know your enemy

Viruses are biochemical malware / you can download from a table or the back of a chair / a sandwich wrapper or an item of footwear / a shopping trolley / the handle of a brolly / a volley / ball / the lightswitch in the hall … / basically, anything anyone’s touched at all / not to mention from a cough or a sneeze / where the virus spreads with comparative ease / in the old-fashioned, pneumo-plaguey-way / deadly and direct as an aerosol spray / from a can marked Quik-Infect / with a list of all the side effects / a hotline number for questions to ask / and a picture of a skull in a surgical mask

SARS-CoV-2 / (coronavirus to me and you) / is 120 nanometres spike to spike / and to give you an idea of what THAT looks like / you could put 650 from here to there / across the diameter of a human hair

The virus is built to hotwire cells / and utilise their organelles / knocking out bunches of viral clones / that eventually burst out like drones / to carry on the replication / in neighbouring host cell populations / surfing the ancient genetic wave / of all the poor organisms they invade

They’ve been around since Deuteronomy / rampaging through the world’s taxonomy / you find them in camels and mandarins / bats and cats and pangolins / and although a virus isn’t strictly alive / you’d have to admit it shows plenty of drive / constantly making adaptations / capsid hacks and alterations / endless genetic recombinations / and even though the thing’s inert / and depends on hosts to make it work / still, it thrives in its micro-domain / nestling spike-deep in a cell membrane / one more key in one more lock / one more twist on the evolutionary clock

But I didn’t want to leave you without some hope
The thing they really hate is soapIMG_1943

early surfers

‘Fossil hunters find evidence of 555m-year-old human relative’
The Guardian, Mon 23 March 2020

Ikaria wariootia / five hundred and fifty-five million years / before its picture finally appears / on the screen of my computer / anonymously famous / the bean-like creature that became us / minutely modelling mouth and anus / demonstrating with sweet simplicity / the evolutionary benefits of left and right symmetry / nudging through the ooze / on its long, sedimentary cruise / wallowing, swallowing / blindly following / the restless motive fact / of its elegantly elementary, alimentary tract / an ambitious snoot / snuffling around at the root / of the great ancestral tree / that branches out to humans like me / scavenging on the internet endlesslyIMG_1870

doggy long legs

it’s all wrong / Stanley the lurcher’s legs are way too long / four pawed limbs of such epic proportions / it takes a series of spectacular contortions / to cram himself into Lola’s basket / like an octopus suckering itself into a sunken casket / or a sequinned circus freak / who waves but doesn’t speak / delivering the shocks / waddling backwards into a tiny perspex box

I mean – come on! / this really is some super-leggy phenomenon / a miracle of locomotion / and long bone syncopation / like he swallowed a magic potion / for the legs of a giraffe and the body of an elephant / and the ears of something entirely irrelevant

how he does it I don’t know / figuring out where those appendages go / and when he lands he lands with a lump / and it’s one helluva job to get back up

long legs

ghost protocol

I’m sorry, but if you’ve been murdered
and want your cause for justice furthered
you can’t simply fire off a furious email
describing what happened in meticulous detail


You’re contractually obliged to be scary as shit
while you draw the whole thing out a bit
scrawling on mirrors, freaking out dogs,
looming alarmingly in spooky fogs

and even though you can open doors
and make wet footprints on kitchen floors
type your initials on a computer screen
or work the buttons on an answer machine

you’re totally forbidden to write a letter
that would explain the thing a whole lot better
or pull up a chair and have a chat
about who it was killed you and stuff like that

It doesn’t make much sense, I agree
and only adds insult to injury
but them’s the rules. I didn’t make ‘em
who the hell knows what happens if you break ‘em


bunker mentality

The boy stood on the burning deck / a Burberry flash-guard round his neck / in a handsome, hand cut, tartan check / complementing the rest of his hi-spec / boot-flare / heat-aware / virus-retardant lounge wear

flips his goggles / toggles / through the image finder / to any form of life whatsoever / scans the horizon / his eyes widen / finding no-one and nothing with nowhere to hide in

Calls to his mother / who slowly ascends the ladder / all the way from the sleeping chamber / Darling? Don’t you remember? / she says / giving his crow-black quiff a playful mess / It’s a natural process / The poor go under and what’s left is the best / Don’t distress / yourself, darling / I know it seems alarming / but it’s a bit like farming / you wouldn’t get far / if nothing ever went to the abattoir

But mama, what happens when there’s only us? / When we’ve finally lost all the superfluous? / Who’ll be there to valet park the cars? / Wait our tables in the restaurants and bars? / Organise parties? Tailor our suits? / Craft our patent calf-skin boots? / Who’ll be there in the Dairy Queens / to envy our lives in the magazines?

Oh I’m sure they’ve got it figured out / she said, waving a silver comb about / You really are such a sensitive soul! / Rest assured it’s under control / They’ve got drones and robots to dig the holes / and keep us safe with armed patrols / It’s so sweet of you to think of the proles / Now raise the screens dear and come downstairs / We’ve set up a link with the other billionaires / It’s Sunday night! Caviar and chips! / There’ll be plenty of time tomorrow for your apocalypse



These are the paths and secret ways / you follow down deep in a dream of days / the lullabies you sing in your sleep / to the woodland creatures who glide and creep / in a shiver of leaves and scatter of stones / flare of feather, flash of bone / falling by moonlight, fetched by crows / to weave into spells in the trees and the hedgerows / rising, calling, settling still

at the edge of the drop on broken tree hill

So you dance with the sun and you drift with the rain / and you lose yourself in the woods again / twist of thorn, pulse of blood / beetled bone and motherhood / tooth and eye and claw and wing / death to life encircling / the watchful night, the waiting dark / the feral rub, the sudden bark / calling you on through your dreams until

you wake at the foot of broken tree hill



Turns out – dad was a robot
I was so shaken I was shot
I should’ve known, though
when I saw him licking the dynamo
on the front wheel of his Pashley
How he spent most of every Saturday
buffing his be’cardigan’d chassis
with duraglit and a chamois
till it sparkled

It really shouldn’t have been news
there were plenty of clues
in retrospect
like the way he collected
fridge magnets
his clumsiness with ceramics
the crackle in the air
when he sat in his chair
slicking his single aerial of hair
sideways across his pate
his tie unnaturally straight
the clunk of his slippers
the clackety clack of his clippers
the way he ate his boiled egg dippers
scanning the kitchen
for anything else we might fetch him

I had it confirmed years later
when I ran into his maker
at a conference for the movers & shakers
of the domestic robot business
‘As god is my witness’
she said, unnecessarily dramatic
a bit too emphatic
for my taste –
but I didn’t want to waste
the opportunity –
‘Yes! Your dad was well respected in the robot community
His software was suspect and his batteries were crap
But we recouped costs when we sold him for scrap’