City Devotions

To Bee, for whom today is difficult.

A knight with a clock; the swings tied up, swings too small for him. Mist rolling over the fields, a little of the veil, the colour of suicide bathwater: Turkish delight; glitter on the performance, a carmine red fleck of laundry; and flowers, on the breath of the cull. Paris by night. City devotions.

‘It’s done mechanically?’ / ‘No, Monsieur, by hand.’ (Overheard at a Neo-Impressionist exhibition in 1894: Reported by Thadée Natanson in ‘La Revue Blanche.’)

The ground tips back, held down by small lumpish shapes. Waiting is the whole story, movement restricted to a thin skirt of light that comes from a village at the foot of the hill. Small streaks of white oil correct small failures of the imagination. Grey fills the sky, which is low and flat without a patch of blue, and a liquid coldness spreads over indistinct forms and things; the village, outwith the vantage point, an idea equal in value to the picture itself.

Of nothing Linz she thought more Munich, Berlin. Tap tap of an overflow pipe on the sky. An old woman collects frosted berries from wild bushes at the back of her garden, pale, delicately freckled fingers stained pink with things that never mattered the first time around. (The sound of sleet on the car was made elsewhere. The silence she made was made elsewhere. She waited where she wished, shared everything as the engine turned over to run the heater. Circumstances that could not have come about without this white theatre under a hard overhead light: A primitive farmyard. A young peasant woman with bare feet. Only a few paths, deeply marked or furrowed led through the snow-covered field before her eyes, closed.) A railway station in deep snow, Freiburg. A betrayal, only Rosa pimpinellifolia in the garden. A station of the cross, a triptych of Black Mountain gateaux. A deconsecrated church and four-leafed window of fading luck, Kirchzarten. Asparagus, white hollandaise sauce. A waste pipe, grey boiling mud. New potatoes, potatoes. A village, a primary school playground. A village, what blossoms of clematis! Infidelity, just killing. A village, tentacles of swastika. A village—there is no village.

Looking Over Largo Bay To Methil From The High Water Spring At Ruddons Point—Listening To A Village Buried In A Pit Bing
Clearances still; in demand of rock blackness, no starry work was made of such blue-flashing light hounding wheat as night’s grey ran it the length of a far off childline.

Shuffle …

A field. An enhanced octagonal (made by Rose, Charlotte Anne, Theresa and Lucy facing inwards around a big pink thistle) with heads gentle rubbing together in wild grey, in a butterglen meadow of daisy, chamomile, corn poppy and tall green grass, a warm breeze keeping the flies away.
Press ‘shuffle’ and it should work.
Charlotte Anne:
I’m trying, but my hoof’s too big.
Mine’s a bit smaller and I’ve done it before. Let me have a shot.
I’ll leave you girls to it. I don’t fancy a playlist of ‘underachieving kak’. I’m going down to the riverbank where Foxglove will read poems about buttercups and wet sage in five minutes — Later.

‘Mrs Adams said a wis a croass. How come? Whit’s she talkin’ aboot? She said tae ma Mammy ‘Mrs McPherson Clare is your cross. We all have crosses to bear’. / Ah’m no a cross in am no a bear either. She disnae like me.’ (Grace Cleary)

To Whom It May Concern,
There is black mould on the sky, re-born dolls in the pharmaceutical labs, porcelain cups for apostles of ‘the God-given occupation’, counselling for the melancholic and ‘pinko hippies’. The Christian miracle eye tracking is torn on a line of grey bodies, on thousands of stacks of bodies. Dirty pollen coats our needles; pitiless bag closing, and an engorged media prostitutes privacy and our right to worship. Under siege the sky is sallow and the weather like grit; umbilical soil in a gravitational well. The mining settlements plunder the aisles of ‘Cold Meat, frozen Carrot, Small Pies, Tissues, yeast, more tortilla wraps, hair dye …’ adrift in the fetid hum on verges of dual carriageway (Genocide, tin-oxide, egg white on silk pillowcase, 2016. Private Collection.) And tears and weeping as far as the eye can see. Were it not for your listening eyes, had you not a delicate sense, when would we have acted? But I shall forget this dream; through midnight, I’ll disappear. Dear, hear this my …

‘A man was standing in the rain. It rained harder.’ (in Floor Grey, high up on the east wall of HMP, Perth.)

Green in Cottown. The fields smell sharp, of rhubarb, grey slip on the road, but nothing grows, even in the rains of Heaven.

Shuffle …

Neukünstler! My name is on the door. White plastic belt, cardboard, aluminium foil, silver tape, 20mm starch packing sheets, wire, and a canvas backpack, five cardboard boxes (24 pack eco laundry tablet’s), silver tape, aluminium foil, wire—Fake devices, ‘made by hand Monsieur.’

On the far horizon, the whole| conversation, hand cut blind| in the gilded space closer to| the margin of you on Cothill.
Movement of perfections shadow,| darkness outwith your corridor, tell me,| tell me, emptiness.| I rise out of my sleep.
And the grey cherry tree| turning in its wash of rain,| a nest in splendid-malnutrition| tonight I shall ask it in.
My love waited, may have died| in the wax of shadow, patrolling| the feast of leaves.| I met my death
coming the other way. Turning| a quiet song, I cried| and you passed by without a sound.| A resurrection?
Nothing that you say; I dwell.| No measure of fire; I dwell.| Keeping shtum on the road,| consent where paradox is fear.
My heart denied, I couldn’t see myself;| I left early into the field| with the nothing that you say| weighing past all weight
in the interior of smear and bravery,| prayers could not dent my darkness.| I go to my neighbour with nothing to eat,| the blackbird the chaffinch.
This love will be the end.| You have all the space| in my mind, the manners of pain,| a quiet carriage you say.
And you my spent heart, dwell| true, after truth, in love| never depleted by use or display| a moment and forever.

I close my eyes—on all my certain things.

Stay with, or abandon you? This is what the stars are saying to each other, up there, above the garden, in the dust of centuries.

The glow behind your eyelids is a painting without title, shows you open the bruise blood bending over in a field, an orange vendor at a fairground, your elephant, Eden (you sold your car to buy her) joyfully stripping leaves from trees in the garden—Angel Mugler, Miu Miu, Chloé drafting from the aircon of cars as they pass you on the verge of a dual carriageway leaving town; in your chest, mixing it with a silage of cardamom, sweat and lamb’s wool the sky feels closer than usual, the outskirts of the city, counterfeit. There’s something of the sky in you tonight, a dirty uneven breath. You were loved more than once but were in fear of … Well. What? Behind your eyes who now sleeps?

‘I rode down to the street floor and went out on the steps of the City Hall. It was a cool day and very clear. You could see a long way – but not as far as Velma had gone.’ (Raymond Chandler)

The rubber is discovered under a foam mattress in a child’s wicker basket at a recycling centre. It’s oblong and rounded at each end, covered in small dark spots where the end of a pencil or pen has been pushed into it. Some of it is shiny and a darker shade of grey. It feels smooth and cold in my hand. On two of its sides the words ‘elephant’ and ‘Sky’ are tattooed into the silky smooth surface with black biro. On another, ‘I am all alone Dear Emily …’ again, done with great care, in blue biro this time. One side is clear. Outside it’s raining heavily, has been for days. The sky is the same dirty shade of grey.

To one side is a squat, unremarkable church (of Scotland) in a simmering lake of tarmac. A woman lies face down in the rain weeping in its comfortless shadow, her turquoise skirt and pale blue cardigan bleed into the foreground—that it’s not Queen Victoria, you know already. The car you arrived in has pulled up in front of a tall building made of glass— ‘… for the best’ silences: It’s not what you said, but it was what you wanted to say. Yellow leaves flutter to the ground as you step away from the car, your one tear, your only possession, slips down your cheek and falls onto the woman in the turquoise-blue shadow, pure enough to calm her—your childhood sentence: normcore corduroy; a brutal cult.


There’s no door on the building, no door on the day, no glass in the windows, no wind to speak of, no blue in the sky. ‘With A Pure Heart’ is marked up above the sink—in Matador Black filled with Elizabeth Pink. ‘slowly, meditatively’ a peach scar in the woodchip. ‘Our Laws Are Still For War’ in a New York ghost-cap Soviet Red across an electrical panel. On the ceiling ‘I Did Not Know’ in Pineapple Yellow seeping through ‘My Heaven’ in Aspen White. ‘AUS DEM KOPF’ by the window in a single pass of Iced Vermilion. The buzzing of bees in a nearby bush and the spectral echo of a fat cap breathing a chord of paint into the future … hohhhhhhhhhhhh … the only sounds in the room, for it is still a room of sorts. You swept the floor of rubble and glass because writing over someone else’s work wasn’t an option and concrete like this is porous and soaks up paint not like the walls. ‘PLEASE Me’ is in pink, ‘Don’t Leave’ in blue. Who were you writing for? Who was to read this?
‘PLEASE Don’t Leave Me’
‘PLEASE Me Don’t Leave’
‘Don’t Leave PLEASE Me’

‘Love is time travel—still I dream of your arrival’ (set against a sky blue background in ‘Epitaph,’ a serif face influenced by the types cut by Jessica Möll between 1449 and 1516)

‘Don’t Leave PLEASE Me’
‘PLEASE Me Don’t Leave’
‘PLEASE Don’t Leave Me’
You implore your sanity. You are prostrate, weeping for your God. You are still in the room leaning on the windowsill with one knee resting on a chair looking out towards the sea. You are still in the room—there is no voice that the sea will not put in its mouth. This is the first line that your body longed for, words without much use now that you are unable to remake what followed. It is the room speaking. This is Eden. You are like a cat delivering a dead mouse, in control over what you give. It is the room speaking, the room is cruel. This is Hell.

Next to the door outside (it’s been painted over but you can still make it out) you’ve written ‘Trust me I’m the Doctor’ in Mercury Yellow. Perhaps your name is Emily.