Canto CCCXV

The library is closed yet I recite
my newly written poem on Moby Dick
into the empty chasm, dimly lit,

encircled by the spiral, shelved hardbacks
of authors who will find receptive minds,
beyond the hundreds I will find next week.

The architect assures me he designed
this as a place for true public discourse
and I believe him, for I feel inclined

to run this long curve, shouting out my verse
to whatever living ears can hear
into the wide circle of empty space,

for even Homer’s verse must disappear.

Canto CCXCVI

How soft bellied and bookish I’ve become,
these years since I last left the council yard.
My tattoo turning green, my scrawny arms,

my mind fetid with all those printed words,
the grey pulp of knowledge. Don’t get me wrong,
I ploughed through books back then, my prole glare bored

into volumes while polluting my lungs
with tea break roll ups. I learned out of spite
for all those that thought poetry belonged

to the academy, packed up, air tight,
insulated from the social real.
I liked to punch above my mental weight,

to treat knowledge as something I could steal.

Canto CXCIII

A liar always sits in front of bookshelves
as if all of those digested volumes stand
as firmly within their corporeal selves.

Consider mine, for I am not the man
who took that Ginsberg volume for gospel,
as that man was not also, in his turn,

the one that made The Selfish Gene his Bible.
They may as well be train tickets for all
the knowledge that I might claim to dispel

or shoe boxes packed with my old toenails
or bags of hair picked from barbershop floors
or transcripts from childhood confessionals

or cold, nocturnal pee in labelled jars.

Canto CXC

The Kafka scholar on the radio
espouses on the book as a bound object—
a closed system that can transform into

an open one when pages prize apart.
Did I say radio? Well, in a sense,
but I was listening to the podcast.

Their sober voices trickled through headphones
as I cut through the housing estate—
two bags of groceries, walking alone,

yet still a citizen of the internet.
I think of the days when my main escape
from the “real world” during long commutes

was from reading a book or Walkman tapes.
The world always seemed more real when I returned,
as if I’d woken from a heavy sleep—

but now, the taps and swipes with which I wend
my way through cyberspace just seems to drain
the substance from the world, like virtual friends

are no different to phantoms in the brain.

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