Pleasure dome

I’m 24

Funny shaped tap drips without end,
birds no longer sing in this city

I tell myself, I cannot survive much longer

If my view is a saffron robed Pakistani man, hawking up phlegm at 8am, into his dying rhododendron

Despair like me, at these four walls and dirty pipes protruding from beneath singleton sink

Who ever made sinks this size? Sometimes you throw up in them. Other nights you heft your hiney and pee long and shameful

The golden shower of malcontent. I don’t like to share bathrooms with strangers or friends

Poverty and her gifts, laying each day another absence, a reminder, you are in the meat grinder of the city, she waxes her legs on your sharp disappointment

As a kid you thought you’d wrangle diamonds from street corners, the fizz and pop of bright lights luring you to the center, like a Christmas nectarine

Is always spoilt.

In the petting evening, wet lipped men come to the spindly girl upstairs

She has thin shoulders and jagged hips, her eyes are always transparent and high on pyramid crystals

These men grind their dirt into her pretend cries of ecstasy and she gets crisp and filthy notes left on her childhood dresser afterward

I fantasize about asking her, if it has to be men she admits into her sanctum

But I’ve never paid for it and I don’t want to step in their cooling semen

If she knocked on my door and offered a damson breast I may

Break that rule and risk, even in the AIDS era, even as a feminist, even if I can’t afford the powder, her hungry nostrils crave

Just to feel the rub of her emaciated hips and hard thighs against my parched skin

I’d fucking inject it if I could, to take away the feeling of savage loneliness in the big city

That sick feeling, you’re stuck, among landlords and low paying jobs, even at 24

Massaging an ancient electric meter with dirty coins, for a little light showing more dirt

The temptation to let it fade out and lie, door open, legs open, coins in your mouth until blood freezes in your veins.

Come in and pay for me then, what am I worth? What can you fill me with, I haven’t already drunk?

Strange people’s scarfs on universal banisters, the smudge of sex in screwed up foil and old bus tickets

Lift up my hips, ram it in, pay your due, switch poison for love and love for death, welcome to the pleasure dome.

The man in 4b puts his hands down his granddaughters dress but the abuse hotline just rings and rings and rings

There’s a gypsy in 5a, cries for his lost lover til dawn. There’s a 13 year old boy who turns tricks in the street, who asks for bus money and new socks

The flashing lights of the strip club opposite are flamenco pink and penetrate through my squalid curtains, wailing their synthetic dreams

How far will you travel to see the sky again? To touch sand and sea and gulp with fevered breath, the pollen of forgotten worlds, lost in your lust for noise

I think of the Pakistani man and his phlegm, growing flowers from spit

As the Eastern eyed girl sells her small fruit for a ransom and a cry

Breasts like pinches, thin ribs beneath wool, taut ride of her skirt showing little pursed mouths of bruises

Her feet are always bare andlacquered, mine are unwashed and leave imprints of desire outside her door in ring-a-rosies

She wears her tips without a bra, nipples hurting in their push, smoking cheap cigarettes before light, smell of burnt coffee and sex on her chewed neon fingernails

They pay her to keep them hard, I beg her to stay soft

The city is a searching arbor of need and want and ingratitude

At 3am people wander the street for drugs and pain and death in little sealed packets

She leans in the doorway, exhaustion a shroud, touching her bottom lip with a haloed question

I open my mouth and let her in.

To her, and all the men she brings, to 24 years and not a minute more, to the nialism and thready vibrant flowers growing from scorn

Her body is a violated temple, a bingo hall, an arcade game, with multiple slots for change

Her mouth tastes like ashtrays and night clubs and old men, skinny throat a pin cushion of bite marks

I make her sing

As light wakes the rest of the world, all the lost birds hear her call

The Pakistani man admires his flowers and thinks

How beautiful this little piece of color is, here in this metropolis where all are brushed beneath concrete

I brush my hands across her small deflated breasts

Seeing sunlight find its way in between crowded houses filled with sore tenants

Touch her violet tinged skin in patterns, warming her before she awakes.

I’m 24 and she’s 22 and an entire life time, of fag butts and misery, washed down on lines of coke and old men groping for their last fuck

Later on I’ll take her to the coffee shop with the little bell above the door, and we’ll clasp hands beneath the sticky table cloth

Blue rinse ladies in the adjacent seat will remark, on our bright eyes and shining hair

As if we too were born

From the cracks of despair

Moonshine

(inspired by finding an old photograph of a fancy-dress party I attended at University that I hadn’t seen in years)

One of them is me

but which holds the key? Later perhaps we

shall know our fruiting journey through

maze of youth

and slow pull of stocking

for kind of touch best found

in satiny afternoon glow

outside I hear my dim-eyed neighbor

mowing lawns until he aches silver

because his wife has turned away

nobody touches him anymore with

the dreams of yesteryear

so we sprint toward each

invisible finish line

with emptiness in our hearts

filled with busy distraction

nothing lasting, nothing to

endure or sate cold claim

of climbing into bed

unwanted or alone

the feel of darkness, our shroud

from terrible disappointment

and then

then I had it all and didn’t know

standing on the precipice

we laughed at our indomitable

facility to thrive

not yet diseased

not yet rawboned with stretch marks

nipping their silver lines like unwanted lace

or sagging pieces shaking to no

good beat

not yet diminished on shallow waxen wheel

of male adoration

though for me this was never

a piece I wished to carve for myself

it was the love of a woman I craved

like first drink from fountain

on a hot day with no clouds in sight

languorously we exult

in

crocheted certainty, time will stand still

make for ourselves exceptions and grand entrance

the labor of hope so easy and lubricated

then

we’ll never be shaken off

like a dull wet thing

nor left to gather dust

as something once favored

we are surely, gleaming warm heads

of our own personal state

if I could have heard the warning

should I have been able

to listen?

likely not for

day is long and hour far

we take lovers for bread and jam

hate yet a curiosity

our parents live robust

we can yet still, the freedom to

go home

there are structures protecting

the hollow timber of our hearts

from these days what we can we learn?

as growing up and away

truth becomes stretched and gray

friends falling away

the bounty of never-never coming to claim

her inevitable duality

delight in youth, for contrast is cruel

all should have its value

but we are flippant with our boon

and when the cold night comes

we usher ourselves to greater darkness

in the strangeness of change

not able to see what is portent

nor later

the freedom

released from expectation

to unfold our wings

take flight

no more a shining thing

but something effervescent

and filled with

light

casting its thrall

as long ago, diving for pearls

we claimed the moon

1995 was

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long sweaters, color of grey clouds

wet wool beneath leggings and Docs

the way rain stayed in your hair and rinsed it of color

how you kept every love letter ever written

by all the little freckled girls who chased your dragon

we lay in your narrow bed

too small but small was what we were

breaking every splinter

in our roar and our mocking

you implanted a life

the telephone gave the news

my grandmother had given up pretending

perhaps the devil helped her

take that final breath

I couldn’t get a train

the rain the rain

you felt the despair of a boy who liked

the fur of drama

not the feel of fatherhood

her funeral was for two

the woman who had held me and said

what a pretty baby

when the rest backed away

like spectators unwilling to touch

and then there was the fetus

dry like a winter flower

red like a sore lover’s thighs

white like virgin snow covering

a crime

and the smell of damp

invading every corner of your room

ransacking hope

leaving in its wake

Smashing Pumpkins on low

sheets frayed and stained with youth

I did not return

you did not ask

it was accepted like an envelope is sealed

and black birds begin their fight

long after night has cast

her dark

A gilded age

The giant cicada makes a sound

my neighbor thought was a whistle

or a strange faceless bird

we imagined a long white beak

and thick black feathers

but it was the hidden molten cicada

and he is quite verbal

pursing a haunting music

as my cat refuses to eat his food again

unsure, is it his teeth? Or his desire

to slow down and curl up

once and for all?

I don’t guess their motivation

why the cicada sings

why I find the sound mournful

echoing my own inner feelings

as if I were writing out on clouds

exactly what was inside me

why the cat persists in refusing

my best efforts to keep him alive

whether it is right to let something you love

die even as

you think you can keep it

if the right time ever

exists to say goodbye

and why I don’t tend the greenhouse more often

as I put so much effort into

growing the little seedlings

do I prefer the solidity of well lived things

over youth?

thinking back to my own empty glass

and sallow bedsheets and

neglectful lovers

the wan asp of being twenty

like heirogliphs on walls

staring for eternity

not ageing, nor real

a gilded age

passing to creped hands in sunlight

and furrows from thinking too much

whether this skirt is a little tight

these shoes too high

the longing to be running barefoot

through high grass again, mindless

of any consideration

nothing around my neck

but wilted perfumed summer flowers

not the strain of trying to make

a life out of dry earth

with tears of disappointment

when all around seem so

tucked into their gentle cycles

and you are rogue

wanting to be among the branches

with the murmured cicada

listen to the call

much like the imploring whistle of a train

as it would steam slowly into town

every night at midnight

you would reach for me

and nothing else would hurt

New season

(This is from one of my poetry collections, I’m not writing much poetry at present due to my illness, so I will be re-posting older poems until I am up and running again).

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When we were young

Wearing thrift store clothes like raw diamonds

Unshaved legs soft in abandon

One pair of shoes, muddy by door

Tumbling into bed without washing

Seemed like hair grew over night

And every day we woke fresher

Favorable light is youth

A supple branch that bends

 

We sat opposite each other cross-legged

Nimble in rolling weed

Feeling everything

Each other’s fluid tread

The children in our future

Kicking impatient song

Staying up all night

Laughing at where time had gone

 

We had plenty for every record

Listening carefully

See the message

Head back in dream

Impregnate the future

With transposed screen

 

When we were older

Cold the tiles this time of year

Flossing by the sink

Seeing bags and thinning hair

My breasts

Surely didn’t hang so low

 

Why does it take so long

To prepare ourselves?

First the mask

Then the teeth

Finally the wig

Are we in age

Madam Tussaud’s wax figures?

Where did sleeping on laughter

Shift to carefully preserved?

 

But as I climb into bed next to you

Cold limbed

A light headache

I feel the same

Peace

The familiar

And age falls from me

As leaf from tree

To become dormant and turn to bud

With new season

Such is time

When you are

With me

La Fin de Chéri

(Influence from; La Fin de Chéri, Colette 1926. )

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Darling

one day you will either strike yourself out

with an exact deepening cut

or own the world with vinegar fingertips

coloring upturned lips

looking through letters in search of single word

to describe the ecstasy of youth

though before all these things I had

you first

before you knew what you were

and only lay in my arms shivering with

the desire of a young boy caught in his lust

one day when I am old

I will remember your beauty and capture

wound around your pomegranate mouth like cold leaves its burn and sun turns boys to gold

then looking into half drunk glasses and fallen buttons I shall

smile crookedly at my mad fortune

if fortune is the word

to describe amusing memories

when boys knew nothing of themselves

when girls were powerful and roamed their needs

like hungry bees seek nectar and we all rummage the pockets of our clothes

hoping for a missed penny

for time may lie against us

a sharpness in daylight glinting

but for those brief afternoons

when we have yet to inherit ourselves

know nothing of the plight of fading

with each wrought year

you looked to me for learning

I knew a little more by virtue of bad experience

and my belly full of wine and violence

turning them to my own understanding

touching you as your mother would

then something different, deeper, untaught

a house with many shutters

open one, touch the countenance of my pearl

you sighed

just like a girl opening herself

your legs as smooth as mine

your lips fuller and pursing toward

the need

I bowed sleekly

not because I honored you

but to feel the excitement quickening

against your muscled thighs

gathering that brief surge of fickle love

before it spilt and grew

sweetly cold between us

I felt that first

acrid taste of power

rolling underneath scotch blankets starved of end

not my kind yet

you were a beautiful boy

soft against me pliant by longing

I held this over our heads like a shawl

blocking out harsh light

inspecting its temporary reflection

your wistful elongate pursed in quiver

a silver arrow ready to pierce

any who chance your heart

and in years to come when

my hands are tired of making shadows

I will think of you and amuse myself

the girl who inherited memories and made

palaces of them

you can be my Chéri and

I, the woman who painted solace to your

first

ache

 

Ageing

Older woman holding young maskThe grime that won’t lift from underneath fingernails

is the yellow glimmer of youth

uncaring it is messy and rigorous

when you can live unbrushed

climbing from bed to public without spending

an hour examining your face, patching scars of endurance

when did age, creep so effortlessly into expression lines?

when did light, become so certainly, a foe on certain days?

as if inhabiting mood explained itself in the creases of your skin

you may deflect, somersault and berate

after all so many years wearing your emotions within

bound to spill once the cork is sodden

those hours you thought nobody saw

burning candles between pinched fingers

rubbing sulphur on volcanos urge

how many tears and ache does it take?

to leave emotions wreckage like single moment captured in paint?

who is the photographer who knows how to unearth

our secret selves hiding in wainscoting and plaster

of the past?

I understand why women plump their gaunt hollows

filling their lips with plastic hope, to go a few more years without

showing the world their chapped inside

they seek their former selves, to feel warmth of sun

on unfreckled necks

perhaps it would not sting if love could wear age well

when you are hot faced and tear streaked

wiping in one stroke and smiling

everyone believing the dress you wear is new and unwrinkled

such is the forgiving fabric of youth

succor for the gentle hearted, sugar for the brave

now in unforgiving light you see the evidence of age

lying on your face like a lover will unwittingly expose themselves

in a flicker, in a mere blink, beauty reduced to ungainly

for what we cannot see is more intriguing than

all the dilapidated truth behind our eyes

as much as we may wish to express ourselves

not that candidly, not as if pinned by wings to cork board

spread for all to see every instant of our writhe

biographies of the years, footprints of etched grief

can’t hide the truth as you age, can’t help but reveal

if I leave now without putting on my face

combing my hair over the deepening lines

hiding behind color, clothes, artful turn of head

if I don’t literally prepare myself

like a carefully followed recipe

or posed selfie empty of truth

I will feel as if I am walking naked in public

no skin on my feelings to disguise the years

I have been trying to get well

 

tell me?

is that why contentment is much like a cake

rising beneath warm air

and disappointment a river

shallow and fast

is that why they say joy can be seen in a person’s smile?

and sadness will devour, even the best actor

looking at my fracture, I resemble every melancholy spent

like old wine will eventually revert back to sugar and sediment

settling cloudy at the bottom of a carafe

buoyed no more by light

Fermented

dbb8e6a2f03166ae5c27a2b3bce546d4She told me

it is written

memory controls pain

once forgotten it takes a mountain

to revisit it again

or a certain pair of eyes

that retracing back

remind you of the eyes you loved

when you were youthful, fat on luck

and she did not have what it took to

return the emotion

she told me

it is written

memory controls pain

you can rinse out your glass

dry it in the hot Texan air

smelling of ancho chile and fertilizer

and it will not sprout again

until you are ready to expunge the day

start over with blank slate

she said this

because it was her way

to forget what she needed

rewind the silky tape

press erase

and I did not share this propensity

nor was I able

to shine her out of my hide

she had grown long claws

they stitched inside the cry

we both denied

in our modest pin tuck blouses

and matching bobby socks

turned down once

a slight lemon frill

sensible and cloaked

the passion stucco and quiet

tasted like strawberries

fermented in hot palms

drunk over crushed ice

Greater solace

651d3294ace9c6e46b0b18587904b847

There you are

picture yourself

standing in a vacated room

the walls are nondescript

from the window comes a little wan sun

hardly enough for warmth

you pull yourself closer

recalling how as a child

sitting on old iron radiators in winter

they’d say you’d develop hemorrhoids

in those days

the sound of scuffed shoes running for class bell

figuring you had a few moments yet

to stare out at brick and cement

stretch out reverie

a voice inside your head

surely this isn’t all there is?

you made a pact with yourself

to get the hell out

whatever it took

gathering your books

mindful of their ticket

you forgot yourself in dream

walking past the classroom

after all

learning is better in the mind

than grind of chalk on board

some boy kicking you in the back

with sweaty socks

you knew even then

this was but a stepping stone

though if asked you couldn’t say

what of the grim facade urged you most

to escape

 

and now

all these years later

more alone than that day

when covered by childhoods vigor

and the smell of something better

just around the corner

hope has been sore in her visits

silence too often your friend

as we fall one by one out of the egg carton

we are without wings

without safety harnesses

all the others found places

in busy lives, babies, families, jobs

the weave and knot of life

whilst you stood watching out of the window

glimmering

expecting to fly

 

now in shallow rooms

artifice has left her scent

they tell you the last one has passed over

you feel it in the curve of your chest

no more hands to scoop you back

from your leaning motion to find

somewhere to breathe

where trees are ever green

sunlight full on face

obscuring all trace of bleak homes

terraced and hollow

where you can hear the flush of

neighbors loud toilet

piercing cry of another

born into fitful times

where you never understood

your own role

just the fallacy of drowning sorrows

sundays in the bar

knocking back glasses of regret

nothing could spur you faster

toward wide open space where

no trace of sorrowful city remained

 

and wherever you go

there you are

still back against the wall

still with the locked door

school girl tights bunched in your mouth

hearing muffled voices

discussing your inability to speak

how long can you hold your tongue girl?

before the need to scream

unfurled

and in one howl you swallow yourself

all the disappointment

all the lost chances

breaking through cloud

fast diminishing in oboe sky

open the storeroom of your mind

clear out those long stored hurts

preserved in obscura

 

you may feel you have nothing

but in the sundering fall of flight

we find again our urge

never to quite escape

perhaps more a reinterpretation

carrying on no more alone than before

for we are born crying in singular pitch

in each step grow further to our end

it is in the humility of knowing this

we find our greater

solace

Once we were young

There

beneath the street light

fused over with dying bugs

there

our hands met, enfolding

in paper entreaty

what would they say

if given tongues?

the lost years whistling

a familiar tune

when once we were

young