I've been looking back over previous posts, checking out how my writing has changed over the past year. It's worth pointing out that there are a number of poems currently posted here which I now find clumsy and heavy-handed, particularly the early ones. So, with that in mind, I've decided to post the full back-catalogue, in their current incarnations, a kind of director's cut, as of March 11th, 2008. They are ordered as they would be in a hypothetical collection, rather than chronologically, which would be a difficult way of defining them anyhow.
Back on the path, its gravelled lustre
A reminder, overwhelming, that I hid
Skillfully, pretending the rough sea
Wind had blown dust under an eyelid,
And walked on, a few steps behind.
I made jokes about the cliff face, and
You pointed out primroses, designated
Them spots in the garden, and I feigned
Interest, and pointed out Fairhead.
We took a wrong turn, what harm?
Shuffling past luminous anoraks
Half-drenched in the coastal storm
Like we owned the place, and far more
Rightful to barge down the stairwell
In half-hidden mirth. By a crumbling
Hand-rail with a red-rusted warning fell
Palm-sized stones a hundred feet below,
And after all these years I shouldn't've been
Surprised that you still had the better arm.
They stirred the spray. The ocean
Refused entry, the cluttered sky gone grey,
We retired from rain and glaring clouds
At a pub you knew. For once, I thought
I knew what you felt in your blood.
Flying in from Glasgow on the eighteen-fifty
To Aldergrove; out through the thick-glassed window
The frayed knuckles of coastline, reaching out with gnarled hands
Beyond the fallow piebald farms, swooping and diving
A thousand feet below. The sun touches the horizon
With a feathered fingertip, hissing as it meets
The waves, settling in for the night under a blanket of
Flourescent algae, the unfathomable sea-dreams of fish.
An hour earlier, on the crystal waves of cumuli,
Propelled by the eerie thrumming of astral turbines,
I wait to be informed of our descent, patient angel
Entranced by rolling breakers, snow-white foam,
Trying to feel something. Awe. My grandfather flew
Once a month to his work in Scotland, leaving his
Son and wife in the capital, watching the sky.
My wings melt as the black cliffs drift into view.
An angel, like an angel, clothed in white
Strides across the field on the attack
His antagonist stands quaking at the sight.
October’s dress, embroidered in delight
Heaven-witnessed honouring a pact,
An angel, like an angel, clothed in white.
One drizzling evening, nothing but polite
In her appraisal of all the things I lacked,
Her antagonist stands quaking at the sight.
A desperate prayer, the forlorn hope I might
Restore to you a life made whole, intact;
An angel, like an angel, clothed in white
Should patrol above your headboard, shine its light
To ward away the demons at your back,
Its antagonists stand quaking at the sight.
A man sits by the bedside, tries to fight,
And, pleading for a gem that sickness cracked,
An angel, like an angel, clothed in white,
Your antagonist stands quaking at the sight.
El Tres de Enero [For Garcia Lorca]
Nieve cae, tranquilidad sagrada,
La zumba baja de la caldera
Está la ruida sola.
Media-luz de la madrugada,
Nieva por aire negra.
El cielo cerrado tiembla,
Deslumbra la luna miedosa.
Quiero que quede oscura
Por siempre; esta noche plata
De relámpago y nevada.
[Snow falling, cathedral silence,
The bass hum of the boiler
The only sound for miles.
Half-light of the small hours,
Snow falling in black air.
The blanket sky rumbles,
Obscuring the timid moon.
I would it stayed dark
Forever; this silver night
Of snowfall and lightning.]
It was divine providence, synchronicity,
Along those lines. Fate made me miss
The appointed time, we met by pure chance.
Not that that means anything of itself,
But my mind likes painting over cracks.
I signed my name, detailing my confession,
A dim-lit night of bad wine and worse blood,
Delicate serration –
Not that it matters. That was someone
Younger than me, unwelcome in my hearth and home.
We took hour-long excursions to quiet places,
The wood-sheltered rivers I’d forgotten
Becoming their own tributaries as memory
Worked its home-surgery, witch-doctoring
Tattered parchment to smooth river-skin.
Each meandering Charles, each low-lying Lagan,
Each Feirste and Quinobequin curved
Away beyond kenning, carrying ballast downriver,
Confluences of babblings and rapids
Recollecting stony strands at my feet.
At this turn in the river, in this auburn-tipped clearing
Where cardinal and blue-jay fade to heron and gull,
I reach my hands into the clear-dark freshwater
And wash the stale blood. Tent pitched on the littoral,
Water flowing past us, on its way to everywhere else.
At the mountain’s peak, I stopped for
A while, cast an eye over the pines,
Rolling out towards vanishing
Point, layer over layer, rank
And file, phalanxed shoulder height,
Mottled units toiling under
Sylvan dictat. On north-eastern
Slopes, a fallen mount gasping for air,
Pleading with avian windpipes,
Tree-cacophony, crushed larynx,
Wilderness howl in falling twilight.
Suddenly the tree-pier did not
Seem high enough.
On the mountain’s side, verdant canopy-
Shelters, tree-grounded, gigantic fauna
Remembering Triassic brothers
In serenity and sanguine nostalgia.
The earth has ears, a heart, a mouth, bait;
Unrooted feet striding wordlessly, turn to
Constituent carbon, clawing through meat,
Unnamed vital organs, blood and carbon;
Hair falls out, turns carbon, nutrients,
Teeth fall out, carbon (calcium?).
Eyes, tongue, brain. Carbon.
Flight through treetips dancing on leafstages
Outstretched and dissipating further
Boundless offerings and earthtunes
Knees soiled, hands caked in fecund soil;
Disgusted, croaking eyes observe my retreat.
On the foot of the mountain, my little fire
Cooks, browns tender meat, fresh loaves
And fresh produce for my pilgrim’s victual.
Lying on green mattresses, bathed in ember’s glow,
The mountain looks down on the pale, rising smoke.
There is an old farmhouse, north of Boston.
I stopped by once. Its peaceful aspect caught
The scarlet sun’s swansong, the Appalachians
In silhouette as cricket-music fell.
Rocking chairs paced their motions, a little
Out of synch, still looking to the horizon.
An empty pantry, rusting range, wooden floor,
Wooden bedframe’s crafted skeleton, curtains drawn.
I read about death in an old comic book once.
It said that it wasn’t like a thief in the night,
Snatching you from your bed, leaving no trace but
A faint depression in the mattress and the smell
Of stale sweat on the pillow. It said it was more
Like someone you’d known forever, an old friend
Who stopped by every night, a loyal old friend
Who picked up every thing you’d forgotten
You even had, so that it wasn’t there next time
You wanted it. And, that, over time, there just
Wasn’t anything left to keep you there;
You were the last thing death would take home.
There is an old farmhouse, north of Boston.
No one lives there now, the old man was famous;
But there is a clearing outside, and a path
Through the woods, passing cairns for forgotten
Little gods. You may find old photos,
Small foreign coins, footprints in the mud,
Roots weaving their stories in the earth;
And the spot, at a fork, where footprints end.
She Held a Daisy in Her Fingertips, the Bitch
She had a camera, capturing the coast through a daisy
Held up to the lens. Her friends sounded German
Or Swedish, she looked French, or at least like
The ones I’d seen in the movies.
There she was, standing at the edge of the world,
Taking photos, through the tint of her travels;
Maybe the reality of Ireland clashed with her dreams,
Maybe it didn’t. Either way,
A month later, I was wandering through Amsterdam,
And met her in the red light district, taking photos
Of the girls in the windows, selling wet dreams.
But I hadn’t the nerve to say hi.
The Island House
A cricket rubs his legs, wild percussion
Close to the house; close to the house
Are the valleys with crazy-form mountains –
Slieve More - big mountain; Knockmore - big hill.
Hives on the arms are tattoos of honour,
Though the midgey convicts’ days are numbered.
They emerged, days later, from behind the curtain,
Overdosing on the quiet peace of the living room.
Over the fence, a donkey tears the grass free
With blunted teeth. There is space to hear breathing,
A steady brush of air between the lips;
The tips of the leaves twitter in the breeze.
A Staircase in a Foreign Country
It wanders up from stonework river-walls,
From the old town’s cobbled lanes –
From tourist traps and pork knees,
Sweet lager and plastic half-crowns –
A timorous, frayed-ragged stairway
With the best seats in the house,
A skybound place to level out.
In the market marble coolness
Of a new town office courtyard,
Skateboarding kids work magic feats,
Fleet foot street artists with coterie crowds
And no box office, ticking off the seconds –
Anticipation of each moment –
Ollie, bail and second chance.
There seems stability in the hills;
Peace at the precipice, a house of God,
Veranda over the roof-tiled canopy,
Where sunrise tries to catch one’s shadow
And send it out across the skyline.
Fingertip metronome counts off the beat
For skating kids in the blaze of dawn.
Leaves had started falling outside
In the late summer gloom of fledgling rainclouds
Reflected in foggy puddles underfoot.
We trooped on through, out of step,
Packs on our back and foreign coins
In our pockets. The first discarded leaves,
Big five-fingered horse chestnuts, face down,
Showing waterlogged veins in the inch-deep pool.
Jackdaws fluttered outside the gates,
Hoking at dirt, pecking at apple-cores,
Flitting off as we arrived. We ventured in,
Catching the moment in digital memory:
An irregular holding cell, walls that towered
At the end of a hallway that withered and shrank,
Through a door that led into sky-scraping judgement,
And the window that spoke of Saint Daniel;
There was silence in that room, space for silence
That loomed and condensed three stories overhead,
That rained ash-snow, staining the railway lines,
Unholy blend of hair and ground thigh-bone,
Snow on a mountain of odd shoes and lost luggage,
Marked in fading chalk with its last destination,
Deep darkened snow, overwhelming, drawing
The air from the room that had space for more silence.
I managed to open the door. Disorientated,
I took a breath to regain my bearings. Upstairs,
An exhibit that asked to be walked upon.
Gently stepping between grotesque iron faces, frozen in
Wordless death-masks, turned to iron and concrete;
I lost my footing, and the faces, disturbed, screamed,
Awakened, echoing off high walls, reverberating;
As I escaped I heard iron crunch and cry out.
A jackdaw flew home as we escaped to the surface,
Apple-heart in mouth, into the sunshine.
I put the camera away, resting easily between
Victuals, tour maps and a handful of foreign coins.
I couldn't help looking back. It was still there,
A multi-story building under receding rainclouds.
We walked home, out of step, in uncomfortable silence.
A Sorrow Burns
A vesperal flare in the reddening night,
Curled on the floor, half-naked, we lie
To each other, beautiful half-truths, delight
Daubed freely across the northern sky.
Drifting for now, asking nothing but the world
Leave us, all fingertips and tales,
Sun-fled and tight-lipped, too fleetingly held
To the warm, dull thud, too livid and pale.
And down, as needs must, as rainfall returns
Us to respective lives. Frail memory concedes,
And sentiment directs a crowd-pleasing reprise
Where our parts are played, sensationalised
By our favourite actors, the starring leads
In their picture. Somewhere unheeded, a sorrow burns.
God must be lonely; his only love
Unfaithful, distracted by bright lights
And dreams that turned to sacks
Of yellow flowers at dawn.
God must be beautiful; Inconceivably
Beautiful, blindingly, hypnotically -
To create something so magically vital,
And not bottle it up, frame it, bind it;
But set it to the wind, with his blessing,
With demons and angels who dress the same
And never make their intentions known.
God was my love; I insulted him,
Blamed him, wept in confusion, in bitter
And speechless frustration - everything
They had told me about him was wrong,
How could he... I will write him a note,
A postcard, or a letter, if I'm feeling
Old-fashioned, just to say 'hello,
I understand now, I think, and at any rate
I'm sorry.' I'll leave the end blank,
Because he knows my handwriting,
How I cross my 't's; and if I don't
Hear back I'll know why,
And understand why God must be lonely.
So, Then, Tycho Brahe
On the hillside that overlooks city and sea,
I lie in your hand’s reach, nestling in
The soft grass, sheltered by branches,
Black blanket sky lit by freckles of light,
On the hillside just angled to lie and look up.
I haven’t anything to say, not really,
And the blathering stream and the bass-chorus
Owls seem more eloquent anywho, night-
Watchmen with three-sixty vision; I tell you that
I haven’t anything to say, and you’re quiet.
So I turn back to the stars, moving too slowly,
But moving, ancient light that confounded
Astronomers, fearing eccentricity, or punishment
For it, burning away their distance from God;
So they turned back on the stars, and you squeeze my hand.
If truth is heresy, Brahe can hardly be blamed
For a universe model that set sun and Mars
Toward fiery discourse – I say, and you laugh,
And punch my arm, which is confusing;
I can hardly be blamed if truth is relevant.
Errantium syderum – wandering stars
That threw the world into error, only needed
Correction, but correction eternal.
The tent-bed is warm on the hillside.
Mountains and shoreline, errantium syderum.
Crow and Phoenix
Crow flies down to the body.
Rain gathers in sink-holes, browning green earth,
Moonlight hidden by bloated clouds.
Crow pecks at the frost-bitten fingers.
Phoenix, old and diseased,
Bullet-ridden, one-eyed and weak,
Hops and flutters beside Crow.
Nuzzling his feathers, he clears his ancient throat.
“Shame,” says Phoenix, “There aren’t
Many left like this one.”
“Even fewer now,” crows Crow.
Phoenix stares at the corpse.
Crow says, “You will die.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” says Phoenix.
It's been great fun so far. Thanks for reading,