Weekend Poetry: California (I) and Sleep Psalm/Weather

California (I)

After seven years holiday-less I’m scarred, like this land, with ghost rivulets,
hardened against the liquid shock – voluptuous

time, lard and vein of it splayed out like a coast road, forest road, a slick of freeway
falling away beneath the bus wheels,

like the green bay lurching towards us as we land. At immigration, the officer asks
Do you have ten thousand dollars? and I can’t

quell a seal’s bark laugh. Are you OK ma’am? Deeply, as is my inconvenient sense
of humour. It’s not about what

you deserve is maybe the best piece of wisdom my mother gave me, which means
the cotton-ball fog peeling away

at the horizon’s tacky, cornflower edges; the heat blooming, pouring in now
from our toes up to our ears,

our stunned scalps – a transfusion, or some new rite of spring – as we drive away
from the city: all this is ludicrous glut; boundless, bottomless margarita.


Sleep Psalm/ Weather


O for the neurotransmitter flip, mind’s hauling anchor,

a quick skidding into night’s slipstream –

night’s warp of pebble and water.

I don’t want to dream in the day’s steamrollered syntax.

Here’s to my night language: here’s to cartoon werewolves

re-enacting our most toxic rows in mime.


My bedsheets turn and buff to bleached bone, ivory;

day’s trash is shunted

and ploughed clear of the causeway.



              Moving on to the continent and surrounding islands:

              in the early hours from two am. we can see

              unsettled weather –


              an intense area of low pressure beginning to spiral quite rapidly Eastwards,

              hitting the coast with rising winds, successive banks of heavy rain –

              Some disturbance of sleep. Some damage to fences and unhoused livestock –


              [Outside, the city’s silver with pixel-light, damp with night sweats.

              Call centres, offices wired

              for other time zones; the smog of night voices].


Not your prone body and not its absence – the pillow

pummelled, becoming flesh – flour baby,



Not tickering budget spreadsheets nor colour-zoned schedules.

Never forensic, frieze-frame re-runs of the imbecilic things

I’ve done or said; nor fear’s erosion, its glacier tracks.

Maybe, then, I’ll imagine Shapwick’s moonlit silos; 

not sirens but owlsong, the loam exhaling, wheat

cut, shocked – safely gathered.


                          From three am., we can expect to see

                          strong currents scraping their hooves on the ocean’s

                          bedrock. And in the atmosphere: a great quantity of sand and muck;

                          loose plankton,

                          shoals of great white shark and, above them,

                          off-course migrating geese,

                          scrags of polythene – like kites, like albatrosses –


                          The wind, rising to gale force seven. The wind, herding vast bisons of cloud

                                                                                              across the badlands of the sky.


                          The air sparking like flint, like fist connecting with jawbone;

                          the gulls, braying like dogs.


                           [If the ice on the surface of the Arctic ocean melts away, the less

                           there is the less there is. A feedback loop is a feedback loop


                           but the white-flowered, sour-tasting Wood Sorrell blooms, and the

                           Elderflower blossoms glow, and the fields purr and the frosts fall back

                           and the winds lean the building so its girders sing and pulse a belly-drone.

                           I shore myself against the boulder of your spine].




O sleep-reel, shadowplay, celluloid fiend, your jittery dance

snagged on repeat. O forty winks –

knockout veer into glamor and dark,


to bloom my lungs with that valley weather – drowse

and green cut with river water – might be enough

to sustain me through any misfortune, any windfall.


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