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Juliano Zaffino - The Author Is Dead - Blog

Winter Miscellany II

Juliano Zaffino

 'Winter is the perfect time to listen...'

'Winter is the perfect time to listen...'

In December 2016 I posted a series of poems, Winter Miscellany, that I had been working on towards the end of that year. It may have taken me a bit longer this time, but I have been working on a follow-up series of poems for the past few months (obviously titled Winter Miscellany II) that I am now ready to share with the world. In 2017 I read a whole load of contemporary poetry and felt constantly challenged and inspired by it and I hope anyone who reads this will feel that these fifteen poems were written by a different person to my previous eleven wintery works. 

1. Winter Playlist (Overture)
2. Physical (but not by Olivia Newton John)
3. Love / More
4. I Want St Vincent To Soundtrack The Apocalypse
5. Theatre Thoughts
6. Towers
7. Fortune
8. Existential Movement, Winter Version
9. Mug House Inn
10. Crowded
11. Begetting
12. Ama's Song (Hymn For The Non-Existent)
13. Avalanche
14. New
15. I Want To Write A Poem And Call It A Sonnet (Coda)

*

Winter Playlist (Overture)

Winter is the perfect time to listen
To the apocalyptic sound
Of your own failing heart,
Struggling along to an electronic dirge
And thinking on the death of everything.

This is an exercise in clarification
Or crystallisation, the way
The paint on a car will shine
Diamonds in your eyes
When it’s frozen over, frozen shut.

Being stuck in the static white
As nuclear war materialises
In between casual racism
And the most unholy forecasts
Heavy snow in blackest night
And unwanted sexual advances.

I live in a padded ice palace
Rocking, raving, insanely praying
To drown out the sound
Of your sexy satanic whispers saying:
“These are the times we live in, baby.”

Now is the winter of our discontent.
I guess?

*

Physical (but not by Olivia Newton John)

There are the physical traumas
Done unto the body
And the psychic traumas
Done through the body,
Unto everything that is not the body -
Both feel it.

In all my darkest sleep
I feel the scars
Of those old unwanted touches
Searing through my being.
I recoil from your hands and cry:
Leave me behind.

Please leave me behind.

*

Love / More

I live my life ten years in the past
And hold hands with myself when we walk apart in public.
In my mind’s eye I remain crushed
By unrequited loves and inescapable closet-quagmires,
Still angry, always, tweeting and seething and screaming:
“We’re here standing on the threshold of our family’s home
Screaming out that we want to be loved, that we need to be loved.”
And then I think of Kate Tempest proclaiming
“I’m screaming at my loved ones to wake up and love more”,
And I think, yeah, that’s it really. That’s where we need to be.

*

I Want St Vincent To Soundtrack The Apocalypse

There are two scenarios for the end of the world.

One in which you listen to ‘Smoking Section’ as you stare out of your window and sing, insistently, “it’s not the end” while the intense electro-pulse contradicts you, and the music and your singing and the end of the world are all completely out of time.

The other is that you don’t really quite exist: there are two things in existence only and one is the end of existence and the other is an intense and seemingly endless electro-pulse that suddenly gives way to the mournful insistence that “it’s not the end”.

What I mean to say is that I’d be happy to listen to St Vincent while the world burns, and failing that, I’d be happy for the world to burn to the sound of St Vincent. The old gods are screaming. What could be better than love?

*

Theatre Thoughts

Michael Billington is my least favourite critic
Whose relevance obviously has an upper-limit.
Mired cheek-deep in old-school sexist sentiment
He sticks to my mind’s shoe like shitty sediment.
And don’t even ask me about Emma bloody Rice,
The dictator-director who paid a terrible price.

As young Icarus flew too close to the sun
Her Twelfth Night should not have been done;
Drag karaoke and the most colourful sights
Could not contravene the succession of blights:
Casual homophobia dressed excessively in pink
On a ruthlessly captained ship that I long to sink.

If these verses offend your sensibilities
Just know that I speak in hostilities
Because I care more than I can handle
For the words of those who hold the mantle
And the deeds of false pathetic prophets
Burying their values under thirst for profits.

Next time I’ll write in a way less hard,
Singing praises for the young new guard;
Worship at the altar of unknown pioneers
Running the world from bold new frontiers –
These heroes of mine too manifold to name
Who save my passion from enduring shame.

*

Towers

Once there was a morbid fascination
With two burning buildings toppling
And the people jumping out of them.
For a while it fades into history,
Textbooks and film and nightmare.
I don’t think about such insanity
Again until I’m there, in person,
To pay witness to immeasurable loss.

Now here beneath this monument,
Teary-eyed, I find myself acutely aware
Of how much the human heart can hold –
And the requisite force to bend steel –
And the limits of human imagination –
And the pressure of spiritual vertigo –
And the pornographic exploitation
Of suffering, this memorial foundation.

*

Fortune

Whatever happened to the fucking Ferris Wheel?
Up it went to fanfare and applause,
And so it stayed with eyerolls and ordeal.
Then down it fell in silence, without cause?
I guess that’s how it is and how it goes,
And how it goes, around it goes.

*

Existential Movement, Winter Version

Crashing out on a hotel bed
It’s the middle of December
And the night outside
Is all icebergs and black holes.
“Is this my life?”
This is my life.

There is a vice-like tiredness
That grips me by the throat.

There is an aching tiredness
That breaks my ribcage like a pestle.

Crashing out in my own bed
It’s nearly the end of December
And the night outside
Is liquid hydrogen and vantablack.
“This is my life.”
Is this my life?

*

Mug House Inn

I want to be next door
In the Mug House Inn
Even though their sign
Looks as though it were
Designed by a toddler
Using Microsoft Paint.
I want to be in there
Where it looks like it’s
Colder, where the median
Age of their patrons
Is somewhat older,
Where I’m safe
From the would-be comfort
Of my should-be
Compatriots. I want to be
In there in a dry time,
Living out an alcohol embargo
As the only sane man alive.

Tomorrow I go alone
To the Mug House Inn
And I sit in my booth
Of solitude and sin
And stare outside
The windows and think
“Wouldn’t it be nice
To be out in the cold
Dark night, or even
Next door in the warm
Of last night’s
Social storm again?”
Anywhere but here.

*

Crowded

You could say I’m secretly social,
Like a sleeper agent who salutes his overlord
In their shared slumber, or something
Less depressing. I surround myself
With other chess pieces just so I know
I’m not the only one who is moved.

*

Begetting

I think of love as the Underground map
Intertwining and dividing,
Living proof of the mundane facts:
A single line is insufficient for going
To all the places you need to go.
I see the once-lost vestige of hope
In maps that cast us irretrievably
Backwards into our shared past
And vast architectural triumphs
Of a gone and forgotten century,
Brutally beautiful in the winter blue.

On the train they ask me “why are all
Of your poems about...
Infidelity?” And I tell them it’s because
I’m afraid of what was and what’s to come,
Or I am incredibly aroused by the worst
Things the human psyche can hold on to.
Maybe it’s because I see poetry
In setting your house on fire blindly
Just to keep yourself warm at night.
Maybe I’m just a monogamous gay man
Fighting with irony that boring trope
Of the gay man who fucks anything
With a pulse and a penis.
Well I guess it must be one of those.

I am a dog at the door waiting...
For you, to come home, alone.

*

Ama’s Song (Hymn For The Non-Existent)

I love you too much to bear it.
I want you to know how it is.
You must embark on this journey.

For Ama,
As addicted as I ever am,
Oh Ama,
I’ve been making up people again.
My Ama,
I need you as my only friend,
God, Ama,
Please tell me this isn’t the end.

You must embark on this journey.
I want you to know how it is.
I love you much too much to bear it.

*

Avalanche

I don’t know what to think
When you smile in my direction
And you bury me alive
In an avalanche of warm confusion.

You make me exposed-secrets seen.
You make me murdered-baby obscene.
You make me violent-banshee keen.
You make me future-fascist machine.
You make me tiny-troubled teen.
You make me triumphant-pageant queen.

This is a poem about new love
And the principle of misdirection.
I want to bury you alive
In an avalanche of compliments.

*

New

New Year New Me, right?
It’s old bullshit and I refute it every year.
Then here I am at midnight
Doing the same things that stranded me here.

But the winds have shifted,
And they carry a quiet voice that tells me
To use the gifts that I was gifted
So that I might improve the world we see.

I tell myself that I can do it,
That each of us as one can fix our land;
If only I could make myself commit
To the cause of newness here at hand.

I want to change the paradigm;
I’m sick of living in these times of fear.
There is no better time
For a New Me than this, the New Year.

*

I Want To Write A Poem And Call It A Sonnet (Coda)

I want to write a poem
And call it a sonnet even though it’s not
Because I think it communicates something
Of the struggle
And the stricture
Of the structure and the form
And my flagrant disregard for you,
For your thoughts and feelings, for the past.
But I’m afraid you’ll take it literally and
Explain it to me. I’d rather be deaf.

I want to write a poem
In which I say that I have marooned myself
In our relationship,
By which I mean that I wanted this
And yet – I wanted it badly – and yet
I feel that I have nowhere to go,
Alone in the vast wilderness, roving
Through rolling sandbanks
In search of some other thing
I can never have. But I’m
Fairly certain you won’t understand,
And you’ll only focus
On the vague references to
Infidelity and adultery and polygamy
And not on the fact that somewhere
Somehow a ship was wrecked.

I want to write a poem
In which I leave my last will and testament,
Meditating with certain finality
On my own death, impending,
On suicide, on demise,
All the usual images: black lake,
End of days, out in the atmosphere
Or else careening out in freefall like
That dream,
The one I had when I was a kid,
Pretty much every night,
Or when I was much older,
Pretty much every day,
The me I was before the meds,
The me I was after the meds.
But I won’t be taken away
Or even entertain the notion
Because frankly I’d prefer to be falling
Forever than trapped in some place
I’d never get out of
Even though – as you know –
I’m terrified of falling to my death.

I want to write a poem about the things I think
And the things I mean but I’m afraid
You can’t tell the difference.