Archives for the month of: June, 2012

I reach for you
but my hands are empty
We have failed each other
we have failed everyone
Now we are dying
slowly and theatrically
against the ravishing backdrop
of the great lit city at night
Yet even now, at this late hour
something flies in us
I don’t understand
How the West was won
How I became a cage

I don’t know
why we do not work
I don’t know
how we became unkind
Show an animal a mirror
it gets confused
I am the same
When you smile and cry
and I stroke your face
helpless to stop the tears
I feel it
How to miss a whole life
How to close a door

Then
just at this moment
with the tears in my hand
something beautiful
flies through us
I can’t understand

Then it has gone
and I understand

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What were the flowers on your long blue dress
were they irises?
What was the feel of your skin like
on my skin?
And the small wet white star which fell out of your mouth —
oh! —
I can’t see anything now
by its light.
Not the room with the candles and the wedding guests
drifting like smoke to a languid bossa nova.
Not the walk into the garden
in the stillness, the ripples in the pool
of the frog scooting through spawn gently
disturbing the full moon.
Not the JAL plane
trundling out onto the runway
pregnant with fates
bringing cicadas to snowflakes.
None of it.
Nothing, but…

Slowly all the buildings turn to dreams.
The nights in clubs, the taxis gliding home through traffic,
your head full of bland anthems and generic remixes…
Slowly all the good times and the bad times, and the in-between times,
and all the other times
turn into the same time, and the light, and the skies…
And the past rises like a flood,
stealing the land of the present away
around you…

At first the waterbeads and the kisses get mixed up.
Then the kisses turn to flowers, or to cafés, to late flights.
Love turns to other love, then to something a little like love,
then to whatever you happen to need
to make yourself feel good when, if the truth be told,
you are not good.
And the universe with its heroes and its goons,
its Shangri-las  and happy hours, its peaks and troughs,
continues gradually to pulp down
to a kind of paste which churns and writhes
and sometimes keeps you awake at night,
but more often
lets you go on sleeping…

Slowly all the cities turn to clouds.
We film them floating through the window of the rented car.
Wait for her under a violet umbrella sporadically lit
with the cream neon from a sportswear sign.
Watch the skyscrapers dissolve in rain.
Over time, inevitably, you become
more and more memory,
the world shimmers memorial,
haunted with musks and echoes.
But you can’t actually reach
the things of your memory.
You can’t actually touch
the loves left inside you.
Sleep in the humid city in the East.
The dark room with the shutters,
the view of the ships,
the black hardwood bed.
One day, you think,
all this will be rendered
immaterial.
One day,
all this will be remembered.

I used to keep your messages on the answerphone.
Then sometimes, if I felt like it, I could hear your voice

though you weren’t speaking.

Give me something real, you once said.
Give me something I can take with me and keep.

I was so in love with you, it was a form of immersion.
I felt I never left you: even when I was alone,
you were with me, my mind floated in thoughts of you.
It was like God.

You were my horizon, my voice on the radio.
As I drove through the desert, I never moved.
You were a kind of stillness,
almost an enervation. You were so beautiful

I ran down time with you, used up all the clocks,
then threw them away
and nothing seemed to have changed,
you still lay beside me, beautiful as before,
beautiful as you will always be…

You were like a storm which never broke,
like rain which never falls,
and I loved you.

And then, somehow… there was a change in things…

You called me the other day. We talked for a while,
and gradually I grew distracted. Thinking of someone else,
I could hear your voice

but I wasn’t really listening.

The butterflies
are sailors from Puccini. The insects
are kamikazes, the streetlights
are blazing carriers in the ocean

but they aren’t,
but they are,

but they aren’t.

There is fire, but elsewhere there’s mint.
Then there are ashes, the mint still grows,
and its scent is somehow cool
against the warm night air.

There’s charcoal, there’s sleep:
one of them is a glacier,
I wish it was sleep,
but I can’t sleep,

I’m thinking of you,

then we get to the fire again,

and you can’t

balance anything on a flame.

So things keep moving around,
I have to carry them with me:

there’s driftwood, there’s a glacier,
and one of them is a ghost,
I want the fire to be the ghost

but it’s these words,
telling you I want you.

My memories
are travellers without homes. Our kisses
are coated with pollen, our fingers
are scented with mint from the night garden

but they aren’t,
but they are,

but they aren’t.

You wanted to know what was in my heart.

You were there. I guess that was the first thing.

And the Emperor commanded: Make me something beautiful,
so they did. Then the Emperor said:
I’m bored with that. Make me something more beautiful.
They did this, too.

The Emperor was easily bored. After a while,
there came a new demand: Make me something ugly.
Compliant as always, they obeyed.

The Emperor stared at the ugliness, then he shouted:
No, this is no good. Make me something beautiful again.
But, this time, they could not obey:
they’d lost the art.

You were there. When you weren’t with me,
sometimes I’d take a letter of yours,
and run my finger over the dry ink of your signature,
thinking of the moment the ink was still wet.

There’s something else, though.
Something sublime and yet trivial.

It’s a gorgeous entropy, like the head of a sunflower
in moonlight. It’s the way you move
when you lift back a stray strand of hair from your face —
slowly, with the inevitability of a moonrise.

It’s the chopped honey of my memories of sex with you.
It’s the way snow settles. It’s the whole length of the river,
from the spring to the delta.
It’s echoes of milk and bullrushes.

There’s this ripple moving outwards from the centre of a pool,
the moment of disturbance when the pebble flipped in.
The ripples widen in concentric circles.
This is not a real pool, it’s an imaginary one:
it goes on for a long, long way.
Eventually, the ripple dies before it reaches
the edge of the pool.
The edge of the pool is always still.
The volume of water is, for the sake of argument,
infinite, and can absorb all the effects of all disturbances:
in this pool, all ripples eventually run out of momentum,
growing more and more shallow, and more and more slow,
until the motive energy is exhausted,
and the ripple melts into stasis,
so the surface of the water
is utterly calm, as it was at the start.
Then the water simply and perfectly
contains the sky, coolly and impartially
as a pure reflection – only the pool
is not the sky.

You were in my heart.

Whenever I see you these days
there’s a kind of hush in me
like the one which precedes
a piece of music

Not the moment we kiss
not the moment we part
after kissing
a flower of turbulent spray
like white water settling
over a ship sinking
with all hands
so peaceful

Night closes over us
Satellites fidget
across the city’s glittering carcase
Home throws a blanket around our shoulders
but still we shiver
We have just found out
we need someone else
to be ourselves
it has just dawned on us
we belong to strangers

What do they want with us?
The roads and the long drives
past alien shopping malls
petrochemical plants
and quiet airports
They’re not taking us anywhere
They just want to show us
how we don’t end where we end
how secret we are
in our public lives
how love grows anonymous

Fugue overcomes them
They lose their memories almost entirely
leave their familiar surroundings
to wander aimlessly
or start a new life elsewhere
So we wake with our names
To move from one place to another
From one thought to another
Nightingales to cicadas
It’s just a question of time

And what is handed on?
Who knows?
Forgetting comes
with its tigers and suns
A light we can’t look into
A kiss we can’t recall
When one woman sings
just the one song
for a moment
all the songs in the world
go into her

You make me
restless like music
The stillness is over
My whole life seems
the right lines, the wrong scene
A desert man
I wake to the sound
of the calling of seabirds
never having seen
saltwater before
never having known
the name of an ocean

You were in love he was making you unhappy
in that familiar addictive way
So you stumbled through life blissed out and hungry
in a state somewhere between angel and zombie
but the train still moved over the wheat with its shadow
and people still became passengers
were all lifted and carried away

In the cool light of great stations
concourses of marble and steel and glass
a perpetual vanishing occurs
This is the space which remains
when the vectors of people disperse
making a point of home
and the flash of our confluence
happens but cannot be known

All that towering summer I watched you suffer
I guess I’m good at other people’s suffering
maybe not so good at my own
You took my sympathy, like this, as read
Perhaps you didn’t understand entirely
my motives, but then I suppose
neither do I
After the sum is done and the equation is balanced
there is always something remaining
like shadows on the paper
or the emptiness of a mirror nearby
something to disturb the complacency of signs
and to mock our hope of equilibrium

We caught a late train home one night
after a bombing and delays
Public transport was all over the place
the city seemed to lose connection with itself for a while
The station was very quiet
almost all the journeys were over
You kept talking about him and I kept listening
I felt sad for you and a little envious
at the trap you found yourself in
the puzzle of your rapture passing
Outside on the plain the wheat was ripening
I thought a few things while you talked
how easily we are lost in intelligence
how immense the ignorance is
how we pass through each other without even noticing
like the ghosts of neutrinos
When I looked at your face
I felt so much was being mislaid all the time,
mislaid never to be found again
Losing sight of things in a life of glitch and slipstream
it’s how it is
It didn’t make much sense but that didn’t matter
We would still have to wake in the morning and be someone
I would still have to look up from the platform
still have to see the sky
still have to gather the light

In the city the station would be waiting
cleaners vacuuming,
cocoons of fresh journeys
swelling in rows,
the imprint of wraiths and moths of the slanting
rays of the moon
of things which we could not know had happened
fading slowly as a new sun rose

It is so early
The freshly dead still sigh in their sleep not realising
they have gone
Children with their heads soft and their bones green
swell into a new day, and cry
for the small movements of leaves for the millipede or for nothing,
just because crying is there
and the hour needs to be tested
Ink still glitters
and glaciers are born like tears
Simone hasn’t yet seen
the aquarium with the angel fish
and Saturn has no rings
Silence reigns in the frosty corridors of my nerves,
it’s so cold the air untouched and I shiver I’m still
wondering how all this light reached in
Satan is playing blind man’s buff with the others
and laughing
The milkman puts down a pint of semi-skinned on the step
and the bottle glints like a kind of key

It is so early
Maybe 2.30 in the morning I get in
throw my keys on the table and put on Sandanista
So early
the bullet still hangs at the lips of the barrel
and no one yet is the victim no one a murderer
The colours of Macao and the songs of Hong Kong’s cicadas
are creased in a map
The chalk is paused over the board
among toughs and sleepyheads I dream of Deborah
and don’t yet have to turn my mind
to the appearance of the fatal signs
of elementary trigonometry
And you have not caught the train
sipped from your doll’s cup of espresso
laughed at the mirror
forgotten your phone
How many pearls will form
or thistledowns be tethered
down in the rain
before you arrive?
How many curious eyes
turn to the stars
and drift, struggling for purchase?
Such a gulf of impossible things
and sparks moving upwards in a draught
form ephemeral galaxies
Thoughts’ glitterdust
coruscates with bridges and shadows
castles and keeps
pillows and woods and schemes
a basket of vanishing
The seed swells but doesn’t split open
The sun rises and reserves
its tenderest shadows for those who can’t
sleep

When I look at you
there is no lateness yet
no shape or purpose of regret to consider
It is so early
in this thing it is not yet even
aware it is alive
The fire means nothing to the lazy gunpowder
The moon seems to take an age to rise
The willow trees sway so slowly in the wind
I notice them but don’t know why
except you are beautiful
so I cannot look away from the willows
swaying in the wind, these things
have become magnetised to each other
In Tokyo, the vending machine
rolls out a coffee
In Africa, the monkeys sift through the bones
their hazel gazes
edge towards questions
Why are all the buds
almost sore with their newness?
When will they grow old?
In this moment
nothing has been forgotten,
there is no need even for the smallest thing
to be remembered
From the hawthorn trees
white petals fall towards their shadows
and Shakespeare hears the first word which ever
turns him on
I look at your mouth as you speak and yet
it is so early
I don’t even notice
as I glance into your eyes
everything has become filled with dawn

In our dreams we climb great waves
wake in shining shallows
Try to be calm you say
but I don’t understand
The sea had mountains for us
Now it has mayflies
and there is no love

It is a careless place
casual with light and suffering
Something bereft haunts it
like a bitch licking her dead pup
an immense carpark without cars
a racetrack not on raceday
And you can still love there
but love only once
and not come back
Things the sea rejected
we walk among them
driftwood and wrack
Our children will wander here
without us
stranded after the storm
with no one to gather them
survivors of a greater beauty
orphans of the high water mark

When memory hijacks your senses
the broken days of honeysuckle
waiting on a quiet platform
for the next train
You open a place in yourself
like the reluctant flower of a wound
sensitive, alive,
the fragile edge where the glacier melts
You can still remember
a time when you were happy
only you can’t quite recall
how it felt

She is a tiny bud
You will not be there
when she opens
She will blossom
with clouds and walks
It is enough
and even if it were not
it would happen, anyway
She will not see
what you have seen
Difference flows in
with the silky
inevitability of a wave
cutting us all off
one by one
She will wake
where you did not wake
And she will love
although there is no love