|Monday, February 13th, 2017|
|Two Poems after Dante
To the ninth ditch they came. It smelled of blood
Bile feces brain smashed bone poured on the ground
And on they trudged in an eternal round
Effluents dripping into stinkclogged mud
Who stirred up strife loved war for its own sake
Turned love of god into a butcher's whore.
Profit from devil's paintbrush: it's a chore
To kill so many. Eyes cracked black opaque
Blind to their dearest enemy they mend
Their wounds nerve burn flesh knit and stretch of skin
To wholeness no remission of their sin
A demon with a great axe at the end
Halves them up, down. Tongueless they scream, 'I lied.
Spat poison. Kin church city and republic died.'
Lied sold betrayed his home his friend his kin
His city. And was taken judged and damned
Deep chillburned in eternal ice was rammed
A demon acts his part although the skin
Is seared and cracked from that corroding flame
And does not even bother with deceit
A whore fled screaming from the cloven feet
In rut protruded he pigsquealed and came
The unconvincing lies of demon scorn
Find fools enough. His lips seared from the cold
Whisper the feather reasons why he sold
Himself...and curse the day that he was born.
So many damned he taught to rape kill hate
Black crushing ice bears down with all their weight.
|David Gerrold asked what America means to us.
Dance in the dark, green shimmer, outstretched leg
Inspiring muse yet moll the toe tap beat
Ragtime and rivets, burning torch to greet
Strangers, dear tawdry land I will not beg
That you fulfil your promises, our dreams.
The best of hopes most nightmare of despairs
Shining and stained a fantasy of home
Pancakes and bacon mirrorshading chrome
Striped zootest suits that anybody wears
By of and for yet choking on bloodgold
I could not breathe there where was near first free
Twirled in your air you beat charmed ravished me.
I heard the stories that your victims told
And yet your better angel at your ear
To save, while it's your demons we all fear.
|Thursday, February 9th, 2017|
|My short form reaction to Judith Butler's lecture
ON KINSHIP PROBLEMS IN THE BACCHAE
The gods so much our kin and so unkind
Our snobbish cousins worse than we can dream
Bitch at them even slightly we blaspheme
And then are torn to bits or wake up blind.
They rape us father us. Don’t criticise
Your greatgrandchildren will meet awful fates
Meet unknown mothers on the worst of dates
Have siblingchildren cause plague pluck out eyes.
Not just the Greeks. Job lost his sons and herd
Over some stupid bet. And crucified
To pay for fruit God's son poor Jesus died.
Sure fine, in the beginning was the Word,
Abstract incomprehensible and wholly writ.
God that is not our flesh less of a shit.
|Monday, January 23rd, 2017|
|A poem about family
THE MYSTERIOUS PEDLAR
Mum's cousin Jean had cheekbones like sharp knives,
And eyes dark passion brown as the old song.
We often get these speculations wrong
But bits of us get passed down through their lives
The ancestors of whom we hardly heard.
He was a pedlar who got sick and died
My great great grandma kneeling at his side
Who nursed him. And we don't know what occurred.
Nose aquiline and cheekbones in my blood
Irish potato face grandfather's height
My aunt's imagination these things might
Explain me. We aren't made of sun-baked mud
But generations handed flesh and bone
Remembered family and those unknown.
|One of my oldest friends just died
We're made from ancestors. Also from friends.
Jokes. Hugs. Rebukes. The books they made us read.
They made us weep. Sometimes they made us bleed.
Violent desires have sometimes violent ends
Or wither. Friendship twines about the heart
A subtle bindweed. Can't eradicate
Mostly you don't remember place or date
Acquaintance changes and new friendshps start
Each way the fondness never quite the same
Balance of power shifts and then moves around
Differences gentle sometimes quite profound
That make us bless curse half-forget their name
Still written on our bones. A thing we find
Most when they're dead and we are left behind.
Technically Mike Dickinson was my oldest friend because apparently we had play dates when we were very tiny.
We actually met in Leeds in the 70s when he was running, part-time, the sf shelves in the local Left bookstore, and stayed in touch when I moved to London. He dragged me into SF fandom by getting me to bring the Leeds group food supplies at the 75 Heathrow Eastercon. When he was doing fanzines and editing Vector, he chivvied me into writing my first reviews. As one of the organisers of various Yorcons, he helped create a space where I felt safe in fandom post-transition and where Geoff Ryman and I had our first LGBT fandom party. And it's through him and Jackie Gresham indirectly that I met my partner. He was a significant reader for Gollancz.
He was a beefy, funny, well-read, folk-singing...He was a talented teacher and a good man.
We saw less of each other in recent years. He and Jackie had elder care responsibilities and his health declined. He died after a short illness on Friday, suddenly, in his sleep.
I have missed him and always will.
|Monday, January 16th, 2017|
|First two poems of the year,
LOVE ONE ANOTHER AND DIE
And in the meantime comfort all your friends
Who weep and fear and bleed. And know we may
Each dawn have that and no more of a day
Than dawn. Perhaps life, world in moments ends.
Each second then in love fierce joy and rage
Be worthy of the dawn your friend your self
Hope is a broken toy placed on high shelf
For future healing. When you turn a page
No corner turned and leave the margin blank
You read. You learn. You finish. Then the book
Is what it was. There is no second look.
It is the moment friend the dawn you thank.
Hopeless you know this is your paradise
Nature word love reflected in friends' eyes
Traitors were thrown from the Tarpeian Rock.
And parricides were drowned sewn in a sack
With ape snake cock. In deepest dungeon black
State enemies were strangled. It's a shock
To know how seriously they took such things.
Romans who'd kill such men not shed their blood
Whose death was needed for the public good.
Until the death that down the ages rings.
He lay head covered on the Senate floor.
Red stain white marble utterly pollutes
Republic done. Tall men in polished boots
Hail death their friend. Your face is pounded raw
Centuries long by treason boots and lies.
At least we know the day that freedom dies.
|Saturday, December 31st, 2016|
|Another death poem
IN MEMORY OF THE RED ARMY CHOIR
White snowberry deep birch wood.Crisp pure white
snow crunches under soldier boot. They sing
Joy wistful angry shouting whispering
Tenor to pierce the soul bass deep as night.
Her brown black sparkle eyes bright as her soul
Or crops that waver endless as the sea
Rich deep black soil grave of each enemy
Each generation and their voices roll
Like rivers through the heart blood workers red
Patriots shed on every inch of ground
Massage our ears that fierce and healing sound
Bayan and balalaika. And they're dead
And singers die and there is still the choir
To say the land's eternal death's a liar
Bleakness and fall. What we hoped built is lost.
They're at the gate to kill us one by one
In line. Remember when we basked in sun
That last good time. The dice gold coin we tossed
Unthinking. Now the sky is overcast
Sleet in our bones. The uniform is thin
Shaved scalps are cold. Your bloodied mouth's a grin
Despise their future. We had such a past
They could not want or know. Yet sing it proud
Make one last perfect music as we die
True joy that shames their misery guilt lie.
Hilarious intricate and bawdy proud
We are the thrush pierces their winter night
First hint green spring in soiled grey slush mud blight.
|Wednesday, December 28th, 2016|
|Another death poem...
In white defiant. First she hides the plans
Then fires her gun. Shot left unconscious frail.
Haughty her anger spits. Her skin is pale.
No compromise. Back stiff as any man's.
She was so young then. Tough grace in defeat
Loses her world in flame. And carries on.
In her last movie loses husband son
And can endure. Sighs just for one long beat
Duty is strength. And in this awful year
And awful sequel learn that how we act
On screen in life the most important fact
Smart words good aim and that we persevere
Princess and actress shared more than a face
Wits guts survive. Like her we stand our place.
|Wednesday, December 14th, 2016|
|It really is all getting to me
We choke on air that burns. The towers fall.
Over and over people leap through flame.
There's left no easy death. We threw that game
With broken dice. And we are guilty. All
Of us are guilty. Hopelessness is guilt.
Innocence never an option. We have lived too late.
Ashes and dried out thistles on our plate
Crushed by the fall that brick by brick we built
From plans we traced on water in the dark
Cannot remember. Paper girders tear
Confetti. In our death no justice. Bear witness
For us. We meant no harm. We heard a lark
Sing climb. And leave remembrance of that joy
To weigh against all we watched or helped destroy.
|Monday, December 5th, 2016|
|This is a metaphor
Small teeth that bite lock to the wrist's small bones.
Cannot be shaken off. They cannot break heŕ supple snake strong neck.
All that she was and did they left in wreck
For god and money. All a weasel owns
Hopeless is death and hate and those sharp teeth
To hurt and worry maybe make them bleed
Small triumph but a triumph still indeed
Tear skin to ribbons. Sinews underneath
Chew useless. Palsy hand that's raised to hurt
Hang gnaw. They say it's useless to complain
At least this death will cause a little pain.
They snap her spine and leave her in the dirt.
Eventually. Remembered by her mark
Red carved in flesh she goes into the dark.
|Thursday, December 1st, 2016|
|I read a new translation of Rilke and suddenly saw how to do my own version
AFTER RILKE'S Archaic torso of Apollo
We cannot guess its head god glaring gaze
Apple round ripe carved eyes. But yet the stare
Persists inherent in those pecs. It's there
Glows through stone muscles like the turned down blaze
Arclight could blind. There gentle still it burns
Warm as the sweetness of the sudden smile
That comes with loin thrust, glows continues while
The body shows self glimmers as it turns
Unwhole unshamed remaining still complete
White stone that dazzles sheen as silken skin
God like a star that burns from deep within
Its every inch a friendly face to greet
Admonish you voice echo out of far
Far distant time. Be other than you are
|Sunday, November 27th, 2016|
We do not choose our time. It flows around
Fingers run through like sand. We make a wave
That ebbs in seconds. And we try to save
Friends selves sink gently down without a sound
To rot in silt and leave our mark in stone
Negative space is all our love can leave
Perhaps enough. I wish I could believe
We live together friends but die alone
In moments beds a boot heel in the street
Choking our lungs. Perhaps a stroke of hand
Tracing our lips. We do not understand
When fading stops. Last thing. And yet so sweet
Sugar on tongue electric rain on grass.
Small moments bright and then the moments pass.
So much. Browned slightly black the crunch of toast
Spread thick with butter kumquat marmalade
Strong coffee. The sharp smell as it is made.
Potatoes parsnips crisp under a roast.
Squirrels at play. Magpie hops over grass.
A heron elegantly shading grey
At dusk. The sudden shrilling of a jay.
Rooks clustered solemn clergy saying mass.
Your lips on mine. Your hand between my thighs.
Your gentle breathing velvet touch all night.
Pretending you were wrong when you were right.
Decades of laughter crinkle round your eyes.
For love the lives around me tasty food.
No prayers of thanks but simple gratitude.
|Monday, November 14th, 2016|
|Baba Yaga in Washington
BABA YAGA IN WASHINGTON
Her house's chicken legs scratch out their brains
Cell at a time. They rattle in their skulls
Like peas. She grinds them and her pestle pulls
Her mortar through their hollows. What remains
But painful slow humiliating stitch
By stitch she stuffs their dessicated skins
Sticks button eyes through squish grape mulch with pins
Their little mollusc dicks a moist red itch
They hear a gently scritch and then a hum
Crescendos like a needle. There is fire
The smell of choking dog dung nostril deep
Even in dreams their fractured boneache sleep
Boys melons cattle whip guilt and desire
A pentup bursting yet will never come.
|Thursday, November 10th, 2016|
Wait for the sharpened axe, the silken rope.
Tidy your desk, update and sign your will
Count each sand second. Always knew the bill
Arrives brown envelope. No end to hope
Some cheque is in the mail. That email said
That you'd be paid quite soon. It's what your owed.
And death is riding on Samarra road
His horse will stop and death will nod skull head
And pass the reins. Does pale horse eat ghost straw?
You search the answer google it for hours
Three kittens rolling in a bed of flowers
Time almost up we thought we would get more.
Every last second brings one more last thing.
Perhaps he'll die. Perhaps death's horse will sing.
|After an election
And so we start again. Our friends will die
And many others whom we'll never meet
Selfharm intoxication will seem sweet
Sweeter than going on. Each time we'll cry.
And never stop. Nor take an easy road
Accomodation tiny increment
Will take you places that we never meant
Our soul flake slowly and our heart corrode
And never hope to win. It's not a game
It is a dance. Reach out and clutch a hand.
Harmony music though there is no band.
Move stately forward. It may be the same
Whether we live, are killed. Unflinching eyes
Each one that falls another hundred rise.
Live on to spite them. In the tatters dance
That they have stripped you to. Sing out the doom
That they have summoned. In this world no room
For all their wrongnesses. Come fate and lance
The boil of their delusion. Stinking pus
Will pour like torrent. But for now it swells
Condemning us to fifty different hells.
They are the problem but they think it's us.
Strawhead and sore prick nose and button eyes
Bully and scarecrow, fox ghost evil clown.
Will tear politeness kindness up and down.
High seat abominable. No surprise
Lord misrule of dead world they raised this night.
We will survive if only out of spite.
|Wednesday, October 19th, 2016|
|Three poems written at Cloud Club
TRUESONG for Coming Out Day
Voice unsupported is the strained true song
Whose sharp note is the sweetest. Harmonize
Beyond the notes we hear. Protective lies
Rhyme in the lyric. Cadence proves them wrong
Until the cadence changes, Dying fall
That chooses life alters the minor key
Triumphs the major. I that is now we.
They may hurt me. They cannot kill us all.
You tell the truth your closest sort of knew.
Most closet doors have slats that let in light
And if they hate you as indeed they might
Sad is the lilac made of pink and blue
Song you learn notes that ring enjoy and praise
Come out as rich and strange so many days.
Compile from imperfection. Buzz and whir.
The bass strings hover like a blue green fly
Infectionate is sapphire. This is why
They play as group. Viola bows a slur
A drawl of bittersweet to complement
Voice leaps to chaos art the lyrics mean
Keyboard and drums sweet order in between.
The engine pulses. Time is held then bent
Then twisted true but never as before
Rehearsal a discussion word and sound
Arguing beauties not there until found
Nine voices talking when the head count's four.
I write in silence as an audience
Performing too but in a different sense
The briars round her are the needle's twin
That hurt her. Roses like those in her cheeks
As many as the hours and days and weeks
Of expiation for her parents' sins
The invitations that were never sent.
The evil fairy's trivial concern
Moon waxs wanes. Swift rushing seasons turn.
And was her stillness an emolient
To evil fairy's feelings? Not at all.
No blood no pain no panic. Not a snore
She threw the curse and she expected more.
Such disappointments come eventual
To all whom malice gives a dreaming hope
Never enough of anything but rope.
|Saturday, September 24th, 2016|
Paul wept. Apostle to the world, he came
To Mantua and wept on Virgil's grave
A man he wished to, years too late to, save,
Longed for a saviour child, knew not his name.
'We have no hope, our comfort is desire.'
The poet spoke to poet. Limbo state
Eternity yet ticking off each date
Who know not bliss but have been saved the fire.
Dante knew Virgil. Loved. But with regret
Faith told him it was somehow not unfair
Pagans be damned yet have no pain or care.
We ditch all these concerns. And Pascal's bet.
Still care for all the wrongness of the dead
Compassion, doubt, both whisper in my head.
|Thursday, September 22nd, 2016|
|Some thoughts on my suspension
As people know, I received my ballot in the Labour Party leadership election and voted rather late, on the 14th, after a series of complaints, in the course of which I was told that a large batch had been meant to go out on 24th August and that there had been a glitch. On the 17th, I received a letter dated the 16th which said that I had been suspended from the Labour Party, and my vote disallowed, on the basis of abuse contrary to the rules which I had committed on 6th May and 3rd December as well as on other dates. Thanks to the kind offices of Jane Carnall, I have looked at my political tweets for those days and am mystified as to how I have committed abuse within the meaning of the rule book ie sexism and racism, and foul language.
On the 6th of May I said ‘Imagine what Labour's results in England would have been without constant plots and bitching’. On the 3rd December I was primarily involved in defending the freedom of speech of Labour Party members in the aftermath of the Syria vote, sometimes in direct dialogue with Tom Watson and Andy Burnham. The only conceivably relevant tweets are these : ‘ Earlier I referred to Hilary Benn as a lickspittle running dog of colonialism ad imperialism. I did not, of course, intend to hurt his feels ‘ and ‘ I don't especially want to swear at MPs. I will fight for the right to swear at MPs because I wish to retain the right to use biting sarcasm ‘. A few days earlier I had said that the right to say ‘fuck off’ to Tom Watson was an important right and in reference to his vote and how disgusting I thought it, I told him that he could get me expelled if he didn’t like it. And that’s it – a discussion of the role ot swearing and other forms of strong language in political discourse as a vent for strong views about mass murder as policy.
I don’t swear on line regularly myself – you are more likely to find the word ‘fuck’ in my poems than in my tweets. In any case, the occasion on which Jess Phillips publicly told Diane Abbott to fuck off and boasted of having done so is pretty clear evidence that those particular words are not a disciplinary offence in the Labour Party, so foul language has to be very foul to qualify as abuse.
I didn't use the words 'fuck off' on 3rd December but my dialogue with Tom Watson would have linked to the tweet a few days earlier in which I did talk of 'the right to say fuck off to Tom Watson', which is not abuse, but a discussion of the right of free speech and its limits. That would be enough for a bot to pick up.
‘Lickspittle running dog’ is Maoist phraseology rather than foul language and is any case something I would never use entirely seriously – it’s what I said about Hilary Benn when very angry but even then it is hard to see how, though rude, it contravenes the rules. More generally, if in the heat of the moment I were to use language that could be construed as racist or sexist, which is highly unlikely, my friends would point this out to me.
I am deeply offended at my suspension and the claim that I have done something wrong. I have, however, a theory as to how it happened, a very worrying theory.
It’s hard to see how even with a lot of volunteers and staff working full time on it, the Labour Party could have managed to suspend so many people in so short a time – a record number in Labour history, I would guess, even given the rise of social media – without automating the process with bots and algorithms.
I think I have been suspended for the word ‘bitching’ which is not racist or sexist but which contains the word ‘bitch’ which is sexist. A really useless bot would pick it up and not notice the letters round it. I think furthermore that this is a plausible explanation of why so many people who have been suspended cannot imagine what they have been suspended for – no-one is doing proper quality control on bots which are primed to search for a variety of words, and do not notice when those words are syllables in larger words or if they are being used ironically, in quotation marks and in very specific contexts.
Iain McNicols is a very intelligent man and must be aware that this is happening, and I am forced to conclude that he knows and does not care. Another strong indicator as to his motives is that he has chosen to interpret the rules as meaning that anyone accused of abuse should be suspended without further ado and any investigation of the accusation deferred until after the leadership election and the conference. That decision is clearly motivated by bias – it is also the jurisprudence of the Queen of Hearts - ‘Verdict First, Trial Afterwards’ rather than anything which belongs in a democratic organization. It is a disgrace that the ‘Corbyn’s supporters are vile abusers’ narrative has become so prevalent that liberal commentators are not outraged by this, even without it’s being proved that the accusations are not personal denunciations but based on algorithms and bots.
It’s rather worrying that the pattern of late receipt of votes, endless complaints, arrival of votes, instant suspension of membership for alleged abuse, is not limited to me but appears to be widespread.
It is also hard to see how so many people are going to get due process on the investigation and appeals procedure this side of the next General election.
It is also rather worrying that the form letter that comes out informing people of suspension tells us that we have been denounced. This creates a poisonous atmosphere both locally and, in the case of those of us who are public figures for various reasons, professionally – if in fact the denunciation has come from a piece of code rather than a person, that is particularly irresponsible of the Compliance Unit.
Further, the use of bots to decide guilt or innocence is a worrying precedent. Imagine what a totalitarian government could do with it – imagine what a government department like the DWP may be doing with it as we speak.
Cardinal Richelieu said that seven honest words were enough to find some basis to hang a man. Iain McNicol has surpassed him.