The fading pop star
Every time I pass through the deserted station,
I think of you.
When the train slows
I see your picture.
You wear a frown
as if you really don’t want to be
pasted on a wall so grim and bare.
Dressed in your best
advertising last year’s gig,
sold out pasted over dates.
Already corners are peeling,
revealing a well-known cleaning brand.
You float amongst flotsam, Before the Dawn,
your life jacket orange,
a reminder of the waking sun,
the passing years,
the cares kindly removed
from your airbrushed face.
The train pulls away.
Tonight I will hear your voice
and remember when we both
No to floral racism
I seen a Rose raised high, bright red, radiant
Perhaps blushing, nothing subtle about its splendour
Cradled in a cluster of others, just as grand
Contentedly bathing in summer sun
Sharing its majesty, unaware
The Bee hovered, exploring the flowering gift
Doing what bees do, oblivious to all-else
Swivelling from flower to flower
Bluebell to Yellow Rattle and Bluebell again
Natures caretaker taking care
The Bee joined busy companions
A chorused buzz, perhaps harmonized
Celebrating natures wonderous diversity
Not knowing nor caring the name of flower
Captivated only by colour, adoring content
I watched it dart to the garden gate
Drawing my attention to a Dandelion
A rogue that escaped my diligent plucking
Sunburst yellow, bright and resilient
But a weed, without knowing, just the same
It danced with this rogue, with delicate respect
Seeing the flower without prejudice of caste
Accepting the invitation, wild flower or winning rose
Florae connected by natures needs
A mutual dependence of perfection, a lesson learnt.
A five-pointed star is a pentagram
With just a tilt of the head.
Why are you so intent on breaking
Your thumbs and fingers back
To try and make the digits fit
That blessed, twisted shape?
What sort of pardon do you seek
In the change and mutilation?
A jilted heaven of your choosing
Takes you firmly by the wrists.
Step over the corpse of it.
Pretend that it’s not there.
Jon Jack Neil
Down in Radiotherapy
This blue bunker of last resort
There’s chilled laughter
Like a joke blown over ice
The magazines are out of date
The gossip around the water cooler
Is clipped like code
Not just anyone enters here
But here is different
Here Be Monsters
And the wounded on trolleys
Knights errant and the green grail
Lights slashing the prone body in four
Unholy pieces, cruciform, hapless Christs
On a gurney; that’s why we whisper
Not to rouse cell-deep evils
To keep the unthinkable in its place
Incarnate under our splitting bones
A cage of calcium struts and bent beams
A bomb going off in slow-motion –
The architect got it wrong, left
A space for this weak zone
Prone to a sly inside job, self-treason.
the red sky
red daubs stretch from edge to edge
highlight clouds like a drunken artist
might try to paint a sky
a final bird flies north toward the wetlands
it’s silent now apart from the occasional car
or neighbour in their garden
this is the best time the gloaming time
the moments between day and night
when sky grows dark and stars appear
I can stand here watch and listen
as the world turns away from the sun
as the air cools and a breeze stirs
another sound a TV or radio
some people at the end of a barbeque
a door closed and bolted a window locked
I wonder if anyone can hear me my heart pounds
maybe I should shout I am alive
as the last hint of red fades in the west
Silken at my neck
I lose myself
Sashimi on my tongue
I drink you in
Your nakedness entwined with mine
Your breath gentle against my neck
You sleep while I smile, thankful, awed.
Numbness sets in
Your skin moves against mine
And we settle again.
I should sleep
But that would be to waste these precious hours
Of your nakedness entwined with mine.
This is the terminus,
Within these walls,
Where shadows divest themselves.
In the corner, fantasy hides its head shamefully.
One tear, like a tree in a forest, falls.
Then another and another,
Until all the years crash in unison,
To thunderous applause.
Lying two together,
In our shroud of beaded sweat,
We are voracious readers,
As we thrall through this library of Time.
Tripping each other with our playfulness,
Laughing off the other’s haunting spectres,
Jousting with fate, and,
Losing every time.
We have arrived at the crossroads, where all roads lead to.
We have paused at the point,
Where all journeys commence.
Reeling, in the remoteness,
In this sacred hiding place, inhospitable to
Future and past,
We covet a sneak preview of the final destination,
As we return to the fray,
Through a secret door,
Found, in each other’s eyes.
She asks if I have
a special occasion,
a conversation worth having.
I pull out my rehearsed
‘life itself is one!’
She chuckles on cue
as though I’m funny,
I’ve already denied
red espadrilles in restraint,
my humor is low.
There’s undeniable existence
comradery in this therapy,
forgery in the currency.
Indoor palms and fraudulent heat
allude to paradise,
though children in melt-down
should be excluded in favor
of designer margaritas.
Surely, I can’t be alone
in going home to unpack
yet another empty handbag.
A dark humor of waxwings crossing campus,
schooled by a wall of glass, exquisite specimens.
I crouch to collect thoughts, bodies,
elegant Icarus still warm in my palm,
an instinct to salvage something from wreckage
into the vault of memory
slipped my father
Perfunctory kindness after a death,
evergreen seedling rooted in tomorrow,
never makes it out of the pot. Intentions,
relationships pass in the night, wither,
whether watered too much or too little
his strength carried me up a narrow staircase,
more than half asleep
Then, my younger brother,
an uncle for just that one Christmas
to my infant daughter who screamed,
inconsolable, as if she could read a shadow
in my voice, narration wavering with doubt
the children believed everything
until it became impossible
Shrapnel lodged too close to the heart,
my most vivid image of both:
our father bursts through a childhood door
in unrestrained fury and hurls my brother
across a room to crumple against a wall
having demolished walls to escape,
we framed new ones to hide behind
Survivors rewrite histories: this incident the seed
of a strangling vine, that truth an early casualty of the war
between forgiveness and anger, unreliable reports
from the front lines. Now I sit miles beyond pain,
immersed in work, oblivious, hardened
is this what a heart sounds like
A thud from outside makes me find shoes
to investigate, and quivering in the leaf litter
below the window, a tiny olive bird,
fallen flycatcher, breathing, belly up,
victim of too much reflection, false sky
the minister, a trained prevaricator, envisioned
my brother and father, happily reunited
Maybe only a mild concussion or unnameable,
internal injuries, insidious as hope.
Sometimes the spirit has broken, or the neck.
Brief, grounded prayers, these wordless birds,
cupped briefly, then gifted back to the trees