Poem: The Horse

horse

The world behind the curtains:

That is my world – the domain wherein

I can be king, where else I would be but

A pauper – a man in the gutter reading

Out passages of Chaucer . . .

*

That is my world – yet so few ever see it,

Seeing only curtains – taking the hair of

The horse for the gallop of its heart

*

That horse could gallop along with my heart,

Its hooves trotting in time to the verses of my

Mind, stopping, nobly, humbly, before us,

*

That white blotch on its face – the last stain of

A sad eye that no longer sees – that longs to see,

But is forbidden sight by the sickness of its skull

*

That – that is the spot where I place my hand –

Where I receive and give knowledge – sending

Out and taking in parcels of love and empowerment,

The strangest of strange, war-wizened weapons, that

Only make their bearers feel weaker and weaker

*

I know what it is to be that horse,

To spend my days bathed – by great swathes of space amazed,

To be simple and sad –

Just a horse among horses

*

Then something happens.

A stranger creeps over a stile.

And the pattern of their legs meanders towards you,

And by the unhorsey beats of their horseness, you are

 Swiftly beguiled.

*

“Come!” you say, “I am wild and mild.

I am tame and tragic. I am patient and

Waiting, my hooves hardened by keratin,

And the jealous frustration of thunder.

I am all that you are, slender, unhorse-like

Things.

*

“I come to you for comfort,

Because comfort cannot be got from horses;

I come to you for understanding,

Because understanding is not shared among horses;

I come to you for wisdom,

Not because wisdom cannot be got among horses,

Because wisdom IS what a horse IS –

And, as every horse needs a rider,

So doth my wisdom need a non-horse to ride upon.

*

“But wisdom is pain,” continued the horse,

A tear falling from her face. “Have you not

Seen the saints cry? Have you not heard the

Wise men wailing? Have you not seen mothers

Confined in callousness, yet inside, as crumpled

And broken as the babes that came from them?

*

“This is why I came to you – why I humbly bow my

Head to you, and strive to let your fingers softly search

For the spirit of my soul; for, though we are divided,

Man and beast, and beastly man – your loneliness is

Still the same species as my own – the burden of wanting

To give out a gift everybody needs, but no one cares to

Receive.

*

“For wisdom is not just pain, but the weapon of love,

The dagger that seeks out the sagging point where it

Might carve itself a home.

*

“And, I can see your searching eye, strange, unhorse-like man.

Even as you stroke me, and we share a connection that transcends

Body and body, I can feel your mistrust – your awe of my power –

You are so afraid I could trample you to death with my hooves,

That you almost wish I would, just to get it out the way.

*

“From this I know you know how to love:

When you see an oncoming stampede, you do not run,

But lay down and open up your arms, and call out:

“TAKE ME AS I AM – FOR I AM NOT – I AM NOT AT ALL”

And even when the stampede somehow does not come,

And you suddenly find yourself whisked away to a desert

Plain, and see vultures swooping overhead, you do not flee,

But cry out in a Job-like strain: ‘I AM HERE – EAT OF ME AS

YOU CAN!’

*

“But no beaks come. No greedy, searching talons rend your

Waiting flesh, or carve grooves into that furniture of space

And time you call your skin. Nothing comes. Nothing symphonizes

Your last moments with the desperate flutter of its wings.

*

“And that is what love is: a sacrifice – an offering –

Not a gift given or taken, because it has no need

For giving and taking – that would be gain or loss –

Love can never diminish, though it be given and

Taken – because you cannot diminish what transcends

And underlies the very notion of diminishment.

*

“Can a river be said to give more because it’s banks

Are flooded? Can a volcano be said to make a donation

To the world when it vomits lava to harden into magma

From which new lands and continents will be formed?

*

“No. Because water will always be water,

Though it evaporate and dry up,

And lava will always be lava,

Though it harden into rock.

*

“So, love will eat up those who give themselves to it,

And to those that don’t, it will seek them out like a

Dangerous flood. But, whether love comes to you,

Or you to it, the outcome is the same – you will be

Burned and drowned. Drowned – but now as vast

As the immeasurable ocean. Burned – but now

Hardened into the hope of a seed-waiting new land.”

*

II.

We stood there in silence,

She in her hooves,

And we in our shoes.

*

We had to go soon,

And I could feel the sad tug

Of an aching bond about to be

Loosened.

*

I had given you my hands,

My small doses of love,

Now it was time for us to go,

And, with that thunderclap of

Envy, you returned to your sentinel –

Back to being a horse among horses,

Until that happy moment when someone

Creeps over your stile, perhaps to understand

You all over again.

*

III.

I can no sooner leave my field than you can, horse,

Unless farmers come to cart me away, and turn my

Idiosyncrasies into glue. For my life is my field, its

Demarcations and boundaries; and, I too, stand within

Its confines, just a being among beings, until that fleeting

Moment when someone reaches out their hand, and I can

Feel they understand – and I stand then in patient ferocity,

And drink in all that I can, because I know they will go soon,

And I will return to being misunderstood – a horseless,

Horseless man.

*

IV.

But it will not always be such.

One day I will build a home

Upon the making of such

Moments.

*

And I will be happy.

And my happiness will stride out,

Clumsy and sticky, like a newborn foal;

All that is inchoate and formless will be

As palpable and beautiful as a magical

Crystal.

*

And my house!

What a house!

*

I can see it.

I can feel its masonry growing upon me,

But I cannot yet describe it.

*

So, I can walk away from that field now with my friend,

Knowing that, as I leave behind timelessness to commit myself

To the future, I am somehow, magnificently, walking towards

My home:

*

The home where happiness will have its day,

And then have it all over again.

*

 

Poem: Dirge of the Dying Whale

whale

The whale rises up from the deep,

And, as he his lead to be moored

By The Cliffs of Dover, maybe then

I will understand why I am housed

Within this cave of cartilage – this

Floating stone of the surf; for now

My body grows heavy with the united

Scourges of despair and ignorance; it

Lies upon the beached sands, and counts

The harpoons in its back – one, two, three –

One lodged in the base of my spine; another

Making obeisance to the confused fortress of

My throat – the third and final piercing message

Planted as firmly as a flag in the back of my skull,

Where the rusted iron can equally commingle with

My thoughts, ever rusting, rusting, rusting . . .

And once unbound from this becalmed beast;

Once set free from the seat of this leviathan’s tonnage,

What will my homeless spirit do then? When my body,

Unsouled, is but ambergris and blubber, what will they

Build of me? Build me, sayest I, into a museum, and read

Each of my cells as books to craft a library, where you can

Source the traces of my thoughts in the broken circuitry of

Every scattered neuron

But, what you will find no more of is the unbagging

Of my notes; for the death of a whale is the death of

A song – and the death of my song is the breaking of

A cord which ties us to where we most want to

Belong

 *

My song belongs nowhere now;

It is lost and adrift as a broken raft,

A voyager sent to space in an

Unmanned craft

 *

As the whale lies there –

As I lie there –

Cleansing the oceans with the offering of my blood,

I attempt to sing out one last song – not a swan song –

But a whale song

I sing it,

And my mouth becomes its own maelstrom,

I sing it,

And the coasts reverberate with the sounds of a dying chasm,

I sing it,

And all the seaweed,

And the tides and rhythms of the hollows of the earth,

Find their voice in my threnodic whistle

 *

Because I do not just sing for myself,

But for the world – I sing for all those that

Cannot sing for themselves – I sing for

The disenfranchised, lonely, and oppressed,

For those submerged in deeper oceans, who

Will never get to dislodge those harpoons of

Pain which spear their chaotic chests

For these will I sing,

Until, mayhap, the tides come in again,

And my fins turn into wings

 

 

Poem: Lost Lady of the Library

words-labyrinth.jpg

Letter, letters, letters – words received via mail

That can spear or save a heart, I, this lone woman,

Have been waiting. They will not see the likes of my

Grief again – stabbed and impaled on many a pen

*

My sisters they do not understand,

With empty heads and flirting hands,

Better they were trapped in some loveless marriage,

Than kept alive to torment me

*

Don’t you see the spittle on their silken gowns –

They way they bray like toothless, slobbering hounds,

Trussed up and misaligned in fashion’s untenable manacles?

*

I am glad I am not thus;

That god did not misalign my judgement

To make of me a painted harlot

*

What have I to wait for?

I do not flirt with hands,

But a stream of words –

Words, that, strung together,

Become as molecular rivulets of opium

To soothe my stirring blood

*

Oh, blithe and inalienable nepenthe of literature!

You are the only thing that cuddles me when I have

No arms to hold me; you are the only things that reminds

Me the sun stills beats when winter casts its thorns about me

*

They all mock and laugh at me –

Indeed, call me ‘Spinster of the Library!’

And what worldly wealth have I to deny it?

I am married to my books – I cannot unproof it –

I find my husband’s arms in the lisping torrent

Of pages; in footnotes and marginalia I see the

Remainder of all those conversations I’ve never

Had, and most like, never shall

*

Why do I read?

Books speak to me when no one else does,

Books satisfy me when nothing else does,

Books take all the confusion and misery of

The world, and offer them up as delectable

Jewels – fragments of a shark’s broken teeth,

That are all the better for being shark-stricken

*

And, if I keep on reading, I hope that those words

Will mute the pain of the awareness that no words

Come to me from others – that I play a marginal role

In a play with no other characters

*

And when I am dead, I will still be here –

Then they’ll not call me ‘Spinster’ but –

‘The Lost Lady of the Library,’ – and I’ll

Be a comfort for all those that love to learn;

But to those that returneth letters not, I’ll be

As a scourge, a curse; I’ll be the maggots that

Brew in the throats of those that are unworthy,

Whose vengeful quills prick out the spark of each

And every bubbling hope; when the hangman’s not

Near, I’ll be the rope – and when suicide is least

Expected, it is then meet that I will have it staged

*

But though this librarian, irrevocably, be lost,

I am not graduated to ghosthood yet,

So I will cast myself on a bonfire of letters,

And carry myself to bed.

*

 

Poem: The Vigil of the Troubadour

troubadour

Troubadour, troubadour, waiting outside

The castle walls – after dancing through

All the many seasons of court, hadn’t you

Better wend your way elsewhere?

*

You’ve been waiting here so long, and

Only slenderly let in; the archers regard

You warily through the ramparts; your bones

Rise to the surface as prosecutors of your hunger,

And only irregularly does the porter scatter you

With crumbs, when he hears the honking of geese

In the water

*

The rest of your merry band have long since ridden

On, whilst you wait outside, composing

Verses upon the parchment of your mind – you never

Learned to read or write – but from the tutelage of

Your lady’s face, you feasted upon Mercury’s eloquence,

And even as you starve, every cell of you still loves to sing,

To take the sky as your song book, and share with the world

All that you hear

*

It is a sad life being a musician,

For you know you can never have children;

Your melodies, your words, they are your offspring,

The Halflings of your hearth – every note you sing only

Further miscarries any hopes you might have, and your

Genealogy withers like the tail of a dying salamander;

You must perforce become your own father and

Daughter as you weep into your ladyship’s walls

*

II.

But your tabor did not always beat out so bleak;

When back in the early days of dying summer,

And on through the pageants of the last revels

Of winter, you were appointed ‘The Purveyor

Of Pleasance,’ – your heart swelled with feasts,

Fancies, masques, and dances – a horn of plenty

Bulging with festivities, your lady presiding over

The head of the court, like the aspen at the

End of the world

*

And you still use those memories to warm you

Against the assurance of winter, when spring

Seems like a faraway promise you’re not sure

Will ever come hither

*

And, when you are feeling most brave, and hope

Does not feel like such a heavy thorn pressing against

Your heart, you allow yourself to think back to that night

In September, when your Ladyship lead you secretly into

Her chamber – the walls fanfaring with the sombre

Resplendence of tapestries; lyrics frothing to the pale

Motions of her limbs as she closed the door behind you

*

“I have a secret to tell you,” said she,

“And it must never be repeated or cast

Back against me; for what are for your

Ears, eyes, and touch alone must be as

Improbable fantasies to your wayward

Senses.”

*

And, without delaying, she opened a book;

An illuminated manuscript, your heart as

Though on a hook, and those pages were

Gilded and lettered with a truth you did

Not need to be a scholar to see you own

Face in

*

III.

But, it would be uncouth to say more –

To say, how, in your Ladyship’s chamber,

You received music that did not rely upon

The plucking of strings, or the aeration

Of throats – how there is a certain

Languid eloquence in the soulful sharing

Of silence – how color is not just something

You see, but can also feel in the parting of lips,

As they speak to you of your future

*

IV.

But, you are still outside.

And if anybody asks you

What you are doing, you say:

“I am waiting for my lady,”

And if anybody, in response,

Asked you what your lady

Was doing, your face would

Collapse in a centrifuge of its

Own uncertain tears

*

Because you do not what your ladyship is doing,

Anymore than you can read the meaning of the

Wind

*

 

Poem: A King Lear State of Mind

gloster

Finding myself still beating against battlements

And ropes of bondage from which I thought I’d

Been freed, in a King Lear state of mind, I paced

The meadows besides The Wye, uttering

Imperatives and imprecations to the heavens,

Beseeching them that I might transmute the

Prison bars of rage into compassion, and from

The cauldron of rebirth, emerge re-liveried in

The soft vesture of gentleness’s garments

*

Once I reached the woods, and the arboreal

Conspiracy of aspen and beech could be heard,

The boiling waters of my madness began merely

To simmer, and the bare-branched advice of my

Sylvan counsellors soothed me into the fading

Consciousness of Celtic dispassion

*

“You are what you seek,” preached the first beech.

“And you can never be divided from what you hide;

And all that hides from you in protective fetters,

Will but dive nakedly into you later on.”

*

“I am that I am,” The River Wye put in,

“And there is no obstacle in the measureless

Flow of time that I cannot rend by sailing through.

You are your own daughter – you are the channel

Through which madness reworks itself to be wisdom

For later ages.

*

“But, for now – be mad. Let your gall grow uncorrupted

On the acornless branches of Oaks, so that in taking on the

Gall of your fellow men, you can cleanse them for the eventual

Softness of truth’s articulation.”

*

II.

Soothed and soothsaid, I wandered on.

No lightning struck me – nor was I pierced

With crippling winds – but slick coldness slithered

Around me in the clutching coils of hypothermia –

But I was willing to die in those woods if I was able

To deliver the help of which I was the messenger.

*

I saw all the people of this path,

From tourists abroad, to the old

Celt’s laugh, and the vision of a

White horse counselled me a purity

Of course: you must kill yourself to

Get where you’re going

 *

I thought I had heard enough –

I thought all was to ‘let go and

Give up,’ but sometimes lesser

Aims must be miscarried to make

Room for gentler ambitions

*

But let go of what? Give up what?

Let go this body, this mind, this brain,

This heart – let go this sky that pinions

Me with the sweetness of its gravitas –

Let go of dreams, too fragile to hold,

Yet so heavy, they conduct the creak

And crush of my ribs, and turn the

Muddiness of every night into the

Northern Lights?

*

All I will give up is the misery of ego

And clutching, and walking back through

The Symonds Yat Woods, the red kite

Carries me back to Monmouth

*

 

Poem: Janus

janus

Janus – the two-headed god of January:

Looking backwards – looking forwards –

In that cross-eyed expansion of mental

Bilocation, we fear a future that will not

Carry us away from the past – clutching

The skirts of redemption, we may find

The pain we escaped is a pale relation

Of the pain we’re to embrace – leaping

Over a hedgerow spun into a maze, to

Be labyrinthed in a pavement’s fracture

*

In the spaces that follow,

Every bend and every hollow,

Every moment is a release and

A return to an ailment that cannot

Be cured – and is only intensified in

The healing

*

I feast myself on the bland statements of others,

While love whickers itself out of silence and absence;

And like a sun is a single point of light in a sky of darkness,

Love is lost in the meaning of meaningless tweeting, yet is

Ever-present in the particulates of light, that can even give

Sunburn to the darkness

*

Looking backwards, I see all that I’ve believed crucified

On an ego of prayers – looking forwards, I find dreams

Coalescing into coarser fabric, and moments that were

Once replete with meaning being relegated to sideshow

Casing.

*

I see love in the shuffling of socks –

In the stridulation of the re-alignment

Of slippers – I see love in uneaten dinners;

In embryonic melodies spinning themselves

Out of a silence, too shy, too elusive, to be

Captured

*

I see up ahead the death of waiting;

And of myself pressing against the

Gates of Hell, urging it not to be

Reborn as: Waiting For something

Else

*

Sometimes, I see so much, that my eyes

Are torn out of the sockets of The Present,

And those barren hallways of eyeless glory,

Make me look like a child in a daze ever

Darkling

*

Because Janus only has two heads,

And the third is compiled by the consumption

Of the two others – just as love will eat away

All who bear it, and carry the rest to the sewers

*