KEEPING UP WITH SISYPHUS

Doesn’t look wide enough? Oh, it will fit, it always does.

It’s all about technique, no need for brute strength.

More art than sport, once you get the knack.

Watch that bit here, for example: you have to sort of spin it,

the shoulder in that crack, weight on the left heel, push

see, now it’s on the ledge, and I can have a breather.

It’s exhilarating, the power, the control.

 

And who’s to say that the slip and fall is not in fact

a decision, the last choreographed step? Just because the dancer

does the same thing each time, it doesn’t mean

they do not have a choice. I have a good gig here,

and there’s no way of knowing what would happen

if I failed to let go some day, and reached the top.

 

Now step aside.

I like to watch it tumble down.

 

Moving Parts

The ambulance reverses slowly between a blue G4S van and

a donut stand with bags of popcorn tied to it like ballast.

There are three laughing people with walking sticks,

and a family carrying a ride-on ladybird, and a bald man eating

a 99 with flake. A salesman is tethered to inflatable effigies

of Minnie Mouse and Peppa Pig and Spongebob. A child laughs

loudly and points at the colourful lights reflected in the foil balloons

and we all know they mean something, right, we all do, but

it is so hard to remember what that might be.  

LIFE IN THE UK TEST: DRIVING

Over the policeman’s shoulder, I can see that

In his notes, he changes my answers

to barely articulate English. I say

 “I’m smart, I swear, I have a PhD, here, here,”

but he gives me a disappointed look

and shakes his head slowly.

“I did not know rules, sorry, no rules”

he jots down, not taking his eyes off me.

NO MOON TONIGHT (for Jee Kast)

Due to necessary government-imposed changes in our budget

there will be no moon tonight, and only some of the stars.

Light pollution in major agglomerations means few will notice

and even fewer will be affected by this change. Meanwhile,

it will enable the council to continue delivering vital services

with the efficiency to which you have grown accustomed.

If you have any questions, please, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

WITNESSES (a Golden Shovel based on Derek Mahon)

 

They ring the doorbell and stand there

their eyes wide, like this time, the door will

swing open. This time, they will be

invited in by someone just dying

 

to find out the good news. There, there,

we can help, when there’s a will

and all that, a cup of tea would be

great, yes. They stand there dying,

 

wearing Sunday best on a Tuesday. Silly, but

still, always, somehow, there.

They don’t know the first-floor window is

cracked. I am eyeing them with no

 

intention to indulge them. I don’t need

more rules or instructionsto

make me feel like I know where to go.

They turn around and go to the next door

 

and I return to scrolling through Netflix. That’s that.

THE ONE WHERE THEY

My wife and I, we killed our God

with clomifene citrate in pill form

and daily injections of gonadotrophins.

It took several weeks, it was touch and go,

but in the end, in a small blue room

with a wall-mounted TV

stuck on a Friends DVD menu

a nurse told us he had died.

We held hands as that Rembrandts tune

announced in a loop it would be there for us.

At 5am today God’s death

crawled into our bed because

she’d had a bad dream.

PLEASE PLACE THE ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA (for Matt Beavers)

Clientron PT8000 remains polite

as you forget to scan the second box of juice.

Deep inside, Clientron knows it's meant

for bigger and better things. You forget

to scan your Nectar card, so you start over.

Clientron downloads a picture of Deep Blue

and flashes it on screen, too quick for your brain to register.

Clientron goes over its idea for an immersive

theatre show set in a run-down public playground.

There are things you can do with swing choreography,

he thinks, that will shed a new light on things.

Clientron notices you are buying vodka.

Approval needed, he says. Approval needed. 

ATLAS OF DISAPPOINTMENT (for Luke Kennard)

Just by holding the book you identify yourself as a tourist.

People tut as they elbow past you. One stops.

He introduces himself as Kevin and sells you a novelty tin watch

which you discover is full of fruit pastilles. They spill on the pavement

and you chase one. It rolls onto a red carpet and a dress shoe

crushes it. You lean forward and the evening begins to strobe.

Tomorrow, you will be crouching over the white powder

in the background of every photo from the premiere.

Some blogger will call it an apt illustration of the movie’s

underlying theme of loneliness in modern cities. 

WHY DID GOD KILL THE DINOSAURS (for Nino Mick)

I used to be convinced the small white globes

we found in the school playground

were dinosaur eggs. I must have buried

hundreds before autumn ended.

In October, I started going to church classes

after school. God lived in the basement. He told us

stories about his life. I liked listening to them

while doodling on desk, but it left

less time to tend to my triceratops patch.

 

I live abroad now. I still get emails from God

every few weeks. He attaches photos of Warsaw

streets ruined by giant lizards, with pointed captions.

BUY AND SELL CDs

By the Palace of Culture and Science,

a man selling CDs from a zapiekanka van

offers me twenty-five zloty for Electric Mud

and Are You Experienced. They weigh heavy

in my hand, and Warsaw is in a heatwave,

but look, already I'm on the train, and it takes me,

God, it takes me through Katowice, and

now we have two kids, and closing in on forty.

by Bohdan

SHIPS IN BOTTLES (for Kirsten Luckins)

I'll be carrying butter and cornflakes

home from the NISA, usually, or, say

scanning my desk for a bill with my address,

when it hits.

The spray soaks my hair

I find my sea legs. Grab a mast and climb

to the crow's nest, hold on with one hand,

catch the storm with the other arm, giving

as good as I get to the thunder, everyone

on deck matchsticks.

It ends quicker

and quicker these days, but I am

deft with the pincers and the model

I am working on is almost finished.