Saturday, September 22, 2018

On Dress

Arrayed in the clothes I bought over a lifetime, but only those that I earned the money myself to buy, I am brief. I am wearing the maroon fleece Kangol hat, with its high crown and ear flaps, which was stolen from my locker when I worked as a library assistant 20 years ago, the satin Union Jack boxer shorts, with a high crotch and high hem, that fitted when I was 14, paid for out of my final wages as a paperboy, and the pair of dark blue leather shoes bought for my wedding, that I'd mistaken for black ones in the shop and so returned.

Put together, there is poor balance between these garments, and my penis breaches the boxer shorts, but it is satisfactory, having the potential to be my signature outfit.

This is my look, and, yes, it is satisfactory, as an answer to "what would my character wear?" the question I ask myself every day when I'm deciding what to put on, imagining that it matters to someone watching me on screen, imagining too that these are the only clothes I ever wear, making them as consistent and identifiable as the grey and classical look adopted by Harold Lloyd. The outfit, flimsy as it is, will become me, and, in this light, the shoes look black once again, in my footwell on this rocket, as I journey to the moon as one of seven artists given a free seat by Yusaku Maezawa.

He gave me this free ride on the condition that I would be there to bear witness to the reactions of the other artists, who themselves will be tasked to describe the moon. They will necessarily need to observe the moon, give it their full attention, while it is my duty to resist looking at it as best I can. I am brief, and so, I suppose, what couldn't be foreseen by our sponsor is that the other six artists will have a job trying to resist looking at me. But I am not wretched, I am not embarrassed. My nutation migraine, now that we have left Earth's atmosphere, is much relieved. I feel well. 

My Forgetfulness Relieves You

Some days ago, I learned a new word. The sound of it was surprising, and therefore pleasing, embroidering a meaning I knew I would surely have occasion to express in the future. In the days that followed, as I recalled it naturally, unconsciously, I neglected to create an entry for it in the pad I keep by my bed. Yesterday evening, feeling too tired to write it down, I promised myself that I would do so the next morning. This morning, however, I find that I have all but lost the word. My usual mnemonics fail me: going through the alphabet is not helping, possibly it might contain a “d” or a “v”, but I have largely forgotten its sound, and have completely forgotten its meaning, but also, crucially, I cannot recall the source, where I read it, nor can I pinpoint exactly how long ago I learned it. Could it be among the translation of Catullus’s poems, Herbert Read, Brecht?  I can still see that lost word’s residual colour and its attack, but these are fading as the morning turns to the afternoon.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Attentional Empathy

Only now, on committing myself to dying, do I realise the truth about empathy, my empathy. I always thought that it was attentional, that my ability to feel it would fall away with attention intermitted, I felt I had to devise and focus meticulously on analogous situations in order to empathise. I was too afraid to ever stop constructing these ideas and was indefatigable in holding them crystallised.

I can still empathise, without effort or technique. I know this because I am now too weak to make such mental constructs, yet I feel empathy. Nor do I even have strength to write of this realisation that would have overhauled my motif — no one will ever know that I finally felt this peculiar empathy.

Monday, September 03, 2018


Standing up in the shoes I have just put on, I think: do I take them off again to adjust my sock, or spend the whole day being conscious of my sock, lumpiness caused by the toe being folded slightly under itself? I have often put on one or other sock half-heartedly, and no matter how scrunched it is, it seems through some mechanism to self-right — or at least I can eventually walk without noticing it. How many discrete discomforts do I filter out, little soreness, little pinch, little dryness, little itch, little guilt, little despair?

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Martyrdom at Barnet House

Always fold the scarf lengthways,
Unless you give it to one
Who has set themselves ablaze,
Who, as a martyr upon
Their moments of transcendence,
Is attuned to compassion
And to interdependence,
When the white khata, ashen
Before the flames, may be thrown,
Dismissing this convention.
The housing office, Whetstone,
Began the circumvention
Of her self-immolation.

Clasp the khata to your head,
And make your presentation
With reverence, unless led
By those housing office staff
Past the still burning body—
And then you may throw the scarf
At one seeking tenancy,
And dismiss this injunction;
Offer it by fingertip,
And the scarf will still function
To indicate a kinship.

I shall not fold this khata—
Nor could it remain intact,
When, to redress the latter
Circumvention of her act
Of defiance, I accede
Only to the benefit
They are fearful might exceed
Her sacrifice: I throw it.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Art Dealer's Negotiation

I suggested that I could give
This painting to the museum
In exchange for a means to live:
When they came in at a high sum,
I offered it, sudden, for free,
Except for a mere wage, is all —
I asked if they might employ me.
When refused, I could not recall
My assuredness in dealing,
Could only lunge forward to rise
From a position of kneeling,
And I threatened to aquilise
Lady Sophia Brunel’s nose,
To become an iconoclast;
If it was not sane to propose
What I had, then a rhinoplast
I’d be of this painting’s subject.
Painting, a nation's heritage —
When your value does not reflect
Onto me, I broaden the bridge,
And reduce your value to mine.

Sunday, July 01, 2018


Beyond friendship and blood's circle,
I am yet your friend, outside the milieu,
And have formed sweet impressions, peu à peu,
Of one who'd interview Studs Terkel,
And who sees no impossibilities.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Might I, as one in a seminary community
Towards whom God is indulgent, learn
The Welsh language with impunity,
And, for my good works, use chime to describe the fulgent fern,
Write about it in the way that I would?

I earn and owe my craft and, pre-empting formality,
My thoughts, too — earn and owe each in turn,
And, if this sunlight is the beauty
He gives to me, then I shall give back to Him a nocturne:
Sunlight does what I thought but the moon could.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Holding the mirror, thus

Up until the point when I splayed my buttocks and, twisting round, saw my anus in the mirror for the first time, I had never been curious to know whence my faeces came. I was nine or ten. When I mentioned my anatomical discovery to school friends the next day, they told me that they were well acquainted with theirs already. Suffering a chemical burn to my scalp was the only reason, at age 40, I again used a mirror, this time to check the back of my head, and noticed I had a rather pronounced whorl. Dorsal awareness delayed once again, I promised myself that I would henceforth pay more attention to this aspect of my physical being. But the back parts of me, which I have subsequently observed carefully, are difficult to liken to anything else. Similes introduce unnecessary traction when trying to establish a subject for a poem. Holding the mirror, vigilant for signs of pinworms, there are no similes, no likening terms.