for they had known swagger without season, possessors of a fine
and pirate fancy. for they had known hemlock, inscrutable rue in
a black coat always imbecile in january. for they had known foxfire,
a horoscope of want and makeshift honing. for they had feared
whets and snags and sundays. for loneliness belonged to them;
the agile realm of mouths. they were stranger-bait. for they had
known the subtle vagaries: grape, the teasing grain of razors,
twilight's copper denier to a gram. for theirs were the clouded
hemispheres, the peril that contains all honey. for they had known
ransoms, the reckless waltzing gene debriefed. for they had known
kidnap and mutiny, intervention's sorry plankwalk, the b-side
instrumental spun to fugue. watchers of the revenant meanwhile
in venial fleapit introspections. theirs were vacancy and vertigo.
they had been known to spit their golden motes from bridges, sit
a sniper's vigil in a crows' nest sullenly. an insomniac pedigree,
theirs. the melancholy insurrections of the sleepless. for they had
known days of insult and of gimmick; the killing of an inner-
child in empty rooms. for they had written oaths to split
the weather into woe. interference, inference, anything smitten
or eked. blank nights in a balking rage, without stimuli or stylus,
swinging a fist like a tilley lamp from that dark penless street to
this. for they had heard the needle speak its wormwood to the small
hours; the empties, gathering the wind into a tinker's jinx.
bawdiness and sloth were theirs, a competence of drowned kittens.
for they had walked pigeon-toed to misery, where good intentions
splintered into mischief. they could not kiss their pictures into life.
for they had been children, tugging an eager sleeve to crease. rasped
by a granular desire, and tightened. time's closing torque. febrile
sprint, the acid length of memory. for theirs were rot, and blotto-
whispers; the barman's eyes, extinguished and slick. for theirs was
love unsubdued, and the tinny libido bleating its phantom mot
to the mildew. for they had been bruised and kind. for the purses
of the world had sharpened their coins against them. for they had
known the year's prayer burnt and memorised, sifted in the grate.
never the jiffy-text, but the long hypochondriac's outro, the endless
strophing monologue. and why not? and why not? the heroes, after
all, with their epitaphs inked on the knuckles of skinheads,
who will be buried upright in the swearbox of their fathers.
and who – or what – will come after? us, twitching and stricken
in our delicatessen skin. see us now, in the technicolor quease
of all our failing slapstick. we have known nothing at all.
we're hard. our maelstrom is the tight-arsed soliloquy of sleep.
when we wake, prised from plague and adolescent panic,
we return our wounds to the draw. no more crash and gore,
itinerant fiasco. write our mindful big-league shit, soap
the tongue of all their gentle names.
Dr Fran Lock is a some-time itinerant dog whisperer, the author of seven poetry collections and of numerous chapbooks, most recently Contains Mild Peril (Out-Spoken Press, 2019). Fran has recently completed her Ph.D. at Birkbeck College, University of London, titled, "Impossible Telling and the Epistolary Form: Contemporary Poetry, Mourning and Trauma". She is an Associate Editor at Culture Matters.