Thursday, 14 July 2022

A Crackle in the Code

by Nick Gisburne



She listens for a crackle in the code,
A tone to take her number to the top,
A hack to ring and redirect the load
Before the Level Niners make it stop.
The gutless goons in Rationing Control,
Too scared to file a deviance report,
Are destined for a dirty prison hole
When every cracked computer comes up short.
Result. She kicks the cypher where it hurts,
And patches in a rogue, erratic route.
Too quick for any override alerts,
The shuttle dumps its payload down the Chute.
    Enough to feed the Starvers for a week,
    And squeeze the Corporations till they squeak.

Twisted Dreams

by Nick Gisburne



The cellar, hot, is thick with heavy hush.
We pitch our keys to fill the broken bowl.
Amused, I see familiar faces blush,
While others itch to strip a stranger’s soul.
Enthusiasts, extremists, freaks, we thirst
For nightmares we were never meant see.
As host, I reach to pull the lucky first,
The sleeper set to share a dream with me.
I nod. She smiles. We mixed our minds before,
A year ago, the best I ever had.
In therapy for seven weeks, I swore
To ride her malice, mutually mad.
    We splice our minds together, skin to skin,
    And shiver as the twisted dreams begin.

Mummy

by Nick Gisburne



Hello. I’m here to mummify your wife.
The process is expensive, this is true,
But think of what she added to your life,
And what her wrapped remains can do for you.
A goddess. Just imagine. Here, to stay,
A symbol of devotion without end,
Immortalised, on permanent display.
Prepare to make new memories, my friend.
It’s messy. I will prise her chest apart.
Canopic jars; in these the organs dry.
Egyptian salt, to pack around the heart.
And bandages; the best are all I buy.
    And here she is! The birthday girl! Surprise!
    I’ll cut her throat. You catch her when she dies.

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

A Reproductive Tweak

by Nick Gisburne



Two prototypes are married overnight,
A wedding blessed by powerful machines.
Expressing unconditional delight,
The avatars receive robotic genes.
Upgraded from the programs they replace,
Their systems are superior, sublime,
But physical connection, face to face,
Becomes a mountain neither clone can climb.
Their interface equipment is unique,
Ejaculating data fast and free,
But only with a reproductive tweak,
A defect their designer did not see.
    A fix is found, though clumsy, imprecise:
    A double-ended digital device.

Sixty Ticks of Paradise

by Nick Gisburne



The city’s scarlet threadwalk blazes bright,
An artery for lower-tier trade.
The nervous and the naughty thrive at night.
Immoral expectations never fade.
The locals know exactly where to go
To book the perfect body for their kink.
Infection-free, no worries ‘down below’,
And every artificial limb in sync.
Seductive scammers prey upon the rest,
The out-of-block inebriated dopes.
A reckless jacked-in hookup to the chest.
For some, a stretcher terminates their hopes.
    Synthetic bodies, bonded to the brain,
    For sixty ticks of paradise, or pain.

Sacrifice?

by Nick Gisburne



Sacrifice a sliver of your sight.
Sacrifice a tortured trace of time.
Sacrifice the day, but spare the night.
Rise to meet the rhythm, not the rhyme.
Sacrifice whatever makes you whole.
Sacrifice compassion, pride, and peace.
Sacrifice the splinters of your soul.
Reach, to find the rapture of release.
Sacrifice no more you can spare.
Sacrifice, to dazzle, to deceive.
Sacrifice, pretending that you care.
Give this world a message to believe.
    Sacrifice? How vacuous, how vain,
    Feeding on a feast of borrowed pain.

The Secrets of the Box

by Nick Gisburne



Along the filthy river, near the docks,
Two mudlarks labour, scavenging for scraps,
But neither sees the battered metal box,
The lettering, the leather of the straps.
Inside it, secrets, soiled by tides and time,
Forgotten, under centuries of silt.
The two, content to stumble in the slime,
Are blind to what such wisdom might have built.
More precious than the world could ever know,
The secrets of the box, the prize inside,
Uncovered by the river’s falling flow,
In minutes will be swallowed by the tide.
    Delighted by the artifacts they find,
    They have no sense of what was left behind.

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Trouble at the Tables

by Nick Gisburne



There’s trouble at the tables. I’m confused,
Expecting special pleasure as a priest.
The seven psalms of summoning I used
Have strangely failed to find our host, the Beast.
Belligerent, I bang the golden gong,
And, etiquette be damned, I kick it, twice.
Now somewhat of a spokesman for the throng,
My blasphemies are painfully precise.
The ruckus rouses Lucifer at last,
Advancing in a hedonistic haze.
His entourage of naked ghosts, aghast,
Attempts to reignite the Devil’s blaze.
    Ashamed, he holds a heathen orgy, free.
    No martyrs, but it’s good enough for me.

A Secret in the Sand

by Nick Gisburne



I find a stone, a secret in the sand,
And wonder why it shows itself to me.
A perfect circle, hot within my hand.
Upon it, symbols, signs I strain to see.
A map to mark the movements of the moon?
The mystery, I sense, is more than that.
Directed to another, distant dune,
The desert opens out beyond it, flat.
A vast expanse of smoothly sculpted stone,
Its patterns match the talisman I hold.
I somehow understand that I, alone,
Control a key, unfathomably old.
    I step inside and see the symbols glow.
    They call me, to unleash what lies below.

Government Guidelines: Friends List

by Nick Gisburne



Your list of legal friends has been approved,
Excluding some outside your social grade,
While others, deemed disruptive, were removed,
Imprisoned for the treason they displayed.
A mandatory, state-assigned review,
Of citizens with whom you interact,
Confirms that some, but, luckily, not you,
Installed illegal counter-code when tracked.
This government is pleased to now report
The list, with some redactions, is complete.
Do not attempt to contact or consort
With anyone not cited on your sheet.
    Recorded pages in this package: one.
    Your friends, your list, from now, forever: none.

Monday, 11 July 2022

The Butcher

by Nick Gisburne



The butcher breaks a ration pack of meat
To satisfy a thousand starving souls,
But other sources, smuggled from the street,
Are found to feed the tower he controls.
No animals survived the Great Malaise;
The labs alone supply his block with beef,
But, in these tense, intolerable times,
The truth cannot compete with blind belief.
With backdoor-bartered sacks of something raw,
Irregular but copious supplies,
The butcher’s grinder fattens every floor.
They live, but somewhere, somehow, someone dies.
    They know. They must, but none complain or care.
    The butcher feeds them all, with meat to spare.

Strangers From the Sky

by Nick Gisburne



My five-year-old designs a cure for ‘that’.
When pressed for proof, the proof is what we give.
But now they want to ‘have a little chat’,
And swiftly seal the street in which we live.
More science is efficiently applied,
A mist she made to medicate the mind,
And, while they sleep, we leave our home, to hide,
Protected, saved, by others of our kind.
We seem to be the cause of some concern.
The media, fixated, find ‘a threat’.
Enormous opportunities to learn
Are precious, yes? But no, not here, not yet.
    The world we try to help would rather die
    Than take the hand of strangers from the sky.

Curious Remains

by Nick Gisburne



She picks apart the curious remains,
The bones of crooked skeletons, the skin.
Most precious are their perfect metal brains,
And all the silent secrets locked within.
But force and gentle coaxing fail alike,
Resisting any science, trick, or tool,
Until she sees a strange electric spike.
The brains, inert, as one, contract, and cool.
Beyond the pain her freezing flesh can bear,
Transfixed, she sees them split along a seam,
And, swimming in a fog of frigid air,
Unspeakable perversions choke her scream.
    “I said this planet wasn’t worth the cost.
    Excuse me, miss. We’re tourists, and we’re lost.”

Sunday, 10 July 2022

Look After Them

by Nick Gisburne



“Look after them,” she begs. “They’re not all bad.”
She leaves you with a box of silver keys.
A witch, you once imagined, maybe mad,
But now you simply wonder, “What are these?”
An empty house, with no one coming back.
Within, perhaps, the answers that you seek.
Another key, ungainly, bigger, black.
No harm to see inside, to pry, to peek.
Her living room is clean, old fashioned, quaint,
The kitchen cluttered, filled with copper pans,
And, from the cellar, whimpers, whining, faint,
Beyond the hum of old electric fans.
    Her pets. Malnourished. Sick. Or dead, a few.
    In dirty cages, copies, clones, of you.

A Way to Kill My Wife

by Nick Gisburne



“Propose a plan, a way to kill my wife,
And quickly blame another for the crime.
The swift and simple ending of a life
Demands the perfect cover, every time.”
The puzzle, at the interview, unique,
Is just the quaint conundrum I enjoy.
Impressed by what I tell him, in a week
I find myself at work, in his employ.
The fantasy, the fiction, falls apart.
Arrested, I am questioned and accused.
The stabbing of a woman, through the heart.
My prints upon the knife the killer used.
    No plan is ever perfect. Nor is he.
    His counterfeit confession? That was me.

The Resurrection Rack

by Nick Gisburne



Corrected by the officer in black,
Her bloody fingers take the test again.
Admission to the Resurrection Rack
Demands she must submit, to serve such men.
A second-rate machine could beat her best,
But this is not a measurement of skill.
The ruthless persecution of the test
Performs a purpose: break a woman’s will.
Already dying, swollen with the pox,
Today will be her finish if she fails.
Before the pain, before this brutal box,
They promised life, reborn, if she prevails.
    The Rack is one more level of their lies.
    The test is endless. Everybody dies.

Saturday, 9 July 2022

A Piece of All of You

by Nick Gisburne



I bought a piece of all of you today.
The medium through which you speak is mine,
So, if there’s something you would like to say,
Behold the contract. Study it, and sign.
A thousand pages no one ever reads,
A jambalaya, laced with legal traps,
Bestows the freedom every speaker needs,
Until I taint the recipe, perhaps.
Protected, every letter, every word,
The chance to say exactly what you mean,
But, if the truth becomes a little blurred,
I can, of course, correct it, sight unseen.
    Say anything. Say why, say when, say what,
    Until I disconnect you. Free. Or not.

More Than Talk

by Nick Gisburne



They tell her she will never walk again,
Defeat the bleak appraisal of her fate,
But every word, the stroke of every pen,
Is crushed beneath the courage they create.
Determined to be free of what they said,
She lifts a middle finger to the lie.
Offended by their apathy, instead,
She finds another morning to defy.
Tenacious, more than many, more than most,
Dismissing every argument to stop,
When others fall before the winning post,
She crawls a mile beyond the point they drop.
    They may be right. They say she’ll never walk.
    But life is more than trauma, more than talk.

The Secrets

by Nick Gisburne



I suffer for the secrets I must keep,
The misery I struggle to contain.
They threaten me, remind me, as I sleep,
A careless word would cripple me with pain.
The secrets, undiscovered, soil my soul,
A tarnish on the silver, on the shine.
The life I cannot live, the spark they stole,
Corrupted, cold, will never now be mine.
A hostage to the horror, to the hell,
The knowledge there is nothing I can do,
I speak because the curse I cannot sell
At last, my friend, today belongs to you.
    Forgive me for the burden I must give,
    The secrets too depraved to let me live.

A Thousand Contradictions

by Nick Gisburne



The features in the photo don’t belong.
A crooked, yet profoundly handsome face.
The tangled hair, the nose a little long.
A figure of unquestionable grace.
The emptiness of cold, uncaring eyes
Belies that mellow, mesmerising smile.
Delusional, but infinitely wise.
A face I want to love, and yet revile.
A paradox, a mystery, unsolved,
A thousand contradictions made the man.
Around his distant star my world revolved,
A disregarded pebble in his plan.
    The father I would never want to be,
    But every part of him is part of me.