Issue 20: Andrea Brady



I think they should live our experience,

the tarmac an equality

mile after boring mile, the same white

strip, the same cats’ eyes, the persona

fades like early sleep and the hard

world goes on hiatus – it’s an eclipse

in thought, parentheses, a subject

dropped through a hatch,

and still the hurtling machine

the glass shelter the poisonous fire

darts around obstacles, each

a little cabin of self-preservation

only millimetres from catching death.

You go on like this, on autopilot, for months

simultaneously totally present

and a grating mass of absence, but able

to do that job which is not to die;

and then that stuplime moment when you catch

yourself doing it.  Had I been asleep, for hours,

my daughter floating in my palm?

I was so engaged in the number

plates and colours I forgot to recognise

myself as a soldier.  Hardly breathing

I crossed two lanes, put on the hazards.

Snapping back exceeded the heart’s strength

to tolerate electrochemicals, my head

swam with the bright proximity of violence.

Some part of me must have wanted to.

Saying ‘some part’ locates that part as an alien object

tapped into my viscera that can’t really be found.

I sip water, take a cleansing breath, ease

off the pressure.  Celebratory gold ribbons

of rain cut the mid-summer sun and anoint us,

but they are wrong to do so, the mountains

grilling like the roots of a tooth.


Sodēly both the good & the euyl brake forth & flewe theyr wayes, the good houered vp to heauen, the euyll made speede to the hel, and in ye barel of euyl remayned only hope: & in the vessell of good was founde suspycion as that wherwith they were maynteyned, which newes when Iupiter hard (as he is an angry god) toke the empty vessells, and in a rage threwe them down, whych mortal men seing, desyrous of newes drew nere & embraced the emptye barrels, some of the good and some of the euyll. But they that layd hold of the empty tonnes dyd neuerthelesse persuade themselues to haue gotten both good and euyl, and yet in dede neyther good nor euyl fel to any mortal man, sauing that they hapned vpon the better barrel found in themselues opiniō of good with suspicion, & the other opinion of euill without some hope. And so it came to passe, not vnlyke as when men in darke nyghts walkyng in Arabia do happelye treade vppon some piece of yron or other cold thing, are sodenly affrighted with feare leaste they haue hapned vpon a venemous serpent, & yet haue not: euen so the only suspicion of good and evyll is that, that perplexeth al mortal creatures, because al that is good is ascended to heauen, and al that is euyl, gone down to the infernall sprytes.


Confess to yourself whether you would have to die

if you were forbidden.  If not, continue

movement to the bazaar, moving under

advice, in heavy cloud.  Owning this

projection of our power as volume

enables us to manipulate

the soil and raise it up

in defiance of the tyranny of distance

the highway hissing like a cat.

Gordon is cleared hot, Wildfire

in from the north, one minute. 

He said he heard my text

in the hall above the consulting rooms

my searching of the holes made by American

surgical and gross violences

in a different light,

as the weaponisation of my own past

beating on the things I had been called to love,

the structures and the people inside them.

Bending the azimuth from justice

scorching vile bodies

this invulnerable mechanical body pulses

on a slow single trochee to engagement,

click over the watchkeeper’s

radically discontinuous times: this time,

your time, the long time in seats, the quick

click of explosive action, the slow prosthetic

violence and the long

postponed oversight.  Put Eid henna on your hands.

We are on the way. My authorisation

expands to cover infinite time and space,

imagination running on empty

towards the finality

of an answer to the question I’m too afraid to ask.  Lately

come offers of compensation.



The box levitates, reflecting

its scarlet metal faces on the ceiling;

like a valuable manufactured throat

it is edged in orange and powdered

tungsten, it is breathing, dropping

its steel curtain on fourteen hundred

curios from another age, insects held

as long as they know it

beneath clear, untrembling glass.

Copper turns green with its error

a form of productive sickness that is lovingly

cleared by the Djiboutian zero-

hour worker, or held off with enamel

armorised or vacant plexi.

The sides of the box push back

against the void of Fort Russell,

       collapsing not outward

       nor inward, solid, dry, magnetic,

independent of the viewer’s scrutiny

but not uninviting.  The bottom is stubbed out

just barely reflecting but so capacious

it might include your face, that face you paid

to put there, that floats an inch above

your real face and is made of brownish clay.

No longer frozen

as an old photograph, military information allowed the past or the future to be interpreted, since human activity always gives off heat and light

and can thus be extrapolated in time and space. 

A sculptor showed us that actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific

than a flat surface. Anything in three dimensions can be any shape, and can have any relation

               or none at all.   The substance of our universal rights

               is transcended by the idea

               as when you cut off the legs of a table, the table falls

but the form of the table floats forever in the sky.

The void is not ours

to sample, because it is infinite, not cleared

for release; the thin composite body feels

like dry paper, has overcome

significant technical issues

since its humble origins in balsa and ply.

The void is a value made of formica,

aluminium, cold-rolled steel, red

and common brass forces the artist to occupy

the site of a decision, part of a trend

famously to boot out illusion; Donald Judd

bringing the box into doctrine,

stack em high and sell them, well

       into the high desert, the colony of souls.

Occupying space, the surveillance industry

was also moving into time.

In actual space we can pursue any possible

form of relation: the people of the Juba region

gather around the sacrificial girl,

her apron on fire, her fired face of clay

a colour trace that was written by the curator and is being read

in another room.  The jar she holds

the length of a thighbone is more rare.

She is a box and she opens one.

Somewhere an artist starts building new tables,

hammering out fan blades and motors.

Anyway, you should come down.

It’s gonna be lit.


                                            Some days

the daughter of All Saints is seduced

by a jewel-like ladder.  She wrestled

her instinct to stay with mama but the sky

was opening, the shape dilating, and the angel

stood in the sun, beckoning to her and moving

the universe.  So she went out

into eternity

like a candle, a fun-sized terrorist.

Stories teach these kids curiosity

is lethal: checking the last seen

signature, following the online trace.

But opening the box is just

the beginning.  Fruit bats

scream from the cavemouth dripping

with Marburg virus.  Her instinctive eye zeroes

in on a pulverised motor

made into a new and smooth surface.

This is the box, frozen against hierarchy

at a value of some $10m, simply a form of being;

surgeon’s box, patient’s wound,

an idea of enclosure that can fit any medium.

               The gaze is on the side of things. 

               Things look at me when I see them and leave me

               galvanised: the box shows me how,

               its opening lid works like a radome,

               a hope enclosure inspired by Buckminster Fuller.

And who hover over it are tempted to wonder

where the ‘art’ went or where the ‘work’ went

on its flightpath from expression to formality,

looking for their circus image in the bottom,

or the intimate place where it touches the floor.

The angel of evil could not have done that.

A child is in heaven.  The box is empty,

saying nothing but ‘construction’.  It really is

like swatting flies; we can do it forever

easily and you feel nothing.

Andrea Brady’s books of poetry include The Strong Room (2016), Dompteuse (2014), Cut from the Rushes (2013), Mutability: Scripts for Infancy (2012), and Wildfire: A Verse Essay on Obscurity and Illumination (2010). She is Professor of Poetry at Queen Mary University of London, where she runs the Centre for Poetry and the Archive of the Now.