Poetry Drawer: The Machine: Yarbles: Missa Solemnis by Neil Fulwood

The Machine

(after R.S. Thomas)

I doubt science fiction
had much of a place
on bookshelves reserved
for the philosophical,
the theological, the poetic.
Austere works, works
for the mind and soul
to wrestle with, not always
in support of each other.

And yet you saw it,
brutal and destructive
as any tripod, any
fighting machine, any
alien force, striding
across valley and hillside
like a pylon latched
to the service of the Other:

the machine – inhuman,
unstoppable, the very
non-soul of technology,
stamping over farmstead
and chapel and centuries
of things done in a quieter
more Godly manner.

The machine, cables
like tendrils, its brain
subdividing thought
through venomous strings
of code that know nothing
of mystery.


But what if I put it this way:
you listen carefully
to what the Minotaur has to say
about benefits, holiday

entitlements, index-linked
pension, reward scheme,
every word falling to the clink
of chains, the screams

of untold millions before you
who believed the spin.
Seeing through it, would you
sign on the dotted line,

go all in and learn to love
the labyrinth, embrace
its endless switchbacks? Of
course not! You’d place

your kneecap where it hurts,
leave the Minotaur
to his just (and crushed) deserts,
blow the joint for

anywhere without an HR team,
one to ones, peer reviews.
Resign, walk out, live the dream.
Nothing’s stopping you.

Missa Solemnis

Interior lights extinguished, signboard
bullishly insisting ‘NOT IN SERVICE’,
you’re tearing this single-decker
through the midnight streets, discharged
of passengers and running light.

All that’s left of your shift is the small ritual
of rolling into the depot; leaving
the vehicle on the pump. The small ritual
of walking across the yard, hi-viz on,
rucksack slung over one shoulder, dodging

rainbow flecked spills of fuel or detergent;
the small ritual of filing the running card
in the appropriate slot, of dropping
any lost property in the overnight safe.
And that’s you done. Trudge back

to the car park, drive the fifteen minutes home,
fall into a made or unmade bed. Lie awake
for a while, mind ticking over. The yard hands
are still at it, putting the last few buses –
the night owl shuttles – through the wash bay,

lining them up in place for their few-hours’-time
run out. The cleaners are scooping up
the litter, the scrunched tickets. The yard
is a counterpoint of light and shadow.
Silence threads the streets surrounding the depot.

Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham, England, where he still lives and works. He has published two collections, No Avoiding It and Can’t Take Me Anywhere. His third collection, Service Cancelled, is due for publication later this year. 

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