Mania from Caoin by Fran Lock

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 

nitrates. everything. 

             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 

  1. 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. 

  1. the mind has its own

errant anatomies. bone spurs, accretions 

of calcium, cysts and nodes.          if skin.

  1. 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 

of oppression.

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. 

and i 

have dedicated my finest monotone to 

                                                       talking him 

out of it. if brash unlove were half the cure. 

disgusting fibroid realms inside.

escapes of such minute devising. if sinister. 

if stoic. 

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.

passions         perturbations,

     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.



2 thoughts on “Mania from Caoin by Fran Lock

    1. Carrie, we’re so glad you’re enjoying this poem, and others on the blog – thank you for taking the time to comment, and please do share any links you’ve enjoyed with your networks?


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