“shutdown” / michael peverett
Everyone’s asking - guitar guitar guitar
guitar - (what) they should be doing
(you shift it) up (with) decorations
parking with action
Made up my mind yeah
“a thing of the past”
Sodium lights, and the square
evening sky is olive, it’s such a deep blue.
was going around the garden
the twigs were airy with picked apples
the shrubs crackly with dust, old decorations,
yet tough, too. The clouds came over
like God, the gods, and fate.
I couldn’t do anything about.
The world of books is more infinite.
You can read across into other rooms, other families,
But ours is walled.
Though I am free now I still carry
the four paving-slabs around with me.
I didn’t miss that summer, it pinned me.
In Dryden’s tinpot, tenfold chariot of leafy rhymes,
in his last political greatness,
that confident song to the patriarch son of James
jittered even as he wrote
and would never be a king at all
and the wearer him of fresh bays not after that
in it he talks about the true name of Rome,
(it emerges in a swell of analogies,
and this was or it was said to be or it may have been
the name of the new place
which kept its potency by staying hid
and made the new place thrive in tiles and vines, in fish
in noise in the history books and everywhere we name it now.
Curtains gathered at the knee.
Mrs Dryden walked upon a landing.
There was snuff, pot-pourri, orange peel, dust and yellow teeth.
The bonny script of the past was lying in criss-crossed sheets.
Drawing in my notebook. Cardamine pratensis
delineated in October when it’s a name.
My father’s delight when he crossed the fields,
the same the next day.... and so he would tell me on the phone.
His delight was still there.
The picture pins it down but
in the words it would float again
if the words could be a trembling web
where spring without words would hover
The spring songs.
About Love & Fate & Time,
the themes like apples.
In the dried-up riverbed
the shadow of Cassius.
A woman hurrying, holding her skirts.
fish swim through my books
the sunlight illuminates
deep into paragraphs
tiny gentlefolk are standing
in the square
it is a bigger city than my bedside.
I must have descended into the streets,
my boots squeaking. -- new leather.
Before I can even dip into my pocket for tobacco
I am accosted by someone I don’t know, someone of
no importance, a mere atom of the crowd
(though later she will turn out to be
my mother, lover & employer)
The very old man in the transept
walks cupping the helichrysum to the
With the pad of his thumb
brushing the flame-coloured phyllaries.
The Romantic poets play about in my room and their moons
are fingernails or moony beads that are shuffled around in a black velvet purse.
Or even like the smallest potatoes, even without eyes,
yet the real moon as it grows smaller and like a rocket
is eyed and wizened.
A hill looks worried with a line of traffic over its brow.
Green baskets well out of the hedges, but I see that
the night is long-promised.
The force of nature is cradled by the cold and
presentiments of frost. Patterns emerge in the trees,
the stayers, the youngest and biggest leaves on the penumbra of a poplar,
contrasted with the cherry whose russet froth is blown off
and speckles the pavements. Wolf, Lenten, Egg.
You can take a spade to any patch of ground
or read a brown book in a hotel to find
the infinities that have no bearing on your life.
Or this pine-cone in a bowl, a tower of lips that will never open
unless I bake it. But I think it’s prettier the way it is.
“Goodbye” stands at the door; “Sorrow” for the past
breaks with a sigh into a book’s bed.
Someone working so hard and someone else laughing so hard
that it’s letting them down, to
Frowst with drawings.
Money-waves in the offing, a stormy sunset,
puzzling over complex sums with the day nearly ended;
full of shit.
Mushroom coloured basin with water drops
Turn from it hastily and grab the towel
in your hands - its stays in the ring, though -
The jeans are roughly crumpled on the floor,
the tee-shirt falls out more scrumpled,
you are wheeling around the room but don’t touch the walls.
7:46 is good time. You are lecturing
to a vague friend who is interested in your thoughts. You re-run
a phrase until it’s honed. 7:48 is getting late.
“three broken forms”
ode to when everything is possible
The walls crumbles along the base
of sitting in the sun
Oh the hair falls crinkled and stays
The tablecloth has a pattern of curls and fruit
We were alive then, too, but had forgotten.
The wind had free boxes - here cries could be heard,
________they weren’t torn away.
Terrible painting of the Last Supper,
____with a model yacht on the wall behind Jesus,
_____and two landscapes.
sonnet by brown and glowing waves
____that lap irregularly more and more up
the jetty, seventh-wavy,
in a cooling breeze, making Maria
________shriek with fear.
______Seaweed bank, seaweed bed
gratefully browsing the sea - who combs whom?
Brean Down is like a green glacé cherry
______________________on the brown sea.
All the clouds have combed away to the horizon
_______- they purl there
___to the selves of other countries
___ruffled into petals of grey and white -
___________But here it’s at last a clear
___________dome of blue at 17:30
__the ice-cream day came late
____________Blue dome reflected in thin line
_____________on the waves.
Tide is in and out of the sandsunk fleet
____a jet-ski whoops
throwing the water high
The drummer is knocking out
a mechanical 4/4.
The dust settles, live in silence.
Everything continues, chewing gum...
A beautiful island
_________filters out of the slow tides.
On the faint beachslope
_____________eventual flowers and crabs.
All the tools laced together to make a Gatling gun
I wondered and I ran
All the birds making a rooking noise in a yew,
it quieted me.
Inside, a slung handtowel looked restful. It was evening again,
there were many evenings,
but I remembered the half-pace of the morning.
“shut down #3”
Crowned with the living engine:
a straightlimbed ash.
Media soaring, restored.
Not one grain of the thing that lived.
Will they sub for ever?
“wearing the leaf”
You place a shadow on the
happy tradition of crafts.
No, it wasn't OK after all.
Earn your waste
by wasting for another.
Earn your dark bottles
by spraying for another.
(spring was always the rolling
summer the grains of soil in darkness
a warm windless night that
finally expires into a newspaper
& october's pavements...
it's winter, a man shaves in a
gleaming bathroom before dawn)
“shut down #1”
Stained glass, the text
all bones. but it is melting!
“off the map”
The naturalist - any who looks, who touches.
Anyone who is.
What the roads say, is not the way.
Cars are for jumping on.
(rakes are for bouncing up and striking John on the nose)
not to be schooled
(which would you rather eat.
1: contents of kitchen sink
2: Two slugs
3: contents of ashtray swilled around with vinegar
- I chose 3)
"Never rub anything out?"
(stifled in botched communication in victorian biographies) I want to breathe!
(The Jim Russell racing school:
Formula Renault: yeh, it's good,
we're back. And you get pole. enabled
me to get pole position today.
tight at the front of the grid:
just let him slide past us & he's
only banged it on pole. didn't
get a time because of his qualifying
problems. Green off they go
Muller on the right great start
for Muller. At the end of this
straight you turn into Duffers. trying
to find a way through)
I halfrespect the generous labours,
the pains they take.
Yet it was cushioned.
They say: it is only in compromise
all the sweet values!
does not need to be underwritten
Even a commercial song
freshens the commercial existence
of vague crowds
it makes morning
towel your hair - her arched eyebrows - ardent -
there's a song on the radio
“shut down #2”
I'm logged in & writing straight into a library:
But I keep thinking of the
swish of a pencil, too.
Flowing fur is busy beneath
the planes and facings of the earth.
Once it was called servants to God.
Wiping the stubborn mildew from the wall,
which loses out so slowly & so corrupted
that it's nothing but a pattern.
I'm throwing down the cloth that I use
to force water to behave.
Strong cellars, strong offices.
Though it might just be a gesture:
the DOING is all in the handle
which is a column of figures
THE WORK TO DATE/ TOTAL: 0
and a lever, too...
(whose zero scoops the world
& leaves its emptiness in the bowl.)
[...then dog-headed Brett
& barbarous Joan
took the spoon & worked it,
blunted the blade on blackthorn
& gave it a shine.
after this marathon
it rested & shone.]
- cuts a chord
- bends at the breadcrumbs & severs <
into the wedge I'll eat
& some way beyond it, the maimed remnant
- morsels of mash
break up under the fork
A promise was not given, or kept.
& then the oblivion of water.
But I've eaten.
“driving at night”
reflecting me, studs on studs
the lines of congealed cars along the road.
only WE are alive (embracing the wheel)
HEATER - and the traffic lights, who
do a cold ritual with us
& flash us past
she had the moon & clouds plugged to the taps
& the nape of her neck shone like a path.
it was a blurred photograph
that slipped from a curved deck of similar snaps.
snaggling her hair which rubbed so
the shampoo after was slicking it foamy
like the joke about cracking an egg
& her eyes tight shut as mine have been
drumming the fierce showers onto the tiles the tracks of a bare hill
& her ears shiny like buttercup petals
as she winds her hair in a towel
& rises pinkly to stare at the mirror
at her clean face in the mist
“i don’t feel gorgeous”
“five night pieces”
The ash crown
knobby twigs, thicker than pencils
& curved & branched
a pattern that comes down to the ground
the tree is its own home
the tree is its own trace
Are you at home. You aren’t
really a “you”, you’re too deaf.
The tree is not really a noun
Cloud behind - a slaty day
up early the monochrome children
are kicking the ball again
in the place I cross twice.
the young palm glints
it does not have to go /
/ the beginnings of a split
the leaf splits into leaflets
it is slit back to its truer structure
fronds emerge, the knitted caudex,
the beginnings of a tree.
I work in the mornings, I forget in the evenings.
Finished weeing or
waking up & getting out of bed.
or you slop down Ibuprofen
So strong the desire to live the right way up,
to roll your shoulders along the path.
A cat wallowed on pavement
showing its underfur
Silver painted rust flaked
Bramble grew behind a downpipe
The walls changed, the crevices hollower,
a line of them filled with grey tack.
in the blustery rain they are windskating with an umbrella
rounded boots & garters
& the swelling socks
the shadow blooming across
the jagged skitter of rocks
the broken blocks
loaf - animal
boots. between the cleats the grains
trees drop thin slates
(like the rooftiles slung in the lawn Oct 87)
like playing splits with a penknife.
“holier than you”
Cold, rain & dark
The green in cases, cold dazed rabbits...
The gramophone spreads pools of pale days
across my evenings.
Today I woke. The sunrise - radiant pink bars
& the radiator was ticking. Quiet books.
water bubbling in the toilet bowl
crisp around the edges
Aero Walker’s Descartes
playing cards spread on your sofa
furious geology & aeroplanes
two languages in one bed
A bib and a plastic mug
that falls with a thump on tabledrum
“heaven of the ‘camelot’ jumbo bag”
A child plays in it,
her soft toys get flung around softly:
Then you chop logs and stack
them in the Jumbo Bag.
Perhaps it’s for folded laundry,
white & sky-blue.
The garden waste is peeping out,
the russian vine flowering.
It never rains, no-one has a sore throat...
The skin of the earth is audible here
They are half a resonance themselves
floating above the boats and bins
where their crowded souls are gorging:
and they are a light crowd who never shop
but voice their lives.
“i want to eat processed”
Husks and bones, crust and rind
warts and stones
scales and skin
cores and pips
gigantic cheese-scabbed scones
and broken bottle ice-cream cones
Oh lord, give me a softer soup
Pipes in liver, prickly pear
fish from the river, crumbs in your hair
Below where plants fringe
is a ground where you can stir
your dabbling is nasty-sweet
but corralled in a bowl.
Corner of a bed.
My week is a checkerboard.
Believe that tapioca stodge was back
It seemed like hell but was heaven.
Imagine that roads didn’t slice across your pupils.
[The hornbeam branch fell and tractors
came to break it up so we could
smell the sawdust]
As if one person came & took in the rainfall
& took a key or a swipecard from a pocket
& without pausing went inside. Someone called
& a new impulse of business began.
The collar was slowly drying as they talked.
The taken thing became fainter but would always be rainy.
“foto of biss meadow fringe”
the frog had two heads under the alder
& the cowslip an unfolding dozen
- peering here & there -
a bird chipped at reedmace fluff
You forded the marsh, slippery tussocks
On a dryish fringe I unscrewed the cup with a
clatter and we heard the spring-sound:
“on aother panet”
The mountains are mushroom-shaped in the distance,
so climbing them would be cloudclimbing
but the bases are popular for their shadow,
and their exciting winds.
And did I even have a mission?
“shut down #5”
Hard hazel eyes, soft wrinkled lips
Toasted teacake, soft babble of ear-rings
Power & impatience. I always hid in a hedge.
Where is my homeland? Not here, for sure.
Across the sea? Of course not.
My homeland is almost destroyed, but come with me
over these strands of barbed wire & through the
sooty leaves of cherry laurel
to a place between plots, of dirt mould & litter.
We will wait for the rain, & I will sing.
My soul is dark as jelly in a larder
& coolly sparkling
mica of darkness
and one looked across a mown field
& a cut harebell lay on a bed of rough stems.
The Cardinal’s words ran around the petunia
in cursive script, I imagined -
Or rather, a cloud. Square plates of cracked mud
but liquid, as if seated in forms.
But dark, as if flecks of oil, yolk and blood.
There was more ornamentation to be managed,
for instance the winy veins on the petunia trumpet
could be overtraced, doodling on a pad.
The Cardinal’s Oxford vigour dwindled to a shrill exclamation.
His death-scene - he is not heard any more.
storm of flimsy trumpets
and stained with a winter scene
Your feet on the concrete path
are slowly walking out some steps of a dance.
Your feet, too, hang out the washing.
“by the sea” UNDER A MOUNTAIN
It’s raining. It’s pissing down
Onion chips. carrots & custard
Arid September Boiling December
I’m racing to say I’m charging along
this. The waves to eat this. The grass
move everything, tips everything,
reflections, a mirrors, a
scuba balloon. tea trolley
This is a Here are some
pull-out café. walk-in wardrobes
The sun goes down. The moon is shining
Here, on the wave of no going
these poems are almost going...
increasingly, they wash like small
towards a swell in the sea that may
surge, resolve, collapse into drawstrings,
breakers, lanes of
luminous pulverised weed
into the black of unknown
Come to the clear city
& walk by the city shore
go to the hooded places
& poke in the wedgy nooks of the city shore.
In the brown air
the soft glare of the horns.
The crane stands a long time
for a few hours’ use.
The gleaming made him reflect:
he grew up in a Tomato Age:
a noise composed of laughter & pasta:
transparent onions & a child running downstairs.
It’s raining chips of onion
Sometimes there were many cars crowded bumpers
against birches into the carport swaying with a bag.
He was lighting a candle & there was rumbling on the hob.
And a sliding door – can that be “ajar”?
And a broken tile – is that “shards”?
we humans wait
in crowds for someone to pick us out
how padding about our lives
& shifting property slitting envelopes
bowls under the tap
we were always waiting
“against the work”
You write about anything, you tell lies about it
You use the writer’s language to betray a stone
You tell stories about “children”
who are all little writers
whose tap-water seems to them “like crowds”
Their TV screen & the adverts on it
are just pastel-coloured oblongs
(very restful too - lemon mousse)
The businesses you write about
are fronts etc
not to describe but to name
the clouds wafting into shelves
the “Gofle Choco” dripping on my hands...
The Copper legacy: a dusty parked car.
Shouldn’t I gather up the people on
the Playa Poniente
& wrap each figure in green cloth?
Universe of alcohol, stacks of plates
hot from the machine
Ribbons of silence, a puffy face like a saffron bun.
With all the films, tears, packets of Embassy,
cotton-buds, drinks, coins & keys
Stoned & red wine too:
yellow books, green birds
sunlight glossing the leaves
the harsh clatter of holly.
why is my thought
they drop to crumbs,
those blurring flutters
a big boat is
by the shore their
walking is beautiful,
all the long legs
moving like a sea
they have forgotten
why shouldn’t I play
a bagpipe dance in my heart?
It’s smoky and dimlit
long paths lead away
The larches are bunched here
Touch big blocks
& slender, dwindling into the haze
They put out the colours of my pencil box.
The larch twigs in my socks
The holly leaves in my arse
The dead bracken the colour of pencils on the
gladefloor, on the path that isn’t
really a path...
The bracken in my face, a stem
with no lead in it, crackles
“soft bourgeois poem”
In the long field the plough
cuts slivers of long brown earth
rich with the scent of dung
& flecked with ancient
Steam rises from the horses’ backs
& the steady stream of piss.
They are working up the gull-shouldered picture
in the magazine. Rhubarb & coconut crumble;
yellow melt floating
on the warm surface of the cream.
“the world is lovely”
The world is lovely, and especially its green rind,
and the animals tunnelling through it
from one glimpse of sky to another;
hammerblow to hammerblow,
pig eating grain.
“thousand island dressing”
slop it over nothing
the thin water in the pond slops with piranha-swirl;
the frogs come singly through the night, pausing
after every stroke, to enjoy what their fixed eyes show.
Their plastic bodies have become saturated with desire
- Arboreal bodies, plumper with history -
and their anxious ears are impELLed by
deep, lingering rottles. Celandines swell from the turf,
the cloudcover humps up into a cloudbank,
the layers of cloud spread curdled
releasing inlets of light into the warm under-air.
I’m blinking on the tarmac, I brushed winter dirt
from the red bonnet of my car. If I’d been out here
already I would understand this more buoyant word
but the car-keys are already in my hand. Two of them,
one for each eye. So
I drove somewhere, as if I’d gone down into the
engine-room of my own muscles and pulled a few levers.
It’s the only way, driving, of staying on the map.
The place I drove to was a garden sprouting with grass,
and the pots were water-logged.
The thin water bobbles into mounds of frogspawn;
the frogs bask in their reproduction, paddling
in the small, important hemisphere of the pond.
With the home-feeling reassuring them, they sit
with their heads out breathing. Their fixed eyes enjoy it,
and their powerful ears scan the big hemisphere
from the smaller importance which is a mush
and a mild bivouac into which they can dive
more snugly and still bigger than before.
Their fixed eyes are slowly absorbing restlessness -
there is no home.
You read a newspaper to avoid finding anything out.
You jump into a car to avoid going anywhere.
You worm your way around the magnified grey
wrinkles of a pollengrain: Home.
my heart is a flame
when it is evening,
coming in to shore.
The clouds for the moment are a
veined like mallows
there are no horiz
ting their hints
only the sombre shadow
of an imperfect engine
They thin away leaving
a racetrack for swifts
strimming invisible manna
from a box of light, yeah.
in one diamond
are all Steve Howe’s guitars
radiating, as in the photo.
We went on a long, hot
walk and found an offy
drank barley-wine in a ditch
The black swift gobs gold,
I might have seen too much
to see the sparkling mallow flower.
But not the drooping leaves
of a lime tree, streaked with
yellow bracts. Old men are
working at old jobs,
preparing idle reports. Perhaps
they haven’t the go to meet
our black trousers – mine
had a filthy hanky in the pocket,
stiff with a summer cold.
now I’ll tilt a Bonaqua bottle
to the sky – it is pierced with
sunshine. It’s impossible
for me to do more
than libate the drooping lime.
Blue aspiration, baffled journey.
Aching I lay down, my mind
etched, willow with slim leaves
waved aerial grass,
mottled maple crested
its branched history
our long school ties & our
long hair. I wish it had been
a real friendship john this roaming
from the school I hated into
hendrix yes faust into
long dusty roads guitar guitar
with mallow flowers.
The phone rings. They make
some arrangements, perhaps
to be faxed, and while this is happening
someone bring an A4-size lid
with plastic cups of icy water.
And the desk-fans move about.
I have completed the story:
now for the judging.
the sun is not so high,
it pierces through the green grass
making it luminescent
in its own shadows
(I wish I was that stick-insect
who re-evolved wings...)
I had no sorrow, only pain.
Tomorrow would be as blue,
glistening like an insect’s eyes.
The swifts sheared over the guttering,
a dog’s distance made a continuity
which was a pulse. I heard the
summer, the sun dipping.
“of the town”
They should sell booze in the charity
- if anyone would donate it. <
You can still read for a long time
- lonely people do -
but you can't think to any purpose;
it's the walls.
In half-internal streets you can
make transactions. It's a world
of illusions. The empire of booze flourishes here.
A Hollywood horror is as credible
as a weed. Much more so than -
Well, the smooth snake of the Dorset heaths?
You come to know a string of the town.
Most of the insides are secrets;
is it true that they smell
overwhelmingly the same?
I only have one subject, leaves.
It was another warm day, they
wiped the tables and shut up shop.
We had watched sooty coots, a
family paddling near the open nest.
We wanted our kind of coppery drink
& the rooms had all closed with
one tick of the clock; we were
quartering the riverside park, a stroll
with eyes, ideas, extending veins, hot
auburn lungs, scales, tendons. Gravel
uphill to a weird building: smokeglass entrance,
chlorinated air, steps, swing-doors, polystyrene
cups & scalding water, steamed lips.
Town-fond. It's a place of skipping
jumps and water.
God made the town
and Darwin made the country.
Look at all the churches! He made the walls,
working his ends through the builders who love camping in open mess;
who alter. alter. but stop if they don't get paid.
Their openness making our cells.
In the country, clean kills.
In the town, neglect and dirt and law - signs of a moral arrangement.
It's more than sexual,
the curve that you touch
or jump across.
We jumped across a
circling stream -
is that an impossible thing,
though you accept it in the day-time?
The curve of the road and the walls
originating from brooks and ribbon-margins
made from straight walls and
the right-angles of bricks.
The duck's trajectory - straight
from water to water
landing in a soft water.
The tips of the duck's wings
swinging up and down as she funnels through the air,
embroidering her directness
pay out another elbow of the commercial chain.
I am fat like the town; helplessly, not
fat like a brick; but why do I have this sick feeling
when the evening sun goes down?
(as if I was too much wall, and the grilles all shabby?)
A plastic bin clouded with grime.
Like when you see a yellow sign for
pointing to the right,
and you think "Is that meant for me?"
"Have I been diverted?"
Trev stripped out the dash
and went to work with the sealant gun
forcing his shoulders under the steering wheel.
In the car, dusk gathered.
He rose from sleep before sunrise,
whipped by the alarm into the illuminated bathroom
where the noise of the fan was a motor
and he stood wiping in steam.
He was ejected alive,
the boy was clumping around in his room,
Sandra in her dressing-gown was at the sink
with the radio and her back to him.
The town is coursing, I want to zip its
We're living on a plate. Beneath us, gravy stains (ie on the tablecloth).
We're living on a clean plate that's been set down on a dirty tablecloth.
Gunmetal bodywork implied otherwise, he knew
as he wandered up roads that seemed (they weren't) sandy
so close to the level diminution of the hills, the
creatures rushed to dots, exposures of Sunday.
He jogged, spitting away the drink; a long dry valley
between grey cliffs, high ledges crowned
with spider plants. He knew these were bookshelves,
and the valley was his life. He was
going to be ambushed. He ran effortlessly,
thrilled by the distant hum, the bedroom
they might quarter, the clothes they might plunder
from each other. It was already a
golden abscess in his shadows. At dusk the elders
were watching again, like the mild sea-clouds
when he named Christiane, and grandmother rejoiced.
Cups of flowers, cups of cloud
the reaching willow each branch
taken up its segment
air passes itself through
So heavy laden waves
why do I lose a sense of
Only one’s arms drip, only air
only a squidged towel is damp,
easy to pick up, weighty
and showing dark stain on the rock.
only wet hair sluices, slicks down
your back, comes to an
end in pushy prongs, squeezes
through the elastic, barrel-bowed
crochet loop is wet now
water rains around ankles
pattering from rinsing under arms to rugs
a pansy frenzy
“the toilet in its foulness”
The toilet in its foulness
leaks down the knotted cloths.
He don’t obey no “ordures”
unless they is his own.
The toilet in its silence
appeared outside, in the street.
Filthbucket reporting for duty
will you hear
if I call from a washstand?
if I sang
from the dun hemisphere
of a thousand trooping battalions
pleasure-seeking I never sought pleasure
but freshening skies
and enlargements of letters you wrote
if I sleep
if I wake unprepared
will you hear
when I don’t want you near
& am breathlessly calling
only from a washstand?
militarily underdone beef
has crumpled & fallen
alongside the eddying leaves
it was here in the forest
the processes sank into
hummocks of leaves.
.....But, for the
wheels, plunged in leaves,
in the persistence of
our sombre ground –
The sweetness of a leaf
the crimped, rough folding of the twig
Your frayed jean-shorts
A complex, muscular stepping
on sand, on bikes
The sweet leaves flying yellow
and a punch of light thrusts upward
through the seasons
until it bathes, in speech.
“thicko’s second poem”
Buildings laid out, a rough sight; so far hardened and still wit
h cranes, co-operating with more stacks.
Rude words die at the coast, a hat rolling in a washing-mach
ine. It’s best to be tired in a different way, to swim and the sk
y be lidded, shard meeting shard
as first and last with lights; he has worn all and felt
so assaulting the palms, which even what he made us feel
do not seem innocent, and couldn’t finish.