Gravitate

You gravitate towards
A sadder song,
Ended the being
Where you would not belong,
Hurts to return
And hurts to move on;
Autopilot, Rubicon.

Sometimes, insurmountable
Are these feelings
To survive
An eggshell minute;
To contemplate
Is too much pain,
This world without you
Fingerprinting
Permissible limits.

Sadder, yes,
For if only you lived
To know the joy
In light you sought
And thought beyond
All your perceptiveness,
All your intelligence,
Instead, permeated and bled,
Permeates to this day
With all such grace
And truly intangible poise
Of miracles, abundantly
Transfusing through
Everything we did and yet can do,
In this safely stored-up knowledge
Would you still have demurred,
The abdicator absconded.

Samphire Coast

I was made, long ago,
Stirred in a broth
Of pigeon legs
And prisoner bones,
To carry on my back
Weighted packs
Of ingredients tossed
In plastic entrapments;
A jar of pain, like star anise,
Hurt, like saffron,
And for loss, lovage,
Samphire coastlines
And a bay leaf
Or two spared from a frost.
I make my payments in salt,
Mostly, though sometimes
Also in a love that’s lost;
How easy it seems
To touch the golds of this
Inadequate ductile god.
All this explains why
I peddle the boards
With eternal spinal loads,
And why I am magnetised
To saddest folk songs only;
Miasmic mallow the marsh –
A spacious, sacred place
To autograph my heart.

Open Verdict

I can see how it happens.
We have no need for oracles
Or, defeated, a dragon’s gizzard;
Sharper than a horse’s heart,
Thoughts pouring from a blizzard.

His better name then excavated,
His blood to poison changed;
His sadness – clouds, coagulated,
Their shrouding sutures elevated,
All futures rearranged.

Aftermath, less miracles –
Answerless, no explanations;
Denials instead, and driverless,
We move between our stations.

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.

10/10

I was at university in London when the first attack took place, although I have not ever studied at university in London. It wasn’t a terrorist attack, but something even worse. It was October 10th. 10/10, when the war commenced.
I go between London and New York. I don’t mean travelling, as if I am between offices in those two cities, but rather I can walk around a corner in White City or Shepherd’s Bush and find myself in Manhattan or Lenox Hill.
The first attack hits New York but it blacks out London at the same time. We are in a university building, a small crowd of bewildered students, lights go out and the mobile network goes down. There is confusion but also some resolve which is both innocent and youthful but also borne from already being world-weary.
I find myself in a white van with black innards, sat with a few of my peers, a handful of us, being driven in the dark through London streets stripped of any sense of their usual hums and buzz. I recalled we went to see a lake, earlier in the day, before this all happened – a large escarpment on the west side – and on the lake itself there were pedalos and, bizarrely, three of four hovercraft. I remember thinking who would want to go on the pedalos when the surface is being so disturbed by the much larger, aggressively-driven vehicles. Perhaps this was a sign I did not see.
We turned a corner, and now I am in New York. I live with you on a residential street, a town house with three or four storeys, on a street where all the other houses have been converted in the past into apartments. White furniture, wooden floors. People in positions of some authority are knocking on doors, asking if there is room to take in people made homeless by the attacks. I look around and there are about twelve adults already in our house, but I say that I can take another ten, no more. So that’s what happens. People are sleeping on floors, and I am talking with several of the more resilient types. There is nobody who is really old, most people seem to be in their thirties, I’d say, and of various ethnicities. I seem to have a role, a pull, a centre of gravity, though I do not know why or what it is. I look out of the window again. There are people carrying guns for protection. One of the men who was in my house is now riding on the back of a blue bin lorry, with a radio and mic and words of protest as the lorry moves off down the street.
It felt important to ensure that the front door was locked. I wasn’t sure about the back entrance – I recollect there was a gate and a small garden or yard, and then the back door. Standing in the kitchen, I thought to myself that my children would have liked this house.
We have to go upstairs but the stairs are broken. An older man with tattoos on both hands points to a contraption from which two series of steps emerge. He holds these ladders in place, which is how I notice his tattoos. For some reason there is now a bare bald razor in my hand, the type found in manual shaving razors but without the plastic grip and case. It is in three parts. It is important, that I have to carry this in my hand without dropping it and without cutting myself while I climb up the stairs. The steps are quite flimsy and it feels perilous, but I make it to where the original house stairs return in a usable condition, and I am relieved. Other people on that staircase had encouraged me.
I cannot smell or taste in my dreams, I can only touch, see, and hear. I now know this is also reflected in how I write.
I am outside on a wide boulevard on the edge of the city, somewhere near the river. There are a number of men taking the opportunity to peddle drugs. I thought to myself that their ink will run out soon, because of shortages, but I did not know what this meant. The men engendered a feeling of some fear in me, and we stuck together in a group. Later, I called my mother, who was on her own back in the UK, though she is not on her own. I remembered pressing the point that the connection was poor and that the call might come to an abrupt end. My mother was worried and did not understand what was happening. I also called my wife, although I am not married. Unsurprisingly, she scolded me for various reasons. I reassured her about the key in the door, and that also we should both be OK for money because of the government’s furlough scheme for public service employees. I could tell that her parents were with her in New York, too, although I never set eyes on them again.
From my lounge, filled with people I did not know, some of whom slept, all of whom worried about food and meals and supplies, I tried to text a contact who did have some answers, we thought, but the last three numbers were wrong, and the message was not sent. A meal is made from a group of foods, sometimes using a list called a recipe, and sometimes not.
On a street between offices and shops, police cars are responding urgently to nothing in particular, at least nothing the police can solve.
An angry, haptic, naphtha sky is over the upper city, and there are buildings burning in the distance.

You had to go to Swansea by train. I often dream of stations and tickets. You had kissed me on a dark misty golf course. Your hair is longer. Your mother had set your name in your phone to Scooch.

I woke in a sweat. I wondered what the ancients, the Greeks and the Romans and the Europeans and Chinese and Indians along the Silk Road would have made of it all, knowing what we now know, and having contributed to the source, the beginnings of it all, without a care in the world for the ending.

Lazuline

A renewed sadness befalls,
Unconditional as dawn
As she yawns across
Her blue waterfall-hair,
Her languorous manner
No longer enthralled,
Nor so equally
A source of despair.

I slowly drank a cup of tea
As time unminded his hours
And I sensed the ghost of myself.
Your last school photograph
Landed on my doormat this morning –
A smudged inky crest betrayed
What rested inside.
Your blue tie
Looser than it should be,
For which I would have gently
Chided and addressed
With a father’s careful hands;
Your pursed smile
Undeniably self-conscious
Not for your natural and
Certainly unfamiliar
If also not filial
Grace and intelligence,
But instead I knew
Instinctively,
Wordlessly,
You felt it necessary
To disguise
Your dental braces, yet still
Despite that withholding
Your humour could not be denied,
For it would always be belied
By an unmistakable
Iridescence
Traced like soul rainbows
Within your eyes of lazuline.

How many years have you been gone now?
How many more occasions will pass by?
Your photographs stopped arriving
After that last one,
Along with birthday cards
And the moon’s innumerable markers.
Sometimes it is better to lose count
Than have painful memories revived
Of how we survived.

The dewiest morning remembered –
I dreamt then in photographs,
In portraits and still life,
Some salvaged moments of you
Ascend into a fleeting
Feeling of pride,
Soon dissipated by
That appalling dawn;
For what good is the use
Of a smile and a song,
When all’s been gone
For far too long.