LEANING ON ANTHRACITE SKIES
I realise now, that the limitations were not yours
but mine. Whilst you were holding the earth
in cupped hands, the children faded into adults
the soft under-layer of laughter and padded dreams
seldom visible now, under their new exoskeleton.
I leaned on winter, on flayed trees licked to the bone by
a goat of a wind, and when the spun sugar of the almond
orchard, infused the air with suggestions of marzipan
I wished for the Autan to heave from the South
for its spoor to singe the pale uncurling buds
and the animals came to us from the woods
and the woods took them back and I leaned on loss
on anthracite skies, to hollow out my days
whilst you were holding the earth in cupped hands.
The European hornets vampirised our grapes,
leaving the deflated grains, to hang on the vine
shriveled black corpses, where there had been
fat promises, purple and taught like bishops’ bellies.
The Asiatic ones, beheaded the black bees
that spin figures of eight in the waxy shade
of the ivy where they have nested since escaping
the hive. I remember, the dissenting hum of a schism
becoming a small pointillist swarm floating
hesitantly until it found, a recess of shadows
below the stone stairs. We left it to dream a
dream of fractal wax, of soft yellow buttresses
for a propolis scented cathedral. And we saw
the symmetry in our lives but that was before
the shriveling draught and before the hornets
coiled at the back of her neck
a sleek cobra of pain meanders
a heartbeat from her left shoulder
to her forehead and every time
she makes love to him it throbs
through tissues tears
through her skull
‘Tell me everything.
Everything you said.
Everything you did.
Everything. Pretend I am her.
Call me Karen.
Did your hands on her body
hunt for a shadow of me?
Did I exist for you
as a remembered scent
a quiver on her skin?
Did she arch her back, parabolic?
Did she mouth your name like
a felted thief in the night or did
starlings escape from her throat
singing your name…….. in my voice?
Call me Karen.’
Ripping neurons spasms surging
to an inevitable apex she knows
she will cry again at the edge of the stars
It’s from Le Guilvinec, she would have said
on seeing the blue hull shudder on a tattered sea.
Heading for shelter. Must be bad.
Those from Concarneau and Douarnenez
will follow. Thirty years ago, she too
had found refuge from her storms here.
Since then, she had watched schooners and
Galway hookers and the bright dancing pods
of the fishing boats, the yachts sleek as
albatrosses, the catamarans and the Asgard
– sails like unwritten letters
whilst her lost son scoured the oceans.
Her life had weathered to peace by the time Frédéric
found her, binoculars in hand, still reading the sea.
She told me she had always known that the swell
would carry him to her shores again. And it did
…….on the darkest night of a winter equinox.
The boat’s white wake and the swollen surge
pulled her ashes back to the heart of a graphite sea.
There, the full moon elongated tide, slid its brine
over green pebbles of smashed beer bottles
over the minuscule exoskeletons of the sand
over the nail shaped shards of barnacles
over plankton and glassy shrimps
over undulating strands of kelp
over the yellow circumvolutions of a small snail.
My Mother the Viking, sailed to Valhalla
in the hair of mermaids, on the back of selkies
in a periwinkle shell, on a vessel from Le Guilvinech
Wave follows wave
and my grief is a flutter of spume
palpitating on the furze anchored in rock
just above the water mark, by Sally Port.
SALT AND ASHES
I shall not go back
to that origami legion
of paper walls
and paper souls
that suburban lesion
that suppurates magnolia
on the perfect blue
of a well-mannered sea.
There are no ghosts there
only palm trees where
should be. No ghosts.
Maybe a conservatory
PVC tabernacle to that space
of uneven cement slabs
you called the patio.
There you sat,
on your mildewed
plastic chair, to view sunsets
that validated you
whilst twenty-seven years
of salt culled
everything in your garden
except a leggy rose
You picked its singed buds
for the blue vase from Isfahan
well into November
and you watched the ocean
aglow with a cold fire
consume the names
of your plump babies
of your dead daughter.
Salt and ashes on the grass
There are no ghosts here.
FROM LA CALDERA DIAMANTE
Before he started to walk East, Guillaumet
wrapped the bags of mails in the folds
of his parachute and scratched a farewell
on the capsized fuselage of his Potez 25.
He walked, his eyes full of the blinding
sarabande of photons and icy flakes.
He walked through white, warmed by
remembered snows. The aching eventually
fading, like his footprints, in shades of cobalt blue
bruising the silence. Night revealed infinity
The Milky Way an effervescence of stars
bubbling nebulae draped on the shoulders of the Maipo.
He walked, because stillness solidifies life and sleep
morphs into a painless death. He walked, for his wife
for his friends, for seven days and, seven nights.
He walked, anchored to the Southern Cross.
A shepherd found him by a stream, blackened
by frostbite, gripping hope in his gloveless hand.
After the thaw, the salvaged envelopes were forwarded
stamped – “Service delayed”, his transcended life gauged.
Sepia myths and fading heroes, I am as old as your words.
Guillaumet was an aviator whose plane crashed in the Andes during a blizzard in 1930. He
walked over three mountain passes in appalling weather conditions and though tempted to
give up, he persisted, spurred on by thoughts of his wife and friends. One of these friends was
my beloved godfather/uncle, long gone now. He told me this story.
DANCING WITH THE DEAD AT DÚN AN ÓIR
North of the Guadalquivir
In The Field of the Cutting
In The Field of Heads
the soles of her feet sang
the colour of Duende
the colour of Duende
like wind on sand
into a pillar of Light
from the blood soaked
ground from the rushes
a ladder of rain
a ladder of tears
her fall always there
an unseen sub-text
that followed her
that preceded her
a narrative of flamenco
written in a crackle of steps
never hers to share
the soaring shadows
of the Three Sisters
from her watery cathedrals
The Sibyl chants
the sea sean nós
in even darker sounds
FROM THIS SHORE
Erased from the memory of sand
you embrace the wave as yourself
a long kiss, untangled from the ocean’s
pursed lips, hemmed in spume.
Gulls white-stitch sky to water
fastening you to the apex of breakers
to prisms disintegrating into spheres
of foamy light, into peals of froth
binding you to an ever colder current.
Shoals of silvered half-moons refracted
on the amorphous metal of the deep.
Shackled to a diamanté of fluorescent krills
I see you now, treading the stars
upstream, blind to all but yourself.