Once we were new and immediacy could guide us!
Now that quisling young intensity has passed
since consciousness began to tire; of holding on
like paint the sun has faded until it flaked away,
cover wrinkling into splits and decayed character;
of some older habits that have lingered past their time,
reminders that the past was smaller than the now –
although a film of settlement resists the change,
obscuring shallow detail, forgetting losses in translation
Except: at least, this has not disappeared –
it’s time to hand over / for others to renew…
national poetry day 2018 – calling for change
I hold you in my wallet, to keep you safe from harm
in a fading store of memory, with our devalued currency –
a little worn with use and age, but easy to access;
an aperture into a version of our past, above revision
once framed by shutter speed, in silver salts or pixels /
or inked in composition, rolled out by the press /
or sketched in charcoal strokes, brushed by human touch;
a fragment in a narrow view, blurred in shallow field…
Except there is always an act, an outside intervention:
the fleeting gravity of looking – itself irrelevant –
gone to seek transparency where none exists, instead
reflecting back a composite (of me and you; of now and then)
and composing a reflection, to evoke my thoughts and feelings
without asking or concerning how they could be requited
or if that moment’s image had been perfect or a lie
or something in between, a flaw pursuing life?
Because you are not mine, or ours, or motion drawing breath
but a chameleon’s subtle model, to represent reality
in flakes of time torn off the torrent in its flight, snagged
while other things that were once new have aged in turn,
grown into the fabric before fading away – while you remain,
a tainted arrowhead lodged against a nerve
that leaves a wound infected by the presence of our past
and a seed to germinate belief in never letting go…
(revised from version posted in early May 2018)
The year turned, slowly, in its cycle:
racked a hollow mark on its traverse
from origin towards infinity…
~ as harvest ripened; barley malted,
the living yeast renewed itself
and brewing sang in warming water
~ as negotiators inched and postured,
compromised, on our behalf
while falsehood shifted to us, past us
~ as I turned my back on you, in tears,
coming to face a life alone.
Autumn lowers. Winter follows. Death. Rebirth.
I will find a way, or make one
Rather than persuade
and impose my pride on you,
I would leave, losing
the humility that might
submit to your persuasion
I once hid myself, afraid;
until the heady rush of words was jammed
by a crime against the muse, committed to survive:
the stream of language dammed, damned, damaged in its course
to leave words languishing around my skull, staring from its windows
calling echoes down its aural spirals, striking out their balance –
Words marooned in emptiness…
like fickle acolytes of lost idols, panicking unshackled
or liberated helots pining for some mastery to serve;
like nomads in the tracking chain lacking moral compass
or athletes drained of power then balance, grace and skill
… after the fall … the fall … all
I was unsure – of who I was, of how to live outside my home
and lacking adequate affect, while full of social awkwardness –
so I conformed. The choice was stark but simpler than it seems
in that long ago.
Thus marked, by birth or accident,
I took instruction, even study (to a point),
as my seeming deficit became a fabric of belief
and I self-censored, thickening my carapace
to grow in roles which made denial second nature;
learning how to walk without the hope of wings,
needing to avoid defeat, absent persuasion
in that yesterday.
But of course I wanted to be right, so I admit:
there was collaboration.
I enjoyed the gravity of power that pulled me in its orbit,
compelling me to move eccentrically
until that shook my axles loose, spilling their bearings
as they ground my gears to fragments; falling
beneath those asking, how it was possible to live
without a purpose – or an allegiance to one colour?
Those true believers: defenders of the faith, keepers of the flame,
held hostage to the dogma of their self-defeating doctrines
while tied by their taboos at a bridge too far for reason.
I scorned them even in my weakness –
How much trouble that has caused me!
I liked my words piled up like rubble walls
without the glue of mortar, or the craft of dry-stone dikes –
while rhythm, although it was my heartbeat,
sometimes passed me by, or faced-off the wrong way –
for I enquired in alleyways: wracked like conscience
(a fleeting visitor, discovered in the night)
by a voice, speaking flint-like through the darkness,
sparking words like trust – called truth – from flagstones;
Words which (flaring) vanished… in acrid smoke
clouding across an island packed with attitudes,
broken from the main and skewered on its self-made hook
of certainty (belled, tolled, caged in formal punishment
by flaws of education – and the parts it did not reach)
leaving a residue of loosely bundled letters, peeled raw;
too sharp for some, shot through with veins of mineral
hardened in the air by exposure to the oxygen of life,
served dry and stripped of meaning;
Lacking framework, those words have left me bare;
wondering, what should guide my steps
once obligation has passed by?
Or languishing, in comfort, since my compass failed…
Do not forget, we were amazed when it was new.
Now it’s overlooked as everyday: faintly dismissed…
(although when we were young there was no story
unless someone crawled and wept)
Still. We all stand…
The thin and the fat. The healthy and the ill.
In healing or in stasis or decline.
With futures we may get to have: no longer
short and sharp, mostly, but chronically defined.
Dangling in the open, unreconciled –
were we but honest with ourselves –
although we co-exist, in the wake of an identity
A quest. What cause? What caught you up?
Maybe worry has no base, there is no reason for anxiety??!
Only… Why did we come this way? Was it short?
Who has come with us? Who have we left behind?
What if connections mattered less, and failure not at all
while we were still ourselves, and learning, in our rawness…
Skirting years of revolution for longer days of progress,
mercy, and dissent: creating value of our values ~
Forever next. Shared or solitary. We all stand.
Heavy with experience and years, and growing stale
as I’ve grown dark, but not in colour (greying at the edge),
I glower round anxiety and tense the badly printed jaw
forming the overwhelming mouth which infects the skull
of my lopsided skeletal rack; chaired by my consent
into a passive beast beneath the kick applied by medicine…
Waiting for the finest drill to bite and whine its trace
into the measured root, I pause and hold to join
the lowest outer rank of silent honest fellowship;
I have come sideways to accept my birthright is to swim
among a sea of souls, who all share a trail of sentience
beyond confusions, coincidences and our suffering.
Dazed, upright, I am released to splash my calloused feet,
to paddle in the shallow clear and warm lagoon – before it
opens out beyond the fragile reef to darken with a shock
to indigo; a border marking the domain
of my acquaintances, those stalked by the white ghost
or hosting their mutated living cells…
Atlas stretched and flexed, but my brittle shoulders cracked;
which was sadly typical – or ingrained, even entrenched.
Versed in common rhetoric, I had adapted to the sweep of years
but shed a flake of life at each inflection:
~ When I’d learned to feed the looping thread towards the needle’s eye;
~ When I’d traced the whipping cord, recurring through the labyrinth –
pursuing meaning in the tail;
~ When I’d thought the prize to celebrate was learning how
to paper over cracks and fix some bugs – enough, to come again tomorrow;
~ When things I’d feared were inbuilt limitations to the versions that we share –
and the masks we wear, together;
~ When what survived was hidden in exceptions to my flawed pursuits
of mirages, of dreams I’d cared about so much – until I leant on them instead;
~ When (haltingly) I’d left behind those childish things, to find
that hope was badly drawn, and charity was bound, threadbare;
~ When threads were all there was to see.
At least – I think – those threads were real, despite my contemplation;
But did they – could they – lead to grace, or even beauty?