D.S. Marriott

D.S. Marriott

Another Burning

                                                  this paper is on fire

human, as it incinerates itself
lit from within –
as if being of earth
was itself to be earthed,
a shock: a final, purifying stroke,
lighting up
            the most dangerous approach.

this paper is on fire
and the earth is a room
inside the flames
                                                like a rope of air
                                                where we took
                                                our final, faltering steps
                                                            down smoke-filled stairs,
                                                                        down narrow corridors
                                                               a roaring in our ears
                                                  openmouthed, blindsided,
                                                            our throats already burning
                                                                        from the portrayal.

And I
like you

                        among the mute, the breathless,                                                         g
                        the thrice-taken denials
                                                never promise enough.
                        like a forest you struggle through,                                          r
                        waiting, penned in –
                        can’t you hear it
                        approaching ….      ,
                        the crumbling columns of desuetude                                                              e
                        the summits heaving, sweating
                        out surprising wisps of air?
                        like an exhalation rushing over rags, you, roadmen,                          n
                        doused & sussed,
                        uttering the tolls
                        for the longest journey.                                                                      f

                        like a word
                        falling easily through inflamed lips –                                                             e

                        wasn’t in the language – we saw it                                           l
                        being evacuated
                        but we still inhabited
                                                the ashes.                                                                    l

the obscure, obsolescent
                        never entered,
                                    already neglected, never spotted, never grasped.

                        the impasse – unable to go up or down
                                    in the prosaic light of faith, tiptoeing
                                                            to catastrophe.

                                    downwards                                          (the air on fire)
(and as we stumble forward,
a vacuum:
                        we breathed in its ferocity)
to fall, like
a word,
a word not yet
fallen, but burning,
unable to cross from landing to safety –
a fall
that has not yet happened:
                                                the breath
                                                that you don’t own     
                                                is not yours
                                                to breathe
                                                                                    hear them: the long doomed
                                                                                    iftar, the already ashen bolari,
                                                                                    and, in the black smoke,
                                                                                    a discarded belgha left          
                                                                                    lying in the ruins –

each sentence meaningless
                                                                                    as tall burning buildings loom –
                                                                                    and time ceases,
                                                                                    staggered by fear & shame –
                                                                                    a storey in each story
                                                                                    (each falling). the
                                                                                    story is the storey
                                                                                    within the building
                                                                                    built on charred names.
at the end of the
                        day, dust
            settling, breathed in,
            as each gaze turns away,
                                    and there’s nothing
            to distinguish a tower from an incinerated outline.

This paper is on fire
            lifted out into
                        the void
            into lives lived without air.
                                                                        the unknown heights
recognized                              in rooms where there is no
                                                            emergency exit.

there is no trace,                                             for here,
everything is lost
            trapped without rescue:
                                                and each room
                                                            is a cliff                       where we are
                                                                                    perched on
                                                                                                a rim of burning flame,
                                                and each door
                                                            is a vista                      where we shall
                                                                        be shipped back to the blaze
                                                brought back to the unknown
                                                            like birds
                                                                                    returning back
                                                to the unachieved seas,
                                                                                    the untold dis
                                                            of our dear fallen
                                                            transported from earth into air.

                        and the fire breaking in
                        waves – a sea from which we were never
                        meant to be rescued, or leave: every sentence, then,
                        a station of the last: the buckle
                        that stays because it can’t be grasped –

still, the tower stood there, still, beyond mere sorrow,
beyond what may be told and what may not,
beyond the burning calms, and each soul a window
illumined by their petrifying ripostes, reflected
on the melting surfaces, the spines of what
will survive us: both scaffold and shipwreck –
as the more dangerous storeys become air and violet
breaths, and each spark an oblivious brute annulment
of the white glare of departure.

                                                the height that rains

                                                                        and sets to right the rightless
                                                                        as we flame out,
                                                                                                burnt to a crisp –


                                                the whiteness of place unplaced
                                                language, the last refuge
                                                of loss –
                                                and the unburned
                                                waiting awaited
                                                cast out without hope
                                                or arrival.

                                                this paper is on fire

poetry is a medium, a building,
its cladding explodes here,
over tumbling heaven-drenched air:

this paper burns itself,            it ascends
            over the
                        black shadowless stains –
and what it unveils it eradicates.
the lives lifelessly resident in the unlived house
where no one wants to live, towering
            over what ceases
in the flames,
                        the charred remains
rising beyond thresholds
            of belonging, unliving.


                                                it rapidly crosses the open
                                                the remains inside the ear
                                                that crosses what passes on –

                                                            blackness sifted, blanched,
                                                            let go, dumped, left in dismay.

g                      r          l                      
n                      e
            f                       l

                                                this paper is on fire

it cannot breathe
            it will crumble
                        into dust
like a building
            that forms itself
                        into a word
            the tap tapping of an
ashen wing
            that frees itself
                        from everything that is air,
            O my unhouséd Chevalier!
become a weightless slave
            that no room confines
                        and no refuge,
            as if fire were speaking itself:
the word due
            expectant but so ruinously
a kind of death-trap
                        the word owing
            to grasp in order to never be grasped
            by the ungrasped always,
                        suspended, freed,
from descent as well as any rescue
                                                lived for,
            the paper, unwilling.

                                                                                                for you and I
descent meant rescue,
                                    but there was black smoke
all around us,
                        and our mistake was in thinking
that language meant
                                    expectancy or survival –
and not something endlessly abandoned,
a word petrified, then cracked.
                                    a void endlessly imprinted,
                                                shaped into concrete.

D.S. MARRIOTT is the author of several books, including: Hoodoo Voodoo (Shearsman, 2008), Duppies (Commune Editions, 2019) and Whither Fanon? Studies in the Blackness of Being (Stanford University Press, 2018). His chapbooks include In Neuter (Equipage, 2012). Bluetown is forthcoming from Omnidawn.