Thursday May 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

The metal of the car door is hot to the touch. Behind them, across the car park, the windows of her office building sparkle in the sun like a shattered mirror and he feels himself perspire in the silver, leonine heat. She stays resolutely in the car. Window down, feet on the dashboard, she takes a long slug of her energy drink, feeling in her trouser pocket for something.
     – Jesus, she says.
     – What now?
     – Nothing. I thought I’d forgotten it. But I haven’t.
     – Forgotten what?
     – I said I got it.
     He wants to lean with his arms across the roof of the car, tired even of holding his own body straight, but doesn’t. The metal would scald. He can see her in the wing-mirror. She is wearing thin black pumps, and he’d forgotten she has a tattoo above the bone in her right ankle, all wrinkled and bunched up now where she pivots on her heel shifting her weight in the passenger seat.
     Somewhere above in the milky heat haze a helicopter traverses, soundlessly pirouetting on an unseen thermal. 
     Later, at the vacant crossroad, the lights blink red, illegible against the dust, and the lattice of shadows cast by the high overhead cables are feint on the tarmac. The engine labours in the heat. The radio plays pop songs, volume turned right down.
     That night, they meet for drinks with friends just as the evening is on the turn, and the heat wanes, and that night it is cold outside of the blankets, and the sky is still light even until very late.

Truck Stop:

Wednesday May 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

It is cold when we come to leave, a little after six am. The windscreen of the hire-car is edged with condensation, and a flyer, advertising Deano’s Chicken is tucked under the wiper. Instinctively I look for the person who may have left it but the street is empty.
      – I’ll drive.
     – You sure, I say.
     I take the opportunity to get some rest. On the backseat I stretch out, doze in and out of consciousness. The last time I wake, is to a streak of hot sun across my face, magnified by the glass.
     We are a few hours outside Phoenix. Denis turns off into a truck stop where there is a diner, an Audi concession, a tyre yard. A tall totem-pole of a sign hangs over the lot, casting a shadow like a squat spider over the parked cars. The lot is already running a brisk trade for a Sunday afternoon. My neck hurts as I gingerly raise myself up to the window, and we stare out the driver’s side window at the concrete diner.
     – You like wings? says Denis finally.
     – I like wings.
     He smiles for the first time in days.
     Inside the hostess walks us up to a booth on the mezzanine. The cavernous, windowless space is loud. Rock music is blaring from gigantic speakers ringing the room. It feels more like an enormous pillbox than a restaurant, or a warehouse. Subsumed in a kind of darkness, it reminds me of places my father used to take me when I was a kid.
     – You want a beer?
     I resist. Denis has a beer.
     When we are done eating he lights a cigarette, reclines against the spoiled leather upholstery.
     – I have to make some calls.
     – Always with the fucking phone, he says.
     Outside the sun is still zeroed at twelve o’clock, even though it is nearly three now. A perpetual state of high-noon. As I listen to the ringing tone I stare back at the sun from the half-shadow offered by the entrance canopy. Blank heat snaps against me and I can feel it burning my skin.
     – Hello, its me.
     A heavy East Coast accent answers, New York.
     – About fucking time, he says.
     – You want me to hang up? I will fucking hang up on you.
     – No you won’t.
     – No, I won’t.
     – No, you won’t. What took you so long?
     – I called yesterday, but nobody answered.
     – No, I had things to do yesterday. Things, they don’t stop because you’re not here.
     – Is that supposed to be reassuring?
     – Is it? Is it reassuring?
     – It isn’t.
     – No, it isn’t. It ain’t supposed to be, neither.
     – Do you have the guy’s number?
     – Now he’s in a hurry.
     – I told you, I called yesterday.
     – Ok, ok. Get over it already. You ready for this?
     – Yeah, go ahead.
     Leaning against the thick concrete exterior, cold in the shade, I write down the number on a napkin.
     – Call him when you’re in Phoenix.
     Back inside a group of old boys have set up at the bar in the pit of the diner. They sit high up on bar stools, sharing wisecracks, Stetsons resting on the countertop, downing glasses of Rye. A slender young woman, a girl, barely out of her teens slaloms through them, in a pink halter-neck and boots. The big screens have come on, noiselessly showing football. The Cardinals are at Kansas.
     – I ordered another round.
     – I said I didn’t want one.
     – Then don’t drink it, he says dragging my bottle towards him. I order water.
     – Did you check the crackers sitting at the bar? he says, lighting another cigarette. Hey, he shouts. They can’t hear him. Your trailer on fire or something?
     – What is your problem?
     – I would have thought it was perfectly obvious what my problem is.
     – You’re an asshole.
     – What are you, Cardinal fan or something?           
     The hostess brings the check.

Carson City:

Wednesday May 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

We drive all day, and park up at a gas station to rest. Then we drive all night and most of the next day. In the afternoon we reach Carson City, crossing the city limits with the rest of the rush-hour traffic. The sun has dimmed, and the day is draped in muggy shadow. We check in to a motel in an anonymous district. A block west the freeway thunders across an overpass and to the east an abandoned lot, overrun with nettles and weeds.
     Denis sleeps. Kicking off his shoes he lies face down on the mattress, an arm hanging down to the floor where his fingers lightly clasp the grip of his revolver.
     I walk out onto the balcony and into the hum of the traffic moving along the overpass. You are never far away from a freeway. I make some phone calls. I call New York, and get no answer. I phone LA and the phone is answered by a Latino voice, that doesn’t know any English. I presume this is the help. I ring off. Finally I call Miranda.
     – Hello? She sounds groggy.
     – It’s me. As I wait for her to come around I find myself grinding my teeth. It is a habit I seem to have picked up. While she is speaking I take a cigarette from the pack in my breast pocket, snapping open the lighter with one hand.
     – Do you know what time it is here? It’s, like, five pm or something, she says.
     – It’s the same here.
     – Where are you?
     – You know I’m not going to answer that.
     I inhale deeply and there is a pause.
     – You’re gonna be here soon then?
     – Uh huh.
     Somewhere below voices echo along one of the walkways but I can’t see where.
     – Don’t be long, she says, more in hope than expectation.
     – Tomorrow. Or the next day.
     – The dog learned a new trick. You want to hear it?
     – Sure.
     There is a momentary shuffle as the handset is set down on a surface, and then picked up again. The dog barks.
     – He’s not doing it now.
     – We can’t bring the dog with us.
     – My mother is going to have him.
     – Good.
     – I said that.
     I hang up. A light breeze washes over me. Several lights have come on in the apartment block opposite, white against the grey. I walk down the two flights of stairs to the street and then over a block to a Seven-Eleven. Denis is watching television when I return. He is hungry. We eat in silence in front of the television.

Diner: Breakfast:

Wednesday May 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

He lit another cigarette, waving away the match, dropping it into his half-empty coffee cup. His way of signalling that breakfast was over. Through the window traffic moved in lines along the freeway, the table criss-crossed by shadow.
     – Everything in this town is small. The chair is small, the tables are small. The fucking bathroom is small. You shouldn’t be able to take a piss and wash your hands in the same footprint. That’s a rule.
     As he smoked, I noticed that his other hand trembled slightly. Beside it, on the table cloth, an orange-juice stain.
     – And the country so big…
     – Exactly. Maybe the smallness is a reaction to it. Maybe they are intimidated. Maybe all this space keeps them small.
     Silently the waiter, a middle-aged black man in a maroon waistcoat, clears away the dishes. When he has gone, Denis says:
     ­– These people seem intimidated to you?
     They don’t, not particularly. I shrug noncommittally and say nothing.
     ­– I have to use the bathroom.
     I sit for five minutes in the hire-car while he uses the bathroom. One by one I shake out the drinks bottles that are in the foot-well. The empty ones I throw out of the window. It is hot out here on the bleached forecourt and it’s not even ten am. I try the radio but all the stations are tuned to country. Looking out, the grass, where it exists along the fringes of the city, beside the parched boulevards, and between the denuded lines of the freeway, is blanched and dead. The only thing missing is vultures.
     I see Denis walking over in the rear-view, cigarette still hanging from his bottom lip. Wordlessly he falls into the back seat. Under his arm he has with him a stack of newspapers, which he starts reading immediately.      
    Reversing across the empty lot, it takes nearly a minute to rejoin the freeway.

Sidewalk, 14 May, 2012

Saturday May 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

The inspiration for this poem is here:


you feel you could hear already
the drawl of the sunrise
a louche headwind
a licking of the lips

at which
some small-gained agony
scrolls away, dissipates
like the sweat collected between the
bed sheets

the things that
hurt, hurt
and the things that don’t
aren’t much better

she canters; to
the bathroom
candid as the sun, &
heavy in the right places
(not in the heart) 

evading streaks
of light on the carpet
canny, like a
wild animal

exotic as a gazelle
in pyjamas

then like the morning
a drop of the shoulder
a kink
of flesh, and she has lost

purple heart burns, on the sidewalk

while on the clapboard, the
acid light of sunrise
perpendicular to her
mind, which is on
other things

By Harvard Bridge (Boston), 27 March, 2012

Wednesday May 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

what can we intuit from this?
the water, clear as your head
carry the sun’s blond reflections,
sharp as eyes
perhaps this feeling then, is one
of feeling seen
here and now,
no longer rendered invisible
by our impossible thirst, quenched
instead by the river’s swollen distance

we walk the sinewy track
clutched at by our own moons
the grammar, and shape of silence
carried over on the tide
black mirrors made on the
wind’s furrowed surface, where
the land turns out, unseen
a place of increase
squandered finally
in slow music

if the noon is empty, it is not
for want of trying, loss
and its casual balance reminds
us we are tidal creatures
untutored, not lost
but gathered in repetition –
there is a nobility in the way
your eyes dart from the

and likewise,
in the way you broach the challenge
of your own resilience
high above,
the water table mounts
oceans begin under your feet
the limits of the sun’s promise
are exposed
glass city, magnify the sun’s
electric, grey heart

(completed May 9, 2012)

16 January, 2012

Sunday May 6, 2012 § Leave a comment


For Sam

at night, the land and the sky are indistinguishable –
                                                                                               imagine that!

but today also has been one of languor

               (scarecrow lines of worry on your face, walking unsighted down
the garden path it is only face-to-face with the glass
                                    that I see in fact that it is,
                                                                            that is to say,
                                                     that you are, so
                                                                                     to speak, me)

               Still, on a day still weighing heavy on the heart,

                              I have the way your small fists
                                                                 shake the water

                                    the way you are under
                                    the sky, as
                                                                      though it were
                                    the most natural thing

                                                      & so shut the day
                                                                   the heart’s clammy
                                                              doors are shut

                                                                                    you are home:

                I miss you, even when I am with you.



At the Head of the River Pub, Oxford, 22 May, 2010

Wednesday May 2, 2012 § Leave a comment


deft     .      and manipulative

a rowboat (a punt?)
                                                     a make-weight

revellers calculate greed, an index
                                                                  of satisfaction

                   currents circle the prow,

stamped against the sun
                                                 the quest to find something

representative, something indicative is all I’m after

after all,   hops and grass

                                      the shallow pull of repetition

                       and mundane

                                        in the sparkling heat

                       shanked in the long grass
                                                     so that


you imagine that dust settles even on the water


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