Issue 33 – 2022 – Luke Roberts – Record Lows

<< Issue 33

Luke Roberts




But I’m so brittle now, ridiculous,

                                         an echo of a glowing line

a kind of paper throat

                       origami and tarmac

                                                at night in the voice

                     oblique and willed

                                               and watching it heap.

A poem of grazes,

                            a poem of gauze,

        with its own green forfeit in our judgement,

                quiet for how much life you want

                                  floodlit and nothing but boxes.

I mean this from my height

                    from my height drawn up

                                           5ft 10 and loose change

held together in contempt

                from the inside self-corrosive

                                     trapped by chain-link syntax

and never soldered

                to the present

                                    by the shape we’re avoiding

in low-level continuous anger.

               I was disfigured,

                           a solid model, two-dimensional dust

the loose ends tied together

                                             and flapping in the wind.

And I had that sense now

                        that that was it

                                         that we were all dead now

inch by inch

                  could share this, my appetite,

                                          for solid orange defamation

sometimes on fire

                   in the communist language

                                            means nothing emptied out

but the season to live with forever.



But how can I do this,

                                    keep going,

                                                            keep gone,

a working animal,

                        nocturnal and hollow,

                                            can’t forget what I know

        trying for software’s

                               heavy technique.

                                                Too much voice-wise

singing backwards

                         too much panic

                                                    favourite rust

      slate-grey to come home on

                                          voice over inconsistent

and only as pious

                        as the data allows.

                                                     My information,

my emotion,

                        my metabolism.



And at the largest scale

                                    to never get what you want

a dream of jerks, bad poets,

               rich people with ugly children

                                    Don Quixote, Sancho Panza

all the formal problems

                                      you know how to lose.

But we know the laws of history

                         how it has to fold out

                                           a kind of concrete origami,

like the dead and the days of the week.

            But you trip on velocity,

                                                get cheated out of poems

in the pliable dark

            part extensive with the landmass

                                  my friends all mice-like and deranged

hunted by doves

                        bandaged by hawks

                                                     the turn inward unplanned

and took us by surprise

                                                counting damage

                     and a clear abrasive heart

our friend she spoke in tongues

                        was always speaking, trailing off,

                                                   until the roof caved in

was always caving

                        all that sweet decay

                                            sounds like someone humming

someone humming something sweet

                        to someone you once knew

                                                     humming something sweet.




                        Now I go to the park every day,

am reduced.

                        I go to work with maximum reluctance

am reduced.

                   Shadows so soft

                                         thought falling to the side

speaking solid defamation

                        in my trouble-voice troubled

                                                    me, I could be poet,

            could be poet of the night.

All I have is my instinct to go on,

                             a way of arranging

                                                the second-best relics

of the fading plastic arts

                         the brandished angles

                                       the language of our compromise

more slow and more sickly

                           than the punched-in recovery

                                                            ‘the larger process’

            of the tax-free annex

                                    and the shattered discount icepacks

it was the airborne things did the grounding

                        and now the air slides up

                                                in prime organic matter

Jurassic flora in my lungs

                        red dust on the pavement

                                                            the same old elegy

            too small to live inside

                                    a broken step of repetition

another celebrity granular deletion

                       empty offices

                                                like a badge of honour

and the street lined with bikes

                        I thought I was changing

                                                and I thought I had changed

           by the Australian Embassy

                                    with its Ukrainian flags

an art of notation

                        outrun and outflanked

                                            arranges nothing if you have to

if you have to get to grips

                        real and generous homesick

                                                endless summer crematorium

      done in numbers

                               glowing lines

                                                to sort your whole life out alone.



But spring-wrecked sex depressed us

                        all that feeling serrated

                                                night altogether platelet bright

writing odes to right wrongs

                           repetitious and prone

                                                     not in my eyes now

the satellite real

                       bloodshot government bonds

                                                            and the triumph of life

       gets stuck.

                        I wanted to write poems

                                                       of such graphic simplicity

small songs left you for dead.

                        No-one taught me to do this.

                                                It was either at my shoulder

            or ahead.

                              It was always escape,

                                                                 always luck,

     I didn’t even do it on my own.

                                      It has nothing to do with art.

                   Or maybe all of it, all night,

                                                sweating out sugar and method,

in a clearing,

                        in the modernist forest

                                                            where I woke up 35

snow trying to speak

                        and it told me meek hurt

                                                cold economy braided placement

to get the catch flown back

                                    and speak to all of you

                                                                        all at once

in a well-lit featureless room

                          as the future unthinking

                                                      starts curving away

and I got hungry near the end

                        and I was going somewhere total

the breeze on my face

                                    sun on my cheek on my jaw




Luke Roberts is the author of Home Radio (2021), Glacial Decoys (2021), and other works of poetry and prose. He is the co-editor (with Sam Ladkin) of the selected poems of Mark Hyatt, So Much For Life (2023), and editor of Hyatt’s novel Love, Leda (2023). He lives and works in London.

<< Issue 33