Issue 26: Fran Lock

seven manic nights

he leads the night. i cannot sleep. i have no thought inside this shrinking. spring is an ungainly blade i train upon a book. finite and beguiled, beguiled then paralysed. my unlit lettuce-face. correct the jaw, covertly clenched. i am writing to rake the past into a grinning sexual weather. i want the newly thundered air unmade. this is how i see myself: not the hilt of a sword, but the handle of an axe, a rough surface proper to the phases of the moon. they gouge their gathering calendars against my sick – my sickle – grain. what is happening to me? the body longs to spill its poisonous uterine centrifuge. I’m a slow bladder, a bag of stuff, and bleeding is my industry, my talent and my occupation. in the night, he finished the machine marked me. in the morning, we’ll see.

silver moon, not silvery, but a decadent shekel, precision-spent. a thinly gesticulating shadow, he’s got televangelist eyes and hands so big they mitt the world. i stare out of the window and i say, i had a bad dream. my undead father shuts his face, a scorpion in the corner. they said there was something wrong with my mind. the door is not merely locked, but sealed. selfish. i work my fist into my thigh, improve upon a bruise. now i'm anaglypta with regret. white lead and arsenic. his secrets happen inside of me. i am the library, and the body in the library. oh, silver moon, their talk is a complex toppling. i won’t sleep now, watch a film in which the killer clown in a reversible geisha up in everybody’s shit. except now they are adults or something. awkward, disappointed, but with movie-people hair. oh moon, i want a green place where the raw soul applies its rouges. he keeps on telling me soon, soon. i had a bad dream. my undead father, the war will replace its planted men. he was mine, all golden and absurd. he grew from him: the land is rich, a rough enemy fertilizing.

on the wild incomes of the body. on a reasoning straight-world winter over now. her legends grew fur, and her fur grew legends, and don't count your hyenas until they are – just don't count your hyenas, full stop. mania is giving the walk its castle. birds with the flight starved out of them. i stride and i stall in turn. the police have it in mind to gird your circles, fuck ’em. the air is a pale elsewhere becoming blue, and i am my own mirage. somebody says excess about my writing, but that's just pouring good peacocks after bad. i like a mortal animality in me. the practical silence of a meeting, or an interview, their staunch faces when you tell them: dole used to mean mourning, dole was a flock of doves, now dole is an economy of grief. fucking poetry, where mad tongues are money and they want you all burnt up. a dog is a notable form of infinity, an angel of return, a theatre of promise. all i can do is walk. there is little ease from these inferior forms of grace. on the body as the wrong wilderness. my rune is a glyph against the lower-back, the tramp stamp of the working-class. i must walk. i can’t stand the screen, this job, that job. what a reader demands is the supple disadvantage of a girl, bloodshot prophet of an unsuccess. i won't speak my dirt no more. sobbing my way through the vine and fig tree. greenham dirges, but it’s too fucking late.

the fourth day is a vivid dream. netflix is a cold obeisant glow all over me. mutual worship. to be a true watcher. not a starer into space. this shimmering they speak of, i have held its pointed fierceness on my finger, i am sure of it. through stupid designated summers in another time. a broken worm, flexing against a bare eardrum: theme songs, anthems, the copious unsaid, hymns, ballads, anti-thatcher chants sung in a round. a woman with steel-coloured hair talks about steel, and i wonder what it was we ever made if anything. through the strenuous nostalgia of a clip-show i can't connect to life. the boys in their night-ranging, their netherworlds, their fiefdoms.

insular and oracle. i read a post that says men are verbs and women are nouns. my dress has no edges and all edges, and i dissipate and swell with the seasons. is a hyena a verb or a noun? ceremonial skin i lick therefore it's mine. have i told you lately that i love you? and by love, not some flavourless possessing in the usual way, not a casual reminder. an all-caps screaming through this quarantine, my love. a repeated sun, coming in and in and in, in waves. is this not getting through? this is my home, my chosen sofa. love, its habit stabbing some, but still. I’m sorry: for my pinecone approach to touch, for the pain i catch in the crepe of my body-coloured body, for how i say my moments into mountains, for the eyelid’s pinkening twitch toward shame. but they have been compound-nouning me forever: poor-mad-ugly-victim-slut, etc. at night, i talk myself to plush erasure among the pillows. i dream i am lucretia in revenge, and what a shit revenge: to die by your own hand, clenching the ancient feminine scent of lavender between your tits at the point of a blade. i hate those curd-coloured protestant lucretias. in the dream, lucretia-me is sid vicious carving gimme a fix in her chest. i get like that sometimes, i want to spit blood in people’s soup. not yours, my love, never yours. loveliest mensch, i wish you only venice, a city of lips, and for you to unscrew my exciting eyes, bulb by bulb.

i slipped their velvety question into me. i rolled it around my mouth like a grape. I’m not sure i liked it-liked it. the loving choke, how and where a man draws blood. of course there were whips, and the word boudoir in a french-menu font. i found it rather stupid. days of cake and chariot. antiquity, misquoted and consumed. there is no rome without these fascist trappings. frat-boys, fuck-bots, rubbing themselves to a linen arousal in sheets. no, this was not for me. men with automated groins, the hard-candied demands of light. of course they are turned-on by such things, their country has never been held together by handcuffs. they’ve handmade gods and handpicked dead. the wounds on our feet unfold their ambrosia, drop by drop. the wounds on our wrists. the wounds in our hair. like christ in his torturer’s alice-band, christ in his heirloom spencer tiara, this florally ornate lover’s knot. only not. because nobody gives a shit. of course they are turned-on by such things, to desire at all is to possess a kind of lilting power. their whole art croons and swaggers with it: baby-baby-baby, etc. their desire is not a gift, their desire is something they aim. and we are bond girls, squirming in their crosshairs. shall i finesse his skin from him? peel him of his pall of flesh? no. i am sixteen years old, my body a serviceable wonderland. i am thirty-eight years old, my body a scooby-doo amusement park, abandoned but for baddies in masks, projectionist freaks. I’ve always known. i had a bad dream: at the party they spiked my drink, and blew me apart like a dandelion.

immobilised, distorted. voices in the bag of her mouth. dressed to the very pitch of injury, like winnie in fucking happy days, buried up to her waist. I’ve had this dream: the body goes past versions of estrangement and into the pure apparels of hopelessness. to find yourself in the middle of life, shrinking and divested, fading like a bad tattoo. i don’t want to wear clothes i can't run in. i don't want to wear boots i can’t kick with. when i picture charlene, it is falling through the centre of our fellowship, escaping into air. moon, i want my life, the cutthroat gladness of aspiring. don’t mad me moon. i don’t want a confessor, or a therapist. a terrorist, i need a friend.


in the teeth of it, as the say. between the horns of this ordeal. or the tines of a fork. or the loins of a hive. my head is a hive that contains no honey. no, a solemn vespiary, the monody of wasps, their eerie sexless industry. the book becomes spit, becomes pulp. an opus grows in the mass-mind of a mouth, this colony poiesis. fiction toiled into fiction, each brittle paper cell, a page. the book becomes the book contains the library. slim volume of frustrated rage. the jaw, working like a guillotine. a wasp is a poet, a bedroom philosopher. poke a hole in fruit with your finger, for the fun of it.

listen: the estate is alive with the child-catcher ditties of ice-cream vans. ask for dragon’s blood and screw-balls, the quelling taste of caramel. i could not ask for anything, my tongue a planchette, pushed around my mouth to spell out howdy! the rubberised handles of my bike leave black forensic stains where i sweat in shorts, not being a boy. not not-being a boy. in the slackened cabaret of parks, i assume the mantle, the softened knack in ankle socks. girls, in the burlesque of their handstands, handsprings, plimsolls. jesus. men, their woo is a charm wound up. impulse perfume, push-up bras and green gym-knickers: that day-glow lycra hymen, technically intact. flâneuse, my stride is my slum and i walk this hall of tortures into reckoning. they talk with a voice as thin as soup. i will not look at them. to comb my hair across my face like cousin it. to lower my luddite lids over silver lyddite eyes.

when and where? these are adultland questions and I’m not quite. instead, that they are coming down the road and the distance clings to them: clods on their boots, a biscuity crust to their skin. his face is a thin varnish. you could pick it with a compass point in class, cotton-ball it off with pink, pear-drop-smelling acetone. instead, his shirt in a ball on the floor, fold upon fold, a dispassionate brain. how ladies talk, stinting cake with a rancid elegance, their scent a sighing enzyme and we wanted to be like. make me feel grown up, a civilised piglet, squealing myself back together every morning. and that one night, a gummy seam of stale mascara. speak softly, of the dissipated silver, blackening in draws. do the fickle drawl around a ginger tooth. errant and halt in a halter top, sweet with expendable melancholy.

my head betrays my shape: unwomanly. baroque by belomancy, arrows pointing inwards, little sharpened stones. the eye entraps its augers, one by one. cats in the sexcrime silence of the night, settling into their swagger. roadkill, gaffed to the tarmac. i am still, a black incisor in a sticky pouch of cloth. a small town, this, kitsch with fear. owls do choral hemlock: totem, idol, omen, ghost. the wasps go in and out of me, little shuttles sewing dirt into my maid’s finery, a paris shawl, a cloak of power. purl and pearl. i am, perhaps, a horizontal loom, hot mess of heddles, battens, reeds. oh, pale jacquard. oh, matelassé. brocade, broderie anglaise. i am come to lace, to blue-green damask tatting. pillowslips, brooding with embroidery, the simpering trim of a peasant skirt: tassels, tiny silver bells. i am recycled into linens, silks, spirt-medium muslins, white and shining. i am a garment district, a chinese laundry. textile piecework, measured by the yard. i am bolts and spools. i wind from me. i a rag trade.

dream of laura palmer, wrapped in plastic. or don’t. in fragile florists’ cellophane, precociously corpsed on a shingle beach. the dead have the night, with its freight of lunar hungers. on video, most exquisitely crepuscule. the dead are busy, glamorising cigarettes. eat that cherry pie through all its phases to exhaustion. towns like this, sclerotic and macho. it wasn't laura. glowing, dancing, laughing. it was the seed pearls of my acne. the close in its halfwit walpurgis. heat. the violet nocturnal of curfew. do i really remember? dogs in their tomboy nonchalance, loitering. and terminant. scooting with worms. inside i am taffy, my body a kind of star-shaped piñata, i come apart in chewits and skittles, a severed ear like a sugared shrimp, its pale pink pool-cue chalk. i apply lipstick for the licking of, singing kandy pop, wanting to look like manda from bis, wanting a powerpuff bobblehead look, wanting my sleekest denier stretched between chimneys. my mouth is full of wasps, agile survivalists. him, holding my head down, going: taste the fucking rainbow. fire, walk indeed. a prayer.

there’s a pile of leaves in the broken sink. without windows the true carnivorous splendour of a house becomes possible. the wasps are a quilted ceiling. i am furtive food. guttural, clutching, and splayed. the empty bedrooms talk to themselves like stomachs. lie on the mattress and breathe in dust. talk travels backwards through time toward the mouth. fear. asphyxia. crab claws make scare-quotes around the promenade. obscenity. to eat so much sand. how i used to confuse desert and dessert. wild rhubarb in the garden and a hole in the roof. in the teeth of it, as they say. that trinkety smile, exceeds the face it’s set in. remnants. keep your sea change. malt vinegar light runs in a tight loop around the rotten fixtures. I’m one hundred sulphur heralds. strange. stranger. strangest.

my laptop screen is brighter than my future/ swans

flesh is my manner of emergency. sorry. how does it feel to

solve the silence of a swan? to be so clever and so clear on

any given day that you can meet the witless, fecund morning

in its mouth without blinking? am i impressed by you? love,

that specious floral incident, fucking’s hard-luck union. please.

my bitch, please is a kýrie eléison. dressed for a penitent

season, for a high wind and a tridentine mass. i do not know

how to be held. asymptote approaching zero only always.

you are so thin. yes, like math. flesh in the feeble gloating

light of rooms. where rooms are full of men who say their

lack to sanctity. and back again. they are full of a twitching

legal hysteria. their patriot’s eroded croak. i have heard.

an arch cannot be occupied. a girl is also passed through.

and you, you own us. like all swans are the queen’s.<<>>

flesh and my name is hester, hester, hester. and by name

i do not mean my name i mean the marime part of being

that we feed to tsinivari, trick-cuisine of braised lardoons.

here, kitty, kitty, eat the whispermost atoms up of me. i lied.

my name is the sound of a key in a door, or a coin in

a meter. i am sorry there’s so much of me. my flesh has

the quickness of winter, the shrinking idiom of snow.

i will little myself in the springtime. we are not made

for longer days. how does it feel to be so full of wonder

that there is no room for wisdom? or so full of wisdom

that there is no room for pain?>><< between screams is

a kind of dull haunting. the finger dipped in wine as it

wheedles the rim of a glass. the dog next door does

geriatric terror. the face in feral out-takes, twisting to fulfil

some inner summons. sovereign, insomniac, and watch

the birds’ instinctive strut. flesh is our manner

of emergency. sorry. skin become a verdict in

the dewiness of dawn. sweat on my top lip. spit

the colour of cum. i walked my tongue across the street

with a gentle pressure. i stared at a flat surface. i broke

my own arm with my neck.

Fran Lock is a some-time itinerant dog whisperer, the author of numerous chapbooks and seven poetry collections, most recently Contains Mild Peril (Out-Spoken Press, 2019) and Raptures and Captures (Culture Matters, 2019), the last in a trilogy of works with collage artist Steev Burgess. Hyena! Jackal! Dog!, a short collection of poems and essays will be released by Pamenar Press shortly, and her eighth full collection Hyena! is due from Poetry Bus Press later in the year.

Fran is an Associate Editor at Culture Matters, and she edits the Soul Food column for Communist Review. She is a member of the new editorial advisory board for the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry, and a proud pittie-parent.

Copyright © 2021 by Frank Lock, 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.