously, check out Sidekick Books if only for a beautiful, affordable, micro-anthology). She is as inventive an editor as she is a poet. Her début collection ‘Never Never Come Back‘ was published by Salt in 2012 and, as we do here, melds the tragic and ludicrous. Often during this experiment, she kicked my ass and caught my breath.

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