no mention of roses here

this is the one my culture told me not to write
as I smoke the cigarettes my culture told me not to smoke
this is the one that sets me up as a swanning dog cowboy
grimacing in vain little love-heart poses unacceptable
and sweet as the bubblegum that comes with
rub-on tattoos

this is the one about several women at once.

the compound, the bag of mixed candyfloss carried
by the greedy little fat kid with spit-polished eyes
this one is about the cast, the hydra, the host
I normally cannot think of more than one at a time
but tonight I cannot think of one and not all
as this techno holds my head in place like a
dumbbell handle between my ears
pure melodic cables, siren-sung
sprung with animatronic cannonades
but the women… get to the women…
if I’m not supposed to be writing this poem
then what’s the point if I don’t even start it?

not even one of them is a blunted woman
when I go to bed at two a.m. they
will be thrown together, sharp objects in a cardboard box
under my bedhead
when I wake up I will show traces, fine lacerations
only visible up close
and who exactly mothered any individual scratch
will not matter

one kissed me like raven
one claims an old comrade
one glows like a yellow hibiscus
one has a heart louder than the Edinburgh Tattoo
one is two different people, depending on whether or not
she’s wearing her sunglasses
one holds the keys to some carnival
and those keys are made of human bones

good males like me, with humanities degrees
aren’t supposed to speak about women in the plural
but when it comes to sharp objects, and the handling thereof
it doesn’t really matter
where the sharp object was made

respect for the sharp edge, of itself, is a given.

Will Swan


hair of the wolfhound

these children drop like teeth into the
well of their slaughter
Mad Dog McMurphy’s Tavern & Grill
the next song is a postcard of a crying jag
climbing through the rules of melody, I see
a vagrant fried in relief against sandstone
colonial sun pours over him
as he speaks down, like a headmaster, to
a crushed McDonalds cup
in all the cheer of this brief story
the crowd doesn’t see him, in their mash
they find the fuel to mock-dance
to mock-lament and sing out of key
to bait a bouncer like they’re swatting a lion
tumbling out for cigarettes, shambolic in blue jeans
the latest blip, the living generation
carrying their bundles of DNA through all this:
the big wake-up and money-chase and
the big drunk of life
not for those who speak to McDonalds cups
but for you, wayfarer, Dublin songs
concerning some knife-fucked heart or other
served up
with bistro buzzers and cold sweat beer glasses
you won’t have the time nor the courage
for any locks of dog hair come dawn so
take the hair of the wolfhound now

in tomorrow’s morning breezes
in the songless hot winds of some distant hot moon
someone else will add to their mass:
the weight of a tequila bottle
minus the actual glass bottle
but enough to put some dazed Dutch certainty at
one end of that humming rope
under the bridge
which the traffic keeps as flat as a runway


like a raw picture in an illustrated bible, the Flood
gripping a jutting rock as January seethes
silver and hot and wet
aloft in January, breathing thick neutral air
as January drowns names and sinks tiny poultry hearts
and offers its silver horizon of mass in the place of all things
just keep breathing, grappling that wet volcanic abutment
crouching on it and surveying all of faceless January
in its vast, drowning, silver certainty
breath, and take up your oar
with your canvas bag over your shoulder
full of ideas and romantic parcels and firecrackers –
it seemed for
a while there, on the way to the Asian supermarket
that they might all rupture and explode in the heat, right
there in your bag
but you check them as you row in against the door
and they’re intact
tarmac hot air, the Asian supermarket is cool and dry
you buy several big cans of coconut juice
and throw them into your canvas bag with your
intact ideas, romantic parcels and firecrackers
dig in the oar and
row back to your rock, to crouch just above January
and wait it out.

Dating Site

So one fire burned itself out like a Soviet satellite
glazed in blue flame above the Caspian Sea
then another one simply detonated as a firecracker
flat on the ground, scorching cement until
the next rains.

So then I followed the compadres back into the ether
and the dating site asked “What has been
your greatest motivation: love, wealth or expression?”
Taking each little word
as it was intended to be taken –
i.e. not literally – I hovered for a fraction and punched in:
because I wanted to see where the honesty might go.
The meanings overlap, they can mean the same thing
but HERE they meant: wealth = money, etc. blah, of course.
So, YES, I punched in ‘expression’ and even now
am making something of these absurdities
typing away on a hot silver day
though this ain’t much of an expression, just a docket
in a biscuit tin.
But I acknowledge the bigger picture, I acknowledge the
other two words, in their actual meanings, and
Carmel. . .

. . . JESUS!!

Carmel. . .
What else can I say?

youporn, cliphunter, pornhub, slutload, xhamster, xvideos

and all the rest of them engaged us but then
we all died and everyone in all the clips died too
but whereas we went to our coffins as restaurant photos
and nightclub photos and emails and postcards
they went to their coffins as a blaze on the flying trapeze
as gasps and winces, hammers & anvils of human drive
they did a lot of it for us, a lot of the time
they live in those sites the way Batman & Daredevil live in panels
but unlike Batman & Daredevil & Black Widow & Hulk
they died
though the action is still up there, the scowling surrender
the incongruous shyness in glimpses, certain moments
the lights, the life, the sugar and relief and mess
still up there
when they zip her up in the nursing home freezer
still up there
when the generations of family, mainly bored,
bumble round the grave and the dumb groundsmen
lean on their dumb shovels

the boy on Waterloo Bridge

kept London’s ruins alive in his cells
then HIV took him down in a swarm of bees
I gave him one pound, it opened his voice like a turnstile
and he said “Bless”
if I am alive and typing this then he is dead
and not reading even his river any more
but for a while there he sat above it
like a dark light
a shambled word in a busker’s song
a formal shame, and a bag to fill
I was full as a new cigarette lighter
he was empty as a cathedral
and my wife waited along the bridge and turning back
to her, I turned away from him
because I had to
as London’s candles hummed
in all that cocoa darkness
with no words, winching some
face she couldn’t see but I knew she could hear
and then I drank pints as rich as the river
and drew up more plans

Brother, I’m sweating in life, in another world
but from your world of postcards, yours is the one
I keep with me
after the others have been lost in house moves
and washed down the river

she turned my blood liquorice

so I bit my lip and took a small suck and
the sweetness flooded with rum tobacco and
I gargoyle hunched in a wind of bells and
I creaked like a corsair on a blue staircase and
torn gauze panels slapped out a flamenco and
I stuffed down sleep like a smuggled mandrill and
the hymnbooks rewrote themselves by drunken starlight and
trumpets were left by the banks of the Styx and
a pop song slammed into me like a crow and
five million insomniacs joined hands as a tribe and
the moon hid its children in every matchbox and
the sky spirits washed across tin roofs and
the empty rooms of the night were awake with cinnamon and
I slept holding strips of paper flames