from Broken Glass and the Sea

Origins

From the darkness came

a stone,

a green shoot
split its skin

a water drop
nourished it,

a voice
that has no name
spoke to it,
encouraged it,

a hand
sowed dragon’s teeth
that sprang into
iron clad armies who
fought over it
for a million years.

A wanderer dressed in grey,
hooded against the rain
sung its name
and no one heard

except for the ivy,
twined on the oak;
it stopped and turned
into soft green smoke.

the hushed night,
encased it

a hurricane
screamed at it

A knife of steel and bone
hacked at it,

an ocean of hungry mouths
fed on it,

a scientist cut apart
leaf from leaf
to seek the secrets
found beneath.

A man sat next to it crosslegged
With clear mind,
His silver bowl
reflected it.

From the darkness comes
a stone
split by
a single green shoot,

a drop of water
nourishes it

tend it

it still needs tending

(even now,
especially now)

this rock
whose immutable
surface
ripples like a
ripe mother’s
belly,
splits apart with
thick green shoots.

From the darkness
that hushes
the loudest voice;

comes a stone
split by a single green shoot

the calm
serenity
of the moment
following death

feeds it

(but
it needs
more than
your death
alone
can offer),

calm stone –

a teardrop
from a dark green leaf
drips
slowly

into
black earth –

it needs tending –

like the body’s hunger
needs tending.

From the darkness
will come
a stone.

It will be split
by a thin green shoot.

A drop
of rain will
drip
slowly
from
a dark
green leaf
into black earth

(tend to it)

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Black Duckling

His father died.

Since then
he has painted
black ducklings.
He doodles
them in his diary
in meetings
with jogged hand
on the bus.

He speaks about them
to his therapist,

It is the same
black ducking
each time,

indistict amongst
the shadows
in unlit corridors
where doors
open onto
steep drops
and there is
always danger.

“why is it black?”
he asks.

The duckling
emanates
an uncanny force
as if glowing with dark,
“and yet”
he says
“he seems so vulnerable”.

His father will be placed
in the ground
next Thursday,
wearing a black pinstripe suit,
but the son that still breathes
sees only this black duckling.

the lights are out,
curtains drawn,
he tries to simulate
the darkness that
surrounds the small
creature in his dream.

He sits on his bed,

puts his head
in his hands,
a blob
of paint
stains
his temple
black.

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This life will pierce me to the core

a peach
that ripens
and spits
out a stone,

a stone
that splits
to a crack of green.

What seemed armour
is flesh;

this life
will crack
my heart
to its core,

until there is only poetry;

the winding road,
a dead snake,
the thought of a fox,

the illusion that
this world is
the only one

and the knowledge that it is.

to drink Guiness by the pint
at the Theatre Royal bar,

photograph ghosts
in downtown Manhattan

or cut palm leaves
outside the city walls
of Jerusalem

is to the same end;

of a
life that pierces
me deep
to the core.

What remains
is as cruel as summer,

cruel as the memory
of a first child’s dance

tight and thin
as the shadow
of a wire;

the split stone
cracks with green,

this life will pierce
me to the core.

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Thirst

this tree
a goblet
with blue
poured in

i have lost
my camera
and cannot
open my book.

leafless tree,
the glass between us,
ragged plastic bag
for blossom;

i have lost my way.

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White feather

“When a White Feather
falls in front of you,
angels are close by,”

said the Godmother.

“Angels don’t exist”

said the little girl, firmly.

She went into
garden to put
water in acorns
for the
faerie theatre,

(so they wouldn’t get
thirsty,)

and a gazebo made
from golden leaves
to protect them
from  rain.

She stayed outside
till the Sun
sank into
the magic place
near the hedge,

Left it
there
for their
invisible
plays.

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The Language of Birds

once it’s heard
the language of birds
stains my ears
taints my tongue

glasslike, still
a language of trills
numbs the grass
trumps the words

i can’t break through this harsh nonsense.
to where the garden speaks and breathes.

a gift, a glance
a language of chance
that reads my street
like words in dreams.

green as seas
crimson leaves
white as icebox.

break the habit of a lifetime.
just describe the world before you.

hand in hand
a savage band
sings feathered music

gland to gland
so dry and tanned
a gaudy parrot.

let each image smash and shatter.
find the kernal eat the meaning.

strand by strand
my teeth in sand
my heart in iron.

a bar of soap
a coarse blue rope
a crowded hotel.

speak the words, the glassy baubles.
tongue of thrush, throat of starling.

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Private: the language of birds

still as glass
the language of birds
stains my ears
stains my tongue

standing still
the language of pills
cold inside
cold outside

i can’t break through this harsh nonsense.

to where the garden speaks and breathes as one.

fleeting glance
the language of chance
paints your eyes,
wets the skies.

green as seas
crimson leaves
white as icebox.

there is no life in the hedgerows.

but you call me to your garden.

hand in hand
this head’s a band
of savage music

gland to gland
so numb and tanned
a silver snowstorm.

this is really going nowhere

let each image clash and shatter

strand by strand
my teeth in sand
my heart in iron.

a bar of soap
a coarse blue rope
a crowded hotel.

this is no way to the exit.

wooden doors, the lifts are broken.

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Mr Death

Mr Death lives in my bones
waits to eat them
as patient as a cat
sleeping by a rabbit-hole,
one eye half open;
he is always hungry.
I once saw him turn
the green flesh
of a leaf to gold,
then strip it back
to its skeleton
which he palmed
with one hand –
a most convincing
illusion of
total disappearance!

sometimes he plays this trick,
he stands just
behind me,
as if to tap
my left shoulder.
i spin on my heel
but he is not there.

Does he think I am
a candle
to be snuffed out
between thumb
and forefinger?

o he is a joker alright
i hear he dances
in churches and abbatoirs,

strips the rosary
of its beads

wears a black top hat,
whispers “now!”
in the ears of diamond sutra monks,

turns each object
you own
into an artefact,
and your living room
to a swansong museum,

tells bitter enemies
to patch their hate
into a kite
and fly it with string,

yes, he likes to laugh,

but quietly

like a cloak of ravens
moving at midnight –

he loves the worm
at the core,

has no boundaries
no sense of personal space;

preaches peace to the soldier,
mould to the cleaner,
wine to the sober,
doubt to believers

eavesdrops
on dreams
about clutching snow
on iron mountains;

yeah he plays tricks,
gives advice,
if you listen

he has plenty to say

“i live in your bones,
in your sunshine,
your clay.”

 
 
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A Different Path Home

There are paths
just behind
the paths I walk

there are streets
that run parallel
to the ones I run down

tracks untraceable
even by the
quick eyes

of cats or foxes,
paths that run
between fences

and branches,
the streets I walk home
but do not remember.

shining paths, dark alleys
glittery with rainwater
slippery with black leaves

that my eyes see
when my eyes
are closed.

This quest for
hidden paths
beyond concrete,

within concrete
neither magic
nor therapy

like when
fiery hipped
and moist

I tasted
death and life
in just one kiss.

I bound butterflies
to church windows,
burnt holes

in straw men
bone deep
and dreaming

like a child
laughing at
a handclap,

until the shadow
split from
my bones.

Now , if I stop
and seem
paused

and confused
it is only because
i seek for fresh clues

since my shadow
has taken
a different path home.

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the hands of a rough god

I turn my head to my
right, next to me
a man with a frog’s head,
a dull brown jacket
and huge idiotic eyes
stares and drools.

a girl behind
a circle of flames
chokes and coughs,

collapses on
black earth
sweats, shivers,
her fingers dirty.

A man with black eyes
places a rough blanket
over her,

she sits up and vomits
onto the ground,
amongst the stench
and fluid
tiny beetles,
metallic red,
crawl away
patiently.

My hot chest
hammers to
break free, it

bulges
molten wine

ejaculates
an arc of white confetti.

Each white drop feathers
the wind, becoming
small white creatures
that find her,
explore her hair,
crawl into her ears and nose.

They walk up her spine,
Straighten each vertebra
And then fade like
warmth
from an untended stove.

The man ignores them,
watches her silently,
there is something careful
in the way he watches her,
as if blowing glass.

He mutters something under
his breath, makes a
sign with his hand,
and she stirs.

Her filmy eyes shine
and glow,

She shivers and jerks,
her body awake with pain
like a knotted rope
pulled tight between two hooks
plucked viciously
by the hand of a rough god.

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Definately Another Bobcat

Pretty shit what they did to Dylan,
those longbeard whiteface
moral fantasists,
for whom words were sentiments
and sentiments reality.

Hounded by brainstrikingly idiotic journalists
Who only spoke in headlines and copy;

Hiding inbetween the angry heart and the seething brain,
A slim darko with a corrugated soul
Strolling nonchalantly,
Cigarette burning under
Glittering cat’s eyes,
Picking cat’s paths
Through the strange debris of liberal America,
It’s catcalls & stiffness, its
freedom cries and headsmacking ineptitude,

struggling to shake free from
teargas old men in sensible shoes
herding young men to steaming death jungles
driving enormous automobiles down
highway 61, and Dylan,
“an outsider”
asking questions of his interrogators
taking photos of cameramen
“could you suck the corners of your sunglasses Bob!”
“Do you want to suck them? Go ahead….”
Pursued by hordes of mentally famished girls and boys
Wracked by obtuse poetry,
Needlesharp images threaded together in seamless
Temporary mosaics

What Allen Ginsberg called
“ a column of air,
his whole soul placed in his outbreath, some kind of shaman”

angry, gifted., misplaced, instinctively grasping change
staying slippery
shrugging it all off –

“why did you become so popular, Bob?”

“it’s just something that happened, like anything else.”

But the catcalls and the jibes would piss anyone off,
He slipped from his motorcycle to the road soon after

But as one who hated to be understood too much
Perhaps this piss poison chalice was made to be broken

Over his electrified head –
He half relished it,
It made him an outsider again.

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a heartbreak of shells

This apple fell
into the soil
its green skin bruised
its fruit too sweet

this wall is crumbling
its whitewash flaky
a spider crouches
in a rocky hole.

By a fork in the road
a dress tangled in dirt
unkempt and abandoned
white and muddy
near a pile of broken
cigarettes
on uncaring tarmac.

and a heartbreak of shells,

a heartbreak of shells,

a heartbreak of shells.

the sound of splitting calcium
cracked tooth,

broken bells
whose invisible sound
rings underground
through forgotten
water pipes
causing cracks in concrete
10 years later

a heartbreak of shells
and job to do

a heartbreak of shells
a clock and some glue.

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the door to the world is a human body

when i saw you
for the first time
pushed in shuddering spasms
from your mother’s body
covered in milk and blood,

before you stretched out your tiny arms
and made your first sound
a heart monitor pinned to
your slicked skull
your skin as purple
as flag iris,

your eyes glued shut;
you looked like an handsome old witch
curled up bravely to face her death
there was a repose and a knowledge
in your face that startled me with
a sense of what is ancient in the newest thing

and my heart flooded with love.

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the scalded heart

He can see
dewdrops on the
iron railings,

watches
her hands as she
stares into her
flickering screen.

He carries a cigarette burn
on his left wrist,
a scar by his right eye.

Once he thought himself immune
to sickness,
that his radiance
would protect him from poison
and the shivers.

I imagine his golden heart
has blistered to black,
sensitive as a bad tooth,
scalded by an absence of touch.

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Plastic Castle and an Orange

A boy built a castle from lego.
Soldiers manned its ramparts,
tapestries hung on the walls but
the King was absent and
the draw bridge drawn.

My friend, as I tell you this,
let me offer you an orange,
not to quench your thirst
but so you may taste Seville,
the Orange groves and citrus leaves
you picture may be
quite unlike
the cropsprayed rows
that grow waist high
for miles,
attended to by a bored man
in a straw hat and a stained check shirt
on a mechanical fruitshaker.

The juice will quench your thirst
either way
and the tree did blossom,
insecticide laced farms
may ring with
silent guitars that no one
hears but you.

and an old man did leave the village
and walked all the way to Malaga
by the motorway, by the white apartments
and cranes
and was never recognised as the King
of a plastic castle.

The gift is yours,
if you choose to take it.

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Drunk at his mother’s funeral

formally “RD Laing’s Mother’s Funeral”

For RD Laing

he wept at his mother’s funeral
crying wracking tears at the fact
he had hated her and that his last
letter to her had been a pen drawn heart with
“i promise” inside in response to her request
he promise to never contact her again.

he took his son to look at the body but
they were so lashed on whisky
and chaos they couldn’t get the lid back on.

He had been so raw and so clever
he cut himself, saw beyond the
smiling faces of the doctors
to the iron mask beneath
that watched with iron eyes
the removal of parts of the brain
the administration of electric shocks
the injection of drugs and straightjackets
and pushed on into madness
unafraid.

He had emerged from the other side of
the abyss of psychoanalytical
black shoes smart ties
and cold benevolence to a
thicket of radical ideas
where madness is permitted
because it exists and is
the mind

to a place where the mind does
not matter, just breath and belly

and from there back to whisky and faded glory.

Perhaps he felt his mother was one
of those cold fish who would never understand.

If he knew, he would tell you,
if he could turn you on….

…the vomit by the coffin
mixed with tears and regret.

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Broken Glass and the Sea

One night,
Elliot Tanner
got wrecked on
a bottle of Pernod
he had stolen
from his mother’s
drinks cabinet.

He took the bottle
down to the beach
met up with Stuart
and they threw stones
at it when they’d
finished
blind drunk
and mostly missing
until one
lucky throw
smashed the glass
into a thousand
knives.

Next day,
families herded
their kids
around
shattered glass
and puke
dog walkers
put their
dogs on leads.

That night,
the high tide
swept in and
folded the shards
into its
salt green body,
washed away
the vomit,
licked the stones
clean.

Now, when
children scour
the stones
they sometimes find
rare pieces
of emerald glass
smoothed and polished
glinting in the sun
amongst
the grey and white
pebbles.

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angel,mermaid,boat

Stone angel on the harbour wall
gazes blindly at the mermaid on the rock,
can’t see his own body decorated
with cigarette burn
and lichen.

A trawler approaches
in a diesel cloud
sloppy with sardines,

The fishermen are boys
full of energy
who mock each other,
laughing loudly.

As 2 wrestle on the deck,
a thirdcups a roll up
against the spray
and salt and stares into the
fathomless deep.
At the boat’s prow a green horse,
at the stern, wooden steps
invite him to stroll
into the ocean
so his corpse can become a doll
on the sea bed for
mermaids to kiss.

Our mermaid watches
the men on the boat intently,
with methodical calm.
She smokes a cigarette,
and lies on her back

as their bare chest
flash in the sun.
She looks closely at
the young man who
stares into the sea
as if longing for its depth.

The  stone angel looks
blindly at the mermaid,
head tilted as if
he might hear
what he can’t see.

Stone angel on the harbour wall
gazes blindly at the mermaid on the rock,
can’t see his own body decorated
with cigarette burn

and lichen.

A trawler approaches
in a diesel cloud
sloppy with sardines,

The fishermen boys

full of energy
who mock each other,
and laughing loudly.

As 2 wrestle on the deck

a a third smokes a roll up

cupped against the spray

and salt and stares into the

fathomless deep.
At the boat’s prow a green horse,
at the stern, wooden steps
invite him to stroll
into the ocean
so this corpse can become a doll
on the sea bed for
mermaids to kiss.

Our mermaid watches
the men on the boat intently,

with methodical calm.
She smokes a cigarette,
and lies on her back

watches their bare chests

flash in the sun.

She looks closely at

the young man who

stares into the sea

as if longing for the deep.

The  stone angel looks
blindly at the mermaid,
head tilted as if
he might hear

what he can’t see.

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poem for sugar

the gods have come to earth, they are not
celestial or angelic. they have snotty noses
and won’t do what they are told. they stomp
about and destroy cities, eat too much chocolate
and refuse to listen to reason. they are highly
excitable and love stories and music. they
demand as many as you can tell, they love
to be given presents. they love wearing
brightly coloured clothes, anything that
is shining gold, hot pink, vivid blue. they
will rip you apart if you don’t give them what
they want, chop your head off, pull your guts
out with a spoon, eat your heart. yet they
are capable of acts of incredible warmth and love,
and there is something touching about their
pyschopathic naivity. they love to be told stories
about themselves especially, ones in which
they kill giants and find treasure. they get very
taken with such stories and interrupt and want to
argue with the characters or act them out with puppets.
they don’t like to play the bad guy.

you have to put them to bed at night and they don’t want to go.
they demand songs and prayers and more stories. but once they
settle, and you see them falling into a deep and guiltless sleep, you realise how much you love them.

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