From basket deep

Clamboring, chiming, turning inside out for lack of space

Urging in one cold grey wave of fur and teeth

Lolling tongues, hot breath, slobber and frenzy

From a distance, life resembles a dark river

Cutting through early frost, hungry for warmth

And I think of the man who paints this bleeding scape

Of land into water and flesh undulating, back to earth

I wonder if he knows better than us, how close we are to one or the other

By just a pinch of his ink stained fingers, held up

To guage perspective, before he dips his brush and renders

This mist of mouths, graves and birth and sour roots, twisting through

Surviving even as skies douse and sun bakes flat, yet beneath myriad

A soup of souls closing and opening by ritual of tide

And still, life, clops down the cobbled street, hawking seasons from basket deep.

(Inspired by FEDERICO GARCÍA LORCA, especially the line, han venido los perros de plomo.)

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Polemic

Girls Doing Handstands, Southam Street, London 1956

A polemic once

mapped the world and

chambers of the heart

declaring

men love men three percent proof

and women love women

once or never

It explained the empty feeling in the bars

girls playing boys hitting balls into green pockets

It explained why gay men swelled in number

disco fever, why did they smell so much better?

is it nature or nurture?

testosterone in the womb or green enchiladas?

is it birth order or red hair?

left-handedness or playing Barbie too long with your sisters?

was it the color purple or your best friend Michael

showing each other what you had beneath the lilac tree

screaming and shouting FRANKFURTER!

at the top of your lungs

running as fast as you could

a natural instinct

the adults

drinking Pims Number One

look up briefly with reddened lips

boys will be boys

and girls will be girls

they nod all-knowing

knowing nothing

of the sum and the handspan

found only in the dial and fragile turn

of wonder

Clock-face

a-girl-a-dog-and-a-horse-1921Laughter spills out, an unexpected guest

been many seasons replacing themselves since

she danced to a good song

look! What shakes now that used to be firm

standing painting your public face on

you omitted to check

the clocks wound themselves forward

now you tear the grey from your hair and lament; how long it takes to recover yourself?

standing flat-footed before a mirror where is the succor for survival?

in the weight of your accumulation? Bales waiting tied snug and square

maybe the lake doesn’t ask for praise when it endures the ice

nor the escapees praise, their fortune

we wear the badges of our internal battles on the inside of our skin

nobody congratulated, the warrior who holds us from despair

media will not report those valiant souls making their way through treacle

and every once in a while it surprised you to witness

winter talenting to spring

water getting warmer

new generations crowd shoreline

unknowing in a blink

they too will wonder

how it had been so long?

since they danced

in the arms of someone who saw

the silver thread in their being

as if miracles were fashioned for the living

and stories of a shared song could rub true

instead of lifting your sagging arms toward heaven

halving wan light of a late winter moon

lighting the shift of clock-faces

tucking their knowledge in shadow

Whole

degas-woman-at-the-window-007The loon sang out of season

and she bed her reason

wetting sheets with her angst

for who among the outside world

enfolded her as you had?

they say it takes just a moment

you can never go back

there, it was that instant

when you rested in my arms

and nothing else mattered

you asked, was it the temper of day

or mood of furnishing night

but it was neither my love

it was the weight of your head

against my rising chest

which had stood dormant and empty

for as long as I breathed stale air

comprising bone fragments dry as old tears

until you came and filled me

with your familiarity and nectar

pollinating wasteland

as if that’s what I had been searching

in my wool socks with holes in

when I squinted out of the kitchen door

unevenly framed with draft leaching in

at birds picking the blossom from peas

tracing their growth, tied in rows

much like humans let themselves become

I saw the russet fox stalk out

proud and wild

he did not require straightening or string

to mold him to his burnished lament

his paws were blackened with coal

leaving indents of darkness in twilight

mocking the sobriety of obedient eyes

cloistered behind their rule books

chalky and calcified

the fox out shone even the gloom

misting the window blue

and first light

ardent and bright

looking something like you

as you turn in sleep

toward me

like a movement of

symmetry

joining emptiness

whole