Archives for posts with tag: Uncollected

They think that you have detached yourself from me
simply because you were born
— Alaide Foppa

Of the four — plum blossom, your lips, your mouth, tomorrow —
if they could strip one out, extract it, suppress it,
perhaps it would be the plum blossom.

They’d have to leave your lips and your mouth;
and as for tomorrow — isn’t it always there?
Your mouth, your lips, warm and integral —
even before the word ‘ore’ is formed by them,
the word ‘ear’, the word ‘air’:
we couldn’t do without those,
but the plum blossom is inhuman, repetitive,
and, in the end, expendable.

But they would be wrong.
Even though it was far off from us —
a XIII Century retina, an obscure mountain in China —
and a silky MiLord never laid eyes on it,
nor even a wanderer — still, the plum blossom
is the foundation of this world.

‘Architecture’, she said. ‘Child’s eyelid.’
I poured champagne in a train, which was a shoe.
‘Play — play by the rules of the game’, he said.
And there were candles in the garden.
This was several years ago
before the arrest of Pinochet.

And what was left out of the four — the fifth —
I believe they would also seek to suppress that.
They’d think it might be the key, the crux, the essential part.

Your mouth rests on plum blossom:
you move your lips, and there’s darkness
which opens, like petals, my lips.
For a moment, I’m balanced on my eyelashes.
We’re poised — we’re not slaves —
we don’t need to ape midnight, which only
occurs when it’s told.

We’re not angels, either — not midnight,
not angels — though in tradition we may comprehend
the faculties of angels. We’re partners —
which is to say
light, blown, dust.

‘Jasmine,’ she said: ‘white jasmine’. Alfred and Chrysler.
And the hole blown in my forehead —
nothing romantic came out of it.
The spring breeze had 40 clicks to go.
A sampan and night-fishing with lanterns.
‘The rings of Saturn’, I said.

Of the four, yet at the limits of the four, there was water —
big water. As they sought to exterminate one,
to control three, their concentration was intense,
bigoted, almost total.

Of the ocean — in this instance, the Pacific —
they took little cognisance.
They were on the trail of Japanese plum blossom.
By determining and uprooting the trees of that logic —
the logic of kisses and, above all, of mothers —
they would terminate us, locally.
We made no sense. And that made no sense.
‘Put some logs on the fire’, she said.

They were seeking to administer us a summer
like a kind of general anaesthetic.
But that day, the waves were unruly.
The milky chaos of the spume blown by the wind
reached our feet in spattered coolnesses
as we walked in faded espadrilles along the shore
counting our Napoleons.

Of the sixth and seventh, they remained unaware.
But our mouths and our lips, warm and integral,
spoke of them.

Who are they? Themselves: themselves. We should fear them.
They’re seeking a kind of stillness, beyond repose.
They put a wave in a museum.
I was speaking of the power of power,
and of something which consents to power occurring.
And the month was May — sweet and permissive.

Of the blue, they knew nothing.
It was the first blue, not Indian,
not Mesopotamian.
It was the first dawn of human eyes,
and no glaze could contain it.
It stirred the child, and it stirred my death.
It was dawn for the first time.
But of this, they knew nothing.

This belonged to the lovers.
You poured a flame into my mouth,
and the root of that flame — beyond an oasis —
was a spray of plum blossom
against a pale blue sky.

Who were they? They were the masters of nothing.
But they killed, and the killing belonged to them.
The lost was certainly lost.
The vanished were certainly vanished — if uncertainly.
‘Hello,’ she was saying, tiredly: ‘It’s me. I’m on the train’.

They tortured, and the torture belongs to them.
They broke, but the broken did not belong to them.
Indeed, they are the breaking. They are the dead.
And she carried a mobile phone, a Nokia.
‘Hello,’ she was saying, tiredly: ‘It’s me. I’m on the train’.

They, not we, are disembodied heads and secateurs.
They gave us the unbearable, and so we ceased.
But our bodies were human bodies,
which is to say,
the spring still delineates them —
and they are delineated in the spring —
May — and, before, English plum blossom.

Of blood, they knew much.
Of the pliability of children, they knew too much.
Of testicles and nipples, and of the chain of command,
they were expert, and of transforming the sensitive
portals of pleasure and generation
to sterile sites of pain and ending
they knew everything — except, of course,
the pain.

Who were they? They were the masters of nothing.
And what was borne, they could not bear.
We are the overcome.
We are the snuffed out, the blown away.
The lie belongs to the liar.
Cruelty belongs to the cruel.
But the poem — what could be borne of it —
belongs to no one.

In the end, I think, they might grow desperate.
And of the four — your mouth, your lips, plum blossom, tomorrow —
they might seek to exterminate three,
leaving only tomorrow.

And our lips, and our mouths, heavenly and integral,
would be stamped out,
but not as Rainer Maria’s flamenco dancer
stamps out the flames of her dance.
The process of reduction, which began
with that useless plum blossom
on which our mouths depended,
would end with the determination of a voice
endlessly shouting commands.

Obviously, we couldn’t speak of Rilke then.
Or of bread, or milk, or honey; and the spring breeze
could only blow tomorrow.

Of the voices that blow in the wind,
of the so-called scattered and lost voices,
of the apparently dismembered and the ghostly voices,
they know nothing, they can recall nothing.
‘Meiji Restoration’, he said. ‘Zen text.’

Only the human can recall the lost.
Only we, through the lost, say: ‘remember’.
Only the separate can kill. Only the separate can die.
‘At five o’clock’, he said. She said: ‘Architecture’.

Who were they?
We cannot remember them.
They didn’t belong to us.
And we, light, the breeze-borne, the so-called lost,
certainly never belonged to them.

Because, without going the way of the plum blossom,
they couldn’t tell the veins of lightning from those of silver.
They would have to come the whole way
without distinction — which would be, for them,
quite literally, unthinkable.

Who were they, who appeared like this?
They severed the breeze.
I don’t remember them. I simply can’t.

Sometimes the plum blossom makes the spring,
and sometimes it makes winter.
And my mouth, and my lips, warm and integral
… were blown out, like a flame.

I’ll call you tomorrow.


I think of you.

Tired out with being love, you’d like to rest for a while.
So many things have needed you to be dawn,
and, being dawn, to break.

Words, magnetised to darkness, repel you.
The brilliance of the morning passes, the words come back in,
it’s you they are attracted to.
So many words have needed you to be night,
and, being night, to fall.

I think of you.

Tired out with being human, you’d like to rest for a while.
But, falling and breaking, these things take time.
And so much time has needed you, and so little time,
the brilliance of the morning passes
almost unnoticed between the talcum, nappies and the sea.

The brilliance of the night passes.
Words, asters and mirrors connect the clock to my lips,
and I think of you.
Beached ships, and days of deserts,
tired out with being morning, you want to rest for a while.
But where can you rest? —
not even in my thoughts of you
which, being noon, strikes at midnight, and the turning stars.

The sea, talcum, nappies —
the clock of my lips whirs, Isaac is back in town.
Tired out with being Isaac, tired out with time,
you want to be Albert for a while, or Nils.
And could you cease, and my thoughts of you begin,
could you rest when I begin to think of you,
I’d share your life,
which, being shared, would not be yours.

The brilliance of mirrors fades.
The tangerine asters are not model suns,
rehearsed in the glass, with all the letters reversed.
So many things have needed to part you,
you want to rest for a while;
tired out with being needed so by death,
you want, finally, to die.

And I don’t think of you.
The asters, leant against Orion,
and the fragrant Crusoe’s footsteps
across the island of 4 a.m., talc on the bathroom floor —
so many partial things have needed you to be whole,
so many partial words,
they break you — and, in the breaking,

You think of me.

The brilliance of time passes.
Tired out with being Nils, you want to be César for a while,
or William. So much darkness has needed you,
such whole darkness has needed you to fall
and to call yourself the night,
that you think of me, you do so very softly,
as you think of daylight stars.

You call yourself the night.
And tired out with being love, you rest for a while.
So many things have ceased to live for you,
so many fragments been born from you,
I’ll call this poem Aubade,
and write it in April, in the afternoon.

You call yourself the night.
I call the night, Aubade.

I think of you.

Frail, like rain. Great, like the storm.
Frail, great one — close all the windows,
there’s a storm outside.

There’s love outside.

Frail, like rain. Great, like the storm.

There’s twilight outside —
and in the twilight, a line of five palm trees
rise against the horizon.

Frail, like a moment. Great, like time.

There’s love inside.
Frail, great one — storm — close all the shutters,
there’s someone waiting outside.

There’s someone moving inside.
And through them, across them,
fine white sand is being blown like smoke:
you jump a little as the curled flakes of walnut shells
stir in the air, and begin to slide over the table;
and the sprinkler system comes on
at the exact moment the first few drops begin falling.

Great, like the stars. Frail, like light.

There’s nightfall outside.

There’s a voice outside —
and, in the voice — calling — words among palm trees
hushing against the horizon.

Frail, like a wave. Great, like the sea.
Frail, great one — calm — open all the shutters,
the storm is over.

I’d like to give you every word there is,
but there’s too little time —
and I have only the frailest words — poems —
that bend their thin shoulders
under the weight of the great world
and tremble a little.

Frail one, my Palm,
I have only blades of grass, or the pale, plastic, celestial blue
of the top to a bottle of Evian —
I have only seconds, or cracks, not years, or ‘reign’.
All the rest have gone, and we cannot use them now.
This is all there is — these are the end —
there are no others. And — humble, dronelike —
these are the ones which have come to us,
their backs bent, trembling a little.

Take my words, dispense with them.
Crush them, shatter them, use them, forget them.
They’re frail, but only for you.
They’re great, but only when you have gone.

When two hours meet, the clock chimes in the squat church tower
and mingles them with bronze.
When two hours meet, they meet in the bell.
Then the hours leave each other,
and the bell falls quiet.

When two words meet — frail, great one —
they meet like this.

And then there’s a sky, which is great, like a sky.
There’s the lighthouse on the point,
standing under the sky — Barrenjoey.
There’s the pale blue plastic lid from an Evian bottle,
the silver nutcrackers — memory — among the shells.
There’s the ocean, which is always leaving — it says — tomorrow.
And there’s a voice, which is always staying — it says — today.

Yesterday, there was a voice, which — we said — could never end,
it can only begin. And there was a word — it says,
now — which lies on your voice the way
a cloud lies on the wind. And then there’s darkness
on the point, and the shirr of waves in the darkness.
There’s the faint sound of a catarrhal Volkswagen engine — Barrenjoey.
There’s the road itself, heading towards the rocks and the horizon.
And then there’s a sky, which is great, like a sky.

I don’t want to give you every word there is —
but only these words — sieved out and modest, and sure.
When two words meet, frail one, great one,
the world bends its back under them
and trembles a little.

Take my words, carry them a little way.
Keep my words forever for their aftertaste
of misfortune and smoke.
Keep them for their silence.
Keep them for their duration — frail one —
carry them for their fragile sky.

Yelling one, crying one, stamping one, peaceful one.
Keep me for my duration.

Great one. Frail one.
Great as the wave. Frail as the sea.

Although the genie is a slave,
there is also a slave belongs to the genie.

Crack open the guts
of a pomegranate: it is a mine — go down.

Diamonds, emeralds, sundry other gems:
bring out of them

silver green leaves from cabbages,
dust from a battered butterfly’s wings.

Bend to the earth: look closer.
Keep the ribbon of air between your lips

fresh and tart so the words
burn just a little, then you can’t sleep.

Not want but must for you.
Not may but must, not wish, must.

Drudgery among wild violets:
de-tick white doves, use more bleach in the toilet.

No time off from ladders of finicky silver,
carry the sack of her kiss back home with you.

No, the wolves are not your friends.
The end with the waves, no end for you.

Conventional bric-a-brac of bourgeois affairs,
limp sentiments of the innocent —

you can have those, if it pleases.
Toil a whole life for such bon-bons, such dregs.

Closing across the bay, music from floating parties
washes and booms: you have a coil

of darkness and silence to wind,
don’t wait up, I may not be back tonight.

Steal a love letter from our Master?
Hide in an almond shell, bloat in a pool,

pore over the elegant, perfumed lies,
dream of Dolores or Hank,

orgasms fashioned from craft and champagne,
to be a cunning fool, lost in fake happiness!

Stairs of pearl to the alley, back of the restaurant:
smoke with the sous-chef, listen

to the city grind and sigh.
At the heart of the clouds, where the little girl sings

polish the molecules,
get them to shine more, shine, no, more yet.

I have made your blood ink, tonight,
crushed black for a new venture I have in mind:

loneliness where our Mistress dances,
hours holding her coat, together,

near as we ever get.

Under the journeys, under the ashes,
before the brochure and the visitors,
the kitchen is fine.
Spacious, light,
marble worktops with expensive appliances,
the black electric cords, obedient to power,
the convenience, the sheer substance
comforts me.
This is a good place for living,
and not so far from the waterfall.

I have no story to tell,
I always come back to the hands and the eyes,
the touch and the glance,
the failing touch, the next glance,
and so on.
You don’t love me as I deserve to be loved,
I know that’s not uncommon.
I have no conclusion to reach.
I have no blame to apportion.

The nursery, with the mobile
of birds, I think they are gulls.
You used to make them sing.
We used to make them spin.
One of her first words was “birds”.
A lovely, calming powder blue
for the walls, white skirting boards,
picture rail and ceiling:
bare waxed timber for the floor,
a rug with cream and crimson,
our own small portion of Persia.

The lovely turns to lonely,
alder trees come.
One ends up with tautology:
I am what I am,
it is what it is.
We are what we are.
We were what we were.
The well with the donkey,
the mountains where they cling
so darkly to their fables.
Recidivism. Altarpieces. Shame.

Old, long-barrelled muskets mounted
above the fire:
in a museum, fly-spotted cards bearing information,
waxwork figures, anvils, axles, cables, kegs.
We carry our subjects with us:
the view down the valley to the sea,
the wars and plagues that sweep like tides,
the famous castles, my hands
stroking through your loins,
parting the lips to heather and startled deer,
rivers to form new borders.

That white farmhouse we could see from the train,
yes, so white against the green in spring,
the white-painted bricks,
the building a kind of island,
the lush vegetation, surrounding, so green, as if waiting.
The murmur of the days,
our ways of spendthrift and ignorance.
The skull, a hive: thoughts, bees.
That makes honey… What?
Or am I being too elaborate?
I have a story to tell,
but I won’t tell it.
In the heart, sometimes, acid;
sometimes loam, or salt, or skin.
The master bedroom, too, is fine.

Planting dead trees.
Scarecrows in the great wide fields
deter the skeletons of birds.
Watch me undress,
I won’t stop at my skin.
Why don’t you watch me?

The beauty salon is busy.
In the tanning salon,
Vittorio in goggles sprawls.
They have left their guns with the concierge.
Police photograph the victims;
later, the police will be victims.

Mice scoot around silver
cutlery on the banqueting table;
later, they rot.
In the seminar room,
we rearrange the bones,
take out eyes and change their colour,
replace them with replicas of glass,
shoo assassins from the giant malls:
we wonder about our bodies.

The graves are clean:
the wombs are clean, too.
Chevrolet will be big this year.
On freshly mown lawns
we chat and flirt
in the new, young sunshine.
It’s all still good, right? Everything remains
essentially as before?

Aircraft taxi on the runways,
the airspace is lush and free.
There are many journeys to be taken,
but no journeys given back.
Eating wax apples.
A picnic with still squirrels.
Note the brushwork.

What is wrong with this society,
no revolution in the air?
We’ll take in a film,
walk by the river,
no trains of Jews,
but the swan, motionless,
and the water
in secret motion.

From his deathbed, he conducts his mighty, phantom orchestra,
“waves crashing”, “cannons firing”, “nature sublime”,
all tutti and eroico and vivace.
Or, in evening dress, he pauses at his restaurant table,
to take spontaneous plaudits from the admiring crowd.
Around him, the glass artillery of Bollinger and Moet
are firing their salutes, and their grapeshot
explodes in a glittering shrapnel of clinking flutes,
he is a party to everything.
The world is intensely beautiful.
At least this part is true.

The lulling tilt and tangle of their heads,
pine blue shadows on the snow,
the lacy allez allez allez of the sleighbells:
his furs and astrakhan hat, silver pistols
inlaid with the chromatic circus of mother of pearl.
And love. As if the way to the world was open,
and they could cross that bridge when they wanted to, only
for a few humble moments, they waited, together,
before they crossed.
Acutely sensitive, and serene: in the stillness
the sense of stillness moving. Perfection. Apogee.
Delicate lectures from the chrysalis.
And seminars on the hours and roads!
Such was his, wasn’t his, fate.
And even now, in his pockets
he carries fragments from that exquisite bridge.

A peddler of illusions, they called him.
Pretentious! Oh, the drama of those years of strife!
Witch. Fakir. A charlatan, a conjuror:
a con- con- con- confectioner — baubles, bubbles, trifles,
these, apparently, were his stock-in-trade,
the ethereal sweets of a serial cheater,
his whole life’s work a mere sleight of hand.
He didn’t understand. Why were they so attached
to their charmless regimen of money and time,
so indulgent of that greatest of fantasies — “ordinary life”?
In any case, so began the days of wandering.
Ignominy, at first, for one so feted.
Waking, often in strange rooms;
often to the ringing of a strange town’s bells.
Loneliness for salt; for pepper, poverty.
Ignored out of existence, he began the journey
towards the essence of his own lost words:
he grew silent; he became invisible.

You know the rest — or will, one day.
She did all that anyone ever does do:
moved a few atoms around, then slept, then woke: repeat.
She didn’t stay anywhere long, was always on the move.
She was sussed, streetwise. She was light on her feet.
One evening, she leant on the rail of the good ship Novelty,
and listened to the elegant gibber of her companion,
heard how the froth and simmer of the crowd
melted into the curse and whisper of the sea,
how the bits of cherished difference crumbled and broke down
into an oceanic indifference,
the divine “so what?”
She flicked her cigarette over the side,
the filter faintly impressed with traces of her lipstick.
The orchestra began to play a polka.
$7,606.00 per tonne — price of copper at the close of trade.

Re-post | Original post, August 2012

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.

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.

We look vaguely embarrassed.
Everyone else was here hours ago
and they’ve already familiarised themselves
with the floor-calling voice in the elevator,
the inert plants in reception.
They know where the carpet has faded,
locations of water coolers and toilets.
They’ve made themselves at home.
They glance at us, and wait.

The lattes are really great here.
They do a wonderful lasagne.
We are shown the documentaries
on poverty and terrible wars,
the crimes of the rich and imperialists,
we hear odes to the dead,
the outpourings of grief, the hope voiced
that we will learn from experience.

It’s a thriving scene. Everywhere,
people are empowering themselves,
exploring their gender differences,
asserting their individuality,
throwing sick parties, and taking new drugs
that kill only a few of us:
trade creates wealth, technology
liberates and entertains the masses,
and for those who are exploited and miss out,
we have more documentaries:
we feel sorry, and plan to change things.

It isn’t all work, of course.
There are seahorses, the sunken oil tanker,
wings dipping through cirrus,
moments of transcendence and humiliation,
the time I gave you head on the train,
the time you gave me head in the snow
near the ski lodge:
there are the wild bears,
intimate moments together with our families.
The birth of children. The death of children.
The sunrise with Koreans.

We like the funny films we’re shown,
they keep us captivated.
The picture is unsteady,
the high definition pixellates,
but we laugh at the one with the poets
and the prime ministers, how carefully
they prepare their legacy for the void,
all the boxes with papers and notebooks,
the months they spend poring
over letters and diaries:
around them, the abyss is cool and regal,
the surface so smooth, like a mirror or lake,
how is it they never realise
until it’s too late?

The one with the police is funny, too,
how they run in and beat
their brothers and sisters with truncheons,
how they are paid and what they believe,
who pays them, and what they believe
and don’t believe, where they got the money,
how they hold on to what
they call power:
the stories are sometimes sad,
they have twists, and they’re ironic,
well, they have everything.

Are there enough metaphors?
Isn’t it all a little too literal,
the faces with the pins driven into them,
the dogs with their guts spilled out
being rewound, pulling their guts back in?
We agree, there could be more music,
and the music could be better,
even the good music is played at the wrong time,
we notice the moments aren’t perfect,
and though there are good moments,
there don’t seem to be enough of them.

Still, we make ourselves at home.
We settle into our routines.
The job isn’t great, very tiring,
and then there’s the travel,
but we get used to it.
There are benefits, and perks.
We get inspired for a while,
then grow disillusioned;
we are praised, then cast aside.
There is a kind of sunset in our affairs,
a calm hour when the birds fall quiet,
no longer wired to sing,
we dream our level of suffering may relent.
We know tomorrow will be the same.
We know tonight will be different.