Take Off

videos of space shuttle launches are enough
to leave me a cried-out wreck for a morning.
I’ll ask you not to put on your suit & go
but only because I’m coveting that soaring sensation,
the total chain-release of never coming back.
vulnerability’s the fashion we both look best in.
escape velocity depends on a vital confidence in image.

JAMES SYKES

4.32 – 4.47pm Wall Stare

dramatically remove & replace your glasses
in darkened rooms while humming a theme tune
to experience an entirely new perspective.
how was it for you? obviously not worth telling
someone else about, it being one of those things
nobody believes actually takes place.
some of it is left out because there is the expectation
not to be boring while other stuff stays dormant
due to inaccurate articulation; it’s up to you
to decide which is a more legitimate reason
for silence. no one really wants to be confronted
with the fruit machine levers of a person
and a sign reading ‘pull for images’.

JAMES SYKES

Six Seasons and a Movie of Cool and Cute Adventures

Was that what you meant when you said those things
I’d never heard until now, your bell-toll-echo?

I don’t want to fuck another year over.
I think I genuinely did just need time.

Realisations strapped into passenger seats & driven
by time-commuters leap out, knock me to the asphalt.

I’m totally ready to discuss a host of things, to have
six seasons and a movie of cool and cute adventures. 

JAMES SYKES

The sun shines; by the mailbox, leaves
of the divided birch tree folded, pleated like fins.
Underneath, hollow stems of the white daffodils,
Ice Wings, Cantatrice; dark
leaves of the wild violet. Noah says
depressives hate the spring, imbalance
between the inner and the outer world. I make
another case—being depressed, yes, but in a sense passionately
attached to the living tree, my body
actually curled in the split trunk, almost at peace,
in the evening rain
almost able to feel
sap frothing and rising: Noah says this is
an error of depressives, identifying
with a tree, whereas the happy heart
wanders the garden like a falling leaf, a figure for
the part, not the whole.
Matins (I) by Louise Gluck

Days

I keep having days like wet bars of soap.
Earlier I was wondering whether sadness
is circumstantial or geographical –
I’m still not sure they can be separated.
I keep meaning to explain things in full.
The beginning’s great, it’s clean,
it’s rehearsed – “I just” – and then it all
slides away like the smooth rush of a passing car.
Headlights briefly flash by like the thought
before the one that goes “on seconds thoughts…”.
And we continue to clench glasses & phones
the way we should be clenching each other’s hands.

JAMES SYKES

If you’d only listened to what I said
we wouldn’t be in this mess,
or we would be in a different mess –
they’re sort of the only two paths available.
I’m sorry you were led to believe otherwise,
but that’s the way the world crumbles.
I on the other hand have guiltily
stood still for eternity – you know,
I have this funny recurring dream: it concludes
with the creeping tingle of pins & needles.

JAMES SYKES

In Bed Is Where They Find You

You wake up thinking something like
“cuddling you was like cuddling a cactus”
and then you are still for an hour as warm hands
pull you down to the mattress.
It’s not that you don’t want to get up,
it’s that the abyss of history yawns hungrier,
and like an endless shop window there’s so much
to look at and so much to want
whereas in the kitchen it’s probably just cold
and like a dismantled stage
from a performance watched, reviewed, forgotten.
“Cuddling you was like cuddling a cactus”
but then the little pinpricks from spines healed
and it was like you had never been touched at all.

JAMES SYKES

All the People You Never

Caught in the headlights of our possible futures
we like to stand for days, months, years,
unmoving and considerate, although not
for ourselves, but to the situation, treating it
carefully, fearing a breakage, like an ill lover.
It never has to end or die, this is its greatest
attraction – it’s what they’d put on the poster
or lead with in the trailer. But it’s an advert
for nothing, for something that never occurs,
never gathering enough force or energy
to spring into action, remaining only notes
for something left in a drawer, to be opened
once more in twenty years and chuckled at.

JAMES SYKES

Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed, and growing sweet—
all this universe, to the furthest stars
all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.

Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,

a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.

Buddha in Glory - Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. by Stephen Mitchell
Everything is far
and long gone by.
I think that the star
glittering above me
has been dead for a million years.
I think there were tears
in the car I heard pass
and something terrible was said.
A clock has stopped striking in the house
across the road…
When did it start?…
I would like to step out of my heart
an go walking beneath the enormous sky.
I would like to pray.
And surely of all the stars that perished
long ago,
one still exists.
I think that I know
which one it is—
which one, at the end of its beam in the sky,
stands like a white city…
Lament - Rilke

I think bravery comes into it, sure,
and also a certain desire to see & understand.
There have been many days where just listening
to the tropical whir of the refrigerator
has kept me still like a white-noise radio
masking alien signals, or the traffic-stampede
has kept me indoors fearing for my life.
It’s not that easy to actually *do* anything
and anyone who says otherwise is puffed
up with credible yet nerve-freezing bravado.
And I saying all bravery is false? I don’t know,
but many things you need have shown themselves
to be so. Just stick with your friends, your mottos,
your radar extending a little each day, I think that’s
how it goes, I think that’s what everyone else is doing.

JAMES SYKES

The familiar kindling-snap of ribs
as another muscle twists under the force
of a beautiful feeling-tug.
It was strange you not being here.
It was strange floating in that voidness,
up to my elbows in time, sleeves always rolled back
and damp at the edges but now look at me,
in a suit at all hours and sleeves done up
around my wrists as I try to look and perform presentably.
It’s the last great art of magic & illusion.
We like to be fooled, we like to give over
our reigns of perception for a short while
and sit back smiling, thinking go on, trip me up.

JAMES SYKES