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!
It craked. Hoarse and raw.
Footloose, on the wing, it looked down at us.
Perched in the roof-line gutter, craking on…
The bird of fortune, named by accident,
rescued by goodwill, nurtured in our den,
drawing down our blackened greed, shimmering…
“You gaaave me what I asked for;
I can see how much is there –
now I want more! More!! Mohre!!! Mohhre!!!!”
The zealots came – as always –
draped in purity, to press their claims
~ which would erase our nuances,
reduce our subtleties to slates;
as if a blank could live
~ in which the glories of creation
would shrink to conceptual art,
like angelic voices ringing
locked in a crazy head
~ on roads too thin to travel far
as life was redefined, abjured
to strip it clear of heresies
I held you in my wallet, to keep you safe from harm
in a dimming store of memory, with our devalued currency
that was a little worn with use and age, but easy to access;
You formed an aperture into a version of our past, beyond revision
once framed by shutter speed, in silver salts or pixels /
or inked in composition, rolled out by the press /
or sketched in oils or charcoal strokes, brushed by human touch;
a fragment apprehended in a narrow view, blurred in shallow field…
At times I saw you looking back at me, caught in the act of looking,
reflecting both a composite (of me and you; of now and yesterday)
and composing a reflection, evoking thoughts and feelings
without asking or concerning how they could be requited;
or if that moment’s image was perfect or a lie, or something in between
Because you are not mine, or ours, or motion catching breath
but a subtle model, to represent reality; a peeled-back flake of time
torn off the torrent in its flight and left with me to watch
while other things that were once new have aged in turn:
to become part of the fabric, then begin to fade away
While you remain, a tainted arrowhead lodged under my skin and
trapped against a nerve; both a wound infected by the past
and a seed to germinate belief in never letting go…
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…
We agreed not to look at any cracks in the construction
as if – we may have thought – that would make them go away.
They might have seemed too difficult to fix, anyway…
We liked each other in the gaps along our conversation
which is more important than your task, anyway…
So we used our tongues to draw for us
a world of the mind, like draughtsmen in our dreams…
Until an earthquake happened
Who could have planned for that, anyway?
There’s only so much that anyone can do!
Running fast to keep from falling, I stumbled anyway…
It’s not possible to win, always.
I was never very good at learning what was critical or not…
I did my best – although I know mistakes were made…
Anyway, I was entitled. Wasn’t I?
There is a grandeur in the landscape, lifted up and uplifting
and dry, or dried in brightening air.
It is matched by an earnestness amongst the people
who have been hardened in the ways of nature and cooperatives
but can now hold higher hopes out for their children, who are
open-faced with dark and shy and curious, serious eyes
burning through the open groves and scattered plots
and stooping limestone crags, towering
over the poverty of older lives, sheltered with their animals;
Living together in resilience in adversity, for however many
years and days of grace and gratitude god sends…
He had fled
as a child from the world of flood, a refugee unwelcome in his pack
who had felt afraid from the first; to find another place of faction
in which the weakest could show strength, where features concealed his fear…
His hands bled:
not minding strings of razor wire, he clambered on our fences,
he beat a bloody pulp against the bureau’s battle tank of process
but brushed aside the complex holograms besetting our enrichment
He would change.
Disliking men on task, on principle, he found enough belief
to claim control, to assert agency; but let his vision shrink into true faith
as roots turned in towards the cautious tearing agony of shifting shapes…
He was new:
on the right, his beard grew fierce and strong, in which he could rejoice
beneath a hooded eye, though his left profile was smooth and fair
like the face of a teen who had been young, without enjoyment.