Archives for posts with tag: Racetrack not on raceday

“I took a room in Five Days of Rain Street”
he wrote. “Quite near to the river.”
The days intervened with their patterns,
and with their hinting at patterns and
their apparent lack of patterns. “I began waiting for her.”

Why all the time this autumn do I have such an
ominous feeling? On a certain evening,
he seemed to experience a similar unease.
“Like a town in the shadow of a dam under construction.
Walking down streets which, quite soon, you know will be
flooded, submerged, and all their life re-located.”
He was frightened she wouldn’t come.
“In which case, one kind of life will end,”
he wrote. “My kind of life.”

He was in love, of course —
metaphors came very easily to him,
and his environment grew shy and sensitive,
tender as young rabbits, poised like a dragonfly just this moment
alighting on the edge of a reed. Objects glowed with numen.
“I gave up my place in the queue for heaven,”
he wrote, “and walked back to earth,
and called this my poems.”

The space between two human beings
is as immeasurable as the space between two sentences.
Nothing is settled: we are not that kind of landscape.
“Still no word. That’s not good, but not
entirely bad, either. The moon as I walked back from the station
was at the full. You’re still beautiful,
I told the moon, with a hint of warning.
Yes, yes, still beautiful.”

I have nothing to lose, or only this
repeated immersion in the luminous void,
crossed by smoke and a sound of trains, between us.
On another day, I might glimpse the fire;
I might board as a passenger.
He was sometimes priggish and superior,
as the young often are in love.
“I look at their faces, and I wonder”
he wrote, “what it’s like to live in a world
in which everything is taken for granted?”

From the balcony of his room, he watched
as his share of life slowly passed.
His journal ends abruptly, like any moment.

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In spring, all the raindrops have his details.
She steps out to freshen up, at once the clock and the mirror
start to conjure the doves and rabbits of new conjugations.
Fleshed in, like travellers of high passes trapped by snow
they see how they will spend the night now.
Money roars in the storm, they pay it no heed.
And for hours, they turn their kittens into lions,
lions into kittens.
Sketched-out utopias brought them to this,
to Siamese meows and avalanche whispers,
and no one else can reach them here,
they are devoted to their dream
of the most elegant whiskers and the clots of cream
dripping slowly from them.
So much for threatening poverty.
So much for revolution.

Cheap drunks, they lurch from kiss to kiss.
And some of their moments seem the same,
like telephone booths between
Clark Kent and Superman.
Other moments have the weight and slumped stillness
of a bull just rolling breathless in the ring,
the matador left to ponder
any significance in the passing.
Once you begin falling, then that’s fate she says.
He doesn’t understand,
and his mind has already wandered.
There’s a world to book, and they must rush to board it
before it leaves on time
without them.

Autumn, and of course, the scene has changed.
The mirror grows bare like a northern river.
As he migrates, a muted tune he hums,
his thoughts are elsewhere.
He embodies most the vagaries of life,
like telephone numbers written down on skin
washed off without realising.
She has become a few bars from a distant song,
and all his memories cages.
Yet he is safe enough.
His milieu is the future:
he rarely remembers.

A brigand slipping drugs into a victim’s drink,
he keeps writing poems for unsuspecting readers,
and doesn’t notice that they don’t exist,
or that, having mixed up his cups,
he draughts himself to complete oblivion:
in any case, even if he does succeed,
having rifled through luggage for hours on end,
he never finds anything worth stealing.
In a history arranged by victors,
the defeated have their place assigned, but he
is forgotten even by the defeated,
his winter is a seizure on an abandoned trail.
Frozen out, his literature dwindles to a dot dot dot
of footnotes upon a wilderness,
a blur of marks in sensitive felt tips,
in scraps and glitter from an icy folklore
a singing fish chopped down to a silent
silver of scales.
Yet, he is safe enough:
his milieu, we recall, is the future.
And in spring, all the raindrops have his details.

I can’t tell you everything.
The scale of that day seemed huge to me
as if I had shrunk back to the size of a child again
and the gravel was a magnet:
they couldn’t prise me away from the path.
But Christopher, the equestrian,
had ridden into the sun,
and in that moment, lost his superpower:
as easily as that, it went.
She wore a bright red coat, and bright red stockings as well.
The way she walked, so purposeful and bold,
nose tilted slightly upwards,
she could have conquered a city.
All the time, you’re frightened the world will end;
and then, one day, it does.

By faint signs, he felt that autumn had begun
to infiltrate summer.
A certain lightness in the air,
a rarified quality; a particular stillness.
Spring seemed so far away.
Mildly disorientated, all she could do was look round,
and experience a kick of panic,
like people who get off their train at the wrong stop.
Of course, everyone was telling their stories:
the encounter with Cameron, last night’s gig,
dawn seen from the volcano’s peak.
Not the great things, rising like mountains in the distance,
but a collection of all the little things lined up —
that constituted the essence of life
according to Barnaby.

Later, it seemed to her, their kiss
comprised a quiet, succulent Gestalt.
She didn’t sense the grief inside him —
the baggage of the ashes and the years.
When she fell apart, it was as if someone had dropped
a suitcase full of old Daily Mail clippings —
the disparate accounts of sundry events,
bleached and faded, the paper yellowing,
the disaster edged with ads
for memory training and products
in the fight against hair loss.
The cryptic surfeit of ordinary life —
at once dense and ephemeral, heavy and light —
collected in the void formed by his passing
like rainwater in hoofprints.

Feeling, it always starts with a feeling.
There’s nothing we can do about that.
Taking hours to sort out your junk jewellery,
ropes of metallic silver pearls entangled
on your black lap and your
black knees and thighs. Your tights
made me think of circus performers,
or figures from the commedia dell’arte.
Poets will have their reasons.
At least, fake ones will.
In any case, it wasn’t you
who brought me the sea or the sea’s
head shaking slowly back and forth,
or the foam held shooting from its jaws,
but the woman sitting next to you.
You faded quickly, raindrop to the rain.
You were not there when the deer
came to the clearing, or, more shyly,
like a lover’s first thoughts
on closing the door and leaving near dawn,
you were not there
when the clot
soared in the blood to the brain:
you were not there
when God came to the God spot.

You. Not you, or you, or you, or you, but
you. When the moon falls through a hole in the clouds,
and no doubt Saturn has something to do with it,
and the rings of Saturn, the slow approach
of violins across the plains, forecasts
of storms forming over the Atlantic,
you happen to be there,
standing inside me, waiting for your husband.
He happened to be there, once; and now,
after a day it snowed oranges,
we happen to be here, you and I.
So subtle and encompassing, for each of us,
this life’s unease of the signified.
And no doubt Venus has something to do with it,
pheromones and October and sweat.
You brush your hair, and make yourself beautiful,
and I look at you through my old-fashioned tears,
you hold your Ted Baker mirror at an angle,
glance at me, smile as if you understand
or as if you don’t understand, and then
go back to untangling jewellery.

Or is it a mood? What the Germans call Stimmung?
The thread of a memory, infinitely parched and spectral,
recalling us back to ourselves,
and Ajax and Achilles? Chemistry? Just glimmering?
And what do they do out there, in those other lives,
across the wide, dry fields, faded chocolate plough?
Measured, and interior, like a farmer’s love,
remote and slow as summer clouds,
hollow and succulent, then over, lukewarm
icewater slung from the champagne bucket, evenings spent
researching seed types and pesticides…
Sailors, on watch at night, in a quiet
stretch of water, their thoughts,
the unheard rumble of the engines and the sea.
Time, of course, all the time in between
the phases of the moon, or the moments one woman
passes through the haze of another woman’s perfume.
Nuanced things: all the people waiting.
The big picture, and the bigger picture still.
A young child, native to April, hair freshly washed and combed,
laughing and squealing as she runs up the front path,
chasing her pregnant laughing mother home.

Towards the end,
you grow dispersed in footprints of moss
deeper under the cedars
in a light so ambiguous
you’re not sure whether
it is dawn or dusk.

Where does the trail lead
back into vanished places?
You hold them in your hands,
o mighty pyramids,
and the lumps of sugar
for lost fauns, on the precious page nos.

Do you remember?
How the path popped and
fizzed with heartbeats,
and the tickets for the sleeper
melted down the stars to mist?

If you look, you think,
it might grow again
with scents of fresh bitumen
nigrescently pouring
on the first
warm day of spring.

It is not you,
although without you
it would not exist,
the strand of catkins,
ether on ether,
the voices in a crowd,
each one a beginning.

Upon its length,
others are threading their lives,
moment by moment
as your reflection
fades from the river
and on the night current
the moored boats swing.

You hold her it is a moment of brilliance
and a little later you enter
the sensual nirvana of orgasm
It’s like a cloth you let fall slowly permitting its redness
to slip through your hands like a rope of water
You do not thrust it away
but neither do you seek to restrain it
Then somehow it has gone
to the place where all unthought-of things drift
and gather
There it begins its long wait
calmly, as in truth it must
The way her hair stirred towards the corner of her mouth
in the draught from the window
The fragile shadow of the naked bulb on the ceiling
hung like the ghost of a pearl
The sweatbeads each with their own tiny portion of light
flesh stars and salt until you cool right off
a breathing lustre…

The restless moment waits for you
In the cafeteria with the blue plastic trays on the steel rails
In the railway station where the air
is punctuated by the disembodied voices of tannoys
In your children’s arms and your children’s eyes
the restless moment waits for you
waits for you with the years

You check your watch
She is late
It is almost reassuring
The mysterious weight of the banal collects itself around you
and you impart to it that haunting spin
which is special to you
Books displayed in Border’s window
stacked in little pyramids
Shoppers and the reflections of shoppers
A lyre’s glisten of spokes and the black seal lycra
of the racing cyclists strolling past
The sky above the buildings the clouds sluggish with incipient rain
The things you will say to her
The way you will wait for the first moment
she will stroke back her hair
and take up a strand
and twist it round her fingers
so that some small and obscure rightness will happen
a settlement in the world
allowing things to proceed
despite the international chaos and the worsening domestic situation
and the death of the goldminers
and fears about the price of gold

The cranes over the void where the old buildings used to stand
and the new buildings will rise
The equine flicker of the dials as you start the car
and rev the engine
The new music you have brought
to replace the music which has turned to silence
The silence which floods in like a tide
filling the rock pools of failed conversations
with glitter and salt
Tears your love becomes and then
that silence again, somehow benign, peaceful,
utterly replete
The sea with its waves, the spume rolling
like a fleece endlessly shorn
And beneath the water, the involved
and patient industry of oysters,
barnacles and clams —
mute, secreting things
The call of the voiceless moon in spring
The way you wake beside each other and you give yourselves again
to the fleeting erasure of dawn


note | this poem appeared in Shearsman 79 & 80, 2009,
ISBN 9781848610231

I don’t know why it is
and I don’t think it will last long
but there’s a kind of twilight inside everything
when you’re near me
these days

Clouds have the mastery over our aims
and love’s ambitions
a way they have
of never quite being resolved
Some storm in the rear-view
Summer cirrus in the glove compartment
Stuff in the boot
Just some words we forgot to say
A dry place where the sea has retreated
and the wind stirs memories of your long hair
The days we believed would still be there
when we came back
somehow
The thanks we meant to give
The things we sacrificed for our careers

Nothing makes sense but words
seem to
The way you look at me as if
I already belong to your past
but kiss me as if it still matters
That’s you all over
Someone I let slip
like an indiscreet remark
into the forms of so many digital ghosts
Still the touch of warm fingers on photographs
caress back the hair which has whirled
across your eyes
half erasing your smile and your careworn face
The way yesterday has of still coming
and coming

Then the waves which have long since ceased to mean much
to me
rise again
bringing autumn in the steel the wrack
of forgotten storms
Fallen leaves blown along the track
in the wake of passing commuter trains
a parched agitation
The voice at the end of the line
when you ring a wrong number
A form of fatigue
Then they fall still
Days which have become almost translucent with suffering
Days we see through
Hello? No, I’m sorry, this is…

No, I don’t know why it is
and I can’t imagine it will last much longer
this feeling I have
when I think of you
of twilight in everything —
in everything, yes,
but especially the sun

At first, we arrive:
a subtle agitation in everything —
the ambient excitement of the young.
Details loom out at us, only
because we are who we are, otherwise
utterly banal. The cut
of privet hedgerows in suburban streets,
arrogance of the toys, genuine
silver in the teapot.
Fittings on taps and sockets,
different ways of handling mail and electricity.
All the signs, of course.
What the latitude does with the light.

How quickly we settle in.
Certain things, we think, will never suit us,
irritants of rooks, pervasive scent
of boiled cabbage,
the way they smile or don’t smile,
the asinine jollity of their pop music,
their sheer stupidity, obeying unjust laws.
Around the table, when we’re alone,
we laugh at them, but
decreasingly as the years go by.
Into the maw of daily life, we slide.
Concrete is everywhere, telephone wires:
children be children, just the same.
So far inland, the crunch and buffet of our shores,
the shattering lustres of the waves
still come to us, as sight sometimes
still comes in dreams to the blind.

They will grow to resemble us, or so they believe.
We drink their beer, intermarry, form bonds.
Their ceremonies we honour and perform
as we have been taught,
as if they are our own.
We notice more and more
how false the boundaries seem,
how prone to apathy and blur.
When the cherry blossoms open, we watch,
we see, as they do.
When the bombs go off, we mourn.

Trains claim our days; offspring makes us
confused about parameters and missions.
We put on affinities, take off memories.
How quiet the sound
of those petals as they fall:
how drawn our limbs to the limbs
of others. So long in place, are we sure
we know what we’re doing
observing these rituals
we have so struggled to believe in?
Sometimes we wonder
what we came here for, or why we stay,
at dusk, when the world hardly seems to breathe,
and we await the call.

Breaking off from death for just a little moment,
heart-burst rain on cars and falcon glimpses,
the slick flash of wipers, the city hooded
under a great electrical storm, what were your feelings
when you realised the wagons had gone on without you
leaving you to the wilderness of no paths or days?

Moss covers the lost axe and his song begins once more
to revive the winding stems of climbing flowers inside you:
your eyes grow endless trees and the frenetic calls of birds
craze your sleep and begin to pull apart
the limits of your flesh and memory, it has the essence
and the purpose of a bared blade, although the lake
washes it in eras of mist and ripples, and insects,
mistaking such stillness for neutrality, traverse it without concern
to trail a haze of pheromones across a night on purring wings.

Forever partisan for those who demand its power,
the song is dropped among the golden carcases of honeybees,
rolls its silence like a child’s marble slipped away
among adult feet in stations or on
the crowded carriages of outbound trains,
enlarges only solitary hearts into an ache or tangled yelp of passion,
pioneers with new worlds to master and convert
pass over his torn body with indifference or a small regret
for useless beauty and a sound
too pure for our commodity, and only later apprehend
the storm itself has been bound up with the song
and threatens us with paradise, on busy shower-roused streets
umbrellas open like mindless anemones, its haunted music
takes us aside and fills us with the terror
of virgin plains and raging sapphires and tiger stars,
brings our limitations back to us as gifts and the partial light
of troubled, trembling suns, in the pitiful hours of our division, for instants
reaches the status of a fragile notion
which, by belonging to no one, belongs to each one.

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