Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Never Saw a Wild Thing

after DHLawrence

Clearly out-of-it in some way
a wasp goes through the motions;
stumbles around the rim or
homes in on my sweet beer breath.
Wafted away it stalls, falls off the air
clumsy to the table, too weak to evade;
to programme the usual lines of code
but she walks into a spec of sweet.
And like an idea dawning on a human face,
Babbage’s last tumblers falling into place,
the sweet seems to select a sequence – nest.
She turns, clock-wise, aligns to the light,
rolls a cold sun like a solitary bearing
to shine down the funnel of a compound eye:
checks angle, declination, wind
then casts away on to the wing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Satellite, The Moon falls and misses Earth indefinitely
as light is bent around The Sun by the weakest of all forces.

Substance to structure, each life exacts a pull.
Manufactory, a seed reads code guides,
sucks at its surroundings,
extracts material means
for the making of a living.

Each gestation marks the pace of change
as side by side blue whale and pygmy shrew
accrue the necessary means of being.
Sentience, emerging, demands a higher yield
and hominid evolves its encephalon.

Migration walks and falls from foot to foot,
to strip and burn and pass. From hand to mouth,
new mind pits brute thought against red nature:
bent, out-witting, by means of invention,
the natural force of selection.

Settlement presses the footprint deeper;
Blue stones moved as though to the moon
still count, sacred, around a mound,
while hive minds now split time at somewhere
near the speed at which sun shines.

Technical replication, though blind as bacteria,
dumb as parasites, mutual as mitochondria
expects a necessary tending. And needy as we must be
to please our master genes, can we in any way see that
we never were the end and are still only part of the means.

And so a sixth great extinction shifts a gear.
Human moods unleashed from lunar-heave,
weave past neap and spring; sweep meme and meme;
belief defeats hard survival. Ideas pent to progress,
push like ‘misnamed’ tidal waves

or funnel a rising bore against the river’s tow,
cut back steep banks that shore from overflow.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Carved into the bark
a four letter alphabet
A C G T Spells............Life.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Panta Rhei – Everything Streams

The impossibility of repetition

Everything streams
yet everything seems infinitely divisible.
Sunshine beams outside
light scatters through trees and fallen leaves.

Step into the stream.
Particles teem in shoals, weave in flux and pass, until
in rain they fall again
where change leaves nothing the same.

Light scatters through trees and fallen leaves.
Sunshine beams outside.
Everything seems infinitely divisible;
yet everything streams.

Catching Waves

“The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder, but when I think of the fine known gradations, my reason tells me I ought to conquer the cold shudder.”
Charles Darwin

Stand anywhere.
Take a slice thinner than a human hair
Are there pictures passing through the air?

To catch light on a film of silver salts;
boil animal hides to gelatine,
spread a thousandth thick on celluloid,
turn black to white from red blue green,
from white to black and back again.
Stand anywhere. Catch the light
as pictures passing through the air.

Or to catch a wave - electromagnetic
and visible to the eye - align an array
of ten million solar cells,
turn red blue green into something or nothing;
(binary bits and bytes per pixel),
colours to numbers and back again.
Caught on the end of a human hair,
are there pictures passing through the air?

Or conquer a cold shudder and
take advantage of a long line
of slight successive variations
advanced by the shortest and slowest steps
in numerous gradations towards an organ
of extreme perfection and complication.
Did nature once make a nerve sensitive to light?

Stand anywhere.
Take one hundred and sixty million spliced human hairs;
are there pictures passing through the air?

*The majority of the final verse is an arrangement of Darwin’s own words in The Origin of Species and from a letter to a colleague

Time Pressing

I pick a pebble from the waterline;
cut through with its stripe of quartz it catches my eye.
Wetness picks out the black
and light glints the silica stippled in the sun.
If it were a fish it would be glistening;
it would gasp for water and slip from my grasp
quicker than I could catch a grab at it.

Not a million miles from here but in a million years
it has traced an existence,
pressed from previous sedimentary incarnations:
Ground, weathered, stirred in spate,
settled in calmer waters to fall and lie
with grains of common size and mass,
overlain by successive pressings.

Then forced up to be torn and cracked
fractured and beaten, bouldered, smashed and frosted,
split, baked and chipped off the block to be
tossed, jostled, smoothed round and graded, until
flipped flat at my feet it catches my eye,
cut through with its stripe of quartz:
for the first time subject to desire.

My want to possess is weighed for once
in the light of mindfulness.
Out of its element, dead in my hand,
is the power to suspend geological time.
Human time, though insignificant, has no respect
for the greater achievement that the grinding cycle of ages
has the dumb patience to achieve;

I place the stone as near to where I found it.
Gathered by the backwash,
waves gives gravity to the gesture.
Not having long to linger
I turned from the pull of the sea
and pressed for time
I left.


The sea-worm crawls – grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.
Thomas Hardy - Lines on the loss of the Titanic.

With the first kick of boot onto spade
The worm shrinks back.
Nature counts sedimentary time.
Uranium beats half-life to lead
Taking the time it takes
The pendulum keeps deep time.
And the sea-worm crawls
Slimed, dumb, indifferent
Up from the swing of blind inertia.
Eon, Era, Epoch
Neogene, Holocene, Human
Human Human.

For The Record

There can be no fine fossil record
but, caught in amber, two drops of blood,
with spider and web reveal, gene by gene,
eon by eon, sperm to egg
generation by generation,
five hundred million years of successful
replication; hour by hour, error
by error; the accurate attachment, thread
by thread; faithfully treading lines of code
with practice of no forethought or hindsight
but weaving a web that spreads
from little bits of clay
to radiate around the world today.

Its left and right sides are two thirds as long
as it’s top and bottom sides and the
left side is located where a line drawn
from a point halfway between the midpoint
of the top side of the square is crossed by
two lines, the first of which is drawn from
a point halfway between the midpoint of
the left side and the upper left corner
to a point halfway between the point
halfway between the centre of the square...

The thought is seeded, streaming, crystal, in
one hundred billion supersaturated cells.
And so the artist conceives of a work that uses
idea as the object. Neither geometric
nor organic; seen by the blind and passed
from host to host by any temporary means.
Expressed with high fidelity, projected
transparent on an uneven wall or
played-out like the accelerated evolution
of jazz, spun and caught on record,
remastered, analog to digital; passing
the old grey whistle test of hook-line
and finally the test of time that, though unfaithfully
falling onto fertile minds, outlives the liver’s longevity.

Instructions for a wall drawing ,The Location of a Square, by Sol Lewitt. John Weber Gallery New York. Exhibition 1974.
Lewitt said “Ideas can be works of art” and coined the term Conceptual Art.

Get Out Of That Without Moving

There will be a time and a place
in time and in space
when and where we will not be.

Some time
after the big bang,
I coalesced and my time began;
measured in events.

Since that singular beginning
I have traced a vector, spiraling like swarf;
tracking away from the point of conception;

treading the globe;
spinning with the days;
tilting with the seasons;
circling the sun;
spiraling with the galaxy
and all moving away
from the universal singularity.

There will be
a time and a place
in time and in space
when and where
we will not be.


Even we can feel the dread.
In our human hackles.
Hairs. Shivers. Shadows.
The recent dead.
Elder. Ally. Rival.
Familiar creak of stair
on landing. Lover. Hearer.
Watcher. Waiting.
Mind. Expecting. Body.
Intent. A live imprint.
Gone. But still.
Turned on.

And something must be done;
An undertaking.
And with respect,
for the hovering sense;
still under the spell.
For the ancestor.
It should be soon,
no delay,
not to sour
with the very real
of decay.

The Laws of Physics

You know the laws of physics
easy peasy:
I throw – you catch.
You trace and track the parabola
and with a reflex
of pin-point precision,
timing, convergence,
just reach and pluck
the ball
out of thin air.

I just knew you would.

I knew
that you knew
that if I threw the ball
I wanted you
to catch it.
And you knew that I knew
that you knew
how to catch it;
child’s play.

watches the people;
watches the ball.
The people move.
The ball moves.
The people
move differently
all the time;
never the same way twice.
The ball
baby sees,
is bound by the laws of physics;
it’s obvious; common sense.
The people move
on purpose.

You love Daddy’s bedtime story.
John and Jane are playing ball in the park.
You are sad because Jane cannot catch the ball.
Daddy makes the ball come alive.
You laugh.
How funny.
And you are happy for Jane
when she catches the magic ball.
Lights out.
And the shadows
are not real.
How silly.
God Bless.

The Atomist Hypothesis

Beyond atoms and empty space is opinion.
Everything something and void, void.
A multiplicity of matter in motion;
changing aggregates of imperishable uncuttables.
You separate a spec from the dust
and watch wind blown mists gather;
run back into the stream.
You noticed such things;
asked only that nature answer .
And although not entirely empirical
your hypothesis has stood its ground,
survived enlightenment; until, by design,
beyond the evidence of your eyes,
answers worthy of your questions
have produced questions
worthy of your asking.

The Naming of Things

Find a place to stand
where you can see,
beyond all horizons,
the whole inhabited

Let the eyes, the ears, the mind
of the universe
take no fixed point of view;
relinquish the naming of things;

wretch ego from the sick gut
of feeling and see no outsiders;
cry at the resistance of things
to being of one mind, but know
it only takes one mind.

Step down: Stay.
Help shake the credulous from their wonder.
Give them stout shoes and
put their minds on full alert.
Ask them what they want.

Do not fear, tell them.
It is here. It is here.
The thing. The very thing;
it is here.

Turn On

When Eve came up with a recipe for Madeline
she offered the first one to Adam. “Mmm”
he said, innocently staring down her cleavage.
A shudder ran through him and he stopped, intent
on the extraordinary thing that was happening to him.
An exquisite pleasure invaded his senses.
But, having no childhood and very little past to call upon,
the sensation infused his blood;
a plexus of nerves, a synaesthesia jolted:
something else of shape and solidity sprang into being,
enlarging the present and pointing to the future.
Those squat, plump little cakes hit the spot,
like a first drag on his morning fag
or long parched slugs of cider at the end of the day.

italics: Proust