The factory


In the basement of the abandoned mannequin factory is a door no one has ever opened. Behind it is a cube-shaped room containing a box, wrapped in silver paper. The Bird King wrote the gift tag. What does it say? I’m not telling. But if you were to unwrap the box and lift its lid, you’d find inside a Wellington boot.

At first, amused by the idea of wearing just one boot, you’re tempted to put it on. But then, as you’re removing your shoe, you see in your mind’s eye a devil leaping at you from the darkness of the boot. So you decide against it.

Meanwhile, upstairs, the Bird King plays chess with the blind factory owner. White to mate black in thirteen moves. It’s time for you to leave.


This text is a small part of an ongoing collaboration with the artist Viviana Hinojosa. Text copyright James Knight. Artwork copyright Viviana Hinojosa. All rights reserved.


Phantom head syndrome

The Bird King suffers from phantom head syndrome. Ever since his decapitation by a critic, he has felt pain where his head used to be. Sometimes it wakes him in the night. It’s so excruciating, he fumbles for a saw. But alas! there’s nothing to chop off.

He’s seen every specialist imaginable. The worst was the phantom head shrink, who proposed a one-size-fits-all Oedipal diagnosis. “The imaginary pain in your no-longer-existent head is an expression of castration anxiety. Your head symbolises your penis,” was his theory. The Bird King was about to explain that he didn’t have a penis either (having lost it in a bet), but thought better of it.

In his desperation, the Bird King even tried a homeopathic remedy, which involved listening to a bald man talking very slowly and sipping lots of water. The sipping proved tricky, of course. He was obliged to pour the medicinally useless liquid down his gaping stump.

Even the mystic couldn’t help him. It soon became apparent that the combination of powerful narcotics and human sacrifice lacked the efficacy the Bird King had been lead to expect.

So his agony continues. Like a headless chicken, he staggers in circles, inconsolable. Passing children laugh at the spectacle, but secretly they pity him.


Originally published as a series of tweets. Copyright James Knight. All rights reserved.

13 avatars of Jack-in-the-box, enumerated by the schizophrenic ventriloquist whilst under sedation

1. A wooden box, longer than wide. Inside, Rotten Jack grins liplessly at the prospect of his springtime.

2. Framed by the booth’s curtains, Mr Punch pops up, puts the willies up poor Judy.

3. The black egg cracks, shudders. Stand back!

4. The xenomorph in its gloopy womb.

5. A nightmare, hiding in a dream about a vase of blue roses.

6. Lady Gaga bursts from the hot head of a painted Madonna.

7. The Bird King, cranky in his metal cocoon.

8. Satan inhabits the sole of your shoe.

9. An imaginary terror in a room in a basement.

10. Jack Nicholson, ecstatic, bellowing through splitting wood.

11. A snowflake containing the idea of a snowman.

12. An open book’s black words jumping into you.

13. A tweet, this tweet, in the perpetual surprise of your timeline.


Originally written as a series of tweets. Copyright James Knight. All rights reserved.

The Bird King’s Eggs

This piece is dedicated to Alejandro Jodorowsky.


The Bird King’s eggs are
subatomic particles
created serendipitously


in a quantum physicist’s dream.

Occupying a space
between existence
and nothingness,

and madness,

and cauliflower,

they lie dormant
in the brains of millions,
their presence sometimes hinted

by a little blackout,
momentary aphasia,
a smudged face in a memory.


Frequently mistaken for full stops
(periods, if you’re American),
the Bird King’s eggs
are in fact

They rhyme with horse,
and curtain.

But because they’re neither poetry nor prose, those with a mania for classification refuse to acknowledge their existence.


It won’t surprise you to learn
that the Bird King’s eggs
resemble hand grenades
or suppositories,
depending on the time of day
and state of mind
of the observer.

They smell of parsley, plastic and piss.

If you don’t have any,
you can make some at home.
All you need are
a jar of dolls’ tears,
a strip of lightning,
a ghost’s moustache
and twenty pints of sour milk.


We’ve reached that point in the poem
where a discussion
of the author’s intentions
is inevitable.

So, what do the Bird King’s eggs represent?

Lacking the stable symbolism
of a cross
or a skull,
the Bird King’s eggs
and out
of meanings,

They are coffins, building blocks, severed heads, cocoons, seeds, paper weights, lumps of clay, shells, bombs, Russian dolls.


Some have argued that the Bird King’s eggs are merely imaginary.

Their naïveté is astonishing.


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

13 tweets to lament the anniversary of the Bird King’s birth and celebrate his deserved death

One year ago exactly I wrote my first Bird King text and tweeted it through @echovirus12. Here it is:

The Bird King is mad again. He caws through empty midnight streets, moulting tar-black feathers.

That tweet was to be the start of a long series of Bird King texts, many of which would form parts of my long poems The Madness of the Bird King and The Death of the Bird King. What follows is a new 13 I wrote today, to mark the anniversary of that first tweet.

13 tweets to lament the anniversary of the Bird King’s birth and celebrate his deserved death

1. The Bird King is coiled inside an egg-shaped coffin. His rotting carcass blossoms with maggots. Who said death was the end?

2. Little is known of the Bird King’s parents. His father was a jackhammer, his mother a shrunken head, a victim of voodoo magic.

3. The Bird King was born in the waste land. Don’t go all glassy-eyed; the circumstances of his birth were neither pathetic not poetic.

4. The Bird King enjoyed a quiet childhood. He rowed little boats, started fires, made potions containing lemonade and piss. Happy days.

5. As a boy, the Bird King had only one friend: his shadow. Or so he thought. But the shadow despised him, plotted against him.

6. Adolescence was not a pleasant experience for the Bird King. Plumage and hair erupted from him. His song turned to a shriek.

7. The Bird King lost his virginity to an espresso machine. For the rest of his life he found the smell of coffee dangerously arousing.

8. The Bird King once mistook himself for a very large bee. Craving nectar, he shoved his head into the pale flower of a toilet bowl.

9. The Bird King changed swiftly from a character to a persona adopted by the author, a mask, a tool, a gimmick. His image proliferated.

10. I don’t know what the Bird King looks like. No one does, not even Diana Probst, for whom he sat.

11. The Bird King’s adult life is chronicled elsewhere, in a book. Most of that account is mendacious. So is this tweet. He liked a paradox.

12. In the mausoleum of the Bird King visitors are required to pay their respects by taking off their clothes and defecating on his coffin.

13. Happy birthday, Bird King. May your putrid wings carry you back to the nest of my skull.


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

13 machines from the Bird King’s private collection

1. The sparrows’ heads revolve slowly when you press the red button, but the boxing glove attachments don’t work.

2. A weird weaving of voices, unmusical harmony. One phrase punctures the texture: “The empty slot.”

3. Poems are processed into more useful verbal artefacts: shopping lists, legal documents, instructions for the use of contraceptives.

4. Christ-in-the-Box leaps heavenward, eyes agog.

5. Don’t look too closely at the little dials and switches. They present an infernal microcosm that will swallow you.

6. Tinier than a nanobot, it was once the scourge of the amoebae.

7. Simply place unwanted food in this funnel, pull the lever, and watch it emerge from this opening as the man or woman of your dreams!

8. I like the mouthpiece and the piston action of the fleshy appendages. But I dislike being aroused so violently.

9. It can’t just be a cage. It must do something, surely, to be classified as a machine? But it escapes me.

10. The user is invited to lick the touchscreen, and thereby induce nausea or an orgasm (sometimes both) in whoever’s image appears on it.

11. You’re having a fucking laugh, mate. What’s so special about this heap of shit? I’ve got ten like this at home, & they all smell better.

12. New from Mammon Inc: the Dream Egg. Let it hatch your secret desires.

13. Some of the other visitors think Machine 13 is actually the Bird King himself, encased in red plastic. Whatever it is, it terrifies me.

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