Tuesday, 10 July 2012

An Ethiopian Visits England

Climbing the stairs of the metal vulture
and sitting down, being strapped in,
plastic squares descend down in rows,
a white woman wearing a white hat
making gestures with her arms,
all teeth and eyes.

The metal bird starts to flex its wings
and the whole vessel shakes:
a low rumbling, like a million hungry stomachs,
or the earth making bellows in frustration,
we 'taxi' to the runway, speed
frantically up the tarmac.

My eyes feel pressed against the back of my skull,
I hold onto the plastic rests so hard
it feels like my hands will impress them
like putty. Soon we are rising through the air,
the metal bird flying away from parched aridity,
away from my home, up into the blue.

It is like we are a fish swimming through clear water,
through nothing. I try to sleep but I can't.
I have the 'window seat', which means I can see
everything - but suddenly we are so high
that all I can see is an ochre oneness, and once we get to
the Med, all is highest clouds and sea.

After several hours, a small voice trapped in a speaker
says, 'We are now approaching Gatwick Airport,
please return to your seats, return them to the upright postion
and fasten your seatbelts. Thank you.'
The man next to me fastens the belt around his waist
so I do the same.

Fifteen minutes later we are 'on the ground',
but not in a messy fashion - we have 'landed'!
I look from the window, whilst the stewardess
thanks us and welcomes us to England, though she
has only just arrived herself, and everything is grey,
rain streaks the sky as if it is perpetually crying.

I walk straight through to Arrivals - I've no luggage to collect -
and Mr and Mrs Robinson, and their daughter, Emily,
are there to meet me. They look happy, relieved that I am there.
In the car ride home the rain pelts the windscreen,
they listen to the radio - they have one in their car! - music pumping
softly into me from all directions, the beats less simple, less one.

They ask me where I come from. 'Afar Region,' I say.
'Yes, that is far - Ethiopia,' they say. I think I know what they mean.
My English is not so good. I am here on a scholarship to learn English
at college. Some people look at me funny here, I'm not sure why.
We get in and 'dinner' is soon ready - chicken, potatoes and vegetables.
I am hungry, they look surprised at me, beastly. I go to bed.

The next day they take me to a swimming pool. Now get this, mama!
They have big rooms full of water! It rains all day and all night here,
and yet they have big rooms full of water! I thought of the children dying
in the desert, and the mothers waterless, too weak to breastfeed their babies,
and then I see these people, splashing around as carefree as monkeys!
We go to get something to eat in the café. 'Sandwich?' they say.

But I have lost my appetite. I stare down at an empty plate.

Ballad of a Cloud-Gazer

Last night I went out, the clouds
ostentatious and playful:
one of them got me up dancing,
I bought her a Barcadi and Coke;
she was a mouthful.
Needless to say the time came
when I held her, vaporous in my arms.
Holding a cloud is like catching fireflies
with a broken net.
I said, as soft and light as forceful could be,
'Why don't you come back to mine,
have a drink with me?'
A longing sultry look, vapid sparkling eyes,
a kiss on the lips like a slug,
I knew it was perfect right there:
I knew it was lust.
But fucking a cloud is strange:
it's cold and purchaseless.
And once you're done it breaks apart
and it rains right through your head.
She was gone by morning:
precipitation to evaporation, part of her
smudged rainly on my window pane.
They say clouds are unique:
I'll never see her again.
I look up at the dappled sky:
I thought I'd forgotten her,
but I still recall her name was Heather.
And now I'm rainless, broken, punctured - British -
and I think I'm obsessed with the weather.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


It has been said,
I have heard it said,
that ignorance is bliss,
and it makes me red.

Ignorance is not bliss.
Ignorance is death.
Ignorance is Charles Bukowski if he'd given up living.
Ignorance is Hemingway behind a flower stall.
Ignorance is a shotgun with both barrels loaded
wielded by a madman with no arms.
Ignorance is a dinosaur foaming at the mouth.
Ignorance is a moribund dog with rabies
sicking up scarlet chunks of festering flesh.
Ignorance is two West Indian adolescents
kicking the shit out of a Pakistani and knifing a Filipino student.
Ignorance is a car with no suspension,
the engine long fallen through, 
rusted down into a cracked gasoline canister
poking its orange-dry husk through the sheered cornstalks.
Ignorance is a poet without passion.
Ignorance is a drunk without whiskey.
Ignorance is a scientist given up on dreaming.
Ignorance is an arsonist flameless
or a gambler done with scheming.
Ignorance is prayer deflated and  tortured in anguish.
Ignorance is the Moon, humanless, without a soul to swoon
and a sky starless, a murky gloom.
Ignorance is a priest full of air, hysterical
at his terrified congregation,
promising fire and brimstone, temperance and violence,
and love and redemption. 
Ignorance is cancer wearing a smile,
rickets with a bow-tie, polio
twisted up into a jumbo-size pretzel,
spina bifida in a super-size, 16-oz cup.
Ignorance is wine gone flat, but still being drunk
for no reason apart from indifference to sobriety.
Ignorance is a bag of drowned and murdered cats.
A bear and a horse tethered together,
both dying amongst swarms of flies
as their bones are picked like cartographies 
being scrutinised 
by pale, lymph-less politicians.
Ignorance is a hand grenade with no pin,
a boxer with arthritis,
a virus about to burst into murderous virulence,
a small and pitiful sun that wants to explode.
Ignorance is a raped dead body, two weeks gone
and left at the wayside. 
Ignorance is Dostoevsky and Tolstoy,
peevish clerks, wife-beaten, life-eaten.
Ignorance is Chekhov without a heart.
Ignorance is Eliot laid out before us, like a patient
etherised upon a table, the waste land
creeping up to our ears and nose and into our spines.
Ignorance is an old moth too afraid to approach the flame.
Ignorance is Kafka succumbing to the Golem.
Ignorance is the husks of infected cattle, writhing
and crackling quietly in pits of ash and spoiled flesh.
Ignorance is all-consuming
and if it's bliss you want
then perhaps you ought to hold your breath:

I've heard that if you do it for long enough,
you turn blue, and die
from ignorance. But
I guess you wouldn't 


There are sunsets I'd like to see,
from southern Australia,
the peaks of Snowdonia,
the heat-shocked depths of Death Valley,
the summit of Mauna Kea,
secluded beaches on Hawaii's Big Island,

villas in the hills of Madrid,
the sun setting behind a tramp's eyes
on Skid Row, Los Angeles,
the Sun from Halkidiki,
the Sun setting from space,
The Earth rising from the Moon.

I would like to see the Sun, playful,
caressing the Earth's back and working
its way down to kiss above the midriff,
the Sun spinning its diurnal magic,
God of light and darkness, Hades
drifting down into deepest night and sleep.

But the Sun is setting on me,
and as it shoulders to the horizon 
I hear it weep;
and as it descends it says,

'I have no choice but to exist alone,
but you do,
so why are you sitting there
on your own?

'I have lived and watched growth and decay
and cycles cycling, the come what may.
And of all the creatures to whom I've given birth
you are the ones that have given most mirth.

'You have known and kissed the font of your own creation,
and yet it is you who threatens your tenure with its cessation.'

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

And the Truth is...

Turn, turn and
burn and burn.

There is no Hell below us,
no Heaven above - Lennon
had that right.
The only realms about us
are the ones left
in our sight.

Betwixt us only humans.
So turn and turn
and burn and burn.

Need we spurn?
Or will we learn?
When will we learn?

There is no Heaven.
There is no Hell.
The only Hell we need fear
is the one we'll inherit on Earth;
and the only Heaven we need savour
is the one that awaits us
inside our flesh,
the one that waxes thickly
on the foliage of trees,
right here

Deep and deep.
Green and green.

And God does not exist.
Tongueless old man.
He could not judge a boxing match
even if He were a pair of fists.

Even if He had the odds and the cash
and was brash and brazen enough
to play the knock-out in the fifth
he'd still lose in the long-run on the fix.

And Jesus is the butter 
to my bread,
not the bread itself.
That stays in my heart,
in my flesh,
right there on the shelf.

I can feel the fear,
feel the flames licking at me.
But I won't fan them.
They say fight fire with fire.

But fuck that for fuel.
I'll use my mind, not coal-oil.
It's a much better tool;
it won't ever expire.