Archives for the month of: June, 2015

It’s a typical scene. I’m sitting in a café,
listening to an insincere English pop song. There’s nothing
the singer wouldn’t do. I’m also
thinking about you, and writing about you, as you
can see. Or you could if you ever
read my work. Sure: I know. Same old, same old.
I agree. Let’s just leave it, and
not go there.

The long imaginary
conversation I’ve had with you
over the years, it would be
much longer than Proust or Richardson,
more enigmatic than Lovelace or Albertine.
All these ghost epistles, the scandals, the duels,
deathbed confessions, revelations after one’s passing,
the grief, the violence, the endless rows and splits…
It’s a human thing, I guess —
laughing afterwards, the fine
membrane between tears,
drawn by the rip,
caught in the spiderweb irony.
We’re ships that crash in the night.
We’re ships, carrying our cargoes
of debris.
And the wreck only
puts things back in their place, really,
ready for the morning.

The song ends, the singer
stops pleading. Another song begins,
an insincere, American love song.
I wanted to tell you about
a film by Tsai Min Ling, the pointless
depth of the images, shot in Taiwan, the dusk
very humid, at least
by English standards,
and what the heat
seems to do with the light,
and with people as they
struggle to get through their lives,
are they all
drowned already, rolling
slowly back and forth
on the bed of a shallow

Instead, I leave the café, head off
into a Cambridge dusk,
and the birds are singing.
Are they sincere?
Do they believe what they say?
Yes, I think, it’s a human thing,
an issue for us, alone.
And, yes, it’s another
typical scene: the imponderable
look on your face when you realise
I wasn’t writing for you,
a kind of torn
leaving us with more things
to say, more things
to do.


You are here again. Here, not here.
There. Not here.
My genie of the dried-out leaves,
bark in bottles, spirit of the long
tail-end of summer,
grass parched in a baseball diamond,
spices in bottles, a bleached cool, alcohol.
And the sharp flat crack that breaks the bottles,
you are always here

Undress me. Take me beyond the mirrors,
out into the forest:
shoot me in the back of the head,
I want you to.
We all need a change sometimes,
we need to grow.
Take off that old Velvet Underground,
put on some music from Turkey, perhaps,
or maybe Kashmir —
stroke my long black hair
out of my eyes,
lying on a rug the colour of pomegranates
mixed with persimmons.
Shoot me in the side of my head,
blow my brains across the rug
and the wooden floorboards,
a grisly thistledown.
I know, I know: I ask so much.
I’m just too old, and my morals
have grown lax.
Indolence is my vocation now,
what can you say? But at the end,
lead me from the forest,
put me back in the mirrors,
dress me. That’s enough. Enough. I’ll do.

I’ve been writing my memoir.
That whole year, planes fell out of the sky
in a long series,
disaster was a monotony.
The call of the crowd was like the call of wolves.
You told me
I miss those days in Hell,
at least we had some security.
And the room was in a bottle,
and the bed was in a pill,
so I started my memoir
of the days we first met,
back in the seventies,
when you wore a pantsuit.

I dreamed of squatting on a veranda
of teak or mahogany,
smoking a cheroot, watching the eternal teem
of monsoon rain, not a bill to pay.
We still made love, desultorily,
although you complained
of the smell of my body, the soil
in my mouth and eyes
from the grave.
You propped me up in a corner of summer,
we kept talking of a change of scene.
The record turned, the needle
scored in its groove
after the best track and the far-off
fat fry of the static came the
bump bump bump, and if we didn’t move
we were too wasted,
or we simply weren’t there at all,
just like we aren’t here,
and were never and are always here,
waiting for the sharp flat crack
that breaks the mirrors,
and the trees, and the sky…
well, everything.

But the mermaids were wrong.
They didn’t understand
the nature of a change of subject.
The wolves were wrong, too —
and the saints, the robots and the prisoners.
Still, the mermaids, and the mermen,
looked beautiful as they sang and swam
across the bed of the lagoon,
the water very clear,
like water from beneath the desert,
and in the transparent coils
and eddies of the tides and currents,
their scales, of platinum or silver-chrome
shone to a distraction,
and their curling, abundant hair
lifted upwards in fluid clouds and swirls
as they turned their heads above the corals
caught the moonlight in wavering ripples
and the rays
refracted broke but didn’t break
and fanned and ebbed
and flowed aslant:
they were wrong, those mermaids and mermen,
when they thought:
If enough of us sing,
it will be important.

I lost god, and all the paths ran out
so there was only wilderness.
Passing my time at ground zero,
a dead foetus in a womb
waiting to be stillborn.

You have found your way back after what seems
an eternity: the road was crackling with frost,
at the pond in Duke Woods,
frogspawn swelling in glimmering ropes,
we stirred the water and began
the next day of our childhood,
long past wolves, but not yet
familiar with Cupid.
Unsure of what the stillness means,
hunched over her heaviness,
by the lavender gates at dusk
we see her, our neighbour:
she also waits.