Poem: Lake of Ice

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Why can’t my heart fly?
Sticky and stranded among the rocks,
Enwrapped by tentacles and shelled molluscs,
It lurks among the turbid waters,
Waiting to breach for dry land,
But finding safety in the cool thrill of darkness,

I am treading to you over a lake of ice,
Mindful of every shudder, each stentorian crack,
Taking my time,
Not wanting to thaw with frenzy,
To turn what I love into an evasive enemy,
But chased by persistent fears,
Running razor fingers through the grooves of frost,
I want to hold onto you as a ship’s mast,
The last refuge of a madcap drowning fast

But patience, restraint, are my self-loaded chains,
The bitter laughs spluttering from the lips of my ribs,
The pain of counting out the divisive seconds,
The heart splintered by the season’s dials

Always afraid of making the wrong move,
As though love were a game of chess,
A test of endurance and strategy,
Plotting, conniving, abstracting,
Finding excuses to see you again,
To get closer,
To silently sample each efflorescence of your wonder

To kiss goodnight down timeless streets,
The place where endings and beginnings meet

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Poem: Surveillance

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Watch a bird in its cage,
Surveillance is enough to make us insane,
The watched pot doesn’t boil,
But blows out its own brains

When observed, I must hide or strike out,
Scurry off to hedgerow,
Use my beak,
The knife I call my mouth,
To rend muscle from tendon,
Inflict wounds to inspirit distraction

But the blood has a way of following you,
Like the leech of bad memories,
Embarrassing actions, drunken confessions,
Of night breezes blowing in past-life memories,
The toxicity of oil spill odours

Spilling the beans,
I spilled out not just my heart,
But my ignorance in a hunk of gelatinous mass,
Something to wrap tentacles around face,
The shattering of serenity,
The prat-fall from grace,
The soaked credibility of good first-impressions,
Met with cold fingers in the morning

Knowing to disbelieve hope’s mercy,
The discouragement of over-spent warning

Poem: Autopsy of Obsession

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There are days when I turn into the very spitfire of rage,
Imagining each of my corners has the sharpness of a blade,
In the mutated tree of my thoughts, barbed wire epidermis,
Pierces all the women inhabiting my fantasies,
The dramatis personae of my harvested whimsies,
Of dresses clung to wet-mouthed thoughts,
Ill-advised courtship indulged in draughts

Sex only comes into it as a primordial energy,
An intellectual game,
Most of my philandering I do in my mind,
Dreams of infidelity help me unwind,

But, if unfaithful, then unfaithful to what?
To the contrived concatenation of feudal civilization,
To the Christian relic of unhallowed churches,
Doomed to lie in the dust of theology,

I merely want to be there,
To have your aroma,
To be the observer of your wit’s Passover,
To have a figurehead I can quietly worship,
To give my obsession a cathexis, a direction,

There need be no passing of organs, of fluids,
Of kisses stolen from needle armpits,
There need be no moisture from dewy mornings,
To taste your dress when kindled with grasses

If push came to shove, then shove I would not,
Sooner crying into your lap,
Than allowing myself to weep through my phallus,
I want a friend who is sharper than a friend,
From whom I will always taste the love of tension,
An uncertain comfort that needn’t be mentioned

Never sure I truly do,
When I say ‘I love thee true’
Loving truer, having something to love,
As below, so is it above,

Poem: The Other

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The light always falls on Llanwenarth,
Yet indirectly, rays knifing through clouds,
Exploding from stitchwort, and the soft glow
Of yew-secreted corridors of violets

Light needn’t come in a bang, but a whimper,
A half-glimpsed twitch, an erotic moan,
The verge-dusk exposure of beauty cradled
In uncertain twilight, incubation by snow,

Yet stones can only birth themselves
From the bones of others,
Hearkening to the cries
Echoing against their cavities,
Like lover nestled in caverns of lover,
Joy-pain of Self confronting the Other

Poem: Shaman Sorrow

 

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When we were shamans,
The whole world was our tundra,
I controlled the mellow earth,
You controlled the thunder

Ice and snow wove a web,
In which we were the spiders,
Straddling star-back in the night,
As Heaven’s only Riders

Riding through The Milky Way,
The quartz-laced, star-strewn river,
Neither was the taker,
Neither was the giver

Then called we were by knocks on wood,
Called we were by clash of stone,
Called we were by tongues of fire,
Called we were by windy moans

Together we met a sad-faced God,
A hulking beast, covered with hair,
The snowy pine wood was his home,
The snowy pine cave was his lair

He looked at us, and shook his head:
“Together, now, you cannot be;
You must go into the sky –
You must go into the sea.”

Separated we were, my love and I,
She became a golden bird,
And I became a loathsome thing,
For which The Gods have not a word

Then sun and comets came and went,
The Earth no longer was our tundra,
I no longer sang the earth,
You no longer sang the thunder

We were not shaman lovers then,
Shamans again we could never be,
Now that you are stuck up in the sky,
And I am trapped beneath the sea

But still I dream of returning snows
Long for rebirth of the tundra,
When I will control all the world,
And you – all the thunder

Poem: The Restoration

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It was hard earlier in the year,
Clutching shells and stones from the seashore,
When every second without paralyzing fear was
A second of success, but not one in which I could rejoice,
Knowing how swiftly and severely it could be undercut
And swept away – my safety not yet sealed by the satisfying
Certainty of boredom

There were many moments when I prayed,
I yearned for boredom – to experience the drama
Of the small – the Jane Austen banality of domestic
Docility

But I could not yet have it!
All was too intense, every experience,
Sharp and piercing, straining for blood without surcease;
A whisper in the skull could metastasize into a choir of paranoia –
A macabre thought could haunt me all day – a morbid sensation
Cling to me like bats to the roof of a cave

I felt the full reality of the Chinese curse:
“May you live in interesting times”

I came to distrust stillness:
You’re only safe when you cycle, sleep, or walk,
And I hated summer for the firmness of its fire,
The hound nipping at my heels to keep me tirelessly
On

II.
Meanwhile, we sent messages and photos to one another,
I whispered your name as I walked in the woods –
A pilgrim invoking the ghost of hope,
Praying you would be the blade to cut my ties to pain;
All the suffering to which I had been so strongly committed
And which I now wished to divorce

You were my lighthouse, my other shore,
I felt willing to relinquish all of my religious
And spiritual powers and knowledge if I felt
It could secure me a stable future with you

But that was not essential –
Medicined by your love, I am the still the shaman,
The sorcerer, as brooding, strange, gloomy, erratic as ever,
I still speak in a strange tongue, and go onto mountain tops
To chase the fog – I still find my soul’s reprieve in the beauty
Of rotting leaves, and search out birdsong in the cliffs and gullies,
And hunt all my days with a raven’s malaise, loving and revoking
Love in my usual wayward ways

And restored to myself, with you by my side,
I have a dragon to be this crow’s smiling bride

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

 

 

 

 

Diary: Imagery of Heaven

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Feeling very grateful to be living in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Reflecting on what heaven on earth would really be like: an eternal spring – a passion of wildflowers – lying on a grassy bank, feeling completely connected to the earth, being in love with the sky up above – kissed and caressed by the breath of the wind.

In another dream, I am in the centre of a lake on an exceptionally still and clear day, meditating in an old rowing boat – the sun is at the centre of your every thought, approaching dusk, without ever disappearing – a return to the land of Hyperborea, where light is inescapable and eternal.

I long for the light, as I long not to be so darkened, so demon-plagued, so wrested from my own self-control. To be blessed with an easy consciousness – to have a mind that is all forest, mountain, and wood – that is rooted in the very essence of serenity, and has slayed and subdued the teaching demon called PANIC.

To be a poet is to be a prophet, and the act of putting pen to paper can be so intense, so thrilling, and so dangerous, that it can be a horror and a wonder to behold your own words; especially when you’ve had the experience of writing things in mystic cluelessness, only to have them realized perfectly later – to predict the words you will spontaneously utter, as you scream in an empty field.

And at our most weak, terrified, and vulnerable, everybody longs for a great cosmic mother – for some warm and undying essence to inject us into its arms, when we call out “That’s enough – I can’t take it anymore – o, please, o please, just give me some rest!”

And she comes then, that mother, that Tara, that Virgin Mary, that Shekkinah, that Prajnaparamita, That Ground of all being. She comes, and she bundles you into her arms and says – “It’s all right – I’ve got you – you are safe, warm, and protected – nothing awful ever needs to happen to you again.”

Is fear the gateway to that mother? Fear can be a gateway to many things, and the presence of The Divine Mother can be experienced in a myriad different ways. Hecate and Venus are one. Kali and Lakshmi are two sides of the same loving and destructive coin – pacifying you and terrifying you in accordance with the motions of the stars.

And while I am not of the kind to shun a fear that can teach me so much, I still request that I be granted a leave of absence from The Palace of Anxiety. I do not want to be reduced to a fit of tremors and screams anymore. Grant me some warmth, some peace, some friendly bosom to lay on; for while I am a Child of the Universe, this child does not want to be a burden on anyone – he wants to be blessed with the tranquilized peace of mind to chase butterflies in the woods.

 

Diary: The Fox On The Kymin

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An ecstatic walk up The Kymin. For the first time in a long time, I have experienced joy in being completely alone. One is never alone in the woods. Everything here conspires to occupy your senses – bird song wreathes you in melodic clusters, and you feel the complete fullness in the emptiness of existence. The air is fresh with flavour, medicinal pine sweeping into my lungs – you just want to grasp every protruding piece of bark in your hands, like Mayan hieroglyphs, that are actually secret keys to organic space stations.

“I pause for a while by a country stile” opening onto a meadow, where, in the coming summer, one’s eyes will be blinded by bluebells. I see the visions of a century’s old boy perched on that stile, and feel impelled to access my own inner child, walking along the stile as on a bucolic tightrope, limbs wrapped around the wooden vine-posts overhead. I look down on a friend’s hilled mansion and marvel at the power altitude can lend to perspective.

I feel happy standing here – all else ceases to matter; no interruptive thirst for conversation, or brooding desire to be touched, when I am already touched by the penetrative essence of the wood. Everything glistens – every rock is a jewel – and the trunks of old trees are the gnarled faces of old men; sylvan spirits that find beauty in the grotesque.

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There are wood nymphs, too, of course – a whole panoply of fair folk, dancing in ecstatic procession behind The Spring Queen of the wood, somehow still gentle, even in the maddest of their March-mad antics.

But the view on top of The Kymin beside The Round House is unrivalled – it is addictive; you look at anything else, and it only makes you want to look at it more. There is a beauty to the cluster of town houses in that expanse of free landscape; and I pick out all the places I am used to experiencing at insect-level: the row of path-lining aspens down Vauxhall Fields – the single oak that stands as an Axis Mundi in its centre – the spire of St. Mary’s – and the many Welsh mountains beyond.

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Families chatter around the railings – unappreciative parents stuck in irritable protection mode – imagination-led children – and people picnicking in a square field circumscribed by electric wire.

It is interesting to hear how birdsong develops this time of year. Robins, who whistle so thinly, sadly, in winter, become full-throated. Blackbirds, who began singing at the end of February, uninspired, and repeating the same half-meant phrases, as though cleaning the cobwebs from their syrinxes, have now really taken to their theme. You can hear the languor-suppressed passion and excitement in every phrase they sing, occasionally taking the best-loved phrases of their combatants, and then striving to make them better, like duelling saxophonists and trumpet players in a throbbing bebop band. I have occasionally heard the explosive rapture of the blackcap, but I do not think they are in full-concerto mode quite yet.

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But, until The Universe grants me more longevity in love, Nature will remain my First Woman. I shall cling to her – hide myself in the verdancy of her bejewelled clothing; loving getting to know even smallest parts of her – the flowering of wood anemone – the perfect meditation mats of mineral-encrusted boulders – the primroses, common speedwells, forget-me-nots – the effortless affability of daffodils – the duelling riverine currents of The Monnow and The Wye.

There’s something deeply therapeutic about the sun in spring and summer; the way it penetrates your skin and sinks inside your soul, chasing even the weediest of your dark thoughts away.

But now for the crème-de-la-crème: while still sat on my woodland stile, without either of us thinking of it, a fox sauntered unexpectedly by. His coat was faded from dirt and hunger – but I was so awe-inspired, honoured, majestified at having this prince of creatures stood so near to me, that I sat there, slack-jawed, unable to look away.

But, once we’d both gotten over this little spell, as though returning to the normal rules of things, he scampered over the new-grassing meadow, intermittently looking back to see what I was doing – a fox looking back at a fox. Sylvan muse indeed!

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***

There is something very shocking about spring now. I am so much impaled on the point of every moment, that each moment seems eternal. Like laying on the slope in Chippenham Park yesterday, nailed to the ground by the rays of the sun. I felt like I would always be there – and, in the intensity of mixed joy and heavy pain, I had little to prove me otherwise.

And now, sat here, blue tit and great tit beeping out to one another in crystalline Morse code, I can feel the light heaviness of that eternity again – just page and pen, page and pen – on and on into the sunset.

I’m definitely feeling healed now.

Coming up here is one of the best things I could have done.

Poem: The Love of Unreason

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Much to my surprise, I discovered a lost

Land upon my doorstep. The face of the

Forest loomed over the Waters of the Deep,

And The Lady of the Chaffinch bore her red

Breast, still brooding with pelican blood.

 *

“When I die,” said she, “bury some flowers

In my chest, so that once I am gone from this

World, I can still paint the roses crimson.”

*

From this vermillion isolation went I.

*

“Come into my hole!” said The Mole.

“It’s pure William Morris, don’t you

Know!”

*

But, I did not know, for I had already

Fallen further.

*

This is why I now sit in this garden, and

Read my fortune in the fallen leaves,

Scrying the undergrowth, as I descry:

“The sky is not a black skeleton, but a

White rose – a nest of lilies – a silken dress –

A watch – a sensuous caress that never quite

Stops.”

*

I said this, and the crumpled leaves were

Black skeletons, dancing the slow pavane

Of finite decay; such fragile, fading fingers,

Every touch a shiver; every lingering kiss

The seduction of substance, sinking back

Into sky.

*

I tried to put the mute button on my heart.

I had my season. But the tears rose up with

The dawn – and Aurora tapped my chest with

Her opal fingers, saying:

*

“Come on, now – your time is come”

And I felt sad for no reason.

And I felt lonely for no reason.

And everything was so wonderful,

So perfectly unreasonable, that I

Couldn’t help but be moved by its

Beauty.

*

“This is it,” said I. “This is the opening of

The well; the chastity of enlightenment;

The milky sickness of nights and mornings

Merging into one. This is the whiteness of

The Magpie’s Chest, and the fortitude of

The Sun. This is the Love of Unreason –

The creeping in of Winter’s Thorns.”

*

And, as I swept up leaves I would rather have

Left scattered, I turned my thoughts into lilies,

And planted them,

One by one.