Alaska

A kettle appeared in my hand
From nowhere,
And the entire land
Became orange and broken.
I remember you,
Spearer of white salmon,
Your heretical parents –
Those academic navel gazers –
Abandoned you to delusions
And a gnawing consumption.
No wonder you moved to Alaska,
This spoke nothing of you,
Glued to the hues
Of forest and tundra,
Of numberless lumbering
Grizzlies, lunar phases
Unencumbered behind secret
Nictitating eyelids,
And everything of them,
His head between a women’s legs
And hers wedged into an oven.
Sometimes, sub-arctic skies
Seemed so vast, so all-consuming,
Your bruised soul could slip
Off a precipice and
Into the basalt rubble,
And that, of course,
In time,
Is exactly what you did,
Standing in those atrocious
Foaming rapids, in galoshes,
The rod appeared in your hand
Just like this whistling kettle,
Akin to the miraculous
Echoes of odourless thought,
And in that moment perhaps
You felt alive so clearly,
So attuned to the hubris
That all of a sudden
You died, too.
You forgot how to swim
As your limbs metamorphically
Merged with sockeyes
And piny yellowfin.
The rifle appeared in your hand,
Also from nowhere.

No poet saved the world
Through writing alone,
Yet they should not have
Ever suggested
That you could.

Blue Gables

This blue-gabled house
Makes melodious tulips
Of music its own;
Organza crescendos,
Echoes of phones,
Ineffable
Dance steps
Float over floorboards
Of alder and oak.
Timpani trancing
As rain strikes the sill,
A bandaged-up boiler
Is sneezing its whelks;
When you live by the sea
There is sand on a shelf.
Syncopation of seagulls
Stomping on tiles,
Green ghosts in the attic
My lymphatic choir,
My harpsichord bones
Should I ever aspire.

In the distance
Crows argue, they bluster
On a gerundive of lungs,
A buffeting breeze;
Church bells are chiming
For two and then three,
A couple walk by
With a cough and a wheeze;
Huddled together,
The past my disease,
I remembered her hat
As her skin touched the sea.

Forsaking the purpose
Of memory’s caves;
I watched the house auction,
Then walked into waves.

Et Snøskred

I would choose if I could
To be anything but a wasted man,

Sinews roping duct and glands.
Leave me, as everyone must,

Leave me to organise these poems –
Jumbled words from an idiot,

Good for kindling, good for dust;
I only request a lifetime’s hibernation

And a printer on a sturdy desk.
You pushed in vain, no little art,

Jumpstarting with your spark plugs
This cold and weathered heart.

My mind is like a mountain slope
For when I shout, an avalanche

Subsumes with snow
Everyone I hear below;

Terrified sounds, such voices,
Of my own villagers trapped

In subatomic neuroses,
My choicelessness of choices.

N.B the title is Norwegian and means ‘An Avalanche’

Liverwort Blues

We live on a cliff above
A dank, oppressive marsh.
That’s how this place
Became itself, through
Our existence alone
And had its name bestowed.
We should have stayed in caves
Where there were no names before.

Everyone here is killing
Each other in a ceaseless
Pursuit of mistruths
And words like food
Turned stale, inedibly so,
Are crumbs scattered
From battlements and
Powerful tower-tops;
The churches lost their teeth
And the castles their crows.
Over there, the man
Who invented petroleum
Is being set alight
Every night;
His corpse is hosed,
The daemons breathe new life
And have him oxidized
Despite his ghostly moans,
All those protestations,
Only, they return in numbers
With a burning bridge in tow.

If a man tells you he misspoke
Then he is not to be believed,
For, prior to impolitic exposure
He said those very words
And so he shows contrition
With oxymoronic verbs.
Truth is his disease –
Even good people lie, he said –
But what is true and what is not
Are shuffled like cards
With the suits turned to spots.

Either exasperated or bored,
I pressed a poisoned knife
Through my psyche,
A mix of suet, memories,
Bratwurst with some liverwort,
And everything that’s past
Is unforgotten, recreated in
A future that evolved,
Fitfully and biting,
Into something even worse.

Crow Lake

Sarcoma days,
Tower of Babel skies,
I tiptoed across our dam
At the top-end of Crow Lake
Where we once stripped
And with youth’s fearless
Exuberance
Ebulliently we dived.
There, beneath obtuse
And lucid ways of waters
We swam together
Through shoals of mouldy
Long-drowned dreams
Before arriving, hands held,
At a blocked sluice gate
We remembered,
And a rusty pump,
Green from age and
Exhaustion,
Before Victorian weirs
Weaving weeds between
Words and memory,
Water and air,
You, the wharf-god’s daughter;
There, we found a forgotten,
Unexploded bomb.

Nowadays,
I want to blast myself open
So that you can see what is inside.
You missed how I found
The secret to eternal life
In that furniture store on the high street,
On a kitchen shelf disguised
Amongst the pans and knives.
If uncovered by anyone else
Then doubtlessly
This elixir, this
Canary-coloured liniment
Would be instantly,
Relentlessly,
Mercilessly commodified,
By gaudy adverts plastered,
Just as they sold us that very same
Water, and air, and life.
I stored it for a little while,
As always, capriciously
Unable to determine
A fixed course of action,
And then I decided
A reasonable middle path
By stirring tea leaves
Judiciously in that fluid –
I studied that substance
For years in a porcelain cup
On a worn antimacassar
Right there beside me,
Then thought, before
It was too late,
To pour everything into
A kitchen sink
In need of bleaching.

Here then, the other side
Of nowhere,
Huge cooling towers
Bruising the sky,
Testament to an older lie.
What did you find
Inside my stomach –
An empty bottle,
Some faded magazines
And a buzzard left to die.

Faltreir

I heard all you said,
About how I expend my time
At nowhere’s edge,
Ignoring the living,
Courting the dead.

Last steadfast leaves of autumn
With their crow’s nest views
And hardy crow’s feet skin,
Swiped like diseased teeth
And tossed into a low
Evergreen sedge.

That storm stole a blackbird’s nest
With one disarming vortex,
Firstly from the north and then
Again from the west.
It was an intricate weft of delicate twigs;
I wondered, how do those diligent,
Hard-working, indigent parents
Rebuild with such artifice,
How do those innocents
Start over in epicentres of
Such windy maleficence,
Pick up the twigs,
Pick up the nest?
And where will the child
Now emerge and
In its emergence
Break out from conformity
And finally live, and erupt
In the fires of self-fulfilment,
Above the bracken and the copse,
If a storm allows for this.