The hospital gives me the chance to bring
the first noble truth into focus,
for all that breathe are also suffering,

but when I head outside to wait for the bus,
within the clammy streets of Camberwell,
it’s not long til I dump my mindfulness

and tell a stranger to go fuck themselves.


Canto CCI

Two images made the virtual rounds this week;
the young and handsome viral video star,
naked, pounding his fists on the sidewalk;

the stricken footballer, laid on the grass,
surrounded by men in yellow jackets,
the stadium hushed, his fellow footballers

stripped of their passion and hubris.
A few days back, in the hospital corridor,
I saw the stricken roll by on stretchers,

unconscious and unresponsive but for
the slight and shallow passage of their breath.
I thought of all those steel objects of war

displayed in the Museum of Mass Death
(its proper name’s an insult to billions)
and whispered to myself that small word, “health.”

Our lives are short as candles and as thin
as the smoke that they puff out when extinguished.
The mind is just three pounds of squidgy brain.

There never was a self to begin with.


If mantelpieces are the true altars
of post Victorian society,
I wonder what faith can be weened from ours?

The money plant’s an easy one, a plea
for the crumbling markets not to flatten us,
while the two Buddhas with the fat bellies—

the one found in a housing estate bush,
the other carved from Etna’s lava flows—
encourage us to remain quite aloof

to all the boons and bilge that fate allows.
The other chaps, carved in the Philippines,
don’t make an easy pair to analyse—

the first hides in a barrel, only when
you raise his hiding place above his head,
his penis pops out, mounted on a spring.

The other man carries his appendage
as if it were a hefty bag of coal
and on his stand someone’s engraved the adage:

HELP ME! It’s a punishment for all
the times in which he boasted of his size
and so the vengeful gods, ever watchful,

as keen on irony as they are wise,
made it grow to monstrous proportions
and now his only hope of pleasure lies

with amorous pachyderms and cetaceans.

Canto LXII

I don’t know why the drifting ladybird
landed on the fabric of my coat
and stayed there as I shuffled on towards

our nation’s second favourite supermarket.
I felt no inclination to brush it
away like crumbs from a digestive biscuit.

And so it was decided—we were mates
and I would take it to the promised land,
beyond the concrete hell of the estate

to where the weeds grow tall and thistles stand
to signify there’ll always be a place
where it can frolic with its scuttling friends.

I dropped him at the conservation place,
and felt like Herne Hill’s answer to the Buddha
and my mind attained momentary peace

before I realised this area
was packed with spiders, famished robins, hornets,
poison ivy, squirrels, disease carriers—

the damn place was a deathtrap, like this planet,
where young earth Christians say with every breath,
it’s engineered for life to bloom upon it,

when, in the end, it’s engineered for death.

Canto XX

This first line will be followed by cliche—
the sudden chill, the scent of garden fires
towards the end of early autumn days.

And while this trope is overused and tired,
the notion that this sharp, ineffable quale
has stirred the multitudes always inspires

this journeyman bard to roll it out again.
This eternal recurrence works to show
the fact that this experience has been

a part of every scuttling thing that slowed
to raise it’s twitching snout to embered air
and endures til each cosmic furnace blows.

The monk that burns incense says that he shares
this moment with the billions across time
that do the same with focus and with care.

and so, despite these clumsy clunky rhymes
at risk of being a sentimental bore,
I write of autumn bonfires one more time

as I have done a million times before.

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