He packs the struggling will-o’-wisps into
a too-small tin. Jars lurch and clink against
each other in the silence. Through the mists
lurk other shadows, left behind; his two
old camel-beasts sniff placidly at winds
while shouldering his score in bulging bags.
He thinks about her: once hiding in his racks,
now jostling gingerly amongst his dreams.
Long years have passed, and somehow they are grown.
Their hunger makes them search in deeper sleeps
for ever stranger drips and acid trips,
dispensing bliss in foreign barter zones.
Each night, she weeps. Sometimes he saves some cheer
and blows it carefully into her ear.
In the cocoa darkness of three a.m.
you reach out to her. And this is guilt:
the sacrifice and dream-weariness
tied around your hands and pulled
out of the spaces in her body.
Convince yourself of your need, that you
are gifts to one another:
bitter adrenaline of sweet midnight fuel.
Because you were hungry, she comes alive.
In this way the mouth begs for a reply:
unorthodox miracle, creation, prayer.
There is no more bread to break.
Nobody is innocent. Save the washing of hands
for after: you were fully and gloriously
complicit. She died so you could sin.
Remember her taste knotted around your tongue.
And these are the things you always knew:
that your son would die the way he dreamed
he would, that you were in want of love,
that loneliness was not a necessity
but a choice. You only wanted not
to see them, and so, immortal
but not invincible, you raised
your hands against yourself.
And while you hung, thirsting, after years
of wandering, blood weeping from your side,
you saw more than ever.
Blinded, your eyes were opened.
Now you stare oblivion in the face,
your powers only a means to the end.
He sits down and fishes the ring out of his pocket and
slides it on, opposite him I watch, wondering
if he is sad she didn’t kiss him, wondering
who the ring is from/for, he folds his
hands together wondering maybe why I look
at him, there is silence in the carriage
muted by the howls outside there is silence
in me as I watch wondering
how she would slide off her ring for me
slide out of her carriage for a sudden sunny
afternoon. The doors hiss and open
for the fog to kiss the warmth. Why do we
keep searching for warmth
even as we can only ever be fog.
She knows she is remembered only
for him: that is the way the story is told.
They found something he thought was love
in the ashes, and he sang because he was
desperate. Even now: in the groves,
mourning, praying to his lyre.
He would have blinded himself
to keep singing. Perhaps he was afraid.
Why the endless refrain? Why the sweetness?
But the snake was her friend, her salvation
and fruit of knowledge. Later she
braids her hair, remembering how, for
the sake of a song, it had to be let loose
so the wind could tangle it.
And now this love must go to sleep: alive
but only in suspension, knowing bliss
as autumn quietly slays a billion leaves.
An early hibernation helps derive
some pleasure from the winter’s creeping chill.
Our bodies breathe on as we die each night,
lethargic suns failing to muster light.
Throughout the solstice, lie in wait. Be still:
my faraway love, this spring is not for you,
despite the birdsong winging through the air.
We must be shy again, as at our start,
the cusp of summer warming love anew:
entwining ecstasy, perfuming hair,
thirsting for touch, for warmth to reach the heart.
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…
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.
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.
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?