I saw her then, a girl displayed
in her mother’s wedding dress,
and fitted for the modern world.
The original was lost.
What does it mean? So much was lost.
Meantime, I clasped your hands, recovering
while twisted tendons cracked and snapped:
I could not look.
Look away! I had to look away.
But there is no forgetting, only honour –
or perhaps compulsion, half-remembered.
Then there was compression, absent
comprehension, inappropriately applied.
Take a breath! Another.
Who knows when it will end?
Or if it has….
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…
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.
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.
We escaped our hibernation
on the sheltered natured tip / of the southern winter islands
to be collared by the fate
which shared a timeworn laugh with us / as it welcomed foreign guests
to a pre-paid concrete paradise
necklaced by saharan dunes / on their shifting constant march: a
grainy smudge,win gleaming light
of aged rouge and lipstick, on the pocket-mouth of hell
the canvass steps
the ageing steps
the display steps
the forceful steps
the steps with purpose
the lighthouse-seeking steps
the ritual morning steps
the adventurous steps
the tentative steps
the steps for fun / leading who knows where
Stretching out beneath
the horizontal rainbow flags
the frantic red, the calming yellow
the emergency aid cross
Until the tide-line breaks
across the cooling breeze
so its waves come sweeping in,
their shimmering serpent forms
released before the breakers roar
Pausing in empathy, to facilitate
stepping stones across the street:
a random act of kindness, outlined while it snowed
Contrasting / against frigid slices of pretence
inhaled or eaten raw / reflecting
an icy high professional disdain
Of passion. Disguised in everyday encounters.
Kept warm across embers of humanity
but cooled by us, before our judgment seat
until a fearful anger writhes / and rises up
To spill an empty nest of therapy:
from the pressing churning sensitivity,
for an inveterate chameleon / never having fun.
– ack ack ack
– bang bang (bang)
– drive deep
– lean in
– rear high
– screw down
– pile on
in the fluid loops of language
The most vibrant stem must be cut down
so that its deeper root may grow,
our transient flourish sliced away
while the dominant will prosper,
sustained in fatal purity
until strength is stretched into weakness,
Occasionally there is a death.
A direct shocking abrupt termination
of that person’s hopeful journey in a jagged tragic crash
of horror, pain and blood and dirt and aftershocks.
Fragments. Sending eddies in the flow for miles
And an hour or so of people’s lives
claimed by the entirety of one, at random:
all too fully human but diminishing with distance…
Fading… Until the beat resumes…