Poem: The History of Spring

The Greenhouse: Cyclamen and Tomatoes 1935 by Eric Ravilious 1903-1942

When you hear the sound of a bird call you do not know,
And all your manuscripts are trapped inside an old snow globe,
And the violence of frost must be avoided at all costs,
When the flowers ring wedding bells in the woods

Then you must trace your finger along an old dusty map,
And deliberately stick your hand in a rusty bear trap,
And walk through Wales with a cat o’ nine tails,
Lecturing the tongues of the dead

Then the riddler on the roof will stick out his tongue,
And we’ll return to the wood from which the wedding bells rung,
And to the melody of lost time, we’ll end this queer rhyme,
And rewrite the history of spring

 

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And our lease on living is salaciously repealed,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: The Ballad of the River Usk

styx_by_aniaem-d4ex5ev.jpg

I.

Wild demons are abroad tonight,

Feasting upon the absence of light,

Lurching, and twisting, and pulling wry faces,

Seizing the energy your fear displaces

II.

On a night such as this, I sail down the river

To seek forgiveness from an unholy forgiver;

The River Usk, a Styx and a Lethe became,

To the underworld I descended, with only the flame

III.

Of the amber-spun moon flaming over my head,

A sky-burning candle, guiding my quest,

The water is like oil – a riverine road –

An aqueous voyage to the land of the dead

IV.

Sailing onwards, even the darkness grows darker,

A thick fog of nothingness stifles my eyes,

Yet still through that darkness, I see the outline of ruins,

Palaces that crumbled before they e’er could rise

V.

Yet rise yet he does from that oily darkness,

Algae drips from him, reeking of death,

His visage is the very imagery of starkness,

Rotten teeth in his mouth – no eyes in his head

VI.

An eye is handed to him by a faithful assistant,

An orb of pure vision that sees more than I,

He howls and he brays as it burns into his socket,

He moans, he trembles, he screams, and he sighs

VII.

And issues a hiss of ungodly utterance:

“What does this mortal want with me?”

But before I can tremblingly answer, he says:

“You need not tell me – The Eyeball – it sees!”

VIII.

And what did it see, this eyeball omniscient?

What embryo of agony did it spy in my soul?

What did it see, so morbidly efficient –

Making it pulse, twitch, writhe and roll?

IX.

Could it see all my sins – my scarified errors –

Or was it an omen of disfigured prophecy?

Could it witness the fruition of all my terrors?

O, whatever, O ever, could that terrible eye see?

X.

But The Demon King just laughed at the scream of my tension,

Each of his laughs like a murder of crows,

An otherworldly laugh of unknown intension,

A tumour that hurts the more that it grows

XI.

I shivered in the face of these loveless decibels,

I thirsted for mercy – anticipating none –

I heard the ringing of bells from unholy churches,

I felt as though my good deeds had all been undone

XII.

Undone, undone, and spun into evil,

The purity of my love distorted to hate,

Yet still I loved on – loved on in that darkness,

Beating my heart ‘gainst a barbed-wire gate

XIII.

“What will you do if these gates burst asunder?

What will you do?” the Demon mocked with glee,

“What will you do with that heart-forging thunder?”

And once more The Demon King laughed at me

XIV.

And I had no idea what I would do,

No idea what I would do if my love were set free,

If all of my dreams were liberated from hell,

And returned, like swallows, back to me

XV.

I cried, and I wept, and sobbed in a frenzy,

Clawing at my skin, as if to escape,

Anything to be liberated from this eternal tension,

Eternally falling in a mouth grossly agape

XVI.

But then the Demon’s grin turned into a grimace,

His bones from his body began to break out,

A rupture of entrails – thus I morbidly singeth –

Oh, his agonizing bones – they came out – they came out!

XVII.

He screamed in agony – blood from him erupting

Blood coursing from his eyes in rivers of pain,

And from that squalid darkness corrupting,

Emerged a bright light – a lucent white flame

XVIII.

That filled the caverns of Hades with almighty wonder,

Devils and demons all dream-makers became,

The oily River Usk turned a magical color,

And the joy in my heart sang freely again

XIX.

But whether Love could triumph in hell’s temporary oblivion,

That my tale cannot foresee;

Heaven is a mysterious and scary abysm;

And my Dreams are their own private agonies

XX.

So, I’ll stay here, and linger a while in the forest,

Stay here and sing with the birds in the trees,

Stay here, straining to hear the winds whisper

If ever my love is meant to be.

 

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: Café Sonata – A Fantasia

lead_960

Watching The Willow Woman come to life,

All winter, cursed in un-nurturing soil, she

Breathes as though for the first time now

That spring is here

*

Brittle branches become swinging limbs,

Thirsty roots become the tenderest of feet,

Unleafed buds become strands of blonde,

*

This creature from Ovid, this nymph, this Dryad,

This unsylvan Diana becomes a forest in herself,

The very agent of every breeze, a body of skirts,

Shawls, and fabrics that apportions beauty to

The sighing breath of the wind

*

Bored of being a tree, she becomes a woman,

A girl, and takes a spirited tour around Europe

For a year, floating through museums, dancing

With statues, supple footsteps in marble – half-

Heard cantatas on the wind

*

Europa was made solely to delight her,

That flying dove – that agent of sweetened

Disaster, spiriting down boulevards, cobblestones,

Singing to the scent of Belgian coffee, aromatic

Skyline smoked into matter

*

This flightful fantasia that can take me

So far away from where I am sat – to

France, The Alps, Belgium, Senegal –

The sunny and sun-spotted skulduggery

Of Roma where – La Dolce Vita! – she

Will fall into a fountain, slim-waisted,

The water exploding, resonantly, from

The aftershock of Anita Ekberg’s breasts –

Federico Fellini still burbling as he is

Motorboated into his grave.

*

II.

Now The Willow Tree is bored of travelling;

Whimsical for want of whimsy, she decides

To settle somewhere, to give her space to reflect,

Sinking her roots into an art-cum-coffee shop,

Where she paces around, purposefully, like an

Avian-wader, looking for fish to follow the teachings

Of her gullet, only too eager to be swallowed by her

*

Luckily, I am not a fish –

I am a tree sparrow, hopping along

A window ledge, furtively casting artistic

Glances at her, available for purchase in

My next issue of illustrations

*

From the cup of a tulip, I compose my fantasia,

Pencil lead composed from a tulip stem

*

I hold it in my beak, and make detailed

Notes about her – details of breeziness

And lithe branching legs that I will later

Stretch beyond all reason into a set of

Popular French novellas

*

III.

And what does she think of this sparrow,

Making eager notes over here, his face exhumed

From artist’s charcoal – with breadcrumbs for his

Wings? Stood behind her counter, heron-straight,

Heron-composed, until the need to fiddle with

Something in the shop, calls her daring legs away

*

He does not chitter – he does not even issue forth

A dunnock’s dripping of melodic litter – he just sits,

And sips his MOROCCAN MINT TEA, until his muse,

Or the desire to buy yet another book, calls him

Idiotically away

*

IV.

And then to a bay, some wide, glittering,

Sun-knighted bay, where sands can kiss

One’s feet, and it does not matter where

One is, whether in Africa, The Continent,

Or Barry Island,

*

All that matters is that one continues to stand here,

To be nursed by the moment, to be tenderly caressed

By invisible arms, and held by wallpaper patterns of

Hindu Gods, sparkling, glittering, and aurorically panting

To the vividity of God’s Glorious Painting

*

V.

And somewhere, on the other side of the world,

There is a baby lamb just being born, and through

His mucus-bleared eyes, all he can see is sun – sun,

Sun, sun, sun – a world of sun – a light – a corona –

A detonation of innocence beyond the threshold

Of its own awareness

*

And, in about three seconds,

He will be dimly aware that

Some sparrow has just written

About him in a blank verse poem

*

VI.

But The Willow Woman has no such knowledge –

Only her till, her counter, and her marrow bone’s

Worth of musical items

*

And in the warmth of Innocence and Ignorance

Playfully dancing, The Cafe Sonata will draw to

A close, once the coffee machine stops working

*

 

Poem: The Mistletoe and The Oak

normal_mistletoe_man

I.

I, the Mistletoe, on heavy oak boughs hang,

Knowing not who feels the deeper pang,

Botanists may classify me a parasite

 But in my vampirism I am devoutly contrite,

For love makes me feed, and I must feed on love,

Which is what makes me linger up here above;

Not hunger cruel – but direst need –

Do not castigate me as a nosferating weed!

But make me a crown – a tiara – a diadem green –

Up here in the treetops, by some seen and unseen,

II.

But what thinks this Oak of I in its branches bare –

Am I but a louse in its be-lichened hair?

An insect, a hookworm, a disease spheroid,

My teeth slowly draining it into the void?

Or can it idealize me a jewel – seaweed of the sky –

As I watch the clouds loiter purposefully by,

I wonder if the firmament, too, is parasitized by clouds,

Its resources drained by those star-suffocating shrouds,

Yes, life feeds on life, and dark feeds on light,

And into a shadow’s haunches light also will bite,

Teeth chasing teeth – mouth chasing mouth –

North, West, and East being consumed by The South;

Yes – hunger – desire – are the driving forces of life,

Wife desires husband – husband desires wife –

In that union, death and life propagate in vitality new,

And death robs the same trunk from which its limbs grew,

III.

So tell me, My Oak, how do you feel

As Into your life-stream I silently steal?

For though feeding on your blood, I cannot taste your thoughts –

But fain would I die if I could drink them in draughts!

Give me a pint of your reveries – a dram of your dreams –

All the myriad fancies with which your veined bark teems,

And then, My Oaken Love, I will leave off my appetite;

Give your hallowed boughs some well-earned respite,

And tumble humbly to the ground – by gravity waylaid –

A thistle-hearted lover by his heart-quenching slayed

IV.

But if you fulfil not my will – grant me ingress to your mind –

I will drink from you continuously, until you are burr-ridden and blind,

Thought-starved, I will become vicious, a heartless vampire,

A wolf whose violence is sustained by his ire,

In a feedback loop of vampirism – pain will beget pain –

The less you have to drain, the more will be drained,

Let it not come to this – freely give what I ask –

May not my haunting fingers be those that peel off your mask;

Only my loneliness hath of me a parasite created,

Hopeful dreams once ran through me – veins eagerly dilated –

But now – O, now! – I must feed on the dreams of others,

The unhappy lover, always smothering, but never to be smothered

V.

And now night inkly falls, I feel the pain of moonlight,

Into my aching flesh those moonbeams musically bite,

And the moon parasitizes me, as I parasitize the Oak,

Robbing me of my murderous currency until I am bankrupt and broke

*

And so, moon-murdered, I drop to the ground –

Ever to be discovered – never to be found

 

Poem: Mercy’s Valediction

rain

The rain came pouring down,

And, in the cleansing impact of every

Raindrop, its self-proclaimed vortex creates

A perfect circle – a snapshot of unity straight

From The Geometer’s Compass

 *

Every raindrop peels a little bit of the past away,

Dislodging dirt, leaving pockets in the skin like chinks

In porcelain – a broken, run-down, Japanese aesthetic

That makes perfection seem not like a stranger, but an

Uninvited guest in every scar and suture

 *

And I wonder how we managed in the past,

In time’s before last, when the open cavity of

The skull was our only umbrella, and every raindrop

Ignited a neuron that suffused everything with color,

Color – color:

 *

Each raindrop a rainbow

Each raindrop a spectrum of discovery

Each raindrop a cosmos of endless unfolding

That makes you retreat into the dampness of your

Own unlooked for nakedness

 *

Those naked bodies came together out of the rain,

Their moisture-puckered skins warming through friction,

Little beadlets of love as dampened strands of hairs entwine,

Like braids of seaweed – braids of vine – flirting with the sullen

Strength of a rock – both powers to combine

Yes, pillows become castles, and a landscape

Of softness forgives the water, with Mercy’s

Calloused hands smoothing out the sands

Of competing friction and softness

 *

And all is forgiven

And all will be forgiven

When tenderness and violence kiss in forgiveness

In the pale oblivion of the sky

And even if I do not want to say goodbye,

Goodbyes are the currency of death in a

Forgiving, change-balanced world

 *

So, goodbye,

Goodbye,

Until we meet again,

Perched on the hand

Of impossible circumstance,

By the possibility of imagination’s

Power revived

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye

*

 

 

Poem: The Waiting Room

waiting.jpg

Sitting in a waiting room, I see the piercing, pungent

Eye of God cut through the reality of the hospital’s

Environs to look penetratingly down upon me

*

“Give me hope, you blistering bastard of light!” I cry, I rail,

“O, if you must fill my heart with a poisonous pain that

Recycles itself in perpetuity, at least give me hope in an

Earth-bound after-life that comes after sadness – hope

That your light is not just an illusion, but a true realization

Of sweet happiness’s rebirth.

*

“Let not this happiness, so newly come, be so newly lost –

I know ‘the course of love seldom runs smooth,’ and

I’m inclined to doubt anything that does – but cannot I at

Least experience some stability in love? I do not expect

Anything to last forever; but after so long of living in pain

And unhappiness, cannot I at last sink fully into and be

Cleansed by my bath of love, before the plug is so hideously

Pulled?”

*

“It is the nature of your love,” accused a floating nurse,

“To become all that you love – and so become a curse –

But in invading that space, you become an object of hate,

And scare away those you would most love.”

*

“Fine! Make of me a monster – a parasite!” I said

In defence. “But it is the nature of love to invade

And be invaded – it is a holocaust – a bloody fucking

War.

*

“I am invaded by the love I feel for what I love;

Wish to invade the loved one with my love; and

Have them, in turn, invade me with their love.”

*

“Sounds like a sexual metaphor to me!”

The Coffee Machine incriminatingly hummed.

*

“This has nothing to do with sex,

As sex has nothing to do with the

Full penetration of love!”

*

“Speak for yourself – I’m just a coffee machine –

The closest I come to love is when the technician

Returns to re-stock my beans!”

*

II.

Though slightly soothed, the portal to heaven

Still open before me, uncertainty yet was found

Pacing around me, foaming like a dog-foaming

Dog.

*

“Will she? Won’t she?” I asked myself

And The Universe, watching a window-shade

Tremble flutteringly at the slow, pale anxiety

Of my flutter

*

Then I thought of those I had erstwhile loved,

And wished they would find the love elsewhere

Which to me they could not return

*

Then a pregnant nurse came in and talked of the

Spiritual investment that had become her charge;

And I thought that, if the child bore even a trace of

The happy purity that beatified her face, then I could

Stroke the black purr of my pain, knowing the world

Would soon be a better place.

*

This is what The Eye of God can show you

When you have nothing better to do

But wait

*

 

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