by Fran Lock
the city comes in waves. poor worker bee, it’s clinical now, an ideal doom, the sleepy grief of airports. tried to stay in motion. walk around, not-shopping. coffee. millimetric sips. is slow embalming, boils the tongue, both fidgety and numb. carousels and carousels and paperbacks. our structures of exchange and riot. rid the mind of unclean mischief, repertoire of ecstasies. not happy-happy, groomed and sated. airport. peoples temple. church and heaven. perfume counter girls, the folded arms of coptic icons. shoppers' paradise. here, baristas breathe their icy birthright, bitchin’ it. to be here. wintering. in a neo-conservative tedium. on purpose and forever. infringement or infraction. to be profiled and filed, trafficked in and captured. movements mapped. the vector and the spread. infection has a human face. no languages, but currencies. coffee. paid for with plastic. visa. flag of my failed state. declined. do brexit at each other. arid commercial succour sold by the kilo. airport. initial rays of morning make great beauty. petrol sky, a gilded endangerment. ozone, enriched on the ruin of itself. and by the plate glass, a singular unsettling. not happy-happy. wired. this counterfeit community. commodity and contract. smiling. like a turd emoji. the shit that eats its shit. hide the newspapers, in an act of obscure mercy. the city comes in waves of blank contagion. the savage urban neutral. garbled demotic of crusade and porn. see a child’s eye, all glint and pique. her suckling severity. strategically bored. lovers. in the scare-quotes of a dead embrace. this tactical enfoldment. is foreplay for purchase. city comes. is scanned and graphed. into white, symmetrical territories. fountains. kiosks. plaza, vacant and fabulous. an ad hoc model of itself. stand in line. refracted, figured, figured out, prefigured, faked, a snake of faces. terraforming long-haul mouths to o. contend the bobbing dark behind your eyes. walk. squealing protein. the pompous loins of women with functioning wombs. seek consolation, scrolling. screens. this teleprompted blonde talks epoch into tundra. purring and viable, preens her sanitary plumage. rolls phonetic mess from the dirty atlas of our loss. walk disgusted round. coy chiffons. pelts and hides. cath kidson. bitter women paid in scent. expensive predilections. hired to service some frictionless lust in kitten heels. security. he wears his menace like a rented tux, obedient yet cynical. some people are below contempt. look up. the day’s events spread thin across a convex lens. stiff. a very dignified fear. the wretchedness we crane to catch. open-mouthed. to eat. an omasum, this eye. big fellah talking horseshit. dead poliss. the terror. these architects of tumult. shoot to kill, your target demographic. data-mined with a sniper’s touch. capital, this vapour is the stain of her singing. airport. they said, all you hip young things. they said. to shop instead of grieving. they said, we’ll tell you a story. raising a rash political beauty.
stepped outside and felt the austerities quicken. gridlocked and staring with fixity. all our futures: flammable, avenging. i didn’t know what to say. buy coldbrew, condense an irrational sweat in taxies. bliss is a beige paste sucked through a straw. welcome home, her tollbooths and drawbridges are down. i didn’t know. saw the banners first. and every bed sheet summons an echo of the flag. and your father’s face. how they folded out the light along its creases. became a parcel of tight want. everywhere, the orgiastic soundbite. hope and glory fumbled through a tannoy. the trial. the process. injunctions to vigilance. allegation, prohibition. and someone said beggars operate in this area. brains. mortgaged and foreshortened, nodding sagely into iphone, macchiato, a cup held out for change. and i didn’t understand. london. because the airport repeats, first as farce, then as tragedy. how everything, everything, is one long march to departure. britain bristles with blue passports. classified and tallied. looked at us like scum of the earth, laughing in humourless syncope with witchfinder eyes. in the shithole hotel, exhausted and glomarized, unworthy of the news. from clickbait into lynchmob, you said. a picture paints a thousand words, and buried in its texture is a scream. wait. stayed up all night, paring a nerve like a nail. touching the numbers through gloves of numb affect. furtive, coefficient. horror, til’ the mouth becomes a pious zero. see, there are these extremes of commerce and/or music. marketcrash. our homicidal luck. a thermal mercy, disarray, the day turned perfect twitterstorm. dust, as the phone goes dark. no signal. thumbing a dead-end text and openly weeping. what did they do? i googled your disasters. and my own. always there’s a woman swaying centre wears the ruin of her city loosely like a grass skirt. how this mouth was your mother’s mouth. a devotional oh. a rosy hole in the balance of probability. you, who had never known violence a day in your life, suddenly rigid, in a hard-backed plastic chair. your face immobile as a virgin queen. what would they do? summoned, verified, subjected to militant protocols. grief is not evidence, somebody said. inventor of the sobs that shook you.
we thought it couldn’t be any worse. when april carried effigies uphill, was a good-bad catholic. maggie, stuffed madonna, stiff as sawdust pickerel. pinhole squint. no eyes, only lenses. nanny-cam and crosshair. pimped her paper corpse in puppet to the square. a bent form mounted on a wall of septic flame. women in pyrrhic t-shirts, chanting. coach-loads. women from the kingdoms of baser elements. brass and coal. and acetone. oxidising, promissory night. daughters and reapers. a wrecked heredity. daddus, how their archives prized him. and thin boys, lain on lamb’s wool, leaking like smashed thermometers, silver and glass and fractured daylights. home as black concretionary mass. rage, grievous and specialised, a calendar threat. gathered to piss her witch’s ash to stain. there were slogans, mottoes. but the sinister rich – april, smeared in heat – are always with us. regan and thatcher. all trickledown immaculate, those keepers of concentric hells: the circus, the brothel, the jail. they filmed us, distended and contorted, crawling. we are fools. we burn what we hate to get free. they don’t aspire to freedom. lock us down, forever owned. they infiltrate, fringe the lover’s mouths with lies. their sentries, watchmen, recording angels. when they greiv, they keep the world away. some dolorous kleptocrat, muted and mouthing an ave maria. their funerals. gilded and snivelling, synchronised vanity. improbable honey, crudest oil. we were tearing our hair, swooning in tar. no longer bodies. a chorus, a spectacle. tourists took our pictures too. later, see our reinvented meat on instagram. for all our dead. a flaccid, caucasian genocide that no one mourns. footage. lips we peel from teeth to spit. slow-mo. oh, such wickedness. nailed us to a headline. kept but not remembered.
idioms, hyperboles. we have e-commerce, instagram, duress and blockade. detained, curtailed, adjudicated, hacked. all of the above. a summary corrective. close your eyes, you young offenders, look away. it was all bread and no circus. it was all circus and no bread. it was all speed and no motion. malignant rapidity. not endeavour or surrender. ludicrous, equivocal, dressed in lycra, running in place. in a confusion of coin-metal, terraces raining gold. hooligan doubloons. talking heads open their expertise like angel wings. a white coat knows what’s wrong. its gangs, games, the breakdown of the family. swipecard and retinal scan. this rented torso, worn in penance. surveilled is not the same as seen. tick-box-suspicious. slow blink banality captures them, grainy. repurposed x-rays, suddenly live for the briefest debasement. they are forging laws to lock you to your image. their content hangs its haunting from the long faces of facebook users, beavering at feeds. meanwhile, america’s fusing goon shows into squadrons, walking in step, impressionable and convinced. friend, they are rebranding our heritage. yours is a wet rubber bag steaming in the sun. donald trump talking subtitlese. your thoughts are for sale. the succulent untrue.
Fran Lock Ph.D. is a writer, activist, and the author of seven poetry collections and numerous chapbooks. She is an Associate Editor of Culture Matters.