Beyond the book the book lowers
groaning blades of copters,
weariness of sirens which in faltering
slop urgency over junctions,
spools of wire and bandages, Pound
and Malaparte write out a book’s
mandate, where all the bodies’
pitching furious fits,
screeds of pain light wouldn’t deign
to light on, why waste energy,
settle for a long haul. Lone
man drives over from the West,
who is this? is he instigator,
he some agent provocateur, some dealer
or delayer, someone
dealing dirt while self-masked?
To scribble over endpapers, write
across hooded lids, the while
emergency, a clampdown,
a heavy drop marks this generation’s
vulnerable necks, the while a clipboard
bangs door to door, gaunt
fixtures have sprouted nozzles
sucking up depth images, rubber
feeder lines snake away
to mobile dissident units, patching to
stored profiles. Keep an eye there,
stuck inside the while,
stay your hand, there where it stops,
grabbed, brought forward,
centred to obliterate
the bleeding obvious white sky.
Compile, pick your moment
where the howl disjoins from mask
an awful flap, as if a face
burnt on its air-frame thwarts disguise.
Some while it was, the while
reeled out like dental floss each hour
along the time-stamp street,
no-show, reviewing footage:
blindsided behind hardboard,
suits embrace shiny chests
of mannequins, a crashed browser
knows cloud-play is just pissing as
words dismount to fight jousts
with angry strokes, assured
on that day they venture forth
their images will march reflectionless.
A howling there is heard in the city,
beast in labour as an El train
howls round a sharp bend in the Loop,
South and West sides echo:
copter blades flatten, drowning out
a howling on the plaza,
convection howls under a sky
bloodying the while. How to profit:
chalk-marks score the asphalt,
downward slash for every boy who’s
tasered, sharply rising
stocks stab at bedrolls in porches.
Vagrant noise cannot be tamped:
Heat must rise so insolent
retaliation drives home
noise in the fulness of time like nails.
Code did assemble master selves
in frames the elders laid out,
distributed where hyphens shunt
person packets through the horizontal.
Peremptory strokes of I-here
big themselves, their tantrums flip; I-
exalted prates from a howling
residue of pitch, prates from assets
shoring bones that won’t lock,
knee-bones at a loss to kneel,
redcoat propping upright hard astern,
redcoat blood and sugar
stiffens into sailcloth. Clouds
prettify along that picturerail above
Atlantic for all time, dance
over tortured spines, are damasking.
A newscaster smirks behind glass.
A feeder line or fire-hose
coughs out images, commentary
to disinfect with lashings of new-tech
crawlers and tickers, closing in
as news hounds. You mask up
to be featured, ticking ‘no scent option’
won’t confound the trackers
linked to lampposts and cells: you will
nourish with your data
crimson leaves blazing in the foyer
of Citadel LLC, where all leads –
its floors buffed by arthritic wrists
whose arteries are knouts and
whipcords, whose veins pull together
time’s net strangulating I-here.
Beyond the warpland,
pier a screech of tires
Down Ida B Wells
a choir of
car horns, some Céline
obscenity, an eight-
year-old in cross-
fire, a grown-up straight
and on record, this page
dissolves in lye,
lye in the eye.
She was not caught in cross-
fire, she is what
was always meant, a corpse
restauranteur, the beads
drawn on her
read off the schedule, menu.
Beyond the book
Tires screech up Michigan.
Trees screech up Michigan.
Chicago, Summer 2020
John Wilkinson’s cycle of poems Wood Circle is published by The Last Books (2021), following his collection My Reef My Manifest Array (Carcanet 2019). His critical book Lyric in Its Times was published by Bloomsbury in 2019 and a small book of essays, The Following came from The Last Books in 2020. He teaches at the University of Chicago.