A Machinery for Pain (1999)


During the course of 1998 I experienced a great deal of personal stress, through having to witness much suffering in those I loved. This became, for a time, so intense that it seemed hardly possible that life should continue for me in a reputable form.

From my anger and incomprehension at this torment there came this sequence of poems. In retrospect, it seems that my defence at the time was to mock pain, to shame it out of existence.

My thanks to Jack Ross and Nick Wester for help with research.

For Joseph, Michael, Anna, and Ruth.





You fear
there’s a worm within
mind or body

eating its own way
making a passage
or a home

to rest until it’s grown
then to hatch
like the huhu

alien within
to burst fully formed
and terrible

knocking on windows

or eating
as borers do
from one end to the other

leaving holes
and you diminished

just a shell
like a pole
with termites

no-one knows
because you look the same
until you fall

at a wind
or a blow



You’re in the shit.
It’s morning.
You want to be part of it
but you can’t get out of bed
you’ve split.

Your mind says Get Up
but the body won’t.

There’s a break
in the chain
of command.

One knee’s locked.
One leg’s cramped.
You’ve forgotten how to turn or sit.

Your arms won’t move
(someone’s sewn the ligaments)
and your head is a stone let free to roll.

The blankets are too much to move
so you pivot on your butt
and squirm
until there’s bulk enough to let you
push up
to sit,
sure you’ll end
unsinewed on the floor,
pierced through and through with knotted thorns of
and burning spear.


Is it your
the bowel

calcareous bones

is your baldness normal

where will it lead?
an agony
a stroke
short of breath
or lethargy
such as
right now
does overcome you
at inconvenient times
as distance from the day
and catatonic.

Yours is the morbidity!

Like Coleridge you’re retaining
all the faeces
of your days.



And scummy sulphur’s seething down below.



You’re caving in
from the gravity
of the world,

(you can feel it)
in the lights,

no part loose
to work,

fixed still
to endure
the weight
of the world.


make a small move
to a sock.



Fight this!
There are ways!
You have the power!
There are rituals of observance,
attitudes of mind,
pieties and helpful lusts
that will bring respite,
some times of strength,
periods of loose-limbed clear-brained freedom,
fleshly peace well-toned,

even health.





Take Cannabis

smoke or eat it

And grow,
which is the whole.

You must have fear
for a patch in the bush,
for the prospects under glass
by the flue,
or sheltered in the sun
in pots

so you can ask What If
the police should call
for something less and see;

What If an enemy inform
and you be took
in front of the street
(or work)
and led away detained.

You have reward —
fear’s an analgesic.

There’s nothing like pot
to make the paranoid.

Terror stirs the humours
of the mind.*

* see Appendix; Note 1.



Deep Breathing

to clear the lungs
and send oxygen
down arteries.

Every hour or so do ten of
of them deep into the chest
to fill the lungs so that oxy-
gen can course along the
blood stream and enable
the muscles and all the
integuments to work to full
capacity to move with the
fluidity of the human form
devised and is the norm*

This is a taking stock a spot
check of yourself a
company count self-tasking
a putting of the dross on

A one-ing with the mind of
all a rhythm from beyond
the hearth of this world’s

Where the fact of life is
made and you and I are
almost out of range of all
but the condescending

You get a lift when you consort
with the Almighty.

* see Appendix: Note 2.



Manage The Day

so you feel you’re

Shape it
to obviate
painful occasions,
think ahead.

Leave no shade,
avoid dark places,
and corners where the enemy might wait.

Keep out and about
in the clear.

Stay near the door
when you visit.

Don’t be pounced
by any of those gods
which we in our naïve corner
think are friends.

And get skilled in being.

Which you won’t,
but it’s good to believe.



Go Dreaming

be a mess

When the torment comes
(and you’ll know that
the build-up
all the signs concatenate
to organise)

then put yourself somewhere else

jump to another pain-free space

which is yours,
where it’s homely.

The comfort
will keep you from capture,

and confusion
from account.

Be complex,
less liable,

then when you die
you’ll be remembered
with suspended



i.e. don’t give others
the right idea

Say: I’d rather not talk of it.
Say: Lots of others are lots worse off.

you’ll keep your friends, partners, people,

get good advice
be boasted as a worthy friend
of distinction
as role model.

Hint they’ll outlive you.

Wince, grimace, groan sotto voce,

keep pity close
and pain your own —
it’s dignity,
enhancement of your multi-faced

There’ll be freedoms.

Each sigh will bring
a small reward.



benefit lies in the

God is good,
for leading through the wilderness
and that sort of thing.

Animated conversation
with someone you like
pushes hurtful symptoms into corners
that need not be visited for a while.

Such respite is a blessing
and may give gain to strength,
to get you through the next bad patch,
or to a new device
that’s hope in diverse form appearing,
and palliative.

Divine tolerance has fallen into short supply;
don’t be cocky.

Make sweet music deep within the heart’s content;
love plain.

And don’t sin deadly.*

* see Appendix: Note 3.



Mystical discipline can
release spiritual forces

By subtle shifting of the psyche
search in the interior space between the flames.

As in a fire
there is a space where there is no fire,

so in the tormented soul
there’s a painless place
where one may rest
and feel the prickling of the burn
but not be burnt.
In quietness
and solitude unmoving
bed or chair
some precious church that’s yours
where no one is,
be still.
Let life drain out
until the faces crowd around
and say
That any more is death!
For love’s sake stop,
And bear it again.

(Until the lack of fear
begins to gnaw at you,

and you pull the pin.)



Take Nature

wear green

Look up, wretch,
and see what you are —
flesh and blood.

Turn to nature,
your maker,
and your likeness there —
a tree,
a space provided
and an ether compatible with soul;

One whiff of it!
Of scented fern
of fungus
the cabbage flower
new rain on grass
crushed manuka!
One whiff
and you’re off
to a transcendental union
which supervenes the self.
the farthest hill is home;
you’re atoms of infinity.
There’s a pinched sea
and a curdled sky,
but you’ve mist, dew,
the weather of the land,
you’ve pain itself,
the subject of decay —
and you have peace.

Wake now,
and keep it.
Keep windows, doors,
keep it.

Keep too the plenty that you’ve spread.



Go To A Faith
if you feel strong

For the experience
to see what some people do
with health and pain,

how ruthless

and how deep some people go
into the dark
for power.

How they scratch truth.

You won’t be healed,
you won’t be better,
but you might be so enraged
you’ll be diverted
into nausea
or indignation,
and then have an access
of strength.
For this alone the healer may be thanked,
but not for health.

For that he should be burned.*

* see Appendix: Note 4.



Be Subtle
it always pays to

Take pain as partner;
give it legs,
to put itself about a bit
with personality.

And then you can grow
to know
study and examine
the ways of the other
as it does you.

be Familiar.
From time to time
change tack,
turn your back,
pretend you don’t know,
and act as if the other
is out of sorts.

Tempt it
to restraint,

for sickness can be civilised
if one takes pains
and practice.



Make Sex

it’s holistic

Life’s not a bed of tuberoses,
things happen these ways
so don’t be singled
and give up.

Be drained of your procreative fluids and

Get Out.

as you were,
ceaselessly generative
and drown out death with life.

Fill your house with calla lilies,
leave the lights on all the time,
burn incense,
and run up a huge heating bill
for pleasure.

Never let your sheets grow cold
nor any part be old.
Be proud.
Press the flesh,
and leave no room,
no inhabitation,
for the dark corner guest
that would possess you.

Bear thee well.
Fight fast,
and give not up the battle over lightly.*

* see Appendix: Note 5.



let your healing powers
do the work

Always take care
to eat for pain
and to rest
for strength.

Lie down
with three

I recommend Schubert (his octets)
and almost any chamber music by Dvorak,

flat on the back
(alone or with another),

and let the music float you to abstraction.

Then get pissed for three days.

By this means it is possible to become so non-existent
as to leave no hold for the parasite to prey

or outside
the corpus.

As long as you don’t move,
to the extent
of breathing
most barely,

you will have peace
until your will runs out
and normal conditions apply.

You see.



Be Indignant
and keep your self-

There is always
the chance
that the aim
of your pain
is destruction.

Try this:
instead of burning on
turn aching back.
Incorporate your hurt
in the scheme of natural justice;
convince it of error —
that it’s a waterless cloud
a fruitless tree
a wandering star,
an illegal tenant in your soma
with no rights.
Pour scorn upon your pain,
(and vilification).

Establish right with righteousness
in every part
from head to limb
and chitterling.

The shit may flee,
you may be well again.

If not,
there’s many a cliché for comfort.
Just think of the dying—

It is best to be low with the poor
than weak with the strong,

isn’t it.



and leave your worries

A suppository is weightier than a pill;
complex remedies have more dignity than easy means
and can outweigh the ill,

so when the doctor says
‘Take a holiday in Fiji’
Go; reck no cost.

Go quietly,
Go fast,
and you may leave affliction behind,
dropped from the portmanteau
in the calculation of
your desert-island joy,

the delighted anticipation of coralline concupiscence.

Pain is like this:
it can be crowded out of life and forgot.

Then it takes to hanging out
at taxi stands
bus stops
airport lounges
and the vestibules of cinemas
looking for a friend.

Take care!
Watch with your body eyes.
Return at night in your own car
and drive round the back
before it sees.




make the best
of a bad job

Pain startles the imagination,
and is a piss-artist
when it comes to self-knowledge,
inclined to pose
as a purifying element.

Take it on at its own game
and pretend, if you can,
that this is a burning ordeal
to take the dross from your soul
and the veil from your interior eye,

that now and only now
can you see
the beauty of life,
(whereas before life was
a careless thing
and therefore fumbled by you).

In those days you lived,
but now you are exquisite,
so nicely adjusted in profundity
that you must tell of it.
You have a duty —
it is a gate
to a particular world.

Now, and only now,
can you understand Dostoevsky
and see what they
were really getting at.

So you’ve moved,
haven’t you.



Die To The World
i.e. remove false goals
from yr life

You can also
if you wish
use pain
for the ends
people have these days:
to avoid the bills
a major duty
disliked food
or someone to stay,

or to gain the singularity
we each desire
in a populated world.
Declare disagreement.

Use retreat.

Seclude yourself
and perhaps adopt a Rule of Life.

Become ethereal,
with a wan touch.

Stay at home for days at a time,
and show a nervous reluctance
to do pleasant things.

So fair does each invent her virtue,
and fair enough.



Go to Bed
(the safe place)

It might be
the pillow’s soft,
the mattress just.

It might be
that you can find
a position to lie
in comfort.

For most in the power
of the enemy
pain is worse in bed.

But it is a heritage site
sacred to sanctuary,
and those who abuse it
lose esteem,

and confidence;

so lure,

and wrestle in the sheets,

that they be not made




Eat A Lot
In the manner of
drowning a cold

(The advantage this therapy gives
is the diversion of pleasure).

Go stuff yourself with condiments and comestibles
Ogle, perve, and obsess to entire content.

The sense of having all one’s longings met
may - just may -
crowd out the tyrant,
and leave room only
for manageable ailments,
like indigestion
and salmonella,
with weight gain,
which could alter the condition
of the enemy’s work,
and confuse.

Try this:
Develop elaborate rituals
for cooking
for setting the table,
and arcane codes
for judging taste.
You may gain notoriety
(still, awful fear),

and you may be,
for a course or two,

* see Appendix: Note 6.



Make A Poem of It.
and order your world

Lodge at the edge of nothing
and play skipping games
which is the sense of poetry now
and no imperial faculty
unless one thinks of Nero
who knew the poem as pain
and not one step without it
not one thought,

in the heroic mode,
by power
and process of the self,
not philosophy;

and liberation from the weight
that your father
cursed God
in the sandhills of Jutland,

and the lives of the Saints,
which completely accomplish your purpose;
so you rest again,

for the past has a way of being there
in flair and flavour.

It’s wrote above the door



Five Trenchant

Those whom God loves
are always unhappy,
must suffer pain,
and everything goes wrong for them.

Health is a pre-requisite of falling sick.
There are sickly people
who are not healthy enough
to be able to fall sick.

Even pain can be a treasure
if the sufferer can see
beyond the darkness to
a bright and burnished self.

Preserve the lacustrine
edge of the soul and
you will obviate the
frightful necessity of loathing.

No darkness is so
dense it will not break
into a rainbow of tears
in a persistent euphony.





A Suggestion
if it comes to this

it’s got to happen
the test that is
the ultimate
when you’re pushed

Right to nakedness
before the —
Lord the Self
the Judge of All
the Grand Inquisitor

the last Denial
the great O?

You find comfort in no cliches of the time.

There’s void before,
There’s night behind,
and you crouch in the cold
astonished that a human being could come to this,
that anyone is worth such a partisan pain,
that it’s best to be beast
and crawl out of sight
from whatever
it is
that arranges the misfortune of life;

Then turn to the Neinei tree
and find
the change of tide
the set of time
that stands like a conqueror’s standard firm
to tell the word.



The Neinei

its likeness

A monocotyledenous appearance
with parallel veins,
delighting the eye.

at the edge.
Flowers massed in
bulk at the tips,
red cones for pomps.

Trunks and branches
so disposed —
a geriatric elegance
of one who made a pose
but can’t unmove.

Secure in grotesquerie
and quiet,
with the bark
peeling off the boughs

And quiet,
on the floor dry
from undegraded fall.

The Tree
that every garden’s

(the leaves are for the healing of the nations)



Infuse the leaves of the Neinei,
Dracophyllum traversii.
They contain betain, alkaloids, saponin,
and tetragonin (a yeast regulator).
They also show carbonic anhydrase activity,
and contain two cerebrosides (which are
also contained in milk and oysters).

One taste of these relieves the brain.
There are proven effects on oedema
and arthritis, but they may not be good.


Boil them up and drink the soup.
It’ll do the same job as disprin, but
might be harder to get, and more expensive
in the long run — it depends where
you live.

[Endorsed by a former Vicar of Kaitaia,
who used an allied species found there.]


A decoction of the juice of the flower,
boiled with seaweed, and liberally mixed
with pith from the canes of the raupo,
is palatable, and can be guaranteed to
sort you out and produce the same
effect —

or so archival correspondence would
have us to think.



If you run into trouble at this point,
it might be a good idea to stop, and
to inhale vapour from the steamed bark.
But watch out! It has a depressant
effect on general respiration and the
heart, so keep a close measure of
the pulse.

This will also do good if you have boils
and sore eyes.

Then scratch around the roots. There is,
at this altitude, a small lichen to be found on
decomposed detritus. It tastes like truffles.
The colonists used it for flavouring, and there
are hints in kitchen MSS in the Nelson
district, that it is an aphrodisiac, and if used
with broad beans will slow the ageing process,
especially for men.

A soot-like substance collects at the base
of the leaves of the Neinei, especially near
the growing tip at the branch end. Analysis
of this substance (derived from an extruded
gum) shows it can be usefully chewed for
toothache and used as a purgative.

It is rich in saponins and is slightly toxic.

The oil in this gum has been found to
contain cyanolipids, which release hydrogen
cyanide. This appears to be a feature of
the Dracophyllum genus.



A Prayer

from the heart

Don’t leave me Lord
but keep me dry
in these Leviathans
in this forest
of the Neinei

Keep me oned
give me sleep
warm sleep
in these mannequins of trees

These twelve antic trees
whose roots extend forever
whose sap is the sorrows of God



The Vegetable Life

We know too much

It’ll end,
it has to.

At least there’s arboreal point.
That’s worth remembering;
like when you shut your eyes
and get rectangular patterns
with colours you’ve not seen before
because they all have blood in them
even the greens.

I can see them myself — now.

There’s vegetable in all of us.
Indeed, could we but accept this
it would be a considered option
to give up meat
and become lignivorous.

Lesser forms of life have done so,
and prospered.

There’s a tree for everyone.
They carry our questions mycorrhizal at the roots,
answers in the venation
of their leaves —
some with grace,
most with dignity,
all explicit.

For answers, look to the leaves.
They’re all there;
but if your business with pain
is to be rid, once for all,
make note that one is febrifugic,
another abortifacient.

Wow! There’s always something.

Published by:Heteropholis Press,
C/O Postal Agency,
03. 7828608.
Copyright: the Author, Jan. 1999.
ISBN 0-473-05734-4

© Leicester Kyle, January 1999

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