For the Moveable Feast
& for Dell

                                                               ‘That love is all there is,
                                                               Is all we know of Love;
                                                               It is enough, the freight should be
                                                               Proportioned to the groove.’
                                                               — Emily Dickinson

Behind Cambridge there’s an axe
and it’s not Hephaestus on a good day
it is sharp and old and neolithic
and it is intent on clearing the forest
like a killer or a beaver or a fungus

what do you hate this is my task
as the spent terms tend to brush us away
thoughtlessly brash with ordinances
commanding squalor into open sky
it is there that jobs go under wraps

it’s likely that the science stepping up
to automate is a pack of lies of lies
just a plan chest administering crows
that hover in fortitudes, fortifications
only taking in news with iron diplomacy

but we don’t contend empathy always fails
nor cover up the market forces of each lapse
something forgotten, too daunting, admired
it’s all just too much heavy soiling, distinctions
that push every button and angry oughts

a burden is worn thin on the axe handle
the sources of merit go into liquidation
to truss up umbrellas like beautiful souls
the boy the girl sealed with a loving swalk
as against persistence in so many papers

under which there’s still shelter from stuff
the good people embracing hoarder genes
or summoning the Scandinavian project
no need to be all or nothing with clothes
and the office isn’t a seat of government

we all nod off to the semantics of siestas
some Protestants can’t keep still all day
but we doubt the need for growth, petrol
the past catching up with its consequences
but delete to taste if you’ve the hunger

well, do brush up on origins and expenses
mammal on mammal in crazy taxonomy
the lists of the endangered and the critical
yet you propose to sing with deforestation
right there you just have to stop and blink


then the reproach becomes an osprey nest
ripe for the joy of naming local extinctions
guarding against poachers and television
you cannot imagine the fun in stealing eggs
though it seems to have to do with sports

this is the mess, a mess with provenance
and the century of the car and plastics
and pesticides and even nuclear scars
of tests and of accidents and general fear
it is not within the compass of nightmares

but taking it all in on some pivot of self
scarcely squares matters up with resources
there’s every reason to look further afield
spare the mirror and break the reflections
not least the self-taught bugling and masque

but hear the sons of Ulster shouting down
the hard border and the soft and in murals
the size of plantations that carve supplies
into a money tree that is also inextricable
so don’t make a get away with natural law

yes it seems that everything fucks, is fucked
but the scales have been tipped into untold
knock ons and the fall and decline of capital
cannot offer much scope for extras or even
the arched back of Max Wall given airs

call it Las Malvinas call it Anguilla I guess
it’s pay back day eventually and remediation
knocking on the door of the final storm surge
as the number of the missing promises meets
the paradise papers around British Antarctica


I’m gleaning for the biotariat in the landfill
among light electrical goods made for brief
toys burning now in Agbogbloshie, Ghana
how the burner boys extract the copper
as if still under the sign of missionary work

the shuddering to a halt of the white goods
shakes through the terrace floor boards
amid a chorus of fidgets and fridge hums
but it is warmer than the land of the Iceni
such is the utility principle of the boilers

wouldn’t you know it we’re all on fire
and for centuries to decorate the lounge
the lungs in trading triangulations done
from rum and manufactured goods that
became human slaves and shipped tobacco

it’s a mantra that did for sugar and cotton
and what goes around comes back angrier
if the only option left is to say tough luck
and even the truth and reconciliation means
cheap drugs dropping powdery propaganda

the sense of gravel, of scavenged extraction
suggests a bellyful of lived contradictions
and the concept of sin can’t stretch to that
as if not in my name covered the baseline
no, the plot is thick with aging clearances

the mercury seeping out of the permafrost
keeps the night watchmen from his paper
that’s not represented in the books of justice
slower to the little joys of smiles and such
like me but don’t turn me in for clickbait

and notice the tendency to mine experience
to seed analysis with data from intuition
the salt & pepper over late night television
just as we are all hackers in the beginning
fruits of the laborious troubadours of old

does pragmatism flavour the art market
or is investment in this uncertain climate
just a gamble, hedge funds and stocking
fillers for the onepercenters less mischief
waiting to sue the commissionaires of oil

it’s time to wave farewell to growth spurts
the superyachts, the cruisers, the destroyers
even nuclear submarines show up on GPS
and their secrets are better kept in dry dock
or the graveyards of Rosyth and Devonport

the strange shower of capitalist man is ending
a bit later than predicted by the constructivists
but every little construction may not be a help
when decommissioning is order of the decade
starting with the hot air being traded for coal

cinderella times, you me and the pumpkin car
another heave against the iambic tendency
scarcely troubles the mechanical prose factory
but here there is no precedent on which to file
and no precedent for the love of levelling on

you may not hear me my love but it is there



[Drew Milne’s collected poems, entitled In Darkest Capital were published by Carcanet in 2017. Equipage published Earthworks in 2018 and Lichens in Antarctica appeared from the Institute of Electric Crinolines in 2019. His book of mini-novellas entitled Third Nature, from which an early extract appeared in Blackbox Manifold, is forthcoming from Dostoevsky Wannabe in 2019. He’s the Judith E Wilson Reader in Poetics, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, and a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.]

Copyright © 2019 by Drew Milne, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.