You are lost in my timeline

For George Szirtes and Mauricio Montiel Figueiras

You are lost in my timeline. Tweets stretch in all directions. They are all made of glass and sand and they all look the same.

You are lost in my timeline. Tweets make atonal music. Trees look like your face, magnified, scarred. A pond in a clearing drowns the light.

You are lost in my timeline. The mannequins dismantle your cerebral cortex. As night falls, your reptilian brain clicks and whirrs.

You are lost in my timeline. The curfew begins soon and you’re starting to panic. Black water collects in your eyes.

You are lost in my timeline. You’ve inhaled the spores. Canker poems bloom in your blood. A decapitated statue sinks behind you.

You are lost in my timeline. Your skin is hot silk. The underworld fills with saints. Oranges and lemons. The interview trails off.

You are lost in my timeline. The walls vibrate with voices. Shouting, singing, sighing. Sarcasm and orgasms. Please mind the gap.

You are lost in my timeline. The current takes you one way, then another. Sudden faces flounder. The obscene sea licks you.

You are lost in my timeline. All the world’s a stage. The curtains are lips. You part them and your senses depart. Nothing nothing nothing.

You are lost in my timeline. The desire for intimacy has wrecked your plans. The market stalls sell only fakes and the butcher is blubber.

You are lost in my timeline. Guerrilla kisses hunker down in offices. The sirens’ song can’t be translated into any language.

You are lost in my timeline. The meat you ate has turned to clay in your stomach. Your intestines are God’s hands.

You are lost in my timeline. Please show your ticket at the entrance to the Museum of Sex Toys. Ignore the crying accountants.

You are lost in my timeline. You’re no Theseus. To go forward, turn to tweet 24,731. To go back, turn to tweet 29,303.

You are lost in my timeline. The signposts are all gibberish and the policemen communicate only in GIFs. The clock is not ticking.

You are lost in my timeline. Dead ends are made of ham, sweat, plastic and teeth. Junctions are mirages. Abandon all rope.

You are lost in my timeline. A layer of tracing paper covers everything. You try to draw along the outer edges, but your pencil breaks.

You are lost in my timeline. Selfies laugh at you. Accounts you follow point at you and smirk. You realise you’re naked.

You are lost in my timeline. You’ve fallen through the mirror. Your funny twin is setting fire to the curtains. A yawn, a turning page.

You are lost in my timeline. Your face melts slowly. Words stop referring to things; they accumulate in your pockets, like stones.

You are lost in my timeline. Words weigh you down. You drag your carcass across waste grounds. The clowns lie in wait.

You are lost in my timeline. Ones are zeros and zeros are ones. Every fact has an equal and opposite fiction. The news is old.

You are lost in my timeline. Every door you open brings you back to where you were, which could be anywhere or nowhere.

You are lost in my timeline. The skulls pile up. Furious labour attends every victory. The flags are red and black.

You are lost in my timeline. The options diminish rapidly. You’re parched, exhausted. Two buttons remain: TALK and FUCK.

You are lost in my timeline. You came here to find fiction, little poems, grimly amusing vignettes. Instead: smashed glass, maggots, smoke.

You are lost in my timeline. Pictures flicker. The headlights don’t work. Ken and Barbie are horny as hell. We accept Apple Pay.

You are lost in my timeline. You could try on a suit or a dress. You look ridiculous. The mirror mocks you. The mirrors mock you.

You are lost in my timeline. Life is elsewhere. This is a figment, a misrepresentation. But it’s cosy and the food contains zero calories.

You are lost in my timeline. You think you saw someone who looked just like you, but better and nastier.

You are lost in my timeline. Round and round. Or on and on. Or staying still. You’ve barely started.

You are lost in my timeline. Tweets stretch in all directions. They are all made of glass and sand and they all look the same.

Oven Ready

The oven was open and we were invited in. The herons had forgotten their knives. Rainbows were out of the question.

Inside it was red and black and red again. Abandon all hope, etc. The ghost of Nigel Farage sang patriotic songs to the broken weasels.

I tried to ask what time it was but the men in Christmas jumpers ignored me. There was some anxiety over Star Wars spoilers.

When you appeared on the scene you gave everyone a load of sass. We were hasgtag and awks. Piglets and piffle baked in a pie.

The cool people were the worst. They paraded their hideous oiled beards throughout the catacombs. Light and badgers fell from my ears.

Facebook frowned and its pages burned. Some considered this a good sign. Hands up, baby, hands up. Give me your love, give me give me…

So we toured Syria and Palestine and Snapchat and Bake Off. It was very entertaining. We all had theories. I piled mine around me.

We disagreed on most things but agreed on building walls. Those fuckers were wrong about everything and my testicles were bigger than theirs.

I updated my profile so they’d cower in the shadow of my gargantuan testicles. Other hairy apes yelled Make America Great Again.

It was still red and black and red again inside the oven. I checked my timeline. Funnies were happening all over the world. Tweet tweet.

The brighter, better selves we had so carefully constructed on social media turned on us, cut our throats, exposed our ugly meat.

Days lasted seconds. World-changing events came in salvos. I washed my corpse in brine and set it on a beach, so it could look at the sea.

Others arrived, albinos born in the ovens, chattering and squeaking, trying to persuade my corpse to leave. I ate a banana.

Sex was sold thinly sliced. We applied it to our ears, mouths and (most of all) eyes. It made our brains misfire but we were addicted.

Other narcotic commodities included reality TV, salt, sarcasm, death metal, current affairs, Happy Meals and empathy. Traders made a killing.

Celebrities lined up to be seen while you flooded the slums with blood. Dip a finger, make a wish. Monochrome poverty in glossy magazines.

Katie Hopkins tried to trigger Armageddon by writing aggressively about her dislike of tomatoes. Clouds shrugged and drifted on.

These were the worst of times, or so we liked to believe. We wrote emails to our past selves, warning them.

The sea stole up on my corpse when I wasn’t looking and turned it to stone. Waves hissed derisively when I realised what had happened.

The oven was red and black and red again. Did I mention that, or was it you? Your iPhone won’t save you. Selfies erode your face.

Warning: Your dreams save automatically to the cloud. This can cause embarrassment or death when they appear on other devices you own.

The Institution

Architecture
The Institution comprises a labyrinthine complex of concrete buildings. No one knows how many there are. Many of the blocks are over twenty storeys high, and all are connected by a network of walkways. The way into a building is never the way out: there are strict rules. Security personnel tut under their breaths.

Work
The purpose of the Institution is widely debated. Some conjecture that it’s educational, while others argue it’s military. It may even be a correctional facility, or perhaps a religious foundation or a spam factory. The evidence points many ways. One thing is certain: the Institution is a place of fierce activity. Employees work long hours and remain connected to their workplace after hours through telecommunicative metal discs implanted just beneath the skin. Encrypted messages requiring urgent responses are transmitted from the Institution to its workforce at all hours, often manifesting in dreams. As a result, all employees with managerial responsibilities are prone to neurotic analysis of their own dreams, sifting through the imagery in case it contains some important memorandum or action point.

Pecking order
Most people who work at the Institution are middle managers. But they struggle to articulate their responsibilities and don’t know the names of those who manage them. There must be dozens, even hundreds of senior managers. But that echelon is a mystery.

Rules
At the Institution there are strict protocols governing use of the staff toilets. Employees wishing to urinate may do so only when it is raining. Defecation is even more problematic: a 20,000 word rationale must be submitted to a special committee at least a month in advance.

Business
The Institution welcomes a constant stream of visitors: clients, customers, consultants, clowns, costermongers, chiropractors, cadavers. The visitors are ushered into meeting rooms, conference rooms, dining rooms, boardrooms, ballrooms, bedrooms, darkrooms, panic rooms, throne rooms, billiard rooms, bathrooms, cloakrooms, classrooms, lumber rooms, showrooms, laundry rooms. There is no record of what happens to the visitors after they have been shown to their rooms. And since no visitor is known to have left the Institution, we can only speculate about the nature of their experiences inside that slate grey labyrinth.

Alt-right gobshites

Alt-right gobshites unite under your flag of noughts and crooked crosses tell the grievance brigade to shut up while you shout shit

Alt-right gobshites unite and say it like it is say it like it should be after all we’re all Adolphs right why are they so offended by your racist slurs and rapist curs and calls to deport and calls to make walls and calls to make tools with which to build your reich

Alt-right gobshites fight the light and fight to blind us to what’s in plain sight the plight of all of us the plight of the West reliving a horror story from the 1930s walking right into it falling right into it but hey it’s different for the alt-right gobshites they’re well groomed well dressed cool ironic their words are a game there are no rules they’re funtime fascists with meinkampf mindsets LOL though they may seem very nazi they’re entertainers these are just words a provocation a laugh a living who cares about the human targets huddled on boats and street corners the people they’ve branded stamped on (soon: stamped out!) the history lessons unlearned

Alt-right gobshites grease back their hair take their pay make waves take the airwaves pave the way for darkest days.

The poems

The poem exploded in a shopping centre. No one was hurt, except for an adolescent boy who looked into the white blast and went blind.

—–

He kissed her mouth, her neck, her breasts. She dug her nails into his back. A poem slid over them, pooled in their eyes.

—–

During their game, they broke the mirror hanging darkly in their parents’ bedroom. A poem hissed through the cracks, into their mouths.

—–

She wrote the last sentence of her novel, unaware that a poem was hidden in its tangled heart. The poem throbbed, awaiting the reader.

—–

The banners were red and black. The Bird King’s victory speech shattered all the poems. We collected shards and hid them in our dreams.

—–

You woke to see a poem hanging from the ceiling like a light fitting like a stalactite like a vampire like a noose like a carcass.

—–

We tried everything: disinfectant, weed killer, rat poison, bullets, napalm, nukes. But the poems, breeding like cockroaches, wouldn’t die.