Seasons of the poet
You lick pre-gummed words;
first by mistake then nightly –
love letters unsent.
How to see your breath
without a cold morning’s shock.
Watching your soul fade.
When critics mugged you,
all they got was a guidebook
to their own city.
Each poem unwinds
more fuse-wire. One day you’ll be
at a safe distance.
Love is like grass
It sometimes has rhizomes that you can’t keep out,
and makes do with drab green flowers.
Its main trick is to grow from a hidden place,
not a bud. Even consumed by flames it returns
as strong as before. You can find it wherever you go.
It’s never alone – only tufts maybe, but never alone.
It gathers where people gather – open-air festivals,
football matches, or bursting up between paving stones.
You don’t notice how new growth keeps replacing the old,
you think it lasts forever. Don’t walk on the bare patches.
A poem for one of Ireland’s greatest poets and, once, my friend
the wheels of his wheelchair squeak along my femur
he taught me
how words are an upturned collar against it all
he planted shame
behind my ear when I let him go
before he went
my body shared
my thoughts borrowed
and words, these little, late words
broken piano keys on the ocean floor
If we call it fissure
is it any less broken, the ice?
the glacier slimming down,
divesting weight. We invited
the great blue crags
to partake of our warm bath,
merging our saltiness with theirs,
with the multitude
of lives within and around them;
none were invited to our table
of consequences, there never was
consensus on black fuels, flooding.
It will happen; ask some
island paradise now. Its people
will tell you, as they go under.
That’ll be enough of that for now,
the hurting. I’ve let it have
full sway for as long as it might need,
pressing heavy to the plexus, niggling,
contriving to not pass away.
I’d like some plainsong now, some
sweetness, marzipan. Perhaps to recall
a scene seven centuries old,
pealing of bells, bread,
a startling strip of crimson.
Come out, to be under the sky,
feel delicate rearrangements of dusk,
night time; attend.
Still, the cords pull tight and hard
in my shoulders, the perennial ache persists.
So listen, I know that none of this inheritance
is in my gift, I have nil right of surrender.
I understand the imperative of no easy forgiving,
the impedimenta of having existed.
Only now…the sheltering dark,
the hum of a small plane
seeking to land safely,
scratchings and bumps
on a low, flat roof.
Away But Not Gone
You are away but not gone
your touch remains
that personalized house to home
The line of cups peg hung in varied colors
like song birds on a branch
waiting above the feeder
The perfect fold of my shorts and T’s
basic geometry in a bureau drawer
socks neat rolls, each tucked to its place
Left overs portioned for your absent meals
balanced, food not touching,
each marked for oven time.
The scent in your pillow,
Spring year round
shoes in ranks and files
Sticky note reminders, calendar on the fridge
bills, medicine, dentist
birthdays, your departure, return, all marked
None enough, my dear,
emptiness unfilled withal
my longing near hurts, I am incomplete.
They gave him energy:
Left meat, bowls of amber Lucozade
built character through the application
of pumice stone to any incidence of hard skin,
insisting on the wearing of woollen trousers
left outside his room
when he dreamed of the light touch of cotton.
Imagine a big cat in a zoo, aloof,
draped on a low lying branch, looking away.
They were the gawpers, giggling, rattling sweet papers
throwing sharp cans into the enclosure.
His branch was the top of the stairs.
They would toss up pants, socks, shout:
“Come and say hello to Auntie Doreen”.
He would stay put, growl,
prowl the carpet bare,
trapped in a captivity of his own making.
Who he was, who he could be, was there for the taking.
The wind, relentless in its daily mugging,
sharpens the creases
in the silver lake.
The mountains topped with snow
even in summer, the polar light
shines strong and long.
He has horses, he is not a man without legs.
He feels their comforting bulk
riding the Patagonian plains.
For 40 years he
has been six months
adrift from the newspapers, brought on a silent raft
that ghosts through the lapping waters,
say is happening.
He survives on smoky cattle,
their skins peeled off like a sweater.
Horses help draw the water of life from the well.
Horses, sheep, a distant bounty on his head
Will all decide his fate.
There is no greater love Bruce.
You just might be a pallet of paint left on the moon
Or a pint of bootleg whiskey which was dropped on that weary floor by a careless drunk.
Don’t look for greater love Bruce.
You’ve inherited the worst lucks this generation has ever seen.
Your skin burns at the break of dawn.
You might mark an end to this great civilization! Buddy.
…..“My face! Look at it a 100 times and tell me what do you see?”
…Nay! Seems like I’m gazing at a short cripple who uses his trumpet as his cane.
……”You’re a moron, an idiot, a fool. I had been raised by the trees and the sun. Come with me to the park some night along with your band at the 4 adjacent benches near the leftover cement.”
There is no love for you Bruce.
God forgot to put you on a list son,
Look how you lisp and skip while you chase angels of the heaven.
My servants burst with laughter when you race for the bus station. They say it’s hilarious.
They feel bad for you.
You are one of those toys that children despise, mothers avoid buying.
A rock compressed into dust.
A lonely swing that may hurt the happy kid.
There is no purpose in finding greater love, Bruce
…..“I’m sure Idiot.”
I remember the taste of tomato sandwiches on the beach
the journey down to there was always stressful and long
the heat of summer burned my skin.
The prayer to St Christopher was said before the engine was started
I used to ask who he was and argued about the proof I was given.
the heat of the slap burned my skin.
The tide was in and if not it was out
a long walk from the promenade wall to the water edge
my feet splashing in the tidal puddles on the sand
the heat of the hand burned my skin.
The texture of the sand between my toes
cleansing and sticking
the waves above my chest splashing salt water between my lips
the coolness eased my burning skin.
The call for tea and those tomato sandwiches was heard from a distance
accompanied by the promise of the consequences if I did not return
I imagined the soreness on my skin.
Lukewarm orange and barley water felt good against my throat
sitting on the edge of some towel the sunshine blazing down
no protection on my burning skin.
A walk along the tide the expected after picnic activity
gossip heard but not understood before a greeting to a familiar face
cheeky comments resulted in more burning skin.
Dried roughly with a sandpaper towel but it tore between my toes
sand still stuck in places that dared not to be touched
but still I felt my burnt skin.
Days passed and by midweek the flakes were being picked
rawness and sometimes blood appeared
like bubbles on red raw