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 FOUR Poems

            (on the films of Peter GREENAWAY)


              works from a book called

       COME & SEE THE
       SONGS OF


is not knowable to people who don’t use what they have
but bin it and run the taps to make sound
as if a group of working, exercising, active limbs
is good when not used but left in the chamber, or tank,
if you wish to fish to the animal list
and whether that list, those people,
that family square of adaptation
that uses you to find fire to light,
to make impersonations of birds,
before the unknown violent event
during the play called little green finches
performed for a film called the reluctant singer
with random fluttering gestures
is the habit of singing through an almost closed mouth.

Whether it chew days off, is the indecipherable question,
whether it rests or something else that isn’t a miserable
brief smoke cloud that moves in the weather
that learns finally to properly swing and squat and clean and jerk
until the cables come loose and its a brief respite in the skies
like trains cutting Pollie’s (my favourite) language, Mickel-ease
and twelve another’s you didn’t see
just as she speaks no other of the new post-VUE tongues
not a word of Abcadefghan, Agalese, Agreet, Allow, Allow-ease
Althuese, Antoneen, Betelguese, Candoese, Capistan
Carn-est-aero, Cathaganian, Cathanay, Curdine, Entree
Fallaver, Foreignester, Glendower, Glozel, Hapaxlegomena
Hartileas B., Instantaneious Dekis, Ipostan, Itino Re
Karnash, Kantan, Katan, Kath-a-ganian, Maudine
O-Lev-Lit, Os-leet-ter, Orthocathalian, Regest
Sackamayer, U-thalian, Untowards, nor bloody Vionester

Languages are all an animal name group we lean on
like lamby and chimpy talk, and the summaries of our natural ways
like Pollie, who asks, in Mickel-ese, pronounced in high registers,
why waiting for the next syllable is like waiting for a child
to scream, after it has fallen? why not before?
She sings whether habitat is connected to habit
like clothing you smell? Or whether diamond
is a rough word for fruit? Or for whatever you associate
with conversation? It is a delaying tactic,
and yet it is whether you know it or not.

Film is a body that puts things inside of people,
which asks whether you wrote that
because its too good for you to have done so
and leads the author to think whether they did
out of habit, theft, asking whether habit is theft,
or conditioning, or soul, or whatever you want.
it’s just a list of delaying tactics that are better than say a pinch
whether a hand is placed on a throat or chest
chin or chest, or picked up, it comes to mind.
two hands wrapped around neck, whether the neck
of a fish, bird or person, or a skull base, it’s a height
whether you notice or not. it’s your mouth cupped
around a hole that’s just beneath a skin.
whether you pull the skeleton from the body, or not
its a plum. a chin, chest, shoulder blades, wings
a damage, to hold, to offer an intermediary delay
between conversation, whether you swim hands in
or fold elbows, whether its music or not or a suggestion.
it’s then a pick up, a cutting of walking words in the film of habit
it makes two small holes in all the rubbish around you
in your habits, because it’s different now
after the violent unknown event, so you might as well
stay on it, daily, repeating, confused, like the Mickel-ese
which stretches the voice box of humans
to influence the very language of animals
and goes back to also doing human imitations, like that were easy.

° Peter GREENAWAY, 1980


† Peter GREENAWAY, 1991


‡ Peter GREENAWAY, 1988


ALEPH WAS AN OX, a premier sign because it represents strength, the elemental energy that sets everything into motion which changes being to existence, while B was the name of someone missing. A promise to take one’s life before the age of eighty. Meanwhile, C was gimmel the camel, that which holds water and allows travel. The animal vehicle that carries one into the beyond. A nice square frame. D was the name of feeling something is missing. That something definitely not human, while E was Heh, the human at prayer, and breath itself. Two arms outward. An ironic turn from realistic to unconvincingly optimistic. G was Zayin, the letter G is the letter Z, a confrontation or face to face encounter. Zayin means weapon in Hebrew, after all. I was yod, with J and Y, and is a hand. A hand offering, but not a handshake. By no means. K was Kaf, the palm of the hand, upfaced and preparing, endlessly. Hitting and missing with equal measure as L was the forgetting to forget something, or someone. But that not being the tradition of which one chooses to be within. M was Mem, was water, stream, waves, movement, dynamism, current. It is questioning of movement, while N was the fleeting urge to apologise. O was Ayin, is the eye, the circle used to be not round, fat and bulged. The orb, ring, around circle, while P, conveniently, was the delivery from remembering. Q was the letter Qof, ape. It was quoff, cut, slice, split, blade, a separate flow. S was the letter shin, tooth, grinding, crushing, breaking assimilating the external into the internal, while U was vav, same root as F, folk and volk as W was same as u, Vav, upside down water. The missing Other letters were like notes, forgotten because of focus on the present project. They were less mysterious and more pointless, unless wielded into a upcoming system, like a memory of a pristine symbolic justified snobbery.

* Saskia BODDEKE, 2017

SJ FOWLER is a writer and artist living in London. His work is known internationally for exploring the methodological potential of poetry. These poems are taken from his 9th full length poetry collection.

See here.


ninth full collection,
will be published by
Broken Sleep Books
in March, 2021.


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Partner to a press called Tenement, Hotel is a publications series for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. 

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