Archives for the month of: January, 2012

She called her dance ‘Unknown Pleasures’
performing in some godforsaken place
on the back of a flat-bed truck
cement dust in the wind
She has an agent
She is an artist

Sometimes in the tap tap tap
Sometimes in the languid
desiccated sound of fallen leaves
Sometimes in a storm
Most often
in a whisper

There is nothing in this world
which does not take me away from you
Only when the wind blows
memories bring you back
The wind can blow softly
hardly at all
it is the same
It is enough
to stir my memory

Something secret and pointless
collects in the trees this time of year
weighting them down
lighting them up
and in the air at dusk
gathers like migrating birds

The summer sky
above the plain where she dances
is vast
For a while
the vastness is tender
then the tenderness
beside the tawdry disco lights
grows unfathomable
and her movements
seem ugly and ridiculous
She is struggling and suffering
with an insect’s jerk
The men stare at her
They want her but
don’t really

Sometimes
she just stops thinking
The sublime opacity
of ordinary things
surrounds her
Her face is a blank
same as the things
She stares straight ahead
without expression
and the future
goes on

The wind blows
cement dust
memories
sometimes blossoms
then dying leaves
then blossoms
They all turn to memories
the wind blows
in the end
and then
simply to the wind

But she is young
When she cries sometimes
she doesn’t know why
only
demands are being made on her
She doesn’t understand them
Why must she be
like this?
What can she do
with all her life?
What can she need?
Where can she go?
What does the new road
want with her?

We vanished into the years.
We found the planets were not so hospitable after all:
each cherry blossom contained whole stars,
even though we drove around for hours
we couldn’t find the address we wanted.

Tiny worms infected our tear ducts.
Who cares about each grain of sand?
And we couldn’t stop the process:
artists turned into sightseers,
who turned into refugees,
who turned into corpses.
The roads were monstrous,
dragons of wreckage and desert and dropped toys.
The parties went on for days and no one filmed the riots or murders.

Within each atom of every thing
a tincture of exodus had been instilled:
it led to fire and change.
In the graves of great books, heroes had room to strut and pose,
but no one spoke Egyptian, and in any case
the moment was lost, like love in a toothache.

A strange democracy came over us,
something to do with months and kilometres and cold.
The psychopath was lonely, too, and locked inside
the derelict warehouse of his dream
the crying child might have been him.
Sad and silver helicopters flew down from space
and took all the dead away.
The snow, and indifference, did the rest.

The song of the crowd is a low and cheap one.
And we never thought we’d sing that song.
But even that song became a whisper, first, then
a rumour, and so, finally…
At the core of all our words and gestures, we discovered
an immeasurable silence we could not accept, and,
stubbornly, at once we
set ourselves to measure.
The rest is history.

She calls you in the early hours
then you can’t sleep
You carry the starlight for a few moments
in a world of cats and clocks
The stars tremble uselessly
There is nothing you can do with them but look
and presently you put them down
Your glance moves listlessly over the wall
and then on to the sofa with its violet cushions
then back to the wall
She is inside all of these things
yet not inside them
She is inside you
Then you can sleep for a while

You see her again but nothing is settled
None of your days seem finished now
and yet by the same token
nor do they feel like they ever quite start
before they’re over
Something immense and fragile, like a glacier,
fills your life
The lamp with the four stems casts a network of shadows
over the room
There is no such thing as light without heat
or so you believe
You find your life keeps opening up into pools of stillness
moments of arrest
with reflections in bathroom mirrors
a hesitant face which is, apparently, yours
and bars of sunshine across the polished surface of the table
and nothing to think
and no movement to make
which might forge a plausible reason to journey
to the next insistent instant
but of course
you get there, anyway
It is a landscape of coda and aftermath
An existence which seems all mid-afternoon
with hollow spots of sunlight dosed up on tranquillisers
The bridges are out and the power is down
and reflections of empty boats float on the river
Then she enters you and you stir again
All the beads of all the moments are pulled tight upon their thread
the slack is taken up
and you kiss the nape of her neck
and want her in impossible ways
and want her…

The colours are fugitive even the rose hips
At work, you continue to perform intricate tasks
the purpose of which you fail to credence
You have become as much a machine
as the lifts and computers all around you
Like vegetation greening up in spring
she comes to you in thought and wishes
as if the chundering photocopiers might break out into leaf
and the cables put out shoots and flowers
You can feel the bits being passed from disc to server
server to server site to site
On the commuter train among your intimate clique of strangers
you hug your mobile waiting for her voice
or the discreet bleep of a text
Like a baby out of sci-fi or of manga
you lie passively in a cradle of technology
your eyes which were once the eyes of a wolf
and your body which was claimed by gods
restrained and catered for
Inane as jellyfish
drifting in lank tides
useless truths
cluster and multiply
The world slides towards heroes,
the irrelevance of a completed line
Soon we will know everything
and then we will keep knowing everything
every day until we die

At the back of your mind where the dreams still come
where stones move and sigh
you still submit sometimes to the divine unease of life
as it quickens you and makes you thirsty
Mostly, though, you don’t think of her
or of your complicated love or of
the doubts which found the heart
or indeed of anything
which might genuinely concern you and which might turn you
back into significance again
Instead you content yourself with surfaces
or try to
You call her late in the evening
but she is not there
You lie down and turn off the light
Before your eyes cease to be your eyes
and your day over
the darkness of your room is briefly filled
with the creep of white glaciers
and with the sound of the trees outside
moving in the warm breezes of spring

Although the star was not the right one, it was very bright
and we followed it anyway.
It led us far from safety, the sound
of hot water expanding in the pipes and doe-ray-mes,
the golden pinnacle and the ogre’s teeth.
Where did they fall, those ogre’s teeth?
The cities piled up, the summer oozed its copper glory
in droplets from cisterns, the pick—pock of distant tennis balls
being hit on public courts with ragged netting.
It had no maze to check its progress
or make a game of its futility.
The lions it ate one by one, and everywhere
the traffic was appalling:
soon, we no longer believed in shipwrecks,
or trains when they halted at the end of sea-side lines.

When its brilliance burns inside my head
I sometimes forget I have no home, no country
to die for or deplore.
Messiahs cry for it and cool and reasonable people
try to measure that star in the shadows cast by roses or
light years or other stars but we
kneel and then lie face down not through reverence but simply
because we’re tired and know
tomorrow will be another early start, and today
must be consigned to ghettos and oblivion,
safes or crates for rotting oranges,
swallows flickering in arcs across
the blazing lights of the container port,
goods and freight.

Pick—pock, pick—pockpick
Like a dream, this
has no odour and at its core
the only law at all is the law
of the next moment,
which each of us and every thing must obey,
so-fa-la-ti-doe.
As I doze on a pale blue bench in a run-down park,
one morning perhaps again I’ll hear
the tramp and drool of the ogre,
find the others have left without me, and gone on:
I’ll be too old, will have fallen sick, grizzled
by the beatings of the streets and exposure
to the repeated radiance of a minor sun;
and suddenly in touch
with the gaping gills of sticklebacks
twisting like deformed sea-horses in a mist of fingers
I’ll try to remember the village bells
ringing in the hours of my childhood home. Until then,
the trail of lions’ bones and the still-moist pits of eaten peaches
and strewn wreckage of downed airliners
is unmistakeable, as are all the signs
pointing in every wrong direction,
their wayward shadows
lit by the star of your only journey.

When I was young, I worshipped you.
We both lived in the temple,
but I lived there day and night, whereas you
came and went. As my childhood drifted by,
you spent less and less time there.
Eventually, you left altogether, and the temple felt empty.

I grew older. No one came to the temple anymore,
or only tourists and hypocrites.
I remembered my love for you,
among the goldfish and the lotuses,
among the flashguns and the babble.
I assumed you were still there, in the temple,
because you were part of the foundations of my memory,
and you said that I was special,
someone who was loyal.
So I didn’t grieve too much,
I kept on working,
waiting for the day you’d return.

Somehow, then, I was no longer a child.
I watched airliners glide silently over the clearing
as I paused in my chores.
Now I was more or less alone in the temple,
and the building began to fall into neglect.
The trees closed in, and the paths through the forest
were overgrown and the temple was forgotten
and thus began the descent towards unreality.
So, one night, loyal to you,
I picked up the temple, put it in my pocket,
and ran away, hoping to find you.

I searched for a long time,
and my life was a thing of drift and departure,
of cold and making do.
But as long as the temple was with me
it was alright, I felt warm,
because you were in the temple,
and I carried you towards yourself
because I was faithful.
And I knew that, when I found you,
my story would be complete, and real,
and that, according to the logic of stories,
I could go back to the beginning
to prove that it was not all just some form of useless dream.

Years passed. Love passed. My life
passed. Now you call me, looking for worship.
I reach for the temple, thinking I have it with me,
so it can be like before, and you can go back
where you belong, and we can be
as we were, before things became faithless.

But the temple isn’t there.
At first, I look in the obvious places.
I’m sure the temple must be nearby,
and that I have merely mislaid it
as a tree mislays its fruit
or a wave mislays its spray.
But then, as I search, I realise, it is years
since I was last aware of the temple’s weight and shape,
of its scent and its warmth:
I must have lost it a long time ago.
Instead, I find something in me is settled
like an empty field
just before nightfall.

I panic. I scrabble around, desperately
retracing my steps, patting my pockets, calling, throwing open doors.
What shall I do without the temple?
How may I remain loyal?
Where can I live?
What can it mean
to journey without a home?

And then, I realise, it’s too late:
the forest closes in on us,
and dreams rise like a sea
and, like a sea, there comes forgetting.

I can never go back to the start.

I will never begin with our love.

I will never write this poem.

With a greeting, usually, a handshake or a kiss,
sometimes a smile, but not often.

They’d proceed, like great rivers, along the many currents
of intricate deltas,
to bed and drug of choice,
no one drowned but then
their attention was elsewhere and the sea locked up
inside a child’s shell,
and, besides, they believed all their problems were over.

In a phone-call, at an odd hour, which leaves
a golden hole in the darkness, so the darkness
takes bird-light footsteps across the mud,
having no place to stay now:
to bright filling stations in hospital midnights,
in the fortress grip of sleep,
she carries the eggs of stars and distance in her brain,
even her children with their oceans and their keys
for a moment only ever
hold in their hands
the speeding shadows of all the spreading wings of all migrations.

The house with a pine tree growing up through its middle
The house made of air with a floor of plain
and walls of horizon
The house of summer with the doors open
bright tall yellow plastic beakers of lemonade
and the radio on
The house with the disconsolate lovers
patrolled by clocks
penetrated by whispers
of lost ambitions
The house you were born
The house we met
The house roamed by bears and the house
recently re-wired
The house no longer standing
This house
Your house

Your skin was coated with a fine film of white sand
I brushed the sand from your back
I thought how some of the sand grains on the beach
had suddenly become important to me
because they were touching you
They had swollen up out of their obscurity
to peak for a few moments
in your beauty
I felt so tender towards them
You sat hunched up your wet hair still wringing
an old bleached and fraying pink towel covered your shoulders
one of the straps of your new bathing suit
hanging down upon your arm
You looked out over the ocean
I looked at you
feeling the sand grains trickling
between my fingers and your skin

And the grains of salt from the waves
and the atoms of gold which float there
The scent of sea salt and damp cotton
and the scent of the resin of pines
and eucalyptus
I loved these things because they had touched you
were entangled with you
Your body gave them warmth
flushed them with breath and a softness
of impossible hope
The salt water which had touched your lips
the light which had fallen on your breasts
and into your eyes
The falling which had waited
a long time to happen
The salt water which had roamed
for so long
The tenderness
of the only moment of touching
Only in us
Only in us,
all of these useless things

At seventeen miles everything turns to haze
Cities, forests, seas, no matter, it all turns to haze
We pottered round the house that morning
It was a beautiful early summer day
We made Nicaraguan coffee and sat in the garden
and you ate segments of tangerines from a saucer
of blue and white Delftware
The lawn was unmown and galaxied
with dandelions and daisies
We didn’t talk much just sat and read the papers
or our books or sat quietly
listening to the birdsong and the insects
around us
You lay on a blanket and fell into a doze
I knew how lucky we were
and as we drifted like privileged castaways
it felt for a few moments as if no one would find us
Such was happiness
A collection of very small things
slowly assembled
related in delicacy
unrecapturable
never, but always, taken away
I lay down on the blanket next to you
You murmured and moved your lips but didn’t open your eyes
A bird glided overhead, its wings still, cruciform, some kind of raptor
We had made love that morning, near dawn,
and I felt dissolved in you
serene and trustful
A ladybird was clambering over the front of my book
Spring Torrents by Turgenev
After a while I fell asleep too
curled beside you in a light embrace
A sudden sound of jet engines woke us

You lie upon your couch, and painted on your retinas are the ruins
of 50,000 cities, and fragments of translucent maps:
This is also what we call the falling snow.

And with each morning begin all things, but mostly
a corner where the sunlight collects bare floorboards
and a rug of Rajasthan crimson, a loose pyramid of satsumas,
where bourgeois scenes of contentment and decay become
an accord between antagonistic demons,
eyes half closed to call electrons
one moment between journeys,
the sum of mysterious negotiations,
a fragile treaty with debris.

How slowly the wood has tied those knots fire must so rapidly
untie, but the wedding will go on without a bride or groom,
not even slow sex-on-legs our supermodel Siamese can star,
the polished atoms of the dust perform their show regardless,
and we are happy with bit parts:
even the mountains are walk-on/walk-off,
with each haunting dawn, we’ll wake, forgetful of this vision,
and, all the rage, play hotheads and revolutionaries once more,
charging through our hearts,
believing we can take the stage.

We lay back and white seahorses floated over us
Tumbling waves, music, sex, the humid greenery of a sleep
we breathed like plants
A deep stillness, as if it pre-dated beginning
Before the necklaces of shells and the brilliant scarlet feathers
Then we woke soon we were back in the city
the bright jabs of car horns
cement dust concrete being poured
Caffeine neon and wits
We saw things differently and danced like crazy
and all the time argued fought held and fled
desperate to feel
life’s sweets and sting
We had to rest like sharks in moving currents or die
We were plants with the rhythms of plants
With the rootedness of plants
Belonging

We were late it was frantic there was a scramble
we almost missed our plane
I kissed you how wonderful that felt
simultaneously as if I was in the only place I’d ever truly loved
and lost in a place totally new to me
Familiar yet inexplicable
Stable yet strange
We took off and we were in the air
a suspended republic
Below us, the peaks of volcanoes peeped up
like vast egg cups through low cloud
a memo to Genesis
We were scientists and mathematicians
auteurs and carpenters
We were blood type O
We were heroes and failures
lonely and life and soul
looking for parties,
we were lovers
We didn’t know each other
We were not ourselves
We digressed
We were endless

Vacant rooms where the air-con comes on at set hours
and then falls quiet
The dreamless wait of unused pillows
in the giant hotel out of conference season
Blasé carp in the pool, crimson and pink
Rising with a love and with a love falling
The void inside the ping pong balls
lying at rest in the darkened gymnasium
The couple at reception,
arguing, thinking they were robbed
calling security
Near-mummified figures propped up
or lying on their sides like brittle mermaids
in the care home
One moaned a few minutes ago
now she is silent
A few milligrams changed her mind
The sky was a dark violet
and the storm clouds clotted like a black cream
They watched the traffic lights go through their sequences
in the deserted town centre
They take a long weekend and they fly down to Rome

The mind is a vast grave
Impossibly luxuriant, with a liquid bedazzlement of fish
slipping among the coral
Our daughter laughed and we were happy
a mouth filled with light
Anenomes bloomed, dead vampires lay sprawled in muddy pools
Rain was slowly filling the grave
and troupes of monkeys made their way through the swaying trees
The years were sliding into my thoughts of you
and the land slipped pulling down pylons
In the museum
among the great serene heads of stone buddhas
I thought of your mouth
the darkness of your lips
the inside of our kiss
of waves which rise
once in ten thousand years
I thought of flowers which open in the moonlight
I thought of flowers…

These things have no relevance to us
the gestation of mountains the architecture of stars
the dry discourse of rocks and cicadas
We are lushes for instants
Driving to the centre the lilac smoke above the ruins
the car turns to worms and charred petals
You lost your lipstick on the plane
and we grew bored
parched for mirrors among the stones
In the abandoned cities of the heart
the autos of Detroit in memory
you wander among crowds of the forgotten
unable quite to grasp you
are one of their number
You yearn for salience
but this was not your story
You sleep with her for one more night, and attain
the peace of minerals
In a rented house the TV on the sound down
you rest your minds
On the screen, a fury of heroes
a brightness of comets and of falling angels
and the lights of their ascent and their demise
flicker on your closed lids
Beyond the walls wind blows the powerlines
and there is an eyeless darkness
You murmur in your dreams
but no one hears the words
When you wake, you can’t see the darkness
and the wind doesn’t blow

Come inside me
There is room for everyone
for every thought for every movement
You lost a friend and behind you
your sorrow turned to icicles and steam
and on the scalded, inhospitable earth
ferns began to grow where you left no footsteps
in places you never were or will be
Letters were burned and telephones slammed down
and yet the words were endless
even those which led nowhere
were never truly resolved
A butterfly lands on what was once your mouth
The temple has no monks
lizards laze and play on its walls
The passengers remain seated in their airliner
on the seabed
the captain drifts at the controls
There is no end
And so, no judgement can be made on this
And, for this, no judgement is needed

From the nursery of the moons and stars
to gilts and futures

is just an instant.

She closes her eyes and opens her eyes
and I don’t know
what lies in the darkness:

then the memories come back on,
and she answers the phone, she says
Hey, babe, how’s things?

Maybe in a turquoise light the plastic mermaids smiling.

Maybe the dog with the bad bark barking.

From the snowflake touching to the snowflake melting
on your skin

is just a life.

She closes her eyes.

Maybe the scent of the neck of the one she wanted, the lost lover.

Maybe the dead angels with the fixed grins gazing.

I’m gliding through the years.

Turning the light on at the beginning of the day,
and at the end of the day, turning the light off.

I’m gliding through the hours.

But there’s something wild among us,
reminding us of the way we came.

Like a power-cut mid-song.

Like monkeys on the New Delhi underground
invading the subway trains.

And were you there
when the first man walked on the moon?

Were you there
when the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square?

And was I there
when I don’t remember?

I open my eyes and close my eyes
and in the darkness I don’t know
what’s left in the light:

maybe the floor of a vanished ocean
with a wind blowing the branches
of coral trees, their shadows
swaying gently over the dry white sand?

Maybe all the things we let slip,
the hands we let go, and the hopes we mislaid?

Maybe a Japanese lord of old
committing suicide by inhaling,
through an ivory straw,
the dust of gold.

Maybe there’s just a different darkness.