Robert Rauschenberg’s Untitled
We share a sense of ruin.
& already I see alpines
prise their way through the brutalist grey
of Chernobyl floors. Through the sarcophagus
they reach for sunlight. Maybe we only learn
what the burn of graphite means once blind.
I know you better after knowing disaster.
I’ve studied the colour theories
of Goethe and Albers where the wheel
& the wheel of life are a way to feel closer.
I am the stalk through the fallout, one that insists
on pushing its way & one that’s been patient.
On the surface we share the mark of detonation.
It will go on.
They say a town like this is void
though one pulse of a deer’s heart
makes it a plenum. A full spectrum
will reveal itself only when you’ve pledged
to cease hurting. Through this I see
what you saw when the sun set
& made shades on a radiator.
We are both on the side of art.
Another Kind of House
From scratch, a house built from the ruins up
follows no architectural plan, save for what’s
dreamt over several times. No-one I say in their
right mind would climb that staircase, unsure
steps, less than a match for what’s safe, abstract.
At the shop I grab only greys and whites,
sometimes greens for the lichened parts.
As cement, the studs go fine; though the
shapes are make-do, unhewn for the task.
It’s devised as a homage to Lovecraft, rooms
within rooms, alcoves, and a walled-up cat.
I’ve hinged it like a dolls’ house, so its doors
can be swung open to sunlight, or lamp light
might trail through the table legs, a strange star.
Residents thus far comprise of a mermaid,
a gingerbread man, a cliché ghoul in Day-Glo
sheets. I proceed on the basis of metaphor.
Or is this my actual house?, come to think.
We sit by a tearoom. Scooters, hula hoops, scuttle and clack.
We deserve a rainbow – though what do I know?
We’re taking notes, each wanting a winter poem.
Dylan on the veranda, the radio inside, we smile
and tap iPhones. We visit lovebirds in our minds,
the aviary closed. I photograph doves, mid-flight,
for a video which later you’ll compose.
I twist the top off a gingham jar, after you loosen it;
our flask a third term between us. We lock hands,
the lamps switch on, stoop over avenues. We twine
fingers, staring at the sky together. The sky
is one immense snow globe, and the sleet beads
on the fence, lachrymose. Trees mesh like happy skeletons.
You talk of soundtracks, recording your love:
woodpigeons, dogs, distant chirrups. No ganache,
you spoon chocolate cake, offer me yours. We handfast –
while the winter goes on, goes on, while sea sounds
of the motorway lead to reverie. I want days
like this, going on, days of no real schedule,
watching birds pick at crumbs – with you, not beyond …
It’s February. We sit here, sharing illness, kissing,
drawing faces round knots. We watch as dusk falls
on ruins of the park’s mansion. We listen, while air pincers
through the ginkgo biloba. God, let us go on.
I want us to hold here till the sun burns out.
I move because my legs are numb, just that, I want you to know.
Spires of heathens, through the pane, through a slit of voile.
Dawn aches higher, its chorus inspiring the bedridden.
A wood pigeon, pinned to last scraps of dark. The sky’s hue,
greyish-purplish-blue. Shadows on telegraph wires.
I peer down. Cars pull out. Mothers in suits, business class.
School kids bruised, led by wrists: machine-moulded citizens.
Without you, I lose myself in the damask of the sheets,
down a valium, slip into dream,
where cheek-to-cheek selfies stay intact.
Bank holiday sirens, fading out.
I want days to never begin, for stars to rise, drift again –
to a trashed cityscape, towerblocks in tatters, papers strewn,
the scene post-nuclear, streets crazed with driverless cars.
To wake is to jump off a high rise.
A Loss Either Way
How I hate to have to wake you
Sunday morning like the man from Porlock.
Inside your dream unspooling
feels the most sacred thing
even if spring is full of itself near noon.
I can’t hold off from rousing you
giddy with our day ahead
the multitude of memories we could make.
Again that pang as you describe the cut
end of a tape a story left unfinished
and never know now ever again
where the truncated scene might have led.
So I step back to my notepad and pen
let your head fall back
to the sheet redeem something at least
of my voice stealing from the soundless air
the far deeper intimacy of you
alone in a bedroom without me.
Just words on a page offer
some flawed equivalence having broken off
from stroking your hand saying your name
how our day will prove better
than where you’ve been and return to again.