from HARIOT DOUBLE
(forthcoming Five Seasons Press, 2016)
Hariot Double probes the life and work of Thomas Hariot, mathematician and astronomer, and that of Joe Harriott, Jamaican saxophonist, with focus on the New World and London. Hariot’s scientific expertise led him to explore and describe Virginia (now North Carolina). Harriott travelled in the opposite direction to immerse himself in the London jazz scene. Both were pioneers of their respective crafts, involving cross-cultural shifts. These narratives are paired via a central section which deals with the contemporary world. The poems included here are from that part, "Intermean." Alan Halsey’s illustration is one of 58 graphics executed for the book.
© Alan Halsey, 2016.
Bank on Bones
Marks of promise laid across
spectral vaults. To grow
a counting house must feed
on absent life: one half or more of We
The layout says it, a bed of bodies gobbled
behind limestone and marble—
quiet operation, busy traffic muffled.
Threadneedle: a retort difficult to pass
without a secret formula.
All turns to prop what’s fixed,
flow and stock.
Over the water, a message buzzes:
get each Doe (John or Jane) hooked on a loan
and parcel the risk, longtail
so it isn’t seen.
A nice little BISTRO
(Broad Index Secured Trust Offering)
and the yield goes on forever.
Swaps on swaps on swaps, hard not to join in
though the value comes from something else
Muck to gold, the old dream is a bubble.
What moves outside the bell curve?
Who steps in to help the mug?
I sang it once before:
a fit of quick design and years waiting
in remote space.
Just another brief—scrape the pox
from a tent or cave. Brass call
to sort any trouble for good.
Ask Alexander. Gleam of a sword, barrel
on a crown of rock. Smirks
at turbo-armour, zubberdusty.
They kuttle hurra
like bees to a tamarisk.
Will anyone force the pass? clamber
in snow, strip meat
from a frozen sheep, dash in a tunnel
through scrub and boulders.
Stall/go. Thought bubbles.
Out of place
you could tread on a pressure plate,
get a dose of confetti.
Tab-turn, flash. Our daily chant
speaks tribes not a country.
Must be spited for yesterday’s broil.
Coins from a grain-bag
spill, three handfuls. As smart
a devil as what we slip
Swillswitch, a great game
and who’s the cleverest?
Alone, some hood by a checkpoint,
EDU—CATION, serves a reply
to buttons and facings.
Must be the worst. Behind
there’s bitter almond, wild rose, a rivulet
then sand cloud.
Goozur-like we guard a thing not ours.
Boneland with poppies
to spike yumanity.
If all were settled, jung-i-kalūs,
we’d feel this sun a bull’s eye grape.
Patience to make the thing worthwhile,
an empty prayer,
flag at a turret-post.
Dreams are the soul in flight.
A surge-rider won’t take anything back.
Ruinad: certain phrases are taken from the vocabulary of Persian, Hindostani and Other Oriental Words in Lady Sale’s Journal of the Disasters in Affghanistan 1841-2 (1843) or from the text of this work.
zubberdust = overbearing, with a strong arm (hence “zubberdusty” in Kipling, “A Conference of Powers” and Soldiers Three).
kuttle hurra = cut someone’s throat.
Goozur = rumbling noise or passing earth tremor (from Sir Alexander Burnes, Cabool: A Personal Narrative ).
jung-i-kalūs = a fight or battle ended.
Runrunaway to make your strip of sand
fun yourself out
stamping a village
It’s not hard
slip or keel
to particle bleed
The eel tastes of petrol
the seabird spills a lighter & bottle cap
You sneeze black in a camera smile
Cross-blade whirring head
of giant worm, a toothed wheel
throwing back spoil
from Royal Oak portal
find gnawed bison bones
in the old Westbourne
grassland and forest
then on through tangled rod and gut—
sewers, power lines, foundations
even the eye of the needle, between Northern Line
and escalator tunnel
find beneath the smashed Astoria
glass sauce bottle stoppers
both bores skirting Denmark Street
to the Plague Pit (No Man’s Land), 13 skeletons
out of 50,000 laid in three years
under Charterhouse Square
pressure-sensored to veer correct
push off last ring
for the next advance
in slow-budged clay
poison to plough
but mouldworthy, waterproof
a blue-green thread
bides the roll
of new traffic