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In the long new year, part 2: Easter Stretch

April 23, 2020

the street continues to clear itself
imperceptibly and then dramatically
as those usually kept afloat by the
vigorous energy of the crowds
are no longer bobbing in the surf

the vista resembles
a dried up salt lake
in the middle of an abstract continent

a quick rearrangement
so some of the vacant positions
have been taken up by
new outfits
and some have returned quietly
in hope of catching passing business
between the closed gates

out on the streets
we toss eyes at each other
as greetings

and by some grace
we are blessed with thunderstorms in the night
that tease then satisfy
and sometimes coax us to stand naked
to receive the blessings of the rain


traffic sparse
like new years of old
pigeons jaywalking while
motodops have retreated to
particlar corners
away from mine
but somehow Norodom Boulevard
is heavily armed by uniforms of all shades

a car-proud motorist
ostentatiously hoses down his Lexus
on the shores of the salt lake

the workers building the new hotel
still flood the lunchtime streets
and the endless roadworks on 19
continue to be endless

up in my room
the sound of ancient new year games
trickle and slam across the empty air
despite the official cancellation
for the people will always find a way
to celebrate
and three storeys of guitars
are rostered throughout the hours

what were heresies
now are habits
and vice versa

perhaps we needed a break
from the relentlessness
that we found ourselves in;
we are meeting ourselves
in ways we had forgotten


it’s a whirlpool
today is written
on onionskin
that trembles and flickers at each vibration:
the footsteps of doom
or maybe those of impending rescue

laughter and sneers
but underneath our minds, aghast,
stand with mouths open
as if we want to catch flies by swallowing

tomorrow already seems behind us
today belongs to another year

this is our whirlpool
and we are welcome to it


there are statistics
that prove whatever
is desired to be proven

some shutters now unshuttered
like buds in an early spring
as life urges upwards and onwards
and yet it seems too early
and yet for some it is too late

we discuss strategies
in the face of the unknown
they comfort us
as we watch time pass
flicker by flicker
flicker by flicker
flicker by flicker



In the long new year, part one: Indefinite Lent

April 2, 2020

the crowds are thinning
on the boulevard of cautionary tales
but maybe a new name is in order:
the street of the last chance saloons?
the avenue of the end times?
deathpat’s graveyard?
(have I been reading Tom Robbins too much?)

if only beer wasn’t half as expensive
as soda water
I think to myself
as I scratch the unshavenness
I am wearing to blend in

Monday has not traditionally
been a good day to start again
but so many of the old rules
are gone
and why wait for Tuesday?

as the street dwindles away
into shutters and sentries


one cannot help being impressed
by the creators of email spam
who continue to work tirelessly
through this crisis

the internet is our mirror
both individually and
our society
all the things we are
are in there
blaring back at us
staring back at us
in piercing shards
and loud lectures

our mythic heroes weep silently
in their corners and their caves
they are spent; they did what they could
for now we are on our own

the bandleader up on the bandstand
keeps calling up new titles but
the dream orchestra keeps playing
the same tune

the shadow protagonist
his time called at last
can only hack his way through the scenery
in stubborn repetition of past roles
on the same backlot
high shimmering painted skies
and smoke machines laid to waste
as he stumbles forward
incoherently shouting lines
from his past triumphant speeches
once there was not a dry eye in the house
now there is not a house
not even a rickety chair


after the day-after-day morning bangclatter
the view from my window
is still and flatly hot
like childhood summer afternoons
when everything was distant
and the birds were the loudest thing
to be heard

when we walk the streets
the comparison with zombies
is hard to avoid,
with our mouth hiders
firmly in place,
eyes working overtime in exaggerated expressions
to overcome the facewrinkles that
complete our brief exchanges

all plans mothballed
all bets off
all opinions bleated
all encouragements obeying
the law of diminishing cares


the streetscape edited
erratically, but continually
the familiar faces of these years past
home means different things to different people
particularly when pushed

strange times, we nod sagely,
as we quietly rearrange our priorities
even as we wonder what they are

somewhere it seems
our alter egos
are off hiking in the hills
picnicking halfway up cliffs
waving bottles of wine
at a different sun
wondering where the glasses are
wondering where the corkscrews are
wondering where we are

all plans mothballed

all bets off

shutters and sentries

the dream orchestra keeps playing
the same tune


as if underwater

March 20, 2020

like a postcard from
a different age
playing a tune from
an old fashioned show
still being written

embracing time
in small parcels
such as circumstances allow

take these thoughts
and do with them
what you will
now they’re out
they’ll find their own meaning

a mind bobs around on
embraces of deep recall
twists and twirls
as if underwater

all cut from the same cloth

like a postcard from
a different age
playing a tune from
an old fashioned show
still being written

staying informed

March 20, 2020

is there really more time
or really more space
than before?

forget what you know
you can always
look it up later

tealeaves and tarot
can make suggestions
as we strive to be predictive
in strikingly unpredictive times

or unpack your box of paints
and squeeze colour from the air
the air is different now so
maybe today you can paint

On contemplating a one storey kiosk that never got built off Lenin Street on the outskirts of Ulaan Baatar

March 7, 2020

being more interested in detail
than retail
reports from each of the fronts
hold a day together
and allow it
to follow
the last
and to precede
the next

unfolding as if there’s
a narrative we’re trying to follow
as the world grows more
angrily demented
in the background

to gather around a puddle
and stare at its reflections
may be the last sane act
we are allowed
let us not squander
our wonder





in the time of the plague

March 6, 2020

in the time of the plague
the paranoidly masked
and the toilet paper panic-buyers
whisper anxiously to each other
of their greatest fears

we seek to comfort each other
with statistics and histories
and updates and conflicting sources
as the world faces extinction again
and twice on Sundays

the words are spread
information runneth over
play-by-play unfolding
of new numbers
closing in upon us

as ever, opinions mean everything
and those without opinions
are doomed to have
nothing to say


March 4, 2020

to land on land
somewhere inland
say the highlands of Scotland
or the midlands of England
or the island of Ireland
or even Newfoundland
but to find land
on which to land and stand and understand

then there’s Finland and Lapland
and headlands and heartlands
or even New Zealand
but still to find land
on which to land and stand and understand

even Poland and Matabeleland
and Holland and dreamland
and even Disneyland
and Tigerland (yellow and black)
a fish, a punch, a job, a pitch
and so to find land
on which to land and stand and understand

The Holy Land and the Badlands
farmland and the Promised Land
homeland, motherland, fatherland
parkland and wasteland
Graceland and no man’s land
Greenland and Iceland
and Nowhere Land and Neverland
but to find land
on which to land and stand and understand

on the entering of a prime

March 1, 2020

on the entering of a prime
with the perception of some kind of a perimeter
vaguely holding things in place
with a slow puncture
gradually insisting on deceleration
or at least more naps

late bloomer
but blooming
just in time
it’s all so much more
than it used to be

accents of inexpensive wine
gather shadily around the nose and mouth
on a face that now shows that it has lived
rather than merely survived
eyes that need tools
survey hands that are becoming speckled
while odd blemishes appear and fade lazily

expansion of keyhole views
overcoming an acceptance of assumptions
in order to take in the whole
part by part
that each part
might be filed away
for further digestion
the thirst and the why
that draws us into the world
a world constantly expanding
as minds may soak in its marinade

late bloomer
but blooming
just in time
it’s all so much more
than it used to be

the observation of an odd stubborn streak
hitherto hidden – but who knows?
perhaps it’s been clear to others
for many years stuck to the back
like a sign saying “stay away: I pong”

the relentless yinyang of the cave and the throng
the deepening exploration of minutiae
small wonder there are more naps
there’s cataloguing and cross-referencing to be done

life rarely pauses
but one gets more deft
at the use
of the snooze button

late bloomer
but blooming
just in time
it’s all so much more
than it used to be

ongoing refinement of priorities
without exclusion of frivolities
the acceptance of acceptances
the embrace of gracious graces

a distant humming
of horizons that lie
deeper than expected
but what surprise ought that be
knowing the distraction of surfaces
particularly now that we live in a world
largely consisting of surface distractions

the long dawning thought of 
an alternative navigation
that this
path may be trod
by a series of
interlocking experiments
in alchemy and metaphysics
and quantum theories of 
sanity and its cousins

still the days pass
with ordinary moments
wrapped around
and shot through
with quicksilver and lime
and a hint of major seventh

late bloomer
but blooming
just in time
it’s all so much more
than it used to be


February 22, 2020

from canvas walrus to shampoo commercial
it all unravels
even as it weaves
towards such pursuits
as are warranted

every friendship has an origin story
part detail, part myth
commonalities and mundanities
spun into stories
with the inevitable peaks and troughs

victories celebrated and
defeats ignored
– imposters both –
as we claim our scant ownership
over events and destinies
in the heavens and on Earth

this movie will always surprise
and bring small delights
walking under sun and under drizzle
through long days and long nights
towards such pursuits
as are warranted

now open for interpretation

February 14, 2020

awakening to the depths
like that Christmas feeling
of remembering how it was
when you were learning most everything
for the first time

not the forgetting learning
of later years
where things may stick or not

the sinking deep into
the thick web of connections
swimming in the soup
where sense is made
and the multiplicity of the prism
is rather more beautiful
than confusing

and the slightest tilt
reveals a new shadow
to be explored

into the embrace
of all things
tragic and wild
and inexplicable and
lost and