No return. Insistent, like depravity rummaging through hats and bags deep as the cuts and her voice. Death came and whiskey dealt with the pity. She washed the wheels with mourners sweat and tears. Polaroid of a girl on a tricycle holding her plastic windmill high. The sun hovers in the filthy sky. Now, out of the corner of her eye, they appear, like tears, reflections caught in the dark glass. They know she’s in there. A kind of mourning. The sea of faces disappears and hers emerges like that old polaroid. She makes her way through the void.
Here the capital letter hauls
There the comma fails
Here an exclamation of surprise
The pause is sick in my throat
I say a bleak hole
Swallows yoke and fell
And rules:-dots and days
The kiss on a cheek
And bison all in
And there surveyors stand
Readymade for reinvention.
Birthed in debt
accounts of regret
child to calculate
mouthfuls of abacus
bites and scores
Poems. Strange world where
We move differently
That one resembles a horse
That one, a star
Pattern and shape
Under the sea we surface
To gasp fear
Others bring oxygen
And stay under
Keen eyes feast on morning song
Seasoned with flight and plume
King Knut the great and cute
Gathering winter fuel.
The seed will not rear its pretty head,
It slips into poems I haven’t read
Though well-watered and amply fed
The soil’s warmth’s its fatal bed.
What is this seed
That will not sprout?
Up with you and out
Rise with the sun
And shun objectless lust
And writhe out from the settled dust.
Because I could not stop to think
Thought kindly took me in
And taught me how to Contemplate
Inside the chattering din.
We found a little Quiet Place
Underneath a Tree
And there all things passed us by
For Centuries I stayed with Him
But seemed like just a Day
We watched the planets come and go
Through the Milky Way
We heard the children laugh and play
Cicadas sang their song
The summers danced round winter grief
I felt the whole Earth’s throng.
I touched the ground with fingertip
I scarcely felt the urge
And Earth responded suddenly
With awful thundering surge
Awakened all my mind to naught
Thought looked on in terror
Spirits hid in foliage
And trembled at my error.
But much to Our relief
From out of shattering Blindness
The Clouds transformed to Rain
And soaked us in their Kindness.
Look at that house
where I live and make these thoughts move
like clouds overhead
be kind they said
but then sink instead
cicadas swoop and fall
the tick and tock
the children arrive
and turn surprised
to see me outside
at 3 o’clock.
A moment of joy lifts him
from pavement onto factory wall
from straight to horizontal he paints
a line into his fag and he and
the chimneys smoke and
the clock tower strikes
and the bus pulls up
and we all journey home
through soot and chill, but he’s
not going anywhere soon. A man,
lying in state balancing his hat
like a crown on his belly
for all the world and his dog
to see. The steady fall and rise
of middle-age. Brolly and briefcase
stand to attention,
ready for battle
against the hazy smog, the stretcher bond
of bricks and mortar. A sense,
then, of contemplation
only wants an artist
by chance on the top deck
of a bus passing and then this painting
for us to remember him by.
I wrote this parody of the poem ‘Man Walking’ by Owen Lowry in October 2013.
Live without pretenses, live
So that, finally,
You draw towards yourself the love
Of space, hear the future.*
One should walk along the beach
and see winter spacing itself between
people, but don’t fill in the gaps. Leave them
to chance and feel the sand between your toes,
sinking into soft ambiguity. Others may find your
path, step inside, perhaps, but keep to yours,
seaweed on one side and the tide, inching
closer, on the other until your paths
converge (it won’t retreat or apologise)
and your feet are fully submerged.
Your footprints will disappear without trace
and, finally, you can say I live.
I may walk this beach again, but, until then,
I live in the margins of time and place.
*Boris Pasternak, “To be famous isn’t decent” Translation by Bob Perelman and Kathy Lewis in Glad and Weissbort (1978),Russian Poetry: The Modern Period