Issue 22: Drew Milne

For the Moveable Feast
& for Dell

                                                               ‘That love is all there is,

                                                               Is all we know of Love;

                                                               It is enough, the freight should be

                                                               Proportioned to the groove.’

                                                               — Emily Dickinson

Behind Cambridge there’s an axe

and it’s not Hephaestus on a good day

it is sharp and old and neolithic

and it is intent on clearing the forest

like a killer or a beaver or a fungus

what do you hate this is my task

as the spent terms tend to brush us away

thoughtlessly brash with ordinances

commanding squalor into open sky

it is there that jobs go under wraps

it’s likely that the science stepping up

to automate is a pack of lies of lies

just a plan chest administering crows

that hover in fortitudes, fortifications

only taking in news with iron diplomacy

but we don’t contend empathy always fails

nor cover up the market forces of each lapse

something forgotten, too daunting, admired

it’s all just too much heavy soiling, distinctions

that push every button and angry oughts

a burden is worn thin on the axe handle

the sources of merit go into liquidation

to truss up umbrellas like beautiful souls

the boy the girl sealed with a loving swalk

as against persistence in so many papers

under which there’s still shelter from stuff

the good people embracing hoarder genes

or summoning the Scandinavian project

no need to be all or nothing with clothes

and the office isn’t a seat of government

we all nod off to the semantics of siestas

some Protestants can’t keep still all day

but we doubt the need for growth, petrol

the past catching up with its consequences

but delete to taste if you’ve the hunger

well, do brush up on origins and expenses

mammal on mammal in crazy taxonomy

the lists of the endangered and the critical

yet you propose to sing with deforestation

right there you just have to stop and blink 


then the reproach becomes an osprey nest

ripe for the joy of naming local extinctions

guarding against poachers and television

you cannot imagine the fun in stealing eggs

though it seems to have to do with sports

this is the mess, a mess with provenance

and the century of the car and plastics

and pesticides and even nuclear scars

of tests and of accidents and general fear

it is not within the compass of nightmares

but taking it all in on some pivot of self

scarcely squares matters up with resources

there’s every reason to look further afield

spare the mirror and break the reflections

not least the self-taught bugling and masque

but hear the sons of Ulster shouting down

the hard border and the soft and in murals

the size of plantations that carve supplies

into a money tree that is also inextricable

so don’t make a get away with natural law

yes it seems that everything fucks, is fucked

but the scales have been tipped into untold

knock ons and the fall and decline of capital

cannot offer much scope for extras or even

the arched back of Max Wall given airs

call it Las Malvinas call it Anguilla I guess

it’s pay back day eventually and remediation

knocking on the door of the final storm surge

as the number of the missing promises meets

the paradise papers around British Antarctica


I’m gleaning for the biotariat in the landfill

among light electrical goods made for brief

toys burning now in Agbogbloshie, Ghana

how the burner boys extract the copper

as if still under the sign of missionary work

the shuddering to a halt of the white goods

shakes through the terrace floor boards

amid a chorus of fidgets and fridge hums

but it is warmer than the land of the Iceni

such is the utility principle of the boilers

wouldn’t you know it we’re all on fire

and for centuries to decorate the lounge

the lungs in trading triangulations done

from rum and manufactured goods that

became human slaves and shipped tobacco

it’s a mantra that did for sugar and cotton

and what goes around comes back angrier

if the only option left is to say tough luck

and even the truth and reconciliation means

cheap drugs dropping powdery propaganda

the sense of gravel, of scavenged extraction

suggests a bellyful of lived contradictions

and the concept of sin can’t stretch to that

as if not in my name covered the baseline

no, the plot is thick with aging clearances

the mercury seeping out of the permafrost

keeps the night watchmen from his paper

that’s not represented in the books of justice

slower to the little joys of smiles and such

like me but don’t turn me in for clickbait

and notice the tendency to mine experience

to seed analysis with data from intuition

the salt & pepper over late night television

just as we are all hackers in the beginning

fruits of the laborious troubadours of old

does pragmatism flavour the art market

or is investment in this uncertain climate

just a gamble, hedge funds and stocking

fillers for the onepercenters less mischief

waiting to sue the commissionaires of oil

it’s time to wave farewell to growth spurts

the superyachts, the cruisers, the destroyers

even nuclear submarines show up on GPS

and their secrets are better kept in dry dock

or the graveyards of Rosyth and Devonport

the strange shower of capitalist man is ending

a bit later than predicted by the constructivists

but every little construction may not be a help

when decommissioning is order of the decade

starting with the hot air being traded for coal

cinderella times, you me and the pumpkin car

another heave against the iambic tendency

scarcely troubles the mechanical prose factory

but here there is no precedent on which to file

and no precedent for the love of levelling on

you may not hear me my love but it is there

Drew Milne’s collected poems, entitled In Darkest Capital were published by Carcanet in 2017. Equipage published Earthworks in 2018 and Lichens in Antarctica appeared from the Institute of Electric Crinolines in 2019. His book of mini-novellas entitled Third Nature, from which an early extract appeared in Blackbox Manifold, is forthcoming from Dostoevsky Wannabe in 2019. He’s the Judith E. Wilson Reader in Poetics, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, and a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Copyright © 2019 by Drew Milne, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.