Love by the light of the fridge

The quiet murmuring of the river hides
the question which, in turn, is buried deep
within these kisses splashing off your lips.
No trolls under this bridge to stand beside
old houseboats and wait slowly for the night:
we draw these shadows to ourselves to keep
this trust from spilling over. Nearby streets
drench passing cars in silent amber light.
Next day, the hilltop sun catches us hand
in hand, fresh-faced, though pillow talk for hours
has etched some tiredness into our smiles.
And yet a different kind of glow bathes our assent:
leftover fruits, the early-morning shower,
an opening door, a dream… too short a while…

Ars Poetica

Because there are too many journeys I
can’t make. Because my memories are fleeing
me so I make things up. Because in seeing

this little of the world my inner eye
invents the rest. Because the flowers sigh
and winds are blooming in the spring. Because

this music on the page is how I force
my mind to sing some untold lullaby –
and all I do is steer the raging course

while trying not to drown. My pen is hoarse,
if not completely dumb. I know this way
lies madness. Say yes. Say yes. I’ve said yes

again and again, if only to express
this silence. Watch me write the world away.

Cartoon Physics

With you I never can be sure: one day
the road will end and I’ll walk off your cliff,
still treading air until I crash. But if
that happens I’ll have time to turn and sway
in shock and hold a HELP ME sign before
descending in a puff of smoke. I know
for sure you’ll make it through a tunnel, though
I’ll end up crumpling like a folding door.
Quit cheating physics, dear. Play by the rules.
You draw some wings and fly into the sun
and leave me stranded below. Where’s the fun?
Each time I put up with your ridicules
it backfires so much. One day you’ll run;
I’ll let the desert take you. I am done.

The Fictionalised Biography of **

Sometimes life is pretty strange, especially if
one fine day you get drunk with your best friend
and wake to her riding you hard, even though you
don’t swing that way and she knows it. Who cares?
You both have jobs, and you care for each other
so much. You get married anyway so you can live
in her country but both of you continue to go
on benders and fuck young men as well as
each other on special occasions. The memories
pile up in a corner like clothes in the heat of
your rutting. One outlives the other, so you tear
everything up by the roots, they always said the
moral of the story is that you can finally go on
adventures when your wife dies. Your dreams
lie far away, so you move house, and of course,
in celebration of your life together, you do it
in the flashiest way possible. Tie it all up and
float away, she used to say, even when she was
anchored firmly on your stake. You know she
loved you, even if she was not in love with you.
And, really, what more could anyone ask for?

Sincerely Yours

for Josephine

Sometime in every month, at end of day,
I see your florid writing lying on my floor.
More than the sum of ink and paper – more
than all these bits of life you send my way –
I know this means I’ve been so long away
we’ve started planning went to meet, before
I even look up flights to Singapore.
– How’s work for you? Here everything’s OK. –
At times I write you late into the night,
putting thoughts down before they escape recall,
remembering: home, to me, is how you care.
And so these are the stories that we write:
the jokes, the sad and serious things, and all
the little bits of poetry we share.

Lost Weight of Sunlight

And if I have to travel a milion miles
for you, so be it. I would do so in
bare feet, playing conversations in my
head while walking through space.
This is magnetism, this is gravity,
this is physical fact of existence.
You can’t touch me but you feel it
anyway, warmth, action at a distance,
caressing your skin. When I had mass
the universe blazed for me; now,
forgettable but necessary, I am only
breath of the angels, sound of the sea.

South of the River

The sun will forgive us, and the scarlet evenings,
and the bridges we keep crossing, exactly how we mean
when we keep saying We’ll cross that bridge when we
get there. This river, too, thousands of years old, it’ll
forgive us. The night air sparkles with things unsaid,
as well as my hand on the soft curve of your waist.
When the silence gets too loud I make my way to the
train station and watch thousands of people go by,
all of whom are not you. This is my penance. We are
merely messages in the dark, spilling over into the
day, me dozing off to hello and you saying goodnight
to me when you wake. That is how things begin.
Walk arm-in-arm with me. Late enough at night and
the trains eventually pull away into nothing. Farewells
are photos we nearly forget to take, winging their way
across thousands of miles of ether. There are things
nobody can hold onto; you slip from my embrace
again and again. Please forgive me. In the crowds
I search for your face, knowing you are not there.

The Poet is Remembered

He writes his name for the last time.
Ice clinks in the glass and ashes
cool by the stubbed-out cigarette.
These are familiar motions with a
familiar pen; final words on familiar paper.
His old thoughts will course through young
people, but for now his pen lies
holding those scratches and sketches
still. What is written will pass from
him through books into the lives
of others. He imagines a strong young voice
reading his words, sits back in his chair,
smiles.

Liebesleid

We were there long ago, the summer the world
burned under our feet, everything hanging still
the way the sunlight froze when you walked
through those doors and smiled, the evening
air falling in large chunks to the ground.
Someone is repeatedly turning the lights
on and off. Smoke comes through the door. It is
1910 and someone is playing the violin and we
waltz through an eternity of memory, things
I set in stone and arrange on a mantelpiece.
Long ago the grass was green and rivers ran
around us and we laughed. Those were simple
times, those days we set the world aflame.
You flow through me the way music
filled that church, us listening, hearts on fire.

Venezia, Italy

Old beauty, land of water, what are you?
What strange slave ants once dredged this hive, what law
once ruled these motley grounds, what people saw
the pound of flesh almost taken by the Jew?
The fogs descend and we are merely flies
that light upon your body for a while.
The world outside is gone. Stars do not smile.
The air is thick with gondoliers’ cries.
How can we, sighted, know your streets as well
as that blind man who sings his ancient tune
beside San Marco? Night awakens, calls
through your old darkness like a graveyard bell.
You simply are. You just exist, immune
to history trying to fell your timeless walls.