Drowning in neat rows

Wheels grind. The drunken crowd screams. A lever is pulled and the curtains are yanked apart. The Bird King stamps onto the stage.

—–

The Bird King’s oration is made of knives and envies and stones and pauses. The banners and the sky are red and black.

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Catch a falling star, put it in your pocket. There’s a miniature supernova in a locked room. The Bird King’s claws scratch poems.

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Men behind glass make notes on our appearance, our social networks, our sex lives. One points at you with a finger that looks like a gun.

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The roads are closed. My neighbours starve politely. The Bird King gags on bodies. The police tell jokes about immigrants. Lock your door.

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It’s best not to try to record events that may be unreal. Cameras pirouette on their stands, wink at us like whores. I can feel the blood.

—–

This is what you want, this is what you get. Line up and wait for it. A father of four sobs into the pavement.

—–

There is an encore. Booted feet stamp. The android pianist shatters Chopin. Half of the crowd take mournful selfies.

—–

Sunlight on broken glass in the Street of Emojis. A metallic voice invites us to prayer. We shuffle loosely in our skins, ashamed.

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Last time we dug up the road, dinosaur fossils leapt into song. Pull the shutters down: the red eyes are watching.

—–

Have you downloaded the update? Try inserting yourself here. We may have to remove your spine. Please hold the iron bar and close your eyes.

—–

The Bird King’s body double calls himself James Knight but that’s just an alias. Most of the stunts are CGI. The manifesto is a bad poem.

—–

They smashed the clocks to free the birds. Journalists were rounded up and drugged. The curtains closed on a factitious scene.

—–

The Bird King bans the past tense. What’s done is done. We write feverishly, trying to keep pace with the galloping now.

—–

We furnish our living spaces with flatpack instructions. No more bulky furniture! We gaze at the idealised, orderly diagrams.

—–

Sometimes our bedrooms collapse and sticky dreams escape from our ears. The Bird King’s agents collect them in huge metal drums.

—–

Empty your pockets. Empty your mouth. Empty your bowels. Empty your head. Empty your books. Empty your houses. Empty your monsters. Empty your bladder. Empty your cupboards. Empty your dishwasher. Empty your bed. Empty your balls. Empty your smartphone. Empty your grave.

—–

The cathedral bells chime five. We think there’s a ruined castle on the hill, but there isn’t. Not even a trick of the light.

——

There are lots of small pieces. They don’t go together. The Bird King assembles them into things that confound the eye, offend the ear.

—–

Soldiers running or explosions or the sun plunging into the horizon. The protestors’ bodies have been hidden in wardrobes and under beds.

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The news plays in a loop while we fall down the stairs. A man of 75 ate his neighbour. They’re still watching us from behind glass.

—–

Learning to express ourselves only in GIFs. The androids smack our hands when we slip up. We search mirrors for an escape route.

—–

I read a new translation but the memory of the old translation superimposes itself and the page tears itself up.

—–

Not even writing about the world not even writing about another world not even writing about big themes not even writing about myself.

—–

When feeding the police, throw meat over the fence. Never put your hands through the viewing holes.

—–

The Bird King paints disaster on his viewers’ faces. Cluster bombs make percussive music. This is not the end.

—–

What are you looking at? What are you wearing? What are you doing? What are you saying? Who do you think you are?

—–

The signs say CLOSED. We wait in rows of twelve. The taste of iron is hard to forget. Our nosebleeds are a constant source of embarrassment.

—–

Sit. Pray. Eat. Talk. Forget. Rise. Leave.

—–

And repeat. Drink coffee from the troughs provided. Do not attempt to communicate with each other. Do not sneeze. Do not cough.

—–

We drowned in neat rows. They kept our eyes open. Light diffused in our slow watery dreams. The Bird King sang about lost love.

—–

It was nothing to complain about. The wounds would soon heal. Suburbs burned gold in the autumn afternoon.

—–

We set the fire alarms off so we could have rain indoors. Our enemies hid under their desks, fearful of dissolution.

—–

Time means nothing. Set your watch to whenever you like. Rewind if you missed what I said. Young men wear beards as an ironic comment.

—–

The Bird King builds mazes around our cities. We are free to leave at any time, but will probably get lost and starve to death.

—–

What else do you remember? Tell us in the present tense: it’ll sound more truthful. Don’t leave any sordid detail out.

—–

Most of them will be set on fire in the streets, so remember to stay indoors until morning. There is blood on your collar.

—–

Going back to the start. But it’s not the same when you get there. The light is different. Your mood is different. The crowds have gone.

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