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Once you swam in me

I would hold you
as you slept
and keep you from drowning

When you woke
I would often pull you
to my depths
A mounting dull roar
in your ears
A faint glimmer above
as you gurgled
through a whirlpool
of salt air
I opened
for you

You would sometimes cling
to passing driftwood
But with tidal inevitability
I would envelop you
Still holding
a rough plank
or worn bough
or empty-handed
you would slowly
slowly sink into me

Once you swam
heedless of fatigue
toward a white spot
toward a bobbing brightness
toward a pontoon
I had torn
from a large boat
Grasping at the remains
of its metal frame
you clambered atop it
And there
I could no longer have
my fill
of you

You assembled a nest
of flotsam
You now know
every piece of wood
every scrap of plastic
intimately
It comforts you
that there are only
so many ways
to arrange them

Do not forget
that my fish
feed you
That my currents
determine your course
and can dash you
against sharp
black
rocks
however you may toil
with your salt-worn paddle

Do not forget
it is my surface
that shimmers
with reflections
of lush land
that turns out
to be nothing
but waves
in me
whose bitter spray
you taste
as they break

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it decides
to dissect​
and inspect
you inside
like an insect
its interest a
pin though
your abdomen
and into
its stark
white
board

around you
regular
columns
rows
of other twitching
insect bodies
honey-combed
by compound vision
some dead
all skewered
six legs
or fewer

a rattling
cacophony of
rasping clicks
a metallic
mass-gallows
of fat sallow
bad-blood-sick
love-filled ticks
unable to muster
the will to rupture

amid the grid
of pulsing nausea
you’re only aware
of your own
of the oozing hole
that holds you in place
exposes your viscera
to its inquisitive gaze
brittle layers of
chitinous
bitterness flayed
wounds of want
and self-pity displayed
layers of defensive
constructs arrayed
labeled
on tables

A noble line of greatness
stretches from antiquity
You march toward its forefront
to claim your legacy

You think a throne awaits you
you’ll be fastened to a stock
where the vermin that fellate you
drive broken glass into your cock

A capering clown
puts a paper crown
on your solemn lowered head
you’ll bleed out like a stuck pig
though never fully dead

You’ll never rest Orestes
though your mother’s ghost will come
to find you in your torment
and you’ll manage ‘fuck off mum!’
You’re slumped and bowed in silence
Softly she will plea
You disavowed me with your violence
Why did you murder me?

You now survey your kingdom
through undulating vision
the dirt you are
dirties
the dirt beneath you

You find it hard to swallow
that the blind dreck of this world
Not the sheer will of Apollo
did your body’s being build

your chest a feeble fluttering thud
your head a heavy jug of blood
no matter how much flows
from dark tissue exposed

Sick
of occasionally stuffing my heart
with inebriated fucks
fucks
never fully mine

What I really need
is a phlebotomist
with warm eyes
who asks me
to take off my coat

I hand her my form
and sit down
snugly preserved
in duplicate
within her two
amber eyes

She nods
as I extend my arm
and slide the sleeve of my shirt
above the crook of my elbow

Above this
she wraps the tourniquet
feeding its elasticated strap into
its plastic buckle
drawing it tight

‘This will sting a little’
The needle punctures my skin
enters my vein
I sigh out
a voiceless lungful of air

She fits a glass tube
to the needle’s housing
Glug glug
my blood
floods
its vacuum
‘You’ve very strong’
she murmurs

Feebly now
dark red pulses
into the third tube
She withdraws the needle
a cotton swab in its place
taped to my elbow
‘so it doesn’t get on your shirt’

She turns to her samples
and papers
and scribbles
without a glance
she says
‘you can go’

We exchange a
cascade of
goodbyes

Sick of occasionally stuffing my heart
With inebriated fucks
fucks
never fully mine

What I really need
is a phlebotomist
with warm eyes
who asks me
to take off my coat

A habit
I had hoped
shed
sees me return
again
to an uneven mattress
bartering
dreams for hours
of a life foreswarn
the remainder lived
fewer
forlorn

Leaden legs
and bleary eyes that
deadened
peer at leaden skies
through a rain
specked pane of glass
Autumnal curtains
gently pulse
and endless
cars and people pass

Now in so few ways inured
to the soporific haze
of a dream-leeched
day endured
let alone the
grimy little
hours that
settled
gathered days
months that piled
heaped a year of stolen youth

A life that barely
filled half
a shared
room
its white walls
crumpled bed-linen
and radiator

It’s small
now
I sit
I examine the suture
over the void
that was my future

This fast food stand
stands fast
against a bucolic backdrop
on the edge of one of the jaws
of suburbia’s pliers
that clasp a wedge of countryside
It stands in the corner of a parking lot
beside a pub
from which drunken karaoke
sometimes bumbles up
to my bedroom window

Sluggish and gummy-eyed
he shuts the side-door
against the cold
fills the trays with salad
turns on the grill
It warms up
Buds and shoots emerge
amid chirping
above scurrying
and tentative foraging

This fast food stand
stood fast
against my gaze
against days
and days of recession
nights of depression
Frigwell Kebabs Burgers & Chicken
The sign is backlit
competing with the street-lights
The nearby pair
of pregnant glass hemispheres
holding incandescent foetuses
hung from concave black cones
on tapering triangular brackets

This fast food stand
stands
between me
and the distant
glimmering rows of lights
onto which
I project my hopes
of a me-shaped vacancy
somewhere
in the dynamism of London
Though I know they are just
part of another suburb
perhaps solid and clear
to its own fools
staring out of their own windows
at distant lights

The foliage behind the stand
absorbs the unrelenting sun
with far more grace
than the people
The year-round orange of fake tan
takes on a reddish hue
as it masks sunburn
but even in
this sweltering heat
there is demand for
sweating meat

This fast food stand
that stood fast
during my year
of relative poverty
and effective isolation
waiting for an EU passport
punctuated by threats
from the university debt collector
will stand fast
as I whittle away
at some project
or other
eventually getting a half-respectable job
and giving up on this
art and writing
malarkey

A grey sheet of cloud hangs overhead
He lifts a white sheet of metal
to reveal a compact kitchen
and form a small awning
above the gathering schoolchildren
They yap their orders
wait
and squirt condiments
into polystyrene trays
Rain pools on the flat roof
A boy in a hooded tracksuit
frenetically paces the tarmac
mobile in hand
This fast food stand
stands
soggily abandoned
and dimly visible
as the night-time branches above
sway
and caress a street-light

This fast food stand
will stand fast
until
the gradual erosion of civil liberties
impinge on anyone’s right
to get pissed after work and have a kebab
Until we are all palpably powerless
and stripped of all privacy
every now and then
we who feel it approaching
can enact
our habitual ritual of contrition
and sign another petition

Spent
The final ragged leaf
clings to the damp tarmac
The sinuous skeletal products
of an unhalting pursuit of nourishment
are naked
Steam exhaled
and exuded
by grey meat
intermingle
as a single
chip slips
onto dirty slush

This fast food stand
will stand fast
as the finite
runs out
and more of us slip
below the poverty line
The government suppresses
a desperate and angry multitude
The world is overpopulated
You wish you’d never copulated
fucked
You’re not even stricken with grief
that instead of chicken and beef
the stand now serves textured human protein
The ultimate monoculture

want to be this
this and nothing else
fans of black approaching
flanked by rows of
smudged streaks of electric light
not trying to find words
or to moderate actions
no longer fearing to encounter
phantoms of past failures to do so
hurdling over bars of light
spectres of shame

want to be earth
smacking its lips
thirst slaked by piss
solemnly watched over
by tiers of fir

want to be slabs of stone encroaching
and the rustle of plastic-wrapped bouquets
the awe monolith
awe distance
closed
the two diverging triangles of light
watchfully cutting the night
the unnameable night