Aidan Semmens


A helicopter lands on the Pan-Am roof
like a dragonfly on a tomb.

Photoptosis in deep space
is a kyrie of confused creation.

jugbands & juggernauts
jig & jag, sending out waves
to be read by whom we know not,
whomsoever it may concern:
it’s religion for the teleporter age,
a candle in a windless window,
unoxygenated combustion in a limitless belljar.
Alpha beta gamma light radio
a light programme of light relief,
waving hello to those we don’t know
we ever met, waving like corn,
waves crashing in a jetfighter’s otic wake,
a permanent wave from a beehive drier,
waves of emotion, heatwave concussion,
waving to someone
tripping the light fantastic.

A helicopter lands
on a desert airstrip
like a dragonfly,
scattering sand, a little scrub,
and perhaps a few lizards.
The blades leave a wave
on the earth’s surface.

Helicopter: flying machine,
Greek, spiral-winged; Pan-Am,
Pan-American, all-American, from
Greek, pan – all, everything, the
rustic god of all things. Roof,
the top of this. Pan-American,
airline of a great imperial power of
the 20th century, common era: a
collection of flying things – like
helicopter, dragonfly: a dragon
which flies, or a fly
which resembles a dragon? Dragon –
mythological beast. Dragonfly –
anisoptera, Latin. Tomb, room
where we bury our dead. The chill
of the tomb, the silence
broken by a helicopter. Quote:
Joni Mitchell, Canadian entertainer,
jazz-tinged in this period, that
of hissing lawns, the Boho Zone,
the jungle line, Rousseau in the park;
jazz the beat of one continent
in the cities of another. Canada,
a northerly zone of pan-America.
Photoptosis, visible light, from Greek:
a work of music by Zimmerman,
German composer of 20th century,
common era. Deep space, somewhere
far away. Deep, the sea;
space, room, limitless vacuum, vacuity,
lebensraum. Kyrie – from kyrie eleison, Greek,
lord have mercy on us,
a liturgical device, burden
of canonical songs. Creation:
this, the heavens or any other.

Jugbands, from jug, jig or jazz.
Juggernaut, a huge vehicle, of unstoppable
Size or momentum, from Jaganath, Hindu,
lord of the world, dragged by thousands
in annual pilgrimage.
Jig & jag, euphony, alliteration, para-rhyme,
hints of Irish dance, a motorcar,
a popular singer, the undulating movement zigzag.
To undulate, from Latin, unda, a wave,
to make little waves. Wave,
a greeting or gesture of farewell;
a characteristic motion of water,
the sea perhaps, or the mode of travel
of light, sound, radio communication,
heat, optimism or fashion,
ripples on a tide of emotion.
A candle, a gesture, incandescence
of flame on wax: oxygen –
without this it cannot live. Combustion
impossible in a belljar, a jar
in which a bell cannot be heard,
its wave extinguished. Teleporter,
from Greek, carrying far. A window,
through which we look out.
A jetfighter, powered component
of an uncivil airline, wing
of an imperial power. Otic,
of the ear. Wake, a wave
made in passing. Alpha, beta,
gamma, waves, from Greek. Radio,
telegraphy that radiates like rods or spokes,
from Latin. Telegraphy, Greek, far drawings.

Desert, a land deserted, unfit
for stable settlement. Airstrip,
man’s mark in the sand. Sand
perhaps equals time.
Lizards: an older lifeform.
Scrub: the same, but of another order.
Blades cut, carve air for flight.
The earth’s surface: implies surfaces
elsewhere. Religion, mythology, jazz,
photoptosis, imply belief
in waves.

A helicopter lands,
like a dragonfly,
on a tomb.

A Rolling Motion

captured cloud
    over prairie pastures
weathered wheel
iron-age hillfort
blackened steelworks
shattered face
    on paving stones
remnant workings
    with felspar pickings
billowing smoke
    of a tenement blaze
blue reflections
farmland floods
a visual impact

lights strung
    along a valley
looming tree-shapes
rush of passing traffic
children crying in a gallery
    backgrounds out of focus
hoardings promoting coffee
workers slumped in fields
    a funeral procession
news bills proclaiming
    military gains
a derelict building
    with its eyes put out

packing cases slung
    in piles against a wall
factory chimneys
    silver and shining
shabby coats and trousers
    of a roadside queue
seaside smiles
yellowed plaster
pigeons swirling
    into morning mist
painted signs
    barely legible

telegraph wires
    stretch into distance
a weaver’s cottage
industrial remains
smoke rising
    from fields of stubble
tall ships moored
    beneath a steamy mountain
a strange harbour
antique theatre bills
linen sheets and felt hats
    in a shopfront display
faces in a window
    mouthing silently

By the River

On the Curlew River
dawn comes slowly through
the phosphorescent mist
creeping across the reedbeds

the red-throated diver sits calm,
a glacial erratic with a dash of colour,
where wavelets edge
at the mudbank shore
of an islet safe in the channel
built up by silt and reed
where river’s trickle and tidal seep
meet in a swirl, missing a beat.
Drizzle soaks your collar,
mists the binocular lens.

The round stone tower at the river’s bend
is a thumbprint of brown, clumsy
upright in the landscape’s horizontal,
blurred by moist air. The marker
of heritage says
St Botolph Was Here.

The longship and the liner,
grey smudge
on the grey horizon.

Grey waves crash on flint, grinding
axehead, keep and cloister
to shingle,
a charnel churn. Bodies washed
up, away – liquor mortis
infinitely dilute.

Cultic rock and christian cross,
Saxon saint and celtic king
mulched down
to the slime of time,
the tempo of ages,
the bass-notes of tides,
infra-musical wave
of season, century and millennium,
movement of ions and aeons
that doesn’t end
                     at the shore

A Letter to America

Your book has become damp
in my pocket; autumn fruit
between the railings.
I’m standing in a little plot
the grass is coming back to
between stumps of walls.
The place as we look down
is filling all the gaps in the valley,
Michael. Somewhere a crane
tilts and swings. A young fox
might sniff a killing
on the breeze. Rooftops glisten.
Rain moves away across the sea.