• Conor Carville

4. Never get out of the boat


Morning in the social factory.

Writer, broadcaster and male comedian

Jasper McGoombay has joined us on the sofa

to talk about fatherhood, his guff underwritten


by incoming news on a scarlet ribbon:

the Northern Line is suspended;

London Bridge is closed; another head

has been found on Wimbledon Common.


I’m watching telly with no sound, the laptop

propped, precarious on the sofa’s arm,

ladling gloop into our first-born.

Rhubarb and Custard. Noggin the Nog.


Bless. I lost my head thirty years ago.

Jasper witters on in dumb-show,

as the sofa starts to shudder and sway, its go-

away-green offset with a camouflage throw,


a chalky choker of tyres lashed to its arms.

As if this were a sloop on the Mekong.

As if this were a raft on a branch of the Amazon.

We’ll build a bigger boat when we get to the ocean.




7. Ping


The little girl has found a thing

in my mobile phone, it is round, like a planet.

Oval. She picks it up, pops it in the digital basket,

and before you know it we’re at the watchtower. Ping.


Bagpuss O Bagpuss O fat furry Catpuss. We stand,

the two of us, and crane up at the hut, high in the air

and blitzed with tags, Bleep, some of which begin to stir:

the mice on the mouse organ. Gabriel the toad.


Hastily, none too daintily, she puts the object down,

as the pearl-grey knitting-needle whiskers clack

into view above us, Ping, then down the slide it backs,

Ping, Ding, Ting, emerging from the tunnel-mouth


arse-about-face, its hackles fizzing static, as if spiked

with sugared water, standing on end like a frightwig

so it seems to grow in size, the colour changing too, Ping!

Pink and white transformed in hue to scarlet and black.


Above the head a think-bubble appears, in it is Emily’s thing.

A small, red rubber heart, all dusty with dust. Also a farty

little dog. Small and white. A hand appears to be holding the heart.

Out to the dog. More paw than hand. All is red and black and white. Ping.


The dog takes the heart in its mouth, gently, gently. As it does,

I see a heart no longer but rather a mummified head.

I look for the thing that Emily found, the original thing. Disappeared.

Was it a head? Ping. Was it a heart? Ding. O fat furry catpuss.



8. Memorex


I’ll be plumbed in tubal purgatory, dunked

in the memorex churn of retro kids’ TV,

or a public information flick where

a Zurbaran ghoul in a sack-cloth hoodie


beckons you towards a septic tank,

when some class of a non-space kicks in:

a chilly institutional scene, keyed to a greyish colour

unknown to Farrow & Ball. Let’s call it Adorno’s Breath.


The pulsing time-stamp says it’s now,

[03.35 AM], but otherwise the scene preserves

the spectral replicant candour

of the totally generic: strip-lit narrow


rafts or pallets tightly-packed

along a corridor of polished concrete,

off which lie modular hangars stacked

with forms, some naked, some shrouded.


Normal programming resumes

with early 80s Eastern European animation:

Once Upon a Dog, A Kitten named Woof,

Lie Dream of the Plasticine Crow.


But not before the drone ascends to a bird’s-eye,

and something glossily fat and black

beetles up the screen. A canteen trolley?

A cleaning lady?  No. A ... a mobility scooter.



19. The gambrel


‘Spring is a bit of an issue this year,

the sticky tissues of the buds,

the budding leaves, the solstice,

the shenanigans


up on the limestone plateau,

where Tomsk patrols

the willow grove,

all slabbered in woad


and what-have-you,

with his arse painted blue,

his sleeve tattoos,

his shaky grasp of personal grooming.


Out of his skull on DMT,

he keeps smelling roses

where there are none. Roses. Rosewater.

Some kind of gorgeous ointment.


The mobile in his hand

shining like an ear of corn, his fur

combed out into little red points.

He is hunting for Uncle Bulgaria.


Hunting down the ageing King,

Alpha of the primal horde

of Wombles. Hogger of the lady Wombles.

Even the Moomins want him dead,


hung like a ham from a gambrel,

strung up like a ham or a hock

while the lads draw lots

for his tartan cope, his tartan tocque’.



24. Trinity


Midnight. I’m at the watchtower,

its darkened hutch,

a hatchery beneath

the roof’s blunt dovecote,


nicked and deckled at the eaves,

as if comprised of leaves

and not kevlar, as if

we didn’t know the going rate

for ivory and iron ore,

for nickel and coal ...

Everything great

stands in the storm, you say,

but I incline to stillness,

like this mist that clings

to bark and bole

when no wind blows.


I squeeze inside the chute

that slowly draws me up,

as if by peristalsis, a last dry heave

easing me onto the slatted deck.


Bless. Three blue birds in the silver tree:

Mary, Mungo and Midge.

Sentinels of the upper air.

Beneath their gaze I’ll go to sleep.



27. The mobility vehicle


In the spiritual gloom of a lock-up,

a little electric motor snores,

and will run a short while longer

on juice they hack from the Big Six.


They have prepared it, gilded the wheels

and handles with gold: the foil from Easter eggs

and blister packs; crushed stamens; anthers.

As the horns and hooves of the sacrifice

were gilded, and garlanded with flowers.


At dawn the youngest leads it outside

to expose it on the concrete apron,

watching the little girl

precisely anoint the customary places:

an axle’s oily oxter, the steering column’s vertebrae.


Paddy’s Day. The pipes. The pipes. A burst

on the tinny tin drum

is followed by a directional scream

that shatters the headlight and mirrors,

the screen of every last device in Wimbledon.


Now they wait for the earliest scavenger:

me. I circle and sit, circle again,

then warily approach, my two ears flush

with the sides of my skull,

glad to have a part to play,

but showing respect, taking only my due.