four columns, squared

And you said you knew / how the supports all worked / though they were engineered and unobtrusive

You bastard!  How you indulged your agony / of  misplaced confidence, at best / or a flow of fresh mendacity, stinking in the sun / spilling over purpose, one step off the curve / a vision out of focus, lacking depth of field…

as you observed, in cold and brittle politesse / in baffled, bunkered equanimity – ha! –

the columns leaning out, not in / splayed by their own weight / across each other’s lines / before the roof was even raised / to welcome innocents abroad / who’d come to worship here, and play –
let alone the masterpiece / we could have made inside….

But you said you knew / how the support would work / within the frame I’d barely found.
You bastard!  Who will build the shelter now / in praise of openness?

silence

So we drifted past in the night:
as implacable ships of disregard,
in silence
except the changing bells of watch,
respecting rights of way in navigation
if not always each other…

Until we were woken
startled
by the dawn barrage of voices,
a lying loud array on shore
joined in the jagged struggle to defend
unprotected feelings from attack:

Exposed, but settled headlong
into ways I thought I knew.

Varadero

The morning rises with a tide in flood,
a swelling warmth of swallowed salt
that lifts my body off its feet
then muscles up and through the chest
as it overpowers a racing mind with calm –
or the tastes of sweetened rum and the delights

of islands that once dreamt a feathered man,
imagined in the humid light, a force of colour
radiant in palm-carved air, hanging….
but vibrant with a pregnant pungent life
which if inhaled infects the heart and fills me
with uneasy sweeping dreamy peace.  Peace

that may forget the old molasses and mosquitoes
of a Caribbean twice a sentence, twice a grave:
a candied killer and attractor, destroyer of the men
who made sugar for the craving and reward
that brought wealth beyond their avarice for the few
and a fevered anguished aguey death for many;

islands liberated but still branded by the stain of slavery,
when one was damned and ten, a hundred men were owned
to make an ancient sin industrial:  the power
and the desire to erase those people’s names
and chain their children to that rotten block –
the foundation stone of empires, the anchor of our trade.

the stag

The beast lay awkwardly across the road
hemmed in by the obscenity of shock and pain
pressed on the labouring heart beneath its sleek dun coat;
its head was high, its neck was taut, struggling against gravity
with hatred of its torment and the closing graze of cold oblivion
coming motionless to end it, on an unforgiving tarmac hill.
Its countless springtime outcomes now reduced to one:
endurance out of time, prolonged until the tranquillising dart
will still its complex writhing eye, the dimming eye, in mercy…

… oblivious already to any kind of meaning I might have glimpsed
or thought I could ascribe, to the tiring dregs of his gifted life…
to the sacrifice of lithe young potency, betrayed by random order…
to the Fall from a morning’s innocence, rutting with antlered pride
to this helpless agony of broken-hipped distress, still tied
to life by fraying threads of habitude and parting ligaments,
his reality cut through to bring the grave its victory
as we went streaming safely past, insulated in our sins.
Who could prepare for this?

Thirteen ways to view a season

August 9th : 124/1/913
An opening :
The day perplexes, as it startles us: welcome to an altered equilibrium….

October 4th : 124/24/910
Speed skill and movement flow at perfect pitch / and then a long consolidate

October 20th : 123/5/910
Battered but not bowed, we survive a mighty onslaught / to seize an opportunist win

October 24th : 125/8/942
Dominant and headed top / although clear weaknesses are on display

December 21st : 25/24/772
Moneyed rivals are outclassed. We’ll never sleep: excitement reigns all night!

December 28th : 123/5/907
Expectations rise, hopes surge, hearts open; the new year beckons and entices….

January 24th : 123/4/909
But the good guys are tricked again / by a thuggish cartoon bandit

March 2nd : 24/21/754
Plunging, in the thirty minute switch / from triumph to disaster

March 13th : 9/25/256
A perfect afternoon / except they had a plan and we had self-destruction

April 2nd : 126/21/968
Revenge is sweet, revenge is comprehensive / does it point the way ahead?

April 21st : 24/24/743
A sterling success, in isolation / but the coinage had already been debased

April 30th : 24/24/750
Sideways backwards slow. We have come to loathe predictability

May 15th : 24/22/745
An ending:
We grind a final clear-cut win / while that other lot implode;
Consistency eventually is excellent / when leavened by surprise!
Yet shadows gather in the wings / as we watch veterans depart.

 

[Originally posted May 16, 2016.  But since it was – in part – inspired by Wallace Stevens’ ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’, I thought I’d re-post it today]

STA

I was ambivalent and awkward, an outsider twice squared
who was fluent with an accent and my eccentric idiom –
just a small-town foreigner, come to work their way

except that I became a citizen by choice
of a city in the orbit, on the horizon’s outer edge
which signalled opportunity (although not in its back yard);

to discover England’s shrivelled heartbeat flutters weakly
in those precincts – and my veins, now clouded by regrets
much as the limestone-flooded water hardens in its pipes;

when little men entrench themselves to replace what they lack
where importance is a virtue and welcome is pretence
since inclusion is a theory here and amity a lie…

Deva (short version)

Thrax was sharp and distinctive:
replete in his fine scalar armour
an authentic steel helmet, a local wool cloak
and a girded flat sword that cuts and thrusts,
which marked him…

as he spoke, to advocate a world-view long gone
save for fragments – of stone and mosaic,
of formative concepts and habits of thought;
to sketch lives as they came to a crossing
of wilderness and west…

of inked sardonic veterans of service
watching for rewards within the empire
against wild-eyed blue-skinned warriors dying to be free
in flames of honour;
bound in kind by different customs.

from the gullet

I stood on the hill where the barges had gone
through the locks or the inclined plane,
draining the guts of the country downhill
to force its carbon promise free

In forsaken tribute from miners and stokers
who gave their lives unequally to fuel
propelling power in blind direction,
while the worth of a man was measured
by craft – and the gift of a bottle forbye…

I stood on the hill where my family had waited
for children to come, in the wake of TB –
and had me, who was glad to escape
and walk away without intent or purpose
at the second opportunity;

When I had fought against my brother
and let my father die,
on a day when smoke hid the sun
like a cloud, I went home.