Archives for posts with tag: Racetrack not on raceday

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

We lay back and white seahorses floated over us
Tumbling waves, music, sex, the humid greenery of a sleep
we breathed like plants
A deep stillness, as if it pre-dated beginning
Before the necklaces of shells and the brilliant scarlet feathers
Then we woke soon we were back in the city
the bright jabs of car horns
cement dust concrete being poured
Caffeine neon and wits
We saw things differently and danced like crazy
and all the time argued fought held and fled
desperate to feel
life’s sweets and sting
We had to rest like sharks in moving currents or die
We were plants with the rhythms of plants
With the rootedness of plants
Belonging

We were late it was frantic there was a scramble
we almost missed our plane
I kissed you how wonderful that felt
simultaneously as if I was in the only place I’d ever truly loved
and lost in a place totally new to me
Familiar yet inexplicable
Stable yet strange
We took off and we were in the air
a suspended republic
Below us, the peaks of volcanoes peeped up
like vast egg cups through low cloud
a memo to Genesis
We were scientists and mathematicians
auteurs and carpenters
We were blood type O
We were heroes and failures
lonely and life and soul
looking for parties,
we were lovers
We didn’t know each other
We were not ourselves
We digressed
We were endless

Vacant rooms where the air-con comes on at set hours
and then falls quiet
The dreamless wait of unused pillows
in the giant hotel out of conference season
Blasé carp in the pool, crimson and pink
Rising with a love and with a love falling
The void inside the ping pong balls
lying at rest in the darkened gymnasium
The couple at reception,
arguing, thinking they were robbed
calling security
Near-mummified figures propped up
or lying on their sides like brittle mermaids
in the care home
One moaned a few minutes ago
now she is silent
A few milligrams changed her mind
The sky was a dark violet
and the storm clouds clotted like a black cream
They watched the traffic lights go through their sequences
in the deserted town centre
They take a long weekend and they fly down to Rome

The mind is a vast grave
Impossibly luxuriant, with a liquid bedazzlement of fish
slipping among the coral
Our daughter laughed and we were happy
a mouth filled with light
Anemones bloomed, dead vampires lay sprawled in muddy pools
Rain was slowly filling the grave
and troupes of monkeys made their way through the swaying trees
The years were sliding into my thoughts of you
and the land slipped pulling down pylons
In the museum
among the great serene heads of stone buddhas
I thought of your mouth
the darkness of your lips
the inside of our kiss
of waves which rise
once in ten thousand years
I thought of flowers which open in the moonlight
I thought of flowers…

These things have no relevance to us
the gestation of mountains the architecture of stars
the dry discourse of rocks and cicadas
We are lushes for instants
Driving to the centre the lilac smoke above the ruins
the car turns to worms and charred petals
You lost your lipstick on the plane
and we grew bored
parched for mirrors among the stones
In the abandoned cities of the heart
the autos of Detroit in memory
you wander among crowds of the forgotten
unable quite to grasp you
are one of their number
You yearn for salience
but this was not your story
You sleep with her for one more night, and attain
the peace of minerals
In a rented house the TV on the sound down
you rest your minds
On the screen, a fury of heroes
a brightness of comets and of falling angels
and the lights of their ascent and their demise
flicker on your closed lids
Beyond the walls wind blows the powerlines
and there is an eyeless darkness
You murmur in your dreams
but no one hears the words
When you wake, you can’t see the darkness
and the wind doesn’t blow

Come inside me
There is room for everyone
for every thought for every movement
You lost a friend and behind you
your sorrow turned to icicles and steam
and on the scalded, inhospitable earth
ferns began to grow where you left no footsteps
in places you never were or will be
Letters were burned and telephones slammed down
and yet the words were endless
even those which led nowhere
were never truly resolved
A butterfly lands on what was once your mouth
The temple has no monks
lizards laze and play on its walls
The passengers remain seated in their airliner
on the seabed
the captain drifts at the controls
There is no end
And so, no judgement can be made on this
And, for this, no judgement is needed


Re-post | Original post January 2012

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
again.

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.

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.