Natasha Renewed

You were the envy of centuries,
Your love the unplundered loot
Under plum-coloured helmets
From mud-lusty Danes of Harthacnut.

You moved into a house
On a slope (made hazardous,
I imagine, by frost and ice
That yet must be a long way off
Along another horizon),
Next door to my grandmother
Who rested dutifully
In the annex
(Like an old mole
Upon your jawbone,
You resigned yourself
To her perspiring presence)
Carved from a former saloon
Where of an afternoon she snoozed
While keeping vouchsafed in a jar
Her one last sandstone tooth.
O how a home that could not exist
Yet appear with a simple veneer
Much like any other rooted
On this strange village street,
The only difference being
When you opened the door
There was nothing beyond
A jaded porch, lavender
And heather turned to dust
Along with dried
Forget-me-nots and
Compass points made moot.
You had changed your name,
I do not know why,
To Natasha, your eyes
As wide as a frontier
Where swirled surprise
And regret in those glass bowls
Once burning like calderas,
And in your hands
Scentless celeriac,
Cauliflower florets
And a head of herring.
Somewhere along the line
You bought eggs from a garage
In a parallel place and time.
At the very extremeties
Of our dormant love,
I knew too late to appreciate
That which I could never touch,
Neither ending nor the essence.

This dampening dream-like nature,
A long green duffel coat and hair
Once vibrant as sunsets
Over Mediterranean ports
And on to far Aden
And golden Sharjah,
Cities we knew a long time ago,
Now grey as a downpour in May
With a woodland scarf,
A husband – I could not meet his eyes –
Two children and my phone
Running low of charge
Like my soul, which is why
I step through my dreamcatcher
To wherever you are present,
Mapless, stateless revenant,
In a rendezvous pretences,
Preferring to be this lost,
I would rather be surrounded
By all those silent deaths above
Than tortured by the humdrum sounds
Of life removed from your love,
Modern and irrelevant.

Yellowknife

Yellow anaglypta sky,
Mulchy leaves like mirrors;

Yellows, pinkish too alight,
Grounded sky implied

And downward falling rivers,
Pre-crepuscular,

What was their objective, stripped?
To end here, nearer, those souls

With tanks trapped in sand,
Engines choked, gears stuck,

What was to be delivered
For all we held dear?

Are we this bored with ourselves
Because we did not go to war?

Dawn solo,
Lonely blackbird,

Forbidden sky,
Foreboding and with an egg

Frying on a bonnet in the middle,
Upside down,

Yellow clouds
So close to the surface

I do not know if we fell out.
Rain, thick and heavy as

Lovers’ heartbeats;
You were to go swimming

With your uncle
Who has not changed since

He was last seen way back when,
And which would not ever happen

In this duality, neither yours nor mine.
He took a bicycle without asking,

The one I cannot ride on,
Knowing full well the municipal pool

Is in that part of town
With thefts in spate.

I woke on a motel bed in Yellowknife,
No duvet, no sheets,

The side of my head was swollen,
A fearful headache,

Empty whiskey glass beside
A faulty bedside lamp

Which began to reach into my mind
And my only thought

As I heard their sex through
A wall behind my head, was this,

Of how war may well be madness,
But families, often, more so.

I used the toilet, sipped a drink
That was not there,

Then climbed naked back
Into that cold, uncovered bed.

Dolorous

Mockeries
Of democracy,
A companionship
Of loneliness,
Obtuse
Collective nouns.
On a top floor
Of my mercies
We designed –
I do not know why –
A water feature,
Incongruous
And somewhat vain,
A bowl formed
From igneous rock,
Only, a leaky
Feeding pipe
From a fireplace
Caused a gorge
Or fissure
We have to step across.
In this huge new building
People compliment
Beautiful views
But I worry
About that leaking
And a distinct possibility
Of damp in these books.

In the distance,
Or it may be inside me,
I hear a colliery band
Strike a dolorous tune –
A bugler too – and as
With all things lost
Therein lies a
Sombre mood.

I can’t remember how
I parked the car,
Let alone where,
Or how much all this
Shopping cost.

Searchlight

It was your birthday
Twenty years or so ago;
We descended into a city
Of ghost re-rendered
Restaurateurs
Mostly only known to us.
Strange how
None of this exists right now,
Except perhaps
Within my pillow-bounded head.
(Can dreams be transferred
From my subconscious mind
Through or even then from yours?
Do you also walk these dead
Pedestrianised streets
Of the deeply-raised interred?
)
It is with a distinct sense of dread
That I am always falling asleep,
From fear of these cities
And people who are
No longer the same,
For they all emerged without me,
A subliminal sequence
Of years long ago.

You hadn’t changed,
Still good-humoured,
Still talkative,
You walked into an establishment
Named the Ho-Ho for
Whatever unknown reason,
And you told a silent joke
To a new waitress and her
Two dumbfounded customers.
And so it was your birthday,
And that Chinese eatery
We searched for
Where your coterie
Of twentysomething
Student
Aficionados
Had slipped, shifted
Away from its mooring
Adjacent to l’office du tourisme
Located by the river
Where eleven vessels
Ride the rip
In the seams of my dreams.
I am denim to a somnambulant
Nocturnal god’s demesne.

Inexplicably, my role
Suddenly evolves to carry your
Curry-coloured shoes,
And then also later a
Stuffed blue bear, a child’s toy,
(Still holding your shoes),
An armful of regalia
And vintage paraphernalia.
I held the door for your peers
But was not invited
To the benches where
The glitterati sipped
On bamboo juice
And green tea hips.

Your German teacher made a tarte,
The Chinese menu à la carte;
I wonder when my heart
Restarts.

I have had this awful
Gnawing sense my whole
Long life that I was born
For arduous tasks,
While with something inside me brewed,
Malformed to fail,
How the audience laughed
And now, half-formed,
I replay it all each night,
A searchlight from my
Buzzard soul above
A pre-dawn gorse,
Hovering over those very fields,
Hedgerows, lanes, old roads still,
For the fugitive source.

Ballad Of The Paradigm Bar

We thought it was over,
At last we had won,
When my friend on the left said
We forgot someone.
The first time’s defeating
Took only a sneeze,
When for so long we had strived
With barrels and pleas.
Answers revised
Aide memoires ease
More questions answered,
Future disease.

A band of fourteen,
Four in the quiz,
I changed my commission,
Ministerial mistresses
None of my business;
A bowlful of pears,
Furnished with access
To high state affairs –
A royal parade,
Burnishing stairs,
A wide walking hat,
A yukka bears witness,
At my chamber window
Tap tap taps,
Provoked by a gale,
The sheltered despair,
Sometimes you lose the ones
For whom you most care.

Empty church Sundays,
But today people flooded
The aisles and the pews,
Hypocrisy lives
In televised queues;
Panicking vicar
But a subaltern knew
Just what to do.
In a village park grounds,
In a VIP queue,
I held your hand lissom
And said under pink blossoms
Can I now stay with you.

Impossible questions
Know their own answers;
I am always the author
Of every disaster.
He landed with impact,
(Give devil his dues),
Clearly on schedule
Though the landlord was new.
He was maddenly-made
By air dissolute,
Absconded with Judy,
The air turning blue.
Inaccessible realms
He vanishes through,
Stalks with clawed pride
Or licks his were-wounds.
A chalkboard sign
At the paradigm bar
Promoted a prize
For a bet on a horse.

End of the world,
Girl and a boy,
He summoned me forward,
Determined with ploy
To settle the matter
Of whether the planet
Would be swallowed
Or not, (my love on the floor
In white lace collapsed)
He challenged me
(As if I was a saviour
And not, instead,
A man of small means
And compulsive behaviour),
To a game of
Shove ha’penny
By the bar’s exit door.

I always lose games,
What chance did I have?,
As I took hold of some silver
From his crumbling hand;
My coin landed flat
On that crucial puck,
At the opportune Time
I found my friend Luck,
What happens next –
Whosoever could tell,
I rose from my sleep
As if from a spell,
Kettle boiled yellow,
Ham on toast,
The yukka outside
Asked who is the Host.

We thought it was over,
That we had won,
Yet in any winning
Is the end of a song;
Enjoy every moment
Before it’s over
And gone.

Karmic Roulette

Karmic Roulette,
Where will you take me next
For a spin within your wheels?
Sometimes far future,
Sometimes the past,
Sometimes in blue,
But it never lasts with you.
I am simply your small round
Metal ball-bearing
Sticking to its task –
Give me a place to land
And I will fill the part.

I landed, and entered a city
In the steppes of my heart,
The world outside was crumbling
But these tower blocks steadfastly
Clung to their history, with
Ornaments and crockery in orange,
Yellows and that thick green
I had not seen since 1973.
This room made do as lounge
And diner in one, square
Utilitarian, lighting dimmed
And of all this no more
Than the size of
The God of Moths’ thumbs.
Your mother kept your space
At a table where I now sat;
Surrounded by plastic, mica,
Nothing had changed
In the seven sharp years
Since you’d gone to the shops.

Though the case had gone cold
And closed many moons ago,
Your mother was seeking a groom;
She proselyted about you and I,
Showed me her photographs of you
While saying brown was all
She could afford for your attire
To survive in this bleak room.
She treated you like an exhibit
In a catalogue of stones.
I noticed your smile before
Anything else about your beauty,
Your smile illuminated your face
Like unending tapers in life’s
Chapel while I ate her dim sum.
Here you attended a service,
Here you turned towards the sun.
I assured your mother I would
Meet you on the steps outside
The limestone church, much like a
Place of worship I visited once
In Podgorica, with plain
Outer walls, but the inside
Shimmered in pure gold.

Before that could happen
The wheel turned with its own
Warping thaws of justice,
And away I would spin
Above the colours and
The numbers in red,
To God only knows where,
Destination’s only certainty
Will be you and me apart.

The Red Cat And The Blue

Last night, the cat re-entered
Through the flap of my dreams,
The one you may or may not remember
I told you all about in scenes
And named the newborn poem
‘Feathers In The Fennel’,
(Although I do not expect you
Would dismember thoughts from memories
Just because I have to);
The very same cat, only this time
By an orange-red tabby friend accompanied;
They sat on the compost box
Beyond the rosehip and the garlic,
And they talked like old accomplices,
With such great ease,
About the virtues of mice and wrens and
The current disease in their two-legged friends
Which had led to the inconvenience of them
Being home more often than usual.
The scent of ginseng wafted into the dream,
And cassia, and juniper seeds;
In his field of view that red cobby found me,
As piercing as prayers from a high priestess
Whispered straight through the locks
And domains of angels in heaven,
He sauntered over the lawn with airs
Of a munificent feudal lord,
Orgulously surveying the garden
As if he himself had managed the jasmine and verbena
Feeling their seven-fingered ways through the fence,
Then stretching as only cats can stretch,
He jumped comfortably on to my kitchen window sill
And purred as I stood transfixed
By the overflowing sink,
His penetrating feline eyes
Would battle with myths
To conquest and have convinced my latest soul,
And he quietly yawned, or it may have been a roar
And said:
“Nick, here are several collective nouns for cats”;
He paused, and thoughtfully licked a furry paw,
Then provocatively, as if it was the only thing
Which mattered right now in this world,
Which of course it was,
Continued, (I could not move,
For he had my limbs in his vice-like catnip-grip)
“Including a clowder of cats,
And a glaring of cats,
Which is my personal favourite,
A litter, of course, and some which are new,
Some which are as ancient as my mummified relatives
Back in the cat necropolises
Of Saqqara”,
He jumped from the window sill,
And in that moment I awoke, cold and sweating,
For they used to deposit dead cats
Dried in cavities within the walls
Of houses, shops and pubs,
To ward off malevolent spirits
And cultivate good fortunes;
Wrapped in herbs, the cats were scented
With the juniper and cassia
For their healing and preservative compounds;
But in the dream they had me switched,
The orange-red cat and myself,
Painted me blue, gave me some food,
And left me dried there for centuries
For other people’s purposes
In that false familiar wall
From where I would write
By the mind’s candle-light,
Morning, noon and night
Under the stairwell joists,
As the families and lovers
Through that home’s happy history
Laughed, and sang, and rejoiced.