Issue 9: Aidan Semmens

Black Light Machine

from a distance it looks like

a giant cuneiform text

a series of metal frames & panels

many of the filters lipstick-stained

cadmium red streams weaving

across a territory drawn

with yellow rectangles &

abstract forms

shiny pipelines winding

through a forest

arbitrary lines propped

up by mythology

heaped high in rundown

wooden houses near city walls

revellers & merchants

fat as clay icons

reeking of perfume

wigs & false eyelashes

lost in the void of prevention

& avoidable passion

up tiny filthy narrow stairs

airless beds with stained sheets

brave words & a decadent


your gaze strays over

tangled ribbons of the intersection

uranium run-off coating the ground

with a white residue

a blue tractor in a diagonal field

lichen patterns on forgotten hoardings

apparatus of tubes

rails & roadways looping

representations of tidal flux

a sophisticated system

of refrigeration

treatments that work in minutes

in a landscape of logistics sheds

& information hubs

construction of national borders

kissing the dust-caked cars

white vinyl to protect the paintwork

with a clashing set of symmetries

broken hulls of ships

in a sea of unused tyres

the monstrousness of facelifts

& preposterous tombs

incredible among holy images

piled in alcoves & doorways

a mausoleum of old toothbrushes

assemblage of cooling units

a vast teeming trading floor

tobacco growers at the mercy of infidels

anthropology of lost gestures

replicas purchased among crowds

the only choice possible

between heresy & unbelief

between mud & bathos

we transgress the way the road lies

a marbled pattern on the water’s surface

meaning justifying the end

The Subversive Nature of Toys

            man lieth down & riseth not … they shall not awake
            nor be raised out of their sleep

the future carries with it the archaic

a faint glimpse of light from a faraway galaxy

the intrinsic energy of empty space

what is important is the mean of the data

variable equation-of-state quintessence

the fascination that issues from the flayer’s zone

sweet sticky odour of putrefaction

the corpse so palpable in its morbidity

I dug a lake & planted trees

curves fitting to the theory of errors

a dusty place where even priests & kings

lie in darkness, clad

like birds in coats of feathers

blasphemers hang by their tongues

adulterers by their genitals

eternity as a state of constant nostalgia

punishment of the wicked is a reversal

of the natural order, the actual

or accurate value

of a physical quality

such as length, time interval

or temperature cannot be found –

measuring devices

may be faulty in various ways

the dead watch us, a democracy of ghosts

the unclasped spirit of Patroclus

like a vapour gone beneath the earth

gibbering faintly

such errors follow no simple law

& in general arise from many causes

nothing immaterial has freed itself

from mysterious connection to the meat

heaven’s existence is dependent on its impossibility

god laughs at the punishment of sinners, predestined

condemned by his own will & the lack of theirs

an ordinary sin-set, forgivable fallibilities

the damned writhing below in chaotic torture

their great numbers confining the victims

in unbearable stench of flames that give no light

cataclysmic explosions from self-destructive stars

I ferried him who had no boat

no measures of dispersion

systematic errors may arise

from the observer or the instrument

death & its rituals of decay

are noises off, the only worth

to be assigned to the corpse

its break-up value

the calculus of risk, a pragmatic

assessment of interest

the mean frequency

is usually not of particular significance

Aidan Semmens's second collection, The Book of Isaac, formerly shortlisted for the Crashaw Prize, is out now from Parlor Press / Free Verse Editions. Based obliquely on Russian and Jewish history, and the part played by members of his own family in the build-up to and aftermath of the Revolution, it is a sequence of 56 'distressed' sonnets, including two that first appeared in Blackbox Manifold 7.