David Spittle

from Decomposing Robert




speak blue toes to who has the tongue

you make me laugh lie gothic hoax idealist                 believing so

in rot

            but really, what do you know? what have you seen?

your friend kept a dead bird in a jar

until its soft breast seemed to liquefy.

you’ve seen the skin-cracked heel

of grandfather’s sore –


living let the dying in

yet you’ve still the gall, obtuse and indulgent,

knowingly unknowing to follow

hypothetically              in WORDS what decay might mean

like none of this matters but is



neither you nor me

but our communion here, unlikely

likened to the rafters

holding earth  

with buried bones

to mix us

in writing

as disingenuous cement

not tome

nor tomb


            “room enough”

for us



No thought without decay of thought, no declaration or gesture separate from its own decay



including this – leeched to sign in vain its own logic

             to the rotten foothills of a larger undoing;

                           more creative, alive and playful than any embodiment of living –


a living consumption of what was living made again alive in producing

            propionic acid, lactic acid, methane, hydrogen sulphide, and ammonia

                         or in the undressing of bone from striated red-glove-stuck to peel-skin-shirt


shirked by the black onion fly, duff millipede, sexton, larder,

             clown and comb-clawed beetle; the iron-clad stink, earth-boring freeloader,    

                         yellowjacket, earwig, small-hive and vinegar. Not just the maggots


but looking up at a tilted mirror to discover your hair is thinning; balding as a decay

             of ties to youth, you think, and not without misery:

                          decay of today’s mood from its surface buoyancy into a seething



back and forth in facing bodily change, actual recognisable – in the moment – difference



it decays the image you have of yourself from this to ageing that. Decay of subject

into object, from indifference into panicked scalp and failing thatch,

of a figure of speech into a figured in speech whereby I’m dying for a change

becomes the precariously alive dying in change,


without being able to stop,

by what is striking



second to second,

and against which there is no strike

to take              but only realisation (and maybe hats)

that decay was always how

anything came into being,



as its own taking away –



but still and unstill, making.

David Spittle completed a PhD on the poetry of John Ashbery in relation to Surrealism at Newcastle University. He has published reviews in Hix Eros and to PN Review. His poetry has been published in Blackbox Manifold, 3am, Shadowtrain, Zone, Datableed, Zarf, and has been translated into French courtesy of Black Herald Press. He blogs at http://themidnightmollusc.blogspot.co.uk