Poetry, Xavier Masson-Leach
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Just Like Any Other

Sandra Teles

A poem by Xavier Masson Leach.

From inside this innocuous tin,

This fistful of coldness (so small, so

Peripheral to the existence

Of us strangers being swayed together

In time with this train carriage swaying)

I hear whispers. For when I cracked its

Metal lip there was an angry hiss

Of symbols that rose up, breathing out

Faded stories in the gassy steam.

 

First of all it is the alchemy

Of metaphysical plants (used in

Witchcraft, clairvoyance and medicine)

The kola nut of West African

Friendship and coca leaves from deep in

The South American holy land

Where innumerable plants have grown their

Own anarchic consciousness and can

Consume whoever eats them. Still now,

 

In its current neutered state, Coke has

Kept the suggestion of a herbal

Remedy (although now from vast fields

Of cinnamon and nutmeg, picked by

The unknown hands of distant people

Who labour for our appetites and

Whose specific desperation seems

To only ever be a faint hint

Of unease in our collective mind).

 

Foaming brown in giant stainless steel tanks

It takes on the banal power of

The huge collections of money, that

Some say shape the world (or at least keep

Its engine turning over). And yet

It is a pointless product; worse than

Useless, an unnatural brew of

Acronyms; a drink that dehydrates

Or summons diabetes (although

 

It can cure mild hangovers). Worse, its

Pointlessness is interchangeable

With any other product. This is the

Heart of it: we are unhappy with

What it so poorly represents – the

Weight of what we cannot control, the

Desires we repress. And so we

Return to the drink’s ingredients.

We devour them relentlessly.

 

Now any rootless materialist

Can call her shaman and buy the chance

To drink a stinking concoction that

Causes diarrhoea (both mental

And physical) and perhaps shows her

What her death sounds like from a distance.

The problem is not the plant itself

Or her search, but the illusion that

We have lost the use for rituals.

 

You see it most in Coke’s more potent

Powdered namesake. It is not ashamed

That its only purpose is to make

More demand (despising any search for

Meaning). It just gives a tiny dose

Of impulsive chaos to despair

Or monotony and explodes that

Emptiness with deathless murder (which

Is really quite the popular thing).

 

It is an overdose of meanings

That we have denied in every way

And have lost the means to cope with. And

So (perhaps because we cannot see

The links between each other) private

Pain is sent across the world and the

Price of Coke goes up when Mexicans

Have their heads cut off, their bodies hung

From bridges as warnings. And yet as

 

I walk through the crowd in the station

(Their faces so inexplicable

In their geography, their sparks of

Movement mesmerising) I cannot

Help but think that the ingredients

Are here – that we do already have

Everything that’s missing. There is no

Way to know but I’m certain this is

A glorious time to be alive.

 

—x—

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