David Bircumshaw

Breathed Live

Nobody at that time realised the poet had written a great work, including the poet. He therefore returned to his former career as a beachcomber, enumerating rubber ducks in his dreams.

It was centuries after his death that his genius became apparent: the morning after the worldwide disappearance of street-maps, traffic cones and key-rings.

To the raptures of shiny memorialists, each successive disaster that met him darkened his style.  To his biographers his light.

On lost weekends, among his torn-up calendars, to an audience of dark empty bottles, he drew, erased and then again drew false beards and moustaches on the face in the photograph evicted from his wallet of his one true love, his almost.

On the face in the photograph taken on a July Thursday in Norwich with a Nexia 220ixZ just after advising the tourist, at times he thought he saw it, like a point supporting a question-mark, a hesitant pupil’s animal of light.

Centuries after his death: everyone he had lived among expunged.  Everyone he had loved.  Like a street.

It was, he propounded, proof of the crucifixion that the universe had arranged for a language as capacious and hospitable to poetry as English to be given as a native tongue to a people as devoid and destitute of said quality, poetry, as were his own, the English, in their (rumoured to be nonexistent) – wouldn’t breathe of word of it – souls.

Before was, is: the wheel of a paddle steamer turns through his gaze, water pouring from its lifting blades, like worlds from a galaxy.

Shrouds.  He kept wary of unadopted roads into days and solstice and cracks in plaster and equinox and unexpected hands tapping on his shoulder.  Mists.

Everywhere at once, the new style had arrived.  O new word order, on set and where electrons gather, tearing out tongues as your act gigs past, everyone you wear at once.

He travelled far in the system.  Like a lymph node cancer.  Everyone you where at once.

Travelled far.  From the twittering heights to the whale-breached seas, primitive territorials of status and sex, scratched genetic songs of courtship and mine, the shrill inflected harmonies: all our way down the primate tree from gissafuck to fuckyous.  Driven like a street.

As when a cancer culture once from a single dying woman became the dominant strain throughout the world’s enquiring labs, so too ideas progress, so too the flora thinned. The dawn and the sunset, the whale-far calls, maps that we called our own, the songs dying out like tribes.