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.

The Late Colonialist

rochaMany years ago when her ancestors wore

petticoats

white skinned women like herself were considered

in shallow groups of weak-chinned groups

the ultimate prize.

She recalls the stories she’s read

racism tied with a daggered bow

servants without souls or so

they liked to judge and damn

whilst still they raped and plundered behind

their wives fine china sets

the ‘help’ though slavery is more accurate a term

for no choice was made nor proffered.

Years ago and still present

people swerve away from black men

in hooded tops

when really they ought to be looking at

white men in high rise buildings making

corporate decisions

as the enemy of us all.

She looks in the tall mirror, her hand on a DNA report

the wonders of 21st century finding out too much

seeing her ancestors gallop

through the thick red wine of French blood

how much do they have on their hands?

What side on the Revolution did they stand?

She sees how fair skin is more prone

to stretch marks and ageing

she carries hereditary thrombosis throbbing in

her thin veins and the genes of her light colored

eyes have cataracts to look forward to.

At least she doesn’t have Celiac Disease

roiling in her belly, rebelling against

the abundant wheat field

instead she realizes

she is alive in the wrong colored body, in a too late era

to matter much anymore

where now women of ebony and brown and russet

conquer the rhetoric in their claim

finally the prize after decades of denial and she

ordinary, flab, drab, pale, wane, yesterday’s news

they say it really isn’t about that

when they pass her over for someone from

Uganda or Iran but she knows better

Kardashian or Iman Bowie

she knows the enticement of dark eyed girls

their thick hair and beautiful skin

she is just a late magnolia weeping

waxy and left too long on the branch

maybe she is paying for what ancestral harm

was done

back then and still now, depending on what

part of town.

Men tell her; I like your slim ankles

you look fetching in that blue dress

but their eyes betray their digression

it is not her they will ever want

she has nothing of the difference they crave

imbued with rainbow continent

spiced with unknowns and becomings

the raven always the raven, ever the ebon bird

who with her glorious chiseled features

captures their unfurling lust.

She is relieved in a way

nobody comes calling for her

existing behind glass in her pressed skirts

although still young, she feels she has

lived too long and it is better

in the vapor of silence

watching her reflection get lost

in the setting of the sun

over Africa’s

weeping trees whispering karma

to turquoise and orange

land.