It was the night before the reading and as usual she couldn't decide what she should perform. Once you put your hand in the jar, it was quickly lost amongst the bits.
Poem A was permanently ailing, Poem B couldn't stay in one place. D and E were in-your-head poems and read out loud were sonically pale. She liked poem M but it seemed to rise from a past consciousness, like washing machines with a mangle or black and white televisions.

She had started writing something for the big night several times but it was all just starts. One day these starts might paint their own finishing lines, or pal up as a composite, but not by tomorrow night.

Poem S was about incest, T was about war. But most of them were not about anything at all.  They were written in poem-speak, heads bobbing up and down, half-floating, half-sinking in a vast, glutinous, semi-buoyant mix.

Even if she stilled the poems, they had to be placed in line. Every poem would only hold hands with privileged others; they were promiscuous but within discriminating limits. Reversing the order was like living your life backwards. A dizzying experience, but not exactly a blueprint for success.

Another poet (male) had suggested that she should put all the poems in a box, stir them round, then pull out a poem and read it. But she needed to sculpt her delivery, which this person who made the helpful suggestion certainly had not.  He swayed from foot to foot, dropped bookmarks on the floor, and mumbled incontinent intros while he threw the dice about what to read next.

Should she pick her best poems or those that would best please?  Or to put it more crudely, should her listeners come first or should their wishes be tuned out? She sensed her own beat, whereas every audience tapped into its own codeless asynchrony.  Romancing their mobile phones, running up bills at the bar, they clapped, even cheered, but rarely seemed to be listening.

So to what would they tune in?  Poem J was incomprehensible.  Yet there were people who adored incomprehensible poems, you yourself were a self-confessed addict of this genre.  But should non-addicts be made to suffer until they atoned their resistance?

If the dilemma came down to one point (and most dilemmas do), it was this. A poet was not an entertainer. And risk-taking didn't necessarily entice. But there was one of you, a really annoying one, but an itchy get-up-and-go-I-won't-be-put-down-and-behave-myself miscreant, that wanted your performance to connect.

Some thought the remedy was to make the audience feel as uncomfortable as possible.  One of me
would like to nurture your discomfort, but I'll try not to bring my selves into this.

Yet I would prefer your disdain to your affirmation. If you boo me it will steady my self-doubt. There are precedents for this, just as there is a history waiting-to-be-written about the poems poets evicted when they groomed others for promotion.

The poetics of the crookback, the lyric in the lean-to,
legs and arms poking out at gawky, buck-teethed angles,
the seasons stewed and stirred up, the ocean noisily emoting

between the cherry and the checkpoint, the conceptual and the corny,
the waiver in the wavering, the aesthetic as the awkward,
the flying trapeze of song talk,  the big dipper of vocalese,
poetry as stalker somersaults as willing victim

po-er-po-re-per   e-voco   cho-der  oive   ding
vo-co-de  ci-vo-co-ry   co-cho   ire    re
in-vo-co-re   ear-tree  re-yrt-oc  choi
is-on-try   vo   cho-re-cis -on

de-ci-di-ce-de     poing  poing
re-de-po-e-pa       choi cho
e-po   och-re         oice

The right to intervene

the right to intervene doesn't understand its own agendas
or the birth defects of its 1989 delivery
could war ever be eliminated, the girl in glasses asks
a soldier guns down a deserting algorithm

they met again
in the room before the gas chambers
he could intercede, tell her
where she was going
it meant certain death for both

better to embrace her for a last time
and let her sleepwalk into execution

 'a device to be manipulated'
human rights drew first breath
 in the look-up  files of anti-communism

(no prosecution in the world
that is not the progeny of previous victory)

'why don't you ask him to change his plans
if it's so depressing for you'

'that would be interfering, Hazel
and I don't interfere'

well I do, but there can be consequences. 

he had been interfered with as a child
he also knew what it was like
to have meddlesome parents

sharing, my ain folk, a place you can call your own

editors, tweeters, bloggers, teachers
we are all interventionists now

shoot me but not my writing she cried

I'm not committed, he said, to what your writing can do
or whether anyone is listening
only in saving the defenseless words you've written

somewhere someone is writing
a book about genocide
that is a genealogy of waking 

The Cud

as the day is passing out, night starts to slowly chew the cud
her mind migrates promiscuously, staggering into out-of-place
rhythm brings buoyant chaos to the bovine morning's themes
clarity loses suppleness, asynchronous, ungainly, stiff
last night there was a violent ticking that couldn't be ignored
timelines came and went by overland express
the planets seem stateless as they hold the stars apart
surrealism is old-fashioned but has an up-to-the-minute look
the books you never wrote are published to stuttering acclaim
everything is pure conjecture but contamination rules OK
the piano finds new octaves that are off the keyboard map
he pulls on geographies at random so the rule of reach implodes
in a crime scene overrun with voicemail that is locked
poets download verdicts, declare generic guilt
the bones of a young woman float at sea for curious fish to poke
the nagging purr of morphing whales, the porpoise of extinction


a sidelong fascination      the demise of rational patterns     loose tongued and confidential       execution by injection        the yin and yang of siblings      framed as a lesser woman     bottled up but leaking     telephone dementia     the thud of family secrets      the failure to call witnesses      soap-free opera suds     ordeal by television    a tree that shakes the wind      stirring up the static      exoneration exits      a collapse of calming distance      not the father she had thought       a government drug informant       the canning of the confessional       leafless and despondent      false teeth become false consciousness      denial on death row      drama over policy    thought to be abnormal        too shy to tell their friends       rawness round her innocence     the mediatised political      not to be defined by it     implosion of disclosure      she doesn't know her needs      a weeping sleepless lawyer    stereotypes as archetypes      the freedom to chastise      birthing on her death-bed      ripping the body open

10 factors that helped the case

1. Reasonable doubt
2. Crime scene errors
3. Lack of proof
4. Motive
5. Unreliable witness
6. Character
7. PR campaign
8. Supporters
9. Appeals process
10. Favourable political climate

You can stitch the likelihoods together or switch them at birth.  It doesn't provide a timeline. It doesn't make odd socks match. It doesn't stop insurgencies.  It doesn't dictate which way the extravaganza is blowing.

 in the endgame are our incisions 

'10 factors that helped the case' is taken from '10 factors that helped Knox's case', BBC News Europe, 4th October 2011:

       Hazel Smith 2014