Blues

In youthful days
I could not know
These ways of you
Would change and grow;
Not for better,
Always worse,
Yet if abeyant
Fate
Is versed,
Who will wear
In blue
This curse.

Considering
These tired enquiries
Distractedly,
Quietly,
Little more than frayed
Boot laces left in a shed,
I trod upon my anguish,
Barefoot, pierced through my soles
By rotten and forgotten branches
Underneath a rosebriar bush
Where foxes were thwarted
And ladybirds courted
A flagless border imparted,
These remains are still
Too sharp to handle
Ungloved, though many years
Have waned in truth
Since numbers were pruned
Beneath a single glass eye of
A newly shot moon,
Long before
The dark in the dew
Of my tears would pour
On the eglantine proof.

I found a long-dead mistle-thrush
Beyond my unwaxed gate,
He brought to me a message,
His gassy eyeballs glazed;
Lividity, a beaten breast,
Downy pall for his heart,
Stiffly pointed scaly legs,
No more worms for the beak.
Absurdly straight, those legs,
A spindly, wiry
Duet of prayers
Offered to our blithely
Tergiversate universe
On my starless
Tarmacadam path;
One last breath
With flames as blue
As the one true host,
One last herald
Too late to restart.

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.

Stepping Stones

River started, river ended,
Broken bridges never mended.

Plenty there to get through first,
Don’t know yet I’ve even seen the worst.

Brown water, light dappled,
Twisting trees and rotten apples.

Ice, thaw, ice, more,
Rivers rise with bicycles,

Like canals in Amsterdam
Rise with fallen bodies.

I am someone’s story,
Someone else’s narrative,

And only on their stepping stones
Am I allowed to live.

Ode To Loss

I missed my coast-path daily,
Habitual old rabbit-paw friends;
And daily my undressed heart is
Stopped, sunk and restarted.
This is why a government
Installed defibrillators
In disused telephone kiosks
In every town and village.
For Dear Lord knows
I was not born to enrich anything,
Nor with only obals to pay,
Those coal-pennies tied by my wrist;
Nor to be so opportunistic
In blustery thoughts
And deeds as unrobust
As the grounded rusty trawler
Rattling in abandonment
As to dismiss
My heritage. I am from
The northern fringe
Where death is expected
And life’s an acquired taste.
Spare me accusations
Of being awfully maudlin
Or as morose as those unfed mosquitos,
Lethargic beneath the cliff-top lamps;
The near-dread ghosts unappeased
On their deathbeds are
Entitled to lucid oaths
And tiptoed pleas.
What use is a coastline, anyway?
An edge, ellipse, an ending;
Good grief is not for mending.
In those silent dunes to our left
Just over your shoulder
A young boy died,
Tunnelling with plastic spades
The sands gave way to
Somewhere colder inside.
I carry that family’s sadness
Compassionately and completely
Yet without their approval
Or knowledge.
Unwanted gifts,
The authorities in joint-wisdom
Installed a wooden sign which reads
Non giocare su queste sabbie;
Back then I misinterpreted this
As do not live now or then again,
Not more than a day or two,
That’s all there is remaining.
And over there, beyond
Greenish sea-sump pools
With seaweed symphonies and
Cruel ghoulish-claws of June,
Is where that lad’s car
Fell fifteen metres down the scar
Then through lagoons
Only to reach its rest
Wedged between a dream
Or two. He survived;
A farmer’s daughter now his wife,
And if not for him and
Loss of loss
The authorities in their
Infinite wisdom glossed
Would not have installed
A heras fence on this eternal cliff-top,
Although in autumnal winds
The fence would drop,
Often taking flight just like a
Dull metallic gull or
Mournful curlew’s song
From last year’s furloughed crop.

Umbilicus

Constant reminders
In my body’s retirement
Of your indelible
Indiscretions
Dissolved into me,
My skin the sea
Filled with your molluscs
And a coprolitic fossil
Of your movements,
Your impossible
Puzzles and befuddled
Cryptic sentences
Like lugworm trails
Where the blight receded,
You see his sand-cast there
But not his burrowed body,
For flesh and form
Took leave long ago,
And all that remains
Are contusions.

Emerged from your gulf,
Urgent as a siren
Until the giant waves
Rewound, every mole
A continuum from times
Of settlements in iris,
Unfunny jokes,
Inverted laughter,
I made no demands for
The complexities of your
Shell-emptied nautilus,
Salvaged from a sea-bed,
Thrust up through a hole
With samphire-weed and poison.

Seagulls squawk and spiral
On a Fibonacci horizon,
I do not own a hair on my heart,
I do not own a thorn-seed;
I was born on Steppes of Despair,
And that is where I am mourning.

Passerine

To a fetlock’s height on unicorns
One Sunday morning you were born,
Weaned by a mother who hung her best dress
Beneath a seasoned turkey breast.
Snowdrift, westward, soon apart,
No sewing kit stitches a cold broken heart.

A blue tit warbling I once heard
On the crooked, downhill turf;
Later, I could not account to myself
For blood on my fingers,
Five or six feathers in my heart
And other forms of Cubist art;
Blue eye of my needle
Where the downy snow starts,
Returning home,
Her song in my chest,
To an empty bath.

L’eternità è intatta

Rain doesn’t stream
Asunder the sea,
Nor be in hurries
Today for my needs.

I’ve seen through storm-troubles
For years less remembered;
By its own great weight
A sea- bed is tempered.

Ashamed of existing,
More waters have laws
Than my calcified heart.
Il mio calore è per l’inverno, sempre;
L’eternità è intatta come l’arte.

The bones of an ocean’s regrets;
Troubles redoubled
Do not go away,
When years are persisting
And the sea is still grey.