Poem in which the twenty words most common in heavy metal lyrics are used

Though we’re aware there are moments when the form sorrow takes will mean a reduction in our awareness of things, it is in those moments that our awareness perhaps becomes insufficient for us to counteract the effect our sorrow will have on how aware we are. My sleepy demon tells me he doesn’t mind stumping up for the pizzas, but insists we’re gonna go halves on the beer. The television plays quietly; the candles on my cake burn low.

It’s been a wet afternoon so my sleepy demon suggests a game of scream-like-you-mean-it and though, after the visit from the police has made me feel I could reasonably claim victory, my sleepy demon keeps at it until the budgie is breathing audibly, and the air smells like rusty cutlery, and the tv channels are flipping between a difficult quiz show and championship ping-pong. I get a hunch there’s something gunky in his veins. There’s a box of tissues in the kitchen, but when he cries he doesn’t use them. I’ve a hunch there’s something silty in his soul. Between us we’ve practically completed the crossword.

My sleepy demon shows me a photo of a bunch of younger demons, leaning against a wooden door in their baggy yellow sweaters. He smokes, and taps the ashes into a lemonade can. The more he stares at the candle flames, the more they appear to splutter. The notes that I told my therapist were an account of my dreams are, in reality, just some paragraphs I copied from a sci-fi novel.

My sleepy demon hands me a page from a spiral-bound notebook on which he has written ‘a mood of resignation reigns’. The takeaway menus and till receipts are already in shreds, but now we tear up our coffee-shop loyalty cards, the tv-licence renewal notice, a club-night flyer, a jiffy bag, the amaretti wrappers, the street map, some pages from his notebook and my hospital appointment letter. Sometimes when I’m queuing for coffee or picking up the phone or getting onto a train, I like to pray there’s somebody somewhere getting all this on camera.

My sleepy demon reckons I’m confusing the idea of eternity with the idea of the passage of time, and while, he says, what I’m anticipating is the continuing rotation of winters/summers, morning/evening, weekdays/weekends, what I’ve got coming is an unbudging moment sometime early in March where across the town the drizzle is consistently thickening and in the kitchen the strip lights seem particularly yellow. A small sleepy beast crawls in through the cat flap, and my sleepy demon offers it the pizza crusts and the complimentary tub of hummus.

In the goodbye note he pins to my door, my sleepy demon expresses an ethical objection to metaphor. There are, he hints, particular gods whose brief it is to make things easy for us so that when the gods whose brief is to test our resolve get on the case the test will be sterner and the results will give a truer picture. In the evening I’ll sit in the kitchen with my yo-yo and a new box of ping-pong balls, and I’ll barely even have to breathe before the candles blow out.

Matthew Welton

(The source of the data for the 20 heavy metal words can be found here).

The Town Buries Its Mayor

Things our former mayor liked: 1. Laws. 2. Butter. 3. Composting. 4. Small doses of fentanyl. 5. Kindness. 6. Her grandfather’s suits. She had been a good and fair mayor; she was a creature of curious depth and strangeness and endless strength. She would bend her ear to anyone who needed it; she broke her back for her neighbors on moving day. She created laws that helped the old, the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable, unlike the Town doctor who had run from her responsibilities, unlike the Town mystic who had embarrassed us with her fervor. She had come to the Town from far away, from a place we derided as polluted and primitive, and she often remarked on how the air here was almost too fine and rich for her lungs; she felt she was breathing in stolen gold and emeralds that she had no right to possess. See: she was charmingly modest!

She had been told the truth of our Town’s policy with female mayors – that they were allowed to rule, perfectly or imperfectly, for five years, and then they were broken down and brought to the burial cairn on the neighboring island. She had agreed to these terms but when her time comes we are disappointed to find her weeping in the barnyard amidst her scattered papers. A billowing red mist appears to be emerging from her heart. The goats are nibbling her bowed head. We place our hands upon her, we pick her up using all the gentleness at our disposal, and we pass her over our heads, toward the water. Had the moment been less solemn she would have realized the pleasures of crowd surfing! We move her toward the shore, where the strongest of us are waiting, with the boat.

For the mayor’s sake we had hoped for grey skies but instead the day is driving its sunlight down our throats. We pile into the boat, and power it with eight people per side. Our mayor is laid out on the bottom. She is dressed in a suit and one of her mother’s brooches – this one a small arrow piercing a ruby. We are not sure of the condition of her face; it is wrapped in a scarf. Her body has, by and large, maintained its integrity. The mayor makes no sounds.

Haltingly, we move in the water, splitting a path through the ice. The lake is a series of white, silver, and opal striations. The cold roots in our chests and blooms, spreading to the filaments of each lung. The dark fuzz of fir trees seems so far away. These are always the very worst moments, with our mayors. What can we say? What comfort can we offer? We cannot guarantee that she will be treated gently.

Sara Peters

Poem in Which I Write a Pocket Encyclopaedia of Enlightenment Man-Philosophers (A How-to Guide)

Turns out a babe can be a tree and a god. This can be accomplished dressed or undressed, before or after breakfast (although an over-full and windy stomach can inhibit true understanding).

To begin: Sit on a bench and stare up at, say, a hawthorn in May. Examine your hand, then the blossom – same thing, no? Bend your neck back with an open mouth. Let the sky fall down your throat, into your heart, your cunt. Let it crash through your knees, out your feet into the dogshit-stained gravel path of your local public sector park, and down to the core of the earth.


Repeat, repeat, repeat.

This is for you ladeez with a roving eye. Cheating is for slags. Borrow the Leibnizian approach and inhabit multiple possible worlds, each populated by a hench gallant of your choosing. There you can whatnot with whomever. No need to return to your hot boyf with soaked thong and abject guilt creaming your veins. Because, people, you can live in all worlds simultaneously. Seventeenth-century philosophy, what’s not to like?

Ohmygod, this dude was fricking wrong. Here at Man-Philosophers HQ we don’t endorse this soulsucking:

Everyone is separate. We’re all individual. Short selfish brutes everywhere. If it sounds familiar it’s cos it is – plays havoc with the dewy complexion. Count. Us. Out.

Alison Winch

Poem in which I am a valued member of Warpaint

When that not exactly loneliness
so much as aloneness
seeps into a rehearsal
and it’s not the productive gloom
but the other one
then the first thing is to drown it
in noise until the roof beams rattle
and if that doesn’t work
and it comes back doubled
by a fear that everything good
we’ve ever done, even Primavera,
even Theresa’s perfect speaker stack dive
onto hands as soft as water
was set to a click track bleak
and bare within us
well then we simply slide aside
the big door, pad out barefoot
across the warm wide road, a city
concussed with heat, over the sand
and into the steep Pacific,
two steps and away, through breakers,
surfers, our heads aloft
on each scrolled wave,
out until the deeper current
tugs our shoulders, our hips,
wants us in the shipping lanes,
wants our bodies bloated and blue
six hundred miles south
until, to summarise, the sea
aligns with our worst selves
and then we swim in,
suddenly hungry,
carried by the taste
of floating face down
in Laguna Ojo de Liebre.

Joe Dunthorne

Poem in which the girls arrive

No other Sunday for the girls except –

they are cankerous, they smell of stale rice, their cardigans are buttoned wrong, they hesitate to enter the room but look, the eyes that meet their eyes are sugar-water. The girls have hearts as round and flat as plates, they want something to cherish – only came to see, to check – would not normally no they would never never if it weren’t for this hunger, their mealy juddering bodies unable to stand it, the girls stumble in so certain that music is harmless and they are not stupid girls In the dark In the dark they can stop anytime, only squares of tissue paper, only tissue women on spilt cherry juice.

The girls listen, exhausted – The girls are welcomed HOME – The girls will prosper – The girls are such fruit – The girls have their true names squeaked in felt tip – The girls will stand under the shower later with kingdom kingdom kingdom gushing from the tub, flooding the floor, billowing up in devoted clouds but for now here they are the loved forgiven chosen girls the girls the girls there are always more – girls who should begin to sing, who should ask sincerely and raise a hand if they feel, who sit at the end in tight circles of girls and bring their shaky eyelids down and the first prayer a tarantula scraggles out of my mouth.

Annie Katchinska

poem in which she unfolded

& each part / separate / began to live /

there was a satin rage/ in the deepest part/ those romantic ins & outs of her / a
luxurious house for the last excess / of a sumptuous evening / which carried her off into
the darkness / half-undone /

she felt the pressing mouths of shadows / until something like morning /& found herself
so altered /& infinitely more

Lauren Vevers

Poem in Which the Season Turns Septemberish

someone said             leave your rancour snagged on bracken
someone said             inhale yellow wood smoke
never mindaid           iif the path to revelation’s clogged with loosestrife, with Devil’s-bit
never mindaid            If the rock formation in your face begins to ache
this is natureai           plain white-bread sky
this is natureai           silver- washed fritillary uncalled to account
and youe said             your sporting rivalry with a down-at-heel sheep
and youe said             to see who’ll climb the mountain slowest
oh hoone said           i thinks sheep
oh hoone said i           but you’re as obdurate as that tractor in that ditch and
even if                          you meet yourself halfway up already coming back
even if        i                 (cagoule-less, Medusa-haired, stinking of weed)
keep on                        in the rumination contest
keep on                        you can win

Claudine Toutoungi

Poem in Which I Sell You a Dog

Buy a dog body with a dogsoul in it.
You deserve to be licked and mauled
and you deserve a hungry muscular snaking
at your ankles, and you have money.

Oh! Beautiful is the wallet bursting
to fill your stomach with a love
cold as milk, beautiful is the capital
sluiced into the animal that’s yours!

I separate the bodies from the dogsouls
you do not buy.

Jack Nicholls

Cento In Which

Two rooms:
in one, a portrait of men made out of a glass of water,
a wolf in a lifeboat, and a pool.

In the other, you, my love, and a river;
there are sharks in the river and a crow singing a fragment of a song
about our year as insomniacs.

I can’t swim! I say.
The wolf is flirting with a pig; they whisper cute names for each other:
the wolf is a tiny duck, the pig is the sea.

As if we are slow dancing:
you push a fragment of a door towards my head. The crow sings
about a turtle in love.

My love says,
I have been up with the night and fragments of our arguments again.
We swim to the harbour.

Jenna Clake

Poem in Which I Drift Off While an Astrophysicist Tells Me About What Makes His Relationship Work

the morning in the yard, wiping toast crumbs off my jeans.
For god’s sake – I was excited by – let’s call it data.

Imagine a small piece of matter
about my size,

now imagine it’s morning, let’s say 6:31 am,
mist in the conifers, a cuckoo, then in the road, reversing, a car

sure red’s as good a colour as any,
then let us say, spaghetti.

Spaghetti is like the bath overrun:
that’s you or me crossing the event horizon

matter, or Mike so warm on my chest, brooding
he is my very own human electric blanket

the day
stretching out, the windows a string of zeroes.

Let’s say the darker the matter the better the punchline
and memories live on with the length-meaning of n.

There is a kind of equilibrium to sadness
the death of someone so close to you; do eight minutes pass

before it ghosts into you – the pan handle’s heat through a tea-towel? No.
The Northern Lights’ lavender green dust

happens to be the sun, I can’t fill the void.
Flying at 3,000 times the speed of sound,

that’s the way he makes me feel, his self-diagnosing
the tea bag bobs in the water, the Beach Boys upstairs.

Ah, this is your lifeline, it is like the Orion test
booster exiting the Florida cirrus –

this is where your love line crosses –
mine does the same, here, observe,

to kiss you took years of research
there are some things you can explain

anything else
come down to the kitchen and dance with me.

Harry Man