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Juliano Zaffino - The Author Is Dead - Blog

Winter Miscellany III: Robot Twerking Horses

Juliano Zaffino

‘It’s a sad season / I want to weaponise it’

‘It’s a sad season / I want to weaponise it’

For the past two years, around this time, I’ve posted a small selection of wintery poems I’d been working on around that time. This year I’m doing the same, for the third time, with twenty poems icy and grey. Some of these poems began as early as October – the closing poem began just last night.

1. Robot Twerking Horses (Overture)
2. Winter Solstice
3. As If You Were A Pearl
4. Waiting For Us To Plummet To Our Deaths
5. “No One Likes A Bipolar Clown”
6. So Casual
7. Conversation With Family Around The Holidays
8. New Year Prayer For The Apocalypse
9. Here Come The Sommeliers (Drunk Poem)
10. Twelve Minutes In Traffic
11. It Suits You
12. Canonising You
13. Controlled Burn
14. When Odysseus Comes Home (II)
15. Heaven For Everyone
16. Mutually Assured Destruction
17. I Am The Pretty Picture Of Damaged
18. Another Gay Poem
19. Horses
20. Winter Waxes, Winter Wanes

*

Robot Twerking Horses (Overture)

“Swathes of conversations
And dreams
They come to me singing
Demanding to be heard
A voice
A warrior riding
Helms an army
Riding high
On robot twerking horses”;
I think that’s what you tell me,
I think that’s what you mean,
As the hypothermia sets in,
The delusion that blurs your edges
With mine,
One of us the reflection,
The other,
The knife.

*

Winter Solstice

A cross on the calendar tells me
The time has come
To write a hundred heartaches into poems,
Render winter bleakly
On the cold white page afore
It’s a sad season
I want to weaponise it
Strike fear into the hearts of my enemies
With a chill wind
And a depressing anecdote
Everything going cold all at once
This apartment and this body
And this temperament

Here on the watershed second
Such warmth and progress behind us
Brace for snowfall covering
A shining reset button
Seasons spent in freefall, screaming 

*

As If You Were A Pearl

Horror fantasies unravelling unpalatable truth:
You’d have no way of understanding the world
Through the glittering eyes of a beautiful person,
A visceral disconnect brutally affecting you
And the processors in your head,
Stunting emotional growth
Breaking glass against your fine-china skin

Imagine waking up as a beautiful person
All enamel toughness and determined value,
The subject of a vast economy
And a currency, safe from insolvency
In a world that would protect you
As if you were a pearl and the world, really,
Your oyster, the ugly shell that houses you

Does it matter that beauty would corrupt you
The way power does, when all you want
Is to be coveted biblically? Your innards
Will still be rotting beneath gilded skin
A mind infinitely decaying,
Your smiling face inviting every stare
And strangers laying their hands 

*

Waiting For Us To Plummet To Our Deaths

I wish I wasn’t so ambivalent
Towards our latest predicament,
The precipice we’re hanging over.
In this moment I know with certainty
I have become a Millennial™,
Because I roll my eyes so hard
It shifts the weight of the car,
Teetering now above oblivion.

I wish you weren’t so oblivious
Towards our latest predicament,
The smashed up guard rail
Behind us and the rocks below,
The way my hands shake
The steering wheel. I brought us
Here, and you didn’t even notice,
I did it just for you. Mostly.

I wish we weren’t so utterly fucked
But I tell myself it’s too late for that,
That all we can do is react to this
Situation, to the here-and-now.
I tell you we are about to die but you
Are texting someone and smiling
So I think to myself “alright, at least
I get to die how I lived, self-righteously”. 

I get bored of stupid wishing
And take off my seatbelt, car creaking,
Open the door, climb out to safety,
Thinking “how will I tell this story
In two hundred and eighty characters
Or less?” But you’re still in the car
And the car is still, for the most part,
On the ground, just one foot in the grave.

I am wishing again that you’ll look up
And see where you are headed,
That you’ll look for me and find me
Missing, that you’ll come back to me.
What break-up story would I tell
If I left you here? Instead I watch the car,
Its vertiginous, nauseating see-saw.
It’s not too late. Just give me a call.

*

”No One Likes A Bipolar Clown”

There is some dark makeup
Running down my bright face
Blurring the unclear lines
Between sadness and rage;
I’ve left myself in the cold,
In this self-isolated place,
Caught up so furiously
In the helpless excess of my age.
It’s pointless advice; no further
To fall, no further to disgrace
Myself for the paying audience
That long to see me in a cage.
They love the endless drama
Of my disorder, they embrace
Me as I am, free reassurance
They don’t belong on this stage.

*

So Casual

It’s the middle of December
And outside someone
Is calling my name –

We’re in that rural hotel
That’s come to delineate us,
That situates our mutual timeline:

Another dazzling jacket
Made impressions in the hallways
(Every one I wore for you);

A white shirt, sweat stained,
Hanging from the rounded wood
Of the four-poster bed.

It feels like I’m here every year,
Sometimes in a different bed,
And you always have a long bath.

For that one hour my sadness
Could be only decorative
Before you open a secret door –

You lie silently the night through
Hours passing by me, bitterly,
Unsure how to make it to morning –

Your breath is the background music
Amplified to cover this torture,
Teeth sunk into my own skin –

It’s clear, you’re disappearing,
In this fast settling fog,
The obscurity you summoned –

By sunrise I’ll be different.
This is not an empty promise.
The centre has shifted.

It’s the end of another year
And in every aspect
Nothing really has changed –

But it’s the middle of December
And outside someone
Is calling your name.

*

Conversation With Family Around The Holidays

Family: (in unison) Hello!

The boy has already said hello
To most of his family, the same greeting
Regurgitated, the way it always is
And somehow still more soulless;
In the kitchen, his grandmother
Stands around supervising dinner’s
Preparation, a priest at the pot.

Boy: Hello.

It’s been so long.
The boy looks around the kitchen.
He used to do the washing up here,
Scraping tasteless food into oblivion
And ignoring the thoughts
That crowded him, the darkness
Knocking at the windows every night.

Grandmother: I almost forgot what you look like.

Now he wonders why he ever came back,
Why his family don’t come to see him,
How his existence could be so incidental.

Boy: Lucky you.

The boy’s family laughs, his grandmother
Rolls her eyes lightly, politely.
Later the boy will drive home alone,
In the dark, where he can’t see
His own reflection in the rearview,
Doubtful he was ever even living.
Elsewhere, the lights out,
His family are still talking,
Animatronics when the kids blink.

Family: And isn’t it nice that our lives are continuing that nothing is ever changing that we have everything we need here in the dark here in the silence that everything outside this door is nothing to us that those who leave will never come back forever

*

New Year Prayer For The Apocalypse

Ushering in the New Year with the glamour
Of a thousand massacres. That’s all I know:

It started off wrong and now I’m pretty sure
It’s going to kill me. You know how it is

When you get in the car and hit your head
Before driving off. No matter what happens

The destination will only ever be polluted
By the journey’s agony. Self-sabotage or sacrifice

Killing my own plastic avatar, so passively,
And still losing the game. This is the future,

Where only unconsciousness is a practical escape
From my presaging failure. And even then

Sleep gives way to dreamed up dormant horrors
Rooted in my phobias, deep. Maybe unavoidably

In the dream I’m still rolling dice and praying
Frantically I roll a five. And so I roll all night

*

Here Come The Sommeliers (Drunk Poem)

Who will defend me soberly
When your mother calls me boring?
I claw, all frantic-like, for my sanity
To keep a fragile brain in check;
It’s work for me, a full-time job
Just to be okay. And I know it’s easier
To say nothing, the way it’s easier
To be cruel when you are bitter,
But whenever I decline a drink
And feel the shifting eyes of everyone
Judging my out-of-stepness with the rest
I think “it’s even easier to say yes”
Than to decline the slow ambivalent poison
That clouds me, that unsettles my spirit.
“It’s boring.” I am boring. Self-preservation
Is
        Deathly
Boring. Maybe I should tell her
“Actually I’m not boring, really, I’m a warrior
Battling off the sommeliers with reason,
Your greatest weakness, all I have left”.
Maybe you could just tell her to fuck off,
And we could leave with our heads high,
Me driving intently, you dozing, drunkenly.

*

Twelve Minutes In Traffic

I feel a little sick, after a while, I leave my body,
Unable to bear twelve minutes of feeling
Time like a cold wind passing me by.
My fists are numb from swinging back
And forth against the leather of the wheel,
These hands turning black. In the past
I could wait a few minutes for tragedy,
Now every second lost feels like a death.

*

It Suits You

There was a time
I knew how to pronounce my own name
Before it was subsumed
In a sea of other people’s mispronunciation
And disregard for specificity.
And I know it doesn’t matter to you
But I never know how to introduce myself
Or how to correct people
When they get it wrong
When I trip over it myself
And in the end it’s easier anyway
Just to say
“Yes that’s me”
And to carry on, taking on that alias too
Weighed down by another way
You can address me. We’d both
Be less hassled
If you just spit at me instead;
It means the same.

*

Canonising You

For a time every word about you
Was a love-poem. I filled volumes
With testaments to the love I bore
Like a child for you, so in the future
Some distant civilisation might see you
For the deity I blindly worshipped.
When did I stop canonising you?
How did we become the people
I wrote about in satires and tracts,
The blindfolded solipsists
Shoving silence in their mouths?
Someday you might return to my canon
Like a new-fangled hero, the love-interest
With no secrets, someone who survives.

*

Controlled Burn

It’s a marvel that you never tire
Of deforesting me,
Stripping the land of all that grows
For me. It is hell to want so much
When all you have left
Is cinders in the cedars. I used to be
Something, not much, not a continent
But contained, content.
Once I grew skywards and you
Nourished that, invested in that,
The green skyscraper city I was becoming,
Built up to be cut down, like a god,
Like produce bound for the rot.

*

When Odysseus Comes Home (II)

I feel like Penelope
When Odysseus comes home
Alive,
I feel like myself,
Odysseus my chariot, his hips,
All exploration and raging, battle.
It’s brief, a five minute ecstasy
Takes me out of Ithaca,
Out of the funeral pyre I burn for him.
I don’t believe my eyes,
I hold him tight, husband to the queen,
The cunning, Penelope.

*

Heaven For Everyone

There’s no one alive I know of
Who really wants to get into Heaven.
I heard a joke about how it’s “Heaven (comma),
For everyone”, and I couldn’t help myself
But picturing my colleagues, the co-writers
Of the gay agenda, parading fierce down
The streets of Elysium, passing Gay-fearing
Worshippers who must conquer themselves
With a smile or else be cast out of paradise.
I thank my lucky stars that I am already cast out,
A godless heathen dancing naked in the flames.

*

Mutually Assured Destruction

I know, it’s unfair of me, I need to stop but I have a problem, you want spoons and I’m writing can openers, I just can’t help myself (I use that phrase a lot I know) because what I do is compulsive, it’s the sort of thing I can’t just choose to turn off and I think if you really loved me you’d never even ask in the first place, you’d endure a thousand poems unflattering you if you cared about my health and wellbeing and the need I have to get it all out, to let my mind like blood from a sore, and I guess we’re not really on a cliff-edge, it’s more like we’re tiptoeing around the wetted lips of a volcano acting like we’ll never fall and burn if we just don’t look down, holding each other’s gaze in the vain hope we might survive, a pact that if we can’t live together truthfully then we won’t, that’s more accurate, so like I was saying we’re not really on a cliff-edge any more than Eliot was really in a wasteland and I am not comparing myself to Eliot I learnt that lesson the hard way last time but what I am saying is that this is poetry and it doesn’t mean anything because it’s imagined worlds and words but that doesn’t mean I can stop that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter – no – you’re right it doesn’t matter but it matters to me, a little, if you’d just let me finish –

*

I Am The Pretty Picture Of Damaged

If you look up
“Damaged”
In the dictionary
You will see a four-thousand word
Personal essay that describes me
And the crumpled sun-worn image
Of my two hundred and six broken bones.
I’ve never been the same.

*

Another Gay Poem

I am an untapped resource
Use me
This is not sexual
My body is political
And all my life I have longed
For someone to think
That I could be useful
As an object, as a martyr,
It doesn’t matter
If you swear
You’d die without me

I never got out of Heteroland
Here and trapped forever
Singing prayers
For a grand gay liberation
Becoming a parody
Screaming in the face
Of straight brutal passivity

Winter is the worst time
To live in another’s land
Blindsided by Christmas trees
And heteronormative greeting cards
Gendered robins mocking me
Don’t put a ribbon on me
I won’t be shelved like that
Insistent existence
No matter the cost, no matter
How many friends
And relatives I have lost
To my unbitten tongue,
Unbridled winter rage

I’m telling you
Just do whatever you want with me
I’ve had enough
Of all this pesky agency
It’s drained me to think
So long for myself,
Never laughing at a thing
It would be easier not to
And I want to be easy

I forgot where I was going
With this

*

Horses

“Swathes of conversations and dreams
Come to me singing, or…
Demanding, to be heard, like…
It’s like… it’s a voice,
It’s the voice of a warrior riding
Before an army, high above them
Like a movie, it’s wrong but they’re
Working horses, they don’t know”
And even now that you’ve repeated it all to me
I don’t know what the fuck you mean.

I’ve heard the brain shuts down
In certain cold conditions
And I know for sure
That mine is never working
When you talk to me, nothing sinks in.
I wonder if this is all that’s left for us,
Shivering and misunderstanding.

Eventually I’ll realise
You’re not even here, I froze myself
To death alone, for nothing,
Imagining the last vestiges
Of your signature warmth.
You’re safe, you’re somewhere else,
As I become nothing
And we both forget myself.

Cut open the sky, love, you are my knife,
Serrating east to west in lightning,
Forked, lightning drawn in sheets
To call me home to bed, to you.
I ride a wave of silver horses
In someone else’s vision,
My own dreams coming to
With clarity, the way I do
When I come home to you. 

*

Winter Waxes, Winter Wanes

January.
Already I can tell it’s getting colder
Even as the winter wearies of itself,
As its days are numbered
And its festive joys long behind it.
It’ll be colder yet, again, and
Freeze us all out, there will be nothing left.

Here on the watershed second
The cold and loss behind us and ahead,
I can tell,
There will be nothing left.