Poems by Chris Edwards

A revisitation of the plague

Once, for a period of time, I was
                                                                   “beside myself”
             or midway between

I went without Church
                      or Whitechapel Bars, on
                                                                        the street;

our neighbourhood continued very easy.

                                                  great: and the richer sort of p
                                                                     filled with people
         all hurrying away;    empty wagons

                       men on horseback,
                                             their appearance

it was apparent,                                                       innumerable
                   was nothing else
                                  was coming
                                                          would be left

                       within the liberties
      hurry, I say,

                                     Government from London
                                                          bringing the injection

                                                          be still
                                    my fleeting parts & they
                                                                                    bacilli perhaps
                                            among them but also
                   the viral array
flocked hither.

                  I gave myself up
                                 to a readiness of being
                  in cold Blood
to pass for a Whore here, so I let that go; I told them
                  it was true
One must leave Nature
                                                to fight it Out, so Slowly
                                                  my own                         Curiosity
                impatient                    day after day, reflecting
                                               the black tide
                upon this, the Whole
                                 with this proviso:
that the physicians apprehended
              that I was in love;
with who[m]? but as I
                           smil’d and said,
No, indeed Sir, that’s none
of my Distemper.

                                       My restraint
                            would fill a little Volume

               to shut               the eyes of the Watchmen
                            to deceive them, and escape

                            the terrible Pit
               it was
                                                          and could not
resist the retreat.

                                  At the Beginning
                        I went continually
              in a Fright about the Wizards
out of my usual Course, this temporal field
           a sort of gravity conundrum
                        You don’t say, oh sapient one
my doors and windows bolted; then the Accident
             I have related, happened
                        & could not stay within
entirely my self, potentially the One thing essentially
             the other, mute host to a virulent ghost, my voice
                          a replicant, and every choice aswarm
with bygone instants; for all were promiscuously the Subject
             of these Mens Drollery, which the Visitation
                        brought back again by Night.
                        the Whole thing
            appeared to me from His direction
A great way out of the hurry now

            “a space of ground designed by Heaven”
                        & wicked which & evil or
          receded into a representation
the element of contagion beginning

          “A quiet and simple grace in his arms …”
                        & All people were grown gay &
          Death come to carry you away
                       merged into a common stream
             the ponderous matter of substance
abuse, generally speaking &
             the growing Vice of Age,
                        & above all, the wicked Practice;

             terrible Example
exultant Token

spreading the inflection never
                        mind what people fled

                                                via towns along the road
           without passes or certificates or
                                personal identification number

                                I now began to consider
             I was no sooner come back to the Inn
         the extradimensionally refracted whole
collective efflorescence                                        from
the moment of this splendour                                      
                                    impending I suppose     every
               cell a potential embryo         how
many of these my neighbours                                      those
                                                       but I desire     this
to note: my business and shop, to “denotate”
           or to “detonate”
              over the PA system
                                      that bursts the cells of your body
               flowers of black smoke
        which my
effects saw apparently and which
                                                         represented America, so my
things in such a case must be left
with them),

                                                                and indeed
                      the world.

                      Quite different, viz.,                                    clip clop
to run away from it.

                       In other words, he was retiring into
that dark space, the soles of his sneakers

                                                                     for remember

                                                          the function of geometry
          is to
                     look upon them
                                                                        as is is to
                                                       I mean
                                                                        where we dwell,
                                     as was
                                                                   my mind one morning,
while musing on this particular thing, that I ought
to point out, or intimate,
                                                        the attic crawlspace
“the infinite circulation of general equivalence”
        my safety and health,
                      says he, is
                  and pulled back the flap
                                       in danger and trust Him
                                                           going very earnestly;
all the horses did; and might mistake him for such a Creature
                if one happened to be
                                 and so lie in the fields,
armies in the past; and I
                                              people that travelled the ruin,
                                the distemper,
                                                              as you know
                    he is staring down into his book
tasting reefer or milk on them as he disappears. So I’m
jetting warm streams from the mailbox clouds above
the buildings, and every action
lies chiefly in the out-parishes, which being
                                                             very strange to observe
                   The face of things soon changed
                    invisibilities devour my
                                                    just in the nick of time
                                                        spirochete invasions
                  went to see him at the hospital.
He was propped up on the white sheets
with all the inventions
                unarmed and legless
                though we all knew this was impossible
& smil’d at most of the particulars,
                an entire country plugged
                                        crawls in centre upon centre
              being                    all of them petty Matters,
and infinitely below
                                         delivering invitations and catcalls
              to turn to Him and live
         hanging out in the hole,
                                                      in short
bursts and retirement villages,
                                                      because, as I suppose,
they would not mingle with any Body
                  Riding out there
                                           over the dirt
                  like a million larvae triumphant
among the healthiest of people,
                   pointing now to one place,
to save all your living for the next
                   passage, and hardly anybody by night.
                  His tones were later modified
by a process called acetylation,
                                                         causing the DNA
to unspool, transcription factors to bind and assemble,
                  new copies to emerge
from the cell.
             One day over breakfast he told me
the genius and science of the Abyss
                                                          very Gloria
He seemed to wake for a moment,
           so I pulled him into the atmosphere
Not that nothing is
           outside the building’s walls. Then
fell upon me with irresistible Words.
           plague?” he said. It was coded worlds,
this sickness of living. Some afternoons,
after getting out the club,
                   A mirror gets smashed
                   In the night hours it’s all
drug dealers in brilliant ocean sunlight
around 1979–1980
blind, absurd, ridiculous stuff,
perhaps nothing
                                  was the matter —
certainly everything else
                                              was something like it,
and might just as well have been anything
in flight from whatever becomes of it
once its future catches up
                                                & as above, so below
& looses its hosts
                                 come home to thrive in us
                  & news of the septic rose — i.e.
the undoing of Mind’s rule in the e.g.
yours sincerely,
                                descendant of germs
now headed away fast, into the past,
wherever that goes.



The big picture

The next few hours, though intermittent, soon proved exponential. As the light grew nacreous, I travelled through enemy frost crystals tilted a minky blue until even the engine-driver was moved, I fancy. He gave a little speech that drew a long, white, serious face into ever-decreasing circles — a nice complementary touch, I felt, to my travelling ensemble: all the passengers talking at once and giving different advice and directions, the glare of the lights, the coffin-like smell of the sleeping-car and, later, at the grand hotel, the bumping of boxes on stairs after midnight.
        The humping sound of people carrying luggage around drifts through the halls here. Typical. Yet I remain sane, since some mistakes cannot be atoned for. My job’s to get people here, there and everywhere before anyone notices I’m missing.
        But back to the big picture. As always, it’s today when I get there — after which, the precipice looms and the erstwhile barrel-toned gentlemen all go over it or not, prodding. That’s the best way to get to know things, they tell me. Give ’em a good poke.


The trip to the grand hotel
For a moment, things seemed just as they were: there was the tree, the balcony, the shining river, the dismal church displaced to the right, the enormous days, weeks — possibly a year or so — as he rang, and rang, and rang down to reception. For security reasons
not a word of this
a heavy panting was audible, and questions shouted in foreign tongues. “What do you want? Are you hungry? Have they made you do this sort of thing before? And where did this machine come from?” Unlikely that anyone ever knew
about Mr Brown, driver.



Do you copy?
Yes, I hear you. I hear
something else too.
Litter, I suspect. Let it brush
against you as you blow
down the street — you’ll
soon find out how sticky things
can get when you
really stop
I stopped copulating
ears ago. These days the only
f. twinges I forget are forced
metaphors. Ah, here’s
an example.
This one’s me, kiddo. It was taken
someplace no-one went to
and was, they told me,
dribblingly attractive. Do I
believe this? What do you think?
I relieve no-one, sir, for less
than a hundred dolours.
You do it for me though.



In Capital! and in his earlier writings
they said he was living in a room by himself,
a Joseph Cornell album
owed to and demanded by
the principle of identity
not two minutes ago. Lo
and Behold were coeval developments:
long before ad infinitum, dependable
clockwork etc., the problem was
the idea of deciding. Wherever
he went he saw semi-
quavers — gold, then salt, then
today sand and stones — meaning
“to reveal oneself”
piecemeal, e.g. “problematic
Handbuch enclosure” —
oak or willow, hard to say which —
whilst shepherding the huluppu-tree
via Tablet XII, plus notes.
Yet there were dates
to be determined,
crates to be unpacked:
he’d tracked them
down through nether regions
hatched from the holus bolus.
Servant or priest of 40 or of 2/3,
he was doomed to live exhausted,
out of breath,
not words.



Author’s notes
“A revisitation of the plague”: Jon Cohen, “A cure for AIDS?,” Cosmos October–November 2010; Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle; Daniel Defoe, A Visitation of the Plague (extracted from A Journal of the Plague Year), Moll Flanders; Jacques Derrida, Glas (trans. John P. Leavey, Jr., and Richard Rand); Robert Duncan, “In Blood’s Domaine”; David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration. “The big picture”: Conversa-Phone English, Course Manual. “The trip to the grand hotel”: Conversa-Phone English, Course Manual; Odham Books Limited, Adventure Stories for Boys. “Verily”: Alex Clark, “[Lured by dangerous desires] … but mature enough to avoid them,” The Guardian; Richard Rand, ed., Futures of Jacques Derrida; Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, Hamlet’s Mill.


“A revisitation of the plague” was previously published in People of Earth (Vagabond, Sydney, 2011). “The big picture” and “The trip to the grand hotel” were previously published in People of Earth and in the chapbook Nicked (Vagabond, Sydney, 2006). “Do you copy?” was previously published in Australian Book Review, Dorothy Porter, ed., Best Australian Poems 2006 (Black Inc.), John Tranter, ed., Best Australian Poetry 2007 (UQP), and People of Earth. “Verily” was previously published in Boxkite, Peter Porter, ed., Best Australian Poetry 2005 (UQP), Nicked, and People of Earth. “Strange Tale of a Mined Intending” appeared on the cover of People of Earth.