In Case of Death

1. Cessation of Breath: Is He Breathing?


He’s not breathing, and he cannot go on like this. He

needs air. Mouth-to-mouth is a fool’s game: you must

not believe that you have enough air for the both of

you. The body should supply itself, but in this it can be

encouraged. Breath begets breath, and life life. One O

says yes to another O and that equals oxygen. One god

nods to the next god, who nods to the next and so on.

Therefore plant plants, as follows:

(i) The chest is just a gathering of shapes as it

is, and it knows full well what it means to be

a shrubbery. There is depth and breadth

enough for soil, and it lends itself naturally

to inhabitance. From there to conurbation.

Drop seeds and sow. It grows in spite of


(ii) The extremities are a framework already in

place: honeysuckles, for example, thrive on

the order inherent in limbs; fingers are the

beginnings of mathematics, and you will

find the sweetpea loops nicely to a ring;

ivies are many and incessant.

(iii) The holes of the head are a blessing. Eye

sockets, in particular, are favourable to


2. Cardiac Arrest: Is There Any Rhythm to Him?


They say: cut the wood yourself and it will warm you

twice. It is the same for the heart – if you beat it, it will

beat. And it is the same with blood – it won’t move

unless you move it. This is the kind of work that must

be done by hand. This is monks and manuscripts. This

is sculpture. This is the work your father did, is where

you came from.

(i)        Locate the heart by feeling

(ii)       Trace out the gridlocked veins

(iii)      Prepare the bell for pealing

(iv)       Make fists and take your aim

(v)        Pound it till it feels like kissing

(vi)       Push the blood between your hands

(vii)      Force the heart to miss what’s missing

(viii)     Forbid it to neglect its plan

(ix-xii)  Of all the laws that you could leave him

Leave him only one:

Hurt could your heart every man

Hurt can his heart none.


 3. Pallor Mortis: What Colour is He?


Isn’t it tempting to leave him? Now that you know he’s

as white as you? Is there no way he could live like snow

lives, which is to say: unanimously, without

discrimination, everywhere, carelessly/carefully, in

paralysis, absent, and dumb? No: that is the opposite of

science, and you should proceed like so:

(i)    Hit him. The pocket-bursts of red as you rain

down your blows remind the skin of its duty.

(a)    This is not advisable for the lips,

which, if blue, should be bitten, as


(b)    This is also, NB, only a temporary

reversal of the state.

(ii)    If saffron seems like an investment,

remember that its employment requires the

body to steep (and steep and steep) and be

bathed. Did your hands memorise the weight

of his? Well then, now’s your chance: knead

the yellowing water into him, notice the

steady dawning of your skins. Saffron is


(iii)    Cow’s piss also does the trick.

(iv)    There is always war paint. Humans have been

making themselves up for years. They are

canny and, often, uncannily like themselves.

It’s a neat trick, but you, of course, would

always know.


 4. Hypostasis: Has His Blood Settled?


Bloodset / Blooddown: when the body designs its own

horizon in telling the erthrocytes: “Rest now”, or

“Settle”. And they do, in good faith, like children called

to come down now from the trees: with a pause, then

dripping one by one from the canopy. With relief. With

the sound, even, of relief, the deflation of that last f. The

way a bus is grateful to be waved down, the way a coal

chimney savours its condemnation. In such a way does

the blood settle, and its acceptance is crepuscular. To

cause a bloodrise you must:

(i)     Reverse gravity.

(ii)    Reverse time.



5. Algor Mortis / Decline in Temperature: Look

Up: Could You Pick Him Out From a Crowd? Is

He Redder, More Gigantic Than Before? Is He

Whiter? Tinier? Is He Closer To / Further From

Land? Is He Different, Depending on Your

Location, or Constant? Is He Causing Havoc to

Radio Signals? Would It Mean Sudden Death to

Approach Him? Blindness to Look? Or Do Those

Advances Neither Put In Nor Put Out On Him?

Does He Remain Unmoved? Are You in the Sweet

Spot? Is It Down to Him What Gets Eaten and

What Fed? Does He Cultivate Your Farthest

Points? Is He Beautiful at Your Edges? Does He

Still, Albeit Rarely, Tilt Your Tired Face Towards

His? Must He Always Remain This Way, Never to

Swell or Contract, For You to Be Happy? Listen.

Are You Satisfied or Not?


It is considered a strength to find yourself in any given

room and still know where North is. In the same way,

you should be able to read a dwelling, know if he is

adding to it or taking away or if there would be no

difference without him. Assuming the latter:

(i)    You could melt him, but he would not flow.

(ii)   You could torch him, but he’d burn too slow.

(iii)  You could fuck him, but he wouldn’t know.


6. Rigor Mortis: Can He Yet Be Turned?


By now it should be clear. You are on a boat-deck, both

of you, and a white sun fizzes on the water as though

dropped like an aspirin. Then it dissolves completely.

Darkness. Two unseeable faces, etched uselessly into

smiles. You cast out a word or two and they frost over

with brine: each stroke of the pen is breakable. Things

snap or creak and you credit these sounds to him, but

these are equally plausible: the sucking of a mussel; the

canvass canvassing; the scissorwork of seagull wings;

one sea creature tearing the flesh from another sea

creature; a jellyfish pulse; sounds of your own

invention. You line up his armpit hair to the marram

grass on the shore, and the parallax is kind: they are

near enough to a perfect fit. You recount the boat parts:

Forestay. Gunwhale. Thwart. Tiller. Transom. Jib. Clew.

Keel… Even if he was moving, he might as well be

doing it behind the ocean, somewhere utterly else.

(i)    Wait.

(ii)   From the bilges of hopelessness, skim the

oldest foam and the darkest pitch, and from

the oldest foam and the darkest pitch, procure

the lowliest gnat, the sickliest, and

(iii)  Name it thus: His Finger Twitched.


 7. Decomposition: Has He Broken Down?


Once, you decided to catalogue life. It was a losing game, but

even then you knew what was and wasn’t reversible and

therefore you persisted. You constructed his every last hair –

the one that flags age; the ancient; the wisps; the cowslicked.

You thought of digestion, the blanket alchemy of browning,

that shiest of Chinese whispers. You thought of nerves.

There were:

1.  assemblies of cells;

2. paliaments of bone, bipartisan clicks and bickering,

motions, stalemates, and all of them were legislating,

legislating movement and stasis;

3. two sides, the right of which dictated;

When you dreamt hard, you could make a nail erupt. Dreamt

lighter – the skin of a lip, a scar, the stirrup. Bigger, bolder

things too, like

a.    breath. The stuffy grammar of it. How it guffaws at

the smallest misstep;

b.    the subject/object of the heart;

c.    the check and balance of breath;

d.    two feet, two pliant, compliant feet, two suffering

feet, two poor feet God love them;

e.    all kinds of erections;

f.     the idea, in his mind, of an I. Distinct from you,

who to him is: Him;

g.    the glacier game, the earthquake, the seaswell, the

henpeck we call “breath”.

You wrote blood, and then you wrote it in Greek, and then

the whole thing fell into translation, into action.

Reaction: he turned.

He turned on you.

He withered in your hand, flopped out.

It was a time after Babel, when everything you had named

was suddenly anonymous.

Falsehood is not in words: it is in things.

He feeds himself to the world, a dandelion, its damage done.

You cover your mouth and nose.

(i)    compose again.


is from County Cork, Ireland. His work has been used in various magazines, anthologies, and exhibitions, and he is currently finishing his first book, which will be published some time in 2017.



Issue No. 16



October 2015

Two Poems


September 2011

Sleepwalking through the Mekong