Thursday, November 14, 2013

Seasons Such As These




















Seasons Such As These








Lewis Deane



































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.




Part 1.



This Place No Good.viii



The Street I.xi

First Love.xii

Awaiting An Answer.xiii

Decisions Of A Life.xv


Child At The Window.xix

The Apology.xxii

The street II.xxvi


Strange Meeting.xxxi

Now different.xxxii


Tatters Of Fact.xxxiv

The City.xxxv

Fumbled Epitaph.xxxvi



The Flag.xl

Part 2.


That Dangerous Road.xlvi










What Do I Know Now?lvii


Bad Verse.lix








Brno, 1993.lxvii




House For Sale.lxxi

The Waylxxii



















Part 1






“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.”




Forgotten towers

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:


Wan luxuries,

Chilled notes of dawn.



The Street I.


Corners catching

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.



First Love.


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?



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,

Pronounced, heartily,

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.








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

Desperation implies

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.

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.



After Hours


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.

Conversation, left

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

 The Apology.





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,

Expecting Alexander

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 knows?



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.


Strange Meeting.


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?”



Now different.


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.



The City.


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.



Fumbled Epitaph.


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.



The Flag.





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 buts 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 pub, board, 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.














Part 2






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

Czech sunshine

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

London understood.





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

‘Opovrženíhodný’, motiveless

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.’

                                                  H. Hesse


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.



Bad Verse.


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

Scattered backwards,

The untragic, dying fly.



Brno, 1993.


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 beers,

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

‘The way out is via 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.





No comments:

Post a Comment