cohort by Fran Lock

there will be no poetry.  i will not rise in light the colour

of medical waste, with blood’s black cartridge low on ink,

to sing the aggrotastic wassail of working-class catchment;

to sing the asymmetric faces of all those truant youth who

dined on fire. there will be no poetry, or only for those

petrol-headed prodigies of somnolence, boys on gaunt

corners, solanine and gobshite, gasping in alleyways, their

hands sweating currency at three a.m. when blue light

bathes the deviated streets like tiger balm. if there is poetry,

it will be in the lowbrow necromancy of estates, terraces that

shape themselves from bloated gloaming, broken windows;

chain-smoking and pallid stagnation; from crude, two-

fingered benedictions, dispensed by holy idiots. if i sing,

i will sing for the boys whose lisping chivalries the upright

boroughs shun for fear of plague; for frail and vacant boys,

howling in a solvent ague, chafing, baste in sweat and wasted

again through all the hungry hours we knocked on wood to.

my boys, who, keening in the paralytic standstill after curfew,

balk at love’s fraudulent portion, when summer’s heat defrosts

a sorry longing in the heart. do you understand? for the boys

whose raw, shop-lifted nerve trembles with desperate jetlag;

whose breath is a silvery pesticide, who wear a chemically

tenderized skin. there will be no poetry, unless for them,

folding in their locust limbs in doorways, treating their

secrets with bleach in cemeteries underneath the cherry

blossom. boys who break in grimy waves along the south

bank of the thames, their narrow backs arching like bardic

harps, who walk in staggered jackets, the tired, unvaried

tedium of august; who crawled the body’s slow-witted

acre, pining in a forest, on a carpet of needles, ostracised,

besotted; their yellow faces caving in like sandcastles, brains

behaving like hydrogen. this is the music of my witness.

friends i have lost to the maledicted mufti of unemployment

blackspots. boys, whose stooped regalia gave them away,

dressed in poverty’s erring fashion: ashy face and earring;

friends, whose desolated smiles disgorge a hardboiled fist

of stars, an anti-english spit embracing broken teeth. these

are the boys with numb lips bending local cant like spoons,

swept up in grief’s swooning pheromone, horny and crooning,

a little in love with violence, fizzing with an aggravated

lambency, forsaking clinics for brixton, the lairy aquarium

light of bars, of clubs. boys, whose sooty humour groomed

itself in station toilets; lived by hooch, by gear, and by the

wheedling grammar of an underpass at elephant. i will sing

for them, as they fall between london’s grim chimneys;

the shrill and mildewed air of social housing, days spent

nursing hung-over hemispheres, digesting regret in the

microwavable guts of melamine kitchens. cold potatoes,

newsprint on the fingers. there will be no poetry if not for

a limping, malingering kiss; for afternoons immense with

vendetta, the hoary feuds they bristled with in car parks

and in stairwells; courting the moribund alchemy of smack

or of meth or jellies, downed with vodka’s dicey clarity.

a neat buzz they tilt at windmills. i will sing this song, no

other. this city does not want them, its poetry a tide of

numbers, zeroes replenished like dry martinis, like artisan

coffee, a cool you’d split your lip on. a cup you crumple

into waste; the dregs they’ve scried the depths of. this

city does not want us, who file like black ants along

the crisp green edge of need, who are naked inside of

need’s skirmishing velocity, who come apart at the speed

wet paper tears. there will be no poetry. you cannot cross

my palm and reconcile a coin. i bear my misaffection

like a grass’s scar. i wear disgust like a velvet glove…


this one goes out to martyn: saint, martyr, satyr, waking

lame to monday’s malnourished perdition; dizzied by

the business end of inquisition, at the hospital, the job

fare, his illiterate skill dismissed where men count up

his felonies like calories. his arms are ink and inhibited

uptake. the suits recoil from pasty slang, the bravado

of hard time pulled like teeth from a busted mouth

that slurs its larcenous melancholy; his lips wear white

blisters, baccy burns like seed pearls, semi-preciously

encrusted, a treasury of eczemas. this is his song, who

makes vocation of his cravings, climbing panic like

a ladder to benzedrine epiphany. he’ll say he’s chasing

safety, not bliss, in an opiated arcady; swirling a drunk

shadow like a matador; a listless icarus whose thin

wings rustle into fire between nicotine fingers. what

clocks will stop for him? for any of these refugees,

our symptomatic heartland banging gavels in our sleep.

for boys whose persecuted synapse is an arrow shot at

space, who have no inside voice, who fill with more

exile than with cunning. martyn, who’d stamp

love’s squealing tyranny with steel-toed d.m boots.

martyn: scuppered, not stricken in grief, unlovely, in

the wincing dereliction of his shame, a peace he

pawned for sodden pleasures, saturdays, lobotomised

and luddite, his wrists in the philistine slings of self-

harm, sickly and grimacing. who stops a clock for

him? for bed’s defeatist furrow, days upon end, who

listens to the drip of a leaking tap, all through winter’s

fidgeting vicissitudes, with no money for the meter,

inhaling a stark heat up through smoke. martyn, in

a disowned ambiance of damp plaster, scutty linen,

excuses worn with sheets and soles, and scaling

peaks of spiking fever while his kidneys cease to

function. while his liver ceases to function. whose

all or nothing cohort lives by creeds of calamity

or dominion, with fuck all in between. our

instruments agree. i’ll stop this clock for you. for

all of us. stop time’s blind clamour dead in its

groping tracks. depression curls us in on ourselves

like trigger fingers; balled on the  floor like dead

wasps, like nothing i can throw a motor-mouthed

metaphor at. instead i hollow out a place to fold

your name like paper. martyn, yes. and all the rest.


and who would torture poems out of this? poem as

a trichophobic eyelash tweezered from the red rim

of wakefulness. there is no poetry, only the dream,

pulled from sleep’s stuttering pre-history; the dream,

polluting the pillow like hotel lavender, the reek

of week old sweat. i rise through this, peel back

the full-fat skin of morning, reeling an unclassified

exhaustion, scent of petrol and wet heather. i rise,

boil kettles into breathlessness, and watch kestrels

aviate on unmade wings the bosky fields and scrubland.

i do not sing. i do not speak. affinity is only telepathic

habit, a redundant and encumbered love that will not

change the world. oh boys, who vanished over a lean

extremity of water, stirring a sulphate dust in your

veins, skirling, and flirting the limits of extinction,

when sky is oblong lilac vivisected tissue teased

to atomic splendour over the underpass. and the

white star line, and the blackrock road, with sun

and moon and space dust flaunting the stupored

ceiling over divis, the botanic gardens, queen’s quarter,

red brick houses coddled by curfew, and the boys

nodding out in the student union bar they went to

cadging coin. i do not sing, i cannot, for those who

gave up life to boneless vertigo, fritzing in the pristine

light of hospitals, retching black emetic against

memory. for those who spun their saturated disciplines

in london clubs, in pubs, in the gutters they groped

for stars. who danced the night’s misshapen shellac,

then walked the hairline crack of camden canal at six

a.m. boys, who are gone in mind, not far, but deep,

screaming in the killjoy iridescence of headlights,

whose vocabulary is choking, whose tongues

retarded turbo-folk, an ill-intended psalm. i cannot

sing, unless my song is leaving. unless my song

a disappointed seed i sow and grow a better love

than this for all my ugly impotence. and if i sing, say

this: that i am you. girl, whose contrariness is crutches;

who tried to be bigger than herself on days when fear’s

slow-moving motive pointed all knives inwards. oh boys,

who loved a mainlined radiance holy, the dreaded

head-rush, high on sunday’s wire. disoriented sorceries.

when we would sing together, when we would sack

abandoned streets for charity and silence. haggard,

clamant, knowing only what we ran from: priests,

phone-tapping bogeys, the god-bothered prerogatives

of home. which is only broken. which is never whole.

i am you. cold girl, inclined to armour. but you would

risk intoxication’s promise on a dare. this is for you,

a voice whose weight will sprain your wrist. the brick

in the fist. the one we are born with. there will be no



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