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22 June 2024



The Thieves

Francis Jones

Poems should echo and re-echo against each other. They should create resonances. They cannot live alone, anymore than we can.

– Jack Spicer

Our culture sees anyone at an economic, social or psychological vortex as a figure of despair. Despair informs all social dealings with them. It is impossible to show this despair is part of society’s own perspective– unless you can convince people not as society but as individuals to come much, much closer; society wastes so much ability to reason, so much ability to laugh. Before laughter and reason, despair vanishes.

–Samuel Delany





On the first day, the weather was a shade of pale-blue-steely-sun. The weather in the city is dialled up and down in an integrated system. It was introduced before I was born, and so I have always known the weather to form itself according to a loose sketch of seasons, going between only a clarifying coolness and a relaxing warmth, never too far either way. The idea is that you never notice the weather happening to you. I never thought about weather, I always believed it to be very lucky to live in such a temperate world. But I have a memory… something about the wind, or rain going sideways. I’ve never seen it, and so I don’t know where that memory emerges from. Sometimes I wonder if you can imbibe other people’s memories, like a transplantation. In any case, as I walked and walked the weather screensaver in the sky started to dilapidate, it ran down as if on a timer. Then it stuttered and glitched. For a phase of my walk, the weather lingered in the sky and slowly came down around me like curtains – it is made of pixels, some kind of projection or something, and I began to hear a whir of something like a fan. An old, blustering fan – or a leaf blower? It was like a leaf blower. It was one of the most inelegant things I had ever heard. The artificial weather gasped and stuttered around me, hovering and then disappearing, until I could see the weather’s edge. I hadn’t walked all that far.

In my notebook I had written the words “Leaving is what makes you a poet?” I had left my job, and had no way to keep going in the endlessly vast, temperature controlled city. I did not know what happened next to people like me. It’s a very taboo subject. The value of the worker, since the city is divided into the workers and the rich, is that the worker is not rich; the worker is valued because they are stitched into the fabric of the place, and without a job you are nothing. If the city is a swathe of finely woven cloth, with every person serving a purpose or being served as befits their class standing: well then a Me, a person with no job and no money, just my notebook and this well I have in me of confusion and despair – a Me like I am is like a cigarette burn in the cloth. I could feel the eyes of others on me as I walked around. Since jobs replaced souls, my joblessness marked me as a kind of wraith to others.

I know I am sick, because all my life I have looked for low walls. I have looked for low walls around the city to sit down on and write a bit. I like a damp, mossy brick wall, and I like to put my notebook in the crook of my arm and write for myself. I didn’t know I was writing poetry, but I knew what I needed to seek out, what kind of pausing space I needed, to remember things and pull them up from inside. I worked from the age of 13 in cleaning jobs in rich houses.

I have one other memory that seems transplanted into my mind, put into my brain by a martian from the past. It is an image – an image that moves as I hold it in my head – of clothes drying on a line. At first I thought it was only a static image, like a memory of a photo – but then the sheets (one wide white sheet and one striped duvet cover) move very delicately, like sleeping birds arranging their feathers. I don’t even understand how that works: in my cleaning jobs we always just dried clothes with lasers. It has to be a breeze, lifting the sheets and settling them. Behind the sheets is a sunset, the colour of the inside of a strawberry. I was born with this memory – I think my mother passed it from her brain to mine when I was in her womb. It came to me when I was scrubbing the floor of a house.

Wealthy people pay me, in many ways for a purely nostalgic performance of labour. They invented the technology to make self-cleaning homes a thing, but having a cleaner makes rich people feel rich– so obvious yes. I made money like this. I didn’t always mind the work. It let me think my thoughts, which no one can see, and I would sit down on low walls on my way home and try to write them down. The day’s scrubbing and remembering.

I so very rarely managed anything like that though. I wanted to think much more than I wanted to work, but it didn’t matter. I was tired and listless, like everyone. I sat down and stared at the screens in my house more than I ever sat down on the low walls to write. Once a cop who saw me sitting on a low wall moved me on, told me I was being anti-social. I was worried he would take my notebook, but he didnt – I think he was a little grossed out, a little afraid to touch it.

Just move it, he said.

My poem inside the notebook that day went like this,


No more cloy / with water / with rinsed out carton / for a month / for a mouth / armful of sticks / armful
of sticks / covered in flowers flowers / falling off on the floor / on the floor / on the tiles I dreamed
A memory the memory had tiles the tiles had swirled rats trapped within each tile-body and water fixed
and dirty from under the floor where it had ruptured up from in the initial
And the surfaces in the memory overwhelmed the whole plot til the entire thing was a set of interiors
taken in as one letter
a time strip axis
and cloyed up
like an unbelievable hibiscus
a plate made of deflated balloon-fabric blown across my eyes
so , too fabulous , and across the road , so as to stop me in traffic
so as to almost have me hit by a bus
and crumple . the dotted lines are so much like strewing gravel
presented as a bead for a necklace
or something else you can pin to your throat
slide it along a chain , a chain which is a bracket


I scrub my face with cream with bits of bark in it . when I look out the window there are curious rammed
lines of parked cars all along the road like bits of bark / all along the road. I don’t know what I’m about
so how can I possibly extend thoughts , fingerish and recognizing , to the long bark block of cars and
besides , all this scrubbing of my face has made me some many minutes late for work . apathy fistula /
blankets me smooth / smooth / my language
is permanently forgetting its own fingers / so I flipped
my symptoms to find the language faster


I got caught by a spiderweb on my way here and it won’t get off me
it’s like a pube in the teeth but for my whole body.
The feeling of the web makes me wanna rip myself around,
I mean tip myself, so that I look at you out of my ear
and go to hold you with all the fullness of spit in my body . in my body .
walk over the line for me / if you turn into a new name where in the / what the / in the / chest cavity /
the lacto basilisk / makes me bitter / makes me yield the kind of / sense / only you know I can
today is carving my mouth into a strait / to overwhelm with cherries
with pervert traces of pixie-foil / like shot
buried in the dead bird / mercurial and smelling
of hair dye or shit
you know it’s only fucking pretend-proper
you know it only rolls and glitters
because it is death-hard , an eye on the plate
rolling ,
lazy as your lover in bed
lazy as me as your lover in your bed.


It’s the word “lover” isn’t it. I came across the word graffitied on a train. It looked like a bruise, graffitied in purple, which was right too. I don’t know what it’s like to have a lover – my lover is the low wall.

My lover is a low wall low wall low wall
My lover is a low wall my lover is a wall!

This is the song I’m singing as I try to escape my life. Maybe I will find a real lover. I stop and write in my notebook “Arriving into memory will bring the poem back to itself.” I don’t know why I wrote that. The city’s fabricated weather fell behind me.




Testimonial from the Enclave (the poet is trying to find it)

When I saw the roll of purple lying on the earth my first thought was that it wouldn’t be practical against the weather.

My friend showed me the fretworking of the stitch, how it stretched and held and


wouldn’t easily tear.

Warm too, they said.

Is it silk? I asked.

I don’t know, they replied

would you like to use it?

There is really no learning , nothing so much like rigour , when it comes to pulling aside the told-wants and sinking
into the lower part
of yourself’s

you just come here and on the way here
you begin it,
and when it comes to making where you live
you’ll start to really

unspool in a way that surprises you.


In my lower heart ventricle a small bead is nesting. It sparks at night while I lie under the canopy with the rough grass waving outside. I hear the cows cowing and nuzzling. Children play at dusk and go in when they are tired, or the game’s feeling is no longer immediately en-joy-ed. Sometimes I hum a song from my childhood, that is, piece of me by britney. The melancholia.




Testimonial 2

It’s true, we learned how to use coffee machines and make spreadsheets. When you forget all these proficiencies and all the other things on your CV, you’d be surprised what you remember.

After all, I have always cleaned toilets, I have never minded cleaning the toilet because it gave me time away from everything. I’d lock myself in the cubicle and think.

Obviously it wasn’t fun scooping vomit out of the toilet bowl with my hands when it blocked. But in some ways the upfront grossness made me feel less hmm

laughed at , I think , behind soft managerial hands.

In my old life I watched people suffer, namely, my employers, who paid me to clean their toilets and stood in the doorway telling me about their agonies, their cheating partners, their misbehaving children, their demanding mothers, their jobs for which they deserved a raise, or for those who didn’t have to work, their sense of emptiness and loneliness and boredom.

I understood that no matter how much I suffered as a poor person, working a job that would gradually kill me, this suffering was meaningless in comparison with the existential suffering of the people I worked for. My role was always cleaning toilets, in bars, restaurants, houses, schools and hospitals. The schools and hospitals I worked in were designed for wealthy people, and so the toilets needed to be immaculate. The toilets needed to be more beautiful than all of the expensive sculptures on plinths or any of the glossy paintings and fine slender books in the galleries I worked in.

I was compelled always by the gift shops in the galleries, the little items that repurposed the art within the exhibitions, the be-trinketing of cultural artefacts. These types of items are, I think, understood to be “kitsch,” but then, if each item costs more than ten of my paychecks do they still count as such? The gallery itself is hushed and cool. The books stacked on tables, with clear, elegant writing on the front and dense, intelligent essays within were what attracted me most. I was not allowed to be seen to touch them, most definitely not in my uniform, with its pattern of dancing, laughing toilets on it. That said, I was approached once by an artist who asked me who designed it. I told him it was my toilet-cleaners uniform. He didn’t really understand me, it’s like I was a person telling him a joke in a dream.

One night in my old life I decided to call in to my local bar, in my street, which was a quiet unlit street on the edge of the city. My street was always a little dusty; some fine purple dust coated everything, which I believed was emitted from a makeup factory upwind of where I lived. It was lavender like cocoa powder is, like the cocoa in packets that you mix into hot milk. And a little iridescent. I never disliked it, though I wasn’t sure what it was I was breathing in from the air.

I liked the bar on my street. I liked that it was a building I didn’t have to clean the toilet in. I liked that about the bars in the areas the workers lived in; people just didn’t get piss or shit all over the toilets, because there was no one paid to clean them. In my experience, the richer the person, the worse their aim is when they piss or vomit or shit. It’s like a lack of clarity of self, not understanding that your bodily emissions continue to exist after they leave your body. That they change in nature and become harder to scrub away the longer they oxidise on ceramic. There’s nothing disgusting to me about bodily fluids, it’s more the way some people understand them; as potential vectors of illness or bacteria yes, but important mainly as something someone cleans up for you. Everything in the city connoted your relationship to labour, even putting a used tissue in the bin was politically important. It was so exhausting. My life.

At the bar I liked I met a man who described himself as totally fucked. He was drunk on a stool, and he kept referring to the bar as a real heart-hurting kinda boozer. He liked saying that. I didn’t really know what he meant, it seemed like something he’d seen or heard elsewhere. I couldn’t fathom where; he seemed very old though, I never really saw people in this belt of the city as old as him; and when I saw old rich people they didn’t really look old at all. The lines on this man’s face were like drawings.

I have never had a job.

The man said this in a croaking voice, like he was emitting it from a cavern in his deep innards. At first I ignored him and looked away, my reaction was built into me, to recoil and balk. If I’d had a salary I would have fully sneered. Don’t worry, he said, I know what your body is telling you. I am not hurt by it. It doesn’t hurt to be received with the truth of people’s conditioning, it only makes me feel sorry for you. For people like you.

No Point, he says, trying to deny
your reaction. In time you will no longer have contempt for me or yourself.
And that frees you to do all kinds of things.


And when he smiled it was so, , ,





Like a hibiscus I saw once, hanging like a pink plate on a bush.

I didn’t understand him, what he said. It was like being told a joke in a dream.

You must work somewhere, I found myself murmuring – you must have you must

He smiled at me. This is a real heart-hurting kinda boozer. He said it again. I realised he was being kind of kitsch, that I understood him as anachronistic, like a person in a film. But I had never seen a film at that point, although now I show films to my neighbours every week. I project them. I became a projectionist, after I left the city. That was later. That was because of the man.

He didn’t live in the city, he lived outside. He told me a long time after, when I met him passing through the small misty field near my home.

Sometimes we send people into the city, usually older folks, because it’s good for the workers to see people much older than themselves. And they go into the neighbourhoods and mention things to people, or act in strange, referential ways that jolt people out of their reality. Most people don’t do what I did, that is, recycle my encounter with the old man over and over every day for months before deciding I had gone insane and leaving the city for good. Most people stay, there’s lots to stay for.

It was the heart-hurting I thought about. I cleaned toilet after toilet, and my mind was thinking about what it meant to call a place heart-hurting.

Heart-hurting heart-hurting.
It’s the dash between words that does it for me.




Maggot of love

the surface was shifting
under the agreeable layer there was disrepair, decay, wormwood tucked deep

I am amenable to all worms, who work hard, who channel little spaces in the earth which would
otherwise be so profoundly compressed
you can’t eat earth like that
I eat the earth, the earth questions my insides

Symptomatic usually of inner rot, worms are in fact, engineers of negative space, formed into
wriggling, their entire composure exists to find ways

You can compare a city to a fruit, I compare the people around me to worms, maggots that eat
away the rot to make room for new skin, new flesh, and then: new rot, new maggots. Joined at
the tail, we don’t eat each other, we fit through.

In the city I fell in love every twenty minutes with new passersby. I wanted to know of them
what I know of the earth, in every body there are gaps for airflow — I’m hole oriented, see, not
only in the orifice sense. My ability to fall in love made me excellent at tunneling. I wanted to
be in the pores of my lovers, the gaps in the earth, the world beyond what I was expected to

expected to

how can falling in love be like digging a hole
how can falling

expected to

I don’t remember the city so exactly but I remember the passersby. I return to the city now, and
walk around. I find it harder to fall into others, since leaving. What is this, new love-
I looked for the holes all the time, I made myself a maggot of love
now I look around me, I see lovers in the long grass
I see lovers working on structures
I see worms engineering negative space
and in the negative space without what we valued
before, before
something different writhes

I need you now, more than ever

needing you now more than ever feels wayward and dirty
moreso than love ever did before
cleanness is not the finale, the end
the ending is soil, soiling and being soiled
smear me then, so that I feel enrobed in love’s earth
so that I feel myself making new space
under the ground, above, within




(scrap of discovered material from a newspaper article,
maybe a lifestyle magazine
found on the forest floor
having been blown across from the city)

I can’t remember if, in these situations I am meant to express pity or contempt. Pity went out of fashion in 20MQ, and was followed by a phase of jokey classism, where it became fashionable for moneyed people to talk ironically about spitting on the poor, and then pretending to spit on people working in low-paid jobs or homeless people, and then the poor started spitting on each other to indicate status, but then everyone was covered in spit and the bit became defunct, the rich moved onto a new thing and spit was out. Which was sad for any spit hobbyists for whom the act of spitting was liberatory and sexy, because it became recognised as unfashionable and then unsavory, then relegated only to more hardcore kink scenes. Indeed, when the poor began to spit on each other it became the style for a time among the upper classes to take little tablets that parch the mouth, so that in polite society no one produced errant saliva and all conversation was tinged with a sound like dry leaves (the tongues of the rich in communication with each other, rustling), which the rich found soothing, tasteful. The pills however, produced quickly and sold expensively in response to a zeitgeist, contained an under-researched chemical that had the side effect, long term, of Pancreatic Grout.

This year, contempt and effusive sweating is in among the elites, and the perennially chic stiff-lipped sneer is the visage du jour. The sweating is part of the Pre-Cosmetica turn, wherein cleanliness is maintained through a series of sonic baths that vibrate dirt from human pores, after which a special hormone-imitative musk is applied to the skin, intended to resemble the smell of a worker – reports have it though, that due to the moneyed consumers of the musk having never truly smelled a worker, the musk itself is essentially a scentless placebo, with the wearer imagining themselves to smell as though they just finished a day on a building site or hospital – your choice, there’s an endless array of options based on workplace, there’s even talk of a new fragrance based on the smell of unemployment itself, though this is highly controversial.

Despair of mending / the crack in the voice / is the point you most recognize it
Breathe in a selection of crumbs so the major airways react furious / push further and wolf low on the
ground . run a nightmare gauntlet / dream the head chef checking on his skulls in the back garden . I am
brought in to make empty open comments like “I love listening to the radio” / banal and full of feeling ,
scrubbing my shame up out of the grout and squeezing the sponge into my eye , the endlessness that
forms a good disciple , the rocking back on my heels / and forward / and groping the air too it’s February
/ so there are no ideas , just the coward lover near to me but not yet in my bones / not yet in my
organs—that is my understanding , which is a delayed viscera , which is a hotness too wet to see yet ,
what are you writing ? I am not writing

I am just counting
and watching a circling ,
like when I was younger and I would put the older girl in my mouth in my mind .
I am circling my life and it’s a grey night all humid with distance everything limerent everything
pointlessly sighing / water birds away from me / I am incomplete and startling / against myself / I
entreat a kind of alluring misstep in the sycamore / in the fir / in the aspen /
trees of different feeling / different seasons , different saps – how radical to study endearingness
and how pristine to only deploy ones studies / when tasked with real rabbit fur .
no reality sleeps into my intestines or shoves into my intentions / why is that , I’m shaping an
embarrassment / so I lean a misattribution / into a fervour / a grotesque stateliness / a ritualized orgasm
/ spending myself while paid for in full / even as I sing along walking home / creeping a mismatched
voice to tone to lyric all made up and groping like a dying mouse at the ground of the kitchen / and sex
and all its attachments are sleeping / are rubbing the leaf in the hand to express a fine oil / a slight
dampness , a little scent , squint over a wrist then and inhale : the plant expels what it swallows /

match that match that
/be a girl or go to hell ! If I promised to become a disaster / a poet or a non-girl / I could be more and more
discrete /
and if I was an honest person and a woman too / I’d just be dead





I saw the old garage through the windows of which tree branches grew wide and long stretching

the evening sun would lay across the old-old stucco like a paw

When I finished my shift I would sit outside the restaurant and watch the light climb and feel the soles of my feet hot

I had two bosses, Martyr and Saint. Martyr took on more work than he needed to, would rota himself in for the longest shifts, sleep overnight in the kitchen, and as a result was distraught, irritable, resentful and unpredictable.

Saint glorified hard work and worked nonstop, hundreds of hours, no days off, so that if he saw you yawn he could ask, how can you be tired, you only clocked in 80 this week.

He was, however, kind and amiable, giving staff small favouring treatments like extra food. He was also violent, but I only found that out on my last day.

I would yawn with the sunset and stretch with the tree branches. The garage was like a sad old head, an ancient man whose thoughts spread out through his eyes.

The tender emotion I felt looking at Old Garage Head gave me my first inkling of the dive-into I needed / to

initiate / to start / to go.

Eventually the garage was levelled and the trees cut down, and instead a big office with sky to earth tinted windows replaced it. In the evening the sun hit the glass and bounced it back onto me, into my eyes, as if to gloat, to say why are you so tired? why are you so tired? why are you so tired?

Overworked and exhausted people are more likely to be volatile, reckless and forgetful.

One day I fell asleep on shift, behind the bins. I was crushing cardboard boxes and I just fell forward as if I’d died, dead asleep. The new looming office building winked above me, watching me as only certain buildings can.

I woke up only because Saint was dangling me by the ankles over the fryer. The boiling oil below me rolled out on itself the way it does, over and over almost soothingly, some things are so hot they look cold. My face was close to some fresh tempura courgette flowers which looked up at me crispily, concerned, while some pale bits of halloumi off to one side gazed at me in helpless dismay. Thank you, brunch items, for your solidarity, but I have been in worse scraps than this, don’t worry. And anyway, I’m so delirious I can’t register emotion very well, this peril is blunted by being fucking permo-shattered.

Saint did the thing of pretending to drop me and then last minute catching me by the ankles. I felt like the tarot card of the hanged man if everything in the image was stainless steel cookware themed and it featured two business owners driven to the brink feverishly chanting slacker, slacker, slacker while I dangle catatonically.

This poses a risk to your hygiene standards, I said, after some time of this had passed. No one wants to find bits of deep fried me in their caponata. I knew he wouldn’t actually drop me in, but it was still stressful. Saint swung me backwards over his shoulder like a big sack of rice.

That restaurant was called Peasant Food, and it catered to the expanding population of people in the area who work in tech and love brunch or anything adjacent to it. I was destined to wait tables and I had found myself at the intersection of a bland and sinister venn diagram (tech employees and poached eggs on sourdough)







and make yr eel-motifs out of every rushed grimace
/ push the roots around in the dry soil and replant what has nothing
I don’t like my ass you know , or rather
I don’t like when people use it
to get between themselves and their feelings
the locomotion of meaning

going through space is incomplete here , like a flame

trying to eat ,
how low u burn !

I am staging a play in which a rich man gets into heaven
through the eye of a needy lover
like I could be above you and not lie
I could arc my stomach over yours and pin you down under me ,
oh look at u , shot of the worst wreck , I met your posh family and it humanised u , I held yr hand and
found it full of broken glass , held anyway , my pictures on the walls all unframed , keyring made from a
worn knot on the bedside table , card declining in boots so I walk out into angel , my customers internal
mansions are so built up now you can see spires protruding from their throats when they open their
mouths wide enough , and flashy windows behind the eye-domes too — wouldn’t it be wonderful to
work like that – bathed in the grease of an ever tightening grip grip
ever critical and dried up – I said a lance , I said a lance – and weather is a thing for the good times when
they’re allowed to roll and roll
so let me let the good times roll and why can’t I put you in my lap , and why can’t I stroke your hair . the
big mechanism is working despite an unseem of rust and shit , every day I expand my inner gaps and
render my nailbedding slightly less than inert
all in the name of troving the rank horror ,
the tree-sap which is sticky and in me,
I tap my body
I push the funnel in ,
and I let it laugh from me

like my sister or my lover or my twin

and now melting around the counter a guy making a comment on my small tits / as if he doesn’t have a
face like a fucking returned gift / the receipt right at the top an apology in advance sorry this present is
so shit / what’s this
about subjectivity / it takes so long to get home / I sleep with the light on and all the moths crackle like
paper angels / reaching to drink electric / my company of holemakers / have a little wool for your teeth /
bugs I’m in love /nothing is mine
and the acquiescent head recites haltingly ,
so I reference
so I give a little hole

to the early night’s disfiguring voice
to the little fascinator gay at the stop
who is undoing a repertoire as is reckoned chic
I never understood the common practice of skirting
that happens around grief like it’s not
the most potent type of revolting – I –
oh god – it makes me sick
when the glass in the window bends
against the pressure of wrong weather
that’s when you go then, out and don’t
let things bounce off you, make your pores roomy , baby
I can pull you in with my pores , face it
but I feel so wrongheaded like a cigarette in the mud , crush it
I’m lambasting today
the wretched hole in the broke heart is still trying
to whir against the encompassment
the and I , look at the sky
and feel coughed up
feel the whir in my broke heart , stunning
it’s the self-sealing that comes from endless pointless conversations w the unpoem

it’s how everytime

you died
I was in work




Again, enclave
A testimonial from a new friend, not yet met


If the structures do not last we will live in the unlasting spaces.

When I walked out of the core I was shocked by all I saw on the ground, the detritus. Fully formed, undamaged food, material and glass which we use for refracting light and making fire.

I always thought I was very incompetent, until I left the city and made the structures, myself and my friends or people who became friends later.

not friends every day, because of our

uneven emotions / that is ok / kestrel pigeon warbler dotterel chough starling eagle stork crimsonwing I am learning all the names from a long book of bird names which I found under a mattress in a field in a library in this place , a narrow mattress that reminded me of death

chitterling . calling-bird . pheasant . owl

flaring space various space

together we find sustenance or nothing.

but I am not only thinking of bird-names . I keep my little knife folded in the center of the book , under a passage about terns . if I say little water prayers to the water birds my mind stops turning itself in puzzles , goes in a line towards overthrow

sometimes I speak to the knife , I say , you live in your book as I live here , among my friends and the imaginary birds . in the city , I see the weather-system has been rebooted , it looks a little like winter , now , how long will we continue ? I am writing this and in writing I am carving my thoughts into sentences , the sentence being my machine now

my machine . my little knife . my words .

We still have to be careful , you see . my interests in the birds comes from having lived my whole life with an empty sky , that is , empty but for the flickering eyes that dart over us all . over us all , even here , surveying . I look up at the eyes above and try to fling invisible sentences up , from my brain at them . I believe they can feel it . I believe they are afraid of things like souls , souls that are not rubbed away as with a rubber .

Again ,

the effect of the surveillance on us
is that we make our feelings and desires unarticulable – and push down deep the inexpressible tracts , deep into the cosmos below the last organs in the body , maybe near the rectum , our self-spools that are disallowed

under the eyes / only the told-wants remain / the highest articulation of self is understood in what you buy

I make my soul now legible with things like
swift / piculet / nightjar / finch
albatross / fruit dove / secret weapon
the secret weapon is what you are yet to say to yourself
the secret weapon is the distraction measures
they don’t even know what we mean yet / they only know they don’t know / I




(from the worker’s notebook)


a scene like that could go
on for years and years /
or a / a
scene like that could go
for years and years / the

the stinging carcass ,
the severe wounding on hands and arms
the small lines of ribs , the bracken
the dead animals stacked
on each other and buzzing

you’d lose a fight wouldn’t you
, the wet clang , stone , maybe best
to lean , to run run run run
from someone coming down like big and
can I give you a dead arm?
in the event of a disquieting incident
or of a heavy locking ,
the doors will become a blow to the slip-drop ,
so u petal up in metal n close it all around you .
there’s lies for favours
and then there’s sliding hands
there’s sliding hands – hands which
move over each other in the middle
of a circle , of a big card game , a flat shoal , the big set best set of
poorly told not really felt lies
keep those ones close to hand under your jacket like
in certain cases the badly told
lie is more disruptive long – term , the energy expensed on a well told thing a well constructed story –
well for who ? what you saying , in this case it’s more about palming off a boss a
landlord a work coach a parent a doctor a body a state a leave . before the lie unravels
find something better to do w yourself in the time it takes to pretend to be productive
I know it’s fucking hard some lies exist to detonate later in the face of who hired you , the
buildings dart down in a stymy , don’t they , they make u feel the ardour
brought about in a gracious
disappear ( you’d lose a fight )
a not turning up for ur shift this once this
twice and turning up again
in some other door frame
skipping every second step
to unremit and so that’s
when you tell the good lie , sort it out right for yourself pull it from the skip ( you’d lose—
it helps you into something

less meagre , less bank account in distress less bit of carpet flipping up at the edge and tripping you in
the dark it’s
pointless to try to catch it ! but you be that too
if anything matters
find an instead that doesn’t suck and practice that
throw it in the bin if it’s good hahaha
and if it’s loony
hold it over ,
pull your luv around from hell and lie w all your heart ,
coward you , I know because same bc it’s hard
to have confidence isn’t it
everything breaks in lines
and doesn’t it feel like dependability
is the pin in the chest of you
doesn’t it feel good to slip off n reappear like here , or here

– you fucker –

you can’t see me

you can’t see me

you can’t see me

(I’m behind you)




Every time you died I was in work (the poet continues their walk)

As I walked, I came upon a verge of grass. It glinted a little blue-green under the irradiance of newly-seen stars, so big to me as to be like moons. I was trying to think about the poem vibrating in my notebook as I walked aimlessly, trying not to think, as I often did while walking alone, about suicide or death.

My lover is a low wall low wall low wall

I would cry outside of work, but in work I hunched over the sink as I bleached it, and tunnel into my mind, trying to build new tunnels that shot past the grief shrines I was decorating in my deep subconscious. Disallowed as I was from decorating my sleeping place, I instead put little pictures on the walls or small boxes on the windowsills in my dreams. The small boxes contained the detritus of my unresolved feelings.

I don’t know that you could say I had friends, but I worked alongside the same person for many years, and after some time of comradely silence we began to have conversations. I recall that their eyes were a very amber-type of brown, and they would talk about different kinds of pets they had encountered in houses they had cleaned. They were older than me. They were good at saying funny things, stories that ended, miraculously, as jokes.

I’d never come across such a thing before.

They died, I heard about it a long time after. I learned from one of the rich ladies whose homes I was sent to clean. The lady had a pet quail. The quail was named Anya, I realised I never knew my friends name, the one who was dead.

I went to the agency to ask about my friend. No one knew anything. The feeling of mingled panic and sadness in tandem with speaking to my manager, my blank faced manager, about my dead friend–

it was like clawing my way up a mountain of silt, sand,
slipping and clawing, when I got to bed that night I cried.


Having never seen a star before, the stars to me were like – like –

O I don’t know

I can’t describe the stars. The lack of acknowledgement of my friend’s death made it feel like nothing had ever happened or ever would. It made the death feel ever-repeating and impenetrable. I only accessed the emotion in dreams, opening the small boxes.

Lying on the blue-green grass under the new sky
in the new cold, well, I just burst into tears. The tears cooled my face and exploded the stars.









white clipped shell on the sand
ripped little nail back of couch
in my mouth
the pressure hatches
when I held u one time
it felt like daying

locket silver word game / slender vial upsleeved
please help
me lift this now,
and lug it up the big stairs together
one go and then a breath
one more go and then stop and then
another and then sweating , hi
again , hello
hello ground shrubs , hello language
that old thing

That old thing being the start
of the ears anxiety
the blush off the canvas
the cow by the tail
so face the situation , and then time too
you know
your music is really
you know

it’s really
very fine ,

you know


you know




Good Morning Poet



When I woke up the cold was deep in my ribs, and my clothes were damp with dew. When I sat up, I felt heavy and morose. Maybe it was very foolish to leave my life, to try and find what I only guessed could be out here. Other people. I should have been grateful for what I had, stayed and tried to enact small changes from inside the problem. I believed that, on many levels. I believed that by thinking in private and maintaining my notebook was its own resistance. But I also knew that those small individuated activities weren’t enough. I knew the next cop that came along wouldn’t be so lenient, that he would take my notebook and that the notebook would be processed and then maybe I would be disappeared. As I believe my friend was, for telling funny stories about the pets of our bosses.

Although I don’t know what happened to my friend. Maybe I will meet them here, again, and we’ll talk freely. I will laugh with them about Anya the quail. I thought you died. That’s what I’ll say.

Maybe I am dead. I believe in heaven, I really do. I believe this cold breezy landscape with nothing but grass for a long long way could be a kind of afterlife. Or perhaps this is my before-life. Didn’t the bedsheets on the clothesline stir gently in a breeze like this? And doesn’t my grief and joy seem to rise in my body in response to the changes in light and temperature? It reminds me of being a child. But I don’t remember being a child, so how can I receive a reminder?

I know that the city was constructed as a means to conceal the excavations of the ruling class, and we as workers were unwittingly married to the machine of it. Every floor I scrubbed and every window I wiped was in upholdance of the city, the people who invented it, who tried to invent me, who stole my life. All of our lives.

What good is a poet, what good am I, to the dissenters who live beyond the remit of the destroying city?

A little way away I see something glinting and waving. For a moment my fatigued brain sees a cathedral dome, then a pale flag, then I see that the little silvery thing is very close and very small. A piece of paper under a smooth stone. I go to pull it out. It’s a letter, with a long bending arrow in silver ink at the bottom.


Good morning poet,

And hello, we saw you crying in your sleep last night, as is only understandable. You are going the right way now, don’t be nervous.

Your decision to leave and walk into space, as you have done, is one made before, by many many people. Acts of imagination such as yours are made every day, whether it results in actual disavowal of the city–leaving and joining us– or a kind of internal unlinking of self from the things we have all been forced to do in the name of reproducing of an excoriating force.

We believe in an overthrow, and in an abundance of life for those usually consigned to grueling labour and a lonely, marginal existence. We already know you believe in the love of others, and that you are fascinated by words. This is all you need for now, we will teach you more about the will to fight, one day you will make yourself small enough to slip into the mechanisms and dismantle it all.

We live in the city, we live outside of the city. We live behind peeling posters and in the grime on the underneaths of shoes. We live in the sterile houses of the rich and the heart-hurting bars and the deep fat fryers and we look out for others, people like you.

You recruited yourself to a revolution of the mind, and kicked out til you found footing beyond what you were told to accept.

The ruling class believe we are a small and untroubling sect of weirdos, not worth their time. They believe they could crush us easily if they ever have to.

Neither is true. There are many more of us than they, in their tiny confined little minds, could ever imagine. It’s obviously in our interest to be underestimated.

Now poet: memorise the bends in the silver arrow, swallow this letter and walk towards the trees.

We will come to meet you at the edge of the woods and bring you back to what you remember, to what you already know.




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