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.

Let her out


The wax in your wane

Needle on smooth track

A song from twenty years back

When you didn’t have

The holes you have now

Crocheting skin with doubt

When you just threw yourself open

Dancing in a crowd with long wick

Breasts high, chin tight, feet on tiptoe

The candle lasted all through night 

And we spilled, like red polinated seeds

Out into dark city streets

Bra straps, cyclist legs, powdered glee

It’s not the bravado of youth 

But the absence of ghosts

Keeps us free

***

I am you 

I am the flicker of past who asks

What did you do with your true self?

Packaged up in trepidation so soft

Lulled yourself to sleepwalking 

Years passed like finger on fast forward

Before you know 

Almost

On the cusp of memory

A girl with an open smile

Running towards you

Gone, not lost

Unpick the confine

Let her out

That she may find again

Herself

Re-deliver

thNo

you can’t be

you died giving birth

legs gaping

mouth heaving out

curses

you stained my forehead

with the yolk of an egg

meant for curanderos

to interpret

your throat as long

as two hands encircling

a belly tearing out

her burden

your lovers wore felt

holding their hats in nicotine fingers

instead of joining you

theirs was the watchful crow

blue in lamplight

touch the fleeing blood

growing cold on lynx tiles

she was your lover

all of you shared her

grief and easement

like a tenancy of trombones

blowing cold you are

unable in your tarnish

to re-deliver her

scolded by her nature she is

bound by insemination

pushing against her wet thighs

a different kind of urge

get it out get it out get it out

her eyes inherit the cataracts of her

blind ancestors

you rue the days you turned her like a book

leafing through her cavities

planting your frustration in her deep recess

not thinking for a future

where blood makes palm prints

on her hot cheeks and as she lifts in agony

you recall her climax and breathe in

the stale dusk of death

ushering life on the tail end of

unwanted consequence

here is your daughter

she stands naked and boneless

sucking your inability to

grow dignified and wise

you fidget in your plastic seat

as her hands grip your weakness by the stem

enveloping provocation as

men will reach for their reflection

one last time

smoke to the last

their comfortable curse

feet reddened by women

who die beneath

deed

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

The borderlands of your mind

christian-schloe-94There’s a look in her eye

it says I am strong and I do not know

yet how deep this goes

to join with protective arm in the moist earth those who stand before and after

except there will be no after

my child lies sleeping eternal sleep, my womb will no more facsimile

it ends with me

I stand alone when you pass and I remain when you are gone

It is the sorrow you always saw in my eyes

I knew

the price of freedom is to be alone at the last hurdle

a strange familiar pain, turned to in twisted recognition

strength usually accompanied numbers, other families look on

you can hear them with their dismay

she is the poor one who inherits isolation

and what I have learned, is the truth of this and the lie

you may share a name, a legacy, a generation or a string around your finger

and still within you

nobody

nobody thinks to inquire in a room-full of noise

you may be speaking loudly, no-one will listen

captivated by their carousel of cacophony

so when you said I was formed of my choices

you were right

and what you missed, was your own price

for we all believe ourselves immortal to obscurity

it is my fate to understand this

it is your torment to chase

the dragon you seek and avoid

he will never let you catch him

you will never discover why

the borderlands of your mind

make enemies of love so well

Freedom from your scorn

babushka_1-tcall me anything you like or don’t call me at all

you’re cold when I’m hot and hot when I’m cold

many years past you asked that I leave

go away you said this isn’t your continent you do not belong here this is not your country

your jaw was too narrow to carry your eyes

I could see in between your bones and feel your lies

you sent me metaphorically packing

because of that I stayed

though you were right in a way, I did not belong

call me anything you like or don’t call me at all

you’re cold when I’m hot and hot when I’m cold

sometimes when someone threatens you

you say, okay then, bring it on

and you watch yourself fall down the rabbit hole

next time I’m challenged to a duel, I may hang up my sword

catch the next bus out-of-town

proving ourselves in battle, rarely avoids scars

call me anything you like or don’t call me at all

you’re cold when I’m hot and hot when I’m cold

what makes one person give another everything?

even when they know they will never receive an ounce in return?

do we loathe ourselves that much?

call me anything you like or don’t call me at all

you’re cold when I’m hot and hot when I’m cold

I’m done, breaking my heart over people

least of all you

you who broke me and didn’t even know you did

how absurd we are who give everything

to an empty hanger in an empty wardrobe in an empty chest within our empty arms

call me anything you like or don’t call me at all

you’re cold when I’m hot and hot when I’m cold

and I’m out of here with freedom from your scorn

 

We grind by hand, our own language

16174706_981106892025147_8125778488863439956_nIt was the bees.caught in walls, drunk sweet on fig nectar

humming beneath plaster, sounding like colliding voices

pieces of me calling out on repeat, tapestry in postponement

the last stitch incomplete

seeing her round the corner, raspberries breathing pink air

blue footed like china luminescent in spring water

her eyes hazelnuts over cream, bore into me

we grind by hand, our own language

discovered intimates beneath tables

swapping lace work, scuffing soles

you come on your almond knees, bold and fat cheeked

moss, ivy and peat through high headed daisies

breathing deep whistling distance

keep still, as hush of light rain mists

like sitting children gathering silver, grow vociferous

look

resting on clasped fingers

the turnover of keeping, your strengthening faith

furnishing with still grace, as no-one could contain

the descending stone of woman’s will

but you who held up the world

with one deft movement

a silhouette among gouache doves

rendered in raven, as lovely as permitted

sung by myth and fable, beyond this plain place

where such is the drift of pirouette dream

beholding slim waisted girls gathering fruit

staining their wet mouths in ripened eagerness