Beyond the cold, the spiraling Milky Way

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From One Black Cloud

A poem in seven predictive texts.
Using ‘Computing Made Easy for the Over 50s’
by Terrie Chilvers
and A History of Polar Exploration
by David Mountfield

 

 

I

I found myself hung in a snow-drift.
I am used to the dark.
As we had been making progress before

in the all-day white, I was used to being shown
sufficient facts by means of a piled-up store
of wood or the devil of the weather.

Often the hours crept against the light.
I am interested in science
and in particular, in stressful images.

At night, whole documents travel through my mind
both grouped and beyond interception.
I store photos that once I would have ignored.

I tried to cancel my mind’s drift
toward the softening cracks,
the will to reformat.

The tools to go on: animals, and on hummocks,
my answerless hallos,
the flat-panel liquid crystal display of Molly’s

shadow like an airship, stalling.
I rarely slept heavily, seldom nodding off,
as if someone were shuffling high-definition films

against an infinitely-scrolling canvas.
If you were to ask my view, I have rolled it up
beneath a trailing store
of numbers of miles in footprints,
in dragging myself alongside the sledge.

Small are the number of small crevasses.
This morning there was a peculiar rustling
and snowy petrels are the closest thing to fairies

I’ve ever seen.
Case fingered his iced-up buttons with useless fingers.
There are so many different ways to check

your spelling of god.

 

 

II

I have reasoned that my computer needs music.
The tent, near-crushed by snow, cried out.
Excel can help by using a formula for the fog

that hides the sun’s high definition.
You can store wood by giving it a memorable name.
On the floor our dogs sleep, highlighted red by the fire;

filed together these tough, beautiful images.
When phishing next to Molly,
I feel less unpowered and find it easy
to live off the strength in the margins.

 

 

III

I monitored my sockets – little in the way of saturation.
Once the weather cleared, I sledged and scrolled,
leaving behind a long blue equals sign in the snow.

Much like non-responsive programs,
though we try,
we can barely run simultaneously.

 

 

IV

I wonder how best to communicate
to not just shut down, but
to pull out a thermometer.

Some asked where I had been.
After restarting once or twice, I said simply
I was peeling off

the delicate state
of feeling like a mouse
on the earth.

 

 

V

A handy hint:
if you recognise your name in a blizzard
don’t be too forward in answering.

 

 

VI

This morning I fed the webcams, sent home moving images.
Ice-falls have long been at eye-level.
Like email attachments, the ponies deal well with the unknown.

I ran the size (in KB or MB) of the mind’s
hypothermia-influenced software.
The wind fell calm.

The wild mountains that were
almost certainly not there
extended into a sound file profile shadow.
I drew a tick in the snow for yes.

During the day
the moon turned the colour of a selected icon.

Increasingly I realise my lips and devices are accountable.

 

 

VII

Mr. Wintermute is capable of sleeping.
He slept full through my hacking into his tent.

Worm he said, What is it?

I said I had word
that two dog-teams were going to the Windows Security Centre.

I said it protects us all against viruses.

He told me to steady myself.

I said that I did not know what they were
when the dogs were first approaching us.

 

 

VIII

Case was amazed at my remark
that instead of cooking, we should delete multiple pages
from our online journals.

When he turned to face me,
it was like the sun landing on the letters o and p on a keyboard.

Who gave you colours?
Not one of us would not strip our heads to the skin for you.

He dispatched his formal commands
like a series of icebergs that were indistinguishable from clouds.

The following day our guns rejoiced like young women
who had kept their picture settings OK.

By eight P.M. we were back in the mood
to plug and play.

 

 

IX

If you want to, you can sleep in a balaclava any time you wish,
the key is knowing you might sleepwalk.

Throughout five or six miles directed anxiously,
my body’s moderate window of energy
allowed me to reach Saddleback Island.

Finally, I smeared away my breath’s icy paste.  A nervy time.

Once changed, saved, our shattered crew made the next step,

We stretched out, harnessed our lifevests
and hit the End key, clicked, refreshed,
restored, without freezing, without waking.

 

 

 

Poems

 

Things to Consider Before Your First Spacewalk

When you want to burst into bits, that
is what they call it: space exposure.

In fourteen seconds you pass out
from oxygen-loss, you’re able to

see the Earth – it is so expensive,
so hard to act without your lungs.

Beyond the cold, the spiralling Milky Way,
you will outgrow the size of yourself.

The dropping dark lights the way home.
One night is as long as a lesson in biology.

What goes up must keep going up.
A flipped lid can be a deadly weapon.

When there’s nothing to hold on to
there is nothing to hold on to

 

 

 Teleportation for Beginners

After Love After Love

There will come a time happier than before
where mid-teleport you’ll touch
the tangled momenta of electrons
that equal all the parts of your sum
to hand back the good days that carry you,
and the bad ones you’ve carried alone, So long.
Take sun, take sustenance, take shelter
to the human whom all your life you’ve loved,
but in earning a living you’ve shunned, So long.
Imagine today is your first birthday
that feels less like fiction and more of a present
and inhabit this time untangled
where the here and now is
light and food and home, because:
now as if by magic has never arrived before.

 

 

The Invisible Man Rides Again!

Having made an old cushion cover into a cape
I took Nicholas, my cousin’s kid
and flew him like Superman all the way
to the newsagents where he moved
a Dime bar, two double AA batteries and

a copy of The Times with his mind. And once
in the De Luxe Casino, my aunt
who’d lost her husband to a drink-
driver, bet the month’s mortgage on red
and mysteriously won. And before now,

I’ve stroked a sleeping cheetah, feeling
her purr like the riffle shuffle of
a deck of cards – a sound that still
haunts me. Sleeping in first class,
I’d forgotten how transparent I’d become,

and the floating earbuds you might have
seen online were mine, but I flew
without food all the way to Auckland.
Everything I drive or ride looks remote-controlled
so it pays to have a few old radio

and GPS parts handy. I put pressure
on myself to read the classics, to come up
with answers in graveyards to impossible questions.
But when I last went into a church
I had to leave early after I coughed in

a huddle of mourners, and after a round
of denials, I found myself having to explain
how I came to be invisible,
which understandably nobody believed.
And in a way I was glad the Pope

visited the town a few months later
to kiss where I’d stood in my trainers.
Accidents happen, as they say,
but I was glad that this one brought everyone
together. I spend much of my time

on what is and what isn’t. Apprenticing to
a magician, I was struck on the ankle, off-guard,
followed by being hit in the eye when
I hadn’t seen in the stage lights the twist
of an aluminium hoop. So

here I am now, out of sorts,
photobombing tourists, pretending I am
the wind, or the voice of inner thoughts;
sometimes I think of myself as a kind
of luck and from time to time a dog

will pad up to me, to lick at the air
of my hands as their mystified owner
frowns at the world beyond me,
into which, more or less, I have to
disappear.

 

 

Up in the Woods

When I feel misery at treacle-speed empty
through my body, and get clicked awake by
the slightest sound, fearful of the future,
I walk out into the steep wood, and blearily
through the muck and owls I clamber up
without a torch, but in the quite blue light
that the moon reflects on us, I reflect on it.
I know the glittery pulp of mud will end
at the leaf-shadowed path you find by foot,
the path towards all wishes laid like stones:
the wind has spoken, and the stars say so too,
there I’ll find the good way home.

 

 

198 x 4

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Harry Man (English) won the UNESCO Bridges of Struga Award. His pamphlet Lift was shortlisted for a Best New Pamphlet Sabotage Award, and his second, Finders Keepers, illustrated by the artist Sophie Gainsley, was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. He lives in the UK. You can find more of his work at www.manmadebooks.co.uk

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