Water Slide

We enter by a dark
And elevated chamber;
People do this, apparently,
For their own entertainment.
Yet atop those chlorinated
Steps where re-used water
Pours back down rusting
Spiral stairs beyond where
Semi-naked people stare
Up towards me
Or at least the
Approximation
Or vicinity of me
Expectantly and patient,
I have nothing to give.
Instead, I observed
On this heady pilgrimage
A phlegmy edge of
Chewing gum,
Masticated and
Impressed behind this
Aluminium balustrade
I cannot touch.
An English teacher
Some thirty years ago
(Although I recall
This moment as if
Furloughed by Time and
Just further below
A moment ago), expounded
On how gum survives
Within large intestinal
Tracts for three years
Or more, which he imparted
As a matter of fact,
And though that Mr E.
Is now deceased and outlived
By you and I and all
Those innocent eyes
On those rows below me,
All I know is how
He used to pull me by
My ear until my ear
Then reddened, and there
And then, my soul was
Deadened. He also said
Or instead proclaimed
That should you drink
From water fountains
Within the central city,
That very same fluid had
Reduced and sluiced through
Eight other bodies already.
From where I am standing,
Inner tremblings
Vertiginously,
There is little difference.
So in this hellish place
I find amalgamations
Of my two severest fears:
Water, and the populous
Within this easy confluence.

For a vast majority
Upon this downward
Uncontrolled trajectory
Where I am shouting
With all my internalised
High cacophonies
They are having fun
And bless them yes
They are laughing.
Buffeted from side to side,
Elbows bruised,
Points confused,
My soul paramedics
On standby, they know well
I create and decorate
My private forms of
Self-inflicted torture.

Far north from here,
The heavy skies of Scotland
Brew a murder or two,
Or at sixes and sevens,
Whilst I am thrust from
The open mouth
Of a rusty and very
Asthmatic serpent
Into this new heaven.

I Went For A Walk Outside Our Hotel And This Is What I Discovered

I found a secret pond
Hidden behind our hotel,
Undisturbed by human touch
As far as I could tell.

Cow parsley abounded,
Poppies and wild orchids
As high as an ox’s haunches,
As quiet as a glade where

Kine chewed their cuds;
Harbingers of summer rain,
They survived for years
Near this pond in a spell

Without knowing.
I later researched the spot
And read in a local newspaper
(On a whirring microfilm reader

In a library which burnt down
To appease an arsonist’s wishes;
It was not rebuilt but
That’s another plot)

About a boy found nearby,
Murdered thirty years ago,
Face down in a muddy brook
Which filtered through that pond;

His body turned to browns
Then younger dust, as does
Memory, as does Love.
The ox transformed before

My eyes to become a great
Black swan with a neck as long
As a distant sun, like beams
Which slipped through our blinds

In the hotel room we shared
As I kissed your back, and
Inhaled, and found a mole
Beside your spine I had not

Observed until that afternoon,
Just like the pond and
The boy and the swan;
They all took flight.

I kissed you there as you slept,
Grateful for your affirmations,
Your vivacity, your life,
And I thought about a community

Seeking a child through
The scrub and the reeds
And the sum of all strife
They would not find alive.

Eight Glasses

Water’s passed
Through seven
Towns on two
Banks of the
River Thames,
Or Isis as she’s known
At Oxford upstream,
Although it’s the
One and same
Dead river nymph
Before flowing
In to London’s
Bloated all-consuming
Hips, her public
Fountains and
Underground
Waterways.
Seven sips through
Seven lips on
Seven mouths,
Seven stomachs,
Some with ulcers,
Seven lies and
Seven dowsed,
Then hepatic ducts
And bladders where
Water in a hoisin-sauce
Soaked duck
Or any creature
Clipped from luck
Swirl in confluence
Post-gut, post the
Spatchcocked organs
Deconstructing
All that’s good
Before arriving at the
Thirst-quenched populous
Downstream from the
Golden Cotswolds
And into throats
Of foaming dogs.

So too seven lovers
Fell through me like
Teardrops, like
Ethereal waterfalls
And hydrogen bombs,
Floating on to where
Other men and
Women meet
To hold, and sigh,
And comfort, tossed
From one lifeboat
On their journey
To the next, until
At some sun-blessed atoll
They found a form of
Peace. I crawled to
Blackened riverbanks
At Purfleet and drank
Salt in my sleep.

Those who know me
Might expect a
Comparison
To the eight glasses
You would drink before
The day had even
Reached its peak;
But I am tired,
And I’d like to drink
Something else neat,
Some herbal tea,
Some skimmed milk,
And fall asleep.

Ekcha Rubdizô

Layers upon layers
Like sedimentary strata,
Then all of a sudden
We find ourselves
Out of reach of the arms
Of those who crafted with
Sandstone and chalk;
This is just my example.

We set sail with deliberations
Exempt from sense for
The infamous whirlpool,
Regardless of rumours,
Regardless of her
Layers upon layers
Of teeth with limpets bleeding,
Emboldened by newness
Of youth and cordite
Stored in wooden tubes,
The viewer and the viewed,
We preached to the priests
Who refused to immolate
A sheep with swallowed rue.

An inverse plume
Of drowning hues,
There are no songs there,
No shanties; no grebes
Or aquiline sea-portents;
Our waterlogged thoughts
Are dissolved of fantasies
And Poseidonic prayers
That enriched our years
In tireme training
Like flares lighting up
Underwater caverns
And lantern-thoughts
Iridescent as herring
In the cranial Mediterranean
Crevasses of monk-seals,
Dreaming on their rocks
Of squid and of molluscs.

I pulled the plug
And a whirlpool vortex
Of washing-up water
Rejoined a greater creation.
Oleaginous bubbles
Swelled like the fur on the back
Of the duck-hunting dog
Bred for swimming,
Or like the cumulonimbus
Over the fens, heralding
Mid-spring rains soon,
And I knew then from the patterns
Bled through my pen,
And through those clouds shaped like
Three hearts in a cuttlefish exhumed,
The certainty of storms by noon.

Song Of Sorrows

An elderly woman from the well
Expanded songs within a pail,
Through the southern snow-bound spell
Songs of thrush and songs of snail.

I’ve never seen a silver cloud,
Only grey or golden,
A longer furrow’s better ploughed
If beliefs are less beholden

Than the love you feel.
Wine is thicker than blood which heals;
Break butterflies on a Catherine wheel
And luncheon-loaves will turn to eels.

With these words she repeated
And gravely villagers gave her thanks,
She dragged the Sun and had well-heated
Copper pipes and mouldy tanks.

The lady gave me her dodmen
And bid me fill the urn,
I travelled from Beccles to Bodmin
But nothing could I learn,

For the pail was lined with silver,
Filled with clouds like coal,
Her songs leaked out, customs bewildered;
I had not sealed the sorrow-hole.

The Submariner

238.

The fanfare of lovers’ cheers
And mothers’ fears
Silenced by their dreams
Which form a ballast
Which burst the barometers glass,
The weight of sleep, the dreams
Of barnacles and molluscs.
I think about all the homecomings
That did not happen, all the embraces
Of grateful sisters, and the fathers who
Were the commissioners of fossils
On that silvery coast;
It aggrieves in midwinter,
It shimmers in summer.
A gift unopened, a present,
A necklace of serpentine
Now tungsten. All the folklore
Unexplored, all these semi-precious
Memories which into blue dungeons
Silt and deposit.
The flags are furled with care,
The lid is closed on the casket.
It takes its own unending tangent, the coast,
The perpetual waves with their own summits.

River Road

The effortless ego now observed
Pulled from sand as a nematode
That’s bait for jaw of carp and perch.
I cannot stand on the bridge of myself
For exploring the falling is not without
The water disturbed and a cry for help,
At the green-reed ford the flow’s interrupted
By hikers, a sheepdog, a car is corrupted.
Weighted down with wants and verbs,
Further down with opposable thoughts,
Further down with what is deserved;
Iridescent skin, unblinking eye,
His thoughts the distinction between you and I,
Singular purpose the turbid survived,
As anglers on a leafier side
Stretched, and yawned, and rested awhile.