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Digital Poetics 2.1 Unhide When True: David Grundy

“well now we have no method and the crystal is as clear / as unmixed air”

“it is easy to hide under a false realism”


O misery, contain me, O misery, tell it like

Wretched decline, O misery!

tell it like a loss of the use of all the parts of speech; with a lost and looming absence of words—grievous affliction—deflect and go blind in the distorting mirror they told us was a window immune.

Tell us, if it’s not projecting, that there is a way of seeing the world which encompasses more than inevitable loss, domination and sorrow—a gap in things—to the side—a way to testify, attest, testimony in terror,


of the petrified

final will. Tell us too that there’s in a way another way to be getting on, stalling, and starting moored: The way the trees fall holding hands, signs in the thickest twilit bit of the evening part of noon’s brightest glare, contradicting debt, death, depth.

Wish or cruellest anxious hope.

Expanded constriction. Face to face.

Questions, answers, nudges, suggestions, ways to go: reading in defeat, attending to the rumours on the edge, the truths you fancy emerged in birdcalls’ insistent subsong stinging—sounds the alarm—signals emergency: learning calling through the stunning inability to shape to a name.

Does it mend it or does it break it.

Sharpening and relaxing, soaking up and wringing out.

Well what can you say:

The line that promised continuity broken microscopically, or in huge fissures, a series of ruptures contorting to bear the pressure of a contradiction buckles basic matter to annihilation’s brink—a system driven to completion or collapse, which was which. Deduction or revelation, the tie to event, turning to the poem as document, as container, as urgent response—failed. As metaphor then would stretch, grow wide enough to torque all the transformation we’d wish, wishing for an ending not this, a cessation not this, a turn to new relation not this, yet yet and yet and yet.

O misery,

Chemtrails and cloud. What’s said aloud, or whispered under breath. Are you yet awake.

Society explodes. You stay in. Were you to believe it, there is such atomised fracture papered over as would make you weep. They cheer the crowds they send to their death: in applause every second clapped away, every night: and every night, the loss of another life.

One or one hundred. Society in the throes: As we can’t be apart from it, roped in or left out, with rope burns visible, invisible constraint: every iota squeezed; distance in proximity; indices of intimacy monstrous and invisible, grown apart—

And public life. Cast back, and it was just as bad.

Then the road fell, & the land, & the city was always a ruin, permanent displacement & surplus adjustment cast, fractured life unseen. We knew that it could not always be or so, or the night would rip out our ears: if you didn’t laugh you’d and you’d , seeking for the words that, even in their absence, would tell us in touching distance that sometimes we knew.

They call each collapse a drop in the ocean, but that metaphor would imply filling or replenishing, imperishable store. For pity’s sake Leave the last. I throw up, my hands. If elegy is the only theme what are we done for.

Particles charge the air, a microphone cracked, the solitary record of what we share in dispersal, the interlude that becomes the end, the middle way with a horizon to wish: you get charred, changed, in panic and pain. When always on the brink of another loss, so many you build them up to a negative whole, revenant speech in love, and that structure would fold around you like a reckoning the least you’d like to make.

After the morning

The evening

After the evening

The night

After noon

The wait for darkness’

dipping cloud;

Never prepared for the news.

O misery,

In miserable calamity

We could see.

Sure, we could see. It took catastrophe to see with clarity; Could see, what could we do. Though the sky should open to colour and as paradise, will you have any more eyes to see. Resurrected so that we can die. Dead so that we can be reborn. O misery, agitated, unceasing care. Could see, what could we do. Horn shimmers on through audible fog. Invention more than ever before. Worked with the materials to fashion a mode of life in the other world in the Poem perched precarious on a ledge, in a suppressed yell yelled utter, so quiet, so slim. I went out up onto the hill, money spread its glass and hammer glow over lives unseen below, flowers beginning to flower, grass beginning to grow, concrete misery, in gridded open landscape I found myself a place. It’s so—

Such calmness in wreckage, and the transparent clarity of the damned: was it just visiting, a passing shower, or had it irrevocably slid to the vast bottom quick, abyssal clip, say it isn’t so. It’s so, & the vast day moves on at no pace anywhere fast, a place in the earth, fine, metonymic collapse in the cracks in the pavement trip trip, fine, glided over, gauche & trembling & winning over-whelming precarious continuance, fine, to be in another day got by on, & pleasure, & new modes of being. Everyone on the block in isolation tanks torpid, unassuming, where do we go no place swift, Poetry says the opposite to this, contagion. Leave the last to the last, they will eat off our heads and the hands that hold them, support the faces they will let to fall off the face of whatever earth they think turns in goods / in services / in flow. Unchecked, spoiled,

How have you been.

We say these things and someone listens

Tallies up the missing in the gaps

Sticking to Our story we

Open the Window, tot up the


More will count

that now as numbers out of life fall off

in promise and premise and an ending sight

what rolls over a bare and ragged horizon

It’s the clicking to the side

the whispering at the edge

it’s the suspended thunder

ever-beckoning, never arriving—

in rage arriving quick

Like nothing known before.

Do you think we’ll come out the other side?

when we meet

we meet in a damaged frame

in the dark

with ripped-out spots they used to call illumination

landscape reduced




When you go, you go through darkness

wandering off grid

stunbling in the dark


and present

Take care, for you tread on the utopian and ravaged spectre of un-waking life, walking and dreaming in the day of better, constantly breathing and being alive, living livid and changed. Slow dawn, slow dying, alive inside slowly fraying thread or sudden snap. One breath after the next: collect them like the run-off in your tenderest protection, urging connective exhalations, considering materially what it means to say that spirit abides as life in memory, memory in history, a lifetime’s work of study or a moment’s flash, creates nothing.

O misery, say you see it

Out in the empty park,

Parked on the empty line;

Predict the worst, exhausted:

the route Turned off, the route you


Not turn to



Walked to work in a desert,

picked out splinters alone,

Here the list of routes, here the wages:

the empty channel as it fits whatever the frame it is in which we’re now meant to live. A motto, a totem, there’s a damaged, a shit day, a body in itself, a gift: and if compassion and simply being simply a fucking person is not the fundamental basis of the social—the bottom line, the basis of every fucking thing—then what the fuck is any of it for; having, not having, being, not being, and refusing not to be ok, not to be not ok, refusing not be there to be. That’s all we can ask, that it address us, for us who create, who do not cross, who might have been struck too.

Red rag tied

red flag tired

tiered waved

Buoyant, tough.

Put your face to the earth no one should own, broken frozen urn.

Say something.

Tell us what it is we’re about.

No more parades.

Once I heard a bird come through.

Open as many ways as you can and face; trying to tune in—you seethe on radar inner radio waves—it’s a frequency in-turned and damaged but it’s oriented out, sung afar but close, and this world we know for sure, roaming, letting go, waging against the waged withdrawal crushes all heads to hungdown hurt, go on don’t stop you can see at the edges where we begin our selves again, a strength in precarity a joy Belonging to nothing: the paucity of the juncture and the promise beyond it—lost continents’ levelling.

Like nothing known before.

O misery,

If I could hollow stand, look into locked business, be parted from the fold, histories inadequately told; If I could with urgency encompassing passion defend: We here, actually existing and social, they there, beneath the contempt they hold for us and we over them hold like a sickle blade. To live inside a room for years, not easily frightened, terribly afraid: We cannot wait—no choice. We can say we won’t go down when they press the button and set, can say we won’t choke won’t shut up surrender be lost locked-up as so many squalls a cough suppressed; it’s not from the muse, the museum, but from thought and from others that we gather our selves, our parts, and we build the body anew. Some poems taught me that.

Keeping distant tabs. And wild.

Atomised, anatomised,

Fuck it, if you don’t write, who else will do that for you. If you don’t do that for them who will writing’s sake suffice. Slid in the margins, dappled and depleted in farthest shadow: Go bending off the path you tread in danger to stop the roof falling over your head, the roof removed—Open space reduced. I’ve been thinking since they took the sky, or was it they took the ground, I’ve been looking at the sky since they took the roof, the roof since they took the ground the sky upside down sleepwalking to the abyss on your head seeing paradise upside down, I’ve been thinking in wanton wandering, to go down with a glow for us,

For what you have noted,


Chemains, remains, tracks.

One has to disappoint. One can refuse that. One can listen.

What has happened to them and to everyone else? What is this strange, shrilly muffled yawn that holds no hope in it but an endless reiteration of the already said, the unsaid, the possible words it squashes:

It watches indifferent. It drifts. Out of anguish and distrust.

We don’t belong to anyone. At midnight cut off.



Where did you sleep last night?

Where the next?

Where will I lay down

My head,

Where expect.

We shiver when the cold wind

When the driving rain.

Who who who a sound of travel

Never ceasing,

never rest.

How do we help each other grieve?

Ventilate. Breathe.

Opened indifferent, opened immense,

a city built for what from it could we take,

what virtue in shame, what reclaim with grace

the least lowest most ragged and dismissed,

as they cast out seek to remove

all trace.

Not to know a life not your own,

What paucity of potentiality, what

Imagination-less dreck, they rule things

Without responsibility, without love and

This is too direct.

The poems swallowed the

Letters swallowed the missive,

We speak out into the void

We people with our speech,

There is always an ear.

Sings alone.

Never shines

On the way



Too close they pass

What glimpses

What shades

Further and further out, the light that fades, a field of guilt and bright and pause, the light dappled, the shadow dark: we were still taught by birds to sing in gross shining ardour, in obvious despoliation, spread over with cruelly compensating stave, grave. Cleft in morning the tower emptied, leased, toppled then fell. Always a burning window; always a string of smoke ghosts air in empty spring; in spring balm; empty now; claim uncalm.

Gladly I’ll go

and hiss in hunger

The merest anger

No footway, no hold. Realms displaced, dislocated on lost borrowed time, retrieval a song a faint echoed bell, a tune of rumours, slow and sentimental, popular and heroic:

Depthless, move on; less and less, go without; pathless, mindless, apart and silenced in the open air. The world turned upside.

Day in day out. O misery. In

The modest joy of near-safety, Immodest and

Shut in, you sing: Island, inland, inlet, archipelago, life in boundaries in controlled border shifts was always this, you didn’t realise its smallness until Banal riches and complacent health re-ordered the limbs of a living constitutive body to the grimace of a walking corpse.

Shut in, you sing, re-arrange the dust, adjust the mould, singing in two voices humming constantly, each voice under the sign of a third term, a beeping sound, a mutually alienated sign, the clouds tinged with light from an obscure source, leapt out as pinprick bruise or wound.

Life in the abstract.

Things that “run their course”.

They waste the day, they burn it:

We say that the sun “goes down”.

Could you sustain a feeling to its full course, how in any way this could be exemplary, weighed by power, humming, taking the air, into history unwrit, humming, shattered, illusory.

What of

The catastrophe of mine or anyone else’s feelings consuming

In the Pace of a drifting cloud.

Day in, day out,

These are not deaths they are ways of dying. Death by stealthy means suddenly visible, yet together the sky and people beneath it decided they were together aligned with more of the same callous regard, a burning building luxurious, choking in smoke.

Day in, day out,

We who are given the name of solidarity enact from inside,

Learn the difference between banal acceptance, drably insular suffering, and the desperate urge to hold on to the verges of that which is forever at threat of loss; all surviving effigies of meetings changed in grottoes, glades, graves, paths, streets, side-glances, spoken silences, greetings, when we emerge blinking to the sunken shrunken world, haze of vanishing smog like some dream or celebratory afterthought of massive calamitous death. In and out, shut we sing a different music, a different language, social in solitude; Day out, day in, Look at the lists of death: the numbers pop, staring dumb at sun casting blind light on our histories exhausted, rags and numb.

They come and go in memory, each friendship made, in memory as desire in speech—dry heave—somewhere at arm’s length, a measured metred distance with no bottom, no edge. The lines break indifferent to what limit you’d fall off, beyond which identity pales, balks, fades away, as stories replace a life—dry heave—a succession of incidents, a variety of angles, moments cut, remembered, forgotten, dried. Look forward, relive, relapse, relieve, beginning to touch a raw nerve central explosion to the edge, staccatoed hysteric disciplinary leaking mess, the catastrophe of mine or anyone else’s feelings consuming. Locked inside a giant tomb, to formulate Grand plans: grinding repetition: Rudimentary scores, basic exercises in staff notation, Day out, day in: working backwards with New symbols, crossed instruments, rhythming with something you can’t hear and isn’t there: where else can you turn, what else can’t you do.

O misery,

Could the wind be a monument, be held, howling, signalled by the community we build in its absence, those who, as shavings invisible, as so much chaff collapsed, fell absented from all memory day out, day in. In misery, I thought about the recording of everything, the frame. A fragment of a fragment of the true originary trauma. I thought of pouring the form out on the floor. I can’t even write this. I thought of throwing, abandoning, returning, glancing back. There are voices beneath the voice, howling the corner, crooning, gleaming and groaning, expiring in the shade, gently accompanying.

Day in, day out, A crack in the walls: there is a rustling. Just wait here. Stay awhile. Walking into blossom, the way tails off. Walking into a tunnel without end, endlessly time-bound, until the end of time compiling time’s bibliography. Like a profane allegory, with grease on my hands I couldn’t write; thinly wandered, wanting crying through the wind, on midnight’s strike up for fresh air, I saw with stars clearer than they had ever been before, a little portion of a potion, poison, premonition. O what’s the use.

Fires edging close.

The edge of the desk the edge of the world.

If elegy is the only theme.

A song and a dance.

Like nothing known before.

Like Nothing I said, like everything I sang.

Fires edging close.

As day’s swelled shine reflects in the eyes of one without, the capacity to see yourself in those eyes, and from within them, even in the dullest of all façades, to shine yet shine yet shine.

O misery,

New ideas are ready for you.

This poem also appears in Local Apocalypse (Materials, 2020).


David Grundy lives in London and co-runs the small press and reading series MATERIALS. Books of poetry include Local Apocalypse (2020) and Relief Efforts (2018). A critical book, A Black Arts Poetry Machine: Amiri Baraka and the Umbra Poets, came out from Bloomsbury in 2019.


This publication is in Copyright. David Grundy, 2021. The moral right of the author has been asserted. However, the Hythe is an open-access journal and we welcome the use of all materials on it for educational and creative workshop purposes.

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