Just one more minute’s screen time, please
to check how long my screen time’s been
I can’t settle. My brain’s uninsulated
wires fizz under the floorboards, burn up
my thoughts like dust motes.
(Please, don’t touch that bakelite
switch. I think we need
to get a man in.) All these screens,
these grim receipts of status spiked
on cluttered desktops
in my mind. Today
I spent three hours watching e-ink
notepads being unboxed. I learned
third hand a well-known racist
commentator said a racist thing,
and scrolled until
I found the thing then dived
below its line, let outrage bleach
the gutters of my mind.
I’ve heard the brain
is wider than the sky.
Well, the skies round here are huge
and grey and I have nothing
to say. I have rendered every
stunning vista into
wallpaper. I used to think
that cynics were the clever ones:
that treadmill, low-fat cynicism
that sees the fault in everything
before they try to reel you in.
But cynics don’t just see what’s wrong:
they accept it. I don’t know
what I want, can’t picture myself
twenty years from now. I’m hasty
thumbs, erroneous corrections,
fidgeting the flesh clean off
my bones, a phatic vocal tick,
the ground floor of a tower block:
all that weight.
We don’t touch each other any more
twelve years in a double bed
down to business-like deals
we can’t bring ourselves to shake on,
not even an x at the end
of a text. I’m not saying
that I want to. I just wonder
where we went. But today
you sent a photo of our son.
It stopped me as it flashed
across my palm. We were there.
In his face. In each other’s arms.
All The Feels
I think, one day when I was younger,
and I got my feelings out, upturned
their conjuror’s silk-lined bag, shelled
them from their neatly-labelled cases,
to gaze at all the colours, tactile
and terrible, strewn across my bedroom floor.
I think, on one of those liquid afternoons
of playing, of amazement at what I’d got,
when I heard the creaking of the stair
and madly dashed to put away my stash
– I think that’s when it happened.
When my cases got mismatched:
Sadness thrust in Hunger, Fear
filed under Love, Pride stuck fast
in Suffering, and look, I lost the lid
for Shame – it’s seeped out everywhere.
I sometimes show the mess to friends,
let them laugh at what got where:
There’s shards of Guilt in everything.
Oh Mate! Your Modesty is still in cellophane!
But I’ve only let my lovers see
the neatly-labelled cases, casually produced
a perfect match from time to time. I try.
I’ve put the odd one right, but old habits
die hard, they creep back shit-faced
in the night. It’s always seemed
too much to get it properly sorted out,
to see them all at once again:
tactile and terrible, but wearing thin
and scratched from misuse; too hard
to dig down deep to the bottom of bag
and relocate my grubby joy.
To Hail a Cab
It’s been ages since I’ve done this.
There was a time I’d do it every week
when I was married and had money.
And I remember my Dad when I was little
and up to the London for the day with Mum.
We’d meet him at his office after work
on our best behaviour in the lobby
under austere oil paintings of bewhiskered dukes.
And he’d step out of the lift, potent,
a politician, wrapped in this sense of what
I’d now call ‘agency’. He always
looked so pleased and proud of us.
He’d take us to Spaghetti House and afterwards
he stand on the kerb and hail a cab, one hand
thrust confidentially, casually in the air,
as now, beside my own limp boys in midday throng
outside the Science Museum, I do the same.
Right arm in the air, left around their shoulders
his magic trick to extinguish the orange light.
And as it’s snubbed out and the cab slows
to a stop, I let myself believe it might
yet have the same effect.
© Luke Wright, 2019