‘our bodies are cellular mongrels,
teeming with cells from our mothers…
grandparents and siblings.’
New Scientist, Nov 2003
Somewhere in me, my grandmother
longs for rebirth as a girl.
Somewhere in me, my grandfather
craves a chance to be heard.
Somewhere in me, my mother asks
fundamental questions about my life.
Somewhere in me, my divorced father
is unwillingly reunited with his wife.
Somewhere in me, my brother and sister
play as one in the stream of my blood.
Somewhere in me, my unborn twin
hungers for more than his share of food.
Somewhere in me, I find myself less
of a house, more of a neighbourhood.
When you think of the machines,
forget their cool steel plates,
sharp cogs, inert metallic slabs,
the way they hold themselves calmly
to the floor. Consider instead
their fleshly attributes: the skin,
flaked and caked as dust around
each hinge, the layered fingerprints,
the grease of life, the thrust and suck
of energy constantly among us,
the shrapnel of screws unleashed
in shocked ecstatic break-outs.
Consider the beloved Heidelberg:
a press the size of a small room,
known for the keen hold
of its arms, the constancy
of its yield. This daily container
of miracles conferred on its minder
the same romance as a long-gone
steam-train driver. This
was a machine to slaver over:
down the years, modest men
have called it beautiful, sweetheart,
old girl, gorgeous, bitch and harpy.
Consider, now, the digital ones:
the serene precision of each chip
stimulated by a million billion
breaths working themselves out
through fingers and webcams,
milling our thoughts to the maximum
number of characters. We submit,
they return our perfected pixels,
we massage their content: their
display is our display. This, too,
is a space rife with vigour: the sighs
of requited and unwanted tensions.
How quickly though, devices
grow obsolete. Today, we caress
a screen directly till it flickers,
rouse the console solely
with our match-made voice.
But we’re always on the lookout
for a breakthrough. Next,
we want to reach inside them,
we want to wear them, lightly,
as our selves. Consider the machines,
and how sometimes we treat
our intimate engines of need.
The universe is running away with itself
like a child on a red bike on Christmas Day.
Somewhere the wrapping is still being opened.
The present gives itself again and again.
And the child hurtles at perfect speed
across town towards nothing.
Her parents are already
looking at the clock, saying
how late it is getting, how the darkness
comes so much sooner.
It is only a matter of time,
they are saying,
before she will land,
awkwardly, in an original position,
sucking in broken concrete
the child on a red bike
is running away with herself
like the universe on Christmas Day.
I am waiting for aberrations of light.
For quiet curves to arc and flutter,
to break into form.
For the skiffle of static to announce
of green, violet, white-blue –
colour as its own pure note,
a Kandinsky composition.
For contours to shape the charged air –
now a back-lit mountain, now a man
emerging from his own electric shadow.
For guttering light to veil the moon
and stars, unveil them.
While every poem ever written
about the moon rises before me,
I wait here, in the dark,
with my eyes wide open.