But is it so simple, when one is dreaming,
to say where the realm of the animate ends?
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Reverie
Not a crazy impulse, a deeper kind perhaps: he steers
left instead of right, takes a fire trail that climbs steeply,
leaves it to chance whether he’ll find the un-signposted site
the other side of Finchley Trig.
The air is still and mineral sharp. A cloudless day.
Dry ridges, red gums. Away to the west Mt Yengo.
If he holds his head just so — worn markings in the sandstone platform at his feet
are bodies, rock divinities
whose dwelling spans earth and sky. Look up, wide, unblinking eyes
see all the days and nights wheel across this point.
Others come here too. Some add scratchy efforts to the weathered forms they find;
like the bulldozer left tracks
all over the face of this rock shelf. He draws breath,
feels for the length of the place. Sandstone, coarse beneath his hand, leaves deep impressions, unfathomed constellations
fade slowly from his palm. It’s not defeat but he no longer resides in his head, is guided by something like a smile.
And all the way to the Colo
alive in its gorge, ridgelines reverberate and the ground
gives with each step. The run and break of a boy,
who spent every spare moment clambering over red gums and rocks.
Struck down by tiny orchids, immaculate-white they nod their heads on slender stems,
sing out to the sclerophyll litter.
A boy made without his knowing to carry a place, to imbibe spare arrangements, particular angles
and as if already known,
the weight and colour of weathered stone, broken canopy, the scent and crackle.
His hand rests on a flesh-pink angophora. A smooth trunk, torqued limbs
reach out, streaked blood-red
with sap; old wounds still ooze. There’s warmth at the middle of him.
It ranges like oxygen, seeks the crown of his head, tips
of fingers and toes; then back into the pores of the rock.
The wound is a heel print
in the infant’s chest
The photo triggers a skirmish
No No -
No No -
Yes Yes -
I am from this country
Yes Yes -
Tell the world
Shoot the bloodletting
Fire the images across the cosmos
The war on small bodies still wages
From a media image and caption posted on social media
Alludes to the poem Small Bodies published in Red Bird by Mary Oliver (Bloodaxe Books 2008)
Emails from my friends:
the streets are greased with blood, one
poet arrested. 5 demonstrators dead. It’s on.
I was there once, funky nightclubs,
themes & memes clutter a university town
3 in the morning
promises of friendship
in stickled English. Alexis pissed against
a 16th Century church. All this would last forever this
was torn down by rulers’ thieves
just doing their job. Failure.
Yanukovych thought it was some guitar solo
until his ears are cut. The wolves of want are restless.
Gaols fill with crows.
There is snow & now & a petty sowing of futures.
Be quiet as you roar; that duality of a movement chasing
jobs, liberty, the relaxed elegance of a page.
A kind of tough copulation
as mufti & uniformed rivers meet on the streets of Kyiv.
This was rehearsed & rewritten. The protestors are just like me.
The police are just like me. I met a sailor
on the plane – they’d taken his language (Russian), his
children were strangers.
This stockade, a picket of pens. Social networking
as WMD. Elena has put on atypically sensible shoes, stepped out
into the weather democracy demands.
Natalia had come back from the US in 1993, her
6 jobs, her love of country, her
stupidity says a suit.
Has change changed nothing? In the western Oblasts
hands are still out for their cut.
So many thrive the crooked state,
feed in the decay.
Russia has needs. Everyone is a terrorist now, all nations
are imperial, that
sounds right to me.
The airport is being strafed.
When a people moves against its people
the blood clusters, a babbling contusion
that refuses to dissipate or congeal.
Nataliya applies for a job in Poland
Vasily says he will not fight.
This country doesn’t make sense, perhaps
no country does. I write another letter.
The homing instinct is universal,
it is not the sole property
of pigeons, dogs, and cats.
“Can I go home now?”
But no: why would you want to?
You are not as shit-out-of-luck
as you might think,
you are luckier than Lou Gehrig,
self-proclaimed luckiest man on earth.
never truly owned–
The block of houses
along the Jersey Shore–
titled or Section 8 dumps–
eminent-domained from the poor,
handed over by the City,
bought up as tear-downs
to erect no-view-of-the-sea
million dollar condos
Red Roof look-alikes
where drug dealers are As Usuals,
prowl the Long Branch streets
undisturbed by gentrification,
making their heaven of someone’s misery.
Home is a Brueghel landscape
The Hanged Man dangling
from the gallows, Mary Surratt wrapped
in black swaddling.
A high school tramp sashays
through Monmouth Mall,
pendant earrings swinging.
Can I go home now?
Once your home is gone
if you have an imagination
that outstrips fear,
then wonder at the ingenuity
of the created world
and at your ignorance of homebuilding skills,
marvel at the drainpipe snakework
now exposed to light,
somnolescent roaches awakened
scattered in a panic.
Home is where the motherfuckers can get you.
Duck and cover, stupid.
Our first grade teachers and Chicken Little
had it right about homeland insecurity.
No inference or artistry here.
Home is no place to hide.
In the light
in the Church
in the hospital
all are suspended in black swaddle.
God has spoken, his Monty Python self
“Oh, don’t grovel!”
clacking puppet jaw,
the answer to your prayers
only if you can laugh
through signs of the times
Black Mountain poet
I, none of these, have given my sons my living will
my best piece of poetrie,
on the day comes I can’t chew my blubber anymore
put me on an ice floe,
not food for worms
but Purina Polar Bear Chow.
My older son calls me
chatty baseball talk and
then “Okay, the question you’ve not asked”
(his uncle comatose
one month today
now failing kidneys,
his mother, my Former,
a raging madwoman)
“There is no change,” he says.
Yes there is, for finally
I am thankful.
said it better than I can dream
And I can’t find my way home anymore
Old Falls Road, the signs have been removed.
To keep the tourists confused. The secrete
Where dinosaur age mushrooms
Prevail against the odds.
My lips ease off timeless elastic lines,
Blue Danish goes soft in jazz.
Wine becomes warm, we sit afterwards,
Backs against the leaking rock face,
No ancient roar now,
Just the chirpy tinkling,
Of private reclaimed places –
Where a lyrebird drinks.
to get those
Nurture sloshes unseen
into the wolfing-down soil
and our garden grows wildly
food out-competing the weeds.
Its nature wanting nothing more.
I lived in the ground floor back room
Of an old terrace house when rent was cheap
& the place was full of old guys with a grog problem.
Every fortnight after pension day
They put in their money & I went
Down to the hotel for casks of cheap wine …
That night they’d stomp about
Fighting & yelling & chucking up until
The following day when I’d do it again
Until the money ran out.
That yellow gloss back room was separate
Where I lived with a rusty gas ring
But the ghost was a problem …
About once a week when I was asleep
He’d be there & I’d wake up –
It didn’t matter how many blankets
Or if I turned on the electric heater
It was frigid.
One night I saw a shape
Standing near the door like he wasn’t sure
He could come in so I got the idea
He was a timid sort of guy –
He moved close
To me but he was cold & looking
For a way to get in.
It felt too creepy so I went out & sat
In a warm coffee bar up the road
Then the next day I left – the old men
Were sorry so I told them what
Happened & Carl – a shell shocked
Veteran of the war in Africa – said they
Came to him too because it was boring
& they still can’t talk with Germans ….