Saturday, 22 June 2019

Checkov's Time Machine

Checkov said that if a gun appears in Act One, then it will fulfil its purpose in Act Three. What he forgot to add was that if a time machine appears in Act Three, it will fulfil its purpose in Act One.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

This Time

As the elephant lumbers, trunk slightly swaying
like a vaguely disinterested, doped-up
and harmless python,

its earthquake feet breaking up already cracked soil,
its skin beyond the help
of any cosmetic surgeon’s best efforts,

well, as I said, as the elephant lumbers,
what must it make of the surging psychopaths
who attack it with the intention

of turning its tusks into a variety
of mantelpiece ornaments, or musical instrument components,
or even the tops of bloody walking sticks?

The world moves more slowly for the lumbering elephant
than it does for us frantic lunatics,
in the same way that it moves more slowly

for the frantic psychopath
than it does the fly.
We kill them, too.

No matter how big or small,
no matter what end of the time relativity scale
you perceive existence from,

we will kill you all.
And, when we’ve finished with our extinction projects,
for our coup de grace, we shall kill ourselves.

Death and Poetry

Death tries his hand at poetry.
‘I’m innovating an inter-dimensional sestina,’
he explains.
‘How’s that working out for you?’ I ask.
‘It’s not as easy as it sounds,’ he replies.
‘It doesn’t sound easy at all,’ I say.
‘Exactly,’ says Death.
‘It’s strange,’ he continues,
‘getting into the creative flow;
‘it’s never really been my forte.’
‘You don’t say,’ I say.
Death screws up the 437th page,
throws it against the wall,
and strikes a pose of poetic angst.
‘Maybe you should start with something
a little simpler,’ I suggest, ‘like a Limerick?’
Inspiration strikes Death,
and after a couple of minutes of fevered scribbling,
he strikes of pose of poetic declamation.
‘There once was a rider called Death,
Who looked, all the time, just like Death,
   “I wonder if Death
   Can die a good death?”
Said that black-hooded rider called Death.’
‘I feel so fulfilled!’ he exclaims, joyfully.
‘Is this how it feels when you win a slam?’ he asks.
‘We write the poems we need to write,
or want to read,
or possibly the other way round,’ I say,
hopefully avoiding the answer to his question
‘Now can I try my inter-dimensional sestina?’
he asks.
‘How about trying to get to grips
with blank verse first?’ I suggest.
‘I’m all ears,’ says Death,
metaphorically speaking, as we poets say.’
43 minutes and seven seconds
into my explanation,
Death throws a tantrum.
‘This is just stupid,’ he huffs.
‘That’s a very modern reaction,’ I say.
‘Perhaps you’d be more comfortable with free-verse instead?’
‘Which is….?’ he asks.
I explain free verse to Death.
‘Sounds like prose
masquerading as poetry,’ he says.
‘Every poem is poetry masquerading as poetry,’
I explain.
‘Like the one you’re writing now? No offence,’
he says.
‘None taken,’ I reply, as I tend to agree with him.
‘It’s what happens when you read
too much Kirill Medvedev, I think.’
‘I’m bored with poetry,’ says Death.
‘I’m going to write a novel instead.
Where should I start?’ he asks.
‘At the end?’ I say, having no idea
how one goes about writing a novel.
‘Oh, yes, that sounds like an excellent idea,’
says Death.
‘I can cope with endings.’

Friday, 14 June 2019


    after Kenko

We start by making snowmen of ourselves.
The likeness isn’t true (but that’s a fault
of snow). We cover it with precious metals
and jewels, then we build a worship hall
in which to place our decorated snowman selves,
although by now the snow has almost melted.
   Each day we strive towards a better future,
forgetting that the days we’ve lived already
are in the hands of Death, our daily lives
dissolving like the snowman’s snow.
And what of these endeavours? What indeed.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Short Film Made up of Awkward Pauses

   Short film made up of awkward pauses:
   ‘A masterpiece of modern angst.’

Scene One: Man enters empty room;
surveys its four-walled nothingness.
He checks his watch; we see the time:
four thirty-seven, afternoon.
A woman enters. ‘You!’ she says.
He turns. We see his face close-up.
Unspoken words fill the space.
‘I…’ he begins, followed by silence.
‘I thought…’ he says. She leaves the room.

Scene Two: Some people round a table.
Embarrassed coughs. The minutes pass.
Shifting in seats; glances exchanged.
More minutes pass. The silence grows.
A woman speaks. ‘Well, this is nice,’
she says. ‘We thought that you were dead.’
A man stands up; walks to the door.
‘I never left,’ he says, and leaves.

Scene Three: Two lovers kiss, then stare
into each other’s eyes. The spell
is broken when she starts to whisper.
‘I love you Steve,’ she says, but he
does not reply. She moves her head
away, a look of hurt across
her face. ‘Say something, then!’ she says,
but he does not. More silence follows.
‘I’m… I’m…’ he says. ‘You’re what?’ she snaps.
‘…not Steve.’ She puts her glasses on.