Bar Null

All the waves arrive bereft of their refugees,

the trees abolish even their ruins,

amassed in the chamber of zeroes.

There is nothing there to be filled:

you could grow learned in noughts,

study the accumulation of chalk.

That too is waiting, teller of shames

and of dreamwarks, long swells

laid up against dismay, the sack

on your shoulders, slouching downward

off the stone paths, a head full

of brittle figures, relic echoes

on a junkyard of remnants and

refuse: things are the discards

of your philosophy, dismissed,

demented, detained, they drift off

into the half-light, unapt ungrounded.



You carved this voice out of my body, dis-

lodged as if it did not even belong there,

instruments laid out on the table, conductor

of tunings, your one note hangs in the air.

He should have died hereafter, whatever

ever after he took on: these are no fit times

to be dying in, though too many come to,

then and there, their leavings surround us

with our needing. “You know how we live

in two worlds always,” so this is written in

divisible ink, as if there might have been

a word for such a time. But he turned a keen

untroubled face home to the instant need

of things, being all abstracted in body, stalled

and forsaken, and then so unwillingly cut

into spirit. Off they go scampering

light-fingered street-wise from the law.



Out of which of the divided skies

will the bird next fly? Across the meridian

the new thing escapes me, there then

not there. After a life of listening

all mixed up with things and things

the night-voice steps your way: yes,

you will die your death, the cypher

imploding inward to the dark and

cosmic quiet. Another sky, another

earth, that is but one condition

of our being, the one annulled

by noughts. They sold all the ashes;

it wasn’t enough yet: multiplication

of the deadheads, the most irrational

remains. Rains filled up the jug,

then we guzzled what was left us:

cry for the bird on the remaindered sky.



How there was always something all edges

asseverating, you have the body it is

the body I want in this gathering of

the querulous. Always we come after

the body that was spirited away, a dense

word cluster tightens the knot in your gut.

Remote and magical dusting takes on

the impress: they keep finding traces

rubbed out, rubbed in, they lift off

the stone with their prints intact,

but still not the thing they want: the want

stays. It may be the want you want,

after all, after the body’s been lifted,

after the wanted are rendered into

this afterlife that is the life of things,

something desperately signals the body I want.



Between lovely bluenesses the horizon rules

its edge, listing seawards. All round, blood

in its milk, red moiré, ash grey streaking its

milky silk. It pivots around the standing

stone, pebble dressed, a dot’ll do you.

A stone standing along the rim, a pine

cut-out, fog-dodged, determine the limit

you ’d meet, a human looming maybe on

the foreshore, a blade opens the distance

jottings shed from its sharp edge

seeding the cloud.

Between there and

here it is light that is moving as light

is made to, sky light sea light, ear

enlisted to its wavelength, reduced

to one note rung out, hardly there.



I cast the white stones on the foreshore,

foursquare, loaded with chambered echoes—

like you say, the loss of wind defines

a grave room. Likewise, embers give birth

to the absence of flame: such bearing

will suffer no hurt, easy flow, easy do,

the sovereign is smooth and the run-off

turns no stone, moving others as it will.

Like a blue water clause, scale determines

where you step—beyond the limit

the centre doesn’t hold, rhythm grows wily

and makes grooves of its own, will you won’t you

one two want to now. We were speaking of

power, showy things and shit: the base is four-

fold and still things move into their refuge.

All along a slow burn festers in the root mat.



By word of mouth or a stone fort opens

its wings to the sea below, below. I

miss you now though there was nothing

between us, only this great null of ocean

an embrasure embraces. A selfie

peeled up from the rock consumes

from the edges: see how it burns!

Round this end of time sense certainty

is circulating, the lone thing taken up

into its sublime abstraction is your con-

cretion or a Jerusalem stone facade redux,

flattened five stories to one, say, such

odds, when the rap comes to your door:

cement dust, ash, blown along the ex corridors.

But to be partial to things, this desert

is full of their traces in the attentive ear.



The voice waves break on the tympanum.

I wanted to net the surf tonight, its

splashy spume falls back from the furl. I was

all set to skim voice traces from the wall

tonight, they were so pressing to my ear,

the frantic orphaned swarm unhiving.

Nothing like you comes back, nothing of your

remains, words dissolving in the acid sea.

An odd leaf falls through radio silence, static

on the air, voices corroding between

the frequencies, snatches of sound dapple

scratching the gap between things. I wanted

to ride every broken wave to the ground

tonight, run interference patterns in the

backwash, waking shattered voices from

the undertow, stories of everything turned to stone.



Silk of self between the lips unspooling

even this nearness, the horizon smear

between blue and deepening blue, a

white-framed rock dashed in the surges,

liquid, liquidating, breaks the series. There

where an island, the stone church, the boulder

stations, older than that, there, the warmath

underbreaks. White underwing riding turbulent

streams, air-fluent, dem Geier gleich with

its caustic reflux. News breaks the chain

of evening with its murder of crows, homing,

the thread of memory shreds in the teeth:

ontological cable of this sea-wind heaves

at anchor, messaging madly into the archive.

Line by line, lip service felt in the breath,

leave me just blue enough to thread the eye

of a loop-pole, voice dying from the inside out.



Lightfall deepens into its incendiary edge,

backlit pines define the distance, black steps

across the ridges. Out of the heart of light

a voice speaks, its lidded mouth unseeing.

Hands ensleeved sift the star-salt, the weal

harks back into the time sink, this library

of wax blind to its catalogues of bone,

their scar-lagged proofs. Reserve shifts

across the null places, a whole hand writing

on air, an ember ring tracks it, cutting

the darkness in flight. All his paraphernalia

reversed, its warp order backing up.

Athwart the time I speak, only a breath step

holds him. Straw winds bear down off

the scorched slopes with a faint reminiscence

of ash. Let go. Now is the hour to disperse.



Morning thunder joins the peaks, copula

of rain raises the earth in a bright

snatch of decay. The tenanted house

is mildewed, filming of damp moss sweetens

the granite step. This you must take now,

stone by stolen stone, and tumble: dis-

mantled rock rolling uprooted down the slope.

Seated in solace, bent to his yeasty kieve,

master of fermentations breaks it down: haloes

of wort-rings unfold through the litmus, this

nonsense-mediated decay tense with the ash

of things, raven chatter hectoring the tepid

cloud. I tell you, he found his real face there

down by the sluggish waters, in the dank retort,

till your white head silent and your set jaw

stared everything down into its sullen earth.



A lifeline sutures the hand, crossed, only

that there to read, a seam unseen

fastens the grey graft to the red bark

as an old moon in the young one’s lap,

scuzzy aura blurring the scrim. A sheer

wind sings in the breach, damp cinder draught

wafted from the slopes: my dry mouth

tired of its breathing, a white ash

seasons the tongue. Nothing but sky

adds to the sky now a greeny light

diffuses along the crest, ashen light

before the storm. A seeding of droplets

peels from the branch, puckers the sand.

Number and level cyphered my tendered

palm: you might have said dross tide-shunted

at the surfline, wave-crescents fading.



Wave meter paced the shore, keeps time: between

the mountains and the sea, home trudge shrank

into undertow, nil by mouth, lip trap clamped shut,

but still she came ocean-eyed in dream, said see

what I could, see what I knew, see what I was:

the mountain back beyond, holding, weighed down

to this quartz rest—sea-crystal pressed in earth, earth

earth-heavy, clear in the seam light delays in its multi-

shimmering veer. This is the work diverging

from the cast, and your listening-in bone was

all ears to it, to the dream plunged in the earth,

askew to the remembering vase, bud-crested

crystal: from here on in it defines the sill, like

a signature, like an uneasy gaze into refractory

light, with deliberate slowness in the rift loaded

with smithereens, o-mouth to thread at your peril.



Feathered animangel in flight she opens

this articulate assembly, cast out on

the reticent field. A pillar of fire

burns afar, the undressed stone gives back

the day’s glare. Mother knuckles dragging

the finest sand for knuckle, clavicle

to string a high note over clinkered earth.

Phosphor drops searing out of the scalded air,

splutter of sparks annulling the bone:

dredged earth laid bare afire, every thing

burns in its own way, with an aura

of hot breath. Dead face turned from me

recedes into the fold, a word breathed in

my ear catches in its knot, reticulate

loops snaring the parting song, this science

of disappearance checking out for now.



Author’s note: Bar Null was originally published in Cork as a limited edition chapbook by SoundEye Pamphlets 1. Thanks to the editors, Trevor Joyce and Fergal Gaynor.


David Lloyd, Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, is a poet, playwright, and critic, working primarily on Irish culture and on postcolonial, settler-colonial, cultural, and aesthetic theory. His poetry collections include Arc & Sill: Poems 1979–2009 (Shearsman, 2012) and The Harm Fields, which was recently released by Georgia Review Books. His play, The Press/Le Placard (2018), is available in a bilingual edition from Presses Universitaires du Midi. Lloyd’s most recent critical books include Counterpoetics of Modernity: On Irish Poetry and Modernism (Edinburgh University Press, 2022), Under Representation: The Racial Regime of Aesthetics (Fordham University Press, 2019), and Beckett’s Thing: Painting and Theatre (Edinburgh University Press, 2016).