1 It was 1964, or 1965. My family and I were on the beach at West Bay, in Dorset, and I saw the ruins of a harbour strewn around. The haven had been built with big concrete blocks, each weighing perhaps a ton. I could not see how the sea had torn them up. They were cast carelessly around as if they had been dropped from mid-air. It was a new harbour and it was as if the sea had refused to accept it.

2 In 2002, I read about this process. As concrete sets, it shrinks slightly and develops tiny cracks. When a wave breaks on concrete close to the airline, it pushes the air already in these gaps in the fabric. The air is a very narrow column with a huge force driving it - like a hammer hitting a nail. The smaller the nail of water, the more force it exerts at its point. Because it has nowhere to go, the air becomes hard. Temporarily, the speed of the air is the speed of the wave times the ratio between the size of the wave and the size of the crack. It attacks the boundaries between them and makes the cracks join up.

Blast, draft, syllable
spirit blowing in the mass -
the Atlantic breathing through a crack
The aulos is the pipe through which the god
fills the soft wrapping of the tender membranes
hydraulically jacked & jittered shook &
shattered in structural hiss

The sea knows nothing
and is experimenting with an island
It grows calm behind the stone-fold, the shelter
It records its microstructure, says
but is mimesis knowledge?

Rolling, rolling
The block is teetering on its own flaw
tree wrenching out its roots one by one

All structure is subliminal
knowledge seeps out on substance flowing away
through cycles. when a wave disintegrates
it slows down the moon

The grapnel of vocal air
growing slowly through blind slab
to copy a precise design
splitting pore from grip
Fingers of the ocean blow down the pipes
to see if chips fly back
to hear its own roar, sharpened
Fife stops burnt at the breaking point

The sea is softer than seaweed
it knows nothing
it knows the shape of things to molecular level
It has no memory and no limbs
it has the concept of a bomb
a floating mine with sensory spikes

The harbour is a crystal that rings
and destroys itself. A sound
is drawing architecture
It wants months

A capillary fulcrum
sketching itself
with shattering fingers
grains as holdfasts

siege gear, slighting-wall, new ordinance
of space
pistol chamber exit wound
rocker switch detonated by tone
hydraulic cement hydraulically slighted
& set aside
spray pits  salivate rust

the storming party escalade
the breach blown underwater
decked in white lace
brought off in sunken barges

the spiracles fingers of air
scrolled up like spills
pushing as if through the stomae of leaves
the pistol or fountain-jet
a thrill that spurts out of the back
of someone's head

a lizard of stone whose parts don't join up
in a puzzle the Channel will solve
a flicker of spring limbs
a lizard of air that's no longer there

waves sledge dredging for the last edges of
hand shake  grip sliding  seams start
the sea whirls the rocks around its head
to daze them
house-sized gravel rolled by a stream
frame capture
stone swimming through water
frame capture
water breaking under strain
frame capture
motion gives way to structure

The concrete block crawls a few feet and then gets tired
the shoreline is the ruin of all past shorelines
the surface of the shear is solid & impervious

the engines of order overthrown
by wavelines  the cults of static power
towering in blocks of arrested will
metabolised by birds breathing

as tall buildings rush
outwards, shuddering wall, storms
raze the empire of sound with ribbons
of air, nails of water


Cognition! Ignition!
the diet sheet for a selfish intelligence
whose goal is to be acquired by an environment
destabilising at speed
which falls asleep if it slows down, so
has to build a region of risk, predictably
unpredictable & soluble
the shaped charge of data
in slow pleasurable struggles
voracious of its own distortions
I mean, like 500 extremist computing buffs
colliding in a municipal hall in Camden
an off the radar cyber jumblesale
their powdery green spores of data
self-recoding as they
spread over ideas
like mould over a bag of apricots

The idea as pleasure
the stand up solid buzz you get off it
the neural assimilation time stretched
- cognitive frames bouncing -
till comedown time score some more
whole-body cerebral response
verbal combat to mutually impress
the keepers of prestige  let's do it again

I was measuring energy flows
in machines that had stopped working
a skyscraper of which one floor is a big glass
tank, full of reptile brains staying up late.
territory & aggression & comparison of body parts
sharp colours of the limbic landscape,
bright cool water to play in,
basking beach with louvre windows slatted for
the serotonin gushes, the flavours of perfect magenta,
the biocosmic highs: pineal overload
preparing the archaic returns of culture, the
Apollonian games. The arcade of the sun.
innovations brought about by warfare

brains wiped to frame impingent light
data lizards with strained eyelids
& unrepaired skin, nights lost in the fuzz
seeing whole galaxies on infra-red
turning white noise into new kernels
frazzled retinas as membranes
staring to the edge of the universe!

we shared our vision with the suits and they left the building
a permeable membrane with one side on the cosmos
environment as organ trays of new milled lenses
or, perception as competitive collecting
where storing the max number of past states
is winning
gain a whole new shopping identity!
mint film
of optical scans
tearoffs stored or simulated
the rare interstitial objects grabbed and saved
sorry - had that experience before!

We are trudging through the 1950s
down the back streets of that grimy Northern town
to where the mil-surplus shop with its piece parts of the Cold War
has decked out its trays of lenses and prisms
to lure pre-teens sifting and sighing in a basement.
Swept by the course of light
I wanted to take it home.
For spiral starlight recessed snares
the shed organs of great aircraft
dwellers in the drowning skies of the North Atlantic
fingers feeling for shore, star or beacon
appeasing their appetite for great space.

We were accelerated to a horizon
adapting sight in the workshop of telescopes
a refined art whose only end is transparency
 to mutate the world-building software behind it.
Stripped and reworked fossils of machines to come
repurposed & ex situ;
spying on the sexuality of stars
in the abyss of light we constrain the invisible.
Glass eyes glinting on the beach of starlight, you don't know
how little the bosses of 1959
know about an engineering civilisation!

It's not a game
unless you can start from zero
with no status and no alliances
and lose to someone faster
the red-eyed raiders into a desert space
debris scattering prismatic dust
into hidden corners
all trajectories vectors
reflectors to a burnt eye
freestyle dust in the lurches of cognition
where we use words like teeming and spawn
to show something acephalous and bursting our
small movement tracking codes
what do you do at the margin
where comprehension ends?
not all at once
receding in a dapple with a clock pulse

Large scale behaviour of engineering firms
latched onto contest games of young engineers
the mill of data-greedy bodies
like a scorpions' mating beach
deception and imitation
I want to try it
Young incomplete aggressive programs
ageing into melody & satiation
confusing a simple R/C timer
and a ceramic resonator clock!
By the Extreme gaming stand
where there was a hole in the graph
there was a hole in the behaviour

Making up games to avoid boredom
inversion/deletion things
that become a new mathematics
that everyone plays
tacit rules of shifts and constants
made audible by
the blurred quadrant and its unfaithful program
that idly hashes thru the stored sequences
idiot CHOP and CONCATENATE wanna play?
Once you store national culture you know
it's going to be transcoded
a set of symbolic sequences
locked to repeat themselves: JUMP TO HEAD
where eternal of course means repetitive
where national
means "writing copies of themselves"

A floor littered with serial tryouts
if it worked, it wouldn't be leading edge
a roomful of traumatised kit.
slighted loves. distorted by acts of love.
cut and strapped. gashed. wires bared,
wrenched into new specs.

the monster garage. the Burgess Shale of electronics
fighting over new organs
dead until the last minute
fascias unsmoothed by designers
unshielded. Changing every day.
cuts and straps like a butchered bat
softening the hardware
mutant battlefield equipment
for storing egos in
that still want to play
still want to stay up later
have you got those Red Galaxy videos?
weeks of nailing trivial bugs
pounding round the same track
till the loop breaks: the
terrestrial edge
where paladins dismount to seize
an unheard-of pattern

No Joshua Logan
Colours of dawn over the East Pacific.
Barge-fired off-beach
nuclear device "Greenhouse Dog" puts on a big show
for Ted Taylor who 15 miles away
straps on goggles no 3D at count -30.
The Martini glasses
above the beach house bar
chinked filled with shockwave,
overbrimmed -
and cracked in two


Searching patterns in the Out, missing the attractor waves

there in the sea of gravity
we heaved ourselves upright in our shackles
fire-canisters threw us out
onto the broad strand

The harness fell off our motions
days of improvised and elaborate gesture
days of effacing borders
every thought traced out
in the heated tank with its forest of weeds
fluent through the linked waterways
in colours of blue and red

Flitting through our own space
flickering in green flare-dappled shadows
& dance in rings among our echoing wet images
patterns glancing out of our spines

I thrash like a tunnyfish
I swish like a reptile
I tumble end over end

The dynamic body ripples a record
on the flat white surface primed for roil prints
The spin of the newts in their tank alerts the pilot
seconds before the drag catches and spins the ship

The ship's planned course (each celestial mass
is a motor, like the ship's; where mass hides without light
and the fine stones in the ear shift to relate the ego to
the verticals local to each centre of Down)
is printed on the screen
where the swimmers' arms left their movements

Weightless in the muscular web
for months until the spiral stabilizes.
Exact radii. Sheaved loops. Among us.
The natives of red water see shapes flow out of their wrists.

In the Echo Nebula
tides shift
as the swimmers' bodies
with a lead of hours
turbulent matter sealed
with the signature of neural patterns, bursts
scoring the white stones cast up on the shore

external bodies litter the Unconfined,
swim into the coves of space

Echoing each others' movements
in the connected shallow pools flowing as air with sound
where clouds of warmth drain us of frustration
the reptile body steals over the laxed primates
the momentary universe of discourse
reconfigures the artificial lake

& holds the drifting scuds of the land together.

Voices as masks, masked voices
Buried circular resources that spend
and empty
and turn. Dramas of kinship; learning of lines.
Control dispersed to several hundred
closed programs running, away from sight.
A mouth
allowing signature to emerge? or recording scenes?
A program of vacuity
seizing sequences of code in mimetic greed
repeating them to acquire parts of a voice
rich in barbaric assimilations
seized by its beautiful captives
a deposit of inversions and repetitions
steeped in minerals of biological deposit
the compiled suite of gaudy origins
bathed in gold-drenched fluids
populated with surface-filling curves.
It rolls to a head and turns to repeat

andrewduncan studied as a mediaevalist and started writing in punk fanzines. He has been publishing poetry since the late 70s. His collections include: In a German Hotel, Anxiety Before Entering a Room, Sound Surface, Surveillance and Compliance. He was one of the editors of Angel Exhaust and now reviews regularly for Poetry Review.
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