Our final poem chosen by Jane Burn for her ‘Surviving Trauma’ series is by Fran Lock. Fran Lock is a sometime itinerant dog-whisperer and the author of seven poetry collections, most recently the pamphlet Raptures and Captures (Culture Matters, 2019) in collaboration with collage artist Steev Burgess, and Contains Mild Peril (Out-Spoken Press, 2019). She is an associate editor at Culture Matters, and has recently submitted her Ph.D. at Birkbeck College, University of London.
first voice, (mania)
is obvious and soaring if beauty is
your condition of limit then nothing
we name will unspeak this
notorious and totally this low. inference
& function. a little becoming dependence.
didn’t you know: dial tones too are
on and on. and i was in a room, barefoot
and fabulating. seems like long ago. so long
blue, both empty and indecent. the sky says
this. a latent brain is a terrapin shell, turned
on its side. the pearly mathematics
of imbalance. mania – all flight risk
and canine disobedience – there is no
luminous nomenclature here. some low
corrective slowness. some revolting
coffee. these cells. lacerable, synchronised.
percussionist, disastrous biographer.
bring your pen, your many modes
of shocked perfection, perfect shock. poets,
you athletes of delirium, fuck you.
first voice, cont.
if the eye, limpet recidivist, sick of seeing.
if birds have split the sky in two. if clouds
as thin as shirts. if shirts as thin
as the eyelids of the blind. if we must walk
endangered into some expected dark.
if tongues break rank like weeds and leave
the mouth, its fuehrer-bunker overrun.
the suicide of saying.
towns, if towns are blank expressions
worn by motorways. motorways.
if motorways are maori tattoos.
the singing line made blatant skin.
if skin. no. if libraries, illegally yellow, lit
like gambling dens. or else like millionaires’
aquariums. light. if light is left to shrink
in glove compartments, fridges. sinking
into vinegars and penicillins. phlegm
and dreg. if we should sink. if we should
spill out our constituent selves. lipase
adipose accelerated particles. carats
if we exceed our shape, become
both hieroglyph and enzyme. break
the body. floe and sprawl. stains against
striped mattresses. if a body is a poem.
blue edelweiss. the word’s irrational
authority. the word’s deliberate
unhinging. if a body is a phantom atlas.
worse, a gilded steak. if vertu. if loa –
not prayed to but served. who is
not mad? to say my name, conjure
a shaved helix spinning in the smallest
room. to vomit up some brawling gene.
the axe goes on collecting necks. if i am
built back up. configured and forgotten in
a box. in offices no bigger than the booths
at county fairs. purest spectacle. conjoined
aurochs giving birth. the bearded freak.
cadaverous somnambulist ascending.
ich muss caligari werden…
repressed upon a tilted stair. if a thin
eclipse in a doctor’s coat. if a student
with an idiot smile. if smiles like dirty words
spelled out on pocket calculators.
if payroll, starving numbers into straight lines.
if faculty members, binding their arguments in
human skin. if arrant bitches, beserking
and preening. if in a tall house propitious
for enmity. to be a pair of bare legs
on the window-ledge, a rope around
a pointless neck. if grandma, toothlessly
implacable, gentles an egg on her lower
lip. raw. there’s nothing they can teach
- refuse to eat. become a hair-serpent
and find yourself stubbornly purified.
if this privileged monster wakes.
who is not mad? here the severe
pornographies of architects. wet dream
of a glass wall as see-through as a summer
dress. a summer day. if money. the instruments
of our enchantment. if gauges and scales.
a darger heart suspended like an olive
in brine. most immaculate shipwreck,
rudest north the compass points to.
if a mainmast raised in a hollow bottle.
if pain like a toothpick
stuck in a cherry. poet: the eye
is both a tyrant and a pervert.
if tired of seeing. if the sea is a shrine. her altar
is an anvil. a candle is a hammer,
and all desires are beaten flat. if the sea
is sharpening itself against the tillers
of sailing boats. a pathology
of anchors. if we are dragged to davey jones.
- the mind has its own
errant anatomies. bone spurs, accretions
of calcium, cysts and nodes. if skin.
- skin is a blanket statement. a flat denial.
these millimetric deaths. these jolts. i woke
this morning and was not normal.
a woman in only my soldiering pheromone.
and gender’s not a spectrum it’s a system
i watched the ghosts go round and round
caught in their own recursive drowning.
laughed. forgot i’d have to suffer
their buttons to enclose me. all day attending
to the insane organs of the state: newry.
derry. an internet petition. the way
a sunflower is a forgery, too golden to be
real. too good. paring an apple
with a peaceable blade.
a choir in sceptic unison outside. mapping
an apple grown suddenly globe.
and yes, yes, there’s an apple in his eye.
have dedicated my finest monotone to
out of it. if brash unlove were half the cure.
disgusting fibroid realms inside.
escapes of such minute devising. if sinister.
and if conspicuous symmetry: deimatic
behaviour, startle display. bilateral eyespots,
sightless, furred. if running away. if birds
have sung the sky in two. if brains in
their fullerene pentagons, glowing.
if chatterton, stoned. if chatterton stretched out in
the grim luetic flux of his genius. and mercury.
if mercury’s a means to moody iridescence.
who is not mad? imprint this petechial zodiac.
jump. let your own weight work out the rest.
if artwad bitch with millennial smoothie. if half
a brain paid for in instalments.
if the mind’s own tangled marginalia, corvine
faces sporting horns. the overgrowth,
the undergrowth. any place
a foxy thought is thriving. footnotes. enough.
to yearn for sleep, its kind encompassing. initiates
and avatars. cartoon disciples of the cold idea.
they do not know. intelligence is tidal,
eroding at the edge of flesh. to wish
to be all mind, no body. don’t touch me.
don’t remind me i exist. if the wind is singing
like the zip on a nylon tracksuit.
if the wind telephone.
if the barking dog is writing our spangled
memoirs. telling it on the mountain.
if tender perplexity. to be lady macbeth
in a kingdom of familiars. to be hamlet starting
at his father’s ghost. if only ourselves.
if only each other. if this too shall pass.
first voice, cont.
horny, lonely and afraid.
the axe head yearns for your neck
you said. addiction’s a waltz with
continuous swooning. oh,
the arrogant nobility of skangers
hoodies youths who die for their country
cunt . tree. any mother’s suck.
and omnia sunt communia
is a stunt grief, a latin stutter. oh,
they cut off his head at the peasants’ revolt!
it went on speaking its difficult creed.
legends are born from a woman
child, her mercenary frailty
sunlight like a hammer to the blue
religious window. i am sick of kathleen
lynn & i am sick of rosa luxemburg
& i am sick of bobby sands.
my loss, my injudicious anarchy.
enough. it isn’t. enough.
grief as a militant methodology.
our failures shape us
desire reflects in filth. history repeats
as tragedy, as farce, and then –
as dazed by victory as victimhood.
a moony light entangled in the lampposts
night now. the spoons in the kitchen
discretely stained, shelter the black
quiescent quarter inch. fastidious
unsavoury. from such things
is sainthood made. the unredeemed houses
the daily unrequited grind love
will not transmute your vexed meat
to nearly god.
the structure of disorder –
to celebrate a tangled chain.