Poem: Castles in the Dark

hurstchasingmydream

Trees can become castles in the dark,
Their battlements jagged upon the dusky landscape,
Farmhouses growing up as mushrooms of hill and land,
Horses running silent in precipitous pastures,
Sloping abysmally downward to come back overhead
As a terrible grass sky of sickening green

In this bottle green glaze,
You can seek out the friend within the tree,
The tree within the friend,
Hurrying over ice floes,
And the stones that are the lovers
Of lost volcanoes

You wait in an old stone bus shelter,
For a bus you know no longer runs,
It is your abbey now, your ruined fortress,
Your blown-out bomb shelter from the war,
The stone-walled ghost of a bygone age

In a vicarless church,
Waiting for the sermon to begin,
Or a dry riverbed being ploughed out
By your hungry oar:

These are the images you can content yourself with,
As birds exploit the emptiness of the day,
To gore out secrets with their shovel of song

Little birds from Berlin,
In a moonbeam of pouches,
History condensed into a stone,
And a stone into a friend

 

Poem: The Anchorite

Sunset amid Dark Clouds over the Sea circa 1845 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

At the bottom of the crystal ocean
Lie great clusters of coracles,
All accreted together like so many fossils

Many anchorites have tried to reach this island,
Many more have failed – gobbled up by the hunger
Of the sea, reborn in the half world of The Tuatha De Danan,
Meditating on the glories of God in waters dark and unseen,
Their skins grizzling into carapaces of seal fur:
The bone-made carpets of the deep

Looking out from your stone-built hut,
God gives you layers of Celtic mist,
And you are crucified by the nails of ambiguity
That describe the landscape where you sit:
The Throne of The Holy Fool

Slowly, over time, rock, lichen and moss
Become your skin – your thoughts become
The spindrift of unquantifiable seconds –
Of unquantifiable questions –
And the crashing of the waves sounds like
The creaking of so many turned Bible pages,
Vellum sanctified into wave-worn silence

Baptized in the lonely font of the ocean,
You can see the face of Christ in the face
Of every seal, in the squabblings of kittiwakes,
In the unheard music of coral, and the contorted
Countenance of storms

But, should you achieve your wish,
And live eternal in Christ
To have him live eternal in you,
Then you will watch thousand-year-old
Oaks rise and fall with the passing of seconds,
Forests laid to wastes, and wastes regrown,
Cities to deserts, and deserts to springs,
To the steady thunder of civilizations crushing out
Their own matchsticks, and all the gold found on earth
Ascending to heaven, returning to the fiery
Centre of the Sun from which is was milked

But, until then, let each of the waves be the dial-hands
Of moments killing moments, one moment killing the
Moment that preceded it, only to be slaughtered by its
Ungrateful descendant, muttering:

“Holy is Christ,
Holy is Christ,”

Until you know every cave of the sea

Sonnet On A Summer’s Eve

summer.jpg

So steady the night on this soft summer’s eve,

As star seeds descend like manna from heaven,

The stillness of the scots pine fertilizes my ease,

And unmasks the demon by which my anxiety is driven,

Beneath all the chaos and dust of the world,

Is a light feather bed by tranquillity plumed,

The chaos is like two lovers wrestling on sheets,

The serenity is the mattress where their bliss is consumed,

And imbued with non-reference – the terminator of fear,

A tender consummation that nurses all wounds,

Cordelia is returned to the resanitized King Lear,

And on loving what’s lost, we no longer presume,

But cherish each beauty, the peace won by a friend,

Vowing to love them forever – faith without end

Poem: The Bellringers

The Peal of Bells, St. Paul's Cathedral, 1878.

The tintinnabula of faraway bells,

Bell-ringers swinging on ropes,

The suspended intestines of the universe –

Each bell a reminder of something not by

Lips, but brass, spoken

 *

What do they say?

If you could take those resonant peals

And translate them into language,

What would they speak of?

 *

Whispers never sang out so loudly,

Bursts of poetry, etched on sky,

A blink from the silhouette eyes

Of a peacock butterfly

But you cannot trust these fluttering tatterdemalions

Not to be slyly mystical – each time their Japanese

Door wings collide, a crash as loud as galactic timpani,

Causes all nearby auric membranes to explode

But deafness is not the start of silence,

But a gateway to a higher kind of music –

The kind of music that conjoins imagery

With sound in a startling panache of

Form-bearing lucidity, climbing out of

Of formless bath

 *

So, ring on, bell ringers, ring on,

And once those brass hats

Fall on your heads,

Your gravestones will peal all the merrier

 

 

 

 

Poem: The Sounds of Loneliness

2381932-JHSIRDYF-7

The sounds of loneliness,

A mad saxophone – a mad

Sonic scrawl down my window

Pane

Outside, there is hope –

Hope in surges – hope in a whirlwind –

Hope in a sky-sleazing sea of sparrows –

In the presageful shadow of a friend

 *

Inside, there are only memories –

Memories that have nothing better to do

Than stretch their legs idly beneath sleepless

Sheets

 *

Sheets of rain – sheets of sound –

Sheets of streets woven into spiralling

Citadels, scratching against the uterus

Of Inner Space, those nails scrawling away

Into red, into red, bloody red stars

The stars, they can sing in chorus now –

They can sing the cantata of consciousness –

A lullaby to insomnia – each ray, a litany of

Impossible prayers, soon to be submitted to

The Office, to be painstakingly, exactingly,

Granted

 *

Then I won’t have to sleep in love-empty rooms,

Then my legs won’t have to stretch restless into

The night, walking along the skyways of space,

Where they should not be creeping, weeping –

But sleeping

But, o, sleep!

You are not a dagger,

But a pen poised over my head

 *

And with this pen,

I will compose my melancholy’s obituary,

And see you all in the morning,

 

 

Diary: Wind, Sleep, and Sorrowful Songs

over

The wind certainly does add a touch of drama to everything.

Just before it fully picked up, I observed a bumble bee on a dandelion. It looked like it was clinging on to the flower for dear life. I tried to imagine what the experience must be like from the bee’s perspective; the whole world a-whorl around you; your only haven a golden circumference the elements are ever conspiring to tear you from.

As I crossed a wooden bridge over a marsh, the wind really began to fulminate – not quite King Lear territory, yet – but a nearby Hamlet, perhaps? A legion of black clouds rolled in, in true Roman imperial fashion. Poplar trees were blown into bowing, willows cracking under the pressure like so many arthritic limbs, and the air was suddenly a chaotic mosaic of catkins, leaves, and dandelion seeds – a ballet caught in a tornado.

As I neared home, I moved through a large corridor of brambles that I pass through every day. I’ve been reflecting on how different they look throughout the procession of the seasons. At the moment, they are all re-leafing. There is sumptuous, magisterial quality to them, as though every leaf is a fanfare celebrating the very concept of greenness.

In Winter, they become nature’s equivalent of barbed wire. And if we should ever be so lucky as to experience some snowfall, then they look like giant, gelid spiders, trying to dislodge themselves from some awful frost that has consigned them to petrification as a punishment.

The previous night had not been so peaceful. I could not sleep. I felt sad, lonely, and restlessly in want of human contact –a sleepy embrace to compose a counterpoint to my being. Venus was glaring through the window at me, and I had the radio turned on low to give my maudlin mind something to occupy it.

After some avant-garde Jazz, and a light spell of semi-somulence, I awoke to find them playing Gorecki’s 3rd symphony – ‘A Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’ which I had actually been thinking about listening to earlier that day. It seemed the perfect companion to my current state: slow, sombre, and sad, with occasional euphoric bursts of near-prophetic hopefulness.

My favourite moment occurs in the second movement, when, after a gloomy, lingering melody, the hopeful chords at the beginning of the movement return, and the soprano explodes with this call of grief and euphoria which seems to cry out: “WHERE ARE YOU?” Like a lone wanderer on a desolate, war-barren planet, who has just detected the first murmurings of possible love, but does not yet know how to trace them.

(The words are actually an invocation to The Virgin Mary, found on the cell of the Gestapo headquarters, and written by an eighteen year-old girl imprisoned there. But, that sense of crying out for love, for salvation, across long swathes of impossible space, still, unolibteratingly, remains).

When I finally did sleep, I dreamed I was in a strange, video game world, where I was roaming around the winding passageways of a monster-filled sewer. I felt no sense of danger, nor fear. Then I awoke to the sounds of a sparkling piano – thinking of friends I missed – and the birth-song of the wind.

Poem: Reuben in Wonderland

wonderland.jpg

I.

All day, all day, I hear the blackbird’s song

Within the daffodils and clematis I sit among,

Swinging in the seat on my cabin’s porch,

My Imagination beckons, clutching a torch,

Perceived to be the hardened rays of the sun:

“O leave this handsome refuge – come out, Reuben! –

And follow me over mountains, clumped with pine,

And delight in nature’s jewellery – by faeries’ designed –

Who take life as their canvas, and decadently smother

Everything that lives with all varieties of color,

Until exhausted, they retreat into the cup of a bluebell,

Which rings a peal too pure for human lips to tell;

But perhaps you can follow – follow me – let us sing! –

Put an end to paralysis, and take off on wings,

To enchanted forests – where wildflowers whisper –

In petally idioglossia – O, mistier and mistier!

A language of color sending the listener mad –

And if you should hear it, you should be glad,

For madness is liberation – and liberty – life! –

It’s the stairway to heaven – the pulse-freeing knife,

That lets the orderly drip out in all directions –

Yes, perhaps, violence, wars, and insurrections,

But also improbabilities by logic disallowed,

Let’s lift up those skirts – take off those shrouds –

And sail on clouds of wood anemone, up into space,

Where one can have orgies, yet still remain chaste!

Where blackbirds don’t sing, but utter melodic truths,

And happiness is restored by the same pain it removes!

Yes, consider the birds – they know it all –

Ducklings cascading down Patagonian waterfall,

Partridges – parakeets – larks rising and descending –

Don’t you know your fantasies are never-ending?

Imagination is infinite – life is infinite imagination –

Free-will playing games with pre-destination,

Thought after thought, like linked beads in a necklace,

I’ve told you before: Imagination is endless!

So, come Reuben – follow me – fall into the sky –

You do not need wings to be this impossibly high,

Only a mind most buoyant – eviscerated of dross –

Like that Tsarina of the Sky – The Albatross!

Always sailing in the sky – even sleeping on the wing,

And when its life ends as it did begin

The sky will be its egg with infinite shell,

Hatched out from reality – this miscreate hell –

Into a greater bourn – an incomprehensible splendour –

Like all the works of The Renaissance put in a blender!

With color fertilizing color, cross-breeding realities,

Quantum head-fuckery and surrealist modalities,

Pinwheeling through Elysium in multi-dimensional motions –

(And, if you sail into the sun, you’ll be needing more lotion!) –

Until you settle on a planet, emerald evergreen,

More splendid than anything you’ve ever seen,

And among strange rushes, into stranger water,

I’ll dip in my feet and wonder if Chaucer

Whilst hunched over, writing, At Richard II’s court,

Would take the laws of the universe as his fanciful sport?

But we have ‘The Book of the Duchess’‘The Canterbury Tales’ no less,

To see how keenly this man of tenderness

Could extrapolate from human nature things holy and sublime –

And interweave them with fart jokes without missing a rhyme!

Ah, like me! Like me! A maker of melody!

Who can weep over a poem, or a good cup of tea,

With a bandolier of bad puns, I can span the void,

Whilst ensuring fart putty is still well-employed!

Put a whoopee cushion under God’s Arse – the angels will harp –

Stifling their titters when they hear that world-creating ‘PARP!’

Yes, the world is made from farting – Rabelais could tell you,

With God’s Sperm still soaking in the dampness of mildew!”

II.

Ah, my Imagination’s Wonderlust – will these couplets never cease!

Can we not slow them with treacle – nor clog them with grease?

 But no – like a Queen Termite in perpetual birth,

My Imagination mixes whimsy with sorrow and mirth,

And like a swallow on hearing sweet summer’s spell,

I travel African coasts, o’er Mediterranean hell,

And count myself an explorer, great adventurers among,

Just because I listened to a lone blackbird’s song

 

Poem: The Vial of The Night

black

I drink from the vial of the night,

Strange sips, in the groove of some

Unearthly tango, a maddening shambles

That divests me of sense’s good rhythm

 *

And in ancient Rome, at the death of some

Great dictator, you grabbed my hand with

Great excitement, to pull me into that flowing,

Serpentine procession

 *

But I had not changed my position:

I was still numb, numbless, purling out

In all directions for want of love – an

Ever-encroaching shore that licks the

Land, as statesmen thirst for war

And if I was on that sepulchre,

All my lovers, and those that loved me,

Would take turns kissing me,

And I would be apotheosized by their kisses –

Raised up and poured like a sandy equation

Into the vial of the night

 

Poem: Beyond Prayer

temptation

Trying to keep this jangling bag of nerves together,

Drip-pissed, demented, quaking in coffee shops, and

Waiting for some limb-soothing nurse to cart my

Panic away

*

What is this sprite of spasms infecting my heart?

Filling it with troubling smoke, wild, untamed,

Writhing like the underbelly of a millipede in

A raven’s beak, its myriad legs writhing, but

Not one of them finding a sanctuary of solid

Ground on which to stand

*

Just a hysterical nursling

Attacked by a nervous system

That has ambitions far beyond this body

*

Like a puppet in the hands of a palsied owner,

I cannot stop shaking – my body grows cold,

And my nerves chatter disobediently among

Themselves, like a swarm of wasps, tied together

By string, yet tangled into a mess, flying in different

Directions – and I sympathize with the spasmodic, the cripple,

The epileptic, the stroke-victim, the paralytic – all those afflicted

With anatomies no longer obeying their orders

*

“Cells!” I call out. “Cannot you work together?

Must you be so insistent on mutinying against

Me?”

*

“Down with him! Down with Reuben!”

They yell in seditious cheer, binding me

Down like a maniacal Gulliver, and pricking

Me all over with pickaxes and knives, except

For the more modern of this fiendish host

Who employ cattle prods, tazers, and infrasonic

Nuns

*

Sprawled out and sick, I can feel my spine

Twitching, longing to crawl out of this shivering

Spasm of skin; preaching to people in silence from

The bench on which I writhe – a demagogue of

Dourness that the Good Lord did contrive

*

II.

And I’m beyond prayers – beyond praying –

Whatever the universe wants, the universe gets,

And I am just part of the getting

*

The heat of the sun, and the heaviness of the moment

Nail me to the ground: everything is condensed into this

Moment – all the pain, the light, the despair, the joy of

Seeing the blueness of the sky, and the existential dread of

Knowing it is not enough – and yet it has to be enough –

It has to!

These are the things that keep me going:

Just little acts of mercy,

Little acts of mercy

*

A sun shining,

And then not shining,

Only to shine all over again

*

 

Sonnet: The Death Knell of Love

the-murderess-1906

Dreams when you sleep – nightmares when you rise –

A solar shadow casting out a shadow of sun;

Clouds are in the earth – not in the skies –

And pain is wrapped up in a ribbon of fun

That unravels, unrolls, purls and flows out,

Like a river of ruin, chirping with disaster,

Peeling the lips off of every smiling mouth,

And hacking at the legs that would try to run faster,

To escape, to reach – to embrace happiness,

Before that unhappy candle is snuffed into dark,

And the melody you believed assured you tenderness,

Reaches your ears as a coarse, ugly bark;

The scream of the banshee – the duellist’s lost glove –

Hollowness without comfort – the death knell of love