Archives for posts with tag: from a.m. | 2003 | Salt Publishing

Le Livre de Poche, piecemeal man, tatter cake,
left where the wind leaves me.
Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with the wind for your shoes.
Text intégral, a ragbag man,
an album of bruised stamps,
a sore visa kissed by a xxxxxxx ink
the colours of blood in an arse.

Milestones. Distance leaves them, makes them.
And the Rome all roads lead to
has walked away in stone sandals;
Lot’s wife has melted down with her salt
into the rain that melts in the ground;
and the columns that glisten, the pillars that stayed
are only a road’s kind of afterthought
whose genius whispers, ‘goodbye’.

Now we’re Bedouin with the Bedouin days.
Carry your epitaph under your tongue,
your grave in your eyes. Every footstep’s a pupa.
Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with shoes of the wind.
Paris is a ship of smoke, drifting at anchor:
the poets line up, they’re here
for the duration — they have their papers —
their passports for Eternity.
Leave them, still queuing up their mountainside:
having butted your head against Paradise,
burn your shadow in the snow
wrapped in a second-hand coat, only a pocket of holes
to set out against the peasant cold
on a road which only has one direction —
away.

Drunk and unshaven in a shithole hotel,
on a broken handmirror, what will you see?
An alchemist among the damaged crucibles
of infant vowels, cracked ‘A’s, lopsided ‘O’s —
Omegas, like violet bolts, barring the way.
And you will see pure eyes. Childhood — like rain
when there are no clouds.
You’ll never get back there — now.
You’re washed up, marooned, in a glance
on an island where glass cannibals roam,
gnawing your gaze, your bones — the year’s idol.

A hash pipe is a phantom boat
docked to the world by cables of fire.
You book passage and are soon aboard
tossing on a little sea of your delirium.
Europe grows small with its priests and schools,
its courtyards and steeples sink away from you:
your keel drips with clouds melting
in the frosty reaches of the stratosphere
miles above the rooves of sleeping châteaux.
The pole star is dipped into the water
and slides below your heel as you sail on.

Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with soles of the wind.

Now you sleep between an ocean and a single tear.
Your boat needs no shores, not even sides:
your cargo spills to become the sea,
compass and rudder are useless here,
mute savages on island beaches watch you pass
towards terra incognita, and a space at last
beyond the reach of people and their love
where your vessel bears you to your own chapped lips
like cool fresh water you will never drink
or words called out in dreams you will never hear.

The sky has no clouds, above all blue, unmoored.
You float a paper boat
on a cold Northern pool,
dying leaves falling around you.
Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with the wind for your shoes.
Lima, Caracas, London, Port Said:
an atlas of journeys for you.
But the journey forgets its maker.
You wake, there’s only bald foam,
a trail of smoke, a scream of strange seabirds
diving from bleached cliffs;
there are only tusks and guns, schedules, agendas,
and a gargoyle of gangrene
peeping out from the bone.

Rimbaud, Rimbaud, shod by the wind.
You float a paper boat
on a black Northern pool,
and your mother is calling,
she is stubborn with home.
Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with poems in your pocket,
somewhere in Gaul,
trudging back across plough earth,
dreaming of landfall and Abyssinia.

 

 


from a.m. | Michael Ayres | Salt Publishing, 2003

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Estoy cribando mis carinõs más puros
I am sifting my purest caresses
— César Vallejo

They hurt you. For a long time,
I wanted to hurt them.
But it’s too late for that now.
The years and my neighbours’ music
have broken my concentration.

I can’t sleep and I think of you.
The poem wasn’t made for hurt.
Why do we speak to the dead?
Speak from them, to them?

I had to leave your side,
but I’ll never leave the side of this poem.
It wasn’t made for hurt.
It wasn’t made for them.
It was made for you,
and I have sifted my purest caresses,
ones that none of their words could ever feel.

I think of you, and I can’t sleep.
They hurt you, and for a long time
I wanted to hurt them.
But it’s too late for that now.
It’s too late, and I know
if I never leave the side of this poem
I must make it for them,
and they will hurt you again.

I’ve sifted my purest caresses,
I’ll never leave the side of this poem.
I speak to you, but it’s too late for that now,
and the years and my neighbours’ music
break my concentration.

 

 


from a.m. | Michael Ayres | Salt Publishing, 2003

On one of your sundials
there is an inscription:
Sine Umbra Nihil —
without shadow nothing —

but in summer you float
in cream and azure
a fête without fear
a silken Montgolfier

in sashes and medals
from the court of the Sun King
a liner of satin
among the flies of the meadows

lazing on hot air
breasting the billows
with warm rain on dry grass
stirring the asphodels

under green lightning
of cloudbursts at evening
which drum the striped awnings
of your rigged marquees

guyed between heavens
and their river’s reflections
top down and base up
and with a river’s illusion

of perpetual motion
worlds carried on still backs
cirrus and alto, moonlit
sticklebacks and minnows

zigzag and cutback
through schools in Tranquillity
in Tears and in Dreams
in the wake of your pleasure

steamer of nimbus
and the light-hearted Brut
an artillery of corks
green barrels and grapeshot

and dapper bombardiers
whose aim is no higher
than their own desires,
the premier crew

in their private Azores
emptying vessels
just off the Bermudas
a port without storms

but your landfall escapes me
your palms’ secret treaties
your gardens with walls
formal mazes and fountains

your magician entrances
an audience of mirrors
your Age d’Or
and private theatricals

your powder compacts
a state of blusher and glances
your soft-tops and Spas
your l’Etat — c’est moi

but I have seen you
when you were as lonely
as the first star
of an evening sky

and I’ve waited for you
at the door of summer
peering into the darkness
like a frazzled Noah

on the deck of the Ark
feels the dove near
across the floodwater
loading her bill

with all that’s to bear
in a fresh shoot of olive
frail leaves of silver
with a weight of vast anchors:

but your Fate is lightness,
and stillness, and brightness,
imprisoned in flowers
and pentameters

far from the war
safe from all harm
in the arms of your lover
dozing to the blackest, hip-hop lullaby

how slowly you rise
an airbubble in honey
like the full moon over Troy
like Paris and Helen

who bend to embrace
like mutual suns
burning all shadows
into the one

sighing eclipse…

*     *     *

But there is a place
where there are nothing but shadows
the shades of the dead
gather in crowds

and there is a little grey dust
raised by their sandals
and a torpid breeze
that circles the Underworld

Among them are Ulysses
Menelaus and Hector
and many proud heroes
whose fame burned the skies

but the one that I love
stands apart and alone
his eyes cast down
to the earth’s tenderness

his greatness was loss
to fall, to be no one —
and he is Achilles,
Humility’s footman

You cover my mouth with your eyes.
I can’t talk about cherries or redcurrants —
I don’t have the right.
I can’t talk at all, there’s nothing to speak of.
Only I’ll cover your mouth,
there won’t be anyone left, me, you,
or the one we made between us,
the one who still believes enough in love
to keep coming back, thinking it’s like home.

Silence boils in my throat like the word ‘friend’
or even ‘touch’.
Cartilage, breast, thorax,
they’re not mine to speak of,
it’s not my place,
only when the steam has drifted away
they’re more revealed, more naked than ever,
sobbing — really — as if someone could hear them.

Thorax, cartilage, breast,
I’m going to put a cloth over them
the way you’d hood a bird of prey,
the way you kissed me,
and I called you my friend.

Le Livre de Poche, piecemeal man, tatter cake,
left where the wind leaves me.
Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with the wind for your shoes.
Text intégral, a ragbag man,
an album of bruised stamps,
a sore visa kissed by a xxxxxxx ink
the colours of blood in an arse.

Milestones. Distance leaves them, makes them.
And the Rome all roads lead to
has walked away in stone sandals;
Lot’s wife has melted down with her salt
into the rain that melts in the ground;
and the columns that glisten, the pillars that stayed
are only a road’s kind of afterthought
whose genius whispers, ‘goodbye’.

Now we’re Bedouin with the Bedouin days.
Carry your epitaph under your tongue,
your grave in your eyes. Every footstep’s a pupa.
Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with shoes of the wind.
Paris is a ship of smoke, drifting at anchor:
the poets line up, they’re here
for the duration — they have their papers —
their passports for Eternity.
Leave them, still queuing up their mountainside:
having butted your head against Paradise,
burn your shadow in the snow
wrapped in a second-hand coat, only a pocket of holes
to set out against the peasant cold
on a road which only has one direction —
away.

Drunk and unshaven in a shithole hotel,
on a broken handmirror, what will you see?
An alchemist among the damaged crucibles
of infant vowels, cracked ‘A’s, lopsided ‘O’s —
Omegas, like violet bolts, barring the way.
And you will see pure eyes. Childhood — like rain
when there are no clouds.
You’ll never get back there — now.
You’re washed up, marooned, in a glance
on an island where glass cannibals roam,
gnawing your gaze, your bones — the year’s idol.

A hash pipe is a phantom boat
docked to the world by cables of fire.
You book passage and are soon aboard
tossing on a little sea of your delirium.
Europe grows small with its priests and schools,
its courtyards and steeples sink away from you:
your keel drips with clouds melting
in the frosty reaches of the stratosphere
miles above the rooves of sleeping châteaux.
The pole star is dipped into the water
and slides below your heel as you sail on.

Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with soles of the wind.

Now you sleep between an ocean and a single tear.
Your boat needs no shores, not even sides:
your cargo spills to become the sea,
compass and rudder are useless here,
mute savages on island beaches watch you pass
towards terra incognita, and a space at last
beyond the reach of people and their love
where your vessel bears you to your own chapped lips
like cool fresh water you will never drink
or words called out in dreams you will never hear.

The sky has no clouds, above all blue, unmoored.
You float a paper boat
on a cold Northern pool,
dying leaves falling around you.
Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with the wind for your shoes.
Lima, Caracas, London, Port Said:
an atlas of journeys for you.
But the journey forgets its maker.
You wake, there’s only bald foam,
a trail of smoke, a scream of strange seabirds
diving from bleached cliffs;
there are only tusks and guns, schedules, agendas,
and a gargoyle of gangrene
peeping out from the bone.

Rimbaud, Rimbaud, shod by the wind.
You float a paper boat
on a black Northern pool,
and your mother is calling,
she is stubborn with home.
Rimbaud, Rimbaud, with poems in your pocket,
somewhere in Gaul,
trudging back across plough earth,
dreaming of landfall and Abyssinia.

for Lisa

If autumn has a place to run to, then buds can cage themselves
(fire cage or haze cage) and the story
may sun itself in its new chapter, beginning
‘Bono called The Psalms “the first blues”‘
or ‘The loneliness of circles’…

And if autumn has a place to run to,
then buds can cage themselves
(wet cage or light cage) and the full stops
slip into ellipses, a whole year balanced on the tip of one’s tongue
like an order for salt, or like a child’s definitive ‘Now —
now I’m asleep’…

There’s a Canadian town called Forget, an imagined town
called Remember. October, three days unlit,
a woodburning stove,
spines turned to cream or to glass or to Plato,
and eyes turning to eyes — whose, in the end, were they?

There’s a Canadian town called Forget, an imagined town
called November. A shower like shredded pearl drifting
in from the sea, white sand like atomised pearl being blown inland:
somewhere, you think, the secret of moments is being gathered,
but there is still time — time to light the stove,
time to rake out the ashes, time to put down the phone,
time to close the Gadamer — there is still time
to find this.

Outside, in the violet darkness, inside a firelit room,
February, cashmere and marram, we still have time
to lose this. The fir trees which block the way,
as in a fairy story, are strung with frost,
and the forest at evening seems to deepen and retreat
further into itself, and to slow
like a human heart before sleeping.

The sweet, hermeneutical path opens before us.
When I woke, there was jasmine in a glass bowl — December.
I thought: we can trace a fine, bright orbit
right around this world’s night, complete a whole circuit
with just a little evening and a little morning.

The sweet, hermeneutical circle opened before us.
Elsewhere, the secret of November — the drifting layers
of atomised and shredded pearl —
the mist, the wind, the blurred shoreline —
was accumulating like a silent dune,
but we still have space enough, we thought,
somehow to walk around it: remember,
we were very close.

The bitter, hermeneutical path closed before us.
At the forest’s core — the fir trees at the edge
hazy and glittering in the frozen air —
was what we searched for, and it was
very close. And then the bitter, the sweet,
the bittersweet hermeneutical path is once again
open in us. Poems in the hands of lovers,
lovers in the hands of poems —
a kiss crackles to the ground in a discarded novella,
melts down to details of knuckles and caffeine,
plans for taxis, nightclubs and Techno:
someone is speaking through a half-lit doorway, they’re saying
‘I believe in you’, or ‘Let’s keep in touch’.

“Do firemen die?”, asks Tatka.
Clouds in a clear sky, thoughts in mind —
there’s an epic of moments,
an old woman in a pink bathing cap,
paused with her feet in the foam, gazing out to sea —
and suddenly distance, like meeting, is everywhere.
The wind’s unwrapping summer in aphids and pollen,
and shadows with their own itinerary
are coming and going like strange commuters
where we fan ourselves, and stretch out,
splayed, vivid and grave
like blackbirds gaping in the dust.
Who can remember the rain?

Sometimes ‘in’ is the most beautiful word —
but it’s always a stranger.
In your eyes, in your heart, in rhyme, in the indigo darkness:
in love, it’s always the most beautiful word —
and then we meet the stranger — as if for the first time.

We are not students in Prague, students in Marburg:
we don’t fight duels in Vienna or Heidelberg,
or propose with a suicide note tucked in our pocket
and wait for an answer on a bench by the church
while scholars of frost annotate every leaf in the city
and research the Iliad of the whole cold world
marking with sparkling op cit.s and ibid.s
waters beyond Achilles, Priam or Patrocles;
we don’t hang on a smoky ‘Niet’ or a ‘Da’:
we breathe lexicons among kilos and kettle steam,
trucks stalled in traffic playing their dirty flutes,
while seeds of Ring-a-ring-a-rosy or Little Bo Peep
common as poppies — sow themselves in the verges
of a luminous treatise on Hermes Trimegistus.

The book lies open — it’s First Love by Turgenev.
The students have gone — the students of Cambridge,
the students of Petersburg, and of the Sorbonne.
It’s the city of work in the long vacation.
The book lies open — it’s First Love by Turgenev —
and sunlight planes the parted leaves
Meaning, a tortoiseshell with widespread wings, dozes in.
But the students have gone — the students of Freiburg,
the students of Berkeley, of Oxford and Princeton,
and we walk the long way home,
smelling August in the coming storm,
making a corner of this world ‘here’ or ‘electric’,
or building a frontier, footstep town
called Fate, Texas, or Bliss, Colorado.

And firemen die. They lay down, and they burn,
and they die. And books die —
they live, they burn, and they die.
It’s spring — two times.
You can hear the fresh teacher:
the creamy wet buds on a pear tree —
no, Tatka, pear tree — P-E-A-R — not pair,
P-A-I-R — struggling to make the lesson work,
cutting a path to the heart of the matter…
Atoms?… Einstein?… Autumn?… Electrons?… Plums?…

The July night is incredibly wide.
No one’s holding up the stars — they’re free to go,
drifting beyond all our signs, beyond our houses
of Libra, Leo or Sagittarius —
and pair themselves to nothing.
This book’s in cinders. There’s thunder — cumulo
nimbus cumulo nimbus cumulo nimbus — the big
top of the storm’s collapsing over our heads,
and lightning, the tightrope walker’s dream, splits
open the dark sky. The lovers don’t care
for the glass slippers or the chandeliers —
just beyond their kiss
a whole world is falling.

The tent was pitched by the side of the sea
and was strung with small lights.
The thin canvas walls billowed in the breeze:
they made the inside and the outside,
and he was outside, on the beach, but heading in.
His body flowed with Yakuza tattoos,
and with the single, frail thread of his gaze
he constantly repaired himself with shadows.

You are the first step I take,
and, in the necklace of footsteps,
where the first is run upon the last,
you are still where I come to.
You wear my walking like a string of pearls,
my journeys on your breast and on your throat
where the air rises and falls
and you still sometimes form my name in two syllables.

Outside the tent, the wind and stars
roam wild across the irredeemable sky —
as if we could say, ‘I know what I don’t know’
or, ‘The circle has no centre or perimeter’.
I’ve left behind countries, lovers, poems,
times and spaces, and they drift
like wind-blown sand across my gaze.
I’ve put down the Keats, and closed the Gadamer:
I can’t say what’s beautiful or true —
I’m not a student in Magdalene or Christ’s,
in Buenos Aires, Lima or Calcutta,
I don’t study genetics, linguistics or Heidegger
in Siena or Adelaide or Toronto — I only know
if I had to choose between nothing or loss,
I would choose loss — I would choose you.

Spaces, times, poems, lovers and countries
leave us behind, and we drift across their gaze
like wind-blown dunes. Inside the tent,
the stars are in cages: one is Arcturus; one, Polaris; one, Orion.
And the night sky smells of sawdust or motor oil
as if the constellations were in a circus or a zoo.

A path leads up to the kindergarten.
The fresh teacher combs back her tumbling hair.
Springwinter days, translucence of meltwater, powderburn clouds:
springsummer days, the world set at nought,
and Tatka hangs between the stars and the plums,
and the cagy buds of pearblossom
wait to catch the sun unawares.
Pine trees are spicy, resinous, new
and sew the air with oxygen, chlorophyll, CO2.
All the fish are nicking off school…

Infinite, a word of eight letters, why would I write you?
The July night is full of firemen, Saturn and integers.
Just a fraction beyond the whole known world
our kiss is falling, like a moist, light-heavy shooting star,
over someone else’s shoulder,
streaking the sky with sex and chances
dropping over the horizon into virgin tundra.

As countries, lovers, poems, spaces and times,
we’re left behind, to drift across another gaze,
or across another blindness, like wind-blown spray.
The trees outside my room grow Vermont, Nagoya, tangerine:
there’s a flutter and buffet of pigeon wings,
a braille of sparks on burning paper — Homer.
Almost like a child, loss sticks in verbs like stamps —
be seeing you, staying put, holding on, or missing you —
but there’s no album for us:
and if autumn has a place to run to,
we’ll run to it now.

Finite, a word of six letters, where do you end?
If we were students in Kiev, students in Paris,
a cardiac heat would beat in the heart of the city
with lemon and asphalt bloods, scorched and pastel:
Fahrenheit 451° would be a frontier town and,
on a café table, asthmatic words
would struggle to breathe, and Tatka cry
for the little azure fishbone of the sky
caught in her throat — for one tiny azure phrase
that cannot make her live and will not let her die.

Plumbs — no, Tatka, not plums P-L-U-M-,
but plumbs, P-L-U-M-B plumbs…
Tatka, we were always legendary, just kodak and Delphi —
we were liontamers, real braggadocios,
all teenage sugar, strawberries and babes.
We promise autumn a winter, a January —
words in the mouths of lovers,
lovers in the mouths of words —
we make August a vow
to realise the spring — and if the poem
has a place to run to,
may it run there, now.

Tatka, a word of five letters, where must we end?
It’s just here — just this — just human — just you.
And if the poem has a place to run,
it’s just the fragment of a brilliant Japanese film I once saw
when a character says:
we must maintain the circus
or else Jinta won’t have a place to come back to.

Estoy cribando mis carinõs más puros
I am sifting my purest caresses
— César Vallejo

They hurt you. For a long time,
I wanted to hurt them.
But it’s too late for that now.
The years and my neighbours’ music
have broken my concentration.

I can’t sleep and I think of you.
The poem wasn’t made for hurt.
Why do we speak to the dead?
Speak from them, to them?

I had to leave your side,
but I’ll never leave the side of this poem.
It wasn’t made for hurt.
It wasn’t made for them.
It was made for you,
and I have sifted my purest caresses,
ones that none of their words could ever feel.

I think of you, and I can’t sleep.
They hurt you, and for a long time
I wanted to hurt them.
But it’s too late for that now.
It’s too late, and I know
if I never leave the side of this poem
I must make it for them,
and they will hurt you again.

I’ve sifted my purest caresses,
I’ll never leave the side of this poem.
I speak to you, but it’s too late for that now,
and the years and my neighbours’ music
break my concentration.

My little Alphabet
hasn’t got to Z yet

My little Buffalo
went to a rodeo

My little Chrysalis
is partly that and partly this

but my little Dodo
doesn’t know the way to go

to reach my little Egypt
whose pointed pyramids have slipped

into my little Filofax
(with dates of silk and names of flax) —

+++++and my little Alphabet
+++++hasn’t got to Z yet

My little Gizmo
is even fast in slo-mo

while my little Hong Kong
sung and sung for so long

My little India
likes to drink Pink Gin, dear

My little Jasmine tree
has jasmine roots and jasmine leaves

My little Kilowatt
is sometimes cool and sometimes hot

My little Lazybones
spends too long on telephones

while my little Monotone
goes on and on and on and on

+++++and still my little Alphabet
+++++hasn’t got to Z yet

My little Neptune
has fifteen very pretty moons

while my little Oddity
just won’t fit with you or me

My little Pumpkin
is not a country bumpkin!

My little Question
won’t answer to suggestion

though my little Robot
always knows what’s what is what

+++++but still my little Alphabet
+++++hasn’t got to Z yet!

My little Serpentine
weeps endless tears of chilled white wine

because my little Tokyo
hasn’t got a yen to show

to my little Uruguay
who turns away, and quietly sighs

My little Viva!
lifts up the receiver

as my little Wallaby
listens to a lullaby

for my little X-ray
who won’t let flesh get in his way

But my little Yahoo!
always makes his welcome known to you

in my little Zanzibar
(so full of moons and full of stars) —

+++++and now that we’re in Zanzibar
+++++where all the Zs are in their beds

+++++it’s time to sleep and to forget
+++++my little Alphabet…

Since you’ve gone, I’ve fallen so quiet…
Days, I walk out onto Jesus Green, where the dawning cold
makes a slowing world slur, growing numb, and speechless…
Nights, I write of senseless things.
I speak to senseless things…

On Jesus Green, the dogs are playing
and there’s light on their backs
which runs as they run.
The ground is one flowing, dazzling wave of frost.
Somewhere a girder dully shebangs into another; the sound
reverbs across the open spaces of the common
and fades into the emptiness
which waits, like a gullet, under all sky.

We’re still building: the day goes on and on
into its air, and is shored up
with immaculate details…
A chainsaw grunts and whines in the distance:
I can see the puff of dirty beige smoke as it starts,
and the men around it in their orange dungarees
and dark-blue donkey jackets
by the rusting Council truck
parked on its spellstruck, parallel tracks on the turf…

A Weimeramer bitch with clay blue eyes
lopes, whips and bounces in vapour;
other dogs run, sunshine fluent on their gleaming spines;
the sawdust jets from the crackling tree
as it’s cut to the root;
smoke rises from the battered brazier, moving straight up…
Mist burns on the river…

It’s a Dutch scene: and the still, calm light of the North
bears down on it all
in its cool amplitude —
but not one part of this light
will ever touch you again;
it falls on dogs, on grass, trees, on stones, and posts —
but it won’t touch the side of your raised face
or make you gently flinch with half-closed eyes.

How intimate Babel is.
How thick with the material that comes to hand.
Its foundations in a dog-eared Genesis
in a freezing Sunday School shed
where a boot’s crimped piece of sleet is melting on the dirty floor
to the hiss of a stove, a demon grin of three pink flames.
In the hushed class, snail-like mucous is glistening
and coughs ricochet into the rafters (timber hairy like coconuts):
Eden smells of paraffin, musty leather and wet wool…

How carefully we build: day in, day out.
Nursery books: Potter and Grimm.
A tower of stacked, wooden alphabet blocks
with their A is for Apple
and Z is for Zebra,
a vertical word raised from the crawling floor
of the infant builder, a toddler in pale blue dungarees,
suddenly tumbling here, spilling out in a chunky wave at my feet,
on the hard cold ground of Jesus Green…

And when Babel fell, what did it leave?
A cloud of mortar, and the word for ‘tower’ in Iraq.
A plastic tortoiseshell haircomb on a scuffed pine dresser…
A wedding ring we couldn’t pull from your finger;
slippers and shoes — Singapore high heels — shoes, and shoes…
Whippets and dobermans, alsatians and springers,
with their moist, sirloin tongues lolling out,
running wild on the frosty grass.
And a scent of burning plane trees…

I once said: “Every writer must rebuild Babel”,
and was proud of that little aperçu
standing in my dark-blue, second-hand suit,
a young Mandelstam, a young Master.
I didn’t realise Babel was real.
I didn’t realise it was all for real.
How it would take time to fall, and would take you.
Or how I’d stand on the platform,
waiting to come home,
walking on the air of shock, all my world
suddenly lighter than air…
Caress like a shadow…

Caress like a shadow…
Blond hair under a maroon schoolboy cap:
grey hair at the temples, the head bare.
A raincoat of black gaberdine;
a second-hand jacket of mocha-brown suede…
Light the blue touchpaper; and stand well back…
And suddenly thirty-two Guys have burned
through our Novembers…

Now I’m back down where the towers began
in roots of alphabet,
and your voice speaking, saying
‘A is for Apple,
B is for Bear’…

And somewhere, childhood is running in Size 3 shoes
across a sky-wide field
ploughed and frozen
and grey as pumice
and scratched by crows.

Nothing is so white as these mornings.

October. We drank up the summer through a little straw…
Now it’s dry… At noon,
the season’s tanned like a navvie,
and its skin is slaked with the dust
of getting this far.
You’ve worked hard, but you’ve weakened…
And where to now, that you’ve come so far?…

I want to bring you the rain.

Through the chicken-wire fence and the evergreens
is the swimming pool where all summer I swam with my lover,
closed, and drained, the concrete floor
filling with dry leaves and seeds from the sycamores
like a mind with memories.

For so long, I thought
none of this has anything to do with me —
the frost melting in the sun, sparrows
bubbling in the gutters in spring,
the soft reconnaissance of shadows
fanning out across a clearing in the afternoon:
I thought I could hold on to the hard, clear edge of this sky
in a permanent meridian,
as I could hold on to you,
with a few chosen words, and never let go…

But nothing is so white as these mornings.
Apostles, Stray Dog — wind, wheat and surge;
whirligig seeds where I crawled:
a few chosen words stirring faintly in the stillness;
the stillness drifts… Windmills… Heavens… Dunes…

Nothing is so white as these mornings.
Nothing is so complete. And yet… Cependant… Wait…
Windmills… Heavens… Dunes…
The Works of Shakespeare. Ivanov’s Tower. Symbolists. Imagists:
and yet… mais… cependant… wait…

Nothing is so white as these mornings.
Nothing is so still.
I can feel the nomad years on the move,
taking us with them.
Passing time is a clearing mist.
The sun rising. Then the moon rising.

Now we’re Bedouin with the Bedouin days,
going after them, in their footsteps.
We crowd into the dusk, they have gone.
The night — the night is Egyptian:
it gets stranger and stranger
as we go deeper in
where words give out
and it just howls with stars…

Joists — winches — hammers — nails;
carpenters and arc-light: ropes and chains.
Tackle — gear — stuff: Zeug, Schuzeug.
Acetylene and grout. Waters and shadows.
Hammering. Filing. Planes, shavings. Hammering.
Planks — scaffolding — jigsaws — felt. Hammering.
Electricians, site managers. Pipes. Hammering.
Tacks: cables: plaster: clay. Hammering. Dovetails.

I’m late! I’m late! Oh my tail and whiskers!
I’m late! Late! Late!
Chrysler or Empire State, I don’t mind.
Pacific Ocean blue, dung beetle brown, I don’t mind.

Titanium or alabaster, tungsten or Cambridge White:
I don’t mind, I don’t mind, I don’t mind.
Flare stack or cracking plant, I don’t mind.
Acrylic or gold leaf, egg white or hand wove paper, I don’t mind.

Flatiron, leaning Tower, Eifel or butterfly,
I don’t mind, I don’t mind, I don’t mind.
I write a tower upon the plain
you don’t mind, you don’t mind.

I write a tower upon the plain,
I mind, I don’t mind.
Around the tower is emptiness,
the call of space, the wind and clouds —
you don’t mind, you don’t mind.
I mind, I write, anything, I don’t mind.

Poor little meaning, poor little tower,
anything, space, the wind and clouds, I mind
you don’t mind. I am such
a little man, the emptiness is wheatbelt, Iowa, Ukraine,
the emptiness of the plain, I write
and the words go standing with just a little shadow:
the clouds go over it, and the wind blows through it,
standing isolated upon the plain,
that poor, physical, conspicuous little thing
with the emptiness full of skies around it,
wheatbelt, Iowa, Ukraine —
you don’t mind, you don’t mind, you don’t mind.

Little fields of Iowa, little Kiev, little Jesus Green,
frost on open spaces, a toy Ukraine,
I write what I mean to be,
trouble whirling through the stillness,
a column of dust and a yapping dog,
I write what I mean to be:
the word is full of skies,
and the skies are empty.

Nothing is so white as these mornings.

Now I want to make poems
you can scrape your knuckles on.
I want to make words that are rough, hard,
splintered, cruel and palpable
as the edges of old tea-chests,
or proud as a ragged seam of welding solder —
make them tough, and industrial, out of British Steel,
to use a heavy language of zinc and lead
around a core the whistle of a reed
or a stonechat calling up on Urra Moor…

I want to make poems cast like cold prows
to dip into time’s wave
in our human forever.
I’ll make them 13 Cleveland, close to home,
make them household;
I’ll roll their words in flour,
wrap them in breathing dough;
make them cogent, and as simple
as an almond resting in the silo of its shell…
I want survivors’ poems…

Chrysler or Empire State, a toy rattle, a doe-ray-me:
far beyond the coldness of a Christmas candle,
far into the dark forest of Christmas trees,
I’ll make poems of bullrushes, green cradles
drifting on a voice of waters,
as intimate and internal
as the small
boat of a womb;
and as you wrapped me,
I want to wrap you in my words,
throw their coarse coat upon your shoulders,
wrap you against the whiteness of these mornings,
and the baby, translucent syllables of ice
which seem to say only one word, now — ‘were’.

Nothing is so white as these mornings.
Nothing is so calm.

How calm.
In the stillness, I can feel
language falling
quieter than snowflakes.

And there is a midnight
in love with this stark, sheer blue
which noons the river
and the frost-struck rushes.

Who were you?
Quieter than a midnight snow
a Babel is falling,
and I can sense something great in the air
settling, going down on its side.

The fall seems constant, with a soft roar,
and only an Usher or a Russian might notice it.
It was the term for ‘water’ in Japanese —
the word for ‘telecommunications’ in Urdu —
and the Blue Guides and Ladybird books,
Kierkegaard and the Koran,
crushing and grinding, the whole thing
toppling towards a ground
as strange as Rumpelstiltskin’s eyelashes
or scented like a strand
of Rapunzel’s auric, waterfallen hair.

Once upon a time,
there was a din of shovels barking on the road;
a smell of hot bitumen, mixed with appleblossom.
A was for April; B
for bliss, baroque, Bermuda, before;
C was for cat, cathedral, Captain Scarlet, crumble;
D was for — December, for —  dragonfly, for — for
day — for day. And for day. And day — for another day…
for just one more day…

Once upon a time, in a suit of blue,
un petit maitre, so carefully choosing letters,
I suddenly sensed you close to me, as near
as one voice is to another.

You confused me, and I tried to make
sense of your presence.
I was on Midsummer Common, daydreaming.
I was drifting. I was thinking:
as the highest building casts the longest shadow,
so the highest poem casts the longest silence.

I was naive — of course. I was culpable.
I didn’t know that Language was mortal.
On the iron-and-wooden footbridge across the river,
in my mind, I was vocal, conversant.

To me, the world must come into my words
as into its proper place and structure —
and I was fluent, colossal, a literary giant,
I wore seven-league boots and my path was clear,
the rest was echoes, leftovers; it was hazy, negligible.

Even in the morning, now, it’s warm.
The sun, 80°: azure, cirrus, altocirrus.
You sleepwalk through decades in a fairytale place,
from the emperor of childhood to constructing sonic citadels,
until life rebels against you, and all your works.
Your skin, freckled and honeyed in the sun,
holds you together like a fragile binding, and feels
somehow unreal against your lover’s skin.
And you walk in the shade of chestnuts and limes:
from town, the dainty matins-and-vespers chapel bells
sprinkle slightly unsynchronized noons
across the streets and rooves…

A city made of sound will fade away,
but I never noticed that for years.
I was so busy building, building:
I was making new vocabularies.
I didn’t look up from my books.
Occasionally I stumbled, but I held the path:
and the path ahead seemed always as clear
as my priorities.
I followed the path like a kind of music…
You were daydreaming on Midsummer Common.
You sleepwalk through decades, instants, years.
Then you suddenly wake, and a handful of memory’s
startling, bittersweet yeast leavens the moment —
and you find yourself mixing spirits with cement,
appleblossom with bitumen, now with then,
in the ruins of Babel, untranslatable
among a scent of woodsmoke, of burning planes…

My love, I’m down at the root of my days,
stunned, trying to make sense of sense…
There’s the livid hoot of a moorhen;
a tinsel whine from a walkman;
the sea-bass rumble of ordinary traffic
from across the Green…
I’m trying to plait sense with sense
in this, our dry Serenissima of learning,
which is too ironic to die
or too polite to mention it…
I’m down, kicking through the leaves
of these cultured, empty plains —
the perfect, wide place to see all towers fallen…

I want to say your name to the morning.

Because the sun is so white in these mornings.

Because the river this morning hung between ice and mist.

Because you were the first word between two silences.

Because we hang between the ice and mist.

Because of the desolation,
I want to say your name to the morning.

Because everyone must be forgotten.

On one of your sundials
there is an inscription:
Sine Umbra Nihil —
without shadow nothing —

but in summer you float
in cream and azure
a fête without fear
a silken Montgolfier

in sashes and medals
from the court of the Sun King
a liner of satin
among the flies of the meadows

lazing on hot air
breasting the billows
with warm rain on dry grass
stirring the asphodels

under green lightning
of cloudbursts at evening
which drum the striped awnings
of your rigged marquees

guyed between heavens
and their river’s reflections
top down and base up
and with a river’s illusion

of perpetual motion
worlds carried on still backs
cirrus and alto, moonlit
sticklebacks and minnows

zigzag and cutback
through schools in Tranquillity
in Tears and in Dreams
in the wake of your pleasure

steamer of nimbus
and the light-hearted Brut
an artillery of corks
green barrels and grapeshot

and dapper bombardiers
whose aim is no higher
than their own desires,
the premier crew

in their private Azores
emptying vessels
just off the Bermudas
a port without storms

but your landfall escapes me
your palms’ secret treaties
your gardens with walls
formal mazes and fountains

your magician entrances
an audience of mirrors
your Age d’Or
and private theatricals

your powder compacts
a state of blusher and glances
your soft-tops and Spas
your l’Etat — c’est moi

but I have seen you
when you were as lonely
as the first star
of an evening sky

and I’ve waited for you
at the door of summer
peering into the darkness
like a frazzled Noah

on the deck of the Ark
feels the dove near
across the floodwater
loading her bill

with all that’s to bear
in a fresh shoot of olive
frail leaves of silver
with a weight of vast anchors:

but your Fate is lightness,
and stillness, and brightness,
imprisoned in flowers
and pentameters

far from the war
safe from all harm
in the arms of your lover
dozing to the blackest, hip-hop lullaby

how slowly you rise
an airbubble in honey
like the full moon over Troy
like Paris and Helen

who bend to embrace
like mutual suns
burning all shadows
into the one

sighing eclipse…

*     *     *

But there is a place
where there are nothing but shadows
the shades of the dead
gather in crowds

and there is a little grey dust
raised by their sandals
and a torpid breeze
that circles the Underworld

Among them are Ulysses
Menelaus and Hector
and many proud heroes
whose fame burned the skies

but the one that I love
stands apart and alone
his eyes cast down
to the earth’s tenderness

his greatness was loss
to fall, to be no one —
and he is Achilles,
Humility’s footman