Paul Holman





There have been passages of my life in which every meeting drew me on to love, every occurrence was given as a sign: my feet neither bound nor free.


Shadow of a cloud I
could not identify, companion
to the unrecognised face
of this girl who walked
with her arms held
open between mysterious
hedges and out into the road
spanned by that bridge
I would not pass
beneath, its curve made
hideous by a qliphotic stain.


Her stomach crammed with nettles, she drew a picture in which various kinds of thoughts left her head in the form of birds, clouds or stars. She met with some of them again later, snagged upon the branches of trees in the grove she entered in the course of her tunnel work.


He would always pause to write there, resting his notebook on top of the pillarbox, or, if the postman shooed him off, upon the saddle of one of the bicycles chained to the fence outside the gallery, hitching up his trousers with his left hand before moving on: but I hold that each dreamed text is a terma in the mind, treasure best left to be forgotten and then discovered anew.


I gather the scattered, not
with a song breathed from
the most casual utterance,
but a manifesto read by
the dreaming eye, written
in the alphabet of signs that
preceded articulate speech:
the work of people whose
only language was animal
noise, imitation of nature.


My eyes adjusted to view the lake as a cauldron from which mist peeled. Two beaked men raised a severed head between them: their hands looked elegant but each stick leg terminated in claws.


The two old men who collected aluminium went past: they both wore anoraks without regard for the weather, and little knitted skullcaps; each pushed a trolley loaded with crumpled cans. Largely benevolent, they gathered the empties which street drinkers had discarded around park benches and in bus shelters, but used claws on sticks to raid the recycling banks as well.


During the time I spent among them, I learned that their music represented a settlement bordered by woods, defined by broad avenues and uninhabitable structures of forgotten use, cloven by a river that once in a while bore traces of a way of existence which they could no longer interpret.

Each night's performance described a variant route, direct or meandering, through this site occupied by the collective mind: although the musicians touched upon the same points over and over again, they never followed the same sequence or proceeded in quite the same manner.


The transmission I failed to
summon again, as if it could
be recovered by walking in a
stupor beside that same river,
stinking of beer and mud,
above which I had glimpsed a
moth patterned city, my hand
upon the waist of the first
girl I tricked into performing
an action significant to me
(game to accept the hazard of
my company, the boredom).


I wished only to be possessed by her: but my thought settled upon the cafe in which I swore at her and walked away, the clothes stall where I encountered her in the company of a friend and she greeted me with such tenderness. I found that I too had developed the soft glance of a drinker: how could I venture into the tunnels with such defenceless eyes?


In the secret marketplace of the woods, I give the tawny headed girl more than she asks, still less than she is due. Her companion is a coarser thief than I, too coarse to be entitled to the patronage he claims: it pisses me off that I have entered into discussion with him, stopped to argue about the rubbish he offers with such arrogance.


My body's length in cut up text upon the floor, some naïve grimoire bound in cardboard and insulating tape, old ink bottles now filled with my own sperm and other fluids, from one of which came that strange lazy spark which rolled up my finger, the window through which I would slip naked to wander erect among fields all night or wait phosphorescent at the roadside, only to flee from that other who stretched out from the hedge, skull crowned by a vegetable tangle.


Each name a ghost
we raise: its roadside
legend marks the edge
of hell, as plough
enclosed a diurnal city.

We find the common
shape of flower, star,
Medusa's head; the last
tool used to cut
the tomb, itself sacred.


I have written things as they appear, but I no longer set them down in the twilight language in which they come to me, having lost hope in a conspiracy of understanding which merely fed a critical elite: world formed of speech, world formed of thought, world formed of dreams.


There have been passages of my life in which every meeting drew me on to love, every occurrence was given as a sign: I let the green horse guide me into the river meadows, under the bridge obscured by a cloud of steam from the brewery, and so at last into the tunnel.