Archives for the month of: March, 2014

By that cottage cut from the local slate
– as if an oath of stone
sworn to the stable and the clarified –
(a small beck drained off the hills,
inveigling its way by the drystone wall
undulant with cress and watermint),
he set up a kind of isolation
and photographed it. For a while, in that pause
before the rain began falling,
he sensed between them
something of love and its distances,
hurt and integral as the ruffled quiet
the blue stones lay in, the brook
moving round them,
cold and clear, forming
egg-shapes, broken or carved, licked ruins;
or something like the hills,
infinitely gentle, infinitely far, though he
knew if he stooped down
he could touch the near soil,
touch but never hold, and only be touched
and held, among the mercies of the world
mercilessly moving.

Then in the scooped quiet
of the cool of the afternoon,
below the escarpment,
another photographer’s residue,
basking in light: in
the intense quiet
he felt the landscape
grow stillness:
felt stone within the blue stone, as the air
informed by a squall prowling.

For some time
they drove on in silence
her age filled in
unutterably as the other words
flickering over the vacancy
of what he had to
and could never say, (working around,
around) – and only as a broken silence
did that purity of silence
settle once again, over them both
and the small slate town
they next arrived in, to leave next morning.


I wanted to wake in a strange room,
lie on my back in a bed I didn’t know,
to be unsure of the angles of the house,
of how morning light might move across the ceiling,
and so watch it for a while just to gain my

bearings. September. The hot, thin air, all used up,
all breathed before. Stillness, and sunlight
on the polished wooden floor; an hour, a quiet cabin,
shipping time; the voyage, it feels, just beginning,
fresh as ink on the word ‘Dear’…

Opening out. (As if in a letter…) On some days
your foot falls as if for the first time,
falls sure, once and forever,
and your heel resting on the ground
is like Noah’s heel first

touching on Ararat. Then the clock enters
in a red cape and cold diamond shoes
and revs the sore motor of your heart
with its skeletal hands;
and the plump rabbits and dapper moles
in red velvet waistcoats and golden trews

all flutter from the pages of the pretty book, and fall
to an earth of lumpen marl and rain
into a world of tractors, azimuths and lows:
then my kiss drags its sharp, cool anchor
down the nape of your neck until we are again

floating. Cloudless. Seventeen, a sky above you
so clear it’s like an order, like pure water
you want to pour it down your throat,
to mark it, here, with a notch
just under the sun,
to cut it with a sign as bright and as eternal

as loss. Clouded. With the baton of a rattle, two months old,
he lies on his back, a ranting little emperor, a shah,
limbs pumping and kicking on the Persian rug
in a universe all sun and all centre, all held
in warm, maternal arms of light, his milky

way: but down in the conquering army of his cells,
he is no Xerxes but a common footsoldier,
an unstable genius of the ranks
marching to other orders
under the mirror and the Christmas star

and the tiny, blue vulture of a fly
which crowns him with a buzzing diadem
for hours, at last to full-
stop suddenly in silence. There is no pause,
there is no place apart, no still zone

my hands don’t move through, reaching out, or where the air
doesn’t softly beat against my face, a sea
of needing you. And magician and puppeteer,
no matter how I dress the clock
as wizened monkey in jaunty jacket and scarlet fez,
as harlequin, diva, as tumbler or as acrobat

still he just keeps beating his quartz drum, and coming on
moronic and beautiful as a tide. Late
summer of autumn, now the clouds pack their holds
with seeds and fragrant rain.
I seem to wear out my shoes so easily,
and each breath is a crossroads, while all the light

goes on before me, like a crowd, whispering your name.
Late summer of this autumn,
the blackened tail of the rocket,
things seem raw, naked, peeled,
all snail with no shell,
a bird with only one, fluttering wing
rolling, blood-peppered, on the ground –
though under such endless, inescapable

skies. Autumn of autumn, Septembering, I haunt
my own house, my own thoughts,
and this distance opening between us
(a place where echoes, but no voices, are)
makes me frightened that I have strayed, at last, beyond
the limit and the promise of the first, most human word,

love. Late autumn of winter, these are days
of vagabondage, the melting anchors of desire.
Now my voice has become my own
grave, easy-going, painless, weightless, a cry
I never made, words I did not say to you,
and my heavy, fathoming speech is turned
to woodsmoke and cirrus, and catches on nothing, but only

drifts. Roadside, quayside, all in transit,
packed like ceramics in straw, electronics in foam,
sleep fills my body like dark, colonial anenomes,
and I’m posted off, airmail-fine and blue,
despatched like a telegram into the cool night

urgent with news for elsewhere. Staying
is no longer an option: the message I carry,
the meaning I bear
seems always to be moving away
from the rich, warm core of life –
thrown up, like a great marquee, for celebration –
departing this luminous festival
that is so only, and may be so only, because I am
(because we are…)

unneeded there. So I walk from the table,
my footsteps echoing on the polished, bourgeois floor
of this empty house I know too well,
wishing, perhaps, it was not

so, and that my greed were keen enough to consume
even my own oblivion.
But a flaw of air in glass,
a bubble in honey,
a temporal pocket in amber, somewhere
between a cramped berth and a coffin,

on a tattered sofa,
Septembered, my eyes open me
by the bay window, and the shadows of a palm.
My love, I have come so far,
so much loss has been given me,
I sometimes feel now that I’m back, down, close

to where I began. Which is
so far from home, though only
our lips’ kiss’s distance
away from you. And suddenly the clock
begins beating its drum again,
and time becomes real
as the endless,
quicksilver vampire

of a lined
face in the mirror. Darling, now autumn
and darkness sniff at the heels of our room.
When I look in your eyes, I can see I have wasted

so much of our lives. My love, believe me,
my only thought is to be with you now,
to commence the journey that will bring me to you:
to set out at once, move fast and,
if conditions are right,
make good time.

The very first of autumn lies imminent across the country,
mist here, bronze there;
sycamores and beeches gather in the cool, early mornings
unravelling seed;
cars move through the fogs like beetles
feeling their way through dark water;
long barrels of exhausts putter in the long jams.

Great decay is patient. ‘To talk of trees’
said Brecht, ‘is to pass over
so many crimes in silence’.
Winter’s white fire will burn on the year’s dry fuel.

I remember the snow peaking to a mausoleum drift;
power-cables came down, and the roads were blocked.
The city became one sepulchre.
My thawed boots left footprints of water on the wooden floor.
Chinese vases in large glass cases,
cold wombs of cold air,
slept crisply by the untouched balustrades.

Curators now, we keep our museum state,
our preserved calm.
From our dumbened, snowdome homes,
we watch snowploughs in another world
moving across the tv screen
towards outlying farms,
threshing in a freezing grain.
Like grubs we lie, incubating in protein,
feeding outwards from within the egg;
we weather the winter, putting on fat,
warmed by coal fires.
Smoked bees, we drowse,
our wings folded
to honeycomb devotions.

Captain, who knows the armoured scales,
the surfeiting allusion,
stay your hand over the city
and the Muses’ bower;
come in with us; emulate Lysander
who spared Athens for Euripides
and burned the Athenian ships to a lovely music.

Somewhere, now, someone is saying the word, ‘love’.
Perhaps a lover, or a father.
And the syllable is forming in their mouth
like rain forms over a city,
or a stone forms over time.
Somewhere, now, someone is saying this word, ‘love’.

They lay the word down like a fragile keel.
Eye it, like the clear, suspended tear in a spirit level.
The sound it makes, a river returns to,
drinking from a human hand.
Love is a word of navigators.
Love is a hot plumb,
adolescent, masonic, and metropolitan.
Love is the dirt we walk on.

Somewhere, now, someone is saying the word, ‘love’.
They’re saying it over and over –
like a bell inside a spire, it tells time
to go away,to come back again another day.
Or maybe they’re cutting love’s deep mark, violently, into the sky
for all the drifting clouds to see
and steer by.
Or they set it down, like a glass of red wine,
on a raft of bare floorboards,
in a large, empty room
where, on a second-hand rug
of scarlet cashmere, a sea,
their lover is waiting.

They’ve brought this word from so far away.
Have carried it, from outside of us, in.
They’ve crossed their whole lives, like deserts, to reach it.
Have found love, belonging to no one.
Have flipped through its lexicons.
Have revived love, moment to moment, with years between,
with one ragged kiss
struck like a spluttering, sulphurous match.
Like divers, they have retrieved love
from strange depths, more endless than mirrors,
have reached down for its ancient, maritime stench,
have blazed like tiny, panting gills
beached upon its giant, respiring littoral.

Love is a silent letter, preceding even ‘a’, chasing ‘z’…
Love is a Red, an insurrectionary, out in the streets,
shaking the whole state.
Agent provocateur, love changes orders.
And lovers become places of such great tenderness
they’ll take the rain itself under their wing,
and the violent storm will run to them, alone
among the scattering heels,
and take shelter.

Love personifies the night.
Love is the way you know
the falling snow will call your name once, forever, but no more.
Loves dissolves the same
world into another:
you notice sparrows tussling in pines for the first time,
gape at the shadows of clouds moving over the ground;
you try to concentrate, get your head clear,
but your mind is fuzzy and singing,
and bristles like a magnet,
bashed and stunned with the things it’s attracting,
unable to stop, not wanting to.

And lovers wait in their special way,
while all the world goes by,
in cafés and railway stations:
love itself is a form of assignation –
(but with what? When? With whom?)
Like a poem you may carry with you,
love is a garden among styrofoam cups
and the mocha zeros of coffee,
the porters and trolleys, luggage and beggars:
love is the catalyst and the hour.

Love puts together what was never broken.
So we may find the heart outside,
love waits beyond us, a wave, a direction.
Love is not an image,
but is to stand on both sides of a closed door:
in saying ‘I love you’
we use a metaphor.
And somewhere, now, someone is saying this word, ‘love’.

I have heard the sound of machines dreaming.
In the clock factory, they fit
cog to hammer, and wheel to wheel.
One day their little robot hands may slip
and change the nature of an hour forever,
and we may lose the habit of eternity.
Meanwhile, the night wears on,
and though the watchman is sleeping,
still, they are making good time.