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

Poem: Fragments From a Welsh Cottage

cottage

Mist communes with a pine-covered mountain,
A snail shell hung, just-so, on branching wisteria,
Clinging to the door frame of a hill-hidden Welsh
Cottage, swaddled in the fleeces of trees and
Distant cuckoo calls

Life, enwhorled, appears as an irregular series of
Revelations, each one more declivitous and demolishing
Than the last – the more you know, the unsteadier you feel,
Blinking in the eye of the horizon, realizing that every sound
You hear is communication, and everything you can see is
But sound frozen

Let us not call it music – it runs deeper than that,
Like water flowing through an inaccessible cavern
That no one hears, yet every man feels in the trickling
Of time and timelessness in those rare, still moments
Of syrupy slowness

And I want to slow it all down.
I see a magpie perch on a steel bridge,
And I jealously wish to possess the peace
I see in its dark, inscrutable eyes

But the obfuscation of feelings in transition
Bewilders me – mine is the peace of strange,
Spectral fish lurking motionless for seven years
In a pool of phantoms

The image and the imaginer,
In the fish-eyed lens of water,
Wearing the laurels of wistfulness,
On a misty mountain day

 

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

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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,

 

 

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

 

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

 

Diary: Childhood, Imagination, Nature

constable.jpg

Today I have been looking after my niece. We have been wandering around the garden, examining insects – (all of which she idiosyncratically refers to as ‘Ladybugs’) – and I have every confidence that she will go on to be a pioneering entomologist!

It reminded me of how an appreciation of the natural world is innate in us, and only later lost, as our quest for pleasure becomes confined to silicon screens; consigned as useless because, while it may make us happy, it will not make us money or orgasms – better to get lost in the pulse of clubs and pornography, than listen to the jukebox of songbirds in succession.

There is a virtue to being a small child: from the vantage of your innocence and unworldly perspective, you look at things more closely, with a more immediate intensity; even seeing a single ant in motion was enough to make my niece gasp – when was the last time you gasped in wonder at something so small, it could be crushed by your little finger?

It reminded me of my own innate love for nature as a child. At Primary School, I always loved those activities that most involved interplay with other forms of life: catching crickets in the long-grasses; fishing for newts, insects, and fish with our nets in the pond – and if you ever had the good fortune to capture a frog, you were tantamount, for a day, to a king.

Now, as I write this, I am reclining on a sandy bank against a willow tree I have known since I was four. Its long, sinewy flanks lie horizontal on the river’s edge; and for its sheer clamberability, and adjacency to water, it was our imaginal ‘Pirate Ship’ when we were children. We would climb its limbs, improvising stories – the River Usk a gateway to the rollicking high seas.

This again shows how natural creativity is – the desire to ‘make things up’ – the eternal art of story-telling. For so many of our ancestors, whether read from a book, improvised, or from memory, the relating of stories would have formed much of the entertainment and social cohesion during idle hours – an opportunity for a whole family or community to be transported together into the past – into The Dream Time – into the bourn of other worlds.

Now, there is the sense that stories are only acceptable within the safe confines of a film or paperback novel – people seldom get together to tell stories anymore. It’s almost as though we fear fiction – we fear imagination – as though, if we do not keep it too tightly imprisoned within a well-ordered space, it may threaten to spill over into our reality, and stretch and warp it beyond our means of comprehension.

But reality and imagination are inseparable. Reality feeds imagination, and imagination ornaments and modifies reality. Nature is the collective dream of gods, daemons, and faeries; art, culture, and civilization are the hardened nightmares and fancies of women and men.

This is something that children intuitively understand. Nature is more than just a resource, a biologic reductionism, a house dead of green furnishings – it is the birth place of dreams. An ant is not just ant, but an introduction to an adventure – a flower is not just a flower, but a portal to another world.

And if you were infinitely small, and capable of falling into the cup of a bluebell as into a wormhole, who’s to say what worlds of magic iridescence you would endlessly discover?

 

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

 

Diary: The Swallow’s Return

swallow

At the beginning of last week I witnessed the first swallow of spring. Like a solitary sentinel, a visionary pioneer, he has yet to be joined by any of his brethren. He has a white splotch on his dorsal feathers – (probably shit from a bird with superior altitude of bowel movement) – and bears the animated expectancy of one who knows a great party is just around the corner.

It always lifts my spirit to see him in the morning, perching on the telegraph wire outside the converted mountain farmhouse of the woman I work for. He looks back and forth, with great anticipation, as the other birds busy themselves with their work: robins cockily commanding from wooden posts; pied wagtails restlessly hunting for insects on craggy rocks, exhibiting perpetual bob.

But the Swallow’s only activity is to wait. He is conserving his energy for the great melee of activity that is to come.

Oh, how I envy the rejoicing that must follow when by his fellow swallows he is rejoined! Just put yourself in mind of it – that long flight over Africa, whether above mazy grassland or Saharan expanse, wildebeest and Zebra charging, scorpions and nomads burrowing in sand – but they whizz mindlessly away beneath you, as you are impelled by insane propulsion, an unbending determination that sings out: “TO WALES I MUST GO!”

You’ve made many pit-stops along the way, of course; but only is it here, on the vantage of this telephone wire, that you can truly rest.

But you do not want to rest. The potential for summer has clawed under your skin. You do not want to sit and stoop, but to whorl and dance, to cut impossible patterns in the air with your crazed band of sharp-winged geometricians – every part of the air an aerial feast as insects fly unwittingly into your beak – and ecstasy will be the due reward of all your long-felt waiting. And you need no longer think of telegraph wires until August or September comes – (as though uncertain which will arrive first!) – and bound to Africa you must return.

Like that swallow, I thirst for the effervescence of camaraderie, to have confidence in the air that constantly uplifts me. And once my anxiety is gone from me, my own ecstatic ascent will be just as maddening and joy-ridden.