One-Sided Conversations

prose poems by Rupert M Loydell







(John Berger, From A to X)


He never managed to watch the films he had borrowed, there simply wasn’t a

place in his routine, or the desire to do so. He lay in the bath reading a book

of letters to a convicted terrorist in prison, messages of desire, of love, of

everyday life when not confined to a cell.


A book about time passing and the possibilities of marriage, children, even a

visit, fading away; the revolution failing and rebellion becoming history. There

is quiet despair within the longing and mundane reportage, constructed

happiness and frivolity notwithstanding.


It all shakes down to a one-sided conversation, missives mailed into absence,

possibly arriving several months late, if at all, to slowly fill up improvised

shelves in the small dark cell they are eventually delivered to.







Bones of the dead, biscuit dough sculpted into shape then left to harden. Who

shall we mourn or choose to let go with a shrug as acknowledgement that

they've died? Sometimes the news does not hurt, other times we are reduced

to tears and our world is changed, the future misty, our loss impossible to



I am used to making myself write, then shaping and editing later. Ideas and

words bang into each other, but edges can be smoothed. It's good to make

the reader jump about the page. I remember reading Dean Young's poems for

the first time, wondering how on earth he'd got from over there to here.

If you let ideas come, it's easy to move on and ignore those no longer here.

Crumble biscuits for the birds, honour the dead with life: the future is always








I am trying to escape, see it as a new future, full of possibilities. She says I am

running away, I know it is time to move on. We've outstayed our welcome,

there is little left for us here.


I am worn out with it all, we can only measure the strata and think about the

past. How strange history is, buried in the ground. How did we end up with

these friends and lose so many others on the way?


Pass me the measuring rod, put your hammer away now; fossils are for the

future, a faded photograph will have to do.







How far away everything is.


How the seasons come and go.


How we cannot undo time.


All the poems waiting to be written.


All the poems wanting to be written.


Unused words on unwashed windows.







I listen to you stomp upstairs, fed up with homework and my nagging, on your

way to bed. I'm already reading in mine, grateful for rest after a day spent

being paid to not do what I want to do, to be somewhere else.


I try to make my dreams realistic, but it's impossible. I just want to sit in the

garden on my own, eat lunch and dinner with you, write and paint, watch the

sun go down and think about what I have done.


Life's been full but the future's taken away: friends dead, stupid politics and

racism, bank accounts empty, however much we earn. Why do we let

ourselves buy into bullshit, lies and discontent?


I stand beside my younger self, urging him to abandon common sense or

ambition. Just be kind, be poor, do what you want to do.







So why is reading in the morning with the curtains closed, so difficult

compared to reading late at night? It's the same bedside lamp, same book

unless you finished it yesterday, but now the bulb is dim and I can't find out

how to hold the pages without my own hand's shadow on the text. It's a

luxury, but not working.


The owls outside are silent and the thorn tree is no longer banging against the

pipe. It sounded like we were at sea, ropes slapping on an aluminium mast,

wind tearing past our cabin. The ship's cat is asleep on our bed again, my

mate has gone back to sleep.


I am trying to finish books I have started rather than buy any more, but have

lost interest. There was a time when webs of influence and reference made

them seem urgent and topical but I did not make time to read them, they

languish with bookmarks half-way through, piled on the floor.


Some things fade if you look away; I move on to the next, too inquisitive for

my own good, playing in the shallows rather than diving in the deep end;

swimming through mixed metaphors, uncertain where the ship is heading or

how to sail the bloody thing.






for Luke


I'll stay awake all night listening to people talk with the creaking of the house,

inventing ceremonies for the night air and the heroes of the space race, who

were first to go somewhere else and then return.


I want my minutes back, the ones I lost emailing you about poetry and noise,

the ones I buried under the house or painted over in my studio. I only wanted

to dream, not make emotional connections.


Swimming in the rain reminds me of all the questions I want to ask the angels:

whys and whens about how this conspiracy works. The damage is already

done, says a wet figure under an ancient tree.


Look, I need to concentrate, to sustain and dissolve. I live in a poor part of

town near to where you used to live but am a different breed. All that's left of

me now is you.








A small city full of emptiness, shadow absences in the sun. I follow my nose

from church to church, damp frescoes to chipped saints: smoke and wax,

electric candles and patterned reliquaries below heavy ceilings. Beyond brick

walls, private gardens and tall trees, in the squares dust and benches for us to

share. I am lost in sunlight and market debris, in soundscapes and sound

worlds, home-made films, pigeon talk and cathedral bells, eurodisco and late

night chat.


Clear dark sky sends cool air into my hotel room. Space and time and the

visual, Bill Viola’s slow-moving figures and the sounds of distance, of silence,

the close-miked today; the sounds of steps and voices, cat purrs and

paintbrushes, the echoes of a tunnel in time, characters who cannot see each

other. Everyone knows someone else we almost know: zoom to rain on the

windscreen, pan out to watch the clouds go by.


The market scaffolds itself into being, disappears by afternoon, so what

remains can be swept up. Everyday perception is disrupted: five faces in a

dark room, digital glitches and delay disrupt our point-of-view. I am above it

all, immersed in it all, a visitor frozen in a hotel window, four floors up with no-

one in the dark to pray for me.


Is it art or a documentary, a provocation or the avant-garde? What do we gain

from drilling down in isolation? I like the shelves of found objects – glass and

china, stone debris – in the museum of archaeology. Kingsley climbed the

tower past the pendulum, swinging straight as the world turns. Traffic noise

fades, frescoes change colour, there are no questions from the audience. We

are all immersed in sound and sunshine, concentrating on the view outside

and the audio-visual equipment's hum.







Light in the right location can either mean the object has been used to predict

political evolution or that the mental feats of bees are forcing us to rethink

what we know about intelligence. It's not clear if the massive structure is a

mathematical one or an infinite beam of light that threatens our universe. Join

us at the sharp end of the theory of everything: it has been here all along, like

the word of God, and that's a fact. For the record, a brighter future floats away

because we didn't tie it down. Hey you, astronaut, what if we changed our

minds, can't wait? Can you make it back? Does mending memories help

repair the past? Let's dive into Venus and unlock some cosmic mysteries, let

our curiosity roam free. My brain is a ventriloquist, I am loved but still not

liked, cannot activate the circuits that generate the illusion I am smiling.


It is the day of the trilobites and they are late for the party. They look like giant

woodlice but time is running out, they have been extinct too long, and their

careers are already in the hands of AI and eternal inflation. The problem is we

have access to so much information but cannot share a secret or drive to the

moon to abandon our heartache. Weird evolution means that Google knows

your ills and is always ready to share them with everyone; this opens doors of

opportunity then slams them in your face. I am primed for depression and

ready to play hide and seek with anyone who will listen. When did money start

spending people? How can information bounce back out? It is not always

what you think, there may be a forgotten touch of flu lurking in your semen.

Your phone is betraying you, will not help bring heaven down to earth.


Old world, new people: we have not forgotten how to give birth or hand over

control to the insects. Blind spots explain how birds fly in dense fog,

surveillance only matters when we are a moving target. How on earth did our

ideas ever get so popular? Why does space have three dimensions? And

what came before the big bang or Burger King? If energy comes from nothing

then I can learn to speak French or Italian, can future-proof my genes and

give students the power to reach their best. Software will soon speed-read

and understand cognitive bias, coincidences are more common than you

think. I think I am more common than you, need to overhaul my approach to

climate change and logic. If you see some ghost popping out of nowhere into

existence, grab a bag of stem cells and learn to live with the enemy. Bat's

really aren't to blame.


Complexity still outwits us, we continue to be beguiled by the unconscious

and visions of other worlds. The concept of elsewhere can be damaging,

there is no dignity in the idea of another reality next door. Intruders from

another dimension will help bedridden people walk and visit the UK's digital

spooks, but they have weird features and cause brain inflammation. They also

don't exist. The present is awash with endless time and we have short-

circuited deep brain stimulation and the off-switch for desire. Of course, we

predicted gravitational waves and the misuse of evidence, but retired early

from star- making and the big bang. Life may have begun in icy seas, but I

prefer to talk brain to brain. If bumps grow when the immune system machine-

guns the tumour, then we might see sense and let the PR industry control our

minds. What price reason?


It's your last chance to enter before renewable lethargy makes it harder to

think. Let's play ball with our inflated universe, let's make a tentative

comeback after all our time away. Millions of people suffer so why can't we?

Outrage can be a good thing, as can a paradigm shift or symmetries in

superspace. At dawn on a summer morning we put serendipity in the back

seat of the car, picked up the treasure map so we could find the moment of

truth. We searched at thirty-one separate places and built a robot snake. No

joy, we had to apologize for using hidden insights and such bad animal actors.

Before all learning began the story of our cosmic origin went wrong. Just how

clear is your mind's eye? Who should be admitted to paradise or be offered a

mental reset, get to use Tony Blair's eyes or brain? Thanks but I think I'll pass.


The sky brightens and a rainbow appears, but what happens if a black hole

turns white this christmas? I don't need drugs to control my brilliant ideas, or

particles to control dark matter. I feel a tremendous moral obligation to give a

voice to the emotionally withdrawn who are at crisis point, and shake up their

family tree. Let your phone help you tell right from wrong, bend the rules and

make your brain light up, spot the galactic coyote. Attitude adjustment

facilitates the ultimate rebound, zeroes in on digital healing, nuances

exceptions, orphaned tongues. Try not to breathe or get mad, this dollar

would be better spent elsewhere. Twin asteroids pose twice the risk. If you

have caught something nasty, find out quick. Musical brains smash sound

perception limits, brainless blobs reveal gut bug menace and the secret to

turning water into wine, provoking fear in the fearless. Meet the ultimate

bottom feeder, show me you are there.


Teetering on the edge of chaos, the sum of consciousness is preying on your

mind. If you want to make a superconductor or walk on the surface of a star

then play around with quarks and atomic egg boxes. We tend to think of anger

as a negative emotion but used in the right way it can recruit and advertise

and offer a taste revelation. High-friction live surfaces tend to adhere to

enigma, the spark of consciousness always plans to cheat time but leaves

science out. A visit to the land of nod takes you on fabulous adventures and

offers therapeutic rest. Subscribe now and save forty per cent as the head of

quality management. It is actually very difficult to make yourself look at or see

the light. We can't see our inner selves clearly and neither can god, exiled to

the solar system's edge. These are toxic times, but my cosmic ambitions

won't be dwarfed or changed.


Driven by inertia, the choice is yours. The absolute limits of human endurance

are imposed by the brain. Figuring out how to override it could push us to new

extremes at an electrifying pace, like moths to the flame. New worlds, new

ways: these thought experiments have serious consequences, there are

reasons for our lack of success and our trouble with the sacred. Body

language and a new search for aliens supplies life with a vital spark, offers

revolution on the inside, transforms rooms into infinite space, cutting the

bridge between the brain's hemispheres, watching from a safe distance. Now

think about particle B. If you spot anything unusual, notify the elephant in the

room and spread the love, wake up to insomnia's impact and kill the

multiverse. Squeeze the arm, protect the heart and treat violence like a

plague. The source of disturbance is an elegant theory but that's not going to

stop linguists talking. Where on earth did our brains go?







The 21st Century turned out to be like the last one, in this book anyway. It's

not as hot as earlier and the lawn was still wet when mowed. It's nice to smell

cut grass but I still hate gardening. We're going to have to prune the tree out

front and the maple round the back before the rooms get even darker and the

walls get damp.


Everything is out of place and put together badly, there isn't a single builder

who comes recommended. The only bush that doesn't grow is the only one I

paid for. The 'hardwood' table and folding chairs barely lasted six years. The

mower strains to do its job, the geese or ducks or waders are honking in the



This used to be a nice place but something's gone wrong. I blame myself, and

so do you: I've changed, not here. I can't wait to travel back to where I used to

live, although it's changed; not just changed, it's gone. New flats, new houses

and a 44-storey tower block, diversions through familiar streets and plans to

make all these roads dead ends.


How to belong? Focus on the local and see what happens here. Nothing

happens here, it's just where we live. It's the same as the past, it's the future,

where everything's the same.







This week turned out to be rather like last week, in my head anyway: same

number of days in the same order and a limited number of ways to fill them.

There's music to listen to, poems to write and paintings to paint; meals must

be made and letters opened, there's marking to be done.


Summer's already on the horizon and getting nearer: those weeks will turn out

slower and longer. The guitarists both plink and plonk away for the duration,

this is abstract sound as music, chirrups of notes as instant composition;

unlike the careful slow bells of The Harmonic Canon I was listening to before.

Sunshine through the Velux skylight warms up the desk, spills light around the

blind. A seagull walks across, casting a shadow, Derek Bailey plucks his

strings even harder as I run out of words.







The author's note tells me what he previously published, but I need to play

catch-up: what has he published in the last five years? There's some kind of

timeslip at play; it was true then but is not true now. Or maybe there should

have a been a statement of intent?


The author hopes to write more books in the next few years.






© Rupert M Loydell 2019

a facqueuesol paperless book 2019

Some of these texts were first published in Fal-Writing, international times,Talking About Strawberries.