Music Theory for the Bored and Confused

Who gave music its name?
It was Boethius, tinkering with treble and bass
The screwdrivers of sound
Falling in piles and arpeggios
He broke up the Romans into
Seven strokes of a brush
Seven notes black as pine
Rushing towards a stop
As brittle as an empire

And who placed the notes on the lines
Stuck them there
With his tongue lolling from his mouth?
Italy’s sheepdog
Guido D’Arezzo
Symbolist entrepreneur
Lover of paste and water:
He carries the notes to the vine
And pushes them in
Like God making grapes

Mirrors reflecting mirrors

He stares into the mirror, which is cracked underneath; marred and browning at the edges. Breathes deeply three times and looks into the wide eyes. There is some redness there, some puffiness under them. The pores on his nose seem over-large, like wide pits. Where to begin?

He begins by splashing water on his face. It takes several dips of the finger into the stream to get the temperature right. One tap turns anticlockwise, the other clockwise. He growls when, at first, the water is too hot. The tap stays running and slowly begins to fill up the clogged sink.

There is a mirror in this room too, although it is smooth, oval and new. The sink is bright turquoise, empty and shining. The eyes looking into it are redder, and tears flow steadily from them. But they seem by the contours and lines to be younger: more restful and more rested. This room looks strange. Not strange in the sense of being unusual, but unfamiliar. Completely unfamiliar. This whole house is unfamiliar. His right hand, held up, seems unfamiliar too. There is only one conclusion possible: insanity. Insanity is creeping up on him. It is this place, this room, this strangeness, this situation. Digging his nails into his palm, he wills the pain to act as a catalyst to burn this all away. ‘A platinum and rhodium catalyst may be used to facilitate the conversion of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide’ he whispers to the mirror. The words survive in condensation for a few seconds. These are words an insane person might say, he chides himself.

A voice calls from the kitchen. He breathes deeply, trying to calm himself; a kaleidoscope trying to turn back to a single cohesive shape. Fail. Fail. Fail. Looking into those red eyes again he pats them dry with two folded pieces of toilet paper. A shaking hand is raised to the level of the face. Nothing is working properly any more. He looks down at his left hand as it clinks against the porcelain. The voice calls again.

He looks up into the ugly brown mirror, willing some change to explode out of it. Nothing happens for several seconds while he holds his breath. He breathes out in a long stream that condenses around the flecks of dirt on the mirror, like electrons clouding around nuclei. His left hand clinks against the porcelain. The circle is something that can be broken, just here where the flux raises slightly from the surface. He carefully rubs his finger with the translucent yellow sliver of soap.

Change Time

Changes to come
in metamorphosis we
like butterfly wings
cracking in the sun

coloured letters dry
you folded and cut
these promises into a vernacular
of absence

this empty space
the pictures zoom out
to vanishing point

as before
we must
build up from this invidious vacuum
build power and wire and glass
a monumental distraction

Keep reading the moments

From the block cue card

We pick to fit

Projected subtitles

Eventually there will come

(A coincidence)

A face in the mandala

In the inkblot, in the fractal

Just as you look up

Their eye turns down

And your synapses

Darkened with that umber lethargy

Not imbued with discretion

Enough to separate

Eyes that widen

From fate

Not right in winter

something grows in winter

bites the fractured ice of long pools

on the corrugated rooves

comes to a stalactite point

in a chill room

orange streetlights shadow of a sodium flame

haze the ceiling

night’s promise, a hollow place filled with dreams of drowning

roll and stare up on waking

nothing but the white blankness

of a Montreal hillside

the slight warmth of an imprint in the sheets


takes flight