Peripheries

There’s a sink that needs cleaning,
A festive wreath to pack away;
Death essentially demeaning,
I can’t see beyond what you did today.

Meanwhile,
The pure agony of existence
Is on the peripheries
Of oceanic ferries
Towards bliss, or heaven.

I can remember every moment,
Pernicious and horrible;
Impervious to me, terrible,
Memories in their tsunamis
And their oceans becalmed,
Crammed into the ecstasy
Of my every waking thought.

Apocryphal

You called me with a wish.
The line was broken, interrupted.
Your children were in the car
Behind you, concerns unspoken.
I knew you could not call again;
My mind is a radar for sadness.

An apocryphal fog followed,
Thick as a Polkovnik’s moustache,
A fog for causing shipwrecks,
Misunderstandings telegraphed.
In any event, I became mute
Until I met my nephews again.

Giraffe Police

We accepted the unacceptable;
Evolved what was ephemeral
To permanently inevitable.

Dusk, orange early evening light.
We arrived at the municipal
Railway station, magnificent
In its antiquated style,
Minarets, many fountains
And bountiful hanging baskets
Where passionflowers spilled
Into their sulfurous being
As brightly and wide as your smile,
Only to be met and then processed
By two genial-enough
Officers in crisp white linen
Riding on giraffe-back;
From their howdahs’ vantage
They shouted down to kindly
Inform us, notebooks ready,
That their Bactrian camels
Had for the night retired
At their presidential stables,
And so on these languid
Knock-jointed mammals
With wrists for knees
They had to travel instead.
Those ungulates looked at us
With profound imperviousness,
Nonplussedness no less,
As phlegmatically
They chewed their cud;
Their riders read us our rights,
Although what we call rights
They now name our trouble.

We could conceive
The inconceivable
But in this desert crucible
We choose not to.
We did not question
How the officers knew
We were on the 2.20 train
From the coastal town
Where time had run out,
And now my memory hurts
From the telling.

There is no dispelling the fact
That these people dreamt of me once;
I was writing a poem on the subject
Of their nomadic travels
And subsequent apprehension
By a lieutenant and his junior,
And in this way
Come what may
The poem became the people.

Not The Bearer

Sometimes Love’s amphoras
Overflow, enriching
Not the bearer
But everyone below,
Until Love’s ceramic
Sun-glazed jugs
Finally become discoloured,
Emptied, and in shadow.

And although
I hide my losses well
You can always tell
When I am struggling –
I forget
To cut my toenails
And I forestall
The days of the week
Which I have changed
To names of trees
Extinct by thirty years;
Monday’s Ash,
Tuesday’s Elm,
Wednesday Oak;
Poplar’s heights
Touch Thursday’s toes,
Willow’s Friday’s river-cloak,
A weekend fit for toasting
Alder and Horse Chestnut,
Cold kidney pie
With mustard mash
I misplaced from last week’s lunches
Before returning to ash.

You can also tell
When I am unwell –
Chores do not interrupt and
You can hear the sounds
Of chaos from somewhere
Down the hall –
A thousand years of loneliness
To only end it all.

Love can pour back upwards –
See the citadel’s sorrow;
Place a lid upon the urn
And try again tomorrow.

Everybody Got What They Needed From Me (Except Me)

My counsellor said, exasperatedly,
That title is a generalisation
And that I am susceptible to exaggeration.
I said, this is how I feel.
The remaining appointments did not go so well.

On a village green a well ran dry,
And at the nearby cricket pitch
The yearlong deluge washed away
Protests more and more obscene
Chalked on a scoreboard by
Openers for a disgruntled team
Still wearing pads beneath their knees.
Villagers gathered under umbrellas
Scratching their waxy heads
With unusual visages weathered
And perplexed, looked up
To all redoubtable heavens,
Misunderstanding how so much rain
Could fall on something terribly and
Relatively minuscule as a
County bore with bucket,
As if a curse for colonising
The sands and surf of far
Nehantucket, by forgotten
And foolhardy ancestors
All those centuries, long ago.

Awdl I Wraig Pysgotwr

Cultivating seven lemon leaves of love,
She keeps their citrussy pips
For infusing our elevenses
And drizzle cake for afterwards,
Returning from the morning trip
Aboard my pre-dawn sea-breeze skip
Amid ululating waves, gigantic
Monoliths to rage and grief,
To shower away all memories
Of tarpaulin, and bountiful cod
I sell to a fishmongers’ market,
Fresh are the fish they sell
For a clamouring townsfolk
On beds of mushy peas
And curried chips.

From my time at middle-sea
My lips are akin to potato skins
Abandoned in a frozen field
After a squad of soldiers’ stampeded
Over muddy Flanders and Frisia;
I have rugged Stegosaurus toes
And a cranium bursting with
Plains of great grey
Oppressive clouds,
I am sometimes gruff
And sometimes I say nothing for days,
For who would converse
With mizzle-clouds and fish
And fog?

Yet despite these lesser facets
She is my anchor and my harbour –
Two states of material being –
A qubit, a Schrödinger love.
She is the single numeric code
For those thousands of padlocks
Encircling my rusty tortoiseshell heart;
She is both trusted compass and direction,
And when I set course
On a shipful of bones
For snowy Arctic bays and coves,
She returns me slowly, slowly,
Patiently home for cake and tea –
A blend with seven lemon leaves.


N.B The title is Welsh, ‘Ode To A Fisherman’s Wife’. I noticed the closeness to the Cornish word for Fisherman – pyskador – but I was not certain that I could approximate the Cornish title closely enough.

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.