Swift- & Gnat-Man Myth

Swift- & Gnat-Man Myth
Published: Jun 04, 2019
Tennyson had a great ear, and a pen to capture his music of vowels and consonants in the verse-drift of meaning. Mark Goodwin does that too, with a wry smile, bobbing up and down like a fish out for laughs.

Swift- & Gnat-Man Myth

Gnat; not gnat-man. [o]


Man had nailed himself to a cross-roads –
one way was to insects, an other to birds,
and one way was to A.I., and the fourth

way was ... simply forgotten ...

— Eva Dore, from Bite of That or This



it is time
for the gnat-man
              to go so

the gnat-man approaches

the great brooch
of the lake wobbling
with light and pinned

to the old cloth of England

the gnat-man wears hairs
his shirt & shorts are curly
        roughly woven fibres

it seems
he’s wrapped in stretched
                 -out bird’s nest

his fuzzy edges hum
slightly like tinnitus

his arm & leg hairs stand
      on end like tiny trees
             or a forest of hot

acupuncture needles

for the gnat-man is all

swifts’ trill-sounds slice
as their dark sharp shapes swoop

and so the air is woven
             motion around

the lake’s fractal glitter

the gnat-man
  gently claps
      his hands

and a column of gnats vibrates
                        about him now

the gnat-man holds
a column of wobbling
molecules in his throat

     he turns

the sound round rolls
the vortex from his mouth
                      and releases

his voice with a slow swirl

the many-dimensional
gnat swarm caresses each
sonic co-ordinate and countlessly
                                  slips shapes

through holes in space

so the gnat-man’s edges fade
and his molecules wobble off
                              of him bit

by infinite bit his
information streams
       into the column

of tiny insects out
      to vast sectors

elsewhere until only

his voice can be pulled
back through the soul remaining
     hole of his own throat folded
                     repeatedly infinitely
in on
itself with one

so the gnat
-man’s not


for his teleported voice
re-integrates translated
         this very moment
                  as we speak

swooping along the fringes
            of a light-scattering
                  mass of a liquid 

a swift-man sifts
through sky for

billions of his own

    bits to eat



MARK GOODWIN has published six full-length books and six chapbooks, including the recent Portland: a Triptych, a collaborative work with Tim Allen & Norman Jope. Mark’s latest book, Rock as Gloss, is his first to focus on climbing and mountain navigation. Mark lives on a narrowboat next to bird-rich Watermead Park, just north of Leicester.



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