We wake not knowing what the hour is,
nor the one hour of sleep that came before
that felt like a decade, as if we’d missed

the world torn up then lovingly restored.
Our own names feel like welts between our gums,
our old lives shed and crumpled on the floor.

You take our little girl into your arms
and guide her to your breast, as slowly, health
trickles between the two of you and warmth

becomes your mutually protective shell.
The act of waking up has now become
the leaving behind of our cast off selves

to remember the selves we have become.



Where am I? Somewhere in the middle?
I see the world head on, hear it side on.
Thoughts float up from nowhere, pop like bubbles.

Sometimes, for a short while, I’m no one
there’s only light and noise, some brief contact
with the surface tension of my skin—

but no thoughts, no internal dialectic
or monolithic monologue—then words
return as toddlerspeak or paralytic

curbside shouts, obvious yet absurd…
though none of them come spewing from my mouth
and yet they still feel “out there”, in the world,

our only path from within to without.

Canto CCXV

There’s hardly any space left in the womb,
you cannot leap about like you once did,
the outside world is pressing against you.

The self could be a kind of womb, we’re hid
behind our eyes, somewhere between the ears.
Some say the world we know is created

within the spongy brain, though it appears
the brain is also what has been observed,
no scalpel or scanner can uncover

the sounds and colours of our private worlds.
Or perhaps not … maybe that bright red light
is “out there”, even though the rainbow’s curve

is a pact between rainfall, sun and eye?
I pledge to learn, to watch you as you grow
as the world collides with your sapling mind,

reminding me of what I’ll never know.

Canto CCII

Did I say there was no self at all?
Not quite—I meant not in the first place.
There is a self, though it can be as small

as the “I” that flickered in the thick darkness
of the oven Descartes meditated in;
and other times the self is as vast as

the eyebeam that shoots to the horizon
from the cramped confines of a one bedroom flat;
but under aneasthesia, it is gone,

nor is it the self that it was last night,
it’s quite identical but not the same,
just as the same candle emits its light

through its successive line of differing flames.


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.


I forget the name of the critic
who said it’s only natural for men
to become rulers of the house of poets.

Childbirth was his defining reason—
that men envy the woman’s certainty
of each of her children being her own

and so the men must turn to poetry,
that hatches within the core of their being,
to find a sureness of paternity.

I’m not sure what this idiot was smoking.
I’ve never stared at what I’ve just written
and thought “That came from me!” It’s far more often

I’ll do that before the realisation
that what I wrote had actually came from
something I read a year ago and then

it also turns out that the very poem
was also far too cute to be believed,
another half baked case of plagiarism.

A baby daughter’s far easier to love
than half the dross that spills out from my head
and come the day she’s born, I’ll finally prove

it’s wiser to love me for my balls instead.


That nutcase lily at my window sill
has pushed up two new flowers, silly cow,
as if we’ve seen the final winter chill,

but that’s plants for ya, got no brains to know
their taproots from their swelling, topmost buds,
hell, that’s how nature works, all go, go, go,

even that pessimist’s constituent parts
are heaving hives of microscopic graft,
the white cells that stampede within his blood

have no idea about the toxic draft
that brews within his tortured, lonesome thoughts,
they buzz on, optimistic, unabashed

on errands that the wiser would abort.


Show me the face you had before your birth,
and if you weren’t alive then were you dead?
Or non existent, would that be the truth?

Perhaps a possibility existed
when all was but the size of a quail’s egg?
I like to quote that old zen monk who said

that none were ever born, (you cannot peg
the moment when you popped out from the mist
of nothingness like some elusive Higgs

boson of the soul, in some great blast
of hallelujah, partheno-selfhood…)
“When conditions are right I manifest—

when conditions aren’t sufficient, I hide.”


On most days I meet two kinds of person—
the kind that prowl the supermarket aisles,
the same as I do, masking their aversions

to other people with occasional smiles
that blaze a bit then die like viruses,
but otherwise we’re all grumpy arseholes,

amidst refrigerated carcasses.
You bump into the other type online,
one hundred and forty characters

to express the void of character within,
and that includes my knowing philo-nods
and too-soon quips about Whitney Houston.

You cannot bring these two, distorted shards
together into some, well rounded whole.
Nor are they Noh masks that we should discard

to reveal our true selves to one and all.
We are the product of our wretched genes
distorted by the cognitive fishbowl

of our branded and bland environment.

Canto CLIV

When I bought this massive coffee cup
I didn’t entertain the slightest thought
of all that boiling liquid flying up

and soaking through all three of my tee shirts,
the first drops haven’t even hit the floor
and time has almost frozen, this minute

that ticks to its quiet end could be an hour—
awareness flares, boundaries are redefined,
that strange notion of being here before,

a helpless passenger in my own mind.

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