The night explodes above me like an egg
one throws high into the air, only for it
to forget to descend; in it the sharp tang
of being only one, to be wrapped over and
over again in the turbulence clouds shred
in deep gashes up high. There is shelter,
but only in the depth of sleep: and even so
aftershocks lie in waiting, for light, for cold.
And I grow into the half-darkness, purple
with the effort of simply being, washing
spirit and soul with the zephyrs inhabiting
this wasteland. Yet there is birth. Winds
disturb trees with youthful aimlessness;
shards glisten in the firmament like stars.
Old stories heard in musty places ring
with plots of opera, coincidence
looking like fate. How in the residence
of so-and-so a dumb man learnt to sing
with ministrations from his lover. Drink
of death but think of life, these incidents
are saying. Even so-called decadence
has stories of its own to tell. To sink
beneath reality, however, to
this truer world, one must first have his tales
to tell, his wares to sell. And in the whale’s
big stomach, those who sin and yet still do
not grieve are happy. Here they tell of those
long lost in time, whose names nobody knows.
There are songs written on the tiny flakes
that bark up towards a tree: songs that
only equally tiny ears can hear and also
the eyes that are so small, taking in the
world a cluster of atoms at a time. Music
too sweet for any larger dose; surely these
vast bodies of ours are too clumsy even to
dance these steps a million years or two.
You can feel it with your hands, though –
how chords can crackle with rain, or soak
up mornings and turn them into melody;
beats like your heart draw life and breath
from and into the hard lungs of this earth.
The shyest branches creak a wooden waltz.
We’ve made mistakes, we fall. And stumble on,
time’s very darkness hiding in the past
we leave behind, just footsteps in the dust.
The world keeps moving, in its careless scorn
not taking one too seriously. Long gone
are times when we could shape the present. Trust
can break, and words will falter, so we must
watch who and where we spend our tears upon.
We make mistakes, but then we too must know
that even winter has its end, and snow
will melt away for spring to take its place.
And if sometimes we trip and fall, it’s fine.
The world will go on turning. Streetlights shine.
The curtains throw their shadows on your face.
We rub shadows into our skins, as if they
were healing ointment that could by magic
cover our scars, or bringers of flame that
perhaps could cauterise our wounds. Time
mocks us, though, each second a laughing
slash of those blunted knives we learn to
ignore year by year, as our silhouettes in
the ground shrink and grow, shrink and
grow. Together we break asunder, flying
into pieces, shards, eye-glances toward a
sky that never stops vacillating between
two certainties; and so powdered, become
lost in this atmosphere whose currents will
take our consciousness across these lands.
Define me. By your absence I am bound.
No sentence is enough to call you here.
Less so a phrase. And left alone a mere
word must be nothing. I want to be found.
Refine me. You are more than treasure. Sound
me in your darkest depths. For if you were
a jewel my heart would harden. Seek me near.
I have too often fallen in the ground.
Sometimes it is difficult to breathe.
You grasp me tight even when you are far.
Time flows like beads. Perhaps you are those beads.
I lie in wait for someone to unsheathe.
Your voice has filled my head. I sleep. Afar,
a boiling cloud from which loneliness bleeds.
Loneliness enters me, forbidden, mighty;
washing over me the worst waves of light
marbled through the depths of its water.
Stronger as the sun is strong to a candle.
Air comes but weakly, wavering, always
trying so hard to escape like I am forever
wanting to escape. Everything slips away
far too easily. Night devours, replaces day.
An endless desire to flee, then, just as
one might run from bursting dams of flood;
each cresting wave encompassing each
and every thing with tenderness, without
the slightest mercy. Each embrace an
absolute suffocation. The vortex never lies.
In time there will be winners for this game.
Right now there are but losses, and they cost
far too much faith – and yet those who have lost
will come again to try their luck, with same
results. There’s always just one lucky dame,
some lucky chap whose cards fall right – almost:
for where their money goes to cold compost,
their bodies will be touched by each other’s flame;
as all do know from then their time is up;
they watch each other over their wine-filled cup,
stake out each other’s mind in search of that
attraction each believes the other has.
So what if found? So what if had? Unless
they play on, they don’t know what they will get.
One can feel the ripples in the night air, as
if there were breezes shifting their soft weight
slowly about, searching for something they
have lost; or a tingle in the spine hinting at
things that cannot be seen blooming quietly
in the vast distances pushing one and one
apart. Spirits, then, if only to be more polite;
they creep over the land, twisting flights
into bent mirrors reflecting the tiniest shivers
speeding through one’s body, making fruits
taste like shadow and trees wither into claws.
Sometimes the very rays of light waver and
even so all is a choking mist, strangling out
the littlest sanity of an ever-thirsting mind.
If the night effaces me it is because
you are not here and darkness chips away
at all I am; caught helpless naught I say
will stop this tearing from insistent claws.
If I were wholly made of stars my loss
would mean an eye gone blind, no hands to lay
on you, no ears to hear you laugh at play;
and I would diminish still without pause.
If sometimes I am torn by loss it is
because I cannot tell my heart to lie
that you are flown from me, a homely nest
I cannot force myself to flee, and I miss
you near – while I dissolve into this sky
whose blank despair is fraught with loneliness.
Nothing is easier than forgetting, and those
tiny moments I mark with dates are the most
reluctant to stay in my mind. They may easily
have occurred any time, and so I pin them
down with my stingy hands, not wanting that
they wander away into oblivion. It’s strange:
how your voice disappears only after weeks,
but the scent that wafts around you only a day.
The trail of your fingers on my arm fades even
more quickly. Do you remember as little as
I do? As soon as I turn my back on you all
starts dissolving and frantically I tack them to
myself. I am a calendar. Here’s the first kiss;
here the wonderful day of our final fatal fall.
She dances with her snakes, yet dances so
seductively that all from far have come
to challenge death and try to do the harm
she cannot counter – steal her heart, yet know
that in their fears and selfishness they go
and never will return. They wrap her arms
in sinuous hisses. green, white, black alarms
enshrouding all she leaves unclothed. And though
she thinks her love too out of reach, one day
a lonely fire-eater comes to play,
and dressing her in flames – to her as one
with him as her own snakes – devours her soul,
and even if her body were left whole,
waltzes away the lover who has won.
And so we file our days into memories, the
way summer finds lost pine cones beneath trees,
waiting to be trodden upon. Patience: other things
must die before we can. Yet we still seek our little
deaths, count them, numerous until we forget. It
is never night but already it is cold, and my fingers
are stiff. If I take hold of any thought it would
die. We are hungry now whence we had too much.
Age crumbles memory into imagination, photograph
into painting. Sunlight shatters seeds all wanting to
fall far from the tree. And the moon, eternal witness
to the wastefulness of light, reminds us: she has seen
everything that can be seen, even hidden in shadow;
sends in her gaze her own stories of reminiscence.
Now White to play: and you are as the queen
who storms across the board like lightning, I
the treacherous king who, having lost his mind,
will give his kingdom for a kiss. My wall
is felled, my troops in disarray, my all
and everything forbidden to remind
me of betrayal. Yet you press on. Why?
Over black and white a waiting blooms, unseen…
I may be king, but I am old; and turn
by turn I watch, bereaved, and count the
days toward surrender. Woman come from far,
when you devour my heart, how will you burn
your way in? Stab me, never seeing my face;
or in a blaze of glory, rulers on par?
In time a diamond will sparkle on your finger, but
now, when it is not yet fully grown, a different fruit
grows there: one that tastes of hope and is rooted in
the serendipity of a chance encounter. In my head I
write our shared biographies, wanting them to converge.
There is your song, yes, and also my fruitless imitation
with a different instrument. Our fingers, still unringed,
steal towards each other. A stolen glance sent eye to eye.
Your jewel will grow with the time I think of you.
For now, you are an idea, facets of your turning light this
way and that, not brilliant but still a rainbow. You are no
mirror, but a looking-glass I can reach through, shaping
myself around you, learning your contours, but I fear my
life will be too short to crystallise the little I know.
Away from you am I free: nights are bright
here, and the air is fresh. Some sheep will call
out in the day, when skies are wide, and all
the voices I hear are in my head. The light
that streams through rooms is pure, and clouds in flight
wend high above like colourless birds; no fall
of rain will make them land. The trees are tall,
the forest stretching for beyond one’s sight.
And yet this is not home: this freedom jars.
The spaces here are much too empty, and
my heart is heavy. The world is far too blue.
Your chains are fine, my dear, or else the bars
you lovingly put me behind – so take my hand
and want me back, and I will return to you.
Under cypresses the morning sways. I wade
through the air of a graveyard, placing
stones upon others erected for lost bodies.
It is desolate. Grasses put their roots deeper
and deeper, finding their own brand of
disinterested joy. A bird calls, very far in
the distance; here it sounds like the hesitant
turning of a page. Only silence will reply:
and so sometimes in moments of delirium
I think this is the same kind of silence
that shrouds me every night lying in bed,
lying to myself, merely waiting to be free,
for my own page to turn in the wind,
for grasses someday to put their roots in me.
Once in a while we have to part, and then
the colours in my world all run to hide.
The reds are gone, the golds with you abide.
Trees wash out, pale. Across this misty fen
some lights grow dim and flicker. In my den
I scribble madly, markers by my side.
No act I do can push back time or tide
nor make more hues appear from in my pen.
…How much this world has changed. Night waits to fall.
The summer comes and goes; the days turn cool.
The clouds succumb and rain on earth’s great pull.
How can I count the days? No one to call
for help, no one to hear me, see me frown.
I wait in grey for clocks to run time down.
Two years ago you watered me and watched
as I put down roots, moving slowly still, and
grow toward you, light of my days, moon of
my night. Ever I stretched out my leaves,
learnt to stand on my own, grew upwards.
If I wavered in the winds sometimes I would
know where to return, waiting for warmth to
hold me, fires in my veins, air in my heart.
But rains come when the sun is away, and it
becomes cold. Under loneliness I drop ballast,
float on the waters, leaves, petals, shoots
flowing away from me. Yet as always you are
there; it is bright again, the world opens,
and once more I turn my face toward you.