behind dark glasses

strange eyes
that dissolve in darkness
looked up at me
they took off their teeth
first the right then the left
and smiled

over my suspended fourths
strange eyes
diffuse in the pale
dark night of my room
and soar into song

when the music’s over
strange eyes
lids shut
shiver under my fingertips
like a silent counterpoint

strange eyes
look back at me
as in an infinite mirror
i see more of myself
than I’d ever cared to see
or dreamt there was

strange eyes
wilful as an angel
intent as desire
restless as truth
send me postcard puzzles
at the break of day

putting on those slippers
dusty vermillion dusk
making as if to walk off
into the sunset
strange eyes
turn round
tiptoe back to me

to rest awhile

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nightbird

a hint of burgundy
pink froth over blue grey
dawn breaks

a dark private jazz
of crickets – shadow shuffle
a hollow hush electric
tanned green smoke
– fanned air in
a stilled room

eyes take over
take it in

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lone crimson overdue
shapeshift diffuse
gold into blue
fade to nothing
day breaks in

eyes take over
shut it out

Translation

I wake up to
a bloated lower lip
blood yet to ooze
dark purple
concentrate
hemispheric
obscenely ready
to dangle from
the left side.

No longer curious,
it won’t stand
no other touch
but yours.
Not even my teeth.
Not even my pillow.

I crush the lump
between my teeth
savouring the red
salt on my tongue
around my fingers.

At peace with
its words, I raze
my lip flat again.
I tell it to heal,
and wait.

Acceptance.

What if you must have something on your mind constantly, not as an obsession possessing you, but as a perpetual contender to your attention, a corollary distraction to anything you’re consciously occupied with? Something neither driving you insane (for nothing ever will), nor yet letting you be…

You don’t receive as well anymore: you listen to music, and you only appreciate its ambiance; you watch movies, but they only affect you when they do so viscerally; and you can’t read, for the printed word offers the least degree of unconscious pleasure: it barely lulls you in (against the resistance of distractions), unlike the rhythm of action, the resonance of sound. You can’t create in any form: for words sounds visions slip past you too fast, and you know not what you want to say, nor how. Even intoxicants leave you high and dry, their effects restricted to the dullness or animation they bring to your spirit and body, and no more.

Context limits our choices in courses of action. And things make less and less of a difference when you’re not free to initiate those courses that can make the difference.

If you must have and hold on to something on your mind, you must resign yourself to a restless exile: a loss of centre, and control. You must keep running, though you’ll have nowhere left to run to no more.

Do you say, ‘Don’t think twice, it’s alright’? Well, what else can you do.

Post facto.

The flowers that I left in the ground,
that I did not gather for you,
today I bring them all back,
to let them grow forever,
not in poems or marble,
but where they fell and rotted.

And the ships in their great stalls,
huge and transitory as heroes,
ships I could not captain,
today I bring them back
to let them sail forever,
not in model or ballad,
but where they were wrecked and scuttled.

And the child on whose shoulders I stand,
whose longing I purged
with public, kingly discipline,
today I bring him back
to languish forever,
not in confession or biography,
but where he flourished,
growing sly and hairy.

It is not malice that draws me away,
draws me to renunciation, betrayal:
it is weariness, I go for weariness of thee.
Gold, ivory, flesh, God, blood, moon —
I have become the expert of the catalogue.

My body once so familiar with glory,
my body has become a museum:
this part remembered because of someone’s mouth,
this because of a hand,
this of wetness, this of heat.

Who owns anything he has not made?
With your beauty I am as uninvolved
as with horses’ manes and waterfalls.
This is my last catalogue.
I breathe the breathless
I love you, I love you —
and let you move forever.

Leonard Cohen
from The Spice-Box of the Earth

Will

Will there be
There be a light
At the end of the tunnel

Will there?

The Heart Asks Pleasure First.

The heart asks pleasure first,

And then, excuse from pain;

And then those little anodynes

That deaden suffering.

[photos: mine; poem: Emily Dickinson]

Prayers for afterhours.

n507829654_334942_40721.jpg

Dull brown, and quietly dying
Wet by the afternoon drizzle
Wickerwork against the sky.
Where had you been so long?

Splotches of mud on the rim of your boots
Tiptoe in. Hush. Ballerina.
Eyes slit thin when you smile.
I have been waiting alone.

Come, with our hands reft of meaning
Come, when you’re due somewhere else.
Dead leaves shall hold back the sky –
Where had we been so long?

Dull gold, and quiet in denying,
We’ll soak in the grey of the evening
We’ll drift by the goldfish on sidewalks:
And we shall be waiting alone.

Wee small hours

I. Scar Tissue

These dead flesh
hardened over the years
no mere ugliness
of scars are these
but my armour
like everyone needs one
proof against pain

This almost happiness
this feeling like a child
I take great pains
to wrap carefully
from cover to cover
until only my fears
stay outside

When you offer me
the promise of
your fingertips
this violent greed
for their softness
scares me back
into the familiar
warmth of my cell

It isn’t as easy
as is rumoured
to stand butt-
naked in daylight
I apprehend
the cold glare
of prisonlamps
I can almost hear
the surviving ghosts
the rubber rods

And I almost begin
to forget
how hungry
you make me feel.

————————–

II. We know.

Things there are
that we know.

How to caress the masks
we put on in daylight.
To hold hands over dreams
we know are in sight.
Make me start.

We know how to smile
without looking at eachother.
How to hold conversations
while laughing with others.
Make me hope.

We can float a trip to the moon,
booze bubbles in a Martian bar.
Be loving, be lonely.
Make me dream.

But can we hold hands
over pains we must hide?
The weight of our fates
we all bear inside?
Can we cobble all our
wobbly worn heels
and dance out of rhyme
way past closing time?

Make me trust.

Inscription on a torn book-wrapper

chessboard-hair-2.jpg

In the memory of neighbouring days.
And in the hope that they live
through the trials of hours,
alien and unarrived.

I’ll be reminding you
then, of home
in your foreign shores.