Published in Babel Tower Notice Board in July 2021
Published in Sledgehammer Lit Mag in October 2021
Meet me on the Northern line
in carriages and corridors
on stairs and escalators
in ticket halls and lifts.
Not the Bank branch, but Charing Cross,
and at the interchange at Euston,
our fate will be decided:
Totteridge & Whetstone,
Brent Cross and Burnt Oak?
Colindale or Highgate –
newspapers or tombstones?
Both relics of the past.
Meet me on the Northern line,
where we’ll kiss in dingy corners,
of bottle-green tiled platforms,
we will stop, applaud the buskers,
and watch the mice at play
from behind the yellow line.
We’ll take the stairs at Chalk Farm,
stand arm in arm on moving walkways,
hold hands and slowly saunter,
to annoy rush hour commuters.
We may get off at Mornington Crescent,
just because we can.
Meet me on the Northern line,
where we’ll travel to far-flung places,
where unrealised dreams
and untapped seams
are rich with new discovery.
Will it be East or West Finchley,
Tufnell Park or Golders Green?
In the appendix of Mill Hill East
we’ll embrace under fluorescent heat
of departure boards, whilst letting
the other passengers off the train first please.
Meet me on the Northern line,
and in the spirit of amorous adventure,
we may venture south to ride
Angel’s stairway to heaven,
minding the gap all the way to Kennington,
to Colliers Wood and Wimbledon.
At the end of the world at Morden,
we will rise to the surface again,
I will touch your face with my hand,
and feel your breath on my cheek,
we will stand there blinking in sunlight,
and imagine we can smell the sea.
This poem was published by Full House Lit Mag in their Wildcard Issue 3 in June 2021.
First published by the Henshaw Press as Second Prize Winner in their June 2018 short story competition.
I had always thought I was my own worst enemy. That is what I thought, what I’d come to believe. Through school,university, Corps Training, and my time in the field. That is what they taught us, what they prepared us for. If we could face our very worst fears, we could face anything. So goes the theory. I had worked hard to become my worst enemy, practised, taunted and challenged myself, pushed to extremes. Until now. Until this.
I was now facing what I knew to be my worst enemy, not just mine alone, he had come to represent all that was wrong with the world, what we were fighting against. And somehow, by being in the right time, but the wrong tent, by doing my duty, I had come to represent all that stood in his way.
It is just a job, one tells oneself, and the very few friends who may have more than an inkling of what you really do for a living. Information management, I usually tell enquirers. For the government. That usually closes the conversation down, sounds as interesting as accountancy. But is just as subtly dangerous. And close enough to the truth, whatever that may be. I acquire information, extract it, by whatever means necessary. Others actually manage it. Dissect it, disembowel it, or distort and disseminate it. Repackaged for a different audience or played back to its original authors. Confusion, disinformation, doublespeak, smokescreen.
I should have registered the smoke. I should have thought ahead. Prepared. Getting lazy, getting careless, getting old. I can see the report now: recommended to be stood down from active service. To be given something nice, comfortable, back office. To be shipped to Cheltenham or Hanslope Park. But there would be no report. I knew that, I was just trying to inject some humour, some hope. I would be lucky if my remains were even found and flown back in some diplomatic bag.
The bag over my head is stifling. Hot, dusty, sweaty, I can barely breath. And I try and save my breath, I know I’m going to need it. But I can smell the smoke.It’s pungent, acrid, the stench of burning flesh. Mine. Open sores run down my legs, from bruised kneecap to broken ankle. The welts have faded from the foreground, the battering has stopped. I have forgotten how to hurt, the pain has been blocked by my inability to feel anything anymore. But I can take more, I know that, and will have to, I’m sure. But I am numb now. I am an empty vessel, strapped to a chair, thinking, listening, smelling the air. Straining for a sign, some movement, an indication of what’s next, so I can prepare myself, brace for impact.
I know I will die here. In this tent.In this foreign land. Surrounded by men who are just as scared and scarred as I. I know it makes no difference now what I say, what they ask. Both sides are now beyond the realm of sense. It is violence without purpose, torture without intent. They have gone so far, it is too late to turn back. To retreat would be shameful, as would my pleas. We both have to save face. He needs me to die quietly, quickly, so he can walk away.
But I am not ready to die. My training was good. Too good. We were built to survive, to reach deep-rooted resources,develop new synapses to bypass pain, forget self, block memory, negate truth, manage, misrepresent, repackage reality.
That is what he wants, that is all that he needs, that is why I’m here, with blackened knees, cracked fingers,peeling skin, burning flesh. Just a scrap, just a morsel, just a small piece of information. If I give it to him, he’s done, I’m done, we’re gone. But if I give it to him who dies instead, how many perish in my place, in return for my offering? In return for my treachery? Just a bad day at the office. It is never just a job. It is always life or death. For someone, somewhere, some day.
My turn today it seems. I’ve had worse than this, I think. I try to persuade myself. But I know I haven’t, not quite like this, only in my nightmares, and those exhausting training programmes. But they are never real, however hard they try to instil fear, to push us to extremes, to try and break us, they can never go quite far enough. We are not super heroes. We are made weak by our humanity.
I wonder what his weakness is, his humanity, his Achilles heel. I have been trying to find it for some weeks now,but nothing seems to work. The mind games we learnt seem like frivolous party tricks, play-acting, let’s pretend at being spies.
The hood lifts, I gulp involuntarily for breath. I am given one more chance, one last ask, and he may spare my death. But I know he is lying, I am spent, no value to them now, more of a liability than collateral. Not worth carting around as a potential bargaining chip. The only gain in giving in, and giving up my information, is a selfish one, to reduce pain. To no longer be his plaything, a voodoo doll, sliced and diced and stuck with pins. That is why people always give in, not because they want to live. For the awful knowledge at discovering what carnage your weakness has wrought, the death toll, the disaster, is a lifelong torture. They never let you forget how much you let them down, how far you fell, how endless your failure. People do not give in, in order to save their skin and sacrifice others, but because they want to die.They just want it to stop. There is a certain point where you would rather kill yourself, as quickly as possible, than choose to survive such an ordeal. Would I have killed myself by now? If I could, if I had the means. If the vial had not already been extracted from my teeth. Yes. Possibly. Probably. But my weakness was holding on to hope, clinging on to life, when most would know when to quit, when they had passed the point of no return, and to let go of the rope.
The rope around my wrists is biting in. Rubbing raw the skin. Someone behind me twists it round, an attempt to snap my wrists. It is excruciating, a pain so far beyond the sense barrier it no longer registers. I am immune. I am immortal. I can no longer tell if I am alive or dead, and the difference barely matters. This is all there is, all that’s left. Me and my torturer, and this strange intimacy between us. He comes to me now. Stands over me, then sits astride, across my lap, crunching my splintering kneecap. He motions to the others, those I cannot see. He wants to be alone. Just him, my pain, and me. He leans in close, he breathes on me and offers a cigarette. I do not want it, but he lights it and places in my mouth, pushing it under the rag that gags me and is tied tight behind.
So this is it, I think. A final parting, a peace offering of sorts. A last wish,my last breaths wasted on nicotine. Then what? Blow to the head, bullet to the chest, knife to the throat. I wait. Nothing more I can do now. I choke on the cigarette. I don’t smoke anymore, and even if I did, it would provide little relief now. Here, in this tent, tied up, body broken, bent out of shape, mind half-crazed, nearly gone, but not quite. Not yet. Still desperately, pointlessly clinging on to the rope. As I choke he takes the cigarette from my mouth, puts it to his own lips briefly, looks at me in a way I take to be curiosity, bemused by my perseverance and resistance, or perhaps just amused by my appearance. The ability for one to be stripped of all humanity, dignity, capacity, yet still somehow, remain human.
He takes the cigarette in his right hand, places his left upon my shoulder, and slowly, carefully lowers it towards me. I see its trajectory, a slow-moving missile. It’s red glow lighting the gloom around us. All is slow motion, a film of exposed ripped negatives cast upon the cutting-room floor. It continues towards me, in my direct line of sight. I should have thought of this, I should have been prepared. I barely have time to close my eye. The cigarette burns into my eyelid, but gently, he doesn’t push, there’s clearly no rush. The skin of the eyelid is thin, a delicate membrane, it is punctured easily. Its hot spear pierces into my eye. I feel my eyeball contract, my body convulse. My eye is an egg cut and fried, thick viscous yolk oozing out, blood red. My fibres pull away, skin tries to contract, shrink into the chair, but there is no escape, no letting go. I long to faint, I am unavoidably repulsed, I try to vomit. It is a technique taught for occasions such as these, although this is a scenario beyond the most extreme programmes, my most sickening of dreams. But there is insufficient bile, I have already brought it up, when they first applied the fire and the knife.
I try to focus on something else, anything but this. Still he twists, and gouges the cigarette butt deeper in. My other eyelid is squeezed tight shut, awaiting the next assault. I can hear him, feel him, smell him, breathing foully in my face. Close enough for lips to touch, if we should wish. I have no more weapons left, my mouth bound, my head held firm in place. I can resist no more, I am beaten. My muscles slacken, I relax. I want to weep, I long to be untied, I know I would welcome even his embrace. And that’s when I know I am finished, I am letting go of the rope. I am getting ready to die, I have at last given up hope.
I know he must sense this. He’s been well trained too. Probably the same programmes, the mind games, the pain response reframing. He loosens his grip, leans back and, I imagine, surveys his handiwork. I keep my eyes closed. But my bowels open. Suddenly, uncontrollably, and spill out whatever is left in there.The body emptying itself, in preparation for death. He scrambles off me, stands up, and kicks at my red raw shin. The smell of piss and shit fill the air,mixing with the sickly stench of burnt flesh, singed sclera, fried albumen. I am blinded. I don’t need to try to open my eye to test this, I can tell. It feels rotten, festering, shrivelled in its socket. I am done. He is done too.That was his parting shot. I know that now. I don’t speak, or ask for explanations, I stay silent, for there are no words, and for fear that he may rip out my tongue. That is more common we’re told. He walks off, leaves the tent, rejoins his fold. I’m left waiting, listening, breathing. It’s all I have left.
They remove the tent, they take the chair. I’m left gagged and bound. Burning in the midday sun.
I spy with my little eye something beginning with…
This short story won third prize in the Wild Hunt Short Story Competition 2021.
Round and round, and round and round, and round and round we go.
Where we stop, nobody knows.
But I know because this is where we stop every day. Same route, same stop. It’s like a religion, this stopping. This pausing and waiting. A moment of meditation in the day. It’s a habitual act, like fingering the rosary or crossing oneself before the altar.
We pause, we reflect, we wait, we hope. Nothing happens.
Nobody gets on. Nobody gets off.
The bus driver is contractually required to stop and wait, if only for a few seconds, at every stop. But why here? We’re on the edge of a roundabout, it’s completely impractical.
It’s the only true Circus left in London. Oxford has become a fancy pedestrian crossing, Piccadilly a broken circle confused by cars. Cambridge is… Well, a little theatrical moment in the West End. Exit, pursued by tourists. The others have turned into concrete monstrosities feeding the polluting petrol beast: ring junctions, roundabouts, gyratories. Give me an old-fashioned Circus any day.
The word comes from the Romans apparently. I looked that up one day when I overheard a little boy travelling with his mother ask her why there were no lions here. I told him there used to be lions roaming the streets of London, but now they keep them in the zoo, for safekeeping. She looked a bit annoyed at my interjection, but the young boy’s eyes lit up. I like it when there are children travelling the buses, we don’t get so many of them on this route. It’s mainly city types trying to look cool by ‘slumming it’ or poor people going to Moorfields Hospital.
Circus Maximus the Romans called it. Their largest stadium, bigger than the Coliseum, for chariot-racing and lion-baiting and other fancy attractions. Finsbury must be Circus Minimus in comparison. I don’t know when the word was used to describe these round places in cities. Round squares effectively. I love the green space in Finsbury Circus, this is what makes it special. It’s got a bowling green in the middle too, an oasis of civilisation amongst all this urban pretension. And a lovely garden, although that’s all dug up now, for the building of yet another underground railroad. Waste of money if you ask me. All those billions of pounds and it will only shave 10 minutes off your journey.
My name’s Bill, by the way, I’m the bus conductor. The one that stands at the back then comes round to check the tickets. There aren’t many of us left, they got rid of most of them when those little plastic swipey cards came in. No need to pay the fare with cash and get a ticket anymore, you just swipe and go. No tickets – no need to inspect them. But there’s a few of us left. The oldies, who were not quite close enough to retirement, but not young enough to take voluntary redundancy and start a new career in a new town.
They keep us for show mainly, for the tourists. None of this jumping on and off the back any longer though, that’s a real shame. That was the main attraction to the job for me, and how I met my missus. She was trying to jump on the back of the number 38 when she stumbled. I caught her and pulled her up onto the back runner. Fell into my arms, she did. Just outside the Angel station. She was my angel in waiting, that’s what I told her.
We can’t do any of that now, it’s not allowed. Too dangerous apparently. Health and safety nonsense, it’s just an excuse to get rid of us, cut costs. I’ve only got another few years to go and then I can retire. The missus says she can’t wait that long to have a proper holiday abroad, so we’ve got to go now, whilst we still can, she says. She wants to go somewhere hot this year, so I’m taking on some extra shifts. This is why I’m doing the night shift, a bit of extra padding in my pay packet.
For this night shift, this particular night, that I’m telling you about, I got a new driver. I don’t know how new he is, but I’ve never seen him before, and as one of the oldies I reckon I’ve worked with all the drivers at my company. Most people assume that London buses are all run by the same company, but they’d be very wrong. There are dozens of them, all in charge of different routes. All in competition with each other for passengers and fares.
Clarkson, he said his name was. I assumed this was his surname, but no, Clarkson is his first name. Funny names they give kids these days. Clarkson Wells Junior is how he introduced himself to me, with a little salute. I wasn’t sure if the salute was intended to be respectful or sarcastic. But if he starts calling me grandad, I’ll wallop him.
It’s a normal night shift. People get on, people get off. As usual it’s quiet at one end, busy in the middle and then a big blur of noise and beer in the centre. Everyone is so noisy these days, compared to when I started out, yelling into their phones. Several times I’ve had to clear up vomit and sticky red wine and broken glass.
We were on our way back from town, nearly at the end of my shift. It’s already just after midnight as we’d been delayed by some malfunctioning temporary traffic lights where they’re digging up the road round Farringdon. We’re nearly back at Liverpool Street where I end my night, when we stop at Finsbury Circus as usual.
We pause. As usual, nothing happens. Nobody gets on. Nobody gets off.
Clarkson lets the engine idle for a couple more seconds before putting it back into gear. There aren’t many of the diesel buses left now. Most of them have been replaced by the modern electric ones. Better for the environment I know, but they’re not the same. The buses on this route haven’t been replaced yet, and I hope I go before they do, because I’ll miss the sound of an idling bus engine. It’s the sound of anticipation and excitement, the sound of a journey about to begin and a whole new group of people to share that with. I like the fact that I get to be part of their lives for a short while, and I imagine what they’re doing, where they’re going. Who they are as people, not just passengers.
Just before the bus lurches forward into first gear, a large crowd of people get on. I didn’t see where they came from. They just streamed on from out of the shadows. They must have been waiting against the wall rather than standing at the stop itself. I wasn’t half surprised when they all tumbled on. They were all dressed similar, with long dark cloaks or heavy black jackets covering up whatever they were wearing underneath. It was quite a strange sight. Must be off to some sort of fancy-dress party, or perhaps some unusual city boy secret club. One doesn’t want to think about it, but I’ve seen that film by the clockwork guy.
What’s most odd, other than the fact that I’ve never seen anyone get on at this stop ever, is that the next stop is the last one. The bus terminates there. I start to tell them this as they climb on, but they just smile or laugh and say it doesn’t matter, they’re just along for the ride. I shrug and glance up the aisle to Clarkson, who I can see in his mirror watching all these people take their seats. He raises his eyebrows at me in return, and then sticks his thumb up, and off we go.
Round and round, and round and round, and round and round we go circumnavigating Finsbury Circus. Clarkson then takes a sharp right and cuts across the other lane suddenly. I stumble in the back, not expecting any route deviations and wonder what he’s up to. The bus then descends quickly and steeply onto a narrow slip road that seems to be taking us underneath the gardens of the Circus. I’ve seen it before, but it’s not a proper road, just a small slipway to the building works that are currently going on underground.
I want to yell out for him to stop, but one never does that for fear of disturbing the passengers. One has to remain calm and orderly at all times, it’s part of our training. The last thing you want in a difficult situation or a traffic incident is a load of panicky passengers to deal with as well. I try to make my way to the front so I can speak to him, but the descent is too steep, and I have to grab onto the back of the seats beside me for fear of falling over.
He’s going too fast. He’s not going to make it. Has he forgotten he’s driving a bus? The height of the slipway entrance isn’t going to be tall enough. Christ, I hope there’s no one sitting at the front of the bus on the top deck. Flashing images of twisted metal, singed seating, the smell of burning rubber and burnt skin sear my mind. We all remember the bus bombing of 7/7. Number 30. It wasn’t my route, but I knew the driver. Poor George, he was a true hero. In my opinion this is exactly why we still need conductors. We can keep an eye out for suspicious-looking passengers, strange packages, nervous fumbling of overlarge rucksacks.
This all shoots through my mind as Clarkson shoots down the darkened slipway and onto a metal ramp. And then stops. Suddenly. I get thrown backwards onto the stairs. I don’t hit my head luckily, but it takes me a while to get my wind back and stand up. That dodgy hip takes a knock, and I reckon I’ll have a few bruises in the morning. Clarkson! I call out. But there’s no answer. I turn and see that the bus has emptied. Everyone has got off and disappeared as quickly as they got on. What the hell?
Maybe he’s driven us into hell, I wonder to myself as I walk towards the front of the bus and peer inside the driver’s cabin. But Clarkson has gone too.
I step off the bus. And slowly walk around it, as if the problem is the bus itself rather than the fact that we seem to be parked in some sort of concrete underground cavern. It must be an old underground car park under Finsbury Circus Gardens. It’s dark and gloomy and it feels a bit spooky standing here on my own. Clarkson! I call out again. The word echoes around the cavernous concrete space.
Over here Bill, comes back the reply. I can’t make out from where, but then up ahead of me, about 50 metres away I see a huddled black mass of people, slowly moving. It must be the passengers. It’s all a bit dark, but I spot a wave and again the cry: Bill, over here, but be quick! It’s Clarkson’s voice, but it sounds strangely amplified and echoey in the large subterranean hall.
I start walking towards where his voice came from. It’s all very intriguing. But bloody annoying too as my shift is meant to have finished and I’d like to go home to my bed. The missus will have made cocoa and some toast, and I’d really like to get some sleep. But I have to admit, I’m curious. Maybe this is some underground rave, or an illegal drug den of some kind. A sex club? Oh, my word, that would be something to tell the lads about.
I stop walking. I’m going to have to ring this in, of course I am. This is all completely against the rules. Bus drivers can’t go making up their own routes and heading off onto uncharted roads. I dig out my phone. I’ve got to do my job. This is the key role of the conductor, you’re not just there to check tickets but to oversee the conduct of the bus and its passengers. You don’t normally need to keep such a close eye on the driver mind you, but times change.
But there’s no reception down there of course, and from where I’m standing in the dark, I can’t even work out where the bus drove in from, in order to walk back up the slipway into the outside air.
Bill! comes another cry from down the corridor. I scurry along. I don’t want to be left alone in the dark. Maybe this is some sort of candid camera, and I’ll look a bit of a muppet if I don’t play along.
I almost run down the corridor, as far as my hip will allow, and get to the end where there’s nothing but a closed metal door. Maybe I’ve missed them or gone the wrong way. I knock on the door. I don’t know why, it seemed polite. It opens a crack. A disembodied voice, which sounds like a woman, but it’s hard to tell these days, asks:
Performer or Watcher?
What? I reply. Where’s Clarkson? What’s going on?
Performer or Watcher? She repeats, with some impatience. Come on, you’re late, we’ve got to get started.
Look, I don’t know, I just got here on the bus.
Passenger or conductor then? She asks with mounting frustration.
Oh, conductor, of course.
I hold up my little company-issued bag for taking money, tickets and the special notepad for issuing fines. She opens the door, not fully, but enough for me to see that she is indeed a woman. She’s wearing a long black cloak draped around her shoulders with a brightly coloured leotard on underneath.
This way please.
She directs me to the right, down another corridor.
And hurry up please. It’s about to start.
What is? I turn to ask her, but she’s gone.
I walk down the corridor, which gets lighter and lighter as I go. I can also hear some noise, a low rumbling sound, like machinery. That would make sense. I figure that the hollowed-out cavern Clarkson has driven us into must be part of the Crossrail building work going on. An extension to Liverpool Street station for the new tube line built underneath near Finsbury Circus. Maybe this is some sort of event, a celebration for the Crossrail team and we’ve been invited along. I guess these things have to be kept a bit secret which is why Clarkson didn’t tell me in advance.
But no, it’s not machinery. As I get closer it sounds like feet tapping. Feet stomping and hands clapping. I come out of the corridor into a wide arena with rows and rows of seats around the outside. In the centre a single spotlight cuts through the surrounding darkness. There are hundreds of people sitting on wooden benches.
I stand there in the entrance, scratching my head, trying to work out whether this is real or I’m dreaming. Then there’s a low thundering drum roll, and the lights shine on a small band who strike up a merry tune. Then an announcement over the loudspeakers:
Ladles and Jellyspoons, clowns, townies and other creatures, roll up roll up! Welcome to our annual celebration of the original amphitheatre of playtime and pantomime, of fun, frolics and bearded ladies. The world exclusive Finsbury Night Circus. Admission is free, please pay at the door.
I’m still standing there like an idiot, wondering what to make of the spectacle in front of me when someone grabs me from the side and shoves me down in a seat.
Bill, sit down for God’s sake man.
Clarkson! For it is he, my errant driver. What’s going on?
It’s the circus, Bill. Can’t you see? Now shut up and enjoy the show, its only on once a year.
How come? Why here?
It’s the 31st May, innit?
He grins at me, his teeth shining in the flashes of light pinging off the mirror ball which has just descended from the ceiling into the middle of the arena in front of us.
We celebrate the death of Joey the clown, old Grimaldi, the original circus clown. His first stage performance was just up the road here at Sadler’s Wells.
How do you know all this?
I’m the Chair of the Tram Operators Circus Appreciation Society.
Trams? There’s no such thing anymore.
Well, it’s an old society, we had trams on London streets before buses, Bill.
Yeah of course, I know that.
Just look at us all.
And then I saw what he meant, as the lights came up and the performers started to come on: the ringmaster in his top hat, a kerfuffle of clowns, two trapeze artists swinging from the steel girders that made up the ceiling, and a troupe of tumbling acrobats. And all around me, sitting and watching intently, were the other night shift bus drivers and conductors, current and retired.
This area of London is circus central. We’ve been celebrating like this for hundreds of years.
But why all the bus drivers?
It’s tradition, innit? From the days when trams first traversed the streets and Finsbury Circus was built, there’s been free rides for circus performers. How else could they afford to get to their shows?
They have horses, too? Even underground?
Of course, they have horses Bill. It’s not a circus without horse riding tricks.
And off they went, acrobats turning somersaults on the backs of horses, underneath Finsbury Circus, in the middle of the night.
Round and round, and round and round, and round and round they go.
This poem about the birth of my daughter was published by Selcouth Station in August 2021.
Laced in the heavens,
the constellation Lyra,
Falling Eagle shines
visible to our naked eyes,
its eponym Orpheus –
musician, poet, prophet.
Placed over Earth in
of northern hemisphere –
centuries from now,
it will shine once more
as our guiding North Star.
Faced with my future wife
for the first time
at the birthplace
of the poet Sappho –
her words written for the lyre
sung with love for womenkind.
Traced across the sky,
the Perseid meteor shower,
our hopes lit by shooting stars,
the tears of San Lorenzo –
patron saint of cooks,
comedians and librarians.
Embraced on the beach,
then – looking at the stars,
dared not foretell our future,
now – our own stella cadente
has fallen into our arms,
and we have named her Lyra.
This piece of flash fiction was published in June 2021 in the inaugural issue of the print-only Tattie Zine.
Just look at these beauties glistening with grease as I bend to lick the fat from your fingers my tongue capturing the juice from your chin as it drip drip drips below and threatens to spoil your new white shirt in which we are celebrating the long-sought success from your latest interview now finally the last of a long tedious prostrating farce where you pretend to know less than the men who ask questions so they don’t feel uncomfortable in their ignorance but now finally we can put that behind us look forward make plans and live our lives as we do now at the tube stop waiting for the very last train trying to finish the chips before it arrives the heat of the fatbag warming our thighs and they taste like freedom for only a pound and they’ve made this day perfect and somehow profound and we’ve finished them now but the night is still young and so are we and everything is glistening and we are beautiful and suddenly I love you.
This very short video is my response to being asked to record a video of me reading a poem. I’m not a fan of photos or videos of myself and generally dislike my voice, so I chose to write an “anti-poem” and present without a reading, and in a deliberately obscure way.