Issue 14: Peter Manson
Time comes for you
In the ovary of the fetal grandmother there is already half a mother;
in the ovary of the fetal mother, in 1928, is already half of the son
born empty of partial people, who will come
to emit those carelessly, on demand, in bulk.
But enough about me. How have you been doing?
I know you only exist
when called upon, and the call is not voluntary
but takes the place of an obscenity
and does not even contain your name.
If there is an afterlife, it is lived
in the face of discontinuous instances of screaming
in many voices, all of them loved
and does not go on forever.
At last gasp the brain comforts itself
is a sentence I at last know not to be true.
The brain is not even an organ, only
the steadicam ballast for senses based in the head
and all that seems to happen there
is nothing but referred pain from the heart.
Awake in twilight sleep no memories form
of the wrongs done to you in our tired vigil
– yeah, right – and you have been here before,
handed, each time, a stranger’s child
you comb the distressed body for evidence
of recent pregnancy and conclude we are yours.
And now I forget how to write
having briefly remembered, and forgotten
or disregarded the writing that happened anyway
while I wasn’t writing. It is enough to know
you trusted nobody, girl born without a mother
to all intents.
Protectiveness, like protection
proves unreliable, which is why I am here
and like this, as death comes to you
in the guise of a fourth child, given gas and air
as I re-enter the frame.
A life lived in darkness is fine, then comes the flash
you would swap for nothing, revealing
the monster that was always there, enlivening
the subsequent temporary darkness that does not end in light
An echo the length of iconic memory
will one day contain all I need of me
but for now the loop is wide and trailed
round capstans and chair legs in the corridor.
It is a Möbius loop that serves
two tracks sequentially, one in reverse
or alternates left and right in the stereo field
and does not know for what it is a metaphor.
The first track is a tic suppressed with difficulty
whose contents do not reflect my present concerns:
the slow extinction of a conditioned response
the explosive acquisition of a fresh prurient yelp
bounced down into the one integument
with more insidious shit I seem to decide to think
but don’t, and nothing ends, but the noise floor
rises and takes me in as unfocused blaring.
The second track is the record of a long circular walk
past the nursery school, and the primary school, and the park,
the pond hotel, the hospital and the funeral home,
back to the home not yet a euphemism
though a housing officer sang the office of the dead
over me as I signed the lease. The real walk
is a one-way street, with a ratchet in it,
and only on tape do I get to run it back –
optimism is made for me, by machines.
The left track is desire, throbbing from ear to ear
like a displaced testis, wandering the highways
of the body like an animal in an animal
in search of the opening of the wormhole opening
on the same mistake it has no memory of.
The right track is anger, throbbing from ear to ear
as the bollock seeks asylum in the jaw
drawing the circular muscle around the mouth to a point
where the blood in its tight orbit throws off sparks
at which only a loved one can kindle, like a safety match,
and I run, like a coward, am in fact a coward,
watching the oxide blister in the last cassette
rather than cut, untwist, and splice, and wipe.
In the backdraught after the arson attack of love
I am snug inside asbestos, breathing fibrous air.
Peter Manson lives in Glasgow. His books include Poems of Frank Rupture (Sancho Panza Press), English in Mallarmé (Blart Books), Adjunct: an Undigest and For the Good of Liars (both from Barque Press) and Between Cup and Lip (Miami University Press, Ohio). Miami UP also publish his book of translations, Stéphane Mallarmé: The Poems in Verse. See https://petermanson.wordpress.com/ for more.