Chris McCabe: Three Poems


Blond Rex, what Illuminati confirms a bloodline exfoliating in seats of power, back acne weeping in Gucci shirts? What Illuminati, laminations of Jesus’s face, nominations for shortlists, where money multiplies money like a woodlouse nest? The road to excess leads to the palace of business, Illuminati knows it, confirms, conforms. Bonus Rex in the business lounge, cutting a tape on a social housing experiment, The Groucho at two, Miss Nebraska at eight. Because if it doesn’t grip : cut it; if it isn’t yours : twist it; if it has a mind : fuck it. If it doesn’t fit in the hand, in the bank, in the ass, then corrupt it, spit at its name, tweezer its tiny beating heart until the corpuscle pops. Pour another, take it out to the expanse, put it on expenses, drive it to the velodrome of a golf course, make it play Crusoe at a private pool. Illuminati knows it, confirmed it, forced it – & behind it all, a camera that was the magi at the birth of Blond Rex, documents its genesis.



Authority extends downwards, a kestrel with a flint in its eye.

Glances over the heads of Trustees, a trellis pattern in the blue stitching of pressed suits.

North to the river & the spirit level of the Strand.

South. Why not? We all know what happened to Lear in Kent.

Downwards, movement at middle management can lead to a loss of claw : a weasel on a pretzel forage.

Remember West? The facing wind carries the scent of clotted inks.

East is Necropolis, a magic slate refreshes the white lies of Easter.

Feel your last hour in the gut? Authority collapses the eight pins of the compass.



The Bottom Line is a God,
The Bottom Line is a song that doesn’t stop,
The Bottom Line is what gets you up in the morning,
The Bottom Line is a gallows
you’ll hang anyone to meet, & sure
The Bottom Line should be met,
but you can’t make a votive offering to The Bottom Line,
you can’t make a God of The Bottom Line,
The Bottom Line forms a grid,
and through it goes the diverted sewerage of a black river …
the gates close at dusk, leave by eleven.

WELCOME to this new square mile
built on The Bottom Line.


Chris McCabe’s work crosses artforms and genres including poetry, fiction, non-fiction, drama and visual art. He was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in 2013 and his five collections of poetry include The Triumph of Cancer (Penned in the Margins, 2018), which is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. His first novel, Dedalus, was published by Henningham Family Press in 2018 and was shortlisted for the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize. His latest novel is Mud, a version of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, set beneath Hampstead Heath. His non-fiction work includes an ongoing series of books which document his search to discover a great forgotten poet in one of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries; titles include In the Catacombs (2014), Cenotaph South (2016) and the The East Edge: Nightwalks with the Dead Poets of Tower Hamlets, all published by Penned in the Margins. He is the co-editor of The New Concrete: Visual Poetry in the 21st Century (Hayward Publishing, 2015) and the editor of Poems from the Edge of Extinction: An Anthology of Poetry in Endangered Languages (Chambers, 2019). He works as the National Poetry Librarian.





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