It was never quite the kiss or weather. We fell down after reading together Simply since love is a matter of fact
At Easter; it often follows the act
Of indiscipline, the shifting feathers That transform a swan; bars of leather Were not our scene, but we attacked
Ideas of unison with underage tact.
We ached to wake up as F. Kafka; Cherry-balmed lips the morning after. It was sub-zero that April in Montreal;
The metro was blue; the turnstile
Saw us part, Walkman’s synchronised
To Orbison’s dream tears in our eyes.
Half A Cup Is Better Than One
The sun of course and being guided by Amazon Into Tweens in Music, not Books. Flannery O’Connor wrote to Alfred about unbelief. I aim for chastity, spill my seed at HDLove. How was it once we met and courted Before the zip of the instant cock Arriving in the palm like Christ? I ride to my end on an ass And wave at each frond Fondly, like a friend To man and beast. Go slow, go on. Lift me, Lord. I pray up. I am in The way Of need. Bring a chalice To my sensuous Lips. Bill me monthly For my insatiable greed. The flies raft on my semen Like a damned umbrella drink Was in the making. I swizzle in So many ways, my soul is slickness Itself. I have arm-wrestled unarmed Men and downed scorpions in one, like Bond when he was at his very lowest ebb. Satan gave me the part of my life in his web.
I play myself but this time famous on NYC smack
SONG OF THE UNUSED MAN
I sit in the sun like a Cape Canaveral Man who never got the blast-off chance, now burns in the Florida penumbra, muscle
slipping like chicken thrown to predators
on a farm for the green monsters that thrive; sip a Coors and yearn for flight, pulse-race expertly controlled after many simulations.
The cost of time feels like this delayed space,
subtle countdown to less and less, as her polka dot summer dress gently lands on the dumb motel’s inanimate floor –
a place without conviction or ideology,
just cold half-clean thin sheets marred and jarred by off-hand sex administered by the hands of day visitors to the Centre.
No craters pock the race to explore here,
all as smooth as virgin territory; no crust. No one now alive swims or swam in that dead pool fenced off like a bomb testing site.
Failure to launch a badge, a joke, a way back
to reclaiming what was lost, what never returned, the opposite of velocity is premature ejaculation; the rocket that never sped off
the base, piercing the bright blue Americana
of history. Sick to experience what I can’t, my life is a series of skin flicks without cum shots. My name has become a synonym for
the ones who don’t get to walk above the rest.
Put my loyalty to the test, every day, by living. Waking is an agreement to go through motions. Check. Check. Flip the switches. Red dials.
The beeps and clicks that summon technology
to become the Merlin of the age and transfer power to what is barely seen, the flung empyrean. I become a thing in this everyday sun
called the almost-ran, the other guy, the beaten
unemployed model in t-shirt and Ray-Bans, model for a way of being good by training to go out of the atmosphere in split seconds.
Still fearless though greying, young enough
to conquer or kill; brave enough, crew-cut fresh, half-ripped in the shade, still a danger man. Still in this rusting deck chair at 8 am, hung
over from her, a bottle of Jack and nothingness
collapsing into a routine as bright as embers after the war-king has been burnt, high ceremony. Kennedy was the one, handsome energy intact,
the capsule shot to shit in the debris of contact
with the heat of command. I never said: now, the one to hurtle and shaken rise up to harm deferred: though prepared to be that holy, alarmed.
No poet with Nobel, no cat bored with cream,
playmates my award, the grins of kids afraid to ask where Armstrong is. I consider the remote, too close to it for comfort, preferment of the moon
not my permitted Muse; fallen from the royal land.
Able to smear red lipstick, clutch the wives of those whose climbing dreams blasted true onto their born cvs, whose lives went far away,
men who are the symbol of who they chose to be.
Abandoned on the lowest height next to greatness, I turn to the next bottle and the next, flicking caps out over the chlorine scum, watching for what sinks
and knowing in my red veins what could climb, climb.
It wasn’t invented yesterday, Death, it casts a long shadow. I know where we are going, partly
and it is to dust, ash, awful stuff.
Who hasn’t been awake and worried about our fragility? My father, in his coffin, broke
any sense I’d had that life was good.
His stillness, in the midst of things, was far too complete to be much comfort. God promises
some form of return, but not bodily,
not after the dust has dissipated. When we walk the streets marked out as fools in our desperate hope
of life everlasting, we are
performing an act of instability. We are throwing our living forward into death, and by dying while alive
are making death and life a mixture
like the paste used to heal wounds. The flimsy cross of coal on my skull blows off in the wind, smudged
like newsprint. But it is a story
made of a paper that burns up each year, and each year reappears, to be burnt again. Seasonal, despair
turning like the sun to faith,
as flowers have to press again to scatter the earth, to invade the light. Our bodies broadcast our deaths,
deaths predicted at the moment
we unsheltered from the womb. Death is a broken comb of honey, its incomplete hive buzzing
with the sweetness of something else,
the further fields of stamen and pistil awaiting fecundity. Death starts like a starter’s pistol a race
to the line where all that disintegrates
embodies the greatness of our birth: we walk constantly dying upright because we are possessed
of what cannot die, what ignites,
the match-head blue striking of soul.
No point harassing the Niceday highlighter. The busted bust of Palas in the palace, alas, Is all the marbles you get in Poetrydom,
More or less. Poetry tends to get, fast,
Unfriended, in this pacey age of sub/dom. My poetry job ended at half-time, ushered Out with the blinded majorettes (pom-poms,
Falling). What remains on the field are
Meatheads bulleting each other’s hurtlocker Torsos. Ever rooted for a side you shouldn’t Have, mate? Taliban verse was reviewed
I gather. Favourably? Not sure.
Music is, to them, over-rated, while drones Rake down. Wake me before you drown-drown. My partner joined a LGBTQ
Group at her investment bank to be inclusive;
Or rather, more inclusive. I felt a cold shoulder At the wheel of corporate ownership. I remain impossibly pre-facebook, queer,
But never more bisexualist than Tiresias.
Money, meanwhile, is comfortable eyeless, Communes with fags, hags, and stags, So long as they hold moneybags between
Their legs. History ended again yesterday
When we made peace with Iran. We now means China too. I waited my whole middle youth For Pixies to release new material and when
They do, no Deal. Poetry is a gang of thugs
Unable to move units at WH Smith, Whose verbal skills, like Toby Jugs, shape National mirth in streams of urinal force.
Thus, when one drinks a poet’s piss, we really
Toast healthier sales of all the horsecrap prose Our novelist friends managed to e-book. I learned around an oak table at school
That spanking fiction pays if the wood is birch.
The greatest living poet in our tongue is Hill. I too take the occasional pill. My soul is ill. It sobs like a fat man at a slim WC door.
My voice broke last week, the same time
As my will to compete with the love brigade. That’s the arseholes with keyboards, iPhones. Having sold my soul at the demonic crossroads
To Harold Bloom, I should have swerved
To celebrity, but he said, look, lack Is what poesis ravenously adores to crave, Feed on what you don’t get paid. Again.
Poesis is how you don’t get made a man
By picking up a pen, friend, in this mean town. The canon, he informed me as only he can In Latin, Greek, Hebrew and gobbledygook,
Knows that for the bard, being ranked A-list
Is like being sun-kissed with wax wings. Avoid being classed too high, drowsy, Drugged or straight edge. Compose
Yourself on a thin ledge, and don’t jump
When your many followers invite you to fist The ferro-concrete floor with brain matter. In short, don’t die when the Commander-
In-chief says take them, take them all
And out of the sky falling like Tennyson hawks Or falcons or eagles, crooked out of some Droning hook of fate, meaning clashes
Cymbals, to detonate a small meeting of things
That might normally not have met, like bodies And fire, ice and wire, weddings and hate. The resulting shit smear is drain of life incarnate
Delivered from the man who claimed to be good,
Which is just the way they talk in the neighbourhood. I bend to pick up old women, and pieces of their Old men. I am stooped with a rushing loss
Of faith such as blood streaming from
An artery might appear to be. My Belief in faith is at a total low ebb. These wedding shrouds that are my eyeballs
Offer as a timely gift obliteration’s
Pall, a purple answer to shade When arterial spillage is waste. Taste demands we pay victims of a quake.
I swipe right to slake my desire
To kiss every face I can see on my screen For free, or if they give A service, a hundred. Don’t dread the ban on the dark net,
Margins peddle images out of Spiritus Mundi,
All those in Westminster Abbey Rise to bow. Nevermore lick any firm’s helmet Of flesh or blood. My dick a platinum catalyst
And the rest is fusion, confused as history.
© Todd Swift
British-Canadian poet, university teacher, editor, critic, and publisher based in the United Kingdom. Currently Dr Swift is Senior Lecturer in Writing, Institute of Humanities and Creative Arts, University of Worcester.