The box holding the sea

man and woman hugging each other
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Goodbye

was said in the early hours

all of us bleary eyed and trying

not to reveal how we really felt

for there is no way, no way at all

for true goodbyes.

His golden head and the missing cat

harbingers of things to come

none of us could fathom back then

for then he worked among flowers in Columbia Road

where for his labors, he fantasized a life of being

a garden designer of small, expensive, London flats

all walled in with Victorian crimp, longing to be rendered

Japanese, Drought-Resistant or Minimalist.

He slept with a girl called Candida, 25 years his senior

with a fat address book of horticultural leads

these things seemed then, necessary and normal

like the broken flowers fallen from their stem

at the end of a days market where people

trod over them when hours before

they emptied their purses to bloom.

He understood survival like a woman does

and for that reason and others, we were inseparable

if you’d asked me then, were it possible we’d be lost

to the other, I would have laughed

long and confidently — no bloody chance.

But time is a mortal coil of copper

winking in the sun among pomegranates and opal flowers

that render color to city lots, exhausted by their pilgrimage

and his white paint and his tall dreams, they were

like songs we play in the shower, or driving fast

moments of pleasure – – nothing more substantive.

Years later he has a house in Hastings

did I mention his parents were rich?

Built from drift wood and sea shells

I wondered what he thought, when he opened the white curtains

and stared at history stretching out like a quiver of arrows

unspent

or back at the girl who lay, tattooed and lean in his iron bed

which had once been mine and before me, my grandmothers.

What would she think? To know if she could

of strangers inhabiting her things like rude ghosts?

Would she say; You are the specters of my privacy

you sleep and fuck and dream on my mattress

who gave you the right? This reminds me of my

mother, who a few years ago declared; I won’t be buying anything

anymore, for who shall I give it to, and who will keep it when

I am gone? The thought haunted her far more than

the ghosts on my grandmothers bed, for she saw then

her own fragility and the absurdity of youth

decorating their lives with accoutrements as if they will

prevent a drowning or save them in a fire

when soon enough they feel heavy and unnecessary

to go through the ether with. Again, it was a

prescience, for she knew without saying, I would not

be in her life and she did not want her daughter

to inherit her bed or her clothes like a thief

who sells their organs on Sunday.

I understood her fear, I should have told her

but then I did not know she would be

leaving for good

I was fattened on the notion love stays and

what a pretty little fool I was.

When it comes my time, I will

create a life raft and put all my possessions

together in a purple kerchief, climb into the middle

and set off across sea to the isle of

forgotten or unwanted toys and there

my otter and my badger and my Kermit the Frog

and even dear old, much mussed penguin, they will live on that isle

with me until we retreat into the mist

to be truly absorbed

for no-one will be claiming my left overs

it will be as if I am

already absent.

Just like he is gone now, perhaps to Scandinavia, he was

learning the language like braille, touching the words

hoping they would sink in, and she would scold him

for coming home late smelling of cigarettes and remind him

in Scandinavia they do not smoke, so you need to quit now

why not get some ink instead and cover your body with

Viking symbols? He was

Scandinavian but only in his blood, the rest of it was

a good little English boy who didn’t know about

blow jobs or girls who wanted to fuck all night

still wearing their satin bra and smoking all

the while

until he began University and with the cliche

of all young men, he learned fast and began to

roll his own on the bronzed thigh of a girl who

dealt hashish and spoke with a pretend cockney

accent, we all know, those types they

usually borrow money from us when they

have more than most.

Sometimes I look for him, among the

river beds and the high lands where rabbits without

Myxomatosis ran plentiful and unafraid, unlike

Texas where there are snakes in grass especially after

rain and it rains

more than I cry these days for I am a form

of paper that does not require sustaining.

If he could see me now he would say; You

aged well, I am glad you never cut your hair, did you

see I went bald just like my dad? And look, is that

a new poem? Can I read it? Just as

we used to stay up late, typing on clapped out machines

without grace and laughing at

jokes made over smoke rings

in our underwear with the window open

and the midnight breeze

lulling.

I liked how he reminded me of

a gentle girl, for I knew no gentle girls

save my imagination. In my world girls

were cruel and they played favorites

like black jack and demanded their 80 percent

of the takings before giving a red cent.

I didn’t know then, girls would soften

become merciful or desperate, who can say?

But adopt some of his gentle ways, though

not one of them would be as romantic, I cannot

lie. What a shame a man isn’t enough

when in every way he is the very thing

except his masculinity which he cannot help

though it stinks like a wet dog

seeking shelter to shake it off.

I am glad she appreciated these things

and sad that I was unable

for our natures are shaped like spinning clay

no more under our control than the potters

wheel, once it has begun its harrowing ascent

I am after all, no crafts-worker, I can barely

sew buttons on my torn places.

But often I miss him with the piquance

of something that was real and gleaming

when youth was our high grass and snakes

did not exist much. I miss his gentle bestowing

and nobility, the way we would work off the other

like crafted pieces of the same wood, you could say

he was my best friend, until time made

strangers of us. After all, it wasn’t really

time as much as the ocean engulfing bridge-less

space and far flung conversations held over wire

did not transpose that immediacy or the smell

of spilled wine on paper, or his warm hand enfolding

mine in encouragement, for he always believed

when I was unable, a brother I hadn’t been

bequeathed in birth, we shared the same

eyes and tendency to cry when laughing hard

I even punched him once to see if

I would hurt and the bruise was a

flower forming in our shared heart.

He kept a cat of mine and had three of his own

but his Scandinavian girlfriend was allergic

to cat fur and second hand beds belonging to

my grandmother and before long both were

consigned to others I never met, and they

purchased IKEA or something modern to

fit their new life, where I had no place

but perhaps one day when his kids are older

one will be rooting through a box of shells

his father kept in a high shelf, looking maybe

for weed or diaries, he finds instead, photo of

us, we are so young, grinning all

fat cheeks and uncreased eyes, thinking of

a future that never came, how strange to imagine

then, when walking down the street to Cuba Libra

hand in hand, if they had said, you will

one day not know each other. How time bewitches

us with the certainty such things cannot, will not

happen, ever, oh foolish, foolish! He asks his

father; Whose the girl? Just for a moment

in another language, in another part of the

world, the grown-up him, stops, a lump in his throat

the size of my fist, and smiles, before

dismissing the memory and putting me

back among the shells and the dried smell

of sea water.

Goodbye

was said in the early hours

all of us bleary eyed and trying

not to reveal how we really felt

for there is no way, no way at all

for true goodbyes.

Sentiment

two women kissingPause

take note

before wishing adieu

consider those rushing years

how they go

girls in wide skirts with brown elbows

flaring in pluming circles, colors of earth and sky

feet tripping over movement, making hexagons of their desire

look back … oh look back

those long years that lay like the junk drawer in your house

untouched by thought or query

ransack shelves you have long forgotten

a hair band from her, 2006 I think, the texture of caught wisps changed so much.

Every room carries the souls of every person who inhabited them

a ring made of silver paper, from the inside of a cigarette box as we sat

in a dark bar on the edge of town, knocking back whiskey and birch

playing footsie beneath sticky tables, with shoes off, bare toes searching

photos of people lost, people found, people who no longer exist lost in circles

the force of life remains inexplicable.

Times past, fast and hot like racing cars revving their engines as soon as dusk

settles like a woman’s gloves on the sorrowful face of the world

for years you rushed around, paying no heed to silent pieces of life you accumulated

halogen lamps stand like cupie dolls with radiant faces

stuffing them in boxes, tying with ribbons, preserving for what day?

There’s lavender from my grandmothers farm, her old best silver spoon, a dog

tag from my father’s first, the smell of grass and good doggie sweat still adheres

an old stone mill and my cousins would drink from tadpole ridden water

and I am the one who grew up to outlast, everyone.

All the people in this photo are gone, still they remain on unsettled periphery

what would they tell me? Get rid of her, she chokes you like

late wine that has corked, she takes and gives nothing back but ingratitude

it’s never enough, it will never be enough, you are not seeing clearly

and the memories of velvet as soft as snow haunt like miniature heart

attacks caught in disused webs.

in jars there are stars and in skies there are words, for everything existing here

is upside down

I write about you until my fingers bruise, I remember the little things

you long cast aside as of no use, like me, like us, like this, once and lost

your memory is a cruel sieve with no regard for history or effort

only the smelt of immediacy and present day full exposure

I have long been your past, just as we have

become junk in drawers, lost to further inspection

when words run dry and even letters stay unopened

your cough sweets, when you ran a high fever and I made soup

the times I took, the hours, the moments,

caught in nets in your mind, to be drowned even deeper

crabbing pots without capture, no dinner tonight you sustain

yourself on bitterness and temerity.

When i am gone, tied in forgetfulnesses bow, you will not recollect

the cards I hand made, how I stitched your favorite sweater

three times till the moths had their eventual dinner

when you were lonely, the words we spoke in the dark

those comforts that are lost in the past,  never to be unearthed

I built a life time and you forgot the shopping list

and driving into the sun, lost your desire for remembering.

Here in this place, I keep the momentos of lost walks

the day you whispered to me, I was the one, how we

climbed and fell together, like gradual waterfall

here is the photo of us laughing

here is a snapshot of us ending

still there are always rubber bands and pins at the bottom of a drawer

to snap and prick you back, to caring about something other than yourself

where we lay beneath cherry blossom, because you said you always wanted

to eat sandwiches and drink wine beneath Spring trees

my hair growing below my waist, the pizza they gave us

when one was not enough, drinking coffee on tindered street

wishing we could still smoke, being well behaved, havoc resting

the copper light of that room, how it smelt of patchouli and wine

even as we left.

I still fit into those days

they fit me like old clothes made new with sentiment’s stitch

climbing from the silence of today into

a divining bell and sinking beneath perpetual hurt

till music swells and covers my consciousness with

buttered fingers

they slip into me as you dove

deep and never released

your breath, my swimmer, my underwater love.

I still see you there

telling me to trust, when I am walking on our ash

here the trees are taller than those we grew to

know and there are no cactus or flowers of the desert

to go with that favorite tune.

I climb California hills with Barney and he hands me

a piece of advice,  a white flag

don’t look back, do what it takes

life is an arrow, cast it wide, cast it careful.

Pink is a damn sunrise slung over beautiful shoulders

running rest of the way home, past the old mental hospital

where secrets are wrapped in files never read, like mosquito nets in Alaska

I go back to my Canadian house and the closed feel of doors

watch snow fall and think of tattoos

over 30 and how time is like unconsciousness

you feel it in another part of you

searching for a way to unite the two.

Slow jazz playing on a malnutritioned needle

here the fair comes promptly in June

they all rush outdoors, so grateful for sun

I tell them, where I came from it never relented.

And I wonder, are you still there? Waiting for me

on the one day of rain? As we kissed goodbye

beneath lampposts, driving separately off, blind in downpour

each aware of time ticking further apart

long arms flung like an acrobat in green ocean

flips ever more easily, than we on land

shall inherit perhaps these fitful musings

of things left behind

unsaid

undone

withdrawn.

The fence between us

you hammered in

you uncoiled and made

tall and hard to

climb.

Furnish in her own time

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It’s the fantasy

something out of summer, as you’d dream it

bare legs tucked beneath white cotton and trimmed thick lace

laughing clavicle, slipping straps

the long necked wonder of descending evening

that sting on skin from days in sun

I’ve been here before

the last time, I lay beneath a boy with cut glass eyes

who bought me flowers from the night market

before they bombed Bali and innocence was our town

wearing a sarong of blood red and mustard, half grown

walking beaches at night fall, crabs coming up through sand

scuttling into still water, the recede and ebb of thought

knowing he wasn’t the one, still desiring the idea

of love and its myriad faces, the strange places we

take ourselves to feel alive, writhing beneath

his pinion and faith, you’ll stay with me, I’ll

make you like my kind, turn your eyes away

from the obsidian girls who set out sacrifices for Gods

orange petals, I am thinking of her beneath clothes

watching from hibiscus waves, will she learn to

secret away her longing in the deep pockets of

a sarong too wide for any more tucking?

what do we know? We’re just kids building sand castles

on empty beaches and he takes my hand and asks;

let’s keep going until we fall off the world

Please, let yourself, just pretend …

the wild of saying, yes I’ll follow you

travel the globe, searching stones for blood

finding in things that feel wrong, another direction.

Now I have come full circle

we’re not old, but we’re not angular children

thin boned and boundless on their bikes

dream life filling xylophone chests

her eyes are hurt by his stories, I can tell

even as I am the fantasy and the observer

thrown off scent by, my painted toe nails and sunlit hair

the slope of day closing like a picture album

grass like cat fur beneath naked toes

bent wrists spent of expression, limply wait

for electric cumulus as thirst penitent may

befriend dry river bed

I want to say to her; Don’t be trapped any longer

pick up and run away, half flung around the globe

leave the mounting regrets at your door, with the disappointed

find your self again, diving into the gleaming future

sleek as a wet dog will shine beneath and shake off

water weight when back on land

because you can, you know

it’s not written until you write it.

Here … take my hand, I’ll help you

and we jump, weightless

her short nails digging into the soft of my palm

read my future, she whispers into my neck

her breath is cherry, her eyes smudged black

I see the ransack

all the reasons she snarled and bit

for she made it this far, don’t push her

let her furnish in her own time, a place of grace

where light pours pure and undiluted

onto her heavy shoulders, hunched with rage

let it go

you don’t have to be here anymore

we catch the tail wind and it is warm

she murmurs, her eyes wide and seeking

the whole world awaits

First & last

s-l1600

“Everybody’s talkin bout it
Only the echoes of their mind                                                                                                           I’m going where the sun keeps shining. Through the pouring rain”                                               Nilsson (from the incredible film, Midnight Cowboy)

 

The ghosts

in blue mountain mist

when early morning

without mask of sleep

hiking the trail

moss, lichen, turning with seasons

from brown to red

snails leave their silver lines

bugs shed wings and legs

all becomes humus and is recycled

air remains still, days elongated

the stone in the field

is in the memories of many

who use it as their gravitation

where they first kissed, sitting atop the world

thinking themselves the only ones

when it is the stone, smooth with wear

coarse with textures varied

who gives them their fantasies

pearlescent when wet, like the moon

nestled in long grass

its reflection held against sky

I hear birds waking

crying to an unforgiving bird god

their beaked woes and delights

and the worm waits for false patter

to rise and be consumed

a ritual, as anything

the dust of ceremony, rising and falling

jewels encrusted in boulders

black earth laying deep and gaping

as open-mouthed children

stare at bewitching cloud formation

and wish to inherit the future

as their parents

dream of retracing

the lowing

of their former lots

The ghosts

in blue mountain mist

when early morning

without mask of sleep

I feel your absence like

blunt knife run along my spine

in the fallow chapbook of my heart

quivering her spent arrows

as I strain my neck in search

of ways to forget

the goats and sheep remain

black and white finger paint against

yellowed grass coarse as raw silk

a sharp outline of grief blurs

the edges of what I see

where you have all

gone

your lives full

and mine empty with echo

I think if I can ever reach the feeling

maybe I’ll join you

where it glitters and preens

like a girl catching herself

in shining mirror of

first times

When a lover replaces the ghost

je-tu-il-elle-1976-007-naked-women-lying-on-bedYou always said I was so beautiful

in your arms I let myself believe

in many things

now I do not have those assurances

it’s like being born again and starting over

i want to tell you, because I think you’d understand

whom else would I ever share this with?

how difficult it is for your girl

to no longer be that person

I have to grow up, grow beyond you

I’ve been living in your rule book and my own intoxication

maybe it’s like a recovering alcoholic

we took our share of hard knocks

I’m going out on my own and it scares me

I hear your voice in my head saying I can do it

find myself believing I can

on the far side of pain and loss, meeting myself again

leaving the sick room and its soft slow death

closing the door on you when you passed from me

there was only the outline left in cooling sheets

someone unrecognizable in your place

an effigy, an imitation with nothing of your gentle ways

I want to tell you I found someone

a girl who leaves me breathless, with eyes like french glass

but there’s things we can’t speak of

for some wounds, carry their own salt

we were the best of friends by the end

still, neither of us needs to know

when a lover replaces the ghost

I still feel so alone since you died

thinking I can hear your answers

on the breath of each nighttime wind

maybe I imagined you all this time

slowly forgetting what it felt like to be whole

and silence has always been my music

now I lay you down here, in the quiet dark earth

to rest, become a memory without strength

for we who continue to live must

shed the weight of sorrow

rising beyond what we thought possible

run forward when we are beckoned

until we can

run no longer

More

What makes you

A girl of an era, your era

Never to go back, to days of stillness and infernal din

With memories like scars and stars on her back

Trying to become yourself, fitting outside margins

What makes you

Stare into the still bath water

And see no reflection stare back

When your feet grow callused

From running down the highway at night, high on the allure of escape

This world and its myriad cobalt treasures, tinkling in distant solace

And your fingernails are too long to pleasure yourself in the loneliness of marriage

What makes you

Hearing your daughter turn like a clockface away from you and shut her door

Already a mimick of your own teenager fury

Growing colder the unbled radiator hisses her discontent

And your twice baked hopes, just a yellow mirage

Like last year’s jarred rubbarb absorbing color in their condensed glass

While the mockingbird echoes all the stains you try to scrub gone

Mighty elephants tearing trees in fitful gallop

Don’t hold it against yourself for the secret need to

Be scorched by the lust of a nameless body

Turning the fruit bowls upside down, bruising pears

Knocking dignity from the table, losing your footing

To be gobbled by your uncombed sticky frustration

Stringing her unfertilized seeds into honeyed pearls

Rinse yourself of guilt and shame, the hour has passed

To pretend we’re not all longing for the same taste

Covered piece of ourselves before the descent of ritual and plucked

Meat waiting to be cooked and eaten neatly at seven

With a full bodied Cabernet and fine erthenwear the color of sunset

The badly washed underclothes of your trembled longing

And our error in taming this wild circumference

You rub your thumbs along the groove

Candles sleeping in the truth of their waxy burn

Once when not so long ago

How then now you do not know

Lift yourself from the rut and

Jump into space, letting go

What makes you

Decide death a better bed fellow

Pulled back by your scalp to read the inverse riddle

Than …

Than all you used to believe

Before

Yourself of now and the loss

Of more

Safe ascent

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This unspoiled place

holds a silence and a sound both

in the careen of wild bird, dove-tailing against light

swish tailed-fox, caught in glimpsing treeline, scar of russet

your wool pulled and caught like thoughts on wire

I felt you inside, like mercury, descending to places I’d locked

tight against battering fists and claim

how did you learn the maze and possess

parts of me I had yet to give permission?

though all of us are like the wool, caught and fluttering

against a world of happen-chance and calamity

it is only perhaps, in those untethered moments

love, unexplained by all things

captures in unguarded step

drowning tightly held belief

we are our own master

and in this yield

in your arms and the void calling overhead

a vast sky holds swell of rain

just long enough

for our safe ascent