California Dreaming

The poor people sleep for hours in the rain.
Why? Because they are homeless, and it is raining.
To the senators in the gold towers, it seems plain
that, since the poor’s sleeping takes less energy than complaining,
they can say that the poor are lazy, to explain
why they, the senators, are right remaining
high, and dry, and feted all the more
while the sleeping people slide towards Death’s cold door.


In Cadaqués in June the night air shimmers.
The heat from fish-grills punctuates the street.
And strangers try, not hampered much by language,
to fall in love with everyone they meet.

The coastal rocks that days host naked swimmers
are dangerous at night until the moon
illuminates the places you can cling to.

Soft laughter lets me know my world’s in tune.

The laughter’s hers and mine, until we still it.

Much later, we’re aware it’s getting cold,
but, high on stars, and salt, and us, we tarry
to watch the sun wake from the sea, take hold.

Doing Splits

a poem with dead/serious footnotes :-)

A person schizophrenic? No, our world.
The ones who witness have to wear the tag.
If they tattle often, they get hurled
into an institution. When we bag
a sister who’s been sensitised, or when
we keep a brother battened down with drugs;
deny their rights as women, children, men;
excuse ourselves for giving only shrugs —

who benefits? The corpse of engineers?
The species in the forests that we chop?
Lobotomies can level-scan most fears,
or channel them so each is the other’s cop.

What we call power is hallucination.
May the gods preserve us from a lucid nation.

schizophrenia. under-sedated awareness of world we live in. Dictionaries of the late twentieth century of something on Earth are pleased to call schizophrenia ‘psychotic disorders’ characterised by withdrawal from ‘reality’ and ‘illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, and hallucinations, accompanied in varying degrees by other emotional, behavioural, or intellectual disturbances.’

Psychotic is gobbledygook: ‘perceived disturbance of personality and loss of contact with reality and deterioration of normal (not deviating from what is common, usual, or to be expected; adherence to an established standard) social functioning’.

Disorders is gobbledygook: ‘ailments that affect the function of mind or body’. Late-twentieth-century dictionaries say “Schizophrenia, often associated with dopamine imbalances in the brain and defects of the frontal lobe, may have an underlying genetic cause.” Schizophrenia can more usefully and accurately be associated with an under-sedated awareness of the world we live in.

Gobbledygook itself means unclear, wordy jargon — imitative of the gobbling of a turkey, but I digress.

witnesses. uses one’s natural ability (one’s wit) to take note of the relationship between seemingly incongruous or disparate things; also testifies about what one notices.

tattles. reveals another’s plans or activities through indiscreet talk. [Middle English tatelen, to stammer, probably from Middle Dutch, of imitative origin.]

bag. All of these disparate meanings: 1. To put into or as if into a bag. 2. To cause to bulge like a pouch. 3. To capture or kill as game.

sensitised or sensitized. made sensitive to: Seeing sensitises the observer to the coexistence of seemingly contradictory phenomena; silver makes a film sensitive to light; MTV makes adults sensitive but they don’t let on.

sensitive. needing sedation because capable of perceiving, and/or being susceptible to the attitudes, feelings, or circumstances of others.

keep a brother. alluding to Cain’s, ‘I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?’ [Genesis 4:9]

sisters and brothers. my fellow creatures, soul or soulless.

battened. I was thinking of fastening down with battens (flexible strips of wood), from the same Old French word bataunt, wooden strip, that ‘batter’ comes from, which seems apropos. The other ‘battened’ (Old Norse batna, to improve) is counterpoint: fattening and prospering at another’s expense.

corpse of engineers. playing, at the risk of mixing up single and plural forms, with the idea of damages done by corps (singular and plural) of engineers; e.g., the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers building harbours, damming and channelling rivers, and generally developing waterways and other civil projects.

lobotomies. surgical incisions into frontal lobe of brain to sever several nerve tracts, formerly used to ‘treat’ certain mental disorders but now performed chiefly for amusement. ‘I would rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.’

level-scan. my nonce word to combine shades of level (relative rank on a scale; natural or proper position; flat; no abrupt variations; rational and balanced; made horizontal, flat, or even; torn down; equalised) with brain scan (two-dimensional record of distribution of radioactive tracer, obtained by means of a scanning scintillation counter, used to identify cerebral blood flow and detect intracranial masses, lesions, tumours, or infarcts). I am thinking of the dead-level scan of a completely normalised (i.e. dead) brain.

Nonce words occurring, invented, or used just for a particular occasion, are cool and perhaps the only kind of nonce words there can be?

lucid nation. a nation (whatever that notion means) that is not opaque or clouded, is easily understood; intelligible and/or ‘mentally sound; sane or rational. Sounds a bit like Lucifer.

Onwards and downwards,

Alan for my sins

War Goods

What Happens When You Win:
We achieved everything we fought so long for, and then…

What Happens When You Lose:
We lost everything. Everything, I tell you.
Can you understand me? No?
The phone in this Mercedes has a fault;
I’ll ring back from one of my other cars.

When Neutrality Is Affordable:
Jimmy reached out and maimed me.
I refused to be drawn,
           knowing the teeth
                      that his club broke
were not needed for ice cream.

With God On Our Side:
Nowhere more than in war do we enjoy
such confidence from our people.
We lead and they are disposed to follow.
There were very few we had to shoot.

The Holy War Against Drugs:
           War is a drug.

Something Worth Fighting For:
The better places on Earth are limited
There is competition
for the better grasslands,
           the more beautiful lakes and
                      the fatter sheep.
Sometimes we strong are at peace with each other,
                      sharing with our peers
and deploring the cries
                                 of the have-nots.
disturbing our armed suburbs with their cries.

So What?

Do you often catch yourself living in the third person?
When you think of others, do you include yourself?
Is the reservoir of black thoughts in your background
internalised, so much so that it goes
all invisible when you look at it? So what?

On the outer banks of looking inward, magpies
imitate emotions. This can be confusing.
I watch myself as if I were not blind.
I watch as if the extras in my film
were not all me, or were. You ask, ‘So what?’

So what is a lot to ask. What I believe
is that I believe is this, I think, right now:
I believe the answer often is to forget the question.
Is that so? we ask. We answer, or we would,
but we remember that the question was so what.

Gatekeeper Chronicles – 2

Saint Peter thanked her lucky stars and wondered if that were appropriate.
She noticed her own subjunctive-for-condition-contrary-to-fact ‘were’ instead of ‘was’.
In her present and eternal job it wasn’t the stars she should be thanking. Still, looking at the large pit bull before her lectern, Saint Peter was thankful that she was a giant turtle with a thick shell.
The pit bull growled. Then he tried whining.
‘I’m afraid puppy sounds won’t help you here,’ Saint Peter told him.
‘Do I have to wait much longer?’ asked Fred. That was the pit bull’s name. ‘I’ve been told that all dogs go to Heaven.’
‘To,’ Saint Peter answered. ‘Not the same as into Heaven. Not in your case. You killed that little boy.’
‘He would have grown up.’
‘He might have become a Democrat.’
Saint Peter sighed. She shook her head. Fred could not see that because she had gone back into her shell.
‘He might have become a Republican?’ Fred tried.
Saint Peter extended her neck, looked down her beak at the pit bull. ‘And?’ she shouted.
Fred shrugged, attempted a tail wag. ‘I had to try,’ he said. He stepped off the cloud and disappeared.
‘Next,’ said Saint Peter.
Stars winked.