The Bird King Dreams in Death

Enclosed encased embraced by his final lover, a black sarcophagus
(coiled excremental lump stinking in the marble mausoleum,
death cocoon),
the Bird King whitens to a tight grin.

Piss-yellow eyes bulge in a disbelieving skull.

And he dreams,
despite his death he dreams
(no rest, not even now, the poor sod, just look at him),

seeing cities burning with advertisements under the cool yoke of skyscrapers in sharp suits, the cattle of humanity branded, mouths twisted in the mesmerised monotony of a day a week a year a lifetime, guns piling up in ruined doorways, the sneer of the victor, mountains of rubbish, valleys of filth

hearing the sweet fuzz of moaning guitars, lunatic siren songs, a million marching feet, waves breaking on rubble shores, words whispered held in the mind on the skin I want to fuck you I want to fuck you, the cracking towers of Ilium, baying donkeys or people, something soft and small and snuffling hardly in the world at all hardly making a sound

smelling burning tyres, the bitter musk of her sex, petrol, lavender curling in the hair of a dotty old woman, tight lipped mouthwash, the scent of Mondays, hot damp tarmac after the squall, the fetor of something terrible and rotten, sweet shops, fireworks and wonder

tasting blood, champagne, Coca Cola, a brittle bitter thing, batteries, sawdust, contaminated water, his own sordid juices, sour life, sweet sleep

feeling her smooth heat, moistness, throbbing, a ticking a ticking a ticking, the delicious pang of his final convulsion

All texts and images on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.

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The ONEIROSCOPE

The ONEIROSCOPE is an interactive Twitter project that reflects my obsession with dreams and their disquieting poetry. Initially I invited people to request single-tweet dreams by replying to me with the word, “sleep.” I tried to provide tweets that would resonate with the recipients, by reading their bios and some of their tweets first, if I didn’t already know them. I got some very favourable responses from those who had requested dreams; I was touching some sort of mental nerve! Here are some examples of customised dreams:

ONEIROSCOPE Dream for @monster_soup. You’re swimming under water. Impossible creatures surround you, sing to you. A star falls into the sea.

ONEIROSCOPE Dream for @DianaProbst. A renowned man of letters cycles past you, his academic gown agitating behind him like black wings.

ONEIROSCOPE Dream for @coffee_offline. The man of your dreams appears: mocha hair, espresso eyes, latte complexion. His mood: dark, bitter.

ONEIROSCOPE Dream for @jeffnoon. A man called Geoff Moon is masquerading as you, writing books. His silver face vanishes in daylight.

I also tweeted a lot of dreams from the imaginary (and vast) ONEIROSCOPE catalogue, addressed to no one in particular. This was quite a good way of creating interest in the ONEIROSCOPE before it caught on and I started getting inundated with dream requests. Here are a few of my favourites from the catalogue:

ONEIROSCOPE Dream 141. Days after your execution by guillotine, your head sprouts wings and flaps giddily towards the sun. Birds shriek.

ONEIROSCOPE Dream 55. Total darkness. No sound. Just this: a hand, smooth, firm, caressing your cheek.

ONEIROSCOPE Dream 204. You have mislaid your penis. This proves inconvenient.

ONEIROSCOPE Dream 541. You wake from a nightmare, nauseous, hot. A shoal of rotten fish swims past and you thrash, suffocating, helpless.

As you can see, the tone of the dreams varies enormously, from the playful to the perplexing, from delight to horror. Many dreams are disturbing. Indeed, for a short time the ONEIROSCOPE transmitted only nightmares:

ONEIROSCOPE Nightmare for @minafiction. The Coral Men are scratching at your door. Small fish pour from your nose and mouth.

ONEIROSCOPE Nightmare for @TheBinkyAnnexe. Everything is weightless. Your body floats helplessly as you struggle to grab a bannister.

ONEIROSCOPE Nightmare for @badbadpoet. The Bird King’s coffin is merely a cocoon. He punches his way out, radiantly rotten.

ONEIROSCOPE Nightmare for @DianaProbst. You’re aboard a galleon with its beak-nosed captain. The sea is a broiling mass of blue rose petals.

You will notice from the above that even the creator of the ONEIROSCOPE is not exempt from its more unpleasant transmissions!

After a while, as the project gained momentum and popularity, I thought the ONEIROSCOPE would be more fun (and more of a challenge for me) if people could specify up to three words to be included in a dream. Here is an example:

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I have also created some ONEIROSCOPE artwork, in which I use bits of my dream tweets. I’ll say nothing about the pictures; you can see them for yourself, below.

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If you like what you see here, follow me on Twitter and ask for your own customised dream. Be warned, though: occasionally the ONEIROSCOPE transmits unsolicited dreams and, as you have seen, nightmares…

All texts and images on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.

The Mon series

Here is the complete Mon tweet series, so far.

It is suddenly very cold.

Mon opens his eye. He sees little: fog, the ground. A skeletal tree.

Where am I? he thinks.

Mon listens. He can hear distant noises through the fog: laughter, gunshots, cars, birdsong.

So I am in the world, he thinks.

Mon shivers. He’s naked. The need to warm himself is sudden, imperious.

His body’s other demands soon follow. He’s hungry, thirsty, horny.

With a lurching motion, shivering violently, Mon propels himself through the fog.

Sloping ground gives way and he finds himself on a road.

The fog is thinner here. The road is empty.

The distant sounds seem fainter.

Mon curls up against the cold, foetus-like, on his side.

Despite feeling painfully cold, Mon wants desperately to get up and hunt for food. His stomach moans mournfully.

He also has an erection.

He feels like a marionette, pulled one way then another by his bodily needs.

So this is life, he thinks.

Mon falls asleep.

When he wakes he’s so cold he can’t move.

Is it possible to be alive and have rigor mortis? he wonders.

A rat crawls onto Mon, taking him for a corpse.

Mon waits until it is near his face, then opens his mouth. A slow, painful operation!

The rat is curious. It peers into Mon’s maw.

Mon waits until the head is in his mouth, then bites it clean off.

Nutrition at last!

Mon has eaten his fill. This gives him the strength to straighten out from his agonised coil. He stands, walks.

Rat is tasty, he thinks.

Further along, the road is overrun by vegetation. Mon collapses onto his belly and starts slithering through. He’s aware of movement.

Insects are at war. They seethe, scurry, make bristling formations. Mon sees heads, abdomens, legs, thoraxes, severed, crushed.

To make matters worse, his prostrate progress is impeded by the aggressive erection whose pangs continue to torment him.

Maybe life would be better if I were a girl, Mon ponders.

Around him, creation quakes, agitates, cries, eats itself.

Fog, wracked undergrowth, insects, the slaughterhouse of nature.

Mon closes his eye in horror.

But what he imagines is worse still.

Mon sees towers of blood.

He sees lakes awash with the dead.

He sees spiny forms in a dark womb.

He sees a head on the end of a bayonet.

He sees a screaming mouth.

He sees eyes squinting from a white blast.

He sees the King of Bones.

He sees the moon being torn like paper.

He sees smashed TVs.

He sees men whispering in a locked room.

He sees bodies falling through space.

He sees an iron pyramid, neon-lit.

Mon opens his eye and weeps.

Mon wonders what he is. He looks down at his body, taking in every sorry detail.

He concludes that he must still be in his larval phase.

Mon continues along the road. The fog is at its thickest here and he can’t see his feet.

No sounds now.

He keeps walking.

Something is becoming visible in the grey haze: rounded, fleshy forms, vaguely coalescing. Mon goes nearer. It is a woman. He stares at her.

The woman moans, weeps, grizzles. When Mon is within her reach she gathers him in. Her teeth are little stars, her hair wickerwork.

Her tears splash Mon’s forehead. She smells of burnt wood. He’s suffocating.

He tries to speak, for the first time. His mouth twists.

A word, barely a word, a syllable, repeated, a non-word dragged up from his blind, inarticulate core:

“Mama.”

Again.

“Mama.”

Gaining confidence, he says it over and over.

“Mama, mama, mama, mama.”

It accelerates, becomes a mad burble.

For the first time: joy.

The woman slams an oily hand over his mouth, so he stops talking. He scrutinises her inscrutable face.

Then the fog erases her.

The fog places Mon back on the ground, tenderly. No sign of the woman. The road presents itself again.

Mon is overcome by a sense of loss.

The road, always the road, this road, no other. No junctions, no end. And this fog, faintly luminous, a hazy halo around everything.

Mon wonders if anything else exists, beside this road, this fog.

He remembers noises, a woman, a rat.

But maybe he was dreaming.

Mon stops. It would appear that there is an object on the road: something round, a ball, perhaps.

He moves closer.

Not a ball. A head.

It’s a man’s head. Strong features, deep-set eyes, balding. A markedly asymmetrical lower jaw. The eyes stare at Mon. The head looks alive.

The head’s lips are moving. Is it talking to me? wonders Mon.

He doesn’t consider the head a “he”. How can a bodiless head be a person?

Closer still. The head is whispering, eyes still fixed on Mon.

Mon stoops, brings his ear near the mouth. He hears a word, repeating.

“nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing”

As Mon straightens up the head stops talking and the eyes close. He is bemused. What did the head mean by saying “nothing” over and over?

He looks down at the head. Its nose resembles a beak and the few hairs on its crown are short, spiny, black.

An unpleasant sight.

Mon is overwhelmed by revulsion. He kicks the head and it rolls down the road, a trail of black blood leaking from its neck.

As the rolling head slows to a stop, a black cloud of birds appears around him, squawking, shrieking, clawing, biting.

Mon tries to protect himself from cutlass claws and bayonet beaks, but his feeble arms are little use and cannot shield him.

A wing knocks Mon to the ground and he rolls onto his side, coiling into himself.

He closes his eye and waits for the attack to end.

***

Mon is back on the road again, the same road, the same insanely sane straight road with its lack of deviations, its foggy logical linearity.

He can no longer remember how or where the road began. Impossible to imagine its end.

Suddenly, at the roadside: a building. A crazy formation of pock-marked stone, metal window frames, ladders, buttresses, gargoyles, doors.

Mon is curious so he opens the nearest door and goes inside.

A man made of bicycles, snow and offal operates a roaring machine.

Mon moves on to the next room, in which twin salamanders in pink petticoats play a deadly game of chess.

Mon does not watch. He continues.

Room 3: Mon is horrified to find himself submerged in a glutinous red substance. Prawn-boys and shrimp-girls twirl and whirl on long cords.

In room 4 Mon is arrested on suspicion of burglary, arson, perjury, fraud, assault, bigotry, penury, lunacy, masturbation and mediocrity.

Room 5 is a mild interlude of dissonant orchestral music, badger abuse and hepatitis.

Mon quite enjoys room 6, its collapsing walls, its evil stench, its inflatable furniture strewn with listless Eng Lit students.

In room 7 Mon solves a jigsaw puzzle in which all of the pieces are painted human hands.

Room 8 contains numerous household objects which, though innocuous in themselves, make for a nightmarish combination. Mon leaves quickly.

In room 9 Mon finds a torn curtain, an empty throne, a blue rose.

As he enters room 10, Mon’s erection returns, strong, feral, insistent.

How can I get rid of this autonomous appendage? he ponders.

He explores the room, hoping to find something that may be used to relieve him of the dolorously engorged organ. But there is no light.

Room 10 seems to go on forever. Mon gets lost in a maze of soft objects he can’t see. Some are furry, some warm and smooth.

The darkness & clutter of yielding shapes only exacerbate the painful rigidity of Mon’s member.

He laments what he is, what he’s made of.

All texts and images on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.

The Bird King lies dead…

The Bird King lies dead, locked in the embrace of his sarcophagus,
a mummified homunculus in a bandage womb,
a grotesque Russian doll with eyes still REM-twitchy, inside a grotesque Russian doll with eyes still REM-twitchy, inside…
a squirming expiring spermatozoa in a rolled up wank hanky,
a sardine in a fetid tin,
a pen in a presentation case inscribed with disingenuous platitudes,
a penis, raw, dwarfish after orgasm, weeping in a condom,
an idea incapable of expression,
an engagement ring kept in a case, never to be opened,
a moth in a cocoon, dreaming of the moon,
a chapter in a book that no one has read for years,
a blind eye in a laughing skull,
a FUCK in the mind and on the tip of the tongue of the schoolboy, greying in the classroom,
a feathery yellow creature in an unbreakable egg,
a play within a play,
a womb within a room,
a filament in a lightbulb in an abandoned house,
a stuffed bird in a tiny cage,
a secret, a dearth, a sneer, a fever, a rose, a beak, a letter, an email, a crisp packet, a fart, a speech, a rival, a hand, a doorway, a fire, a car, a lie, a chair, a gasp, a poem, a little poem, several little broken poems, spliced together (you can see the joins!), whole, unwholesome, wholly unholy, a hole, a gap, a pause, a silence.

All texts and images on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.

The Song of the Clowns

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Mr Goitre sits in the sizzling light, amazed at the pie flying towards his face from the hand of Mr Hernia.

***

Dishevella is a dirty slut of a clown. She sits in doorways in her torn stockings and smeared makeup, laughing obscenely at passersby. Sometimes, when business is slack, she stands in the middle of the pavement and pirouettes on her left foot, mechanically, clumsily, like a toy in need of repair. But you should see the smile cracking across her face!

***

The dressing room is a scene of carnage: noses, red and swollen, lie on the floor; someone’s lunatic face stares up from the table; enormous gloved hands crawl over chairs and torn costumes. In the mirror, threaded with cracks, is the appalling spectre of Mr Goitre’s head and torso, naked, white, fractured, slashed with red, knotted, pimpled, a dead chicken!

***

Mr Garrotte screams with laughter while his masked assistants set fire to Mr Hernia.

***

As the lights go down Dishevella is left alone in the arena, clasping a rag doll to her crimson heart. The doll’s head lolls mournfully to one side. Lights out. Ferocious applause.

***

Messrs Goitre, Hernia and Garrotte are battling it out in the arena over the affections of the lovely but dissolute Dishevella. Mr Goitre is armed with an enormous hammer, which he swings about with drunken panache. Mr Hernia’s fists, monstrous and red, beat the air and the persons of any who get too near to him (with the exception of the beautiful Dishevella). Mr Garrotte is unarmed but he moves with remarkable agility for one so rotund, jumping over canons and bodies, ducking and scampering away from the attacks of the other males. Occasionally he succeeds in striking an antagonist with the heel of his silly, oversized shoe, in a lightning movement like the kick of a donkey. And amidst the noise and violence, Dishevella becomes ever more aroused by the sight and thought of these virile specimens fighting over her body. Whenever one of the combatants gets close to her she encourages him with a pout and a pantomime wink, whilst picturing him bouncing up and down on top of her. She does not have a favourite, though the size of Mr Goitre’s hammer gives her something to think about. But ultimately she must accept whoever wins the battle. Last night it was Mr Hernia, and the night before it was Mr Goitre. The night before that… but it is no good, she cannot remember that far back. So she executes her robotic Salomé dance and waits for the end of the act.

***

Mr Hernia cannot even walk across the arena without stumbling, tripping, falling flat on his contorted face. The apparently simple business of getting from one place to another is not so straightforward, after all.

***

Mr Garrotte has been wedged into the barrel of the canon. Only his head is clear of this terrible gun. He weeps and screams and begs mercy of the naughty Dishevella, who affects not to hear him and bends over very ostentatiously to light the fuse, wiggling her swollen rump in the air for the benefit of the dads in the audience. Then, still bent forward, she creeps backwards, away from the canon. The thick fuse wire hisses and throws off sparks, shrinking with the rapidity of the collective heartbeat of the audience. The arena falls silent, save for the sibilance of the burning wire and the strangulated pleas of Mr Garrotte. Mr Mort, the Circus Master, has even instructed his cringing minions that there should, on this occasion, be no drumroll to build up the tension, as it is quite clearly not needed. The world waits. Mr Hernia is perfectly still, for the first time this evening. The fuse has almost completely burnt down. Dishevella puts her hands over her ears and somehow raises her behind even further in the air. Mr Goitre, waiting to go on after Mr Garrotte’s body has described an elegant parabola over the circus ring, is suddenly aware of the silence, and he closes his eyes and waits. Mr Garrotte too closes his eyes and stifles his tears. The fizzing fuse runs out. The last spark. And nothing. Nothing happens! Several seconds go by, and still no explosion, still Mr Garrotte is stuck in the canon. Dishevella straightens up, disappointed. People in the audience start mumbling and giggling. Messrs Hernia and Goitre breathe out, shrug and get ready for the next act. Mr Mort shakes his great leaden head. And in the barrel of the canon, Mr Garrotte opens his eyes and starts laughing, like a man set free, like a child, like a delirious victor, like a baboon, like a madman.

***

Broken bottles, spilled beer, overturned chairs, a smashed table. Dishevella and Mr Goitre sit on the floor, legs and backs straight like wooden toys, heads slumped forward. Dishevella giggles to herself, with the puny, fairy-like voice of a little girl. Mr Goitre snores and mumbles, erupting occasionally into belligerent glossolalia and then, still asleep, subsiding into relative quiet. Upright against the wooden door, his lurid green suit pinned to it by several large throwing knives, is Mr Hernia, whose head, like those of Dishevella and Mr Goitre, is also slumped forward on his breast. Unlike the two on the floor, however, Mr Hernia makes no sound. A little drop of blood trickles out of the corner of his bloated mouth and runs down the greasepaint.

***

Mr Mort, the Circus Master, wears a black suit and never smiles. He avoids sunlight, and is often to be found sitting in his caravan, sipping scotch. He has fifteen murders to his name, eight of these being his own clowns. He is a man easily disappointed. Loved to excess as a child by a mother maniacally maternal, he now styles himself as a modern Timon, cultivating his misanthropy with graceful detachment. He reads a lot of Baudelaire and regards himself as a poete maudit, his tormented strophes the colourful spectacles he offers to the moronic masses, his exquisite alexandrines the polish and glitz of the show.

***

Mr Goitre sits naked in his dressing room, staring at his reflection in the cracked mirror.

***

To crazy music, Mr Hernia dashes about the circus ring, throwing bouquets of flowers from his tiny bowler hat to the outstretched hands of women and children in the audience. As he runs around his nose gets bigger and bigger, until it is so large that he is forced to beckon over the masked assistants and ask them to carry it before him. More flowers, more colours, more scents, more enchanted women and children. And the nose gets bigger, a monstrous embryo, a sack of blood and madness, a red planet.

***

Fully wound up, arms and legs twitching on the ends of strings, eyes agog and unseeing, body polygonally rendered and realistically textured, waiting for the hand that will flip the red switch, springtensed and panting, his big red tongue flopping listlessly out of his painted mouth, Mr Garrotte sits cross-legged in the centre of the abandoned circus ring, desperately lonely, desperately unhappy.

***

In his dressing room, before the cracked mirror, Mr Goitre’s swollen hands grope Dishevella’s breasts, thighs, neck. Fat fingers trace trails in the greasepaint sweating over her face. Malevolent eyes stare into the mirror.

***

In an alleyway on the outskirts of town, a good two miles from the circus, Dishevella is dancing for Mr Hernia. He is sitting on a dustbin, hands in pockets, fag in mouth, watching her stilted twirls, her automaton arabesques. Pirouetting, she laughs the heartily filthy laugh of the jaded and degraded. Mr Hernia could watch her for hours. For once he has no desire to fuck her. It is enough for him to see her body move in this extraordinary way. He sits enchanted by his favourite toy.

***

For Mr Mort, violence is an art form. So when he smashes a bottle in the face of one of the masked assistants, or throws Mr Garrotte into a vat of sulphuric acid, or disembowels Dishevella, he does it knowing that he is the artist and the victims his materials. He does not expect anyone else to understand this.

***

Mr Garrotte has malfunctioned. Mr Hernia has him bent over the dressing room table, and is trying to rewire him. He pulls out handfuls of red wires, blue wires, green wires, yellow wires, black wires, uninsulated wires (if only he had some rubber gloves!), thick wires, thin wires, stiff wires, flexible wires, coiled wires, straight wires, wires attached to nothing, spaghetti wires, worm wires, snake wires, live wires, dead wires, string wires, silk wires, gossamer wires, tough wires, gentle wires, loving wires, sensuous wires, insinuating wires, hateful wires, despairing wires, hopeless wires, faithless wires, reams and reams of them, reams and reams and reams of unhappy, entangled wires.

***

Dishevella cannot even talk to Mr Mort, the Circus Master, without stumbling on her words, tripping, falling flat. The apparently simple business of communicating something to someone is not so straightforward, after all.

***

In the mirror, as before, the fractured torso and head of the melancholy clown.

From The Small Hours. All texts and images on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.

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The Death of the Bird King ebook

The Death of the Bird King ebook is now available, for £1.99. You can buy it here.

So what’s in the book?

24 original artworks
The Madness of the Bird King (12 part poem)
The Death of the Bird King (1300 word poem)
The Monsters (long poem created from tweet series)
Oneiroscope (series, including bespoke dreams for named recipients!)
Phases
Bad Machines
58 short pieces: poems, prose poems, microfiction

Although the book comprises many pieces and pictures, they can all be considered fragments of a longer work. You’ll find motifs running throughout the book: birds, octopuses, eyes, clockwork, larvae, mannequins, eggs, the sea, androids, pregnancy, fish, the moon, monsters…