Lens Flare

Looking through the shutter of my mind,
I am the statue in the time-lapse.
The cars blur past me.
The panic rises.
I freeze.

The timer counts down the seconds
of every moment ever precious.
The flashbulb blazes bright
then fades to black.
Say cheese.

Can we call a timeout?
I want to exist in this snapshot a while longer.
Could I be doing more?
Nothing feels like the best thing to do.
Life is full to the brim but it’s passing me by.

How many shots do we get
until we have to admit that it’s over,
that we’ll never get the perfect picture?
Every moment grows ever heavier
as I try to buy more time.

The darkroom down below
prints stills of the regrets
that will adorn the gallery walls
when the shutter closes for the final time,
warning of my future failures.

And in my mind’s eye,
paparazzi cameras point at me:
portals to another reality.
They write my biography
and I read it, I believe it.

With his lens, I imagine
the photographer condemns.
I tell him to stand aside:
I felt what I felt
and nothing has to be justified.

Can we avoid their angles?
I see my image in their mirror.
Can we stand apart but not alone?
I resent the rules of the game they play.
I cut off my nose to spite my face.

Filter set on sepia,
we live in a photo collage
on a timeline in this
thin slice of history
we’ve been apportioned.

All the photographs never taken
for fear of their reception
are burned onto my retina
but still, my finger freezes:
the light is never quite right.

The ticking of the timer
is louder every passing year,
the hourglass emptier,
and I’m still out of frame,
trying to pick a pose.

Will we ever learn our lesson?
The photographer is doomed
and so redeemed
by every scar and mote of dust,
the patina on the bronze bezel,
every sunbeam scattered
across the lens.

Mountain Thoughts

Standing on a mountaintop
daring God to strike me down.
No hiding place, no exit game,
no escape route out.
One false move could send me
spiralling.

Everything else has been practice for this
and this is practice for everything else.

I wonder:
Why do we fight the feeling
when fighting makes it worse?
Do we feel it is our duty to fight,
to push away the prospect of oblivion?
Survival instinct.

I remember:
For a time, reality
was a hell I couldn’t escape from,
a bad trip that never ended.
I had to learn how to dance in hell,
but I knew
if it got any hotter,
I would burn up again.

I would re-acclimatize,
lie back
and try to trust the current
to take me
wherever it would take me.

I had to re-establish
my relationship with my thoughts,
had to remind myself:

Don’t lock them out –
they won’t come in if you leave them be.
Don’t let them sell you a solution
to a problem they created.
Don’t let them trick you
and fall for their salvation.
False prophets will not
lead you to God.

I had to reconnect
with those around me,
had to draw on their strength,
wondering:

What is it like to be
gravity?
Keep me grounded,
please.
What is it like to be water?
Keep me flowing,
keep me going,
guide me through the months
ahead.

Conversation
like sunlight illuminates
the different depths
of the mountains
of my mind.

Down below the mountain,
the waves lap
forever
or as close to forever
as I can reach out to touch
without falling.

I keep the waves at bay,
at least for now,
daring God to strike me down.
No hiding place, no exit game,
no escape route out.
One false move could send me
spiralling.

Apocalypse

We sat in a dimly lit dining room,
waiting for the apocalypse.

Someone
dialled up the static,
turned down the saturation,
changed the channel.

I didn’t know it could feel like that
until it did.
Like standing on the train tracks,
bracing for the impact.
Like watching a distant wave
wash away a city and knowing
you’re next.

It felt like dread:
impending doom.

When it came,
the palace walls crumbled
and my eyes were prised wide open,
forced to gaze upon reality
for the first time.

I realised
that I was not immune
and that anything was possible.

Soon,
late night dystopian visions
played out on a projector screen
in my head –
war, famine, suffering, death:
everything was on the table.
Distant possibilities appeared
magnified, filling up my
worldview.

Sanity is a tightrope
and bad news broke my balance.
Stray comments sent shockwaves through me,
feeding the fear of a bleak future.

But slowly,
superstition and solipsism
seeped into the mainline,
insisting that everything would be fine.
I blocked it out,
synthesised happiness,
treasured rare moments of peace,
realised it was too large a part of a life
to waste wishing I could
move on.

The dream became normality
and normality became the dream:
a utopian fantasy.

A year later,
we’re in that same dining room,
waiting for normal service to resume.
We sit like survivors,
hoping the light at the end of the tunnel
isn’t just the flickering of false hope,
a faltering torch light,
or the fading embers of a fire,
threatening to give in to the gloom.

The panic subsides,
new problems surface,
old demons rear their head,
time trudges on:
tedium.

The background hum of a humdrum existence
is a death by a thousand cuts.

In what we hope is the final leg
of the interminable slog,
the track stretches straight ahead
toward a future that approaches
inevitably, inexorably,
no matter how deep our rumination
or frantic our inner anxieties.

Our knees may buckle but we must walk on.
The day will come.

Disco Volante

On a saturday night
it feels right
to let the top drop
on the disco volante,
the getaway car,
the ticket out of my head.
I take a trip
to the mountains
to let the cold blackness
swallow me whole,
and it feels good
to disappear.

Godlike I arise
and stand on high,
clutching stone tablets
while watching the waves
eat cities alive.
I raise my hands
to the heavens beating
rain down upon us
and beg to be stolen
from existence
for some precious
seconds.

I pass a few days
in a haze,
addled with anxiety,
choking on fumes of
polluted thoughts.
And at breaking point,
I find the biting point,
that sweet release,
and let the smoke chase
the disco volante
up into the mountains
again.

Adept I step
back into the depths
of my cryogenic capsule,
isolated, insulated
from the miasma of hysteria,
that heady cocktail of dread
and fear.
And when I stop to draw breath,
I steal a furtive glance
at the world beyond the frosted glass
and I see that
everything is the same.

Neighbour

My dear neighbour
bangs on doors and skates in halls,
his protestations penetrating
thin as paper walls.
Sometimes I cup a glass to listen
and find his rhetoric
convincing.

My dear neighbour
starts a riot in peace and quiet
and stands among the ruins
pouring gasoline on dampened fires.
And when I hear his call to arms,
inside my head resounds
alarms.

My dear neighbour
sparks a light on dynamite,
illuminates the bedroom
where I toss and turn at night.
Sometimes I look through cracks in plaster
and glimpse a forecast of
disaster.

My dear neighbour
infiltrates when I’m away
and leaves the carcass of a ladybird
upon the fireplace.
And when I see the mangled limbs,
the light below the mantel
dims.

My dear neighbour
takes his leave beneath the eaves
and disappears for weeks on end
if only to deceive.
But I know that he’s never gone:
he always turns up
later on.

Prophecy

In that moment,
I foresaw
the days
and weeks
and months
and years
ahead.

I foresaw
the barren hours
emptied like a bullet
from the chamber:
irredeemable,
irretrievable.

I foresaw
the solitary seconds
counted by the clock
standing sentinel,
ticking away
infinity.

I foresaw
a fork in the path,
a bend in the arrow,
a disorder in the stars,
a disturbed point of
departure.

I foresaw
the ripples reaching
like outstretched fingers
out to the ocean’s end
and over the edge of the
horizon.

In that moment,
I foresaw
the days
and weeks
and months
and years
ahead.

Interstellar

Take the spaceship round the corner
to the stars;
smoking interstellar got us taking off.
Blowing clouds apart,
we levitate
up into the emptiness,
breaking the backbone of night:
a technological blackbird
in flight.

Pull up to the kerb
and up into the stratosphere, rising
high above the diorama city
down below.
Pixel people igniting,
shot red
in brake lights,
can’t hear us over the fumes;
burning interstellar
fuel.

Put the rocket boosters on blast
and roam higher,
time dilating like pupils
hiding
behind shades.
Find us wrapped up
in our interstellar cabin,
waiting till the last set
and stealing back our
breath.

Take off in the tunnels:
chemical taste in the grooves
like vibrations
in the spaceship speakers,
dripping interstellar dust.
We terraform the skies,
recklessly in love
with the view
from above.

Pipework

Phantom, I
drift through the silence and the city,
charcoal outposts of the fallout,
crumbling black and
fragment
on shirt starched white.
Mind over matter:
memories spilling burgundy
torrents from ruptured cranium,
burst pipework
gushing black onto curved concrete
and sliding into storm
drains.

The brain and fuzz:
I thought dust storms in that
crawlspace:
claustrophobic,
barely ventilated;
until
all of a sudden
the moment expanded for an extended second,
the monologue quietened,
the present re-emerged,
the atmosphere emptied
its contents
and I could breathe.

The flame and flicker:
smiling soft across the table,
slender like satin,
your fingers grasped blindly
after nervous words
stolen
from apartment people
trapped in TV sets
that look through to solitary bedlam,
and the words trailed off
on another
coda
for my thoughts.

Now, vacant is my chamber
but for the breeze that lets itself in
and clears the
debris
in empty day
after empty night
after empty lullabies.
And anaesthetic are the images
that evaporate into
the ether of my imagination
as her spectre
shrinks from sight
in the floater in my eye.

Phantom, I
walk amongst the wreckage,
taking care and aim at onlookers
encased in impenetrable shells:
a million universes floating in quiet oblivion.
But there’s hope
for new futures to be forged
in the fire of our failures,
there’s hope in destruction,
promise in the new,
we martyrs to the dream,
searching for an
end.

Resonate

Fallen alien
wanders through my
woods,
stepping on twigs
in the dark.
Blindfolded,
I let your sound
guide me to your
chamber.

Foreign ghost
drifts across my
room,
floating formlessly
into my arms.
Elusive,
you cease to exist
when you fall out of
frame.

Looking away for a second
could shatter the illusion,
break the fourth wall,
wake me up from
the dream.
You resonate
like tones in the tibetan,
raindrops boring holes in my brain,
water accumulating
in a tin can,
singing
to me.

Opium

White feathers
on a snowy plain,
ivory
igniting
on a blinding
streak of lightning.
Too precious,
matchstick idol
painted in crimson,
opium
glow and
black moonlight
shroud serene
features
in perfect darkness.
Wrap your
icky thump
arms around me
and
melt into the
furniture.

Rain patter
blurs streetlight
husks,
cracked and dull,
tarry darkness
spilling
into starry sky,
straining eyes
to see
the path ahead,
picking furtive steps
forward,
trying not to
trip.

From nothing to something,
gods of our own universe,
stargazers
evading gravity,
stepping into space,
dancing in the
ether.