Playing Red Dead in Lockdown
Thank you, game, for giving me an empty world with so much
to do – acres of mountain paths and peaks that my fake horse
can trot through; stretching valleys of foxglove, lavender,
all wild and made of pixels. Thank you, coders, who crunched
eighteen-hour days. I pay tribute by staying awake
till 5AM playing your opus barely blinking,
my heartrate so high my fitbit thinks I’m swimming. Thank
you for the twenty-year friend I’ve just been introduced to –
I’m too depressed to message people back but Dutch tells me
to believe and sends me out for cigarettes. Thank you, game,
for making mass death more regular. My iron sights
moved honey smooth between the eyes of fifteen villagers,
the town stayed unchanged, the dead replaced like spices in a
spice rack. Thank you, game, for when I drop things it echoes.
A Golden Shovel After Paul Muldoon
After the one blade all over, my head was a mink-
soft and fingers stimmed my nape as if I had escaped from
some manacle. Rebel urges squeaked like a mink-farm
in chorus and mid-class we agreed to run our own lock-in.
Cal got liquor then told us to meet in woods to the park’s south.
He, whose parents bought him fireworks from Armagh, is
one we considered blessed, landlord of our illegal pub that led
us hormonal nerds to sing odes to the grave of
heroes I hadn’t heard of. Later, Cal called me a Robert Nairac-
like grinder, a dork. I left with someone without saying goodbye
before hands slipped in under my shirt and teased at the fur-lined
armpits I had. We smiled and came closer, making a hood
of our hair to stay dry as we kissed. Still ashamed of his
taunts, I hid at the front of History in an anorak.
A stray was selected to have a microphone
stitched inside its ear while incisions
linked a fur-buried wire to a signal
transmitter screwed into its vertebrae.
Rumours persist it immediately scrammed
from the targets, two clerks eating hoagies
for breakfast, and was killed by a taxi.
While the fluffy agent did ignore the Soviet Embassy, in fact
it had ambled off to quell its appetite in the Cherry Trees.
After the cloaked actors of state met their match,
they sent the cat to a shelter and a veterinary
surgeon scalpelled out any spy craft.
Its fosters, unaware of the wasted $20 million,
recounted how ‘Gnome’ would sit by their radio, purring.
Gutless after looking at house after house
but still lost for a home,
we view someplace on the opposite road.
Our steps inside resound –
you stare at gaps in the wood floor,
imagining the march
of damp, mice, or ants through those slant black shapes
more open than a door.
Unimpressed but polite, we stoic our faces,
though I can see you
looking back at me with a look less guarded
for the lettings agent.
How many ceilings have we settled under
to leave a year or less
after? Anywhere says ‘This Must Be The Place’
with you, so let’s picture
us here. We forgot the tape measure, so size
with our arms and hands each room,
standing outstretched like T’s to mark six foot,
and wade like dogs for inches.
One day, our names on this contract will merge
and change, though for now we
have to tick ‘Single’ in lieu of ‘Married’.
Together, this could work,
this loose fit to our foundations.
After Elizabeth Bishop
The lichen have swarmed over
catkins, smearing blurred concentric
shocks of yellow upon the bone
trees that ladle light in shivers.
At the gog’s top, a copse
huddles framing arbour and verges
to one side, the rest slopes to pimple
of chalk pit and dry meadow
whose indent curves up like buttocks.
Your jaw thinks it can swallow
the sun, so open up. The heart
passes over on the busied
horizon to wither in bright winter.
Let’s end the poem here. Life is separate.