on pages without numbers

being poems poetical, prose prosaical,

with fixed forms, and free,

shewing the Many in the One

(and one apart from many)

© David Bircumshaw 2001


All variations of spelling, typeface, pitch, layout
and spacing supplied free of charge.
With added bad Latin and questionable translations.



for a panic prompted cull of five years of work; work like a mole's: patient, continual, and blind.  While the malign source of its author's anxieties must remain, permanently, ahead and unknown, it is his perfervid wish that some, at least, of his namings and tracings might enter into that headlong swirling stream of the publicly known.  A stream famed for its dead.
 A snick at good taste and a judicious order ( and a snickersnee plunged into itself) this flung together assemblage bears no grudge, theme nor meditated plan, but is in its bare self ( I am forced to mix metaphors) a true cracked record of its author's voice, hissing amid echoes and remote.

            His ever-well-wishing fictional friend,
                               Hilarius Hilaricon


                                  ALPHABET SOUP

Arrowheaded biped wedge, missile waiting launch, flint sighted on stars.
Doubled fatty humps. Split projected globes. Apples forbidden offered.
Ventricle of stasis. Hard soft alternation. Opening that cuts.
Heel stamped on ancestral lava, angel of the pitched vowel, of dee's.
Upended gate. Outcast from the dark burials, from toothed chambers of breath.
Fusion's fricative, of fission, of split flakes, come together apart.
Quiver of the struck chord, its resonance, wave above below its line.
Barred stile, arch of triumph surmounted, slow sounding air-cushion deflated.
Absolute exclamation, unconditional trim subjective pole.
Bent hook ego, first person angling, john-common palliative of junk.
Greek remnant or trademark. On southern palates a softened northern sound.
Right angle of torment, cramped canal of slick liquids silver flow, glide.
Orthodontic bridge. Three-piered crossing over vague hazing vocal streams.
Twisted lightning strike, penultimate vowel's ultimate consonant.
Mass amassed within a round, the mouth's weight-print vibrated on sand.
Scribe-mark on accompted bone, a half-moon kited from earth horizon.
Swift slicing edge, royal head of identity as who, what and why?
Belly walking, pregnant engine, dim snarling in its mouth deep red cave.
Hissed curse. Rope of curves in assassins' hands. Escape like steam, like smoke.
Crossbow bolted, pick raised to strike, impact angle, hangman's junction tree.
Means you. Bay of promise. Inlet of incoming. Horse print on tide mud.
Is the barb that returns; the slit pudenda; swallow's vanishing flight.
Airiness sharpened on twin forks, on wide melded waters merges its wave.
Twice slashed cross, firesticks rubbing sudden suns. Faces meeting, nose to nose.
Snake of divination, flickering, its always unanswered question.
Bisected risen angle, saved paired parallels racing round the globe.


     Silverbirch on Canalside
            (off Fazeley St)

For company, a Flanders poppy
and a brooding pair
of breeding swans.  This sidearm's
blocked off.  Your torso's cracked
like old plaster.  On your bending flesh
cling barnacles of wart
as on a greywhale unzipped
from the hiding sea.  The all else
is breathless, a too fast
running past.  Your roots swim down
into slow currents, diving
into the world's skin.  You are the guardian
of your own image, unknowing,
on a scummed and lily-padded channel,
where an oiled city (gerra move on)
slides and wheezes by.



Meanwhile my Lord Byron
(a tickling of atoms, dust in a peasant's nose)
writes on:
the moon threw down her silver raiment
of little wit scattered, and princelings gathered

under massed grey cloudbanks
(where there is here, here there)
like an English sky
(as ill-defined a mind as mist)

a raincoat and letter from Mr Auden,
the badleg tap of a stick
and a hollow-towered castle of looming
o'er gloaming.

It's eight bells. Ta-ring. Ta-ring, taringaring.
Etcetera. Somewhere
peasant sneezes.


                           CHANSON D.SPECTARE D'AMOUR

In between times, laired, Spectare probes a comparison kit for his beloved
       her beloved words. His. Like


an exercise in figurative constipation some rogue suggests (oh no!, unept/INAPT!)
or a dog (him) bound, G-strung, on the leash that is of gravity (t-too much)
or a lost soul (whole) happenstanced into rescue from forlornity (Sa-LUSH)
or an x-squared or cubed of other worried down tools

a warm and very personal
                                         intimately fitting pronoun .....

beyond, unover, there
                                  in the deep space where words fail
abort mission thwart
                                 in difference and in likeness
in her own time, paired,
                                      undiscovered to gross astronomers
his companion star
                             trawls on another year
about their weightless unity
                                           and substanceless of focus.




Each night I paw at The Book of Odes

like a sad-eyed creature stumbled out
of an endless forest

looking at a camp-site clearing


I dreamt I had made perfect
my rough technique
on the bamboo flute.

That my mind's web quivered
to the pauses between raindrops
or the air's troubled turns.

To the heartbeat of stars.


A woman is shouting at her own locked door.
I have counted the khaki on the Great North Road.
A quartet crashes
through the silence of my wall.
There are shirts they are struggling
as the wind brawls.

Bow low, kowtow, you caution, the Emperor's men 're marching.

                   DISJECTA MEMBRA

While the dancers of darkness stumbled towards the castle,
silence settled for a rest: Elsinore was watching the news.

           A surly beast best left in its cage,
           the poet squats on the edge of rage.

For the first three seasons of an arid year, grande passion
      beat in my breast; come winter cooled ardour
                 for she slept in my socks.

      On an Awayday to Grimsby I noted this fact:
      as fishermen shrink their stories grow taller.

Oh the mournful songs of generation, the sad moons of loss.
     Such prompted the moment I first peeped at it all
              through the curtains of parting rain.

As my washing combusted in the critical sun, Lo, I beheld it:
                  My Bonfire, My Vanities.



                        For my father

Flemish bond, English bond, slap the trowel, plumb the line.
Six o'clock, on the dot, up and out, work's about:
It's seven quid a week and a ten bob note.
Billycan, in the hand, white outside, black within.
Morning come, frozen bone; night and home, frozen bone.
It's seven quid a week and a ten bob note.
Dawn and dusk: English bond: seven pound: frozen bound.



With the phlap, phlap, phlap of a butterfly's wings
on my last late noon of love in the fortress of Wendsbry
she confronted the professor with: rustic songs

on my last afternoon of love with a world of wrongs
as a storm broke through a mind collapsed in Ledbry
to the flap, flap, flap of a butterfly's wings

a storm broke a mind with its senseless things
a narrative sank in a subjective mire: 's hisstry
she confronted her professor with it: rustic songs

a narrative drowns while drunk Muses sing
I cry for the end of it a creature like me
with the phlap, phlap, phlap of a butterfly's wings

I cried for the end of it the living broken things
for a burden of being on backstreets of Wendsbry
she confronted a collector with her rustic songs

for a burden of being the telephone rings
with a message fron no-one a desperate plea....
to the flap, flap, flap of a butterfly's wings
she confronted her professor with it: rustic song



It began with the bearded and abstinent,
in terraced Wesleyan chapel meetings,
and rigid stitched leather, booted
in walloped looped punts for the hard nuts
and rough possession of the shoulder charge.

Half-day Saturdays, and with a few bob loose,
young tykes and old blokes, from cotton mills
and brickyards, dye-houses and Bessemer steels,
to rented fields and showgrounds, on unshed stands,
packed and swayed to savage tribes of rhythm.

A pie, a pint, a match. Captains and brewers
of industrial virtue, overseers
of public works and leisure, teamed
the scrambled ball of village brawls
to pass and save and tackle back.

Goal, the crowd cried, and from backyard tussles
to United the Rovers the Blues, balanced
like neat ledger in numbered leagues,
production's figures bawled and wheezed
the flat chant for victory, for their dreams

splashed in shirt colours on running teams.


I had just set out to write
about the long look
of a poverty that ate
through the hushed plaster
and whitewashed walls,
mapping a melted empire,
when with particular, steel-tipped
steps, like a cane walking,
as if exacting coin,
my education came:

Your papers please


                          (a reconstruction)

The secret of (Prometheus), son of Titan Iapetus, (lies)
not in the (sacred) fire snatched from the jealous (Zeus
Soter) but in that (other) fire (of pain) in the liver (each
dawn) renews: Prometheus (drinks).  Nightly, in his
wine-dark (of despair), so as not to remember the (mono-
tonous) rock of (consequence), the flat recitals of (Epi-
metheus), his (remorse retailing) brother, nor the red
dreams that rise (like birds) cawing, shrieking, of fields
of (cindered) crops, flame swallowed huts and a flesh stink
with screams (numberless) as stars.  This is the eternal
(cirrhosis) of a (demi-god).


As his light failed
the old man turned into paint
blackfallen folds, unwindowed drapes,
clinging to the waist of a woman,
his once
and almost wife.

Whose skin still bathed in li....


                      A  SALT  SEA  SCROLL

Abominations upon the green-hatted kind
                                    as in a rain of frogs on time-kept Cortinas.
May the murrain rot the matrons of Uruk
             but not the estimable overseers of the new malls at Shrewsbury.
To the Righteous the true, the pure ineffable light
                        and to the Wicked the blinding of eternal night.
Their testes shall shrivel like wizened peas
            their wombs shall be blocked
like the drain-pipes of  tenements
                 as happened unto the credit-cards of the Elamites.
So that the Lord's poor ascend
                                      even to the throne's right hand
and the innocent be folded from furthest night
                                                     in Love's heaven-wide and open tent ....
So that the Kingdom come
                                 and the Bride-Bed be saved

    but not the Pshtites, the Ebonhim,  the Tasman,
nor the masticators of first-born lamb,  the wearers
of hand-woven astrakhan,  those who spit in a north wind,
Pharisees and Sadducees and staff of  Newholme Library,
the keepers of matchbox labels, usurers and practitioners
of tupperware parties,  Mrs Ethel Jones of Ystryddgwyn,
those who deal in used assegai and blackbarrelled carbines,
nor the seventh-month's High Priest on the Late Late Show,
the tea-room dancers and Abomonites of Cush,  those whose
shadows defile the west wall at late noon,  the blue-rinsed
anthropophagi all covetous of cream tea, the pity-frozen
killers ....

So that our souls might bathe
                                               in Jordan pure
and everlasting light.

The Madness of King David

The servants no longer purred but barked.
The Queen Consort was plotting with France.

Slowly he picked the feathers from his skin.
That was for Wednesdays. Other days,

unlike the people in the lifts, he stayed
all the time awake, knowing that by his consciousness

the world might hold together. Not fall
apart. Not fall ....

until Thursdays, for instance, which were a particular kind of problem,
as the skies were never the right colour

nor the noises outside his palace
(for they had the hue of small burrowing mammals)

(And his puzzlement was presented with certain shots of Kim Novak
in The Great Bank Robbery, wriggling her bum

with a rather conspicuous tail-flounce perched on her dress
reminiscent of Great Ape females on heat. Disturbingly. See zoo. See cinema.)

Nor the verse forms which came to hand
for their exoticism bethought him of trade wars.

But there were other days again, not named on the calendar,
when he revisited his telescope

(the world's first, many times since upgraded and restored)
a gift, the Chancellor told him, of Johannes Kepler,

where, in his own perspective, the firmanent hung
studded with the running signatures

of those he thought of as friends.


                             SPECTARE'S CERTIFICITUDE

It is a tired, it is a long way of days to go.  Spectare sniffs the seductions
     of Van Hougeworts coffee, imports its tropic turning, primal steam.

Humanized, aroused, with appetite he paperknifes the most delicate parts
    of a boldfaced envelope: D.Spectare's Potential Million.  Selected you
    why have we?  Believe we you deserve it because.  True.  And

    no-one else owns the 7 Spectare prize seals, the unique computer-generated
    Spectare number, the Specatre certificate is yours & yours & yours

alone he dreams into hot water on dark grounds, with lissom alacrity shrinks
    into a small form lung-torn beneath a black sea: unconsciousness.
    Morning is it night?, Cheese!, voice of the dull on high:

Act now, Spectare, ex Ottho Heldingstraat 666, the automaton translator extols
    among thr powdering cigars and dockside warehouse bonds

    as a dead tone levels
                                      like the real plateaux
    of work and sleep and work and sle


It was the ending of sound
and the light closed
with a black door's heaviness.
History faded
on the eye's wide lens.
The long ages of ice
came back
to the lowlands of flesh.
Only a feeling

a vague smoke
like a detached ghost
turned on the tuneless air
twisted by gravity
grey on black
like a question-mark's curl
or beckoning finger.



By tacky bonk tumps
I cum upon a swopson
Backin off in trashers

-Ya grate arseboard flap -
I sed - Yer buffle-saggy
Wiv camplin/ all gaumed-up

-Ya rapatag bobowler -
Mullygrubed shay slommockt
A collywesson wobbla
Slobsy fullockt

I left er craichy chunneren
Chopsing tah erself
Ov bearns an elven nyarlen
On pit bonk delf


It was good to throw you away
like the folded map
of our once walked Cadiz
or the stub
of a ticket to our broken
temple at Didym.
Since you've been gone
Since you've been gone
Since you've been gone a long time
And it made me
lighter not to travel
to morrows
without my incubalia
asquat athwart a ghost
parrot, memory,
day after day
clawing ma shoulder.
Since you've been gone
Since you've been gone
Since you've been gone a long time
An it worn't because of you,
honest, that I got
a wholelong weekend
stewed, slewed, till I almost
Since you've been
(guess it) spewed
Since you've been gone
out these dog and open-ended
(what are they good for?)
brittle words.
Since you've been gone
so long time

                        UNKNOWN UNMADE UNTITLED

Deadwood.  Low noon.  Pigment evacuates the suburbs and cheeks
         of a tired form worn on a board sign
         posed by a bar.  Empty.  Amid bare

walls of the tedious, pinned by the four-square
        metaphysic-cramp, Spectare be-
        weeps abandoned a lot
        soul alone
in the unfilled presence of silicon.  Glass.  Clear.
        To the god straight through.
        I alone am clouded.

as the sun empties over there (its living streams) and the dream
       fever of a film (cut)

merges in the obscurity of his mind
       direction shifts

off a trance paralyzed dance
                                             severed on a tumbler's edge
to a face familiar his fades
                                          on a still sign aloft

Action Cut Actio Cu Ac Tut



a print a mud trace (a hundred and eighty
(ahead back there (and into the mirror I sidled:
(tell me I mouthed tell (the higher animals came
(touch, touch, the guide implored (and I saw the stars
in their clouded nurseries (rah-too, the bird called,
rah-teh (then the stones began to fable (could
I but tell (how there when where not there
at the first molecule twitch (Broca's patch (see icy
I sea a seed) broken down) like unlabelled cans
on grocery shelves) how where when there not when)
could I but) one by one one)
then smokily it faded from sight) and a wind-
ruffled corner where a bus never came) and vanished,
that's history) two by two by two by) and
found myself my questioner) ah, hello, echo, hello, ha)
where there began) degrees turning) the steps of breath


                                            SPECTARE'S  PENSÉES

.... only insight I  ....  incomplete we .... live to that aching lack, that betrays, collapses .... into the longings of a novelette,
 for a blue helmet, maybe, or the firmness of an oak, or an army's thousand-headed roar, anything, to make us feel more....

                                    the marmoset or the oil-bellied snake
                                    lives to itself, untouched by our ache

of all things I can hate.... the bloodlessness of adverbs - curiously, rarely, marvellously,  richly, exhume-ed-defecated-murderous-solipsistic-anti-social-lah-curmudgeonly I stamp on them - & the rickety joints
of that's & of's & which meets because....

Our Early Fathers, without the mapping muzzle of the Neanderthal, nor the big cats' silent articulation, nor the
pheromone-disciplined many-one-ness of the sweet-tasting termite, nor the dreamt-of reach of the tiny-brained feathered kind...
                                      like a fungoid growing in the skull

.... weak-sighted, scent-unclued, softbellied; to a dog, to a cat, something almost deaf ....

but possessed with a need, with a having-not, driven thus to extend, to add-on, to incorporate:

my house is a mansion of warring tenants, of decayed mantic systems like astrology or the Changes of Chou, neo-Marxist materialism
and derelict Matthean Christology, its nights punctuated by sudden, lyric cries; or the barked commands of wine-damaged anger,
its ohs & ahs & its bastards & fuck yous

personal space - guarantee-me for my own narrative, anchor me in that ancient swaying metaphor, athwart the emporium,
the confectionery box of the five senses, on the alpha rhythms of the sleeping pool, home-harbour-heart's-port

                    a lean and empty belly, wolf
                                                                   to the fat lands of the mind

.... take away speech, the ultimate deprivation of sense .... without articulation, in the (interview) chair, strapped (for words)
rigid, hands stilted, still, no shaping the air for your maps, led by the boss-words, the imperatives of contra/control, resolve you into: em, er, um, I

on the shit-house wall reading about the Great Bowel Shift, when the Englisc language couldn't  tell the difference between
what was coming out of its mouth and what was coming out of its ....

information = power = food supply control

                                    the fed pride sleeps on the sun-glutted plain,
                                    while forest shadows watch, a gain a gain



Where old lozzucks neversweat
And werrit wimmen trash about;
Puddled lane of scrimp and save,
Grued-in gennel of cunnyfogle.

Cuther-yard of miskin chelpen,
Delf-rag hung and splother-thrutcht;
Billywhifflers cobbed-up pigcot,
Rickling-scrawm for podger-orts.



When Hawa looked up from the last call
and asked David,
can you answer me a personal
question?, and smiled,
I said, Go on,
and she
hesitated on the cross she'd seen
hanging from a gold loop
piercing my ear.
Are you a Christian?, Hawa ended.
I scratched my ear.
No, I told her, nodding.
Which means yes.


  Roast Lamb and Mint Sauce

It is a quiet afternoon at Heaven's Gate.
There is a bald man with a belly paunch
and dry eyes covered (like the dead's)
with the day's news. For it is God's
day off on a South Coast beach where
no-one now it seems is thinking
(in someplace you couldn't finger)
of a child being necklaced in a church
(on the mind's map, say, Rwanda)
or other unlikeliness of things that lash
your eyes like a smart sharp wind
on the glimpsed news. For God dreams
and as a few fumble at their worn
pieces of prayer, where a spilled sense
of incense swells like the smoke
of bitter rubber, and while a sparrow
expires from an infarct, and the beer
curdles in plastic beakers in the sun's
heat that simmered five billion years
to overflow on this, and a piebald
painted omnibus discombobulates
the beachfront with its bright load
of ice-cream hunters and trailing
responsible adults,
anxious as deer, so too, outside
watery pastels wisped with cloud,
these walls of summer, a shovel
disintegrates a buried chest
(a skullcase abandoned, a worked
out mine) and finds its Eldorado
abolished, digging for variations
on a theme, and a last motet
collapses unfinished as the universe
ends for a still forgotten composer.
As does this after-dinner dream
of an old man sleeping, a mottled
old man like God, unconscious
throughout, whose hazed unfocused
thoughts swim slow through the still
air I wake from with a startle
of lost keys, an unlearnt language,
knocking on a front door, naked.

                                   Apostrophise, but then not,

Spectare's thinking, summoning, a  twentieth century  as, prostrate under nouns, an Age of Mass,
Masses' Production, of cars, their blank faces, and the gew-gaw brights of this season's trinkets,
of its darke weddynge, the confetti falling like newspaper cuttings,  golden-eared the wheat
upbending under prairie winds
, of speech on thrombosis-spotted celluloid, hoarse from a lifetime
of smoke, Bogart, of speech on fist-clenching balconies and torchlit bandstands, Nuremberg, the
top-hats burning like books, of speech on little black handsets, dull-eyed with grey, of rebuilt ages
like harpsichords, of peanuts, peasants and ring-roaded estates, of the astronauts that went down
on the Titanic, of human living flesh stepping out per second of that one woman in the Middle Kingdom,
, of guitar chords on barbed wire and that stranger's kindness and white-walled maternity
wards raucous as barns  jostling with white (barred) White Christmas turkeys. Gobblers. Of death. And death

and death and death and death yet again yet life ....
                             li ....
                       And he thinks too
                   of echo-effects
                                            on a five-stringed cello
                tuned by Sebastian Bach
                                        and a damp late night
           on an April Thursday
                                     in Caerlyr Year 2000 Leicester

of the Meeting House silence last firstday how his words that broke
of his eggs fried, his beans, his oven-heated chips
of how Ms K -

(of slim waist and mood-turns and pert bum and sharp tongue
and jet-black secrecy her hair swings moon-eyed dependency)

                                          did, didn't
                     was, wasn't

whatever it was he last thought her. Of how next minute's
                        (a spider feels along its trembling line)

as Poland is invading his head and San Francisco is buckling his carpet in c minor on
the Richter scale and a buttock-bare Pope lands mitrefirst in a formaldehyde condom,
et homo factus est, and Colonel Aberdeen  T-bone Angus eyes a hot franchise on Io

for truly now God is found in silence
                     will look up
                                          from the punctured space
                     of the holed white
                                                    on his first page:

   Office Hours

So, the question was this:
was it a mack outside
or a cardboard box?
A wet slap of fashion
or a mobile home
dropped out
of a property slump?
A corrugated coat flat broke
lying in a pool
of piss and surveys,
having drunk too many
catalogues of style?
It had the nature
of an irreducible
untouchable fact
geostationary in orbit
outside language
and a Cape Canaveral
of launch pads
for each new, doomed
bid of metaphor.
It was an eruption
of nothing happening,
boiling like oxygen
beyond the dark ridge
and window walls
of nothing happening:
our office hours.


     Clouds of Unknowing

for that
you carried me
on my back I carry you
in a blue torn
like a papoose-child

hauled on across the Plains
to the Great Lakes

grey over greyblue
and as the ashfall ran
racing the weir
he noticed as one notices a fly

the greywhite powder,
its absurd talc, or sweat salt,
wind blown back,
spattering his black, his boots


like the far-flung fallout from a volcano
exploding within:

the daily enormity of death


now your friends are late autumn swans
and bandy-legged moorhens, the lily-padded
nestsites and the small lives
darting among reeds. Now you are grown
into dark nebulae, your shadow in the swirl.
I look on as you turn, a current-forced swarm
of God's children, plankton

and a cloud swims downriver
and a river drinks a cloud
and a child I whimper ai, ai, ai
and a man I growl no, no, no


     Discurse Alpha Lyrae Remold

The man of the lyreways,
Orpheus, after-being
torn apart by a song
and a woman's hands,
was at a loose end
and discoalescent, an almost
converstation in a not quite
clowd and occasions,
disparts, a happenings
to me. I mean biography, write.
I mean ice. I mean a dark mater.
I mean cosmocrator loiter.

           He had a loud
visions in the mud reeds, flesh,
old stills on star-plates,
life to remind him of his skin,
aways from here, the rite strain caught,
almost late, mirrors
that nuzzled
like warm pronouns

to look in from the veerside
of yes he remembered his head.

                   But, like
parachute jumps off the day's brink
(that is a passport
backwards to the Shire)
              the things stayed metaphor
almosts, quoits

no more. No more
than that he was that, met her
more each selving
wrapped now
on a pressure hold of light
a gravity beat song print
an inplose whirl'd
a waltz to a starberth

a Glowball warming
a quickfire slow



                                Lucia Asylum with Die

Poetry of the scraped bodywork, of a metal taste in the mouth, its outside inspect, its heavy andsir colds kin.
Fuck off Morris Minor, fuck off

descriptorville, plod-in-the-box, fuck off competition lyric. Poetry of the dead repeat, its cabbage machines
palmgrease, its indifference fields. The red lode

unburies urth, to my hard feet, all the miles clare

out of Northamptonshire, hire there fair

saved mechanick

A rhythmia and after

Privately I think in Chinese
calendars, characters
(jerk) at a Flaming Friday
Colossus prance baby
throat-music, Ziggy-O and out
poetry is the beating art
of language, plucked
myself to myself
on that nineday tree
the blood running down from it
the ledgefall of a SheepGoat
no sync hope Ingas nation
I cannot tell me a part
to a hex a fused to a spark
Maya tray a coming
calendrical cylind
the hot intimacy of years
the day soaked blood
the blood soaked grey  

The Collected Poems of Joshua Nene (1955-99)

Walk Dead Still

You modulate a Court, with all its summoned.
Who's in, who's out, who has the King's ear.
Who the judgement. Behindbacks, snipes,
En attendant Gagool. Good Laud, I refuse

your forensic, your sting-pull,
your herd-manage talk.


Every so often I go mad, and climb a tree with squirrels.
It is an English tree. Its fruit pucker from the skin
like gargoyles on a Goth. Look, there's a Blake face,
or here a Smart. Clare? It is a moral tree:

in a breeze it shakes so, its periwig its peruke, dusty,
as if an insect judgement woke. Once
we thought it a Liberty tree, sang of it, too.
Still, it gives me fresh perspective. Arrested,

still. See?

The Possibilities of Rhyme

Ashbery has 'Orpheus, a bluish cloud
with white contours'. A voice
from the speaking crowd, too,
a noise among the heard. I saw

a man once in a rhetoric cloud,
punneling his escape. He went
anon and anon until
he disappeared in the daze.

Optional Ending Extra

Ys. Aitch.



     The Threat of Solipsism at Arecibo

Slowly, like a huge house of a crevassed shell,
on hot grains, the wiry latticery wheeled,
a passenger of a mobile lofted, windy,
on a chandelier of all directions,
feeling for a feather in the sky.
It was a distant aviary
and moving, so that once a turtle
turned, an upstart figure,
each speck of a bristling, angry crowd
was too darned smart, or squawked
in an alien manner, utterly other feathers,
like a missed apostle, or spoke
in a concealed language, tocharian like eggs,
that the turtle had forgotten
in the tale that it had hatched from, long ago,
on a smoky afternoon of old men,
grizzled, seven years too long from the sea,
labouring on harsh dunes,
eyes drilling through the silence,
under constant
populations, their flecked, spitting pointillism
of distance, the perpetual
bellows of the suns, all green canopies withheld
of other, imaginable worlds.


like a stranger's dreams on a statue's eyes

last night
(my head drowning)
after so long why
(greycloud pillow)
did you come back here
(blackwater stone)
tears tearing at me
(airless harbour)
for your betrayal
(no's echosound)
that night?

Giving Pronouns Head

Yip, whip, I'se a zho glee
scrabblers, my
pro nomina sunt CAP
ital I'zd agen. Dough
a police Man dis stapf
watch stop ME on
the screed out
side today to say

Why is it that you are carrying
those Corinthians on your back?

7 ich wz trick
ee butan sed

hits just the wait of traditionsir O cifer

al right / then / carry on /
but dont / let it / hap pen / again

said well thought really
liberation law
domercy fee
o lo gy



There is a bright invisible light
helpless on my forehead

like a fly that has navigated galaxies
with the burden of its own amber.

It is my compassion, beloved.
It wants to drift across the face of all there is

like the one thought of Buddha.
But it is small, but it is a fly,

though transparent as amber.
Your reflection drifts

across its powerless voltage,
its trapped arc

and other shades it permits
to feed it their dark solids

but it is clouded, but it is clear,
and the cloudy reach

of the world turning turns

and dips away
                       like a lover's shoulder

that wants only sleep.


                                   WITTGENSTEIN'S LADDER

I wanna spreckle carbon to ya, babe elle, nat silicon.
    Not logick-shoppers straits, thir thin spikes brittle, thir art-stab transmit, cold chisels, faceless rackets facing dead moons
and if or bits, the cutters, production liner strimmers, sattelite lung deafs, last scream tearing at slashed ends breath. Be
    neuro to ya. I wanna be sticky, fur, bristling like an ear in a forest, a rough round ball rotate, purple your peephole
cloud fizz an ice-cream saxpense. Traces, lynxs, let her in, sparks. Let us ladders let us letters to the thrown. I wanna
    feel my way around the globe, my time-zones switching, a bee navigator antenna round a yell head honey. Foam, froth,
bubbles in the heard. A head walking in a park. Walking its voices the dark.
    My soot, zooter, my finger tracing paper all the ley lines down your spine. Ridge, hillfort, eyrie the lookouts his stories beware.
Walk, digit, move, to a flashfold, the wrap. Feel it beat, the pump art so bloody. Let me clothesly, neueranyeera. Let me
    drop, like a little planetisimal let, on an insect's wings, cellophanic, on a moment in the frail, into your great storm eye
mutter protector here th'orb the urb erupt her sun sing burns obit orbit.


Violence is a cold word and marble.
             And Michelangelo.
Princes must needs status, statutes,
             Forms for their laws.
Born, I drew a statue's name David.

Michelangelo is marble, and a man's
             Hand on the cold
Stone turned to the curve of warm.
             I touch the bow
Of the huge pectorals, draw down

Thorax, abdomen, navel, then find
              Submission below.
As did Michelangelo. To touch our
               Prince at tender,
What price? To hold a man's strength,
                   Bow low,

              Let your hands flow.
The body being it, its beast this burden:
                Violence frozen.



         'O Desdemon! Desdemon .. O!'

A naturalistic cage is made for life.
A measured pain supports the smother pillow.
Your obsolescence builds towards the speed of light.
She cries - a poem chokes - the style is gripping.

A measured pain's beneath all smothering pillows.
Old maps of hell unfold as narrative shrinks.
She cries - this poem's murder - but song goes on.
As engines wheel so the skin markets deal.

Old maps of Hell, infold! The room is shrinking.
What's left to us is speechless, unsigned light.
As engines wheel thus flesh monologues rotate.
'But who wast thou?' the thick curtain ended.

What's left to us is speechless - a howl of light.
A solid dream's substantial, ah! good real estate.
'And wast who thou?' a slurred certain ended.
Empirical ground's a thing to tread. Development!

A solid dream weighs - she cries - poems choke
in obsolescence built towards the speed of light.
Empirical ground supports the measured pain.
A naturalistic cage is made for life.


                                It's a Star-burnie, baby

Grosseteste, estate manager. Acts Publick indecent enclosure. From The Underlings Review.
Him coming to me pour Yorick's-here all pushy his doings on it. In full view! Disgustlichen, that's the dispirit.
So's why the peep-show-squeaks speaks from vices in a crowed. Alloneing. Revile the Humperator's Close,
Dumpty. Dum-tee-tiddle-i-toe.
 And thus Anon:
      Go walk wildwiseside and leftways wide. To yer K'un. Yer Onlie 'Un. Soft earth fall, receiver, a Rift Valley
footprint, shape of an 'O' vibrating in the sand. Call down a stage lightning, a bolt from yer Ch'ien, the big thrust
racket boaster, the alpha-thump and diving head. Make K'un up, Ch'ien down.
           Raise her, lower him.
      Ah, that's better. Peace, T'ai. Says he under, her above.
  Galaxies, milkways, rope us t'above. Good bjorn-in-t'y'all.
Pleas t'meetcha, Head-Inspectre.



This one was a bee, honey.
She fertilised me! Rhymestress.
I have my own pollen now,
hoard, heard,

I shall nurse it, motherly,

and spoon out its sugars
a ladle at a time,
cup on cup-

kissycup. That you may taste it,
sweet, slow, milk,
mixed among dark fruit
a cake

speaking on tongues.



Orphic Roulette

He wanted to push
so far inside her he would
fit like an axle

or a rich man, a winner, flush.
Still as he was driven.

Stock Exchange

After we hauled him out of his dreams,
which were entirely sexual,
and held as fiercely as pillows

like money, smothering gushes,
rushes of flesh to drown in,

the poet spoke of an Ice Age hunter
watching like a bed post

the dear fly by.

Electro's map

Everything was moving to a hurt point
like tenderness. The north lode
of night was an axling stake
driven down from a star. A rigger's
drill on the slow clock face.
And I was crushed, and black
as oil. Under timefold
strata, the weight beneath the sea
bearing down on us, shocked
as a compass by it, love.


  from a Monday Horn-Book

the corporate the body-managed image
massage parle at Pearls
a musica stoled from my speech
into dance that falls apart
on bottlefights on fridaynights
da Vinci's man's a spunkspot
on a slow spit in no-cloud Oort
the tattered banners of a score loft
a Chinese rebellion a Boxer opera
smoke of a BSA your cellshot honey
I am a diagram drained
but wet west of Newton fen
a nerve-patter a-ganglia
a something wurming
a just about to touch


His breast had a burr
like scored leather,
a wallet's brown
roughened skin.
When I let my fingers
ease and trickle
down in channels
to the moist land
waiting, I could
feel a running
undulate fur
like static, all
the root down
to the shock of his
charge, prickling.



The English are tense, present. Chideings, birthings of the Ing.

There is a stream, yawning in the obvious. It's time.
A meltwater. A valley an ankle hoarse left behind.

Right now, I am cooking a chocolate eagle. Yum.
As you read this, it is dining ~ out with your eyes.

Noone ordered the sequence. Noone wrote the menu. Neither.

there's an answer to it all, I know, just at the back of your head.

Last week it was Thursdays I loved, their mammal way of sliding

I hear voices too. And keep seeing things. Off the brains teem mama.

People go out looking for poetry. While everyone's always saying

Just under the overtones, the pianist is mumbling. Humming.

Eee-haw. Eeyore. The sound of a Saxon horse. Its wet straw, honky.

While she worked in Big Giorgio's aquarium, I kept on teasing.
'So what language do fish speak?', I smirked. 'Fin(n)ish', she said.

    First Chinese Poem

            O        O         
O Hate   Err     Aches  Zho  
O Hale   Way   Cuss   Sigh  
O Ian      Jest     Inn     Hit    
O Nay    Corps Twu    He    
O Shun   Her    Lang   Tay   
O        O        O       O



    Be cause
        at five three
defies she
little dronkard's

a tom                           
buoyed blonde   thar
         she goes
blowse a float
out a pout
                blow diskis
n sum onspout

    on a sithan
         tall her
all most fall
     her over a
kate a quake
        obit hobbit
bone shake
   pink fluffy handcuffs
     shak ur hate!    


                         For the Kit-kat Boys a Diction

It being not a discrete occasion. It being its large and overflow, shaggy-dog and story, its fur walking slum.
That is hot breath, fetid, a yellowed tongue fur licking, on waiting a feather douche a pa palpledge a kiss.
Which is too close. It being

a speechstream, baby, and sun of Anon. It being mal a diction, nat grey plumage pluckt by feddirs taught.
It being what wood, honey, its wodwo horny, what trees seal, babel, its home way out and, trailing, root.
That's the dark containment, port, babe, the hug-it clothes in the leave tangle. Foot

stand me up, reddy to abort, and now some one out walking his head herd to remake this rheum's outside drawing


Charm, strangeness, natter

Its bird, its burden,

creaks its wings, leather, horny
froth, flakes, falls, yer nall
storeRR yer knot whorl

that the bodytalk investiture

berthstalk, its cloudy exhale rReyes
a diagramma body hitself
azimage lay doubt
on dissecs
tatation map aintimate, fur
investeRrr, gater
its reptile, its bloodsnub shrivel
corp her hate nirvend
sharecrop divisors
stop, holder

with kate sudden longher
under normal gravities,
birdfold, 5' 3"
t'all as me
with 'Swear it. Forever.' Dupli

green eyes rising like impossible suns

cater nower kate
luff's hlafterfalling dottir
quake her, shakesimage ~


While Raskolnikov sleeps, fevered
                   (for A)

Razumikhin is drunk, and the room blurs
with too much vodka, strasny mir, as God
slips out through a door that isn't there.
Sonya would plead with him, or Avdotya,
if only for the neighbours, but Reason
is shouting at a bodyheap of bedclothes,
Wake you, wake. I'm mad with everyone,
bar you, it's an argument with my skin.

Dostoevsky's ill today, gone like God,
though still I feel his anxious fingers
tapping in my ears. Like a typist's drums.
Razumikhin's quiescent now, pissing
in a potplant. Plastic. The office light's
too harsh here, like an Emden hausfrau
who scalds their ears for rent, coming
from a book elsewhere on guttural steps

as if a Poland wedged in her throat.

I think she will die from her cancer.
Russian scholars should wash more,
neglect steams from hot damp linen.
This sure is some party not to crash.
Here in a coffin-let between a stale
of uncertain divinity, and an anger
black as an overcoat, a torn student's.


Catacomb Markspiel

Not pow her plaice this
    nor no loiter art to pleas is
my own fisc in howse mee
    (fixion of convenience - locate, this gust)
bee push metaphor
          bee touch about
be ware of them frighten hers thaim

outsize messuage restore rent in
    (there is a grebe flake
     I can touch in the sky
a chest-feather a warm playse
     a beating art re
cover am bush to high'd two
     a pen too write
Chinese 'tattoo')

'ttoo' - who being onlie shee
     only who while this night when
said 'tomorrow take body cover'
did hold mee mammal quiet
      on heart rhythm
            art point
sumwhile for still against
       the bad thing the life ~
two be warm fur

"there is no more desperate tender
       place of mammal secure
than in those wordless
       moments of another
arms when we fore
       figure final inevitable
moment of together
       art before
death tear us apart"        


  Wants Happen Amulet

The moon is heavy with the full. Broken cloud,
copper, smoky, aches across it. A smell
of burnt powder, waste, and the loosening stones
of an ancient pile, grey, its pale turretwork
of embattlements, stand inviolate bar
the crackle of a leaf turning, air's yearning,
the remote invisible sentry's tramp
and about, and a concentration
amounting to a mind. That is to say the air's
mind, the not-yet, the nuclear constellations
being born behind the eyes. The time,
delicate as a girl's waist, or a boy's,
sidles by the watch like a breath walking,
in this almost apotheosis of the dark.
An owl hatched out of a storybook
hoots at identity, fur scent blood, and a yew
creaks as if a thought's mass alighted.
Something's about, turns, and a black imprint,
a negative, a prince of all shadows, forms,
all behind scenes, childers to be seen,
of a crowd's heads, a gaggle agog a heard
of eyes. It is time to descend, prince,
you have risen to come down, speak, ghost,
from your high abstracted precipice,
your speech-plinth. Focus, prince, grasp.
While the black feathers of the raven ruffle,
ready to ply inly, and the night-tree
winces at your weight, your firstwords landing:


A list stone

Whoose. Dont. Say wear. Oooos. Things I sort , thoughter. Hand, scene before a finger dip on'd down
long swan neck feed her extend her thumb swim her up predate her oppose a threat throat, note, angler,
bend, hand, hold on in, a pen belay her pin, tight

like, tight, like, it were short where shore hit way up top tree high thought, hight, hiya, hire
arch like it was short, breath, breather, deeper 's write hit

in the bodyfall investigater

 right, deeper draw a breath hand hearse and other, something smoking in it, drawer, noises where there
out no in know no back there a head noise us noyes's run her down the arms stair swell lust look a lock
out hera thur a front daw her bird that's open

look hand now see slower steady me, something trembling stalk, beater, sum beating here it inhere thing
its pounder knocking on my door draw hera breath boy breathe

open outer legs head arms crotch pit stomach plexus head hands legs hand stalk
tremble on an air float tremor petal pedal point her sky plucked globe turn two ur sun thought

turning over on its bed, stream


 No claim terrain

I justlike hanging out
in the wrong time zones talking
to any listen, night, day
wandering. Slowly

at a thousand miles per hour

an almost circle's peer unpeels
itself its ever now disclosure.
Clouds, precipitates, ice: moods
of its always turnings,
that's nice. I love her.

A distant woman, close. I
liked her. She was fine. Fine
weather and stormy.
In her eyes
a gull speck hurled,
a nerve whirled walking,
a vortex skirts, a gather
up days, the haze.




                             Education Acts

In exposed dreams one looked for idylls and kings. He examined pedigrees
       of Legends of Ingoldsby. He repeated rhyme times tables
       of love sonnets and rondeaux.

He maundered at warbling rills, and, though the mill-sirens climbed
       high as the sooted hills, his faire harte
       by brookside espied.

             The Young Lady to her Would-Be Lover

Yesterday, at the town's Free Library, I saw a cloth-capped mechanic,
       holding Poems of 1820 and Browning's Ring,
       uncertain as a young scullion
nervous of the plate she might break.  Ah, Literature, I thought

to be bound in such common board
                                                        coarse as the thick slice
wolfed by brute appetite.



What can you write about
a quarter-mile square
of blind courtyards
and cellar-to-attic flats
dividing like protozoa
or an accountant's dreams
in a sour maze
of redbrick scarface
and cold blue slate
the abandoned Victoriana
of black-buttoned bankers
and sallow lawyers
where Kevin and duff John
or Leroi and O'Malley
watch out
nightly with white base
ball bats or silver gutting
or tent knives
for anyone or no-one that's someone
like you?  How can you
edge out a line to trace studious
failed church gothick
and stucco wrapped concertium
with a street crammed with foodie halls
and hookers at a score?
What's your point your place in this
as you prowl about
turnings you barely know
imagined self floating free
like a white shirt
blown off  a line
of the darkness gathering
on this white page?



I am the cold blue eye of distance
and the all-light that animates your saints.

I am unheard thunder, an ungraspable gassy gong
sounding the bounds of do and do not belong.
I am iron, nickel, carbon,
the undecipherable script racing to your bones.

I bend down to the feet of each unbidden guest.
I am death to all who return my kiss.

I am the pillar of the skies, flying,
that cannot stay where shadows siren,

the end and begin of dust.




      Among the Breaking-Down Abominati persist the corpse-cooking double-headed ghouls
of Urethh.  These afflicted ones, like the Masmoreean boobies, are twice-brained but self-estranged.
Thus do two heads prove worse than one.  This fissure in cosmic justice widens like an unbearable pain,
for while one head jabbers throughout its waking day, its other, its companion, is all but dumb,
like an unseen stranger sensed on the shoulder.
                                                  But it is dumbhead that sees, feels, touches, plays
                                          that old tune on the piano, while talking head plans, orders,  
                                          thinks and sings (the words to a tune it doesn't hear)
      So corpse-cooker spends its days, never knowing quite
why the mirrors always crack, nor where the tune came from,
nor what the night-stars are flying to, flying from,

                                             nor who did this to all the furniture.



Looking  rather like a locked filing-cabinet, and grey, and exuding airs of disconsolate obsolesence,
AutoPoet stood vacant in inattention in an attic corner. Verseless. Themeless. Wingless. Sparse,
an allowance of light crept through a slit of window. Time had crumbled like an acid-paper calendar.
The ghost of Robert the Bruce had given up the spiders. Omnipresent dust roved, like the fetch of a lunar sea.
Suddenly, without authorial preparation, and in a spirit of narrative intrusion, a yellow-beak poked out
like a neighbour's nose in mid-air. Ancient circuits stirred within AutoPoet; agéd, forgotten crystals blinked
into life; encyclopaedias hurriedly consulted themselves and upended verse-forms were righted by anxious,
heaving scansions.
"T-tell me", croaked AutoPoet, his voice hoarse and rusty with disuse and an unoiled larynx. "T-t-tell"
the mechanical bard implored.
The yellow-beak was joined by two black-button eyes. It did not blink. It did not speak. It but hung there,
resting upon an impossibility, in a conjuror's thin air. Then the author prodded. The bird squawked:
"Write 14 sonnets upon the theme of 13 lines. Kree. Boil down a ten book epic into a chain of 7 haiku.
Sqwaa. Recite all known villanelles backwards. Compose a happy ending for Samson Agonistes. Annotate
in Common (Skwaagh) Measure. Fashion a libretto from The Shepheardes Calendar.
Expropriate the means of capital. Kree, sKree. Inveigle yourself into the underfelts of the mighty. Skwaah.
Resist all beans, resist all beans, resist all ..... phuut."
Yellow-beak blinked out, like an unreliable light-bulb (25p each at Mumtaz Stores, Chaucer St).
Slowly, disappointedly, AutoPoet pondered: Ode to Rust.


                                          Evidence of Decay
                             or the Great Tradition's Dismay

AutoPoet lay in partial ruin on a disused factory's floor. Sadly, sourly, he studied his steelgrey disarray:
this missing here, that missing there. With a nod at Don Quixote, and a rueful countenance, but restored
to the possiblity of smiling, he raised himself to upright re-assemblance and, recalling the notion of retrieval,
he trundled down a chill and torn-paper strewn floor.
'What', he thought, 'has happened to the promises of my birth. What has happened to the glories of inheritance?'
As if in answer, or as if in mocking, bales of distorted quotations awoke from the litter: the Ancient Mariner
swaggered with his pet albatross; Hamlet bored everyone with wedding snaps of Ophelia; Homer declaimed
peace on earth and deep interest in vegetarianism and was this California circa 1969?; Jane Austen started
shouting; Virgil cocked a snook at Augustus; The Light Brigade charged Tennyson; Marcel Proust incinerated
his sickbed; Great Expectations won the National Lottery; Tolstoy shaved his beard and turned into an arms
dealer; Dante cut down a forest while Alexander Pope said nice things about people and the soul of William
Shakespeare gave money away to all.
AutoPoet slowed, froze, stopped. He said (to himself), lowly, surreptitiously, as if afraid of being overheard:
'I'm getting too old for all this'.

By Way of an Unreliable Postscript

It was a dour and louring night in the English
Midlands when I went to interview the alleged poet
Bircumshaw.  He was half-asleep on a collapsed
settee and I asked him, after delivering several
proddings to wakefulness, through the fog of
cigarette exhalations, about his personal provenance.
"I had many grandfathers" he said "as many as two.
And I grew up in somewhere despised,  for
good reason, also known as Birmingham.  In my
early youth I came to the realisation that I knew
nothing and have conducted my life on that principle
ever since."

I departed, with an uncertain feeling, rather as if I
had received an unwanted gift.  I trudged home,
under the gathering skies, and thought to myself
"Why do I bother ?"

being more fulsomely the formerly printed "Painting Without Numbers" (ISBN: 0-9541966-0-0)

Copyright: David Bircumshaw 2001, 2007

 Click below to visit the earliest manifestation of A CHIDE'S ALPHABET


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Painting Without Numbers by David Bircumshaw is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.