1987 - 98
Poor, naked wretches, where so e’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads, and unfed sides,
Your loop'd and window’d raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these?
King Lear Act III, Scene IV, Lines 28-32.
This Place No Good. 5
The Street I. 8
Awaiting An Answer. 9
Decisions Of A Life. 10
After Hours 12
First Love. 14
The Apology. 17
The street II. 21
Child At The Window. 26
Strange Meeting. 27
Now different. 28
Tatters Of Fact. 30
The City. 31
Fumbled Epitaph. 32
The Flag. 36
That Dangerous Road. 40
What Do I Know Now? 51
Bad Verse. 53
Brno, 1993. 61
House For Sale. 65
The Way 66
Juvenile or discarded poems. 68
The Lone-Ranger. 72
Stepping On Winter. 73
Field, Wood. 75
Forsaken Ghost. 77
‘Though The Winds May Stare’. 78
The Saviour Of Painters. 79
The Collection. 80
Roots And Flowers. 81
A Month Past. 84
Not A Word. 85
Illusion That Is Soul. 86
She Was A Lady. 87
Small Town Blues. 88
Shadows Of A Life. 89
R. M. Rilke. 93
Some Cry Of A World. 95
‘Strange Excess Of Trumpet Glare.’ 96
European Dreams. 97
An Empty Lair. 101
Sweet It Is To Die 102
Hitchhikers monologue. 105
Never Again. 109
Bluebell Wood. 111
Shadow Of Identity. 112
Picture It. 114
The Age Of Darkness. 115
Odd Numbers. 118
O Why Should I Care? 119
Ambitions Of Twenty Nine. 120
New Poems 122
Where Are You? 125
‘So That Everything Becomes Attenuated’ 126
All We Have 127
Her Smile 129
Being There 130
I will Never Be Gone 133
Trying To Listen 135
Index Of First Lines 164
“Down that road I went.” He said, pointing somewhere.
I thought you were near, a companion of mine,
The sun hot, softening a brittle floor,
And I here dawdling, walking as if drunk:
White not exactly white, blue which stretched beyond blue.
This Place No Good.
Restlessly wandering for a place
Of silence and poise: is this life?
Hot brush on a canvas of desert dust:
In the beginning white paper, ashes swirl, mindless.
Here a cafe, time is nine, place Holborn: tea.
An occasional diner shuffles an entrance.
To quote: “This place no good.”
Broken in my presence.
Or I’m a tramp
Exhausted in travelling,
Beaten by brooms.
Just as I was saying
“Yes, I realise...”
She kicked me from the stair,
Emptied me like a bucket
On the street,
Spilling to the cat flaps,
Simultaneous purr on each door,
Preaching like Jesus
“I’ll heal no one!"
Below the cry of a bat
Foots shadow on frozen faces:
Chilled notes of dawn.
The Street I.
A broken moon:
That and the tumble
Of drunken feet,
Splash of voices.
Thirst among the lamps pools,
Cry from the slashed mouth,
Flutter of lids and the street
Like the stamped pieces
Of a fractured vision.
Awaiting An Answer.
Tempered, awkward key
Of that pianos sound
Disturbs sunlit dust,
This corpse's epidermis.
And on afternoons,
It seemed long and desperate,
Searches for that glimpse of woman
Heard in sounds of Joan
Or other musty romances.
Perhaps merely the hair
Reminded of the dust
Of those old school days
Or a pure line expressed
In the profile, catching
A last evaporate fantasy;
Maybe some dim sympathy,
Merely the union of interest
In one trajected plain,
Slim yet a basis for partnership.
If I’d found a place
It was, as always, momentary,
Caught in a second’s glance of sun:
Blue, common bell chimed its noiseless scent
More irritant to plans, more conducive
To the forgotten, forgetful days of school.
But those other ones: rather a feeling
Than tissue of incident where one hung
At the most appropriate place
As for a meal. Separate, I’d tempt
A natural force to come swing my way.
Decisions Of A Life.
She headed to the door
Of some burnt out world
Lost to the dried flare
Of Apocalypse. With words
Telling of that special place
Her mind halved its voices
Where one would call “Where?”
To the others reassurance of
“One foot more, one age less.”
And held by the endless tide
Of works companions
Some sense of proportion was lost.
At home a dear friend
Had uttered the martyred cliché of
“Be yourself!” A thousand victims -
Were there more?
Down the battle broken world
Where the shadows left around:
Corpses, corpses flew
To glare their unholy cries.
And among the luggage of travel
A niche was found:
Here a shadow shared a bottle
With a friend or two,
Words scattered among the unintended,
Formed their partial puzzles.
One friendly companion,
Whose ever forming grin disturbed,
Some ending term,
Some clause of binding.
Sealed by the wax of finality
She considered her attention weak:
It had stopped at the cover,
Started at the completion of smiles,
Had broken at the ribboned bow.
Twisted in a distracting knot
These decisions had been made.
Those noises in the blank hour
Between twelve and one,
The ingenuous girl singing a song
Perhaps borne from the late closed pub,
The car alarm that mischievously sputters
Its unfrightening sound off and on,
Drinkers warming themselves
Over the hollow sound
Of their chanted slogans
Ready to beat, in the unifying desire
Of oblivion, any fellow man;
And, in between, quiet and quiet,
This slow, singing, melancholy hour.
And, to distract, the thought of you asleep
Comes and goes like that crying alarm:
Dog barking desires of my frightful cellar.
If, in this sphere of solitude,
Egocentric and sentimental,
You could somehow intrude,
Could arrive with bags and face turned
To that obscure, private life we somehow share
What, in the broken paces of private habit,
What movement outside it and therefore hope,
Could bloom, stare its tired stare,
Bare from beaten limb (yes, that fellow)
The one, doubled, solitary flower?
Among the insomniac cars
My shattered face stares whitely
At the moon. The blown flowers
Of our common school die quietly
Aged gestures of a beaten face.
In my struggling, conceiving days,
Bouncing back from that rough, gauged place,
Poses the question of our death.
Am I then, in this absurd posture,
Abstracted by the flying blue lights
Making those correct, forewarned waves?
Death is a sordid thing
Done by sordid men
Use to a sordid world:
This our modern way
We love but cannot have
The once promised life?
My mind has not the peace that’s promised
But a rage, a rage at a limb and joints
Incomplete, broken desire,
The unforewarned abstraction of our death.
And yet if you were here like the nurse
You would find only words of blood
And the absurd indignity of this mans fall.
Death crying (sentimental) among
The blotted whiteness of a ward,
Silhouettes of urgent shadow
And the dark faces beaten beyond
A naked figurine in a green shrub
Or adorning the neglected lawn
The one comical illusion of one mind - mine.
And the great barn hall, stacked with dust,
Echoing the straw
Upon which we might have lain.
And, as your fingers curled the keys,
I was there in courtly guise,
Attendant, dancing upon your cast tunes,
Counterfeit of your desires.
Did you see?
It was a comic sight:
His earnest face forward
In the fury of impotence,
Awkward and shyly expressed,
And she agile in her agreements
Reassurance with a “Yes, yes, yes.”
Had muddy eloquence enchained her
Or the force of that will
Perhaps afraid of turning keys
Of murderous desire:
Who knows the end of these things?
In the street and in the rain
He let her dwindle like his voice
That, lost and inept,
Had weakly made a pledge
Diverted by the beer
She ordered at the bar:
Words stopped in a shock stare,
He and she were released
From the embarrassment of proposal:
“You must avoid awkward promise of intent
Striving for a perfect civic form
Impossible and blind.”
That was the last time he saw her:
The idea afloat for a while
Till stress and ulcer and the starving age
Each had slashed its way
Through to his cognisance.
All the point was gone:
What had been a mirage
Of tempting possibility
Was a joke a city smiled at
In its busy search for gold.
The heat folded in an airless layer.
So you see my seeming arctic heart
How foolish this tearful child and babbling eye
Which is drunk and staggers,
Broken below your stairs.
We never could lift up our waxen wings
Or lifted did not the hateful, burning accident
Dissolve then drown its flesh? You and I
Adrift among the pillared trees,
Charred in our two dreams wary sleep.
We float on the lazy but then unstoppable streams.
So, to be left in the Arctic land,
Here, where the bell broods hollow.
Among the clattering ice
Of your eyes dream
Never where we so formed
Nor oned like our lips seal.
Then darling (you permit me thus?)
I have fought the darker things
That instant light extinguished,
That here with fortune rise.
And age but the second tide.
Oh, perhaps sensed beneath the skin
Youths wild but aesthetic bone.
Then how we might laugh, how dream
As the tedium formed stalagmites
Count our mortality.
Blushes for the flesh
And a pointed limestone world.
Yes. But love? Words that patter on the floor:
It will not utter, it will not speak, disclose.
Our memory will blow like dust in the common wind,
Absorbed in a million pores it will forget itself.
I have fought this long hard day to contain you
But you where ever braver than I:
Will I always, thus, fall under your hammer
Auctioned at the obscurest price?
And how, then, do the ages tell
You from your dalliance,
Those ages that could never tell
Old bones from new dust.
And how then, pray, will you find
A companionable skeleton
There for me to commune
Through it’s blown skin ribs?
Our talk has a fungal form
Or metaphysic and directed down
From some ill hell it wiry swells
Like creeping ivy through the gloom.
Sad and distempered a fiery rage
Infects its veins and illuminates
A wistful steam that pales the face.
And, how, across this space,
That when I look stretches dizzy,
As if with ambition coils the Earth,
Can we again drown the cold
In ignorant passion?
Our desires recoil and wrap
In frigid, spiritful fire
Till love is all but a little,
Indistinguishable, sanctuary flame
For how long burning?
If the branches here do touch
Can the steal there then melt?
And, if inflamed, would you despise
The uncontrolled, fast beating heart
Or, then, mourn ices wavering
Or unwished loss of our loved
Stone, statuesque, seeming godhead?
Caught in the webbed distraction of a gaze
Buzzed impossibilities, Utopic dreams.
Your breath dragged at a thousand coattails
Saying seeming unity. I was aware of slurs
Genetic tales drowned in its inaction.
And you said: ”Then this sole point I put there?”
“Our land marks, thus devised in the conscience,
Display an open world, inessential.
Such mortality and such the way its tunes
Out echo as the corpse the body.” So thus I.
The street II.
Now and then a curtain flits and a stare
At second or third floor windows opposite,
Half inquisitive of hotel happenings,
Half irritated by mock grandeur,
Brute noise this particular Victorian,
Part empty site displays. It’s the habit
Of some drawn up to face, across the nightly peace
Of no mans land, the street, dull combatants
On each side: Perhaps poverty separates you
From the pub downstairs, a certain angst
About the pull of popular haunts,
Getting more than your fair share of inarticulate friends.
A chance modern law decides
Dividing speech and the neighbourhood,
Forming false battles, situating
Between you and it a televisual screen,
Your thought on some Heaven
Where face to face we met,
Your eyes on some dark glass of a window.
You’re seen, the curtains drawn.
It’s something to be remarked upon,
Odd how every night it is done
Not only by you but repeated
Down the street, each side a sentinel,
If not throwing sticks in a fire, then
Looking out to see who’s watching who,
Catching the nightly skirmishes that,
With not uncommon frequency, continue
To punctuate a phoney war. Now and then
That irregular exchange of cigarettes
Or your side strikes the light, mine offers the fag.
Usually, though, askers are causalities
Rejected by us both, mostly ignored,
Often sleeping somewhere out of sight,
Under a bridge or whatever bomb shelter
Accident has devised, they roll in slumber
Tight into a plastic bag or the damp,
Soggy cardboard once used to wrap our guns,
Tanks, communications, surveillance units.
It is to be remarked upon how little
I see of you, how quickly you disappear,
How suspicious of you and I this neutral,
Unneutral status makes us: Together
Manufactured means of war – now we test them out.
But I’m bored of killing, it’s become such a
Common exercise – I wish you’d sign a truce.
It is not for this that I waited alone,
Listless afore a feeble fire,
The sun impatient to have done.
All the lighting bad no matter its source,
The coarse street shoppers shouting excitement
In fears oblivion: I was patient,
Reading horrid Milton, sipping cheap tea,
Smoking a haze of desire in troubled Pandamonia.
And those ‘after thoughts’ circling a vortex
In the blackened hole of incurable want.
To long and a chair to comfortable
Excusing the silence of passive desistance:
I claimed ignorance, then corruption,
Then the impossible greatness of the task
And so destiny: fated thus
To the eternal Ovidian whine,
Claiming sanctuary in exile.
The dark obliged, the nocturnal vigil,
The lack of vitamin D:
Cold, an empty gullet, the night.
One Sunday I ventured out:
The street was the same shabby bin
Of flowering tin and copulent flies.
I discovered the polluted sea
As I had discovered her before:
From the strand and at a distance,
Reflecting a sapien backside,
Resigned, as passive as a slave,
To complexions blare. And so,
Seeing the mutual indifference
Of man and water, I did not protest,
I certainly was not shocked,
I retreated back to my door:
Another forty days vigil
In the barrel of my bed,
With a preprepared, laconic tongue
So to list instructions
Confused but tolerable.
Next the eye saw around
The hostility of the times,
The self sacrifice requisite to repair
Deep holes in the fabric
Torn in an uncaring glance.
This was She who held the power to maim,
Taking what accident had gathered
In a forceful hands fine brutality.
Pain of a posterior enervation
Left the relics of charred anatomy
Scattered as an after burn
Whether the death, the caput mortuum
Of an alchemical change
Or the autograph of a miracle –
Who dances in the Elysian fields
Or laughs in the alley of posterity?
No songs past memories rest: all, all a ball
Of billowing winds wrapping chaos
In the cries of vulgar sentience;
Or the mechanics of bombardment
And the assorted atom contending
For upper air in feverish necessities,
Scratched epitaphs of void.
Death is a place past illusion
Where permanents and eternity
Are finally confounded
As dust across a plain
When a plain has gone.
Caught in a translunar spot
A dying butterfly in a pool,
A thousand old visions lost
Mortal in it’s metal lids:
A note pinned upon a door
Through which a friend had made
Her exit: it was nearly missed,
A faltering rope, suspended, clue giving.
Breaking the fingers
Faulty in ice
Thoughts push along the floor,
Screech up a wet tank.
“I’ll rise next morning,
I’ll set the day.”
Arm on the butter stain
That’s now between the cornflakes:
“She should have been here to enjoy.”
Child At The Window.
Raining again among the ash pots
And hardened flies of a garden.
And the expected face at the window
Seemingly wet, staring at the one broken tree
Toppled on the late roots of a burning.
Eyes amongst clogged weeds
Tossed through the sly greys of morn
The reception he demanded:
Blank and called at dawn
To witness the first vision
Of a broken, scattered soul
Ever to stay hidden
In destined torment
Of childish pains.
Not many years after that we realigned,
Catching eye to eye a second sight:
With age had come the clearer thought that sees
And does not like, the in become the out.
Lining the brow with an ignorant script
Intervening chance and all those things not done
As two. And this chance that’s worst of all.
She seemed to say through move of eye and mouth
(Though she asked the usual things one asks)
That, where ever once we’d met, those people
Then had ceased to plague a time unfortunate
And dead: who were these gathered on a chance
It did not matter, an inconsequence
Set up to sting a faded photograph.
Faded, yes, but not gone: we both had kept
The odds and ends of our separate lives
And, this one conjunction amongst them all
Illusion, like the rest: one recovered,
The other not: “The lies that we call soul
I see and yet I cannot dispense with soul
But have kept that wound festeringly bad.”
And so her to I had not forgot. But,
As usual, I blindly circumscribed
My image there on cast. And though her face
Discouraged all it had not changed for me
But grew inside till it at last cracked out.
Shocked and battered and in retreat she said:
“Well, must be off. Another day, perhaps?”
I see you different, now, flattened by age
Till every feature lines the white of your skin
Like contours on a map. Pale, you luminess
A past of hopes, loves and lands seasons
Have obscured, a moon through thin cloud you show
Nothing I can recognise.
A loss and a feeling
Of a power that was important,
Whose tug still irritates, whose decline
Still saddens, I stare over the walls
Of Europe, see you in this town or that,
Ask meaningless questions, gain meaningless
Replies, each letter ending “Love –“,
The expected lie.
That postcard, whipped with the wind off the Hudson,
Monosyllabic and exasperated,
Words sped to a staccato breath like a wave bye, bye.
And I lying still, only by chance, tilted to catch
These paper words tumbling through the air.
How much attenuated, the spoken thought,
Its time crushed, instantaneous arrival
Expected and found on an American train
Saying, “Distance does not matter.”
And I believing the lie.
Ill eyes abed smoke the sour jaundice
Of an English room. And that picture
Of New York an agony of ground glass
Stabbing each window the fragmented
Possibility of an absent wave.
The sky the same drab, abstract balm
Its saving, enhanced, artificial grace
I can stare at here. Only you, turning
North or south the Hudson way,
Were missed in person, a shadow cast,
Edging an American infinite.
Tatters Of Fact.
All the body’s turnings merely serve
To enshroud the certain loss of departure,
Once gratitude. A time measured by absence,
Forced forgettings, I stare up indeterminate
Distance, find only the severance
Of memory, a murder performed in a week.
We have resurrections as comedies
Their buffoons and twice now we have toured
The shifted bargain of lies we told
Our two nights. Hills of Utopian flesh
Made a nightmare of a need to be
Always central to a two oned self.
Illusion of integrity our line
And bait, echo and echo of enquiry
Till, shattered all light, tungsten snapped, we fall away.
Gathered such half real, remembered imagery
A perfect pastoral in the dark.
Sleep pierces; I wake to the tatters of fact.
A Sundays gentle cycle through seas of empty streets
Shadowing the shadow of Paul. We are expecting death,
September’s enervation as yet unyellowed,
A stilled silence at the grieving bed.
Or the hidden poor that scuttle out of view, the boxed porter,
Trader, shopmen with wives babed, again gestating.
The desperation of pubs bellowed by tongues of swollen want,
The dissipation of drunks, sickened
By that tumbled sense of all in one oned on Saturday,
Now stirred to listless cry of child, distorted hand of care.
On the makeshift carpet of grass men and women quiesced
By capital poison of fat and food.
An empty hall of towered streets, sepulchre of feet’s
Ghostly echo, the solitary essence of crowd, work, money,
The staccato knock of question and frigid stone.
Lost the prepared confusion of route,
The lanes that rebelled to be straightened, Wrens
Imperfect gloom twisted to a bridge and Thames.
That stilled, ineffable frown,
A photograph of faded shock
Where had leaned impotence
On query, cold rejection…
Or, frozen in a concrete angst,
This fumbled epitaph…
Lines straightened, surveyed
The taut geometry of a choice
Your absence has defined:
A last hour when fear fought
The swollen lip, the offered cheek,
I faced that end of you and me
Snatched in a flinching hand.
What final count you have made,
I find burdens in its silence:
Pressure of reluctant flesh,
That ending, lie of an easy stroll.
I booze till cash is gone.
The delayed hours of listless grief
Stretched on the wrack of damp England,
Surveyed the possibilities,
You on that Wien restaurant tour,
Me, the room, the DT’s.
That hug, epitaph to a tube stop,
Was too much full of the response I’d wished for.
And more? A compassion? Or the lame
Departure of the ‘brother’ and the ‘lover’,
Our two desires dislocation? Of course,
I returned to the party, already over,
Deciding to recall a blindness
That disappearance broke and not succeeding.
Ending in the decline of the unwritten and the postponed.
I have watched the many dawns since
Only with those ‘inane’ and fond regrets
A youth’s ‘first love’ is supposed to be designed for.
We don’t believe or, if we do,
What should all these visions amount to
But the superintended echo
Of passion itself. Like insomnia
Or a living out of sorts.
You deal only with the hard present,
Something I envy: your record’s written
By another, no one cares at the time
To stop you, drink doesn’t kill you or,
If it does, it’s at the end, a full stop
To who you are. We die, some of us,
Still incomplete and some whose life is nothing
But the presence of failure. I write this
Like a man who sits in the comfort
Of possibilities, the cobalt
Of a gun eyeing his talk of sophistries,
Entertained passion, solitude,
A neat cushion to back me up, stinking fear.
I don’t register what’s there.
Unlike you: you have the gun, I think.
As an aspect of that script I haven’t grasped
You turn this B movie into something more:
Like Marriott in ‘Farewell, My Lovely’
I’m the patsy, the limbo of certain guilts
Whose weaknesses ditch me in the end;
A clobbered beauty, corrupted by such
Expectation my body is forced beyond
What feeble reach I had into those other lives,
A sub plot that’s their harder climb.
Offended by the wrong words and never
Catching your welcome I retell mostly
A monologue of what could be done
Given conditions, appropriate sun,
Five mile wind, compliant interlocutors,
The usual list, verbatim anaesthesia
Of the irrepressible ego. Can’t be done.
Everyone expects, seconds before
The end, some kind of recognition:
Just the usual mechanics of the gun.
Except: I knew you before, before
The days of ‘hard drinking’ and searching out
Other people’s lives: a time when you were
Merely possible, not always there,
Treated as a friend of what was future.
I’ve tested it then,
The hollow sound of a world
Like the end of a journey
Whose expectations proved true.
Or, discovered, the enormous futility
Of the scheme, workers slouch
In a grubby tavern,
Take their pay.
It is the night, ponderous echo
Swelled in a worlds dizzy stream,
Large and warm,
Makes Jonah’s burning cry
Or charred the soul
A twitch of wings
Pinned by your image
A great black butterfly.
That Dangerous Road.
We wandered on,
Not willing to say goodbye:
Our bodies turned to that road
You’d be lost upon.
We sat on the scruffy edge
Not knowing, unwilling to say
“When is the last parting?”
The grass like an old mans hair
And our eyes upon our feet
As our words, torn vagaries,
Fluttered at the boundless sky.
Caught in the echo of your smile
Dreaming of chances graciousness.
And then a slow, then a weighted
Dwindling under cloud,
Walking the untested horizon,
That dangerous road.
Not a night to be seen:
The curtain, what’s left,
The dwindling, seeming circuit
Of autumn’s coming cold:
As this page may testify
Bought at a lower rate
Peace from oblivion of love.
That invented horizon
Aimed to or turned from
The test I failed at.
Scraped sense in the ditch of words
Till the line, a borrowed light,
Illumines what memory
Imagined as love.
And yet the illusion real,
You the ghosted thought,
Muse of this hovel.
All that time a denial
Of your impossible smile
Declaring an only child's
Own private love
Indifferent to the beloved.
Most when least I knew
Affections covered eyes
Affirmed an open fever:
That hard, 'pathetic' effort
To create your image
After you and know
Our unwarranted words
More real than truth.
Cascading from the dark
A streets brutal light
Hoofed as the devil
Pounding on you
My murderous need
To make it known
I can believe. Untrue.
The encumbrance of the second
Bulged from the blank
Dictates my empty page:
It is you against whom I rage.
In a pub’s borrowed chair
You sit there and smile:
Amused ghost of memory,
A lover’s tempting fantasy
Bidding that madness come.
It is pain that keeps me sane.
Blind, my love, to futures chance,
That path to absence
A ragged way has forced me home.
And back? No. We have seen
A brandished curve, the scythe
Exit has turned us from,
Spin the spiralled sky a dream:
Who knows the horizons line?
The limits of its distance?
Lilting among the wilting trees
The figure in the garden is me:
Expectant before every window
The cinema of romance, voyeur
Of improbable happiness,
Safely distant from commitment.
Farcical rumour of not being
What I am intruded upon,
Dawn delivers the accidents
Of nature insistent upon
That note experience cannot alter,
Indifferent to place or time,
Of the first, almost painful
Darkening of age.
Parks the grace
Of a jaded place,
Rough wood seats
And winter mud
The kind of good
I remember your bedroom window
Staring at the snow and I wondering,
With pen in hand, at this new distance,
A foreign land and you too perversely so.
When you appeared it was always only
That tumbling extension of a clumsiness
I had rediscovered, the broken door,
A two foot jump, you collapsed upon me.
Pregnant with a new thing I was merely
And subterranean, like, you might have said,
Some crushed crab barely crawling for escape.
I was just brooding, I saw no reason
To move, perhaps, I was slightly shocked.
‘In unsern Jugengarten führt strasse mehr.’
What amused in the gardens we treasured
But never had was the pretence that somehow
We could abandon with our clothes our fear,
On certain rare, indeed impossible nights,
Those saturnalias, vague, as imprecise
As antediluvian grass, caress
The warm, illusory dream of our being
Ourselves alone. Among asphalt,
Embedded stone, between the slabs of urban business
Our toy soldiers fought, finally lost,
Slain on the battlefield of the interstice.
We still live in those cracks the best of council
Maintenance cannot fill, disillusioned
As to security, the uniqueness
Of its fauna, even that ossified
And precious ego we watered and wept over,
Kept secret, was proud of, itself
But one common blade of grass: picked, plucked, gathered
In our cities, pressed to that green and bitter dew
Of being human somewhere in the subsoil
We pretend to maintain a true home:
Place of temporary, shabby rooms,
Of ‘secret gardens of ‘childish fantasy’.
What Do I Know Now?
What do I know now
But the winds breath
Passing to say:
We are frozen?
Even in winter
There is spring
Thin and unwarm,
The long road, untried.
Of land and sea
“I am not dangerous.” Their new form
Of politeness. Outside the white, flat world
Of roads. And, of course, they are not: A picture
In the paper come vividly alive
With all its crude, blunt art, the reds, the blues,
Folded into the bed a wedge of desire
To be ecstatic standing out in the land.
“I am not...” a partial conclusion to their ecstasy:
The distance of these walls a private cosmos
Urgent, diffident, the cataract and the vein
Only half oblivion wholly pain lost in oblivion.
If to work then to home the expanding enclosure
Finally unravelled a ‘failed life’ which, at this turn,
Frightens a room. What is left but persists,
What is to come is nothing in a small poison.
Half a line of bad verse
Are the days of this house
Or if you try to hear
Your own or an others voice
Listen carefully for the cars
In the nights silence
Or in the roads
Whose feet may search
Stone and drain
For absence as certainty
Forgotten with last year’s ghost.
Everything is so quiet and peaceful now:
How can there be an end, a beginning?
Yet slowly the darkness comes, voices fill
The streets and houses, the last light
Gathered by the children in their play
Hesitant among the cars filled with dad, mum,
The returning student wandering the last
Reluctance of once more returning home:
What was my hour has become a small town's
Suburbia where family and friends retrieve
All their efforts purpose – the work, the sorry
Climb of forced and futile destruction
Lost in the general folly of Being.
Like the wanderer and his shadow,
As tall as failure, you sit
In this mythical age of functional living,
Equality and race, god and his double,
Exhaling words a match may allow
Between cigarette and pen,
Writing ‘arse’ for a cheap bit of realism.
Lend me, you say, a message to hand over:
So much is about yet you cannot see it –
The heavy statues worked for others glory
Will always fall, noticed only
When the crowd is permitted a sacrifice,
Exhibited, appendages missing.
If all the flowers, herbs, trees of alien nature
Had that smile as their misjudgement
Could you still laugh at the folly of it all?
The rabbits, the foxes, the salivating wolves
Slapped as one slaps stone with the metal brightness
Of a crowds disillusionment, spat upon,
Could you be then still quite so curt
With your honesty and as if the failure
Was merely ordinary like a broken home?
On the moment, they say, here and now:
All your expectations flattened to a bed
Not much smaller than the room, drifting
In and out of windows, bounced between
The rattle of cans, the dance of feet,
The bodiless discourse of being.
‘To be is to be present’: where once
Two might have seen there is the mirror,
Where once light the sound of this silly hour
Reflected stale betwixt failure and failure.
What maltreatment made you beseech
A stranger of his word,
The second hand poets song
Destined, surely, this silent home?
Two extraordinary eyes, beautiful and young,
Always demanding a tale impossible to tell.
Yet for one smile even the stones had words.
I gave you room and board, I talked and talked
And talked till finally you loved me:
For one moment I knew a chance joy
Like a starved man fed poison.
In the morning you were gone.
Or was it I who fled the miles
Just for a coward’s home?
For three days I drank, certain of failure,
That you wouldn’t return... Without a penny,
Rich on the envy of others,
We boiled grass and smoked our emptiness...
Jumping up and down, shouting
“You love me! You love me!”
I knew I was without belief...
Behind you with a bottle that wouldn’t open
I spat my pain into your silence
Expecting, at least, the reaction of hate:
I gained that, broken on the stair
My test of unalterable love.
A gloomy summer’s rain so alien
To you with your hot, dry and lovely days,
Your unchangeable seasons, those certain
Winters of snow and a cold so cold it froze
The spirit. And I suppose that steady swing
Has pulled you more beautiful still than when,
Your eyes so blue, I knew heaven
Indifferent: A failure before
‘Possession’, knowing the end, having once
Gained from you the grace of that impossible
Answer of a smile, I fell, lost, at ‘home’.
The steady roll, stronger than generation,
A country bred you, twisted merely release.
The sharp urge of a road: “You’ve left me.”
How curt, stupid my answer: “Never!”
Do I have a relationship,
Then, with that dead moth?
Caught in a summers evening,
Dead in the morning
Of the first, the second day?
What was allowed a nocturnal flight
Burnt by my impotent vision,
Defeated between the soured sugar,
The faded cotton,
The fantasy and boredom of gold?
Command and it will obey
Whacked by a newspaper,
Bursting upon the ceiling
The little generated warmth
Of his fossilised brethren:
Civilised brothers that sublimate energies
A continuous constancy of flame,
A standard of intemperance
Worked towards but never achieved.
The hours, with weight and measure,
Of day and night,
Finally turned their chaotic end
Broken in age.
Whose wings are, perhaps,
Prettier than I imagined,
A bulbous, pathetic fluff,
A clumsy angel
The untragic, dying fly.
Up through dusty sunlight, hobbling over dried mud,
The discovery of a thousand allotments:
Age had finally learnt its Voltairian lesson:
“Make carrots, cabbages and flowers.”
Between tyranny and disaster, favour and exile,
The dubious loyalty of land.
Except this was limbo: the Russian slap still stung,
The tin slash of the west still vicarious,
Still unlimited: easy to forget, amidst vodka,
Dumplings, countless songs, the ugly death
This world, too, must suffer: cranes, cement, foundations,
The path ending arbitrarily in a fence:
Mere intoxication, in love and in love with people
Who seemed to continue a conversation
Only imagined, gleaned from books and fantasy,
Animated over alcohol, guitars,
Through alien tongues, intelligence, community,
A smile: all of us mad, drunk with illusion,
Killing ourselves, our children,
Heading nowhere, blind.
A mess of cracked stone:
They call them flags, flagstone
Unnoticed as the awkward obtrusion
Of obstacles, the unsteady chair
At the barbecue, a flat rough for a butt,
Something one just wouldn’t lie on,
Sun or no sun: shoddy and inexact,
Badly paid labour, ‘spoilt’ by nature,
This rough, obvious ‘culture’.
Summer is where you are.-
Is where we are?
And England’s ragged weather,
Its people blown from street to room,
Fix of the vicarious.
When can we be together?
Just a photo, a momentary respite,
You turn from solitude your beautiful head:
Vistas of your own world beckon
Yet your thoughts are mine
Bridging a thousand miles
The agony of love, surety
Of being and not being here.
Always again the wish to begin
Brilliantly new, once more to look clear
And innocent on what’s not clear and innocent,
To imagine these dirty rivulets
Spilling down the street as children imagine:
Surprising, delightful, infinite.
But the street is only a playground for louts,
The frustrated conduit of labour,
The town a particular of a history
Intensely, chronically self destructive.
We cannot unlearn contempt for the world,
The fragmentary spirit, the family
That fell apart even before it began.
House For Sale.
Friends that were not and have already gone
Leave that glamorous emptiness, the void
Of an age that has forgotten the words
Of a conversation or why it meant
Anything: each day behind the curtain
Must be found the appalling but still
Discreetly vague urge of the animal,
Panic before the inarticulate weight
Of this negative about to be exposed.
Upon the stairs phantom ascending and
Descending whispers left merely to
Remind one, if not of departure,
Then of a past where opening a door
Was significant, where each room was
A place, where being in a house made sense.
‘The way out is vior the door:
how come nobody knows this?’
Confucius, The Analects
Neither to go far nor to come home
Is the point, they say:
To stay that distant fixation found
In their farmers fields
There to scare the crows. Others,
Across the years, from family
To friends, may beg benediction,
Proper words to confirm
What their presumptions will always presume,
But you that timid daring
Which says there is a way but I cannot find it
As the parameter of a town
Beyond which the road leads past the graveyard
But never past fear.
Juvenile or discarded poems.
One moves through the corridors, through the soul
Of this hot and humid city
With only the antenna of desire
Which, with misted glass for eyes,
Is ones only sense, one instead of five.
It is the nose, it directs us like the blind
And deaf to the women and drugs
Of this great, smoky and odorous bar.
And then one leaves, exasperated,
Desperate and athirst, leaving the saloon door
Open slightly, a shaft of sun and its odour
Stabbing the gloom within, ripping the smoke,
Leaving that bright light, the space and memory
Always left in place of the departed.
One moves along, perhaps, with the independence
And relief of the traveller and in between
One bar and another one feels freedom,
A man again, in between one hell and another.
But, alas, one falls back and down
Into another night, the loud music
Which thumps from within and without
Throws you up and throws you down
Devastated upon a ladies lap.
One falls into the reverie and fever
Of past passion, past women and past hopes.
Afterwards one walks past the meanness
Of those mice in ‘Tudor’ houses
With their dumb and virginal
Daughters, virginal as idiots.
And one never loved their daughters so much.
Riding along the dark rivers
Of my soul we came to a sea
Of gold and green, of yellow and
Rugged brown. We sat, dreamily,
In the ship of my eye, which,
With beauty, reflected in your pools.
We sat and I told you, clumsily,
With the shyness of youth, of
The darkness, the sweet succulents
Of your limbs that opened to me
As dates. And you asked, knowing
My crimson heart, what I saw
In the future? What wholesome visions
My dark eyes had rested on?
“My love, you are perfect
As the sweet succulents
Of dark Mediterranean fruit.”
Thus I dived into you
And crashed on the grey rocks
Of your stunned indifference.
Leaving pressured prints,
They shall be friendly to no one:
Rolled in the mud of dark conscience
He has travelled far, he has sung
Sweetly, importunately sometimes,
Others with the eye, hot and dark,
Handling love lost debauch:
He shall be friendly to no one.
Limbs taken, torn by crimson hands
The Lone-Ranger is he:
Having followed his wandering path
Through the red sea, having seen
The colours of the bright eye
That is ceaseless in its path
And having seen the bright night,
One of his deaths in a sense:
The Lone-Ranger is he.
I have searched myself and have seen him coming
Across the biting, unnourished desert
With his steal weapon over consciously handled
And his eye that knows too much
Having pierced me in sharp sparks:
I have seen him coming
But he was faster than I,
Laid me down and went off, hollowly,
Across the biting, unnourished desert.
Stepping On Winter.
I have not stepped
Into that river twice
Nor once, my love. I have
But drunk of its liquid, here,
Sunken in its darkened bed,
Sand lining my mouth,
The picture of you
The waves of autumn
Stepping on winter.
I have not stepped twice
Nor have I seen the gods.
My love, things ripple
But they do not reflect,
Diamond cut, the crystal
Shape of your bones.
I have lived and
I have waited to live
Stepping on winter.
Perhaps they shall say
His face is unredeemable
From the past of many,
A shade but for the knotted
Bent of hoary vision.
To wither in the raging storm
Was a perverse delight of his:
Out there upon that hill he stood
A monument of obstinacy
Till the craggy tree had rooted
In an ageless rock.
Perhaps they shall say
For counting over much
On a calm world
He died in this chaos.
On that day we went down to the field
By the woods and I lingered in the heat,
With face to the grass, examining
The exertions of creatures in their wavering
Minuteness: I called them the spirits
Of a more delicate vision, the lower order
That had reached from the heights, with
A peculiar nakedness, with delicate movements
And others encrusted in corruption:
I had called them Vermin of Heaven,
How goodness might be made visible
Only here and how corruption began:
The moths become bats, wavering flight
That brushed mud on the clearer elements.
And I thought to extract the moth from its skin.
Then we were in the woods:
Shade like hands that bathe,
Caress the tension and heat,
Moisten the roots, clean us,
As if we were entering some sanctuary
Where purity is a compulsory fervour
Of bodily disposition.
Were your hands in that, too,
Bathing in some delicate pond
Caught in the upturn of a leaf
As if begging for righteousness?
Yet there were myriad hands
Like shredded winds,
Orphaned hands that supplicate
And shades like a thousand souls.
Love grew there, too,
Her hair stretched among the roots,
Some rare orchid flower,
To be picked but once,
That folded in the matted layer
Of those thousand souls,
Laughed in silent breeze
That turned and was gone.
In the bruised sleep of a few unpunctured hours
Pearled in the dark a body of pained experience,
Voice of the wind's synthesis that sings:
“I was she fainter than the dream where now I lie.
You coveted a dull, pale wicker frame from the corpse’s breath
Of the only unretarded woman known to you.
You built her beauty so she sang not what she knew
Till, tossed on the shell broken shore,
The wind blew my disturbances.
I, unmemoried, haunt the stilled conscience
Of your despair.
Band: please remember.”
‘Though The Winds May Stare’.
Though the winds may stare
A thought or two, may blow
Some forgotten scene of some forgotten show
And some forgotten book its leaves may flare
In an old embered flame,
We’ll not mind, we’ll not know,
We’ll not see our two minds so
Distracted by a distant name
And word upon our whitened lips:
You’ll not fret my mind to see
Of what I thought might be,
We’ll count the years upon our finger tips
And blunt our affected passion with a sigh,
Then look back and hope we die.
The Saviour Of Painters.
“Who rules, who serves?
See in my new land
The blankness of paper,
The white, almost
Of the clean,
The jewelled profusion
Of sense and nonsense
Whose hundred centuries have
Their each and own argument
Cakes his walls and floor
Like ditched cargo.
An infinite sea
He tells me
Of his plans for more.
“I reward rich,
It is true
But I assure you
My fiscal policy
Than your belt.
And my name:
The Saviour of Painters.”
Ditched or broken the tourist ruins
Swell their mad excuse of coated veins –
Their refrain age and the dampness of the season –
And the service of a rats evisceration,
Sound of the extolling, maddened,
Loosened voice and echo.
These bones will pass – prodded and poked,
Dressed, set with imaginary challenge
And brought to perform ‘The Tragical Tale’
Of Messrs the Actor – listed among
The painted lipstick stains of public subservience.
Loose orchid petals are lost
In the richness of this new collection –
Toned down the broken, lacquered stems, the barbed posts,
The carved land – sinking slowly, unconsciously,
The canvass of age wails with each bubbles burst.
Roots And Flowers.
Let not the burst thunder
Or the licked light caress
Of the breast of the wave
Or slouching sea
Laid low in humble cry
Disturb you, prove you
Blind, glitter upon the ice
Wind you in ascending stairs
To the stars; and the bell tower
Runed with light sings, rings
Time, moments of sonic
Blessing – they bless you
And your eyes ecstatic distend
This world of ice,
A world of blackened depths:
Roots and flowers.
In each place I’d broken circles, the figured
Spotlight world of eyes, a question to each
Children’s mouth emanating complications
Of webs torn and tattered.
Wordsworth would commend me –
Finding muttered sounds, where it echoed right,
Where the soft tunnelled lair would provide
Its protection, these I avoided: where mouths
Would swallow my fear, cushion the bristle
Of back, take on tongue temerity’s
And, also, courage.
Digging holes I’d provide the pupil,
Paint the appropriate colour, mixing
Its iris hue with the mud and experiment
Of this ‘wee’ flesh.
Thus clothed the buried head of some bird
Or rotten rat did as an offering.
List the bright heat as one change of garment
Discarded like a skin or gossamer eye
Quickly blown from view,
Finding in the mind
A momentary flicker of fire.
And each age has blown brief its ringed vacuity,
So glad in found oblivion – whispered
In dark and but marked with the moons lines
Present and gone.
List each sun as the spiders
Sticky strivings to web a world: what but layers?
Lace or silk stacked in a draw open for view.
A Month Past.
Winter sky but lately dawned
White and grey –
And on the horizon
A month past
And with it something else.
Little succulent meats
Rest on the tongue –
Nauseated I spit them out.
This chameleon age
Seems so solid,
And eternal aether.
A skylark blown
On a cold wind –
Gravity has eluded,
Burning the stars.
Not A Word.
Not a word - silence.
So, did I go beyond that point
Where the minds cherubim blaze
Guarding its hidden, unseen world?
And was I in her bed
And clawing at her hair,
Sinking these cruel teeth in her brain?
And does she hear me now
Burning at her ear?
Or is love but a dirty joke
Or just dumb, primitive and absurd?
Not a word: silence hides our pain
As the killing cold chatters again
To say - not a word.
Illusion That Is Soul.
Trek round the mirror pole
To stare at the vain, unwanted face
That stares back its lie of desire:
So we have discovered our over stretched romance
One walk in the figurative hell of circular devising.
So that we end where we began:
A neutral place, a neutral face
Staring with neutral eyes:
A kind of knowledge whose ignorance
Is our higher desire and our higher reward.
But still the mirrored brilliance deceives
To drink the false drink in this our false lagoon.
Mirage on the rebound, separation,
Illusion of godhead from hearts desert rising,
The illusion that is soul.
She Was A Lady.
She was a lady of unfolding passion
Drowned in dark, unfolding passion;
Whether battered by bottles or men
She could not be fitted into maturity.
Somehow those brutal arms had barred her
From pains of youth, overriding reach
Of missed paternal sway:
Sometimes she’d laugh
The suckled bottled held
Whilst dancing on her grave.
She was a desperate sort
Yearning for some new time
And we were never quite sure
Whether death or drink would take her mind…
(Now with such pain and gloom it is
A physiological extension of the soul
Fluttering in a hollow heaven.)
Small Town Blues.
The trees so sharp they promise nothing
But the black monument of delicate
Torture, so still and stubborn in the strained
Whisper of wind that their frosted twigs,
Minute in detail, feel foolishly proud.
To die as you are, a portrait stilled
In corporeal corruption, to stand and have
The hot air escape with the common words
Of conversation, a last opening
Of mouth and bland mind, must be painful, as sleep
Sometimes is painful, with that dissatisfaction
Of being present in your absence,
Anonymous in the lie of the undone
And not being as a small towns disunity
And dispersal. Such is death:
To see your words grow dark and your eyes go blind,
Racked to emptiness, turning, like an hour glass,
In the cold, bland April of birth,
The uncollected piled a new collection,
Hollow and grave.
Shadows Of A Life.
And down those corridors
He’d half croon his inclinations
Among chatter of abstraction
Or when a passion raised him
To exclamations of ‘cosmic praise’.
Till around concrete insignificances
We had drawn ourselves
Full circle to renew, as if in echo
Of the larger seasons, our crawl.
Happy those times
Brought to exhaustion.
I would find him on the stair:
Confined within the confusion
Of intentions he’d grow
His forests of words.
He’d laugh, perhaps intending to cry.
The ending nous of disinclination
Later to be found stopped altogether
On that last day he had come
To a point he had long prepared.
Meticulous in his assault,
Gratifying in his politeness.
His passion was obtuse,
That is not acute.
His decline not at all
Or so he said in the chance
Of a later glance.
In invitation to his later lair
I noticed the quiver of memory
Hidden on the lips.
“But, ah, mere memory,”
I later expressed
“Where does it get you?”
“In the glare of the bulb
The written word.”
It’s true, I was surprised,
He had cared.
Scared, as if at the chance
Of a dear photos loss,
Memory of gathered acquaintance,
I insisted on the written word.
The thinned line of the past
Made us dear. From there
The blossom of balloons
Or let us say
The new creation
Of the new world.
Ingenious, gratifyingly proud to know,
His obscurity pleased me.
As if saying something
Not quite commandable
He would display
Expanded to the creation
Of an old inclination.
And yet I was somehow detained.
Only later I found his grave.
On it was written
“Hard to remember the past
Now frozen at last.”
R. M. Rilke.
‘Exposed on the hearts mountains.’
A soul flavoured in the neutral tones
That builds a granite world
He climbs the rocks
With shocking ease
One would have thought
That coldness would bemuse
To finally benumb – not
That a strange affinity
Would be built across
Those stones jagged ways.
But his testing call echoed
Their metaphoric sound
Reminding of the history
Of those carved teeth of fire
That cut this world:
And now but merely roots.
Not a divine thing
That would gently shake
Ones hand. And yet he
Maintained so, had strength to.
‘Exposed’? If so, alone,
The world is gentle to the strong –
Of them even the Gods have fear
Rivalled in their imprinting power
That pounds an age.
Through them all origin’s disappeared,
Is consumed in a single fire
That must burn before it builds.
So this sounding form
That’s now form entire
Speaks in stony words
Only it is gravity
Or quantum force
To bind or explode.
Or silence at the centre
Of a whirling world,
Of the stilled frozen bee.
Some Cry Of A World.
Among the whispered wind and wet
Of an old shore town
Some cry of a world?
How from this ungathered spot
Could detection tell?
Where voice of death
In a second room
Forms but futility?
Where laughter’s bell
In a second room
Rings lost in me?
Report of a war and I think
“We’ve had many of those.”
Hitting the cold stone I nod
Lost in perpetual prose.
Last night –
And a moon beams,
Leering an epitaph.
Precluded too soon.
My constitutional noon.
‘Strange Excess Of Trumpet Glare.’
Strange excess of trumpet glare
Wound down the broken rocks:
Upon the spiralled stair
The bones of a coffin box.
Patterned shadows on the floor
Project the hundred complications
Of face and form, the stretching mire
Of bottles and discarded scraps
Scratching pavement and road.
And in this mud and rain
You cut an edge, draught a line,
Form a lip, perform the wiry, blond
Distinctions of your regular stroll.
Thrown with the wind of the unpredictable
British weather I find myself, for a moment,
Stretched before your feet, lying tossed
In one of the many anxious ridden gestures
That I seem incapable of preventing.
And this one time kiss drives us by force
Once more to part where, half grateful,
Half unexpectant, we are, each in distinctive pose,
Lost in our two of the Earth’s corners.
“So,” we harmonise, “Let these partings be blessed.”
Tortuous, painful, caring,
That is how others see us
Were as this indifference is,
To put it mildly, surprising….
A mixture of mud and leaves paints again
The years transpired canvass – this for me:
For you a European port of call
And another half empty theatre –
Wishes, phobias, fantasies –
Once more a sleepless dream.
Times revolution rings round, for a second
Scans this ‘I’ and for one fatal stare sees
The deformity of line, the bulbous,
Of being, the confession of confused want,
The lie of desire, unable to keep
In form or follow the plan set ages hence
In a bogus Eden.
Face to face, time to time,
The restricted circle of bullied light
Catches accidental acts where you and I
Seemingly move as one. Ah, but a special affect:
“The centre does not hold.”
Time cracks in fractured forms,
The chaos of discarded tries.
How did that star break
Against this O to dark a dust
Lit for a moment
Of accidental end,
A million furnaces?
We’d watched last flicker
Of evening sun and
Were surprised by a dawn
Blazing the south side
In evaporate glare,
Lost among the irate
Fools of panic
Running to the west,
To the east, to any
Sure concept of sense.
An Empty Lair.
Now the days all ended and the years past
When I could tempt your sexual self away
From future other dreams of another day.
And, in the end, the Platonic self divides, at last.
To confess, to my surprise, I feel relief
And strain and growth: then I was beneath
Whatever I can be now. Simple, this seems,
The fateful, innocuous diversion of dreams
And how upon that broken day
I set my mind to my mind delay.
Doom is new and an altered child
And, though the throng, around me wild,
Stares bleak and blank, I have my air,
The cushioning blanket of an empty lair.
Sweet It Is To Die
Sweet it is to die without cause or reason,
Having no undone for a conspicuous tail:
No defeat in memory, no love in mourning –
Sweet and also just: For these heavy deaths
And unaccomplished frauds, the farcical offbeat
Of the drum, the untuned pipes, the illusory,
Marauding gang of hearse musicians, these are
Only the pompous accidents the Master Actor finds
Useful in his conjuration’s ‘for the unruly crowd.
Let Death come when he has talked with friends
Who wait to bewail us first: It is charity
To deprive us of those who will be deprived the most.
Or better one turns ones head, modest in silence,
Patient of the scythes decapitations.
I served Proserpina with a distant awe
Nor did I batter the tympanum of Dis
With deprecations: I expect the shade
Of fruit and wine, insubstantial but better taste,
On that table where I have reserved my place.
That poet could not know
A time like this
And yet he cursed his day
Better than this.
Is time then a falling slide,
Poet and knave bruised
On a dumb rocky mountain side?
Then what we have we lose.
Still, what has been has been:
That from beauties flesh was born
Some marvellous, flesh tearing form
Still finds its somewhere reflective dream.
Or do we but count the corn,
Watch the rats’ numberless dawn,
Hear the room tying rain,
See ragged faces painless pain?
We always do that,
The prisoner and the rat
Eyeing their despair;
Or in the day
Where in we might say
“Here is the wrong, stupid lair.”
It’s hard to keep eye fixed ahead
When there’s but counting of the dead.
“Enough fools for us all!” Democrats say:
Thus they have built their day –
To confound the strong and the good
Idiots for a guard they’ve stood
Sweating, breaking out loud.
What poet can pierce that crowd?
Over the hill more might be seen:
You watch the Tower beaten in dream
You who see the living die.
Over that crowd beaten eye
There’s but the canopy of lead:
Let the dead bury the dead.
A thin, weeping mist squeaks along the grass
Shrouding the bulbous shadows of mice
Again busy building a new home:
The aching legs, tired of their twenty four hour fit,
Throw the gauntlet of choice to the brain,
The tired arm annoyingly nags to be parted:
On the aged bench, wet and dulled in the rain,
When the years have marked me,
Will pleasure replace this pain?
Could I say: “Here I have lived.”?
Scuttling like some odd, savage animal
Through the unbrushed matting of motorway grass
I am already sick of my naturalness,
Of my cowardice, my stopping
Before the butt beating guards
And my inability to come down to mortality.
Somehow the sweated fever of my youth
May seem peculiar to one, a shameful perversion,
An indescribable immorality, that which is not done.
Always that which is not done, always the odd sharpness.
Crying like a baby among friends
At the dullness of their desire
I’m the odd one here I feel.
So much hope, so much happiness
In its failure: why this contentment?
Contentment breeds inaction,
Contemplation, love of the lines,
An artist eye and moribund stare.
Sometimes, a rabbit among stalks,
I wallow in the dough
Of unfulfillable desire:
I admit it and this is a sloth.
But one face of benediction was turned
And then I was happy?
Involved in oblivious activity,
Is this without blindness?
Her benediction was not
Always so bright:
Not the polish of the mirror
Or intenseness of light
But a sense in which
I was too inattentive to stare.
Crawling from the womb
I was shut in its sack,
Carried, it seems, through
A few hundred years,
I was always tempted
To crawl right back
Dulled in parties with
Talk and whisky and beers.
I was so wrong
From the beginning
It makes me laugh.
But triumph in defeat
I am no Christ.
Everything seems beautiful:
Should I not be more radical?
Should I not spit and curse
Like a saint? Call for the end
Of everything that’s not vital
Or not coloured most vividly?
Things are ugly, too,
But what is ugly will
Dully reflect the whole,
Is, somehow, a more tempered beauty.
Even in the blackest pit
I carried my mirror,
Dashing with light
The groaning of its roots.
Sick of my love of the game
I smack him round the chops…
Too much akin, too much revealed,
Perhaps my ambition
Will take the Devils part:
Who will be my parricide?
Who wants to peer in the bone?
Let’s dig at the pate
Of this smug fellow’s devil
To find if the old sixes are there.
Funny the Devil without draws
Being dragged down the stare.
That night we were cold,
Flame licking frosted endeavours,
Borrowing the warmth of strangers,
Songs whipped among frailty
Almost with rhythm of heart,
A few frozen sparrows twittered,
You smiled politeness, I said:
“How do you do? How do you do?”
Sudden catch of a fevered glance,
I panicked, spilled the tea,
Scolded the mutterings,
Eched an awkward pleasure.
Late, I took my leave,
Came never again.
How many times have we heard her say
“Bring him back! Bring him back!”
Or the constant calling of a name
(Spring bird without mate);
Helpless before the incomprehensible tragedy,
“What’s wrong?” and “What can we do?”
The ache and impotence of rage
Thus then became the first limit of age.
When we have spiralled
To the wider (maybe limiting) view
It comes to seem that that ‘great tragedy’
Was the farce that broke the cow.
And all that ache and strain and pain
(Burning in a bottle)
Was it (in our wide, wild children’s eyes)
The last ditched nobility of a twitched body
Singing: “John, John, John, John!”
“Mother, mother, mother, mother!”
Rambling in the mirror of leaves
Perhaps in those scarce caught visions
Shallow fire. As if bone, tissue,
Tendon, ripped on the bloody thorns,
Their flesh outspread. Young, dallied,
Uncaring of the blood, the injury,
I left to that wood (who knows?)
The better part, the strength of leg,
Limb, thigh arm, eye,
Things hours here demand.
Later, the captured, midday nocturne,
The dust, the half tuned piano
Where ‘I saw my Ladies play’
Simple tunes broken on the black keys,
Dripping from the snapped, impudent wire
And who cared and who knew?
Ripped curtain, collapsing seats,
The unbeaten, bug ridden sofas
And our ‘protestations’ and our ‘strikes’
And I through my youth’s dark wood.
Lying in the trampled corn, alone,
My ecstasy of solitude,
My youth and meditation,
My battle with all creatures
Turning on that round:
And, beyond, on the thorns,
In the mirror of leaves,
In the carcass of an allusive dream,
That first, bluebell eaten wood.
Shadow Of Identity.
Sentence of mine
With its long vowel,
Soft, affluent memory
Whose candle contrast
Of bright, irrepressive years
Sings a weakened song
Of identity, fatal lure:
A mind's green rock fading grandly;
And, here, irreversible masts of straw,
The spewed tatter tossed on endless,
Flat foot, trampled beaches:
Young, who laughed merely,
Was silent, dumb:
The extra, added shadow
Of a summer or autumn day
Lingering like memory.
Set in the lingered
Pivot of preparation
Each moment passes
With a senseless silence,
‘Whose vast countenance is’
A ragged roof of stars.
This tramp life deserts me:
Now and then glazed moments,
Unmeasured penetration, forgetful
Of certain disgusts, tastes:
Habit formed flickers
Washed on impatient pools
Of misplaced want.
Deserted, sense of self
Is packed in the film flamed
Bubble of eye, is lost
In the washed refuge of sea:
Space of vortexed cartons
And cans, place of whispers,
Centre of blown, discarded lies:
At moments indifferent, absorbed.
The farce of a young man playing the prodigal son –
It’s a tired act to follow: a self proclaimed wordsmith
Weaving a web to catch a fly: it took six years
“But she just walked right through.” “It was thin air to her.”
Now, the last act, he works to a proper sentiment
And dies. Tragedy. Move on to the next case.
A girl, tenuous grab of life, she tries hard not to slip,
Forces ignore her – it is to hard to find foot space.
What could she do without all those clothes?
Keep the characters strict and few and so pass through life
Singing the two songs. Edge between with lyrical politeness,
Last , ‘but a presence in the air’, stubbornly,
Till on her ninetieth birthday she falls into her soup.
And the words so well prepared. Tragedy two.
Let the final picture form: world where everywhere
There are mirrors, each face but a looking glass
And each endearingly peering in the others face.
Picture the ‘empathy’, the moments of ‘shared passion’,
The ‘care of the self’, see the ‘theatrical’ parents,
Feel the ‘ambition'. Each one circling
A dedicate task stuck in the centre
Of their ‘selves’ and called ‘soul’: picture it.
The Age Of Darkness.
The chatter on the wind is the irritation
Of the street: drunks or illiterate poor
Claiming back bitter heritage of dark
Or barbaric recompense of pillage.
The habited Romans on their destined sword
Of solitary circlings; burnt books,
Artefacts in whose flames is seen the death
Of some peculiar, personal march
To some incongruous goal. Not sacrificed
But burnt with the words and flaming tongue
Taking all in a lying confession
Of confounded biographies.
The time heralded on an ox skin drum
And thus brought to a passive, anonymous march,
A prayer of strangers.
Conceived, born and here, a place near the sea,
A path, bright but indistinct, where I walk,
Add a gesture, a sign to part and dissolve dawn’s early air.
You I met and have forgot,
Will remember, we shook briskly
Our forged request and let the here
Become the past without regret.
Then the eyes were precise and as ever
Misdirected, seeing beyond the hand
And the arm and the body two ghosts
Divert the dawn who both expected someone else.
Left the added butts sogged in water
A common signature termed B movie
As the superfice of what’s been,
Illusion of memory.
At the bottom of the card the faded ink,
A nation’s stamp that’s released
From the pressure of representation
Behind us and gone. What the faded air
Illumed as flag is the flare a dawn
Now scatters as ash. Our hands are glass
Darker and darker in the dark, gesture of distance
Twisting its banner of intercession
An apparently losing hope.
Or, if a day has burned itself a universe,
It has burned a tapestry of spread
Perception. ‘We’ lies forlorn, a mark
On the cotton like a stain of blood
Fingers scratch there. Notes that puncture
Their own hours as a mesh of stitched time
And leave frozen the particular. I walk
And you walk a tango in the sordid street,
One more blown wrapper found parting on the horn.
As a quest for something more exotic
It leans abandoned in the air, a patch
Of wall fluttered Rome’s Scottish border.
A Caesar will arise, reel some restless
Discontent to a march on an old idea.
Thus, broken upon flutings, faded
In a different age, it has assumed
Resurrection, hooked the grave with the bait
That’s a sword’s sanguine hope, the drums, pipes
And shouts blunted a dissonant song
Collected chance redemption.
If, when the marching’s stopped, the city
Returned to board, pub and bedroom,
The back wave that is history
Knocks us out again, all we can mark
Are the lists of the dead, the captured,
The hoards, the rapes, the consequent
Retelling of adventure…
Cancel but revivify the ailing culture
And make true the absent as the present.
So, this thread rolled around as sky outlasts
The individual, does not touch the individual
Except as the burn of that alien one
Togetherness may pretend we enjoy.
To begin or find the origin
Which is nowhere, cannot be contained,
Is known only in and is known only as
Appearance: radial of no foci,
Hub of no turning, start of all
That’s not creation. Wave or somewhere the flag,
A signal that was individual.
We remedy history, its stretch of
The warp and the woof, its tear of the glimmer
By our rebellion against the lie
Of an impersonal intent, circumference
Of a revolving god, by a habit
Of seeing ourselves as limbed
In the tree, the bird, the dog, his howl
At the sky, a process that contains both
The general and the particular,
A word passed in the roll of cloth, appearing
Ramified essence, not common nor
A whisper termed misunderstanding.
‘Utopian’ – but history turns the conversation
Back from the dead, out of the present,
Into the present as a holla
That peaks the rumble of burnt forest
And factory, demos jumble thrown
A break in the ‘fix’ of an arm, rubble
Stimulus defined, mathematically,
‘Dead matter’. Azure not gravity spins
The words as tapestry, pageant, perhaps
‘Triumph of Life’, benign as golden faces
And as frightening. These ones return
Silent, the offered gesture a graceful start
To that being more than enervated.
The street is a thought
Redeemed by its being empty.
And though I expect you
It is only now as sleep
Its knowledge of forgetfulness:
Soft on the pavement, a bruise
Before the blows of emptied halls,
Uncertain cries, the poverty of clubs –
I expect you like you your drugs
A pleasure more in keeping
With wished for happiness than
The reality of a wide awake buzz.
Or, you a child, one of the many,
Lost in a Minoan fold,
A labyrinthine fantasy,
A Minotaur expecting
Your Perseus, your Ariadne?
There is a darkness in the street
Like a pall, a shadowed fissure
Entered as the mythology
Of our own fear, intimate
But civic, private, also public,
The town criers, the officials,
The citizenry, covenant arteries,
A lonely Hell. There your son,
My mother, wife or child
So difficult to hear or left unheard
All that was not, will not, cannot be said.
Folded as comfort and disillusion
An hour dawn will unroll.
Odd numbers on a scrap of paper
Found in my library Blake, seeming so familiar:
Did whoever wrote that read this or underline
And spoil, gather like a hoarder scattered words
That confirmed his or her own boredom,
Were these accessed digits loves, vague catches
Of possible friends, the desperate last
Samaritan to a falling despair
Or the casual overflow of the overly social:
What did Blake say except how we are born
Bludgeoned by our imaginings, sweating
An infernal magic, ignored and burdened
With needed, wrong acquaintance: dictums
Of law and friendship, a private room,
The fantastic visions of candlelight,
Silence of before the telephone?
Is he or she a friend, this Blake ‘scholar’,
This desecrator, this egotist,
This humanity? Probably not.
O Why Should I Care?
Gold and silver
Honey of your hair
O why should I care?
Long since your departing
O why should I care?
Could I waylay fate,
Take once more (O heart)
The listening part,
Catch in the air
Songs that fade
And a voice, a face, a form
That now, long since warm,
Holds me distant and in scorn?
O face, O beauties dawn,
O honey of hair
But one more dance,
One more glance
Or why should I care?
Ambitions Of Twenty Nine.
Ambitions of twenty nine: to be content,
Have a wife, children, home is not enough;
To gather the discarded, smooth out the written,
Turn the passive into the active,
A monument or epitaph for failure,
To have made, like the carpenter, one good table,
One perfect chair, one absolute poem
The ambition of the male, of man,
Of human kind, to turn the flattened
Presence into the beyond of all time?
Ambitions of the individual,
The urge of the mortal to make but
One moment essential and eternal?
Wandering in the woods
It might all be over, be ended –
Yet here it is:
Without words, everything.
Where Are You?
“Where are you?” Then the smile,
The simple entrance, as if survival
Was just an accident, one fell off
The bicycle, one bruised ones head.
And yet I was beginning to die
And perhaps I wanted to.
Do I feel joy? I might do.
With you, for you, I survived too.
‘So That Everything Becomes Attenuated’
So that everything becomes attenuated.
I do not allow the silence necessary
To take on that silence. The art of the fugue
I have learnt the best and to unlearn it I need
More than a figurative closeness. I am not
Strong enough merely to function on sympathy.
Without the juvenescence and expecting
The unexpectable I have to long and to well
Tortured myself with the impossible.
‘Ješte nevyslovené’ - a future that may not exist.
Some things may never be said, some poems (the best)
Are rightly never written: Is that it, the silent place
Towards which we are going, the sacred place,
The place for only the silent? And all these words, then,
The barbarism of an era, the superficial,
The over loud chatter as the frightened anticipation
Of dreaded departure? Like the abandonment
Of this house, the security that it offered,
The mother that it was. A silence that exists,
O fearfully exists, now, if only I would listen,
If only I was to refuse the usual and continuous
Distractive absorptions of the temporary.
Sometimes. Never once truly.
All We Have
What was given was not what was expected:
The hour in the dust, the snow melted,
And the streams dry: something more intelligent:
Wild meadow, a thousand flowers,
The overbearing noise of birds,
The useless, therefore, unsaid words,
Our bodies searching into silence
An attempt to forget, your smile
At a weight the world had pressed upon you
Wondering if you were dead.
I wondered if I was dead.
We asked whether we could live
After such insult, such injury.
An answer, tentative, to desperately sought,
Demanded of but there if we allow.
We are reluctant to live once more
Yet it is no longer our decision.
We can only die again.
The vague questions that bore us forward
They are still there. If words no longer answer
Then our hands continue to.
Over what does the world have power?
Not us, my love, not us.
We always walk beyond, together.
Come forward where there is light, let me see:
For I could not see but had a feeling
Of dread, as if a ghost might ask me
If this were not death, as if you could
No longer answer, were gone, had gone.
Amidst the woods the darkness terrifies.
Hold my hand, come into the light.
Yet still I cannot see you and all I grasp
Is your hand. If the stars are not enough
They are all we have. Do you not see?
I have you, therefore, above my desk,
A smile which distinguishes nobody,
The tasted, tasteless essence
‘Of that forbidden tree’
The heart is not willing to forsake:
For what is knowledge but love
Repelled by the Other,
Broken back, angular,
Reflecting merely surface.
And yet strangely, somewhere beneath
Being does speak to being.
That uncounted kernel of one.
I have you, therefore, always within reach:
No, I would say ‘inside’ if to perceive
Brought the soul from the body
Reduced to viscera, lung and bone.
And that smile always a dawn
(Or is it the twilight of the east,
A star which leads
To the seemingly humble
Center of things?)
Self secluding, occluding
Almost everyone, perhaps everyone.
It is the silence that focuses everything:
From where, two, one, alone, being calls for Being.
The malady of being there.
That particular faltering step
Towards what? A covert neon
Or the moon, eclipse of the night.
Like those long roads of understanding
At the end of which only a fields
Grubby grass, the twitch of a tree,
Broken and misplaced alien nature.
Rather, on the obdurate pavement,
Ones feet grooved to a steady tread,
Here in the town is one truly alone:
Anonymous with the anonymous,
Destructive with the destructive -
Out there another world, ejected ghost
Of a field that haunts our want
Of substance, useless to intrude upon.
Merely A Poem
Alone but for the involuntary
Company of tinnitus,
the ghost of wall, floor, ceiling,
Once again a silence dividing
The drowned and the stranded.
behind only brutal hope, The thousand humiliations
Of a world expected, taken for granted:
A love that’s merely a poem?
Yes, you may say: “I am nothing.”
That ‘Now’ is all I will ever be.”
Yet the earth wills otherwise:
There is death and though you fill
Your days with faithless action,
The endless mantra of a common ‘No!’,
Such wanted dis-appearance
Is only edge, a crescent glimmer
Of what is always dark,
Innocent, tragic, affirmed.
Life, which needs no knowing,
Lives you without you.
I will Never Be Gone
A wintry airlessness, a tundra between us,
A white impossibility, your belief your nobody,
The dissolution of a thinning ghost.
You would like to dissolve, become nothing -
I will not let you – I’m a stubborn man!
With this faith I can breathe a vacuum,
With this love I can live even death.
And, should you finally force me,
Though I might be gone, I will never – be gone!
The jacket of some dead, left handed chap -
And, now, soiled, unlaundered, wet with the rain,
A fantastic imposition on the neat
Courtesies of these reserved Durham streets -
Neither with the safe and unassumed
(Because there!) reassured flow of learning
Nor with the native anger - ‘a tramp,
Beaten by brooms’. Unsure because unrefered.
Trying To Listen
“Take the opportunity to listen”
And, though all the chords
Had forced their disgust,
I tried: but there was merely
A laziness, a fallacy of sound
Which toured that mid-ear
Of safe distrust, of distance kept
Because no distance could be understood.
So it was presumed we began
With only an undisciplined cry
And, searching for that word,
The ‘honest genuine’, the strict
Discipline was ‘do not try’.
Those ‘triers’ who where impotent
And strange and finally excluded.
“Hell, the floor collapsed: there we were,
Dust and plaster, our arses that had
Bumped some bottom of a world. And, so,
A frightened laughter, as if laughing
Might be a ladder lifting us above ourselves:
The shattered bed, the cracked chair, there was I
Thinking “Well, I must rise.” And, thus, broken
Upon it, holding a useless head,
I had to try a door. But, first, the stair,
But, first, all that was above and, now,
Below us, but, first, the joke “Do we care?”
I must go home, without wish, without will.”
The sadness in a joke
Is the surprise it cannot give:
You look, then, in that face
With a question that is wrong
Asking “Are you real?”
The reply always “Yes!” meaning “No.”
To Hannah Arrant
O, Hannah, there is always this:
Between the past and the future
There is this: dead? No, but
Wanting this ‘past’, always hoping
(‘Killed by hope’) for merely a summer:
A field, a forest, the wilder, wilder flowers.
The Whale And Parrot
“All the cod is gone! “
B.B.C. World Service.
A big fish eat me
But there are no fish in the sea
And God will tell you who is right and who is wrong.
A big fish eat me but there are no fish in the sea
And the world will tell you who is right and who is wrong.
Jonah died, was born again, lived back to tell
Who was right and who was wrong.
And the world, did it end, did it begin?
A big fish eat me but there are no fish in the sea.
What, in the schematic muddle of it all,
The stars, the broken galaxies, the effluent
Of no-thing, what began or ended at
This point and at this point, the fallacy
Of forgetting or of being here or there,
Something which said “I love…” and forgot what
It was it loved: and to love!, to begin and
Again! A wish, perhaps, a child’s
Broken Sunday, thinking “Here, alone,
There will be someone that sees.”
Expecting that gladness of recognition
Which, of course, fails – here to there
And only the indecision, the amused surprise
Of a face you’d wish you’d remember.
The earth, the taste played by the mouth
Of a child alone and wanting, wanting
I know not what. Though he fights away
The blasphemy of being ‘one’, it can only
Be fear, the ‘fiery blush’, the desire
Not to be only Other.
What begins, the force before it begins,
Grunt, inhuman human folly
Of taking a moment (and you forget which)
As sacred: and, yes, it belongs (but it will not)
To this Now of nows: beyond that
The clear space, the land seen free,
The ‘wanton abandon’ and the exhaustion:
Only wishing something was or I was or,
Finally, ‘this was’: it’s not, mother.
Once, there was a thought, beginning with –
So, a summer rescue, coming along
In the car, the fiat 500,
And saying, this way (take a drink)
To what you always wanted:
From a distance, I must see
All the untruth that 'should', for a child,
Be hidden: the joke of inconstancy,
The fallacy of ever wanting a mother –
I saw it all – you forget, loins
That bore, that professed to bare me,
That said I was born: I was not.
But then, even earlier, from the day I exited
Your prison, your device, your despair
I knew it was wrong: that you lied, always
Forgetting (or knowing) I was watching,
Why I was silent? For a hand that caressed,
A thought towards me, a sense of saying
“You’re O.K.” But you’re not.
So, dumb, unheard,
‘Beautiful eyes’, there was only the redemption
Of pathetic resistance: did you see?
Could you see? Could you want to see?
And if you did, what would you have done,
Only have beaten the more?
“An angel!" My hair dresser .
It’s merely individual, the four wings cramped,
A slight burn of candlelight
And we say “He’s OK.” And so he is,
Broken not by any peculiar expulsion,
Cracked, rather, by a room.
And endless, endless those scribbled
Petitions back to God. You say
“Land on your feet!” which, of course,
Were broken before, even, the saints
Began their song. Because this age
Is so new, so endlessly new
And he, ancient, has forgotten, again,
How to say ‘Yes! - to God.
So, ‘across the water’, he will drown,
And, yet, ‘the attempt is worthy’,
Or, merely, vanity.
How endless the call!
And below him and above him the stair
That could never fail to climb, to descend
For, see, the precipitate stone: up,
Just the barred impossible: a roof,
Those walls, the handle of a door,
Window that cannot open: grubby, entirely?
His closed wings, vicious in a room.
Yes, this is useless. “There is no god.”
It’s hard, hideous and wrong,
Probably, a vicious joke, a fellow
Who cannot remember (nor right His name)
Beginning, perhaps, to listen, ears forced, to God.
“There is no God’ “, and, as Nietzsche
So eloquently put it, ‘God is dead.’
God dead, dead God, I rebel against
All that lies. All lies are strong,
Stronger than truth. I wish I was stronger than lies.
Every hotel from which I was expunged
(But, of course, I did not stay)
Every face that glances backwards
Some kind of lie, all those that lie
Into their (or others) pants,
The slight, coarse affair of me even looking,
(Oh, I assure you, a random glance)
Begins and ends with what is least important:
I said (louder still) begins and ends
With what is least important: a dead parrot
Which still will continue to say
The words “I love...” or, thus, “I love God.”
And think (think again!) it was beyond us,
It was always (why? you should ask) from this-afar.
We began with those hopes (they last to long),
Taking what were mere words
As just God could have said them:
If we were older we would have said:
“These are lies!” but they weren’t.
An attempt to bring us forward that failed.
And then, you said, “I am that I am.”
Blasphemy that must almost be true:
I thought I’d found some word, some devil
Saying, quietly, “Here is a man: Bring him close, bring him home,
Make him speak the word this God demands."
God demands nothing and nor do you.
But the death of unhappiness? That peculiar death
Happening only with happiness? No.
And do I mourn it, desire it, bring it
Back, for it, the resurrection
Of a ghost that one has to know must die?
And we all have to, wish to, want to
When, having seen death, we know the broken face,
The quiet breath (was she breathing?)
The still dust of this – a life
“Well, you know, was really so superb!”
Yes, we know death, we want it or how else
Say “Yes!” to an end that cannot, forget
The equanimity of her leaving,
Be just. Can one be just? Justice?
Where is justice in this death?
That the truth were told
The balance would hold?
Broken beam, fallen satellite,
Star that burnt or began to burn
(We are too old to with stay the fire)
Forget us: there are other planets, other wheres!
They say, too, life exists there. So, do miss us,
But don’t miss us, destroy us
But don’t merely warm us:
Living is dying – say thus:
“You are, I don’t know who you are.”
And to begin – from nothing, again? And why?
There is no beginning, there is no end,
The pity in it, in that century,
The hundred million dead arid the torture
And the murder and the women, the poor men:
Yes, we failed, perhaps, ultimately?
What did we want, ‘only’ to be ‘happy’-?
The worst sin. Or history
Cracked beneath the corps, broken.
Spirit that cannot ask any more questions.
The hooves are running backwards
Over a broken head and “that’s history.”
We have grown smaller and, thus, our guilt grows great:
Magnificent, this pygmy size,
This laughing below our sleeves,
This to large coat turned up at the cuffs.
So, there we were, laughing on the ramparts,
Broken, of course, a castle whose name,
Even, is unrecallable (could we pronounce it?)
Spouting a name that we’d also forgotten:
Is that possible? Come (but, please, don’t)
Meet my contemporaries: the list of casualties
Is endless, the reason (we are to small) unknown.
That’s us, liars, and not the guts to say
The size of this life no longer suits.
Faded the cotton, the colour, the moment.
Don’t stop to see, my dead ones. I’m small, too.
But we still live: this dead breath, this whisper
Of Godlessness, this violence to our name,
This dishonour, the cynical wanting
Of a nothing that will, O I promise, come.
O yes, you dare to live? You live,
You don’t live, you desecrate my dead.
Think of it! Think of it. O God, think.
I ask, and only I ask “Do I deserve to live?”
No, not only my mother, that vast, broken candle,
Because I asked at birth, ‘a stilled, stunned thing’,
Being born, not only not knowing why the silence,
But who, behind the silence, who, not person,
Could not speak. Could not speak! I could not speak. A poet.
Here was, not, was, not. Nothing. Nothing?
She began: again and again, she began:
Yes, she died, curse her, but she began,
Again and again. And where the strength?
And I a coward – listen to me!
Angels that lie and mock me,
God that smiles in His cruelty,
Shits that bathe in oblivion, listen!
Is it a lie, this end, this mortuary,
This charnel, this final breath:
God, my God, help me to know (‘to know’?)
To know a grave. You (I hate you, God) please bring me
The peace that’s promised. No? No.
Yet – it is my only duty – I the only last?
Only my duty?
Yet these trees still stand
Green and silver and oblivious.
Want, then, the smile, thinking beyond,
Merely, the possibility: guide
Yourself towards the quite legendary path
That, ‘as yet’, does not exist:
The mantrap, the green, the profuse flowers,
The red, the blue, the joke
And, yes, a parrot, the parrot
Speaking those words
You thought would come from God.
Oh, in the heart of Hell – or, a voyeur
Staring at what is impossible – happiness.
Somewhat numb, glad for an unfeeling,
Hoping to make this just a dream – then
I’ll wake up, open the curtains, stare at what was
Once my life. I’ll be tortured by hope,
Begin, again, to say the words “I love you.”
Falling down – and, last night, probably
Bashed about – to deserve happiness
Or be punished. Please don’t ask.
A Chance Of Blue I
What will happen will happen: The crowd
Of millions that, perhaps, have their own
Destiny: Accident jostled an understanding
That 'did not exist'. To look, completely,
In your eyes and smile. Something
O so innocent: to forget fear.
We both see, we hope, the same chance of blue.
The sky above just the destiny that destroys.
To wander beyond what is possible:
Men hope it will follow. Wanting
What our cowardice has denied us.
The words are gone – the impotence of the poet.
I am no Jonah – do not wish to declare
A dead humanity – do not wish to declare
Apocalypse, Armageddon, holocaust.
Merely to weak to declare another’s wrong
My own so harsh, so bitter, so just.
I was hoping for a punishment
With grace – to be somewhere
So terrible that the Angel must appear
Before me, here, now, listening.
I will not tell how I tried
To sing her into my arms.
Neither bending forward nor backward will do.
A murderous humiliation.
And what was bright has been lost now.
A poet is a wretched man. As if
We were stepped on and began to sing.
But death must make even
The most perverse silent. Bored
With all this glamour and prose.
I merely want what is true.
A smile, two eyes so beautiful
I could only die. The burnt, racial
Stain of the brown, leaves of autumn.
And, in winter, dirty beneath the snow.
You found I was not all white,
Just one of those slaves. Not an Angel.
So you went. I love you.
Poets are never pretty
After thirty-five. Look at Auden
Who might have said, like Socrates,
“I have mastered all the worst things
I am full of.” Disingenuously, of course.
Chance Of Blue II
I suppose, to confess, I always wanted
My sky to be blue. With some cloud,
To prefer us to change. A chance
Beautiful. Somewhere in the rocks
Looking towards the shore and knowing there
That family had a picnic and those, at a late hour,
Were rescued from a summer shower.
And because the sun must shine (it must)
There was someone, the children that picked seashells
And wondered and compared and forever were told
“The sea is a dangerous monster,”
And were happy, there were some people, old perhaps,
Sharing their unflasked, metallic tea,
Trying to gather the sun, who said
“I love you.” “I, too, my dear.”
“Isn’t it beautiful?” “My love, it is beautiful.”
“Aren’t we happy?” “Happiness is what we are.”
“Notre crime est del’homme” Lamartine. ‘L’homme.’
Everything stained: The tea stains the cup,
The cup stains the counter, the foot stains the snow,
The moon stains the air. Everything said.
I am told this is not an original thought.
Below, what was forgotten and cold,
As if it were not merely, actually true,
There was a birth, the unthinking was done
And this messy mix of snow and blood
Produced a word that meant ‘goodbye’ or ‘hello’,
Unsorting a chaos into ‘this one and that’
And saying “Insofar as I am here, that is there.”
Or if they are ‘mad’, we are ‘mad’, since
Neither they nor we can prove the obvious:
That Johnson kicked a stone but Berkeley
Was already dead, that the delusion suffices
To make a few words bring a cup of tea
And that, without God, preserving the hollow
Takes so long to say, every man
Could seek to find
Putrefaction of his mother,
Of his brother, of his kind.
Lewis And Martina
L: A broken nose more expresses health
Than your ridiculous screams and cries.
I keep, at least, some human cowardice
At home. Making tea in the grubby room
But acknowledging this Angel. He will not,
For the moment, destroy me. That you wished
To deliver yourself to man was what disappointed.
M: There was no sense, speaking in the wrong language,
In any action. Neither theirs nor mine.
If I felt or smelt destruction don’t think of it
As intended. I have told people as, perhaps,
A piece of vanity, that I saw things.
Nothing was so crude. Only those who wished to love me.
They could not. Hate becomes, sometime, stronger than love.
L: And yet, for me, nothing was more ‘subtle’ than mine.
To you it was merely looks, a means of accommodating
Body to body and the dysfunction I must finally feel
When doubt had to sleep with both of us. I ached
And I ache everyday for what, well, I never wanted.
For I tried for merely a word that would say
You know me.
M: I know you but
You were not enough. Or never could be.
Listen, Lewis, I joy in those few months
When we really were discovering what it was
that always is so strange about each other:
Our mortality, our distant death, our always otherness.
Don’t you see – I have gone there,
I have lost you,
I have lost myself. And your child
Is the only human word I can now discover.
I hate you. You were not an Angel. I hate myself
For saying this. How could I demand this impossible?
L: No, you could not. And yet you, O beautiful you,
Had a right to. You had a claim on an Angel.
But he did not come. Only me. I love you.
M: But you, my fool, my once-was-guest, remember:
Love cannot be there merely to please you.
We women are accused of eating hearts –
It is not us but God that burns your soul,
It is not I, it is never I, but these fragments,
These joys and sorrows, this ecstasy you refuse
To forget. Don’t forget. I may be mad
But I do not miss the compliment.
For in a glass I joy greatly at what memory can produce.
The happiness of a boy who cried “I love you!”
Because he had never loved before nor has since.
L: I had never loved before nor have since.
Yes, she would walk the streets, sometimes to solve
A problem, sometimes because she loved the darkness
She would always find between the houses.
We tried to stop her – we talked to her,
Told her that this was being childish or
Stupid or romantic – it was foolish
To walk in the all innocence of nature
And say: “This is true.” Only, lunging forward,
We happened on the chance of history
And, hey presto, dead bodies. Still, we told her
“We love you” but your ‘schizophrenic’,
We said “Open your mouth”, without saying
“Speak!” – but she wouldn’t – a merely
Which we crushed, destroyed, crushed as a bug
And then said “Crawl back.”
She couldn’t. Why
Couldn’t she be beautiful again?
Only because the mirror will kill us.
We have no conscience. No love. No honour.
(For Oliver and Barbara)
The rails of fate which run assuredly on
You think mechanical until, rusty turns
Of metal, they suddenly end, the grass
Stands tall, the flowers are indifferent
And what’s left of a forest creeps up:
But, no, you’re not alone, the main station
Ushered you to a seat and a stranger
Who became a friend. And now, as the driver
Has nothing to do and cannot turn back,
Beneath all your discomfort, you find
You’re holding her hand. A miracle!
Was it you who unconsciously fumbled for safety,
Unsure of direction and afraid of derailment
(Yet you knew you would end here, were happy
And loved it) or was it an accident of grace,
Perhaps that bit of sunlight deifying
An ugly day, suddenly some word (which you later
Realise you misunderstood) made the Other not so far
Or you were just thinking of your mother?
Never mind how or why, it became
And now lasting for ever – and who knows whether
She be that especially designed one or is it
Only the forced meeting that makes us dear,
That all of us (not being lunatic or bad)
Could love all of us of which marriage is a token?
Such questions we leave to philosophers,
Analysts and other buffoons – for us the effort
And the pleasure of a good deed done, of a
Love and a fidelity that makes us happy,
Of that constant light we can steer by,
Turn to and call a home. And if scoffers
Insolently shout that fidelity and all good things
Are dead, that childhood is hell, that mother
Is always beating us and daddy always
Turning away, that the one you love always
Loves another and will leave you for him and that,
Anyway, life ‘ain’t perfect’, it would be silly
To disturb them by a reply. A happy smile,
Maybe, and, long after one has stopped listening,
The thought recurring of the love and the marriage,
Wholesome, good, that’s Barbara and Oliver.
Precise terms, correctly said
Might point a moral to be had:
The eviscerate beast will be fed
With the inane, the hapless or the sad,
The little joke become universal
Till cosmic gizzards grin,
A gods fading, pathetic appal
Irking some tummy ache of sin,
But we, who ‘know’ exactly when
The anti-Christ and Christ shall meet,
Bitterly say ‘I love’, again,
Hanker for the canker of defeat,
Leathery, inept, miss hewed,
Burnt, blathered but staring at the sun
Our being brave merely crude,
Our families broken before they’ve begun:
A wino whine like Ovid-On-The-Sea,
We must be exiles, perpetually.
A Winter Poem
My right hand in her left hand – so they say.
Those best words we had and yet neither
God nor man could join us. But this
Is pointless, to see one smile and break and be angry
Because you could never tell what it meant.
To want the resurrection, now – why disturb
The dead? We only joked because we enjoyed
The others pain. Or guilt.
If I see you again and every night
Am I then better? Will I become good?
Will I love their souls, even broken?
Or laugh in a new birth? I am a bitter, bitter man,
A hollow world that falls away, a sun
That has left me in darkness, the vision
Of even others happiness I must decry.
O god, O world, O woman – if one smile
Could disturb these stones why not
Again and again and again?
Ten thousand cuts, ten thousand blows, a beating
And then to stand all night, to stare at a corner,
To joke, maybe, with your friendly betrayers
And then watch them march into death, your left
With a word, like a photograph, which says “This face is harmless.”
I don’t wish to be in this world. You wish to be
Unhappy, don’t you? You have no right to that.
Dirty and unshared and in a miserable room
Winter has written our desire upon this wall
Because I am what you, perhaps, must want,
This writer. A liar, true, a thief, also, a pornographer,
A self-hater, a wanter of man’s destruction,
All these things and more.
Love which bringeth understanding.
The eloquence a persuasion of God –
To ‘believe’, I suppose, was what I meant.
Or not to believe but to know. Because an Angel
Pressed against me. I felt his lips.
No joy talking to oneself, being alone,
No joy, again, in sex, no joy in delight
Over a face seen again, no morning
Waking because you had kissed me,
No love in tears or smiles or that said “I love you.”
No love for me or you or this morning,
Just damnation, the coldest fire that could ever burn.
If the streets were colder, only colder,
I could force back a time when hand in hand
I caught something of your smile.
Extremes, they say, can produce illusion
Which I could grasp, never let go
Of your presence, however mad.
Chalk on the pavement
Water is a sore destroyer
Whatever trace people leave
The city will illuminate
The very same world
Even on the last day
The pavement will be laid
Sorrow or joy do not counter
What is permanent
This the same rain
That rained before
Choose merely now, then,
Forget our yesterday,
The darling face, the nay
Against belief, remember
The street must return
Shouts that defy or plead
And you, before you sleep,
Must try to make room
By listening to this rain,
Something strange. The chipped value of buildings
That are always odd because they're historical.
A vague memory of my grandmother saying ' Hello'
And her 'permanent' counsel house being taken away
As soon as she died. Or my mother,
Seeing faces In the stonework of an obscure yard
And me having to rescue her and no gratitude
And I didn't expect it. Madness is it's own reward.
For once bowing to the inevitable and bleedingly obvious.
Just like buildings that bow at your command:
Are somewhat obvious, chipped and broken.
Happiness is like a very good morning.
Waking up in laundered sheets, knowing the birds
sing in those pretty trees you saw yesterday,
knowing a cooked breakfast is on the table
and, no matter what you've done (within reason!)
they'll still smile and say "Hi" and what a fool.
After breakfast and if it's not raining,
you'll walk into the garden and laugh at the sky.
The sun shines
The sun shines on even the terribly ugly.
The violence perfectly real. The shabby Inns
I have collected. Walking the other side of a sea wall
I am protected from a bay that is tame and beautiful.
The if smile
Broken, the if smile and tomorrow you will know
Who loves you – no one. Everyone smiles in Morecambe.
To die a kind of 'get-in'. Like smiling at the bottom
Of our world. You cannot smile upwards, can you?
Eyeless in Gaza
Eyeless in Gaza, I squint and grasp blindly
For this mornings coffee. The noise and rumble.
A newspaper boy running past. My French friend
Comes in to tell me his office is packing up and going back
To Paris. How cowardly. And I’ve been here before.
In Alexandria, for instance.
I broke my smile waiting for yesterday
I broke my smile waiting for yesterday.
Martina, you think it easy, making this sun shine?
Were as thunder and clouds come every day.
Everything I can do except hold your hand.
It was easy to be at the edge of the world,
See the sun slide in with the blue and gold tip of a wing
Like the Angels that must have visited me in my prison
Of heretofore – a former Morecambe whose Streets were called
Clarendon, Westminster, Balmoral and this was the "West End"
A different exile. All exiles are equal. But that one bullied forward
And this, self imposed. The cries are equally as barren and threatening.
The hope equally as meaningless. I got out last time by a kind of
Alacrity, a jumping into the barrel which others began to roll.
This time, there are no others. The same barren hope, though.
London was so vast you could meander
London was so vast you could meander
Through it's soul and it wouldn't know:
Going up to the Contemporary Poets Library
And coming down with a big red book and no-one knowing
What you had – until, you were so drunk, you talked
To the girl in the peep show, studying law, and
She quoted you Pound. So ashamed and knowing
No drink would help you, your feet twisted and turned.
Back to the ugliness of Catford and Lewisham.
This was the way, the toa which you disrupted, my love.
For a moment, for a couple of months, but not for ever.
The nights are coming in and close, like a black storm
The nights are coming in and close, like a black storm:
To stand high and old and curl up and fall – like paper burning:
The words that had meant so much, the honesty – and the lies.
Guilt shredded through the afternoon and, in the evening, just rest,
Exhaustion, overwhelmed by everything that is wrong.
Who are you?
The violence outside is always a beating postponed:
The gimp mask just falls away from your face
And you wear the usual garb and just walk out into the sunlight:
Blinding and bleaching and a judgement you can't take
You have begun to smile at the alleged children
That other people have. Tomorrow, but today,
You will gather those judgements and cans and bottles and yourself,
As if you were trash. How to live? The kind of joke I began with.
Asking questions. Who are you?
Hope Is A Bully
How does hope get us there?
No cars run on hope - is it carbon free? -
My boiler buggers on hope and if I ask my feet
Their twisted but somewhat sensible way is
"Out of the door!" and as quick as is legal.
Hope is a bully.
Happiness is what happiness does. It seems to appear
Happiness is what happiness does. It seems to appear
In other people. They smile a lot and have children.
A smile is a grimace like the grave. I wish to see
Certain smiles, I've hunted them out. I have an APB on smiles.
We should not appear in the same room, because my 'appearance'
Embarrasses you. Peering into the dark corners of my room
You assume this is me. Well it is. The coach is waiting for you
And our sadness, too. After you have gone, will I not follow?
The assumptions we have followed are rather strange?
The assumptions we have followed are rather strange?
Just to assume you are good, a man, just and beautiful,
As you did assume, must make you pretty ridiculous,
A laughing stock, a freak. To assume anything means
To assume to much. To assume everything or nothing.
I walk down my street and my courage fails,
Has failed. It isn't that the key in my hand
Will no longer work – the police and the other
Officious guardians of our fate will have
'Permission' to slot in the key and turn the key
And open that garden of butterfly's and June days
But also muddy winters and alone London -
But I am now excluded and know that,
Whatever I do, as a human being, is suspicious.
So cowardly, I divert to the local pub and smoke
My death giving fag outside.
Everything said forgets it's bonne chance
Of an accident that broke my screen as I was
Driving through the dead skirts of Paris:
Where the car must turn but doesn't to the heart of
Those streets smiling and forgetting.
Beneath that bridge and our youth on its hands and knees
Or back there, the half green lawn, and where jokes
Where a plenty and didn't need to be remembered.
I thought, something strange, like hope might brew
As when – I bought a house, I sawed the wood,
And the place disappeared beneath me.
To go home is a good choice – to ignore
To go home is a good choice – to ignore
What is obvious: The woman you love distressed
And, obviously, needing your help. You smile
In the corners of your couch and cry sometimes
Very hot, sentimental tears. Hatred in your own room
Feels better than hatred in theirs. An illusion
Only oblivion will cover. Like snow, like ice.
The minimal that is required is to love
The minimal that is required is to love.
But only one without love could make such a statement,
Be conscious of such a requirement. Innocent of heart
But dead. I am Lazarus come back to tell you all
Or Jonah, spewed upon a beach, refusing still
Those words that came from God. Or being
In the belly of the whale, drumming his indigestion,
With the oil cans, the plastic bags, the half eaten fish,
The etc detritus of being human, I, inhuman,
Wallow in this strange, submarine defeat.
I like it down here. Hows it up there?
Everything you thought was wrong was wrong
Everything you thought was wrong was wrong.
Your awkward smile that misremembered me,
Your false laugh at remembering. Kicking the frost
From our feet and fearing to look at each other
We boiled with a kind of love. Soured in a bag
The homeless that asked us to look at them.
It's not pretty, poverty. It's not pretty, your smile.
The canker in my eye is not so great I can't see the cancer in yours.
Being an amateur 'doctor' with my quack remedies
I'm going deaf, but I hear you through this lonely night,
From how far away? O to far, in time, in space, in hope
And yet, you are there, in hospital, with your neighbors (I imagine)
Screaming at the wall and you, trying to sleep, trying to hope
That I or someone still thinks of you. (And me thinking all the time).
And me, impotent to help you, to be there, to love you, as I do.
Nothing smells worse than death -
The stinking soul hanging between my shoulders
Like a sweaty and unwashed shirt - resurrected every 'perfect'
Dinner I wear it like a shield or a sign -
‘Here are fools!’ - and no one notices - they continue
Cutting their food and saying their say.
Loneliness is terrible.
My nose broken, I walked along the street
Looking for someone who would break it back.
I found that, the rain and the gutter
And my desperate cowardice. For down here
I want to say 'Hi' to you but I'm too ugly
To do so. I think, if I sent a message through
A 'friend' and he sent a message to you,
You might receive it. You might understand why
I have punished myself, for so long?
An Angel came down to me and said
"These ascending and descending stairs
Are for you. Come up." "No", I said "For I hate man,
I hate the world and I hate everything that has
And will exist." "Every word you say
Could be turned to love and your words
Roses among the thorns" "But I want to be the thorn,
The sharp spear that cuts God and salves him
With vinegar!?" "Boy, you will never be that,
You are gentle of heart. Come and follow me"
"No, I will stay here and die." "So be it"
How I hung, above the abyss,
Smiling at you. And I mistook
Your upside down smile as a smile
When it was a grimace, a wince of pain.
I feel so wrong for not understanding
When I should have. And, now, your mind and your will
Have both disintegrated. A wall
Against which I wail and will do so forever.
That Angel, from God, a long long time ago
(Well, at least, ten years), told me
The meaning of love. When, one winter morning,
Waiting for a train that never came,
Dark and crepuscular morning, the sky
Began to fall, at first like little bells
Chiming on the concrete and the rails - ting, ting -
And I knew it was a call from God - knock, knock -
Whose there? No one, no one at home.
Of course, God doesn't exist but nor do I.
That morning when the stars were so bright
I could grasp them, when I knew I had lost
Everything and nothing would return,
That my love, which was destroying me, was for 'nothing',
That I had 'taken the wrong turn', as usual
(But fatally this time), God sat beside me and told me
To be of good cheer. "These temporary things" He said
"Are of no matter. For what is in your heart, my son?
Your heart is of me. Say something beautiful."
I could not. I can not.
Everyone I look at
Pats me on the head, feeds me a bone,
Chucks me outside or leaves me on my own.
I am a dog and alone.
My stupid 'masters'
Who can't master themselves
Are not my masters. I dream
Of running with my brothers.
I am a dog and alone.
Everyday my ‘owner’ dumps me outside
And I bark because
I am a dog and alone.
Thoughts out of Season.
(For Martina, bride of my soul, mother of my child)
Sadness like those streams you sat next to
As a child. The smell of wild garlic,
The whooping flutter of birds, and, crowded
Above you, a bully of trees and their greenness,
Alien, except for that stream and the tears that fell in it.
An imagined mumbo-jumbo of words. A haitiesque
Raising of the dead. The streets kind of empty
And sullen. A bruised foot that had kicked the face
That had seen the moon. How does one wake up
Or go to sleep? Both are impossible..
A tin can kind of reflection.
Love is a monstrous story. I can't help sweating
In a kind of fear of loss. My bed is soaked with this sadness.
The smell of being human - which I presume, is an attempt
To keep clean. The arrogance of myself. A pointless thought.
A pattern that only foreshadows gloom
The wind and the rain somehow upset you
Assuming you where inside and silent
Brokering a bargain, smashing a plate,
Marrying an idea of a roof above you and the four walls.
There is nothing nice about being human.
Pandora’s box allowed all evils to escape -
Disease, old age, ambition and, finally, hope -
That which has always bullied us forward.
Where the wonders of the world merely
A mockery, then? A shining through thick
And sullen cloud? A glint on the stab
Of a broken can in a shabby alleyway?
No, on the contrary, they where
The beginning, preparatory to something other...
For Lou Reed
My Dead Book is getting full of names:
People who I can call only up from Hell
For those who go to heaven I never knew.
Sweet smile as we turn the soil, like turnips,
Like potatoes, the rooted soul, like disease,
Like fungus between my toes, like an awkwardness
Of gait, a 'funny walking', like sadness and grief
And the guilt in forgetting, like Anna and
My never seeing her or if I did it was only
Her corpse. I didn't know what to do so I went
Into the toilet and grinned at my reflection.
A scowls grin for a grin. The first name in my Book.
The happiness of an hour spent listening to a guitar
And songs of another man, so fugitive, and now
What? A grimace before this weather. I'd forgotten
Or meant to remember how hearing someone else meant.
Like sitting at the front and seeing the sea
Threaten to drown you. One wave upon another
And each knowing the borrowed light of a moon
Is merely lent to them. Each song singing
It's mermaid song and beckoning forward.
The head was broken - split asunder -
The poring out of blood and soul - gargling
What was left of my spirits - down there,
In a Lancs gutter - I cried out to you,
I asked do I deserve to exist,
Can I, must I, should I?
The echo of an emptiness is my answer.
A broken soul, like the Jew and his belongings,
His pictures, his Picasso, his Pizaro - we have distinguished them,
We have decided between the twain, we have put on one side
This person and on the other this thing - almost a cleverness,
An articulacy, as if to alienate was to be.
For I have stepped upon bones and heard them crack
And slime as they attempted to grasp and plead.
I stood upon them and had no guilt.
I stabbed down, only to quieten them.
For I have stood upon bones and known there suffering.
I have seen eyes outside of context
And hands without history. I have been
Haunted by souls that do not exist.
Or smiled at smiles that have no history.
I am dead and yet am I arisen.
I have been stamping upon a world
Yet I live.
The cracked smile I smile is not a joke.
An askance, a lie or a slyness. A semblance of a smile.
No. Not the pretence to seem, not this, a talking
Into nothingness. A carpet mouth and a joke.
Those two eyes a befuddled constellation
Beckoning this kind of death. In the middle of Europe
Some kind of sand. Which you realise
Is a man hair.
Down on the ground, then, a bully above you
And you turn your face to the left or the right -
For which way is best? Not to love is best
Not to be loved, second, but better still
Never to have been born. Hatred is gallant
In the glad old days. Sorrow, too.
After Ivan Blatny, from memory
To live alone is a crime. What does Lamartinine say:
Man is the criminal, l'homme est criminile.
Get a wife and child. If you can't have a child
Have a wife. If you can't have a wife
Get a dog, a dog only.
The beauty of an embrace: How does it happen?
That extraordinary love you feel
At the touch of a hand:
Now, then, do you remember this?
Walking those old streets
And staring in other peoples windows -
You seem to have forgotten what it is to smile?
When she stroked your hair and it was like fire,
You were aflame, you were burning
So that every touch afterwards was like
A new sun had been born? Memory was actual,
Was alive. Delight in the morning
And to forget the only crime I know.
Belly full of bags and old rules
I feel a connection with everyone.
How did you know? A ghost that tracked me.
Like a brother. Like a mother.
I've stayed clear of eclipses, they pick out
My bottles. The sun gleaming
On what might have been but isn't.
I can't see the sky. It's a fuzzy mess to me.
You 'smoke' in the back yard of your dreams
And, down every ally, is that blaze
That entered your head, cut from a tin can,
A piece of glass, spiking the light
And, that others, might never see. Suddenly
That Angel of theft and vagabondage
And I hate myself. A smallness in my soul
Destroyed what was good in me. Cowardice.
'What is seen is what is known'. So you say.
I see nothing. Therefore nothing is known.
Oh, one of those days! When I must struggle
From beneath the covers to find clean socks,
Clean my teeth and post a letter? Why?
What this Saturday morning means? What have I
Done with my life? How old am I? How much
Could I have done? Should I have done more?
Lewis Deane, Sept-Nov 2013.
Index Of First Lines
“Down that road I went.” He said, pointing somewhere. 4
“Hell, the floor collapsed: there we were, 136
“I am not dangerous.” Their new form 52
“Take the opportunity to listen” 135
“Where are you?” Then the smile, 125
“Who rules, who serves? 79
A big fish eat me but there are no fish in the sea. 139
A broken nose more expresses health 155
A gloomy summer’s rain so alien 59
A mess of cracked stone: 62
A naked figurine in a green shrub 14
A soul flavoured in the neutral tones 93
A Sundays gentle cycle through seas of empty streets 31
A thin, weeping mist squeaks along the grass 105
A wintry airlessness, a tundra between us, 133
All that time a denial 42
All the body’s turnings merely serve 30
Alone but for the involuntary 131
Always again the wish to begin 64
Ambitions of twenty nine: to be content, 120
Among the whispered wind and wet 95
And down those corridors 89
Below the cry of a bat 7
Blind, my love, to futures chance, 45
Cascading from the dark 43
Caught in a translunar spot 25
Conceived, born and here, a place near the sea, 36
Corners catching 8
Ditched or broken the tourist ruins 80
Do I have a relationship, 60
Everything is so quiet and peaceful now: 54
Everything stained: The tea stains the cup, 154
Falling down – and, last night, probably 147
Farcical rumour of not being 47
For three days I drank, certain of failure, 58
Forgotten towers 6
Friends that were not and have already gone 65
Gold and silver 119
Half a line of bad verse 53
How did that star break 100
How many times have we heard her say 110
I have not stepped 73
I have you, therefore, above my desk, 129
I remember your bedroom window 49
I see you different, now, flattened by age 28
I suppose, to confess, I always wanted 153
I was hoping for a punishment 150
I will not tell how I tried 151
I’ve tested it then, 39
In each place I’d broken circles, the figured 82
In the bruised sleep of a few unpunctured hours 77
It is not for this that I waited alone, 22
It was a comic sight: 15
Leaving pressured prints, 72
Let not the burst thunder 81
Like the wanderer and his shadow, 55
Lilting among the wilting trees 46
List the bright heat as one change of garment 83
My right hand in her left hand – so they say. 160
Neither to go far nor to come home 66
Not a night to be seen: 41