My poems often arrive at inconvenient moments; like the client who begins to tell their therapist about the abuse thirty seconds before the end of the session. They spill just before I have to leave for work, or while I’m driving, when a comment on the radio, an ambiguous billboard, causes me to pull over, photograph or dictate into my phone. Once a month I’ll review the fragments, see what’s in the net, commit them to paper.
Then there are the ones entangled in sleeplessness, in the 3 a.m. rant – all those things circling that once written down seem content to stay grounded. Most often it’s the first-thing-in-the-morning stream. (I try to avoid the world until I’ve streamed.) There’s usually plenty of residue from forgotten dreams. I don’t punctuate initially – it gives more options:
I might look out my window or down at my feet think about the shoes downstairs what’s moving outside what will happen this day in that field/house at some specified future or past there are branches and my shoes have probably been moved by others and always the interruptions knockings builders a courier the daughter’s boyfriend looking for her a mug dropped the insistent bladder that internal world of invisible colours moving outside buds the things you know are out there somewhere probably (it’s that time of year) or the annoying matchboard knots weeping resin butterflies on the bedroom wall those nagging butterflies I put into a jam-jar and murdered as a child the green wine bottle on the dressing table its candle-stub – maybe an hour of light a deadline trail of wax how to motivate an inanimate object to at least reveal its insides or see it upside down or dismembered with an angle-grinder I might use my expert knowledge on frog reproduction, burning flapjacks or the temperature when chemically combined water disappears and earth becomes ceramic
I know about diesel in a petrol car how auto correct gives patrol
I might have a revelation with N+7
I know about digestion in a phantasmagoria carbohydrate how automat correct gives paunch
I might tell the world about where I’ve been I might use how it feels to nearly drown or lose a finger or how everything got smaller on that economy flight to Jupiter I know how to watch people at terminals in Africa or Cardiff and the colours and unexpected things found under fresh grass in a lawnmower box and what I think Sappho really thought about her brothers I might write about my love of pliers the growing whiteness in the blue or brown stretch while pulling insulation from copper wire and what might happen when all the birds my father has ever seen are put into a room with him without any windows I might arrange them all in
columns justified see how they fit or don’t or discard or embellish merge or break apart or show how they might sound impaled in some deep gnomic pit on pointy sap-weeping sticks poking from the mud or move the end to the beginning slash the middle and then threaten what is left with a small yellow file and leave it in the dark for months then when I no longer recognise the title bring it up into the light I might repeat the processes again and again and again and then offer it some punctuation.
Michael Ray is a poet and visual artist living in West Cork, Ireland. His poems have appeared in a number of Irish and international journals, including The Moth, The Shop, Cyphers, The Penny Dreadful, One, Southword, The Stinging Fly, Ambit, Magma and Numero Cinq.
© Michael Ray, 2018. Image © Rob Hudson, 2018.