Archives for the month of: November, 2012

In that country they did not belong,
they belonged. A sonorous lament of bells through forest mist,
tolling of unknown rituals, in the crumbling house
all the furniture wrapped in shrouds,
his heart cocooned and beating blindly as if lost
between moths and silk. The squeal and twitter of monkeys
reminds her of the end of sense.
How quick then to reach her thoughts
all the contorted music of our flesh has come.
A burning boat, his youth
runs with the current, so the river in flood
speeds him up then slows him down
into dilated stretches of time, where his helpless wreck drifts on
like wisps of village smoke rising in the languid fumes of opium.
In a pink kimono, and coat of cherry red,
he pads in sandals through the snow,
can he survive his sadness?
And, if death relents,
can she survive her innocence?

Show me your sign.
For if you do not, how will I know you?

Show me your sign.
For if you do not, how will you be?
How will I see you? Or feel you? Or know you?

Show me your sign of love.
As the gingko leaves outlast the mountain,
and the new poem arrives to oust the old,
he will not survive her innocence, and she
cannot survive his sadness.
Still, show me your sign.

In the derelict temple where the passing
god of all things
has taken shelter from the unseasonal rain,
her fingers arrive in no sense,
with the lit candles and the readers’ gaps and
sighs, and molasses too,
the downpour tosses into her eyes
a simmer of translucent zeroes, a perpetual unrest
as the gamelan of storm on rooves and drains and gutters
throws to her ears the puzzle she has
already prepared for it,
strange how the weather is just there, monotonous and given.
Her soul is a glass forge, where swords are hammered,
we always end up cutting ourselves upon their edges
and looking surprised at the limits of our knowledge, so sure
we’ll get it right the next time, no problem.
She figures out a beast of mercy.
His uniform is operatically white, he is a captain
partaking of the very drugs he’s charged to curb, his dream
is larger than the whole city, even at noon.
When there is nothing else, people bring words, then leave them
to curl like flowers before neglected graves.

Show me your sign.
For if you do not, where will I be?
I may not even know I am alone.

Show me your sign –
your sign of love.
For if you do not, how may we go on,
to conjure from this darkness a society?

Show me your sign.

Show me your sign of love.


He arrived in that remote place accepting
it was a form of escape, a stopgap
conspired by his cowardice and native inertia.
Everything was parked:
trees, scooters with their snarling vim,
the plazas riddled in loose moonshine,
even his own hands as they laid the paper
and steered the pen, even the leaves,
moving in the breeze, even the breeze itself,
for him, were unoccupied, their various engines off.
His life, he knew, was elsewhere.
A small set of disasters, each with his autograph.

There, he fell in love, that most
particular and quixotic of amnesias.
All change!
There would be powerful music before his grave.
They’d find his fingerprints on the sun.
The whole city dissolved in a glass of tea:
inspired, he began to write his greatest masterpiece.
By day, he wrote the woman who, at night,
wrote him, drafting and redrafting, over and over again,
his notions of what the new may be,
how the continents of sense could claim him wanderer,
where, in moments that formed like pointless tears,
he felt how unbearably acute
was the skin’s separation from its fruit,
and sundry other simple things that queued
the ordinary into its exquisite passing.
His life, in other words, returned.
Meanwhile, in the hometown of his fickleness,
his family waited.

He wrote of a person of great dignity and style
whose flaw was that they cared too much.
His hero sought to reform foolish laws,
but the authorities were quite against this.
The government was blinkered, composed
of greedy, narrow-minded people, who preferred
the sun-daze of their egos to making any just decisions;
besides, it seemed to them they faced
irreversible state decline and problems
too embedded and too serpentine to wrestle.
Their aim was to control the people, not to help them.
He wrote of the fervour, the vision, the gargantuan starlight
on the evening he first met the Countess.
The gullet of Fate. The loss of permanence, a fall
into insubstantial life, a seedy encounter with glamorous
ne’er-do-wells, the dandyish villain with a melancholy spirit
so sumptuous it seemed like a branch of atonement.
He wrote of the truth, of the acme, of the heights.
He wrote of the beauty of revelation, and of revolution, too.
He wrote of firebrands and of hearts that burned
everything they encountered
to purity, people too dangerous to have around, and too
mesmeric to send away, and love affairs so ludicrously uncontained
just peeling a tangerine or taking a shave
felt like strolling around on the surface of the avid sun,
when all seeing was blindness.
He wrote of loyalty, of honour, faith, of souls resigned
to staying, to holding out, to hanging on.
He wrote of the war, with particular
attention to the splendid uniforms,
the gilt and silk and shimmering plumes.
Yes, absolutely everyone was there. He forgot no one.

Where do you go
when there is no love for you anymore?
When love is over, ended,
and the hope of love is finished?
Where do you go
when you are not wanted?

Where do you go
when your body is not enough for you?
When the tears and the skin have run out,
and the mirrors no longer answer
the questions you put to them?
Where do you go
when there is no sleep in your flesh,
when your own thoughts reject you,
and you are not wanted?

Where do you go
when the will to move
begins to fail,
and the will to remain
is broken?
Where do you go
when the days come in like waves,
and the nights drive on like waves,
and you must either stay or leave:
where do you go
where do you turn
when there is nothing inside you
and destinations don’t need you,
and you are not wanted?

Mist and murmurs on the streets, and my memory mist
and in the mist. We had been dancing,
and when you pulled off your dress
and lay down I kissed your back and
tasted the salt on the nape of your neck and between
your shoulders and your breasts;
and we put on some music, and later it was autumn.

We have calmed down but in those first days
you flooded me and there was dazzle and ripple
whenever I moved and a mélange of reflections you
moved with me, or seemed to, and the seeming,
then, seemed everything; my bare feet, slow,
the sheets were like water and the floor
of my thoughts was like water too,
I rushed up into you
as a drowned field
rises into a downpour sky.

That went on for weeks — that stunning inundation
of lovers. I found the image after heavy rainfall,
and saw us in it, as I still do, standing
at the edge kissing, the valley half drowned,
fish swimming through the branches of submersed willows:
and I thought then, and felt it,
there was something of a frail apocalypse to this form of love,
how it swept away an entire world of us,
swallowed it or merely revealed it empty,
replaced it with this flooded surface of a meadow
something so still when our glance met and so
flowing when our bodies met
along that burnished seam where mirroring
the waters gave up wheeling gulls,
the gulls above our heads screaming
and the gulls beneath our feet
scattering silently into a silent sky…

Mist and murmurs on the streets, and the streets of murmurs
and of mist… In a circle of light beneath an anglepoise
a book lies open — is that the mermaid of Seferis? —
within a screen print. This is framed upon a wall
freshly painted eau-de-nil. It’s calm in that composed world,
flattened to strong yet subtle colours,
and with bold outlines possesses
the air of the classical. The music of allusion plays,
we switch off the light on that. Unzipped, in white,
she lifts the silk wings of her dress:
among fir trees, in a forest pool,
a heron radiates moonlight zeroes,
or lucid haloes of ripples, undulating the surface —
and our whole lit interior is far away
from the frozen rutted track as dusk comes on
shading the golden onion dome
of a provincial, whitewashed church in the Ukraine,
tractors and silage and plastic sacks
and a choking, coughing sound
as temperatures drop and the daylight
fades into the falling snow
and a car keeps failing to start.

We put on KRS-One, Black Cop and then
The Bridge is Over. In the mirror we had bought,
the one with the elaborate antique frame of cracking gilt
which, for some reason, I had convinced myself
was Venetian, you slipped off towards the bathroom
to piss the wine out while I
tethered my nerves to a cigarette, felt chilled,
and waved away the smoke with a languid hand.

And I wondered whether it was like this: as if
one of Odysseus’ discontented oarsmen had stopped rowing,
unplugged the wax from his ears,
and looked over to the bony atol and the silent figures there —
limbs and mouths moving —
but still heard nothing at all, and saw only
the captain, lashed to the mast, struggling in ecstacy,
staring at the island where the Sirens were singing.

Where do you go
when there is no place for you anymore?
When the rituals don’t fit you
and your friends drift away,
fall away, die away,
one by one
and you must continue
When the stores are all closed
and the streets are paved with stones,
and you have no one?
Where do you go
when there is nowhere left to go
and you are not wanted?

Later it was autumn. We opened another bottle of wine,
watched Nosferatu. I thought how I loved you.
How you make of me a sea journey.
How one of your kisses is a kind of hit —
so much so that once it worried me.
How I cannot fix a word of stars into the night sky
without referring to you, even though the light
in the end feels cool and impersonal —
which is strange, because with you
I feel lust and joy and a kind of feral bliss
which shakes me to my animal
and makes me cry,
and when I am not with you
I feel an anguish that is so unbearable
I cease and let another take up the weight —
someone I can never quite define,
someone who is either old and a good liar,
or utterly young, and simply a lie.

It was summer, and we lay in bed late at night.
The windows were open. I thought you were sleeping.
There was a sound from the street — the glassy rattle
and glint of a milk float and the draw on power.
I dozed off. I woke, put on my robe,
sat down, lit a cigarette, watched the smoke
form a spindly, erratic tower.
My bare foot was chopped off in reflection,
cropped in a corner of the mirror.
Perhaps I dozed again. I woke by the open window,
and I thought I heard the sound of someone passing.

acknowledgement | A version of Wanted first appeared in Masthead, issue 8. My thanks to the editor for supporting my work.

They speak of the ghost in the machine.
But I don’t see it like that.

I see you moving and breathing —
I don’t see any machinery at all.

They say, Many years have passed since you wrote those words.
But I don’t write them like that.
My words aren’t monuments, or moments, or stars.
My words are words: they’re not integers.

And the river may enter here, or here —
you may see it like that.
And the river may lead away through August willows —
you may let it go at that —
hold it, let it go —
you may be found like that.

They speak of mortality, and of a cold universe.
But I don’t feel it like that.

Sometimes, I can hear the voice of the world, calling.

And one evening, when the river joins two seasons together
in one fluid weld,
I’ll hear the voice of a child
crying from far away, over the common.

You have made out of the soft torn flesh of strawberries
a keel in the shape of a cry.
Each evening now, when I lay my head to your naked belly,
I can hear the voice of the world.

Somewhere, the willows bend like a bow,
firing the river green.

They speak of the ghost in the machine.
But I don’t see it like that.

They speak of the pupil dilating in the iris.
But I don’t see it like that.
I see a few strands of Cornish wheat,
and an airspace sky, with a few whisps of cirrus
and endlessness, the colour of your eyes.

They say, These words were forgotten many years ago.
But I don’t see it like that.
My words aren’t memories. The eyes of my words
don’t close — perhaps you’ll see it like that.
I don’t know: perhaps you’ll see it like that.

Words are the most patient things on earth.
And words are the hardest substance in the universe.
They will outlive themselves, fall, vanish, be lost,
and still, one day,
someone will happen upon them,
and hear again the beat of a living voice,
as strong and regular as a human heart,
or as the soft dipping of fast rowers’ oars.

You’re so strong when you’re naked,
you can lay the world aside with a smile
and your sleep is as serene as the quiet night,
and as wide, as copious, as unashamed.

They speak of the gods, the stars and the host.
But I don’t see it like that.
I see you sleeping, cool and marine,
meeting the night somewhere, far beyond me.

I don’t see it.

They speak of the gods, the stars and the host.
But I don’t see it like that.
They speak of the ghost in the machine.
But I don’t see you like that.

And when you cry, I see nothing mechanical at all —
or maybe only
a tiny, fragile machine
lost in a ghost.

Some evenings, when the moon pulls,
I can hear the world call.
I lay my head to your breast:
I hear a child’s voice, across the common, in the mist.

And the willows bend like a bow,
firing the river green.

I see you like that.

Kingdoms in a nutshell. Kingdoms in a glimpse.
Dripping greens of a fresh and odiferous nostalgia.
Country lanes that lead to the metallic rose
of sticklebacks in a day-long stream,
not to Opera, not to tails.
His decisions always ending in Oh, I don’t know.
His endless wars always end in endless failure,
and his pillowed brow is always troubled.
Somehow, though, he doesn’t really care – not really.
For he is the master of the get-out clause.
For he is the King of Bohemia.

Palaces in the heels of his shoes,
the antlers of noble deer gleam in the demesne
of the holes in the soles of those same shoes,
pace, pace, pace, get to tomorrow
if you only keep moving, no matter what the weather will do.
While they are sticklers for discipline,
he has a mind like an autumn cloud
the wind blows over the plains of his native country,
and clouds do not get caught on the pagodas of nettles,
or on mortgages or precedence or fame.
Nettles, nevertheless, sting, sting, sting.
But life’s lessons are simply not his thing.
For he is the lord of scuttle, duck and veer.
For he is the King of Bohemia.

Thistledown anchors and bows of spring snow,
who would put their trust in such trembling armadas?
While he can be bothered, yes, it’s true,
he conducts the orchestra of dawn,
one note, two notes, a few silver trills
on a spineless flute, whole cities fall
to a clatter of drum-sticks and a blaze of trombones,
and then he’s done.
Lysergic boats uneasy on a rainbow swell,
he keeps ghost cargoes in his eyes,
his hours are toy castles,
no sooner built than taken.
For he is notorious with no staying power.
For he is the King of Bohemia.

He is the one, has always been the one.
Cigarette butt jokes, and life in ashtray towns,
the skeleton of the street X rays in him,
he knows the contours of the skull and the grey curbstones,
head-down buffalo plodder through a blizzard regime,
what is wrong with them all, why won’t they kneel?
Can’t they recognise the rags of his legitimacy?
See his likeness in the portrait of life,
yet seemlier, more feckless, quicker to the draw,
ahead of the game, never to be tied back,
as loving magnets flipped turn aching poles apart
the cirrus horses of his blood
forever leaving the empty stables of his vagabond heart
the sound of the breeze for his last amour,
children he adored and abandoned,
abandoned and adored.
For he is the sovereign of all outcast whores.
For he is the King of Bohemia.

Leaving behind his forte, yet he bequeaths to his line
only the tenderest misfortune, the startling
gift of amnesia.
To get by forgetting, it’s the fate he chose,
a rule by illusion and by breaking laws.
He lives in self-exile, and can never return,
a deep sleeper but a shallow dreamer,
the dozing in the needles of half light hotels, the restless
flight before winter, and the broken-winged birds
watching the hedgerows thin, all nights alone.
The music of his wanderings pricks him with a bitter cold
to beauty and to the ceaseless taking of roads.
In envious circles, round and round he goes,
tramping the country of his own regret
and others’ disdain, his fine world recalled
only by a trail of the discarded shells
of cheap Egyptian pistachios.
Sometimes, he knows his only triumph as the freezing rain.
For he is the master of unsettled scores.
For he is the King of Bohemia.

Fill up the tank fill your pockets with sweets
All the miles you could want are waiting for you
Fill your body with girls pills buildings and smoke
the home that you left
the place you were young
it has all gone
You outgrew it to loneliness
a time you didn’t feel this way

First to the punch first over the line
the first time
you felt the ache of horizons
Take off your spikes and sit on the grass
some way off from the others
You have won
but you can’t catch the sunset
All the stars come out in you slowly
The night forms magically like frost
Tomorrow is inside you
and it hurts
Another tomorrow
A time you feel this way

And the summer is gigantic
with strange clouds whipped and drifted by the heat
An urgent rust of trains cattling through suburbs
among inheritor weeds
grasses which sway and fall still
when the train has passed
Boys in their blue overalls at the Kwik Fit garage
rolling fat tyres
shouldering exhausts
You start to drive
All you can feel and all you can see
You have to make room for summer
Skies pass over you
You witness these events you don’t understand
and nobody needs your testimony
It’s quiet
in a heart you abandoned
A time you don’t feel at all

Fill a suitcase with jewels her head with your smalltalk
sweet nothings when you still had something to say
Take what you can leave what you must
in the traffic hitting tailbacks
with your life flying headlong
to Lorca and hope
You’re like Satan a trackstar
a drugrunner a winner
But she is long gone
Fill your eyes with the sunrise
your memory with moons
You can’t outrun your own want
It is the place you must be
the message you’re sent
The place without hurt
Even loneliness ends

Drive into the darkness where the people have gone
Regret nothing it was only a life
There are more things to buy and more things to own
And maybe the night is beautiful
but it’s not yours
and it’s not enough
Did someone tell you
only losers love?
All the wandering in the world
won’t get you to her
First thing in the morning
you’ll rise and set out
There’s nothing for you here
except a little hope
But you won’t stay
It doesn’t matter
Tomorrow is immense
Why wait for today?

And if they take your heart away,
what will you do then?

Live on the edges
where the stars are still being born.

Or wander on metro trains for days,
buying water in bottles from convenience stores,
think this is life now.

Travel, and watch exotic insects
emerge from the mouths of exotic flowers.

Remain, where these filaments of love remain,
the love you gave,
the home they gave you in return,
although they did not mean to.

For a few instants longer.

Watch as, slowly, they take your heart away.