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Hiatus (‘The Quiet-running Computer’)

Quiet-running computer

‘The Quiet-running Computer’, ©Marie Marshall, 2018

I am giving you a blessed respite from my dreadful, tedious poetry. I need a rest. I may be back some time soon, maybe with more of my ‘Two hundred and seven words’ series, maybe with something different. But don’t hold your breath – I set aside novel-writing, and more than two years have gone by since then! As a (temporary, possibly) parting gift, here is a piece of my “impact art” entitled ‘The Quiet-running Computer’.

MM.

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Grief and silence, balanced.

It was all a hundred years ago, yet I recall
sitting on the lap of a man who’d been there,

seen two brothers and a cousin die, and had
to march, to lie in the cold, pray, piss, eat,

fix bayonets, kill other men and think of them
as numbers, then to lose count of the numbers,

write home, wash and shave, be brave, sing,
despair, laugh, be deafened and shaken, defy,

shout obscenities at his sergeant in a barrage,
drink wine, piss some more, panic, steady,

see the dead and think of them as numbers,
then lose count of the numbers; I talked

to a woman whose boyfriend died, it was
at some bloody ironic time – due for leave,

or something – but here’s the thing: grief
has no answer but silence, no seed watered

by tears, no one to watch the swallows fly,
blue sky, hurrying clouds, no bugle calls

in the grave, no flags flying, just that grieving
and that silence balanced all in a little century:

“We looked at each other, thought we’d feel…
..but we fell to quiet, dumbfounded, that’s all.”

The-soldier-in-the-bottom-012

The soldier in the bottom right of this picture is believed to be war poet Isaac Rosenberg, who died on 1st April 1918, and to whom this poem is dedicated.

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jupiterWritten extempore, two days after Remembrance Sunday, 2018. Posted here without further editing.
©Marie Marshall

Two hundred and seven words. 15

He made the girl a one-off tarocky pack, each female pasteboard subtled with her face, shown riding, old heraldic or and gules made with gold leaf and blood, and, while she (abstractedly) ate from a bag of chips, he laid them out, magesplaining thus: that the minor pack, the suit of cudgels scaling the low-born and guttersniped, but also stubborn, tenacious, resistant, determined, the family of swords, they eugenic and noble, quick to defend by attack, but also vain, the company of coins prudent or spendthrift, cautious or venal and easily bought, cups passion, showed her humours each in its proportion, and thereby her character; that the medians of castle, prince, mounted queen, and king gave the place of each minor in the whole of her; that the majors showed her arcane, her specific, led to a tale of her and the road she would have to walk down – in all this, the word he used most was “you,” and the girl noted this, squirmed in her seat, remembered she was a bus ride from home, and licked salt from her fingers, down to the cold taste of skin like cucumber (the soap she used) and the scratch of her fingernail on the roof of her mouth,

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall

Two hundred and seven words. 14

She says, “The noose hangs from my eyes, I kill whoever I see,” but in fact all she does see is the fall of an ash-pit, black, profound, and herself sitting on its lip, and she feels the slip of the motes and flakes under her seat, keeps herself ever on the knee between safe and lost, with a laugh on her face as bitter as a weal, her hands hot, and hard, and aching with sweat, her neck and shoulders cold with the nagging wind – all for the sight of a piece of chequered cloth and a moon face, and she false, fraud, imposter – telling herself there can be no haven in life, only hunger, and she a machine, a grub for turning sustenance to waste; and when she does push back with her heels, the effort eating away at the black ash, get up, and walk away from that silly abyss, it’s with defeat in her heart, her throat choked, knowing an urge that she couldn’t right, a button she couldn’t push, no spine, fail, pulling her thin clothes around her, the wind a fishwife cursing and mocking in her ear, she in a desert, mapless, only a straight line to walk, repeating the curses

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall

A cascade of cicadas

The end of your time
of practice, you decide
to smell men’s heads,

in the hope of some
discovery; what you do
find is their surprise,

& their open mouths,
& their draw of breath,
& their following eyes.

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..Lewis PowellPouring out of the
..bag, a cacophony,
..the rattle of beads
..on a glass counter
..that sing out your
..name, lost in other
..sounds, hiss of rain
..in traffic, traffic in
..rain, the red wings.

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“I have decided to
..colonise you, mark
..this out as mine,

..whether the scent is
..wheat, beer, babies,
..barns, the city, oils,

..I will make myself
..unwelcome, truth
..bleeds your scalp.”

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jupiter©Marie Marshall

two hundred and seven words. 13

at that time the girl’s pictures take her back to the moment she first became tidal, and she realises that since then she has inhabited herself, the way Eve inhabited Eden after knowing she was naked, the destruction of something truly native but the bed for a tough plant – say dandelion or thistle – that is presented as her real face; “I am beautiful, but I’m alien,” she declares, using one of two voices, as she stands in the walk-up to school, alone, jostled by others, greeted, ignored, feet slightly tilted within black, square-aproned shoes, a breeze stirring her skirt, an item in her rucksack hard against her shoulder blade refusing to identify itself, and – the ground is grey, the verge is green, the school presents itself as a set of squares against the milk-and-dust sky, the moving girls race to a single seashore or to a place where parallels meet – someone speaks her name, a simple act that recalls the legs and arms and bodies around her; the speaker has black hair, a face that could be rounder if use led to it, breath telling Polo mints, so they link arms and break the girl’s lack of motion, propel themselves into the general wave, head for shore

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall

Interlude: 5-7-5 [2]

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The sealine’s random

strata written in the cliffs,

cursive, messaging.

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jupiter©Marie Marshall

Just about the only reason I’m putting in another haiku is to trumpet the fact that the Autumn 2018 Showcase at the zen space is now published. I would like my regular readers to visit. Here is the portal. Thank you.

 

two hundred and seven words. 12

Let’s murder a few years, she thinks, slipping between backstage and a fire exit to make the sin of fish and fish (this in itself nothing new) with a rocker, a cocktail of adrenalin, vodka, and perspiration (!) and – having worked out a storyline where the narrator cuts and eats piece of herself every day, keeping a journal, seeing how long she can stay alive or maintain her resolve, will there be a point where she stops, saves her own life, or at the very least refrains from writing the words “love” and “kiss” on any page, but instead becomes fascinated with the squidlike melt of ink and blood, heading a new page to the effect that pain is only relevant to a moment, all of which could be parlayed into song lyrics – only to be prized apart by the rocker’s boyfriend and left there like a forgotten story, the ache after an electric shock or a wasp’s sting, carrying the mess of (yes) a kiss as a hipness signifier, in the space between backstage and the fire exit, the music baffled into the tread of an army or a gross-score of heartbeats, the girl muttering that it’ll soon be morning anyway, and we’ll all spill out

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall

two hundred and seven words. 11

It was the occasion when the girl laid her mouth to the bare shoulder of a young Caribbean woman, an experiment into whether it tasted of oranges as well as it scented, that she realised something had broken – as though a moment ago she had been taking alphabet blocks and arranging them, rearranging, twisting results to make the most uniform colour and the most repeatable letter appear on the same face of a wall, her cheek against the solid floor and its rasp of carpet, and the endeavour failing or, at best, being tantalisingly close, until she realised a trick of space and time and breathed a sigh of delight – the way an exultant gale sweeps away leaves and limbs, the latter a reminder of stark change, and it wasn’t the sin of the tidal pull, the wax and wane (and indeed she would still have innocence, but innocence of a different cloud, innocence of a different weather), but it was enough to lead her to the swings at Blake’s Rec, or again to the little source of a little river, as though the sight from a different angle or a listless sway would recapture something, even the blood-metal taste on her fingers, a first indication of

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall

Interlude: 5-7-5

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the wind tastes of salt

and the rowan is bending

– my eyes sunsetward

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jupiter©Marie Marshall