Toxic Gulf

years since the gap first appeared between 
the teeth of a little girl picking raspberries 
from her mother's hand by the poisoned stream 

a toxic tale of porcelain has traced its tiny 
fingers round the lines on contour maps (& their 
bedroom walls they stick our portraits & sit up 

for haircuts while you look for lice (quivering 
blue & the stream's ghastly handwriting etching
metallic notes each time it rains the flow oh-so 

milky-white like a daughter's teeth it's nothing 
or a politician's grin there's nothing to be done 
we can't vote (can't even see the lead lies prone

at the bottom of the gulf between where we end 
& everybody else's first-world problems begin

You have memories

You have memories, sure, but then who doesn't 
know where you live these days? Camping out in
the wilderness until the controversy blew over
seemed like a good idea at the time, of course,
but that was before the anaesthetics kicked in
and you lay there, boiling, and unable to feel 
the sweat rolling down your leg. They hacked it 
off with a kind of efficiency that was easy to
mistake for care but who's complaining now? Not
you! Because you've still got your wits, and the
planes don't fly so low anymore, and you never 
were a big fan of running anyway. Yeah, memories,
how about them, now that you get to control when
they appear, for example, or when to delay them, 
send them bawling into your dreams with a swish, 
the warlords gesturing over 3-D maps of mosques,
glistening rivers barely visible between the cracks 
of competing glaciers sliding across dead moonscapes,
ordnance going off, adrenalin bangs in capsule
form, and still you bray 'Bring it on, Charlie!!', 
like you mean it, like you never had forgotten
where you hid them, typing in your new password 
without even looking, or deliberately keying in 
gibberish answers to standard security prompts. 
Name of first pet? Eklhferlhl. First girlfriend?
Gpwjfrqe;ngqgnntqgwgq Nhwereferhhpfqhppqqhpi. 
That should keep them busy for a day or two, at 
least, and in the interim you can retrace your 
final actual step, backwards into the gun nest,
the hot weapon slinging wetly into your palm, 
as laser-guided melodies peep-peep you to sleep,
deep in a dream world you created with a click. 

포악: Atrocity

Imagine a city with no streets 
     but networks of amputated limbs. 

An officious city of criminal investigations 
     and inquests whose soul is a square of cheap, 
     grey carpet 
          and a water dispenser. 

The tinkle of pachinko, 
     the sudden sirens of attack. 

Those women with the hand bills, 
     so stubborn and intent upon their mission, 
     invading the bodyspace of the factory workers like an influenza. 

Sheets of steel carried by a dozen men at a time 
     towards the railhead. 

Rain in bursts of noise upon their heads. 

Somewhere there is a map of the city's improvements 
     but no one I speak with has seen it. 

Wheelchair-bound ladies protest at 
     the new constructions rising up around them 
          in terrifying spirals. 
     No-one is allowed to see them. 

Behind their riot shields, 
     the policemen are only boys. 

Some of them wear white sneakers, 
     as if they have been called in from basketball practice. 

Sleeping street people 
     curled up like scraps of paper 
          on the subway stairs, 
               trusting that the spirits will protect 
                    their small change, 
                         their street salaries. 

Mandarin peels in the gutters. 

Sewer smells that hit the face like a nervous pigeon, 
     the frightful proximity of disease. 

A hollow city, 
     stained with sad skirmishes 
     and pickled fistfights. 

Gouged-out eyes that speak. 

Tables hoarded under orange shelters. 

Old men dancing in parks for citizens, 
     while other citizens peer out at the sky 
     like lost kittens in bamboo. 



          Discarded cloths, 

News of another separatist attack filters through 
     stale cups of coffee, 
     cigarette butts neatly stacked like bullets. 

A simulated odyssey through virtual historical battles 
     gains popularity in the parlours. 

No one speaks of it; 
     these things require no advertisements. 

Beware the reconstituted cutlets of crumbed meat:
     that way annihilation lies. 

Pull back the tarpaulin to reveal today's wares— 
     a rack of twisted and burnt squid, 
     dried suckers and flattened jerky. 

Remove hospital identification barcode. 

Shoulder arms.

A movie set in the Middle East

Somewhere, someone’s filming a movie set in the Middle East. It’s not the Middle East but we’re led to believe we’re there, in a crowded marketplace, waiting for something to happen. Does that scare you? It’s supposed to. Does it frighten you too? The way documentaries used to?

A criminal mastermind sits in a barbershop, being shaved. This scares me, too. An underling brings bad news. The criminal mastermind waves the barber away, pulls off the white smock, the shaving cream still smeared all over his face. His face half-shaved. I’m scared of that, too.

I no longer frequent markets. I stay home at night, the curtains drawn. It’s like I’m dreaming, or underwater but I’m scared, that’s all. I’m scared of men. This world. Their bright lies dressed as ideas. The rain that makes night. The train that doesn’t stop. That scares me, still.

The questions we refuse to ask. The dreams we refuse to remember. The planes I refused to see streaking across the desert sky. The taxes I ignored as shopping lists slammed into hillsides. Does it scare you? The way documentaries do? I’m scared of the things we pretend we don’t do.

Are you scared yet? I am. I’m stuck in a movie set in the Middle East. Something’s about to happen, but I don’t yet know who to. I look around, and all I see is fear. When the blast comes I’m scared I’ll miss it. I always miss it. People call me timid, but perhaps they’re scared of me too.