Black Light Machine

from a distance it looks like
a giant cuneiform text
a series of metal frames & panels
many of the filters lipstick-stained

cadmium red streams weaving
across a territory drawn
with yellow rectangles &
abstract forms

shiny pipelines winding
through a forest
arbitrary lines propped
up by mythology

heaped high in rundown
wooden houses near city walls
revellers & merchants
fat as clay icons

reeking of perfume
wigs & false eyelashes
lost in the void of prevention
& avoidable passion

up tiny filthy narrow stairs
airless beds with stained sheets
brave words & a decadent

your gaze strays over
tangled ribbons of the intersection
uranium run-off coating the ground
with a white residue

a blue tractor in a diagonal field
lichen patterns on forgotten hoardings
apparatus of tubes
rails & roadways looping

representations of tidal flux
a sophisticated system
of refrigeration
treatments that work in minutes

in a landscape of logistics sheds
& information hubs
construction of national borders
kissing the dust-caked cars

white vinyl to protect the paintwork
with a clashing set of symmetries
broken hulls of ships
in a sea of unused tyres

the monstrousness of facelifts
& preposterous tombs
incredible among holy images
piled in alcoves & doorways

a mausoleum of old toothbrushes
assemblage of cooling units
a vast teeming trading floor
tobacco growers at the mercy of infidels

anthropology of lost gestures
replicas purchased among crowds
the only choice possible
between heresy & unbelief

between mud & bathos
we transgress the way the road lies
a marbled pattern on the water’s surface
meaning justifying the end


The Subversive Nature of Toys

            man lieth down & riseth not … they shall not awake
            nor be raised out of their sleep

the future carries with it the archaic
a faint glimpse of light from a faraway galaxy
the intrinsic energy of empty space
what is important is the mean of the data

variable equation-of-state quintessence
the fascination that issues from the flayer’s zone
sweet sticky odour of putrefaction
the corpse so palpable in its morbidity

I dug a lake & planted trees
curves fitting to the theory of errors
a dusty place where even priests & kings
lie in darkness, clad

like birds in coats of feathers
blasphemers hang by their tongues
adulterers by their genitals
eternity as a state of constant nostalgia

punishment of the wicked is a reversal
of the natural order, the actual
or accurate value
of a physical quality

such as length, time interval
or temperature cannot be found –
measuring devices
may be faulty in various ways

the dead watch us, a democracy of ghosts
the unclasped spirit of Patroclus
like a vapour gone beneath the earth
gibbering faintly

such errors follow no simple law
& in general arise from many causes
nothing immaterial has freed itself
from mysterious connection to the meat

heaven’s existence is dependent on its impossibility
god laughs at the punishment of sinners, predestined
condemned by his own will & the lack of theirs
an ordinary sin-set, forgivable fallibilities

the damned writhing below in chaotic torture
their great numbers confining the victims
in unbearable stench of flames that give no light
cataclysmic explosions from self-destructive stars

I ferried him who had no boat
no measures of dispersion
systematic errors may arise
from the observer or the instrument

death & its rituals of decay
are noises off, the only worth
to be assigned to the corpse
its break-up value

the calculus of risk, a pragmatic
assessment of interest
the mean frequency
is usually not of particular significance




[Aidan Semmens's second collection, The Book of Isaac, formerly shortlisted for the Crashaw Prize, is out now from Parlor Press / Free Verse Editions. Based obliquely on Russian and Jewish history, and the part played by members of his own family in the build-up to and aftermath of the Revolution, it is a sequence of 56 'distressed' sonnets, including two that first appeared in Blackbox Manifold 7.]

Copyright © 2012 by Aidan Semmens, 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.