Daniel Juckes is a writer from Perth, Western Australia. He is a lecturer in Creative Writing at UWA, Associate Editor at Westerly Magazine, and holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Curtin University. His creative and critical work has been published in journals such as Axon, Life Writing, M/C Journal, TEXT, and Westerly, and he was highly commended in the 2021 Fogarty Literary Award.

The steamed-cabbage look of it starts the suspension of belief. And perhaps ends it, if I am being frank: there is no way this crinkle-cut globule, soft and bruised, could swell with all of who someone like myself happens to be. Even the mushiness of it is offensive—like the parts of your body which fold themselves without intention, or even those which dimple despite all efforts to the contrary. Yet.

Something about the image rejects even the idea of the organic: I am unable to imagine this thing beating, throbbing, or pulsing—and I cannot trace in my own version of it (the one which sits inside my skull) all the swirling mechanisms of life that should be there. Instead, it hovers—jar-kept or dangling—and is inhuman by disassociation. Though.

There is no doubt it is the seat of things. That it produces, despite the bloated disconnect which exists between the dream and fact of ourselves: the gap which persists in each of the ways we convince ourselves against softness, or set up in opposition to gangling insides. (These can only revolt us.) But.

This thing, too—the origin of all anxiety; of all that is felt and thought and sought—still beguiles. It lulls, maybe because, while being both distended and less-dimensional than it should be in the flesh, it somehow remains cute; seems slight; is toylike. This.

Suggests a lilliputian grandiosity. An unimaginable, imagined contradiction—a force of endless aeons, manifested as in-built curlicues and grey complexity; a doubled, tripled, en-billioned bodyless object. That.

Tells time. Sings songs. Writes books. Dwells; computes; remembers. Settles a body in the space of itself and within the space of a universe; which allows brief comprehension. So.

Is undeniable, while being impossible to believe. But there still. And doubtful yet, though ticking and turning and squeezing endless impressions. With.
Nothing to keep it from stopping except for the wearing down of itself.

, screaming

Brain frazzled brains, pickled brains, putrid brains, fickle brains / Giant brains, shrivelled brains, vile brains, crippled brains / Runny brains, yummy brains, mushy brains, get your brains / Lovely brains, steaming brains, eat your brains, buy my brains

Jam Baxter, ‘Brains’

There’s no end to this, the eye seems to say, and to stretch as it says it, plucked and pulled forward from its dock as though tweezed or teased with fingers—like piano-played notes on rotation. Somehow false. Looped. Mechanic. But pictures don’t lie, so that must be the shape it takes: tapered and conal at the lens, as if trying to escape, while all that’s thick and glutinous behind where the light gets in attempts opaque defence. No wonder, given the cloud-dust and sparks which throng in the back, and manifest as galaxies dumped small-scale, or like movement gathered; as fingers, bicycles, handcuffs, bones, and as cave-walled creatures. Whatever, you can see them better in black and white, where they are even more striated; incensed; where they flex as nightmares, memories, and inhibitions gathered to attention. As the electric-opposite of shadows, and at the behest of the smoky, marbled medulla, which rises like a fist and sits close to the place where a mouth should be, screaming.

b-sides; memories* 

at an oxbow of the river in the shallow of a valley on a square of a map, before the hills begin to spout a-green, i bear the callow weight of laser beams. dendritic, they spar with stars and win; curve; meander; bend in ways which light should not. (perhaps i am misremembering.)

imagine like i am somewhere in the belly of a mob, bathed virescent in delirium, and credulous: a lesser collage of this current pliable shape. the night is sylvan. sopped. blurs and outlines echoing, echoing, exiting.

there is a small man wallpapered in sweat. the bellow of another. a signal made by one guitar. the bellow of another. we climb a fence, cut wires and cables, bury secrets; are limed in sour grapes, then oaked. move from self-obsessed to spent. and still this green like lightning spreads. cut it off. cut it off. cut it on.

start anew. an open field. across the counter of a bookshop. a stage; a hat; a scrunched-up piece of paper. silvern moments. then weeks of life spent stalled by the toxic curves of algorithms: napoleon in verdigris—or even an entire self, curled circular. now, it is impossible to pay attention to details. everything, everyone, every time.

*This poem owes some debts: first, to the lyrics of Kele Okereke, specifically the songs ‘Hero’, ‘Cain Said to Abel’, ‘The Once and Future King’, ‘Rhododendrons’, ‘Two More Years’, ‘Always New Depths’, ‘Little Thoughts’, and ‘Flux’. And second, to Chris Arnold, for a couple of timely suggestions.