Category Archives: poetry

A carnalidade

Poem originally written in Italian for my great uncle Gilberto Grasso, who I lived with in Santarem, Brazil, over the summer. It is very special to me, as is my uncle Gil, who, at the age of 80, still burns with what Pasolini (one of his favourite Italian authors) would call ‘desperate vitality’. Thank you for overwhelming me with your immense love for life, literature, cinema, romance, fun, debate, and all the ups and downs this world’s got to offer.

Zio Gil and his friend Deonito, Language professor at the University of Santarém, helped me translate the poem into the beautiful language it deserves to be in. (Below a rough English translation for those who need it).


A carnalidade jogue tudo na brasa.

Eu, que sempre mergulhei nas gentes,
A procura de um tudo
que apagasse cada minha curiosidade.

E que sempre mais esvaziada me foi acordada,
Apagada-se a duvida
Que era a minha vitalidade.

Tu es demais incontrolável para mim,
Demais fora do lugar.
Eu, que cambaleio nas margens da loucura,
Ainda demais regulada.

E me pergunto se tu
és verdadeiramente livre,
Se o homem verdadeiramente
pode aprender em ser livre.

Quando o teu ser fica marcado daquele momento,
No qual tu abaixas-te para afivelar a bota
Ou em olhar uma linda mulher e não uma outra.

Aqueles momentos te acorrentam a este mundo
Que nos acompanha sozinhos,
dos vinte e quatro aos oitenta.

Quando penses saudoso ao passado,
Naquele que é, que não foi.
E quando procuras de viver desesperadamente
Para não te sentir apagar totalmente.

È bem verdade que nÓS poetas
somos calculadores – niilistas miseráveis.
È bem verdade que eu, sou espelho ornamental
Das emoções que me cercam.

Mas absorvo, te garanto que absorvo.
E estas vidas que cabem em mim,
Estas luzes que cabem em mim,
Saiam de mim mais coloridas, cheias.


Carnality turns the world to ashes.
A life spent diving into people,
Seeking fullness to quench curiosity.
Yet rising emptier each morning,
Extinguished the doubt, extinguished the clout.
You’re too unruly for me, too out of place.
I’m still staggering on the margins of madness
And yet I am still too restrained.
And I ask myself if you really are free,
if a man can truly ever learn to be free.
When you’re tainted by that moment
when you stopped to tie your shoelace
or lay eyes on a pretty girl and not another.
Moments like these glue you to this word,
that chaperones our lonely journey
from age twenty to age eighty.
When you think, with ‘saudade’, to the past
to what happened and what didn’t.
When you try to live desperately,
to not fade out entirely.
And maybe what you said is true:
Us writers are calculating, misery-breeding nihilists,
And maybe I am, indeed, just an ornamental mirror
Throwing back the life and emotions around me.
But I promise I sponge it all up
And these lives that soak in,
These lights that soak in
Come back out more colourful and full.

No Life During Wartime

Back to bite, back to bite, don’t breath, thump thump.
Lights, gone. Food, gone. Drugs, gone, Hope.

Desperate sex and wobbly legs.
Get me drunk, look after me, stop the thinking, stop the world.

Back to bite, back to bite, bite me harder, fuck me harder
Than this silence, than this screaming, are they screaming, is it me?

The terror is like popping candy abusing my skull,
Like angry clots of blood trying to burst out of fingernails

Pulsing, screeching, moaning, and then silence.
The constant ringing and now your face has gone all blurry.

The thought of all the itches we will never get to scratch.
It’s all rotting, it’s all gone and you just keep being so fucking kind.

The bile in my stomach, my hands in your pants, is there even a point?
Splashing about in mud, looking for familiar faces, for a trace of something human.

Slaves demanding justice, then wanting the crown.
Grey days, skipped days, were you slowly drift away.

I don’t want to be pretty, I don’t want to write pretty
To hide behind niceties and disgusting adoration.

In the darkness I’ve stopped tripping, I walk steady now.
I’m not longer funny but I’m lonely, as you roll me the millionth cigarette,

As I gulp the millionth gulp of bitterness, my bitterness.
We lost a long while ago and we’ve wasted all our time.

Toxic waste and suspicion, is that mask because of me?
They’ve turned us against each other and there’s no going back.

There’s no life during wartime, only slow self-destruction.
Before the bombs, before the lights went out,

Before the mould and the stench and the disease and the hunger,
The mind numbing stupidness had already knocked us out.


 

Featured image: Jobkill by Pushwagner, Hariton (1987) can be found in the Norwegian National Museum, or online at: http://www.pushwagner.no/galleri/kunst/JOBKILL

Empathy

I washed three times but still:
I smell the vile breath, and still
I see the sunken bloodshot eyes
a pain too deep and miserable to scream
from its open grave, vestige of human lies.

Tomorrow your vacant eyes will not remember this face
yet the fetid smell will not ever leave my head.
Again and again it plays,
the blurry vision of a heat induced hallucination
sneaking up, once again, to threaten my sanity.

I thought it was a child,
an innocent, ill-fated child on a bike,
perhaps still burning, perhaps still alive.
Yet all I could find was the shell of a human life
bruised by a world which is infinitely unkind.

As you blinked at me and slurred your dissent
I disentangled your legs from the wheels
tugged you out of your certain crematorium
dead weight to weak arms and shaky knees,
dead weight to all our cushioned lives.

My abandoned car blinked furiously
ignored by the lives that unblinkingly drove by
No longer human, no longer of use,

illegal smelly immigrant

I wretched violently on the way home
the smell of your skin on my clothes and hands
the unsettling disgust in humanity
steeped into my disillusioned plans.
Only one man stopped:

‘anche io sono straniero ma…’

His conscience dirtied by judgement over judgement
your rotten breath etched deep into his identity
an anchor of blame which has nowhere tangible to go
defensive and defenceless to this worldwide generalisation.
Anche io sono straniero ma.

Did I really save your life, did I choose to be this way?
To follow the trail in the grass
where the cheap boxed wine pulls drunkards off course.
To acted upon automation, like the Belding’s ground squirrel,
putting itself in danger in the name of evolution.

You asked god to bless me but did I really do you a kindness?
Or should I have let the heat put you to sleep, cease your pain?
Head nuzzled in the prickly grass, feet tangled in your rusty bike
barbed wire inches from your eye
invisible to the road, invisible to the world.

And as xenophobia prevails, as hatred and fear win the UK
and all these cars speed away, I feel lonely and wired incorrectly.


 

Featured: Pink Man / Leviathan (Blu), to be found on  Oberbaum Brücke / Falckensteinstraße ( U Kottbusser Tor stop).

SHOCK

Sudden, sudden loss of control.
Your invisible blood sticks to my fingers,
The air that left you,
To my chest like alien tentacles.
Grey metal to join the blue and black,
Already nuzzled in the fields.
Who was here before me?

My pill-induced nightmare is shattered by your silent scream.

Sudden, sudden loss of control.
My biggest fear just rolled all over me:
From a distance I observed,
The war of paranoia and sedation –
The human-made virus
Spreading through the world.
Whose side am I on?

Grey streaked kind woman, I can’t tell you how sorry I am.

Sudden, sudden loss of control.
I cling desperately to the only scrapes you left me:
It works, but only just.
And only just always fills you
With horrors and questions and blame.
Only just pulls me out of Switzerland,
and right back into the rubble.

I’m at war.

 


 

Featured Image: ‘The Art of Paranoia’ by Peter Schwartz. Check him out here:

http://www.artmajeur.com/en/artist/peterschwartz/portfolio

INCHES

Inches.
Inches of panic, life
and death.
Unclaimed disturbances.
We walk
down the same road
but you stopped
to tie your shoelace.
You didn’t see it coming.
And now:
our universes spin and spin
in webs of incomprehensions
as we try
to understand
what cannot be touched
by the other.
I’ve slithered around death –
maybe you haven’t been as lucky.
or maybe I’m the unlucky one
the haunted one.
I can feel them following me around:
GUILT FEAR POSSIBILITY.
An omen of what could happen,
a shadow of what never did.
A parallel outcome,
Pain beyond all I could imagine:
LOSS DISTRACTION BLAME
I killed  the old lady.
I can feel the crinkly skin
of her neck in my palms.
Impotence disguised as power
HATRED.
I killed you, I killed you
and you die every night
I was laughing
and I wasn’t quick enough.
I was happy
and I wasn’t quick enough.
And now cars are demons
Sirens deafen me
and lights blind me.
And people are evil
They kick dogs and live off arrogance
And I
live off bloodlust and compassion
I live off my own confusion.


 

Featured image from CRASH by  J.G. Ballard. Panther Books 1975. Cover Art by Chris Foss.

Choke.

I can smell the lethargy in the air as the rain comes down.
Who told you you could write all over my skin?

Territorial disputes.

Casually manhandling death and the rain
don’t stop, the rain           don’t stop.
Biting breasts under neon colours.
Stuffing your face and drowning in the barrel-
Drowning in the rain of your pain.

Contempt for conformity. Body builders of human agony.
The vivid dreams stopped months ago.
Flashes of blood running down my neck.

This winding road is damned and this skin is too tight.
Grinning mouths with men hanging at the corners.
Unsteady flooring and gums aching.

I’m heady from the drinks, the want and the sweat.
This tube smells of metal, blood and piss.
There’s a nightmare pulsing in between my legs.
Laughing hyenas pull at my clothes.           I give in.

Vaccinate me for control.

Chapped lips in the cold. Stomach acid scratches at my soul.
Flashing streetlights, cars, dancing on my window.
Magnetic network of obligations and purpose.

Buzzing in the world and screeching in my ears.
Monotone high pitched frequencies and I’m going mad, I’m going       mad.

The itch, the itch the pulse           in the eye,

the everlasting night, the bite,

the blood.

I’m a mess of filaments,

my nerves are barbwire.

Your fingers feel like bombs.

Psychosis, migraines, want.           A hollowed out gut.

Out of body,

overlooking this city.

You stand next to me, naked and shivering.
My cigarette shakes at the lips.

It falls and I          let          myself                               fall.

Control

a blanket
on a clothes line           the stains
all washed out
I hang out in boredom,

to dry

I am sick
of the clips
that so wearily hold me up

of this washed out sanity

I am sick.

This is not the best me I can be.

Stop this, run again.

      madness
                    drunkenness
                              silliness

dance away control:
colours bodies           laughter

c a r e l e s s n e s s

the frenzy the rush
the high.

I miss life and I have lied.

burn books thoughts dreams.

They aren’t enough,

I’m going to die.

burn lists
          projects.

I don’t need to be clever and ok.
people movement fear anger           lust.

– to touch

and

be touched.

to feel alive.

Featured artwork by Jonas Fyhr. Find him at jonasfyhr.deviantart.com