Known

Wars start with words
Self-important chums
Foresight shortened
By bridges burned

Controllers long to be
Stroked by boys only
Club restricts entrance
Without a phallic trick

Wars start words
Each bruise felt by
A well drilled machine
Or terrified teen

Both too scared to defy
Orders from above
Hearts condensed
Into blood red milk

A death only felt
As a sharp intake of breath
Respawn, false player
We need someone to be killed.

Wars start with words
Sabre teeth rattle
In glass cased
Clinks of victory sips

It’s easier to say
What you think
When the flightless bird
Accepts its extinct

Wars end with words
False hope of new boys
In tailored suits
Promising to fix

The lessons of the past
Tarmacked mass graves
Infusing the taps
For an amnesiac’s sense

So we never forget
But forget to remember
Trauma on the tip
Of a tab under the tongue

When street litter limbs
Lined the roads
Marking the edge
Of the known world

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Known

White

Five white faces
Huddle round a microphone
To solemnly swear in detail
The cerebral causes
Trauma they’ve suffered
Staring at black ink.
Negative outcomes projected
For a city so far away
It might be imaginary.
Computer generated images
Sprinkled with dust
And power kegs
But if the figures are accurate
It might disappear
Under a hailstorm.
They sip coffee, buzzing
Button pressing
Machine learning to stop
Brown faces in dense areas
Atoms so tightly packed
It might be another big bang
Or an earthquake
Seismological market shift
Tectonic tilt
Towards radicalism
But the rain doesn’t halt
The click of a mouse

White

Spin

I get the feeling the ones
Who die young don’t deserve it
The wholesome ones
Loved, by all their fellows
Less lizard, more model citizen
Happy-go-lucky at altitude
Even as they cough
Deep red phlegm
The neighbours
Fight to breach
The edge of the ambulance
To ride in the backseat
Bottle a dying breath.
But us survivors are bitter
Self-indulgently grieving
Brandishing bouquets
Like magicians
Willing mortal punishment
An iron fist to get it over with
If there’s not a good word to say
Then I’ll sneer and disparage
Disgruntled, I’ll be,
Through every wheezing breath
No matter how many times
I hurl myself down the stairs
Some foolish medic
Stops the bleeding
Even when I chunter
They always continue
Before being knocked over
The next afternoon
Heart disease, apparently
Oh, isn’t it sad?
They died so young
Not a crease on fine linen
It all washes off
My holes filled with plaster
Made more of patches
Than the body I grew in
A sorry, wretched thing
Lest anybody speaks
With any positive spin

Spin

Rebel

My Dad pushed open the door to my room, ready to shout at a disobedient child but I hid myself well. Underneath the bed were built-in drawers I’d shut from the inside, I’d spend forty minutes, or more, eluding detection. Silent, but for gentle breaths and a pulsing heartbeat. The thud of the front door and a distant engine rumble was my cue to move, first to nervously peer out of my parents bedroom window onto the empty driveway, and then to head downstairs and out into the quiet after the morning rush.

School was not where I wanted to be, and what I wanted was more important than what other people thought was good for me. I was cynical, even at fourteen, to those with life experiences, what could they possibly tell me that I didn’t already know about the world? Trying was pointless, learning was pointless. All I could amount to was a feast for the bugs under a heap of dirt, it made no difference whether I worked hard or not. What was there to be gained from Business Studies, or Geography? I thought. Hiding underneath my turtle shell feeding the mind a defeatist philosophy.

In those days, a fourteen year old could get a pack of fags without ID, and since it could be assumed all the kids were at school, I could pass for sixteen with my hint of hair growing on the chin, saving up a couple of days bus fare to spend my parents money on rebelling. I wandered down sterilised suburban streets and housing estates for aspirational early 90s buyers, gardens all neatly pruned and driveways swept, winding left and right through little alleys that avoided the main road.

The lake was man-made, a nice spot for dogs to foul and grumpy morning walkers to curse. It was intended to join each end of the suburb, offering shortcuts away from the road and towards the local primary school. But in reality it was desolate, a dead space hardly anyone used. A tiny island perched in the middle of it untouched, trees flailing as their roots slipped closer to the still water, its murky brown shade rarely moved and the air only vibrated with an occasional quack echoing rippling across the lake. Duck shit covered the pavement that looped around it, and the grass was always boggy even in summer, as children we’d scrape our feet on the path to get rid of the mud, only to end up with muddy shit. I sat on a bench away from the main path, smoking and passing time. Out of boredom I’d smoked a second cigarette immediately after the first. The rush of chemicals went straight to my head and gave me a whiter complexion than usual. Heaving to spew, just phlegm emerging, a sharp migraine fizzled. I managed to stumble up to a wooded retreat and slumped over a tree, waiting for the sickness to abate.

Others I knew who’d avoided school desperately tried to covet attention, standing at the back gate waiting to be caught. Throwing stones at the water, being childish in shopping centres. I was never like that, I was always aware that I needed to blend in seamlessly, nobody needed to notice, leaving them on autopilot as they navigated the bland shopping centre tiles, leaving them to think about themselves. I liked being invisible, it is much easier when you’ve a white face and a masculine look, but I nonetheless appreciated the serenity of being left to my own thoughts.

But despite the care I’d taken in simmering the alarms over my fugitive status, the adults, with their network of contact details, had played their winning hand. My parents were furious and I was equally agitated by this conspiracy against me. They didn’t understand, the law didn’t understand, and it wasn’t fair. I went to my room and listened to loud, brash punk music, I cried and cried and thought and thought, but it wasn’t my parents I was getting back at.

Rebel

Blades

Sadness is low signal
Not able to participate
In clickonomics.
A fizz of adrenaline
Spending less than
It ought to cost
The component breaks
As quickly as the last.
I’ve resorted to impulse
Buying wardrobes
In the hope of meeting
The man of my dreams
In another case of
False advertising.
Boredom is where
The dread lurks
Nervous ticks keep
Holding the fort
Alive and breathing
Heavy sweat
Legs aching
The weight of
Nothing cutting
Through shoulder
Blades like grass

Blades

Figure

I heard someone explain
That a real job was
For those who pay to play
Dress up. Suited
Immaculately conceited
Self-importance running
Through their eyeballs
Ticking boxes like
Game achievements
Scoring points for breeding
Colourless creatures
Inheriting their self-worth
From the black figure
On an accountants screen

Figure

Animal

The party was mostly a blur
I saw smoke out from ears
Christmas cabinet spirits taken
Wasted on ignorance
I spin around the room
Or the room spins around me
Basins capture fallers
Trapped, with faucets dripping
Drowning in melodrama
Young actors perform skits
With farm firearms, aiming
At passing cars. The loud bang
Rings in our ears, energy
Peters out like a fading bulb
Dawn chorus lulls us
To sleep in the barn
With our fellow animals

Animal