CC Issue 27 / Literature / Reflections

‘A and O’, a poem about the socio-economic origins of American Loneliness and Alienation, written during my recent visit to Chicago, Illinois

Lichtenstein at the Art Institute of Chicago


Today we were in a space

altogether passed-over, lit with dampness and advent


And out of it rises a confusion – music is like sand

Running out of your hands and into a signature

4/4, misconfigured

ink over the table: ridiculous


We speak, and we listen

Strangely missing

Vaguely thinking and responding and being high enough to ignore most of what we deem (alien, used, damaged) damp, and the rudely and abruptly:


This is what we missed: the A and O

Far away yet close (to the heart of distance – your distance more than anything)

(a lark in this instance – your resistance is, say-we again: ‘strangely missing’)

The bottom of the tank, penny on the strung copper which is rapid and vast

A coward from the past looming over the sink to take a sip

With insisting strings, and rising metal on sheets to that rhythm and out of it rises



[a new ending]



[a false trail for the running man and woman who take off their shirts, just in the nick of time!]


Who knows how we would have begun

If the sum didn’t = her parts

But she did and the contrast between the Absolute and the Obsolete is stark

Yes she does and the contrast is stark

and we are made wet, and we are not passed over, and the man at the sink does drink, and Nothing is well, or well-meant


But today we were in a space

and in passing it over, were ourselves protected


from the rejection of our music, who sees us and wishes us ill and is angry by design

Highway signs and tactfully-wooded rooms that aren’t enough to give us enough of that feeling – and now you have a choice



[enough healing, enough feeding

Enough, enough, now all of you –

You’re not as close, so just keep breathing, and you will pass over

You’re not stealing, you’re just the product of hyperactive reasoning]



[run; panic]


But ultimately you choose the same as your kind, as everyone here, and the contrast weakens

And out of it rises a new ending, and a false trail

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