Tom Betteridge

‘held at the curve of the eye / for a dream of shared life’

an infant is trying to kill me
to dish me up
hi goosey
butts in again
on the warm carriage seat
the comic image
storyboard entirely of
on blue backgrounds
marker-pen gooseys that slot in
always on schedule
carousel of gooseys
that I stroke finally
on the DLR and in the armchair
and at the hot desk
and beside you in bed their feathered down
and feathered flight
their deep layering
of feathers I stroke and never stop
non-visual entirely close my eyes to
avoid smoothing out life
the mechanics the stabilising tech
close my eyes
for the rush
of stable thrown-up gooseys on blue
or the well-turned-out aristocratic man
who gently
cuts his own throat with a penknife
the gooseys
and the penknife
butting in
on the bus always there as I try to listen
to you my bubble throat
the fucking hanging geese
cut gasps
involuntary thuds
as you get to the good bit totally
feeling geese here
tinny but at all times
geese and throat-cuts
for years and nobody knows about this
the comfort
of the constant geese and penknives
constant in the summer heat
under the clamped overcast sky
that slot and cut and slip their way in
expose themselves
then leave then come back magic
lantern of geese and knives
feathered nooses in black marker pen
on a baby blue background
like on a playing card
playing out as comfort
always returned to
skidding about in the Mudchute snow
seasonal work
on the DLR
against the dockland basin
the cormorants ducking for small fishes
the lone turtle on the nest
of the great-crested grebe her babies on her back
in the trash
among the baby blue plastics
jut-in daydreams of mutilation
walling in the deep interior
indoor swimming pool
gently scalding this is an imposition
all these trinkets
penknives like the lace
of accumulated history
clouding the receptive mind
laboriously quiet
all the mute sparkplugs of accreted
emotional and physical violence
of the forties the violences
of the fifties you suffered
the violence suffered by your friends
at the hands of their partners
in the fifties
and then the sixties
and the accumulating griefs
of the waning boom
and the community support decampment
to the village to the
home to the fenced garden
and the violences of the seventies
and their re-emergence as the infants
that make settlements on invisible ridges
packed into the cells
little iceskaters
on the synapses
and the resurgence of your material history
as the driver of entire collapse
skiing off the mountain
and the three-day week
and malevolent polishing
abrading like hide
the entire visible
surface everything seen
into a mirrored substitute
for lack
of acknowledgement
attention or recognition from the
coalface men escaping the draft
close my eyes
closed over
honk honk
and so on back to the first
at the table
in the corner
jaded and sullen
silent under the banker’s lamp
in the armchair
making professional the home
polishing kid-skin
scrubbing eyes blank
securing the territory
exploding the bridge
corralling bodies
evading account
the totally primary one
in the 13th century or
1850 give or take
or the armourer in 1945 in Berlin
and then grief again
chew chew
and the violences of the eighties
and the withdrawal of investments
and the sourcing of cheap coal from
apartheid South Africa
and the booming love
of pit closure
and canny effacement
close the book
dynamic spreads of febrile thought
and fleshed-out
measurements of violence
and the insurgent
of the image static and golden
of the man
in the armchair breezily
cutting chipping away
the art project
the world in the hand
the complete desolation
of love in the brain as
the psychic scene
and the all-encompassing violence of the
distance between the psychic fact
of loss and disavowal held in the infant
and the real infant disavowed
and that distance’s continually emerging
evolving forms
waves of consuming flesh and tumours
and then the nineties audit
camp-wiring and napalm
and dustbowls
and the other saturated metonyms
for fleshed-out
bound to relations
isolated at birth
cut out
folks huffing down chunks
and unacknowledged
longing to open
to nip be nipped
a little
back in the kitchen
with the gherkin pot
and the cured
hanging meat
and the children
and the elderly
as the steam hits the window
the poverty of administered
held at the curve of the eye
for a dream of shared life
fragmented into shards
splayed though the psychic landscape
arising as geese flight
on the bubble train
or the secure comfort
of the penknife
matter grained and spread
muck cut
across the fallow
at the basin side
by the family farm
cut promise of
beyond mutilation
full resistant life
in sung company
for that
compel children
to vomit over the flayed geese
the nooses
and the knives
the splayed integral shards
lesions spun through the brain
and the heart
vomit the globule back up
eat child get filthied regurgitate keep on
Photograph © Darren Hester