Slow Stepper

terrified again
of not loving
of loving and not you
of being loved and not by you
––––– ‘Cascando’ (Samuel Beckett)

Blind itinerant critters – antherozoid couriers –
cross the weeping crust of an eczematous thigh-patch
cooled by a zero-waste powerhouse – Ordovician survivor –
anchored to a narrow north-facing ledge.
Spell out the sensuous, clear of vitalist spiel,
woo-woo of quartzy healing grids, centenary breaths.
Only goal this minute is bin-bag transfer.
Bathrobe yielding sulfurous volatiles –
fibres speckled with piss and Sriracha –
drags along creeping red fescue
that tickles the vellus of my claw toe.
A scavenger’s eggs hatching in the ribcage.
The dream of us swimming in an alpine lake
along the cascade range
has started to fade.

Love, so adept at the furtive itch, winterlong,
your barrier function would admit no rashness:
hard-headed foil for overactive subjunctivity:
if I weren’t prey to the rentier racket, we’d have us
a beautiful ball of gene-spliced moss in jelly-soaked stones
on the kitchen table, kicking out patchouli, cleaning the air,
while our fermenter’s airlock bubbled steadily –
conditional, that is, on FALGSC existing in advance.
(‘And I rolled away, said we never wanted much.’)

Last time we talked: tulun tulun.
Turn over another rock.
Turn over another rock.

Standard stressors had me imitating death –
think more the insult of a non-living wage
than white-hot vents & the vacuum of space –
a shrivelled capsule of quiescence
(a near inanimate unfuckable object)
that constricted your body too, your body
I can picture slipping out of
a Yamamoto cocoon coat.
(I finally agree you are the more aesthetic.)

You insist it’s depression; I, damage suppression –
adaptive interlude to minor recovery
of a sense of futurity from the cyberblitz,
the piled-on presentist vanity,
fronto-striatal-limbic dysfunctions
and decreased error monitoring.
No precipitated letters from mahatmic masters,
or ACV sprinkled by the cutest witch around,
could breach this impermeability.
Still to upregulate translational machinery,
caught up in the queerness
of Clare’s Arcadian shepherd
losing sweet sound unless it’s far off,
I’d hardly register idle privilege
as you read me news
of migrant children detained at the border,
trans allies torn from a rest-house by police
that packed them in sacks and beat them to death.

As Frank said, ‘you can’t plan on the heart.’
‘I’m not going to cry all the time’ –
just each morning as I repeat the decision
not to reangle the showerhead
lest the spray would dislodge
a strand of your hair
that clings to a tile.
(Such is the power you now have over me.)

Metabolite turnover
thrown off astronomically.
Festering spectral ecology.
Drive on to repopulate
with mental talents
borne on spirochete interference.
Speedy lateral stridings.

When this goober most misses
the movements of your mind,
the way you fan and sniff
the pages of a book,
and kiss the peanut,
I tell myself you too are
a mutant that came
with the rust heaps,
indebted to microbial mats,
your glands marked
by legacy contaminants,
each cell in that hand
I didn’t hold enough
a prison for entities
once self-sufficient.
(To little effect.
To little effect.)

Come back and run purple felt tip
along my superficial veins.
No, let’s get more vulnerable and fun –
our bed no longer an ice-slab desk
my tie a tongue becoming
a bit more cliterate.
It’s time you forgave me
for that dent my ass made
in our brand new Blackstar gatefold
like an extra presentiment of loss.
You are worth hundreds of
fiery darts in the heart
and a permanent search.
You are worth hundreds of
fiery darts in the heart
and a permanent search.
Lick Nice ‘n’ Spicy Nik Nak stains
from my fingertips. Let’s marvel
at the corona plasma discharge, sweaty bae,
electrons ripped to recombine with the air –
one of us, at least, is a freshly cut leaf.

Cheek against cheek,
your then no-to-goodbyes goodbye tear
slid right inside my eye –
at that moment I revived,
so am easy to kill again.
Please know I never forgot,
though there’s much I misunderstood,
through the thickest cloud of unknowing,
the sun shines onto your cunt.


May I see you smile, if only from afar?
What’s burnt away
can sometimes be restored.
Hike on Angel’s Rest
where the wildflowers bloom
as never before.


This song-poem was first featured as part of a one-off (unrecorded) radio broadcast over Epping Forest in June 2019, an event organised by The Dark Outside.

I.S. Rowley is an artist based in the United Kingdom.
Medha Singh is music editor at Queen Mob's Teahouse, and a researcher for The Raza Foundation. She functions as India Editor for The Charles River Journal, Boston. She is also part of the editorial collective at Freigeist Verlag, Berlin. Her first book of poems, Ecdysis was published by Poetrywala, Mumbai in 2017. She took her M.A. in English literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and studied at SciencesPo, Paris through an exchange program, as part of her interdisciplinary master’s degree. She has written variously on poetry, feminism and rock music. Her poems and interviews have appeared widely, in national and international journals. Her second book is forthcoming. She tweets at @medhawrites from within the eternal eye of the New Delhi summer.


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