Blackbox Manifold

Issue 11: Ben Hickman

About Your Sketches

Only the defoliate branches

are looking after it, the pedestrian street

in the windsweep as Autumn begins

with a series of controversies we look down on

but are starting to feel matter, like dark matter.

Tribute pours in, out, the sun rises

in a frame of the same 90s moulding:

Come for the bum-bags,

stay for the immiserating futility cast over everything.

The cameras are on. Hope

is the worst medicine in your state,

these lakes without lustre:

the silence of the iambs malicious

but right in its echo, asking

who do you think you’re talking to

anyway. Medicine is the best

that’s why we call it medicine.

Southampton Morning Song

Coming home in the fog

round back of the precinct where someone’s taken the c

off the coral sign and sprayed

an arse-shaped pizza on the domino’s shutters, in its loveliness

dawn is a fast buck in the cutthroat world

of conurbation, the pavement growing

charlock and bull thistle, so much in silence,

bleached crisp packets shuffling by the robin hood bricks

like a host of daffodils, like birds in bird rush hour.

I always slept through it, morning’s marinade of fact,

the miracle that even here gets it; here

come the buses like myths of the working day.

Engine Management System

Assurbanipal, the grandeur of his edifices,

the Great King, the mighty King, the King of the World,

his dreams on his bed at night were pleasant

and in the morning his fancies were bright.

Scion, making the kings of Arabia carry baskets and wear caps

      as his people steal bricks away as spoil by the command of the gods.  

Emptying wine of sesame he enters under the canopy

of his mighty harem. O Assurbanipal, my old Corsa

has still got the spanner-in-a-car light on

Labour Along the Charted Path

In the woods around here it’s more like autumn

but otherwise the same. Five million

are on less than the living wage. The fireworks

like fireworks on firework night.

My oil cap is holding well, I think,

stepping out of the car

in walking boots hard to walk in.

From the phone to the dark is a rural measure

for the eyes. This country has been set

no limit.

We know it.

Today’s climate

makes everyone look bad.

To say it

is like highlighting in white —

oh yes, somebody better investigate

soon. And we know who.

And again. The only thing worth trying

is something else.

Ben Hickman is a poet and critic living in Canterbury. He is the author of John Ashbery and English Poetry (Edinburgh, 2012), and is Lecturer in Modern Poetry at the University of Kent. His poems have been published in Poetry Review, Tears in the Fence, Shearsman, ZONE and elsewhere.