Ballad Of The Lonely Ghost

She said she travelled
(In her eloquent way)
To see a Medium,
Frequented only yesterday,
Apropos of non-sequiturs
Over our morning tea.
Not the travelling kind,
She said, caravan-bound,
Deep brown eyes beneath
An unwashed shawl –
Beadily watching as one gold coin
Then two would fall, into
Her grisly and well-wizened palm;
No, not that kind you see, she said,
As she tapped her date-stamped
Hard-boiled egg –
Three, four, five times,
Nor the kind of folklore-hag
Whose ghastly attention would demand
Something greater and so much closer
To rapture, and which disarmed
Most ardent former lovers
And battle-hardened
Heavily moustached lieutenants.
No, this particular Haruspex of Time
Conducted her sight-seeing business
From an everyday house
Not far from my innards
On an everyday estate nearby;
An advertisement on the internet,
A card in the window,
And introductory laminated sets
Of terms and conditions,
Frayed at the edge, which she said
Stated very professionally
In legalese vernacular that
You can pay by direct debits,
And she tapped with a quite
Ordinary finger, no boils,
No snake-charm tattoos
At a text which succinctly read:
No refund for mistakes.
Life-affirming posters adorned
Her anaglypta office walls;
Pithy quotes, images in pastels
Of votive candles and petals,
Yoga practitioners
Posturing in lycra, all of which
When relayed to me
I mistook unintentionally
For reliably post-modern
Oracular irony.

I knew without being told
As to who she had enquired about;
It was, after all,
A significant anniversary.
I recalled a funeral,
A sister-in-law in tears,
Readings from a book
Nobody had leafed through
For many, many years.
Aptly black umbrellas,
Except – an aunt who
Refused to where black
Because she said she could not stand
Morbid traditions and so
Brought along a
Parasol in pink.
The vicar uttered appropriate words.
The family stood with patience
And thoughts elsewhere
About football results
And affairs of the heart
And pub opening times
And penitence.
A newspaper article later announced
That he had not meant
To do what he did,
Yet it happened, all the same,
And consequences remain
Instead of what he could have been.

A jolt, a rise in temperature;
Suddenly he was wheeled
Through an ether
Like the beret-wearing grandmother
Of that corner-shop owner
Who used to emerge from a storeroom
And berate their hesitant customers –
Not that corner shops exist these days –
He outlasted, in his own way,
So much, come to think of it.
Wheeled then, yes,
On his upright gurney
Designed for just such
Inter-dimensional bumpy journeys.
He was somewhat philosophical
Despite his condition, whereby
Without choice or say or any form
Of mortal pauses or tenures
Or even dereliction
He is moved from pasture
To pillar to post and
Back to pasture again.
He said that he no longer
Has any arteries or
Heart or veins.
He said the realm he’d entered
Has recently given him a cold,
Possibly influenza although
He is just about coping with
Shivering in his inherently
Discrete and indiscernible
Ghetto for the Soul.
It should be said, I rejoindered
As she slurped on molten yolk
That, in his previous actual life,
He was minded to many an illness;
A hypochondriac, I said.

He did not divulge any mysteries
Of the abundantly divine
To my wife on a Friday,
Nor differential margins
If only just above the earthly plain
Which may make a singular difference
Between the right and the just and the holy.
He said that he had been feeling shaky
A little lately, and he was not one
For sushi and sake from a
Lacquered masu-box,
Yet here he was resigned to
These formalities
And ceremonies
In places we could not tread
On boards or with any maps to plot.
He was worried for the future,
He was worried for what he had lost.
And then, as if to typify
All absolute control foregone,
He was manoeuvred silently,
Slowly, unbearably slowly,
Away from where moments ago
His unwieldy, unworldly form
Had briefly merged with ours.

And since that day
I feel a certain constancy,
Permanency, too,
In loss and life-long being abandoned.
Sometimes, I waywardly strive
To divert my waking mind from it,
Often unsuccessfully,
Sometimes I find
These bald and wailing perinatal
Conditions comforting,
Because I am used to it,
Because in the storm-tossed
Concussions and contusions
You confirmed for me
That I did once exist,

Even if for now
I knock at the glass windows
Just as he once did, and yet
Which showcase your successes
While I persist only
As a living ghost
Palms open,
No tokens,
You will never find
A camaraderie, a troupe of ghosts –
It is just not how we were made,
Drifting through all others’ hopes
And into our open graves.


A Solitary Oystercatcher

A solitary oystercatcher’s cry
Found my likewise mind;
Migratory, too far inland,
From my distant depths
I couldn’t discern meanings,
No matter how much I tried
To orthographically identify
And arrange taxonomies,
Avian alphabets and
Seventeen semantics,
The range and extent
Between an urgent alert
And a call to act
Was lost on me.

In isolation
We are not unique,
Nor our abandonment;
Despite a thousand words
For loneliness
I made much the same sound
From my fish-mottled beak
On returning from work,
On falling asleep.

Outside, An Ocean

Outside,
An ocean
Of constant motions,
Lush tropical abundance,
Yet all I cradle are ashes
Charred from bark
And burnt rubber plants,
Unusable coconut
And a poisoned palm –
The bark itself carved from
A mythical phoenix-tree
They discovered
Accidentally
And nonetheless marked
And later diseased –
This would have been
My self-sufficiency.

If no man is an island
Mr John Donne
And Mr John Dryden,
Then why does my lonely abode
Align with the limits of
My aspirations so comfortably?
I have seen in deep reposes
Those ghosts who come and go
For whom there’s no repelling;
Sometimes they stayed a while
Perhaps from curiosity,
Or perhaps their own
Uncertain form of loneliness,
Yet never so long
As to find me compelling –
This writer without hands,
This tongueless orator.
They always stole something
Out of nothing, or would
Confiscate our materiality
In the end –
Glass from oriels,
Tiles from steeples
And church-roof lead.
This is why, to hold the pen,
I maintain my right to an island
With hopes and invocations
For better times ahead.

The Reason For This Evening’s Tailback

Deathly onyx cold,
When the layering curse returns,
As it always will and still unfolds,
Ravenous, his satiation made
Impossible, implausible,
Bringing new brocaded covers
With images of his solace
Although its story is well told,
I then become cold to my bones
And proximity is no requisite
For shivering from his grimacing
Chtonic, unobvious presence,
Timeless and with flashing teeth
On gums of gangrene and mould.

In this grim palace
A choice is not a choice,
Any meaning is void
And made obtuse,
Made meaningless;
Debased, your imagination
Weighed the same as gold,
Which he bought, and
Which he melted to
Gild the dumbstruck throats
Of statues in his home.

Unwilling guest, dreaded party,
I had torn up his red invitation
But a taxi arrived regardless.
Now I am bound with his
Interminable shadows
While he plays a consummate host,
Debonair, with silverware,
He spins on a cane of liquified hope
And this bleak trope is complete,
Gone with all cares,
They were strafed from wastelands
And in his darkness I grope for
The one way home,
That one truth path
He scattered within
A million mascarading bluffs.

It would be akin
To climbing back in
To the belly of a dragon
Having seen the knight
From within eviscerate,
Daylight sharply juxtaposed
Between swordtip and entrails
As he slices me out.
No, life, sunshine, heroes,
No you don’t.
Put me back on the shelf,
On the bleak rib and distral ropes
Where gastric flames
Did many a stronger man well-roast
And more so, yes, than me.

So, then, these true happenings
(With heavy heart I am re-telling)
Are made manifest
In men driving their many cars,
(Cars they keep on selling),
Parked by central reservations –
Early evening drifting snow –
Tailbacks ensuing,
Vows for renewing,
And with nowhere left,
Nowhere left to go.

On Homelessness

There is much to be said
For a warm, downy bed,
And a roof for my head.

In truth, those cold stars
Kill men with their draught;
Stratospheric, crystal glass.

I knew a man who died that way,
On a bench rain-soaked
In a well-loved park;

Several cars had slowly passed,
Narrow tailgate margins;
I didn’t have the heart.

He started somewhere far apart;
So much at sea drifts
Listlessly from where our hands

With a planetary love did chart,
Yet Truth has no use for straw
Or for bars, nor Justice, too,

Constantly miscarrying,
She chews on rue like
An ancient Appalachian goat

And her rivers are in my bones
And bath. In the long grass
I lay there waiting, in hiding,

Until the shadow of my self
My life, flew slowly,
Silently above those hills,

A giant airborne stingray,
Inexplicable, mythical,
I cried at the sight of my

Childhood loss. Returning
To my humble shed from roaming
Through my gloaming spirit-loft,

There is much to be said
For a warm, downy bed,
And a pillow for the lonely.

Sacramento

Ego-buffeted blustering coast.
I hurt the ones I love the most.
Seaweed thoughts and neon foam,
The loaming mantel hides a ghost.
Shipwrecked, re-wrecked,
Where’s the host?
The crow-man left the crow’s outpost.

Feather-blossom, light as moon,
If we leave you’ll see me soon,
Apple-wort and rotten trunks,
Ego-thorn and ego-dent,
My life there’s one experiment.
The ones I loved hurt me the most,
Sacramento, holy ghost.

Ode To A Parking Lot, No.2

Grief, do not disparage me,
Do not diminish my yearning
To observe the rites I will learn
In turn, by rote, just as oceans
Spurn the lode in mackerel bones
And whiting dreams and cod,
Fulfilling the needs in fishermen’s
Ganseys and hand-made
Tablecloths their wives
Once ironed, having washed,
On kitchen benches draped across,
Though sometimes a trawler
Or two were lost and the sea,
With blind unfeeling disbelieving
Reasons breeding in their peaks
And troughs, duplicitous sea,
Brought home only grief and loss,
Those I have known and those
I have not, as I cried on my own
At midnight in a parking lot.

Symptomatic

Is this world both one and true
As that within my mind,
From Argonauts, Thelassian crew,
A golden fleece to find.

I felt the sea the same,
That gentle Aegean lapping;
Did Peloponnesian navies tame
The inlets I am mapping.

Or is this landscape’s manifest
From minds divested only;
Symptomatic, I am a guest,
Devoid of fleet and lonely.

Don’t pity me, a juvenile,
These sands and weeds aren’t homely.
Owned by ones I could not find,
Wandering lost and lonely.