Death As A Woman: An Ode

death.png

I.

Death approaches like a beautiful woman,

Long silken sweeps of her dress sashaying,

Something lovely, but far from human,

A picture of beauty, never decaying,

Yet decaying anyway – festering – burning –

Inflamed by the desire to be something else,

Yet the majesty of being here is returning,

And the melody of the moment fails to melt

The longing for stability in a body still shaking,

Inability to surrender to a pain hardly won,

A boy in the dying – an artist in the making,

The web of experience is unforgivingly spun;

And Death, as a Woman, pulls me to her breast,

Unshackles her waistband, and begins to undress

II.

And there, in her nudity, Death’s lovely form,

Is not cold and spiteful, but voluptuous and warm,

Inviting, and seductive – a thing fully fleshed,

A toxin-crazy fire,

Of invidious desire,

Forfeits me of the skin in which I’m carelessly enmeshed

III.

She has been known by many names:

Lamia – Circe – Christabel –

Persephone of the Underworld – Queen of Hell

Of everlasting allure and malicious fame –

 A murderess for sure – whatever the name!

IV.

O, but we lust for her – cannot be without her!

We only value our veins when from them she’s drank

More than we can give; cannot revoke the offer,

And our once youthful vitality becomes sinister and rank,

Until we see ourselves in the mirror – hollowed-out half-demons,

Sisters of the Grave, and Brothers of the Shore,

Delirious and twitching with delirium tremens,

Eat us with your kisses – give us some more!

You syphilitic hussy – all white and lovely –

Curving with a smoothness that kills all it feels,

The more beautiful you become, the more we grow ugly,

And our lease on living is salaciously repealed,

Tooth-marked and skinless, love teachingly betrays,

Marries us to Murder – measures us for the Grave

V.

Ah, but lovely woman, I cannot leave you there!

Haughtily vaunting over our sepulchre,

You are innocence and sin, orgiastically combined;

You do not just kill us, but make us refined,

Sisters of the Grave, yes, but Brothers of Rebirth,

From eggs hatching,

Caught, but never catching,

You execute us, perfectly, without needing to rehearse

VI.

Thus, with hands clawing up out of the ground,

Caked with sod,

And Caducean rod,

I emerge victorious – from death unbound

From mortality lost – by eternity found

 

Poem: Apologia

rose.jpg

I.

Pain is bred into these walls,

So I walk out alone into the woods,

Where nightmare upon nightmare serry and prance,

All the dourness of death in a deathless dance,

Nightmares with dreams swiftly interchange,

What once seemed pure is quickly deranged,

And once deranged is purified again,

Wings of heaven and hell in the palace of a brain

II.

Come, let us love, and fear no more,

Cast all misunderstandings outside the door,

Pain may be bred into these walls,

But the tormentor becomes life-giver when duty calls,

For as unkind words cruel tongues quickly make,

Thirsty passions just as easily can they slake,

Instruments of pain to pleasure are made,

Stabbed and saved by the self-same blade

III.

Turn not your eyes from me, but pierce mine again,

The intensified eyes of a lioness with a lioness’s mane,

Let your lips find mine – speak only with sensation,

On this hectic journey without a destination,

Words can mislead – but touch speaks the truth,

Turn the next page – do not close the book,

Though my heart now be suspended as on a meathook,

Pleasure gives way to pain – pain to pleasure returns,

And the fire is contained in the same ice it burns

IV.

I cannot pretend that I know you at all,

But I want to know all of you – to walk among your walls,

And, perhaps I have been clumsy in seeking admission,

Made thoughtless mistakes with frightened imprecision;

It was all just to help you – to show you I care –

I want to touch you again – run my fingers through your hair –

Whatever wounds I’ve opened, may I seal them with a kiss,

Fear’s thorns and vulnerability are the gateway to bliss,

I wish only to love – to give you my tenderness –

To inject my soul into each and every caress,

V.

So, please forgive my mistakes – my foolish transgressions,

We can easily work beyond this unhappy dereliction,

The spell of three days should not be unmade in a night,

Even the kindest of lips must give way to fight,

And fight into light, like abyss into sun,

The tiny rippling explosions where the river doth run,

VI.

I’ll treat you like a queen – a flaming princess –

But it’ll take the hearts of two to clean up this mess,

Let me know what to do – how your mercy to move,

What acts of devotion my kindness can prove,

So what is ruptured can be restored with greater strength,

Measure for measure – and length for length –

Heart for heart – and beat for beat –

Bitterness into sweetness – and sweetness – more sweet!

From heaven to hell – and hell to heaven once more –

Though now able to locate the exits and doors!

*

And, as I pray not to lose what I would better know,

I hope for a gentle touch and not a hope-destroying blow

 

Poem: Visions of Spring

ecole-bosch-vision-de-tondal2

Where the earth grows gravid,

Pregnant with itself; that’s where

My thoughts flow. Primroses, crocuses,

Snowdrops rejoice to wheezing greenfinches,

Spring winds breathing fresh through the heather.

But we had to crawl through the dark shawl of winter,

Tear off her icy veil, to arrive at this florid juncture here;

We had to roam through lands, spectre-filled – haunted –

Every hectare sown with nightmares, wicked hags haunting

The cairn-carbuncled mountains

To where we find a boy and girl,

Both beautiful and fair, strayed

From their farm, their sunny fayre,

To a plain of nightmare, to a village

Of jigsaw-walled dereliction of Boschian

Black and cream-white bleakness

A little goblin guides them through the town,

Showing them the history painted on their walls;

Eight and ten-score years of making trophies, and

A thousand more of famine: “All the bread was burned

To black, and we never ate again.”

 *

“O, we are a poor folk here!” he lamented.

The boy and girl too wondered how they would ever eat again,

Caught in the woods, intersticed with pockets of civilization,

Which grew up like boils between them

 *

But now, reedy and wind-blown, a peace as deep and as heavy

As a hug anchors me to land, to the life of the land, and my thoughts

Cradle themselves, crow-like, in the negative spaces between the branch’s

Hands

 *

Truly, we never stop being children – each human life-span

As long as a primrose – of a mushroom – of the pre-programmed

Wrinkles in the tenderness of a sapling

 *

But life remains beneath the earth,

Though flowers soon exceed their day of birth,

And sun within the soil is cloven,

With love and fire, both inwoven,

I will savour the ease after the strain,

Though, still unable to separate pleasure from pain,

And in the muddy peace and chaos of fertile existence,

I will go on living,

I will go on singing

 

Poem: Conversations With Rumi

rumi

Sweet Rumi, and Prophet Gibran, lend me your hearts!

Let me not be corrupted by hate, nor the enmity of wounded

Pride; the mouldering coal of anger that inflames my myocardia,

And obstructs the outlets of my infectious affection

*

Let me not be a hypocrite – I have promised to give,

So let me give – give, even when I feel only the indifference

And inattention of those I give to – when I offer of myself to

The point of exhaustion only to be met with distant stares

*

It makes this wounded child want to repair into a Grinch,

A burglarizing old Saturn, and declareth thus: “I have

Given, and been denied loving gratitude, so wherefore

Shouldst I give?”

*

Abide not that Reuben! Take that Reuben –

Slap him in the face – and sayeth unto him:

*

“Give, Reuben – give until you have donated the very bones

From your back; give of your skin – give until you are so itchy

And inflamed, your tender layers excoriated by blazing sands,

You can barely stand for the pain of how much you give

*

“By all means cherish those that receive your love,

And return it too, for they heal you and remind you

What it is to be whole – to be the middle ground

Betwixt Heaven and Earth

*

“But cherish even more those who neither take your love,

Nor return it, or if they do, give back only in outward displays

Of silent mockery, or glut the ears of your heart with poisoning

Words; those who take your love as but a trifling snack, and, after

Eating it all to surfeit, with no trace of gratitude, have the temerity

To ask “What’s for dessert?” – those to whom you give your most

Precious things only to have them to converted into missiles of

Unkindness to slay and destroy, like the golden statue of a

Glorious saint or king melted down to make metal for bullets or

Swords –

*

“If those that love you are your healers, then those emperors

And empresses of ingratitude are your teachers: they show you

How to steel your love and keep it pure – to persevere in a love

That cannot be deterred – to make your love the king of all beasts;

To dine on your obstacles as invigorating meats

*

“Evolution thrives on adaptation – so make your love such a one

As this – a love that refuses to give up – that always find a way

To survive – if at first your love does not succeed, endure, and

Search out the forms it needs to take on in order to be the

Emancipating skeleton key, the hidden jigsaw puzzle piece

That connects every heart.”

*

“But the blackness of my anger is so hard,” you say,

“I am depleted, duped, dead – how much longer must

I go on refining the steel of my love against the adamantine

Point of other’s disdain, apathy, and hatred?

*

“Because I have met those that would love me;

That would crucify me with their kindness –

That can clearly see all I strive to do for the world,

And see that it is good.

*

“Why would I consent to being a pillar of odium

When I do not have to cast myself so bloody upon

Embattled plains? Why would I submit myself to

Aching disinterest, of knocking flint against flint to

Try and rouse love in an unwelcome heart when I could

Receive love elsewhere ready-made?”

*

“Why would you, indeed?” said Rumi. “Take the easy way

And all will later be hardness; take the hard way, and, as you

Now know, much else will become easier thereby – better yet,

Unite them both, and be indifferent, accepting, and loving of

Either.

*

“No one said you had to make a choice, because how can we

Ever just make one choice about anything? In selecting one thing,

We also create the anti-matter of all we failed to select, and, by

Opting not choose one thing, we are still kept in the pall of

Non-choice’s shadow. One may choose The Path of Happiness

And still find sadness pursuing them like a silent cat – one may

Choose to renounce the world, only to find that the world still

Pursues them in their renunciation, and nothing has been

Renounced at all. One will always find many things one did

Not choose, so why place such great esteem in choices after

All?

*

“Instead of worrying about what to choose, be mindful of what

You do with what chooses you – be kind to those things you do

Not choose – you’ll have to learn to live with everything eventually

Anyway, so why not make things easier and harder for yourself –

Isn’t that what you’ll do anyway?”

*

“So, this is what I get,” thought I,More of the hollow philosophy

I went into the desert to get away from: survive – live – die – or

Do not die; choice against choicelessness – self-control verses

Recklessness – egotism verses selflessness – virtue and sin in

Psycho-sexual union breeding more babies of ambiguity to

Keep the world going on and on and on.”

*

“I hear you, brother,” said Rumi, tugging me by the hand,

And pulling me further into those golden desert sands, “I

Hear your cries, your confusion, your incertitudes, and

Desolating and uplifting attitudes. I hear your thoughts

And all the sly silky nothings that slink between those

Thoughts. I hear them all as clearly as I hear a jukebox

That spurs on a barbaric barroom brawl.

*

“You want what we all want: you want to love and

Be loved – to feel that confusion is something you

Can overcome – that there is a direction, a purpose,

A motion in life you can eternally trust in – and

Even though you rebel against all linear things,

You still wish the course of life wouldn’t always

Be so frustratingly pinball quantum.

*

“Think of your friends, Rube. Those who are your friends

May later becomes your enemies, and, by becoming your

Enemies, may prove better friends in giving you things to

Strive against.

*

“How often have those you loved only proven to be stepping

Stones towards those you would love mightier later? How many

Dashed hopes have unleashed greater joys from the corpses of

Those they lost?

*

“The problem is the question of Finality – of Certainty.

The desire to have things so, and to have them always be

So: to have an eternal day, and be done with night – to

Have an eternal summer and be done with the savage

Ineluctability of winter – to have just enough love and

No more than you can manage – to have just enough

Solitude, but not enough that all your hopes are ravaged –

This golden mean – this constant ratio – this middle income

Of truth and light – of sustainable joy somehow always able

To vivify itself with an insurance policy against discontentment’s

Canker

*

“But we live in a seasonal world – an excessive world –

A world that will always take things too far, and, in the

Process, take you too far along with it:

*

“So why not smile and shout when you are happy,

And wail and cry when you are sad – and then reverse

Them, and dance and sing when your are unhappy

And cry with mightiness when your joy stabs you mindlessly

In the heart?

*

“Either way you experience –

Either way you keep on going –

Because there is no true stillness in this world;

But, like the ball in the pinball machine, you will

Always find yourself rocketing between one point

Of light, and a pair of pincers always ready to strike

You back.

*

“Like Homer’s Odysseus, you must choose between Scylla

And Charybdis, knowing that, in this union of sea monsters,

There is no real choice at all; between this rock and a hard

Place, you will feel the hardness of hardness, the softness of

Softness; the softness of hardness, and the hardness of softness;

And you will find joy and sorrow in them both; wisdom and ignorance

In them in equal measure.

*

“So what does it matter? It doesn’t matter which way you sail –

The point is that you sail. The point is that you have the courage

To be freely buffeted by the winds, lapped by the tonguing foamy

Surges of Neptune’s inconstant lover’s broil. Stay at home, and the

Sea will only seek you out – go to sea and seek out, and you will be

Sought by land just the same, if that be not the crux of all your

Seeking.

*

“Feeling stable, you long for change – feeling only surging

Tides of change, you long for the certitude of land to give

You a supply of paradise’s incorruptible currency.

*

“Again, the point is neither in choosing change or changelessness,

Finding both in neither, and neither in the above – the point is in

The motion – in the desiring, the end of desiring, and then the returning

Of desiring all over again.

*

“That is the point:

Motion – stillness – love.”

*

“I carry no assumptions about anything,” said I,

In return, throwing a bolt of lightning against the

Sand to make it into a glass to mirror us both.

*

“I know that one cannot choose happiness anymore

Than one can opt to completely outdo the conniving

Machinations of suffering. I choose neither an easy

Love nor or a hard love, for there is no love to choose,

Love being all there is.

*

“But I am human. I ask questions. I look to the future

And I speculate – I hold up and comparatively weigh

All the possible journeys I make. No one will ever truly

Know if they are the in process of experiencing the best

Of all possible worlds; but still – still there is the desire

That with every action and new direction one takes, that,

In the motion of that direction, we take it and make it in

The best possible way – that we leave no stone of potential

Wisdom, knowledge, joy, difficulty, or obstruction unturned,

Unfulfilled – that we do not lay to waste all those gifts that

Are made to us – that we make sure our cup runs over –

That we do not cease to drink wine until the vineyard has

Completely run dry.

*

“Who would do otherwise? In drinking milk from the tits

Of the world, who wouldn’t suck at and lust against every

Sacred udder they can find – who would be content to see

The dizziest of dizzy heights without being quest-proud in

Their vertigiousness to see them?

*

“But I don’t know really know what I’m saying anymore.”

*

“Then say nothing,” said Rumi to me, sweetly, “say nothing

And be sweet; say nothing and sing instead; say nothing and

Be ceaselessly still and silent and unceasingly without silence

And stillness in your dizzying quest for life and quest to seek

Repose therefrom.”

*

Then we took one another by the hand

And carried on walking through the sands.

*

 

Poem: The Return of Ecstasy

paradise

Who visits me in these sanctuaries of aurorean night,

And pours the sweet nectar of delight down my throat?

*

Thoughts can fly further than bodies, and, when they

Meet in the merging of breath-swollen mouths, wings

Are appended to every limb, and all your worries burst

In a torrent of starlings – a murmuration of sweetened

Madness that carries you aloft to the paradisial gardens,

Where your children greet you in the happiness of Divinity’s

Own Body

*

I will try and recreate it for you,

To cast my spell over you – to

Transport you to that floor where

I lay, hungover, in an ecstatic state,

A vineyard flowing through my veins,

Poetry erupting from me in hysterical

Leaps – singing madly, haply, with the

Full rainbow trout, rainbow song, of

Hysteria – of marriages between planets

And stars – of the invention of new birds –

Of all the wonderful, wondrous wonders I can

Show you once I’ve rebuilt my garden immortal

*

Let me show you that garden,

That garden, where the sprouting of any daisy

Is the dynamite of happiness – where every solar

Flare is as soft as a falling feather

*

You can see no cars – hear no motorways here –

There are no roads – cement is an abomination

Yet to be brought up from the bowels of hell – the

Wind is the tickle of the hoof-fall of horses: and

The sky is the sempiternal portrait we see whenever

We open up our souls. Clouds are the only traffic,

And kindness is the law of the land as we look

Out over that edenic ‘scape, hearing a stream

Saunter casually by

*

But, it has been so long since I’ve been happy

That I needs must find a new lexicon for my ecstasy –

Words that are the alembic distillation of purified, rapturous

Sighs – words that inflame the enraptured tongues of all those

Brave enough to sing them.

Thank you for making me feel whole again;

The smell of sulphurous death has been about me

For so long – I hated myself – I hated my body – I hated

All those things about myself that I felt kept me away

From others

*

But now clad, re-housed in the satin garments of

Loving appreciation, this bone-barren body feels

Warm and snug – this prison hath become a palace,

This agonizing dungeon, a citadel of pleasance,

*

I do not feel ashamed to be myself anymore,

But can wear my self in all my spectral majesty

*

I am beautiful.

I am enough.

I have nothing to be ashamed of.

*

III.

And, in that paradisial re-awakening,

In that absence of fear and worry,

I want for nothing, except for the want

Of wanting

*

And if you can feel me as I can feel the sensation

Of Psyche arching her splendorous back before me,

Then you can feel oceans and forests teeming in your body;

The epic release of surcharged electricity – of the shoreline

Warmly consuming the outlines of your body:

*

You can feel what it is to feel and be fully feeling

*

And, if you can take that feeling, and let it linger

On your lips for the longest of lingerings, and let its

Breaths haunt you like the eroticism of half-known

Winds; if you can let it sink into you like a shipwreck,

And embody it in your pores like a microcosm of

Riotous applause; if you can feel the sunrise rise up

In your stomach, and let all that is within and without

You be swallowed up in a mouth of luscious light

*

Then take all of that purified energy,

And concentrate it into a single kiss;

*

For just as we all have a bullet with our name on it,

So each of us is the recipient of a healing kiss – deadly

In its healingness – crafted and created just for us

*

And once you’ve found the person worthy of receiving yours,

Pull back taut the bow-string of your lips – and, as their own

Lips come into soft collision with your own, inject with full

Force the revivifying light of your smile – then collapse in

The perfume aureate of eachother’s souls, and eat of

The fruit of your bliss

*

 

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: 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

*

 

Poem: Thoth, My Cariad

wawet

Ancient Egypt in Wales,

Pyramids and ziggurats still punctuate

The Brecon Beacons, coursing down those

Hieroglyphic Pathways

Pharaohs tie themselves to trees.

Their subjects lacerate them with

Holly leaves – bleeding into ecstatic

States

This is an initiation.

 *

They get carried down, deep underground;

Unmade caverns of coal, as yet unmined,

Anubis and Osiris descend with pick and

Shovel, elbowing out the dwarves and

Dark elves, resenting this mythological

Intrusion.

 *

“Ah, Thoth, my Cariad, my sweet baboon!

Shall I gouge out your eyes with Welsh love spoon?

Or ply you with pennywhistle until your sphinxian

Heart riddles me no more?

“I am lost in cobwebs and palisades.

I am worried about my figure. Do you

Still think I look svelte in this sarcophagus?

Or is that limestone fresco just not as flattering

As it used to be?”

I take up my reed – prepare to write:

I Am the great scrivener of these Holy Wells –

Scarcely able to uplift a pale of water without

Severed heads fortifying it with thought – these

Celts are a weird bunch. I wonder what I’ll have

For lunch? Roast Boar? – Crocodile steaks from

The Lands of Thebes? How I miss your sautéed

Scales!

 *

Of course, all the place names will have to change.

How about Abydosgavenny? Camelot and Cairo can

Couple into landmass progeny. And The Old God of

Oak will build a canal between The Thames and The

Nile, so we can keep the mercantilism of myth

Well-connected.

 *

The owls are hooting now.

The bats are roosting now.

The sun is flaring now.

The mountain hares are burrowing now,

Struck by the moon – transfixed by that

Lunar striptease, of Nephthys waxing into Isis –

Isis waning to Nephthys.

 *

Abydosgavenny – Abydosgavenny –

Will the swollen Nile keep the Normans

Out – their cankers like castles – hoarfrost

On the waves – cold winds blowing through

Empty Tombs.

But the sky is still here.

We still have stars to aspire to.

And, on a bed of lapis lazuli wind,

We’ll sleep into The Valley of Kings,

Until Horus returns from Avalon,

With proud King Arthur at his side

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem: A Winter’s Tale

winter

Winter’s Tale, winter’s tale,

Bodies grouped into bed – Chinese,

Tibetan, brick-oven mattress, keeping

Their bodies warm. We clap if we think

There are ghosts around – ghosts need

Applause

 *

Spices fill the air, vapours of

Cinnamon, cloves, cloven hooves,

Mulled wines and smoked viands,

Purling down the hall, rolling up

Chimneys to exchange greetings with

A night crisp and cold as a frost giant’s

Thumbs

*

What will the norns have to say

About this? They have kept my

Fate simmering in the larder for

Longer than I can remember, my

Family crumpled together, like

Skeletons in a crypt

*

Chinese, Tibetans – but certainly

We are in London – the mayor flicks

His yak-tail whisk, and hides himself

Under many skins –

Offerings to the Mountain Gods

*

“I am but one man – a friend

Called me a medieval bard – but

I have all of Tibet and China within

Me; perhaps, too, samples of Mongolia,

And blizzard-faced Siberia, where my

Throat-singing can still be heard.

 *

“I should like to go to some fireside

Tavern, and tan my hide into the devil’s

Leather.

*

“You see, he’s just been misunderstood.

We need the devil as much we need that

Which shuts him out.”

*

My cloven hooves clattered over

Cobblestones, streaky sludge from

Mysterious snow, where the wisteria

Faintly grows

*

I lay down in the cold.

I wanted to die.

I wanted my follicles to be

Fingered with the flame of

Every piercing frost.

 *

And lo! The Lord of Frosts

Appeared before me in his

Glistering kingdom. He set

The sails astrand that lets

Every mucker know, his

Iceberg would soon come

Into land.

 *

 “But my family!” I pleaded.

“My wife and her daughters

Are all squeezed into bed in

One Tudor room!

How will they escape you?

How will they fly from

Pneumonia’s embrace?”

 *

“They won’t,” said the Lord

Of Frosts, coldly. “All freeze

Whom I dare to freeze. And

Have I not frozen? Your case

Is lost with me.”

 *

“Please,” I begged him. “Is there

Nothing I can do to save them?

Take me – not them!”

*

The King of Frosts was not

To be appeased. He had a

Hunger for human women.

He wanted to feel their skin

Cripple beneath the

Tenebrosity of his arctic flesh.

A disgusting rapist of the realms.

Yet he dared call himself lord!

*

But then he had a thought:

*

“I have never experienced this

Thing called ‘heat.’ He said to

The man. “Give us leave to

Wear your body, and perhaps

Thy wife and daughters will be

Spared.”

*

“Perhaps?!” cavilled the man.

“Am I to lease my life on the

Crumb of a perhaps?!”

*

“What man can promise

Any kind of certainty

In a world such as this?

Take what I give you.

Perhaps they will be

Spared.”

 *

The man nodded his assent.

*

Casting his soul out with a

Scream, The Lord of Frosts

Took habitation in his body,

And instantly founding it wanting

 In pleasance. But he knew this was

Only because he knew not heat.

Hence, findeth heat he must.

 *

II.

The man, meanwhile, was in

 A graveyard of shivers. Arctic

Demons sang out in symphonic

Shrieks to towering snowmen –

To Kings of Death, and Queens

Of Hate.

*

They ushered his chill soul

Into their almighty halls,

Racing through with blistering

Winds, and immense ravens with

Jet plane wings.

*

“We loves the cold,

We loves the old,

We cuddle death,

And the wind’s palsied breath!

 *

“We loves the snow,

We loves the frost,

Into the icy sea,

You will be tossed!”

 *

Thus, they tossed him into

The sea. He would try to cleave

His way out, but the only adjacent

Landmass was an archipelago of

Madmen, who would throw him

Back in again, laughing, every time

He tried to come aboard.

*

III.

Meanwhile, The King of Frosts

Acclimatized himself to human flesh;

To the misery of chilblains, and the constant

Hell of living in an environment,

Never intended for life.

*

“Oh wifey! Oh kiddies!” he crooned

Down barrel-dragon streets. Drunkards

Lurched glaringly out of newspapers,

And tawny owls screeched above; a

Midnight curse to all they do not

Love.

*

IV.

At last, he found his house.

He walked up the sooty stairs,

Screeching at any guardians of

The threshold who might prohibit

His malfeasance.

 *

His wife and kids were on the

Second floor, crammed into a

Four-poster bed. In a palace, faraway,

A Haydn oratorio was carousing the night

Air. But, this was not a palace – just a den

Of sleep.

*

The Winter Demon could see inside

The dreams of the children. They

Dreamt of the redemption of hunger –

Of larders overwrought with cakes, and

Jellies, pastries, and hard toffees. No

Cinnamon smoked here – just the parlous

Perfume of ice.

 *

The Winter Demon tried to see his

New wife’s dreams. But

Her dreams were only whispers

Of a plea, degraded into

Sepia – A Husband’s Return

 *

The Frost King loomed over

The bed. He saw the piled-up

Coverlets, and was reminded

Of an avalanche – a love letter

From Abomination.

*

“Pneumonia, my pretties! Sweet

Lung-spattering pneumonia!”

 *

“Stop that muttering, Henry Giles,”

Murmured his missus from the bastion

Of the covers, “and get into bed! Your

Heads all a-muddle from

Those night-terror colds! Get

In here where it’s snug and

Warm!”

*

“Warmth!” The Frost King drooled.

“That’s why I’m here!”

At his wife’s insistence, he stripped

Off his sodden, slush-soaked clothes,

And crawled into bed beside her. He

Did not know what to do. He had never

Shared a bed with a human woman

Before, except in the catharsis of

Death.

 *

But the wife directed him. She

Cradled her soft, fat body against

Him, his loins nestled betwixt her

Buttocks like toad-in-the-hole. Then

She took his hands, and sternly clasped

Them to her milksome breasts.

 *

“There you are, my dear!” she said,

Delighted. “That’ll warm you up! Just

You hold on tight, and those winter

Demons won’t plague my Henry

No more!”

*

“But I AM a Winter Demon!”

The frost king wailed miserably.

*

“Of course you are, my dear!”

Missus Henry cosseted him.

“Now, you just snuggle up

With your missus, now, and

We’ll see if we can’t thaw

That winter demon out!”

*

V.

And, true enough, the Winter

Demon melted like butter in

The arms of his wife. And, except

For a little sniffle every now and

Then, no more was said about

It.

*

But, what of poor Henry Giles?

Was his soul still floundering at

The Bottom of the Ocean being

Snapped at by sea demons?

I shall leave that for the reader

To decide. Otherwise:

*

It’s all in winter’s night, my friend,

All in winter’s night!