I am made

I am made of magnetic masks, smiles, surprise, sunrise, light in flighty eyes, flint, glinting winks, mouths, teeth, clouds, thieves.

I am made of blood and stone and rusty nails and blue light refracted in water and smashed iPhones and laughter and eyes and forests.

I am made of fuck that and hiya and after you and what a load of crap and what do you think and what did you say and yes please and see ya.

I am made of Paz and Eliot and Michaux and Breton and Mansour and Pizarnik and Harsent and Blake and Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti and Plath.

I am made of Schoenberg and Saariaho and Slipknot and Sex Pistols and Stravinsky and Sciarrino and Slayer and System of a Down and Scriabin.

I am made of nothing and something and odd things and lost things and broken things and imagined things and silly things and vision things.

I am made of putty flesh and dubious liquids and hardness and slop and jellies and tautness and silk and dead leaves and mists.

I am made of unremarkable and weird and nice and psychotic and autistic and fun and supportive and boring and complicated and forgettable.

I am made of devour and gulp and search and stumble and make and unmake and fuck and sleep and listen and whisper and forget and remember.

I am made of falling down and swimming through and walking in and staying away and flying by and sitting out and jumping over.

I am made of adversely and perversely and happily and luckily and drearily and stupidly and hopefully and morbidly and tenderly and slowly.

I am made of check shirts and slouch beanies and stiff ties and slick suits and no hair and NIN t-shirts and smart shoes and nakedness.

I am made of glitches and mirages and tricks of the light and illusions and delusions and confusions and contusions and lightless nights.

I am made of burning furniture, car headlights, riot police, scarred spaces, the sea, horror movies, vampire cats, mirrors, mannequins, mud.

I am made of typed words, scrawled words, spoken words, words set in stone, quicksand words, made-up words, anticipated words, worm words.

I am made of tittered tweets and loose threads and botched posts and larval poems and egg texts and hopeless monsters buried in rows.

I am made of Photoshopped punk surrealism and stuttering feeds and scratches on the black screen and junk poetry.

I am made of @echovirus12 and @chimeragroup0 and @badbadpoet and Russian doll avatars and a snowman and a smeared blue skull.

I am made of a little boy setting fire to a tree and a man with a goatee lighting a cigarette and a clean-shaven man putting a log on a fire.

I am made of mannequins and Mr Punch and Jack Ketch and Eve and Max and a sleeping man and the Bird King and Medusa and a nameless narrator.

I am made of dirt, dust, diseases, dystopias, dynasties, disasters, dressing rooms, dishes, despots, diptychs, districts, debts.

I am made of he, she, it, they, us, we, no one, someone, anyone, anyway, anywhere, any, many, money, honey, humble dumbness, numb fun.

I am made of mad cast-offs and sad glades and fast frosts and fronds and fins and moons and moans and makeup and waking up.

I am made of eye a maid of eyes not afraid of my my my not afraid of waves silent at night silent on the shore before I was made.

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In my day…

In my day, you could buy a polythene bag of cigarette butts for 5p. And everyone had a proper haircut.

In my day, plumbers gave free vasectomies whilst reciting patriotic poems. And all the buses were red.

In my day, there was always more than enough sex to go round, with plenty left for seconds. And England was the only country.

In my day, you had to wear rubber pants. No one complained. It kept the doctor away. And it never rained, except on bank holidays.

In my day, sofas were encased in iron. Not like these horrid modern fabric covers. And everyone knew how to twerk.

In my day, we all loved a good war. The kids played genocide in the streets. You could wander around naked and no one complained.

In my day, everyone had a commemorative Sex Pistols mug. Tea never tasted better. You could throw your dog out the window if you wanted.

In my day, the public bogs were palaces. You could get your ears waxed whenever you liked. And nobody farted or said, “Fuck.”

In my day, everyone read Borges. None of that Harry Potter. The grass cut itself. Houses grew on trees.

In my day, you were allowed to nuke people who looked at you funny. We all respected the shopkeepers. And the flu hadn’t been invented.

In my day, you could get Spotify on the wireless for two bob a week. And energy saving lightbulbs were so bright, your face burned.

In my day, babies were delivered to your door. They only cried in the afternoons. They were good as gold. Cats smelt of vanilla.

In my day, a man’s erection was strong enough to lift a car. Criminals were grateful when we flogged them. Curtains were fireproof.

In my day, glass slippers were fitted as standard. Everyone was entitled to a prince. They sold off the broken ones to Taiwan.

In my day, a man could hold his breath for five weeks, if he wanted. TVs were made of platinum and elbow grease.

In my day, you could take your kids to an execution and no one minded. People had manners and didn’t show their teeth, ever.

In my day, most people were Olympic-standard swimmers. You couldn’t move for bald men in Speedos. And gravy was as thick as mud.

In my day, you could get drunk on a teaspoon of shandy. Carrots were 100% carrot. None of them additives. And burglars tidied up after themselves.

In my day, everyone was taught to sight read music at school. We had composers coming out of our ears. Silence didn’t exist.

In my day, it snowed to order on Christmas Day. The presents were so big, it took four people to lift them. We all played Monopoly in the woods.

In my day, 1+1 could equal any number you wanted. There was a magical kingdom in every wardrobe. And dreams were more realistic.

In my day, the central heating was so good, you could cook a chicken with it. We were all used to the heat. If our eyes melted, we just laughed.

In my day, you were allowed to kidnap anyone you wanted, as long as your ransom note didn’t have any bad grammar in it.

In my day, we all wore Andrei Tarkovsky t-shirts on Sundays. No one thought anything of it. And nosey neighbours minded their own business.

In my day, mirrors showed you the future. We often danced in the streets all night. You were allowed the broken clocks for free.

In my day, chocolate was made from blood and was much better for you. Gobstoppers lasted forever. We all slept standing up, like real men.

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 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.

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.

—–

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.

—–

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.

—–

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

—–

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.

—–

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.

—–

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.

What the mirror showed

The mirror showed what it chose to show, never what the viewer demanded to see.

The mirror didn’t show the back of his head, because the back of his head didn’t exist. You peered into his mask from the inside.

The mirror showed a mannequin but not the blood, brain, heart, lungs, intestines and other organs inside you.

The mirror showed a pile of masks, some cracked, all dirty. You stood next to them, but the mirror didn’t show you.

The mirror didn’t show the nightly massacres taking place behind your eyelids.

The mirror showed pages torn from a notebook, covered in poems, diary entries and obscene doodles, all artfully arranged in the form of a man.

The mirror showed a spurt of blood, a smashed camera, strewn flowers, a copy of Hamlet.

The mirror showed a hand in a glove, a bird in a cage, a thought in a head. You turned off the light to extinguish all three.

The mirror showed a forest, a little girl, a dead wolf. Outside, sirens howled.

The mirror showed your future. Your reflection’s cold, grey skin and sagging mouth smelt of death.

The mirror showed her washing her hands. Blood spattered the white sink. Behind her, in the doorway: a man made of rusty knives.

The mirror showed him the mask he thought he was wearing, not the mask he was wearing, which resembled his face.

The mirror didn’t show the masks you’d buried like corpses. You smoothed your black skirt, admired your stilettos. You were dressed to kill.

The mirror showed itself. Nothing on its silvered surface was real. You stood in front of it, staring at a face.

The mirror showed the house’s empty shell. Vapour trails scarred the sky. Elsewhere, in a dark room, you put on your tie and your fright mask.

The mirror showed a cat, a broken bottle, a trunk exploding with fake furs. She kept to the shadows, out of the light of the setting sun.

The mirror showed your most acceptable mask. While you shaved, the man on the other side of the glass dragged a blade over his throat.

The mirror showed a dream superficially indistinguishable from your day-to-day life. You had no idea.

The mirror showed an empty stage. The audience could be heard muttering and coughing. Put your mask on. Perform.