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Welcome to the website of David Singleton of Trinity College Dublin and the University of Pannonia. Enjoy your visit!

Poetry

 

SELECTED POEMS 1967-1976

Critic

Course set for the navigable heart,
He ran aground on dust.

Dust on dust.

 

Minstrel

Singing life into hours
Is but one of his powers.

His ditties have daggers. Beware.

 

Philosopher

From this bridge -
As from any bridge -
The view of the river was quite unique.

 

Professor

Conform your skill,
Bill,
To my will.

You know WHO I AM, don't you?!!


To Sing her Chimes

To sing her chimes
Lady Cathedral
Grew up against the night
And sent solemnities
Rippling through cold streets
Like a grey river of tears.

My little chant in answer
Wept unheard.


The Owls
(After Baudelaire's Les Hiboux)

Beneath the yews
Sheltered darkly
The owls,
In line like alien idols,
Their crimson eye an arrow,
Meditate.

Nor stir shall they
Until night,
Timed by melancholy,
Ousts the crooked sun
And is established.

By their stance
The wise are taught
To shun all madding motion
Here below.

Who burns
For the shadow passing
Ever bears the chastening
Of his change-wish.


I Sing Moon

Moon,
Your silver is of gold,
Though night robs colours,
Moon.

Cool, you are warm
To the unwarm night,
Moon.

And that pallor is a souvenir of light
In night and dark night,
Moon.

When day to come
Would fix its sun
On mourners,
Who sings not moon?

 

Lament of the March Hare

I gave my arm
To March wind,
Lavished my charm
On March wind;

He shouted madness into trees,
Flattered his fits through white seas,

And I counselled calm
To March wind.

 

After the Fall is Over

So here I am,
Applying the midnight oil,
Dabbing at my hurt
With the extreme unction of words.

The well-served serpent sleeps,
And the tree
Stands stripped
Of leaves torn vagabond
Down avenues of dialectic,
Of fruits kept by
In chutneys of the heart.

So here I am
Picking at the scabs
Of all my unoriginal sins
Which time and I anoint
With darkness
And its ink.


Service Compris

Your fluffed and fleshy rice
Was very nice,
And your specially selected, Italian-bottled wine...
Divine!
At the sight of your lemon meringue
Nightingales sang,
And your fine old English cheese -
Quelle surprise! -
Actually turned out to be a damn' good wheeze.
Even your café crême
Was utterly suprême.
In fact, the whole dîner intime
Passed off like a dream.

It was only what was to follow
That I found hard to swallow.


City of God

The road took us to a place
Where hardly a habitation raised its roof,
And white stone debris stood like stalks,
Cluttered and stark on the holy hill.

Of those few who still dwelt up there,
Most were butchers and moneylenders,
But one was a priest of the old rite,
Who showed us his garden.

Or shrine shall I say? For here he sang his prayer
At an unbloody altar (the last of its kind),
Sending out his heart to the traders
Who cheated him and listened at his door.

Amongst the broken walls, the money and the meat
The ancient planted cabbages and signs,
Waited for the wonders,
Told us (and we knew he did not lie)
This was no ruin.


The First Events

The first events are always fine to watch,
When night bestows its wisdom on the young;
Avuncularity recorks his Scotch
And tastes an old surprise upon the tongue.

The first embrace is worth a second glance,
When night contributes wonder to the fray;
Adultery implores his wife to dance
And makes new resolutions till the day.

The first farewell can never fail to shock
When night ascends and all the grasses mourn;
Complacency grows nervous, eyes the clock,
Discovering a darkness in the dawn.

While futures hide and play at being free
The first events are powerful to see.

All Souls

The day is icy-thin,
No comfort to the huddling grass;
Light shatters like glass
On a hard winter wind.

The park is unquietly asleep;
Cracked words
Of sybilline dark birds
Rattle every tree.

And I am caught awares
Filling up my head
With the cold and travelling dead
To warm them on wild prayers.

SELECTED POEMS 1991-1999

Sleepless

Between the hard facts and the hard facts,
Between the shadowed blood and the shimmering bone,
Between the memories of unremembering and the unremembering of memories,
There are dreams.


Out of the Blue

He had reached a stage in his life
Where every pantheon lay pulverized about him
And he must find the sense of his life
In the life of his senses ...

When out of the blue of your eyes
All was mystified.

He tried to reason with his unreasoning heart.
In vain.
His heart had read Pascal
And knew your name.


Media vita

I have been scored by the sands of time;
They have seared me in their running.

They have fissured my eyes and cratered my brow;
They have eaten inappropriate openings into my heart;
They have scratched my very soul.

And so I come to the present hour,
Harrowed and hacked by the hourglass,
The winds of change whistling through my ragged apertures,
As I explore myself for substance

And touch only wounds.


A Child Dies at Christmas

In the Christmas of my seventeenth year
I saw my sister dead;
They laid her in a Christmas-box
The length of her little bed.

They set her down in the bright front room,
Where Christmas had always been,
Where Santa had spread his bounty
And we'd listened to the Queen.

Where now the De Profundis
Rang through our Silent Night,
Where now two tall white candles
Were our festival of light.

Her obsequies were seasonal;
Her funeral cake was iced.
But we buried Christmas with the child -
And hope, and trust, and Christ.


Blessed Burning
(After Goethe's Selige Sehnsucht)

Tell this to no one but the wise,
For crowds are quick to scorn and blame:
That life I wish to eulogize
Which yearns, burns for death in flame.

In the wanton cool of night,
In which begotten you begot,
You fall to feelings recondite,
As candle glimmers still and hot.

No more constrained by darkling dreams,
No more by shadowplay enthralled,
A novel longing in you gleams,
To higher coupling you are called.

Distance cannot stay your flight;
Spellbound, moth, on wings you flash.
At last you penetrate the light
And are consumed, cremated, ash.

And if you never thus essay
To die and to become anew,
Your span on earth will tend to grey;
Nothing will illumine you.


Restless Love
(After Goethe's Rastlose Liebe)

With snow and rain and wind in my face
In every misty, creviced place;
On and onward! Never cease!
No hope of rest, no moment's peace.

Better to be plain suffering's toy
Than bear the charge of so much joy.
All calling out from heart to heart
Makes mischief with a torturer's art.

Shall I take fright, to the forest flee?
Add vanity to vanity?
Love crowns life with unquiet bliss;
What kind of thorny wreath is this?

 

A Man in his Forties Litanizes on the Powers and Dominions of Eros

You peacebreakers,
You archers in the night,
You complacent carriers of catastrophic victories,
You strutting looters of ease,
You violators of reason,

Who retreat as you defeat,
Who flee your own triumphs,
Who drain the heat from battle in your wake,
Who torch the heart then steal the flame,
Whose only trace is frigid ash,

You angels of illusion,
Welcome.

 

The Canals of Mars

From all horizons love runs framed
In rectilinear scars...
As surely as wild waters yield
To the straight canals of Mars.

 

Krishna in Vrindavana

I am ecstatic in this rustic nook.
Unaccountably,
The contentment of the cattle in their quiet shade,
The gleam of the river
And the gentle tang of jasmine on the breeze,
Have ignited delight in my every breath.

Small wonder that my flute sends such sweetness,
Into the bushy pastures,
When inhalation, exhalation
Have become an endless gathering and spending of rapture.
Small wonder that the women of the farms
Come running
To a breast that moves to the pulse of such bliss,
To seek a wilder melody still.

The flute falls from my hands;
Our rasa mandala, our ring of joy, is joined,
And so begins the rite, the feast of pleasure.
For meat we have the wealth of twining limbs,
For wine the dew of lips,
For fish the salty tracts between the thighs,
For roasted grain the seed already trickling from my heat;
Maithuna, sacred union, is all in all we seek.

They tell me I must be a god
To bring them to such exaltation,
These sturdy cowherds who drive me ever onward,
These demure milkmaids who take my last drop.
I, for my part, have forgotten what or who I am,
And in the dance of love I claim no name
But lover.

 


Nocturne


I press my face against the hard, cold floor,

And all my gentle fire

Is conducted into dank corners

To cool, grow faint, expire.

Like some dour but frisky coenobite

Consumed by troublesome lust,

I embrace these unforgiving boards.

 

Canon

You will say this is no sweet song,
This life we share,
That even when the melody is strong
We miss the beat somewhere.

And yet, my love, the song goes on,
And this no hand can alter;
With these two staves we rest upon
Our voices will not falter.


Tomb of a Templar

Serene he may seem under his curving cross,
White mantle gathered like virtue around him,
But his mind was curiously oriented,
His heart a crescent scar, a complex star of unacceptable choices,
His life a crazy construction of contradictory covenants.

His heaven gives no peace to those it calls.
He sleeps uneasy, if he sleeps at all.

 

Rising Prospects

The laughter down there
In the well of my being
Grips tight the dark ventricles and tentacles,
Holds itself far below all seeing and hearing,
Discreet as ever as it mines my gold.

But how long, how long
Can it court the deep veins only?
How long until it slips into ascending shafts,
Breaks surface,
And seeks its harvest high and open cast?


A Life at Play

The five stones are in the air,
But falling.

The hand stiffens in its stretch,
Fingers chording the ether.

The head cross-reckons chance with skill,
Ever lengthening the odds.

The heart is in the air,
But falling.

 

Aftershock

The explosion of soft words
In the hard light of night
Has left them stunned,
Unable to conceive the future
Or understand the past.

Words softspoken against eavesdropping children
And threatening tears
Have epicentred on their every hope,
Deafened their every desire.

Softly the words still resonate under the bare bulb,
Each sinusoidal wave Loud with fresh disaster.


Two Worlds

In this one house
In this one room
In this one bed
Two worlds abide, collide.


White Night

Before sleep can take, up comes the dawn,
And all the faces I have worn
(Worn thin, worn clean away)
Wake with the noisy light
To haunt my night
That is now day.

Death of a Desperado

I shall launch an old white boat
Into the nervous waters of a twilit bay
At the turning of the tide.

Only looking back,
I shall scull the ancient craft hard and far
And let the drag of the moon take it farther.

My clothes I shall cast into the deep
That the bitter night may better chill me.

Thus exposed from end to end,
I shall think blank thoughts,
And whisper agnostic nothings
Into the ear of God.


Chicago Storm

Here on the twenty-fourth floor
The vertigo of dilemma
Spins me like the swarm of snow
Which the wind harries up and down
Past a skyline of closed windows
And inaccessible conceits.


Memento

Snow on a black track,
Ash on a white brow,
Corpse in a square room,
Love from all corners.


On the Passing of Violet Kathleen

She was no angel
Whom now the angels keep;
Her ways could be wilful,
Hers a wayward will;
Hard by times her speech,
As her hard life spoke.

But no one gave more than she
When she was giving;
No one loved more than she
When she was loving;
No one lived more than she
When she was living.

And none of God's creatures will ever be
Better than she
At laughing in defeat,
At turning sour moments sweet,
At making of catastrophe
A pretext for a party.

She was no angel
Whom now the angels keep;
She was Violet Kathleen,
A mother.


Nox Marina

I swam in a sea of faces
But you fished me out from the crowd
And shipped me to quiet places
Where the surf of my soul could beat loud.

We sailed a spirituous ocean,
Let loose the ballast of pride,
As we drank deep and savoured strange motion
And my life flowed and ran like the tide.


Otherwise Live

Alive could have another sense
If nerves with knowledge woke,
If ancient claims met innocence
Beneath truth's wanton yoke.

Alive could have another taste,
Have the spice of an angel's kiss,
If the simmer of love knew not hindrance nor haste,
And wisdom seasoned bliss.


The Uninterpreted Dream

The dream gave him sight of her
Seated luminous in a night crowd,
Her dark eyes grey with grief,
Her whitening skin sickly maculate,
Her unmistakeable presence unrecognizably broken.

And when he woke the dream endured
As fright in his belly,
Furore in his breast.

In that quiet morning he was all disquiet,
His pathless mind resounding with a rescuing passion;
But what or whom to save,
Or how,
He knew not.

 

Thalassa

Horizons dissolve
In this haloed escapade
From the furthest dark headland
To the sweet beginning of all.


Incognita

You hover on humming-bird wings
Deep in the cage of my ribs -
So close to my heart,
So safe from my grasp,
So far from all deciphering.

 

An Afternoon with Andrew. August 1966

In memoriam AGC

Through imperfectly drawn curtains
A summer's day disclosed itself in slivers of dazzle,
Which transpierced the hazy sanctum
Like Michael's sword.

We sprawled, smoking perilous flourishes,
Sharing the secrets of a vinyl disc,
Breathing in obscurity,
Exhaling clouds of glory.

As the music passed away
We poured ourselves another glass of time
From the magnum of our lives
And toasted the infinite mystery of our undoubted future.

 

Speak to Me

In memoriam AGC

Speak to me of your life behind that bolted door,
Of the half-read books on dusty chairs,
Of telephone talk with people you barely know,
Of superfluous shopping lists and empty shelves.

Tell me about your plans to write long letters,
To revisit the muse of your youth,
To make a masterpiece in verse or prose or five/four time,
All frozen by fear and pain and too much wine.

Recount your disappointments and your bitter thoughts,
Your struggles with a longing heart,
And with oh so many of its cherishings.
List them, every one; the time has come.

But, before our conversation ends, let me hear
Those words of knowing from our forgotten mystic nights
Which you, in all the bleakness of your present days,
Have learned to say anew.

 

The Walls of Inis Oírr

On this rock
They have built their churches,
Their storm-mocked habitations
And their high, dry walls.

Walls to mark the lines of home,
Walls to hold fast beast and loam,
Walls to circle cross and bone,
Walls to comfort fields of stone.

On this rock
They have stitched and cast a petrous net,
Catching their lives
In the hard meshes.


Gall in three parts

Our love, my love, is poisoned,
Spiked to the very core.

There's no antidote
In a farewell note.

We're envenomed evermore


Brave Leaving

Unlit by fire or friend,
He sits amid discarded amulets, snow and rock,
Heart-picturing the warm, forsaken lodge;

Sits in the trembling expanse of a frozen night,
Wishing for day,
Wishing for another way,
But wild-eyed from his sweet, bleak dance to freedom;

Sits sharpening his feathered lance,
As he makes his peace with death.


Alone At Last

Another day, another dolour.
Alone at last.
War in the soul, and no consoler.
Alone at last.
Thorn in the flesh, ne'er a rose in sight;
Ministering angels locked up tight;
God in his heaven a mere cajoler.
Alone at last.


Terra Firma

To the endless accusations of the waves
I have no answer
Only sand.

 

Broken

No longer sleek with lust
Nor savage in his fire,
Nor vaporizing dust
In the gallop of desire;

No more wrecking the white rope
Of each would-be cavalière,
He now yields the rage of hope
To the bridle of despair.

Tutti Frutti

Two weeks.
Fourteen flavours of bile.


Into the Deep
(After the closing stanzas of Baudelaire's Le Voyage)

The time has come, old Captain Death, to winch the anchor in!
This country hangs so heavy on us, Death! Let's away!
Though sky and sea be black as ink, as dark as Adam's sin,
These hearts of ours you've plumbed are radiant, bright as day!

A tot of poison for our comfort pour us out. Fair shares!
This fire so sears our brain, we have in view
To plunge into the dizziest depths, Heaven or Hell, who cares?
Into the deep Unknown to seek something that's new!

Semper Idem

My life's full of thorn-trees no axe can fell,
Of fires no earth can smother;
Still, I'd rather be myself in Hell
Than in Heaven as somebody other.


Night Visit to Bayeux

I have ridden the sleeper to this ancient haunt,
And, as I glide around its known and unfamiliar streetscape,
I sense that I am sleeping still.

The cathedral,
In whose bewildering wholeness I once took my peace,
Is a grassy ruin; and yet
Its towering fragments, white as chalk cliffs,
Hold firm the detail of their complex crosses,
Their unintelligible tracery.

The shaded square, where I used to walk my solitude,
Has grown into a monumental park
With limestone follies and a lilied stream,
Along which I now process in quiet joy
With mysterious companions.

When dreaming is done, I am sad for the broken church,
But gentled by the image of outlandish pleasure gardens
And the green river's inexorable flow.

Blue Moon

The night is filled with hauntings, ancient grief;
The shadows cast by this March moon are long.
The stars are timid, void of self-belief –
Alas for laughter, vernal madness, song!

Is this perhaps a time for taking stock?
The problem is my stock is ankle-low!
Or should I pit my mind against the clock,
Find cracks into the future, probe the flow?
No inspiration strikes, no Muse appears,
And yet I scribble verses until dawn.
I cover paper, scratching out my fears,
My pen the queen, and I the merest pawn.

Half-conscious exorcism, rhyming doubt
Are all that I can manage this time out.


Before My Death

In the quiet hour before my death
All the never-heeded callings of my heart
Took sullen, bloody shape;
All the unadopted motions of my mind
Black-widow-webbed my bed;
All the troubled, abnegated spectres of my soul
Put on ectoplasmic flesh and pointing fingers.

My judgment thus was to be cast, in the stillness of my passing,
Into the company of my own unowning,
Into an inferno lit by my unenflaming
Tailor-made by my very unmaking.

And I knew that, when the moment of transition came,
No hell beyond the end of breath
Could ever match this sulphurous pool of shame,
This death of my life before my death.

Coasting

When the sea sidles into sight
I close my eyes.
Unbearable day becomes unbearable night
As vision dies.


The Cat

The cat came to us in springtime,
His winter coat hanging raggedly half off him,
And smelling of the wild.
But even then, though he begged shamelessly
And slept in our hedge,
We knew he was no passing vagabond.

When we stroked him he took it as his due,
And when we lifted him he offered civilized embraces.

He had strayed to us, we later learned,
From the deathbed of a lady,
Carrying with him all the delicate manners
Of his former home.

Inevitably, he colonized the best room of the house,
Marked it with hair and paw-prints,
But wiped away the debt with elegance of form and loving presence.

He warmed our knees and filled our arms
At moments when no other kindness beckoned,
And when good spirits visited us
He was never absent from the feast.

And now, when spring once more is upon us,
When once more his winter coat falls in disreputable tatters,
He departs.
Quiet amidst us as we say goodbye,
He rises from his ailing body
To make for the sky,
Leaving us to watch his dear old cuddly corpse
And cry.


Resurrection

To the night air I have said:
Let me breathe my last.

To the crescent moon I have said:
Let me now wane.

To the speeding planets I have said:
Let me come to rest.

To the ageless stars I have said:
Let my light surcease.

To the seductive dark earth I have said:
Let me lie with you.


And yet the dawn finds me again among the living.


So be it; let this life be mine,
But let it take henceforth no other than its own design.


Opus

All of my neural cableways
Are tuned to a disconcerting pitch;
When roused they sound a high and siren note:
Abandon.

Composing for such instruments as this
Is work with an uncertain end.
Who can orchestrate the open strings
Of unhorizoned love?

Yet try I must or tried forever be;
And so I put my pen to the stave,
Provoking its parallel lines
With transcending sinuosities.


Welcome Intruder

She slips past ditch and motte and palisade
Observed but dimly, unregarded still,
Until her bright pavilion stands displayed
Its pickets driven straight into my will

I am alert now, taste her strong as wine,
And see her as the snow on silent leas
And feel her as the sun upon the vine
And recognize the stab of sweet unease.

She is mysterious, new, ungauged, unknown
And yet she moves within me quite at home;
She speaks a word and I am less alone;
She smiles and laughter fills my cranial dome.

I seek not to possess nor be possessed,
But how could I not welcome such a guest?


Skellig Michael: A Vision

Through mists of sleep I am borne to Skellig Michael,
Rough crown in the deep silk of perilous waves,
To be met by a hermit, a monk of the caves.

He has a steady gaze, my dark-habited guide, and I am shy of it.
I imagine it hard and sharp as Toledo steel,
Tempered in the discomfiting forge of ascetic zeal.

But his words are soft: “Do not fear the difference between us.
There is no knowing but knowing; no seeing but seeing;
And, God knows, no being but being.

“What there is to be known here, we shall both know it,
And what there is to be seen, we both shall see it,
And what we are each to be, we shall of a certainty be it.”

He clambers, I stumble, to the monastery on high, and far and wide.
He shows me where they snare the rain, where they sing the mass,
Where they pray at noontide, and where they net the bass.

From the Steps Leading Nowhere to Sunset Cove,
From the quiet North Landing to the chill West Peak,
At each station he gestures with consummate vagueness, and speaks.

He tells me this (a cistern? ) and that (a tuft of grass?)
And this (a crag?) and that (a distant seal?)
Announce the joys of cosmic commonweal.

“Unique though each may be, we all connect,” he says;
“Each stone, each plant, each feather, a truth with its own twist,
And yet so hard to prise apart in nature’s gripping fist.

“You think of us as worlds apart: I meditate, you breathe desire;
I chant the hours, you roar your passions free;
But we are life-companions in the same wise-wanton spree.

“For every single wisp of life
Experienced in watchfulness and bliss
Is both pleasure and sign, like Cana’s wine, is Heaven’s own French kiss .....”

The sermon murmurs on in me.
Though I ask myself unceasingly what difference can it make,
From this dream of Skellig Michael I shall nevermore awake.

Opening Doors

I imagine you gliding through the touch of teasing waters
On your way to savour and sap the strength of two strong men,
While in your mind revolves the litany of names
Of all your lost (but ever-present) friends and lovers.

I imagine you triangulating on a sounding strand,
Giving and taking the crimson and gold of pleasuring flesh,
While in your mind you ponder
On the puzzle of your world, all worlds.

I imagine you at end of day whispering to me of your excitements
As I coax from your shining body one last sigh,
While in your mind the glow of carnal knowledge
Illuminates a towering hall, alive with opening doors.

SELECTED POEMS 2000 -October 2013


Gnosis

We live in an unperfected sphere.

We have been carelessly crafted
By processes or entities
Which are in ignorance:

Ignorance of themselves,
Ignorance of us,
Ignorance of purpose.

And so each path of promise
Loses itself in impenetrable briars
Before the first milestone has been passed.

Each beckoning shore
Is fathoms deep in slime
Before the pearl without price can be gathered.

Each flight of love,
Taking the sun too close,
Ends before night in a strewing of scorched débris.

Somewhere beyond life's frenzy
The stillness of the Light or of the Void
Awaits.

Meanwhile, what can we do
But wander this rough-hewn world,
Applying whatever consolamentum we can call upon

To each other's perfect fear?

 

No Contest

We have built the bodies of our lives
By lifting and carrying the weight of knowledge,
Stiffened our spines with the calcium of hard places,
Steeled our hearts with iron from the soul.

Who would have thought that these tough sinews of understanding,
These muscled frames of difficult cognition,
Would yield to the feathered touch
Of a soft stray smile?

But yield they do.

Impressively we wrestle on
(With conscience and with consequences),
Displaying for all to see the vigour of our rigours;
And all the while our backs are to the floor,
Our gaze lost in a high magenta haze,
The sublime, sweet mire of unquestioning desire.

 

In Truth

On the radio in the other room
A cello tells some indecipherable plaint.

I sit by an open window and listen
To other sounds:
My heart striking the hour every second,
Southbound trains leaving without me,
Other people’s laughter.

The loneliness unpicks my brain;
Each tiny thought must fight to clothe itself.
Knowledge has descended to the resounding gut
And to the quiet baylets of the lungs.

Whatever process there is
Reaches no conclusion … except this:
My mask is now in shreds,
The old persona dead;
In the truth of suffering I can at least be true
To all my other truths.


Weathering the Storm

In the banking cloud over the lake,
Silent flashes of orange fire,
Numinous intimations of a dangerous future.

The storm, when it comes,
Sweeps all before it,
Dousing summer in a single hour.

But shall we grieve?
The parched grass now greens again;
There is new growth in the fuchsia and the fern;

And the unconquered sun,
Though in the fury lost from sight,
Will not for long deny its rescuing light.

 

One More Time

We are old companions, you and I,
Lovers and sisters and brothers of a thousand lives,
Co-dwellers of a thousand ages.

We have prayed together, lain together, slain together;
We have suckled the same breasts
And each other’s;
Side by side we have watched the sun rise over Babylon
And set over Troy;
Side by side we have sworn allegiance to the same impossible causes,
And, swelling with warriors’ pride, died together.

If distance has held us separate,
We have conjoined in dreams,
Coming to each other with a kiss of ease
In the blackest of nights after the greyest of days.

Wherever, whenever our paths cross,
Our eyes open,
Our hearts embrace,
And we take the road together one more time.

 

The Very Moon

You sit across the table from me …
Watching me?
Thinking what? Feeling what?

As for me,
Try as I may to hold to calm,
I am a chaotic cascade in your presence,
An impossible maelstrom,
My blood flooding crazily through valves and conduits
In a mad, mystical, murderous succession of spring tides.

You are the very moon to me,
And everything that flows in me
Flows for you,
Rages for you,
Reaches for you.

 

On Viewing Amber Beads in a Museum

I stand bewitched by what is in this case,
Bronze Age blazing gold in discs and whirls
As intricate and fine as Breton lace,
All interspersed with luscious amber pearls.

These beads of petrous resin hold my gaze,
Return it with impenetrable power;
My world becomes a dreaming, russet daze
My life an orange-red mesmeric hour.

(The canny Greeks, as ever, had a word;
Elektron was their label for this stone;
They knew of the attractions that occurred
Within the currents of its nearmost zone.)

How can I not recall and speak your name?
For Ambra is as amber does – the same!

 

Confidences in the Old Market Square

This conversation has no easy end;
We roam through dark recesses, strangely free,
As if each were to each a long-held friend;
As if that were the only way to be.

We tell of troths to which we were untrue -
Beseech us though our severed lovers might -
Of lives that had to open to the new,
Because too much arrangement quenched our light.

We speak of how our still unruly minds
Philosophize through racked and quartered nights,
Of thoughts that long to loose the net that binds,
Of pain that aches to put the world to rights.

Does comfort somewhere touch our trade of woe,
Joint knowing somehow sweeten what we know?


The Woods at Kórnik

Between the rhododendra and the pines
I walk with you in pleasurable trance;
I taste each word, each step like perfect wines -
Exquisite focus in a mystic dance.

The sun negotiates the leafy maze
To fall upon and aureole your skin;
My senses in this dappled, dazzling haze
Are overcharged but too entranced to spin.

Returning to your car beside the lake,
Recalling other waters, other trees,
I lose the moment, vexedly forsake
Its power to the midges and the breeze.

What comes of such enchantments? Who can tell?
Can you, who in the greenwood cast the spell?


High Palladium

All night the mountain has been swathed in cloud
Mysterious in murky hiddenness;
Before me now she stands revealed and proud,
As day unzips and lifts her misty dress.

How often have I watched this quaint striptease,
Ogled the naked shoulders of a col,
Been thrilled by tufty mounds on shameless screes,
And peered beneath the forest’s parasol!

Though Aphrodite favours sea and shells,
Her power ever moist and sharp with brine,
Desire in higher places also dwells;
Lust’s light amidst the starkest peaks may shine.

The wanton eye can everywhere be pleased;
The wanton heart is much less lightly eased.

 

Starless

I had no thought to dream of you,
But, as I closed my eyes,
I was suddenly trailing after you under a starless sky
On the wet streets of Kraków.

You were preoccupied …
Looking for a restaurant?
Wanted elsewhere?
About to leave for Australia?
In any case impatient of my veneration.

I woke with your displeasure thudding in my heart,
Feeling the immeasurable depth of your presence and your absence,
Seeing in the night,
Without a single star to guide me,
The meaning of it all.

Though I hide myself in pleasure,
Dark truth is not mocked.
I have always been hopelessly in search of you,
And, having found you,
I hopelessly seek you still.

 

Bulwar Kurlandzki

I followed a siren song to the Vistula.
Nothing is here
Except roaring trams,
An old factory,
Rough-cut grass
And the grey-brown, storm-swollen flow.

She is not here.
No one is here
Except dusty children,
Plump joggers,
Disobedient dogs
And an endless succession of listless lovers.

I should never have come here.
There was music enough in the chapel,
Open-throated vespers from enclosed nuns;
But the hidden, fervent voices,
Could not ease me
Nor exorcise that other voice

I shall not visit the Vistula again.
The singing is too sharp in me here;
It wakens every nerve,
Inflames despair,
Makes opaque the windows of my soul
With an infinite tracery of cracks.


Krakowska Brama

A risky day for walking this –
Heat to curl the brain and scorch the soul;
Yet here I stroll, with almost English nonchalance,
Past stiff white cliffs by a serious little river
To the Cracovian Gate,
The pillars, perhaps, of my doom.

As I pass through these great chalky thighs (is it just the sun?),
I seem to be born into renewed clarity, re-enkindled courage.
Suddenly I face myself again with seeing eyes and mind and heart,
Ready to ask of life impossible questions,
Ready to deal with impossible answers,
Ready to fight the Fates for impossible love.

I seem once more to be the five-year-old,
Who, sitting full of tears in an ancient oak,
Knew that his grail was the bliss of dreams,
His challenge, to find in light his dreamed companion of the night;
Knew that, though this quest might bring him only to the gates of hell,
He had no other course.

 

Saint Emilion

The vineyards stretch to the horizon
On every side,
The vines in their proud, straight rows
Like cellar racks,
Monuments to many vintages.
This year’s grapes are still sour,
Though darkening and swollen with promise.

Our lives ripen with the ripening fruit.
Under the relentless sun
There is little more to be done
But to wait for the harvest.

Only then, after the froth of fermentation,
When judgment has been pronounced on the first tasting,
Only then shall we begin to know
How well we and nature have conspired.
And if the liquor is found wanting,
No matter; we have tried our all.
Next spring the vines will flower again.


Bazylika Mariacka

This morning when I awoke,
I looked from my attic window
Across unprepossessing roofs
Towards the basilica’s gilded crown,
Thinking perhaps to stay among the chimneys and the pigeons,
To watch for danger from the watchman’s heights,
And nevermore to walk among the arrow-hurling memories
Of the streets below
Except under social duress
In the armour of company.

Breakfast raised my morale, and I descended.
At noon I was an unbeliever within the church’s walls,
Sitting almost alone at the altar of the Assumed Virgin,
Surrounded by ridiculous, glittering, mitred images,
Before a row of small votive candles.
Why I had paid my złote for these flickering wicks I cannot say,
Nor for what hopes they were supposed to stand.
In my childhood the first question would have been easily addressed,
And even yesterday I might have had an answer for the second.
But the world turns.

The via dolorosa which I trod today
Has led me to complexities never suspected,
Complexities which fragment all preconceptions
And unfocus the soul.
In my quiet distress I have become attentive to so much, so many,
That, in truth, all the złotówki in my pocket would not have sufficed
To make the necessary offerings.
I went from the basilica, full of untargeted resolve (grace?),
To a table in the market square,
Where, for precious minutes, I simply sipped coffee.

 

Under the Cherry Trees

We sit under the cherry trees
Finishing the last of the warm wine,
Playing with our melted ice-cream.

A distant roll of thunder briefly stops the chatter,
But soon the talk goes on, languid but determined,
No family tomb, no new birth, no weaning undiscussed.

I fall asleep, dreaming of real conversation,
But am woken by the proffered hand of an early departure,
Return, alas, to life beneath the branches.

Swiftly I drift away again, though -
This time into a meditation on the torments of being in love,
And how on earth to stop them!

I decide that I should (again) lay myself at her feet,
Avow all, offer myself body and soul to her,
And if she (again) refuses me, somehow die to her, put her from my heart.

The cherry trees are unmoved by my emotion
But ruffled by the approaching storm,
Which soon will stain the lawn with sour fruit,
Will litter the universe with my useless thoughts.

 

Reflections in a Downpour

Rain as wild as my sorrow
Empties the streets;
Only the Żywiec parasol protects me –
And from the rain alone.

I find myself saying goodbye to this place,
Whose walls ring my heart,
Whose churches ring to my silent prayers,
Whose clocks ring the chimes of my transitions.

Miracles once happened here.
You held me.
How now can I bear a city of miracles
When the age of miracles is past?

Two weeks ago in a Sosnowiec park
Lightning killed two young lovers embracing under a tree;
As my mind sends you a farewell kiss,
I wish briefly but ardently for a similar fate.

But the Thunderer saves himself a bolt;
The coup de grâce is evidently not to be.
In any case, whether I am dead or breathing still,
Life is no longer on offer to me here.

I return, my face awash,
To the twisting stair and knife of my hotel;
I pass a hooded figure in the street advertising the Museum of Torture,
An attraction which somehow I feel no need to visit.

The Tea of Many Infusions

Our cup contains a tea from shapely hills,
A tea whose fragrance soothes and yet excites,
A tea to firm the flesh and soften wills,
A tea to brighten days and deepen nights.

So many times our shared delight is drained;
So many times we wet the leaves anew.
Is there no end to solace to be gained,
No end to pleasures seeping from this brew?

And if sometimes we lift another’s bowl,
Our need remains as urgent as at first;
Variety of sipping has the role
Of making sharper, louder still our thirst.

All doubting of this tea’s great strength is past;
Each new infusion outperforms the last.


Transfiguration above the Olchon Valley

Just before dawn
My troubled sleep yields to troubled wakefulness;
The water I drink tastes bitter;
And the darkness in me and around me
Becomes too dense to bear.

I dress quickly and leave,
Sweating my way up the lane
To Heaven knows where.

At a fork in the way
I take, as ever, the left-hand path.
My legs ache,
My mouth is dry,
But still I push myself forward and upward
Until my frantic advance is blocked by a closed gate
(Yet another!).

My determination flags
But I refuse to be defeated.
Ignoring the nervous, disapproving sheep,
I pull back the bar and pass beyond,
Blooding my clean shoes in sticky ooze
And finally realizing where my road is taking me.

I am going to the high places,
Carrying the blackness of my soul to Black Hill,
Where night and its creatures rest easy,
Where ancient tenebrous magic will soothe me,
And where even the sharp fingers of daybreak
Will leave me unmolested.

I clamber to the ridge,
Reaching it as the crimson eye of the sun
Peers through the murky curtains of the eastern horizon.
Despite myself I greet it,
Feeling the touch of minds
Of those who once made their tribute
Bedecked in discs of gold.

With the rising of the light
My steps lose their heaviness;
I almost dance from stone to stone
While radiance slowly fills the clouds,
Sending shafts of benediction
To the waking farms below.

When I reach the bluff
The sky is clear;
The heather and I
Are bathed in unobstructed dazzle
And in quickening warmth.

Taking off my jacket,
I sit, comforted by the heat on my face.
I listen to the silence,
Listen to the voice of God,
Who may or may not be out there, in here,
But who quietly brightens my breath,
Refits me for diurnal integration,
And gives me back the sense that all is one.

 

Voyage of the Osprey

I am roused from sleep
By the lightning of your lips
The thunder of my heart
And the pitter-patter of your fingers
On my astonished body.

When the storm is spent I sleep again.
I am on a motionless silver sea under a silver sky,
Following a complex, bright-stranded coast
Aboard an antique, black-hulled barque
Which bears the curlicued name “Osprey”.

No sea-hawk this,
Puttering so slowly through the water
That the bow-wave is mere ripple,
Barely scratching the looking-glass surface
Of the solemn brine.

This is a journey close to Enlightenment,
A haphazard delving into myriad bays and inlets,
But true to a mysterious stillness,
Without curiosity,
Exempt – or almost - from desire.

But desire - thankfully, inevitably - returns.
As the dream ends the boat is beached and empty,
The entire crew absent without leave,
Taking pleasure amidst the poppies and the dill,
Finding their way back to near-perfect calm through near-perfect frenzy.

 

Like a Dragoon

Savours from a silvered spoon;
Movement under a silent moon;
Wantonness and tenderness collide, coalesce,
Ride heavenwards like a dragoon.

 

I see you plain

Night is curtained by rain;
Your image floods my brain.
Though lightning blinds my eyes,
Still I see you plain.

Unrisen

Though day has barely begun,
The web is already spun;
Its threads await the illumining
Of the new, unrisen sun.


Undreamed

On this white, silky bed
I lay an unbelieving head;
And what sleep would give
Must bide undreamed, unheard, unsaid.


Poetry in Marsh’s Library

Verse declaimed amidst mouldering books;
Exchange of smiling, quizzical looks.
Is beauty here? Or truth?
Or are all rhymesters crooks?

 

Evensong

The choir is like a surging tide tonight.
Each cranny of my brain is washed and filled
With sweetness, sadness, fantasy and fright,
With memories of all I ever willed.

The torrent breaks my every wall apart,
Destroys each dyke, each dam, each towering dune;
And I am inundated to the heart,
My flooded realm a mirror to the moon.

Amidst the music, thoughts of you come clear,
Slicing through my shining, deluged mind,
Leaping from the surface they appear
Like flying fish by joy alone defined.

The singing ends but still I am a sea,
Where your bright creatures play, delight, make free


Failing

Night finds me
Flailing at all my perceiving organs,
Fighting to see beyond your beauty,
Failing.


Man Apart

Into the courtyard fitful sunlight falls in shards;
Parades of tourists solemnly pace around its beauty;
A man apart sips water under a tree.

Despite an all-surrounding air of things unfathomed,
There is no secret to be revealed here,
No mystery to penetrate for the salvation of the day.

Under the grudging sun and the teasing cloud
The tracery of love and hope and disappointment is clear on every face
As it always has been, always will be.

The crowds depart through the exquisite closing gate;
The man apart knows no more and nothing more fully;
And no amount of water can slake the dryness of his heart.

 

New Light

Dawn imposes itself everywhere
From the greyly lit horizon
To my tense, stirring innards.

I awake to prospects of pain
Which I can scarcely encompass,
As the butchery of love’s loss shreds my intestines.

Such ministrations I had thought long banished
From my open mind and life,
But the walls close grimly in again

And the torturer re-sharpens the knife.

 

To the Night

Good Mother Night,
Roll me up in your darkness;
Swathe me safe, unseen;
Suckle me on the trickling milk of stars;
Till I drift into forgetful, foolish dreams
Of love’s perfect flowering in the brightest of days.


Ever Wakeful

My lace-wing life is ever wakeful in me;
I have no rest from its tiny feverish flutterings.

Is it learning to fly?

Or waving goodbye?

 

Alchemy

My early childhood years were full of power;
The elements were at my beck and whim.
I summoned earth and fire to warm the hour;
From air and water framed a heathen hymn.

And now, when I am old, I try anew
To call upon the child’s world-shifting skill;
A restive, hurting soul I must endue
With deep discernment, steadiness of will.

I raise no shining staff, incant no spell,
But I am charged with changing energy;
The soreness of our love shall be made well,
And it shall be what it was meant to be.

To see the signs and cherish what we read
Is really all the alchemy we need.


Reluctant Prophet

I have always seemed to myself
A man entirely of the earth,
Closed as closed could be to sensing beyond the senses.

Suddenly I am full of knowing dreams,
Counsel without provenance
And difficult intuitions.

My news from heaven
Is that I shall pass from purgatory to hell
In quest of you;

That if, and only if, I win you to me,
I shall live completely,
Die complete.


On Freedom

There are times when the flux of life
Has the quality of lava,
Melting, reshaping every familiar feature,
As its red fire runs from height to depth.

What landscape will emerge,
What accessibilities, inaccessibilities,
What cultivability,
After the ash settles and the rock cools,
Lies nowhere in our power.

Our only freedom
Abides in choosing, or not choosing,
To open ourselves to the changed terrain,
To search for paths and passes amid the alien crags,
To grow what vines we can, where we can,
And to taste the new wine without regretting the old.

 

Companion

If I were of a settled disposition,
Content with the settled daily round
Of little worries, little pleasures,
What, how much, my lioness, would I ever have to offer
To your travelling spirit,
Your vast, leonine heart,
Your unvanquishable wantonness?

You see in me confusion, weakness, love of self.
All present; you know me through and through.
But what of that great blaze of hope and courage,
My love of you?

If I were of a settled disposition,
My predictable worries, predictable pleasures
Would never touch you,
Huntress of the wide horizons.
In my unquiet manysidedness
I am more companionable to you, body and soul,
Than any prideful claimant to the state of being whole.

To your watchful eyes I am the kaleidoscope of sunset;
To your tearing teeth, a full array of prey;
To your fiery loins, ten thousand ways of wooing;
To your inner needs, new (attempts at) answers every day.

 

Jealousy

High in this storm-whipped pine
I long to shutter my stinging, too far-seeing eyes.
But cannot;
Ache to loose my grip on thrashing, wrenching limbs,
But cannot;
Struggle to find a foothold
Where nausea and cataclysmic descent do not constantly threaten,
But cannot.

 

Curtained Window

We glimpse the future
As movements in a candlelit room
Viewed through a curtained window
From a darkened street.

Something is afoot, that’s clear.
Monstrous, flickering shadows are everywhere,
But whose or what’s and whither bent
Escape all interpretation

Save that of hope or fear
Or love of the second-seeing kind.

 

Again at War

As I lay beside you last night
A torrent of quietude entered me.
I knew the completest of deliverance,
The stillness of the buddhas.

But, as we now arise in the sadness of unrisen day,
Other torrents return to play;
Mindfulness delivers a broken, rousing roar;
The marches of the psyche are again at war.

 

Train dansant

The trees in their autumn wetness
Waltz and foxtrot past our window to the roar of wheels.
You sit listening to rhythms from other sources,
Your head and shoulders astir in tempoed sinuosity.
And I in my chaotic mind
Tango clumsily round axonal tangles
Till journey’s end.

 

The Lakes

University of Warwick, November 2004

Though the vaults of sky are immaculately blue,
The trees calm and gleaming in their nakedness,
The watchful geese as silent as the mere,

My mind refuses to be still,
Refuses to be clear,
Is spell-bound by the roaring swirl of all-polluting fear.


At One

In this holy land
Each light of the world contends with each other light,
Ignoring, or so it sometimes seems, the darkness;
Each pattern of life competes with each other pattern,
Ignoring, or so it sometimes seems, life’s chaos;
Each eloquent tongue wrestles with each other tongue,
Ignoring, or so it sometimes seems, incomprehension.

For us there is no confusion amidst this confusion.

Our minds are at one in the seeking of each other’s treasure;
Our hearts are at one in the heat of friendship’s endless measure;
And our bodies are at one in exquisite focus on the giving and the taking of pleasure.

 

Meditation and Revelation in Gardner Street Church

As I entered the church in Gardner Street,
My head was full of Byzantium,
Where Roman pride spoke Greek,
Where icons were successively venerated and obliterated,
And where emperors kissed then dismissed patriarchs
Under Hagia Sophia’s celestial dome.

This was no dome above me,
But a high, flat chequered ceiling -
A chessboard;
It was ideal terrain, all the same,
For thoughts of kissing and dismissing.

As I fixed my gaze on high
I pondered on kissing moves in my own game -
Not between king and bishop,
But between king and queen, queen and king -
And on the likelihood of the checkmate of dismissal;
Pondered and was very afraid.

At once I heard a voice from deep within the dreaming,
Deep within the fear.
It told me simply to go to you,
Told me this with the authority of angels.
So, without even the gratitude of a genuflection,
I gathered round me my rags of courage,
Left my seat, left the church,
Came to you, full of care.

Your kiss, alive with welcome,
Dismissed me not.

 

Looking for the Moon

At take-off I was dozing,
My mind hazily painting me pictures
Of heaped cloud illumined from above
By a three-quarter moon,
Hazily telling me tales
Of Enlightenment born of the beauty of such illumining.

Snapped awake by a rattling drinks trolley,
I peered hopefully out of the window,
But saw no cloud, no moon,
Only a sprinkling of streetlamps far below.

No prompting, then, to cast off linear thought,
Except from the chaotic constellation of the terrestrial lanterns
And from your unintelligible smile
As you intercepted my searching eyes.


Sea in the Street

My first home was five minutes from the shore.
Twice in my childhood
The sea under darkness slithered up my street
Filling it with the splashing sounds of nervous neighbours.

In the morning it had gone.
Everywhere we perceived its leavings:
Sand, shells, stones,
A spectrum of mysterious jetsam
And a ripe, sharp smell

But no devastated lives, no devastating deaths.


Balatonalmádi

Since I was last in the company of these swans
Five long years have caused their affray,
Disassembling my former life in all but every way.

On this lakeshore - where so much change began - I seem to find stasis.
Woodpeckers still hammer away unseen on high;
Thunderclounds still move their menace through the virgin-blue sky;
Wine-jugs still pass from hand to hand;
And the songs that I offer to the evening air
Have been roused from the same old perennial lair.

As memories surge like pins and needles through my mind
My eyes stray to the weeping willows, but stay dry.
Has the Balaton heat stoppered my tear-ducts; or have I?

 

Solomon in the Wilderness

A ragged palm-tree
Is my parasol.

A warm, yellow slab of unfamiliar rock
Is my judgment-throne.

A sun-struck song-bird beyond my acquaintance
Ecstatically intones the question.

My heart untaught in my body untamed
Beats out an unintelligible response.

 

Dubrovnik Rapture

Beneath my feet the stradun gleams
Like a still sea under a harvest moon;
Stone rises perfectly around me in the raiment of dreams.

Over the polished paving I meditatively glide
Towards laughter under the simple arches of an ancient palace,
Where, amidst familiars, my complexities can hide.

As the night deepens, I leave, leave completely, exquisitely alone,
Inebriation seconding contemplation in the warm obscurity,
Re-igniting every inner light that I have ever known.


Dream of the White Plinth

We lie tight together in this crumbling lair
As right for each other as two lines in a prayer.
Our closeness puts paid to the dark of the night,
And our dreams launch our minds' soft embrace into flight ...

To a vast sculpted structure open to the sky
In silence as sweet as an infant's first cry,
Where terrors to come and pain echoing still
Are ground to fine nothing in the moment's sharp mill.

We let the mood take us, let thought drain away,
Let love lead us on in a new, quiet way;
So, stretched on a white marble plinth made for two,
We just watch the old stars being endlessly new.


The Buddhas of Longmen

Can the torments of the turning wheel
Be stopped
For the price of a hollowing and hallowing of rock,
A carving of compassion into the cliff's white wall?

How would Gautama have responded to these images?
With disbelief? Passionless disdain?
A joke?
"The pious chisel has no point ..."

Still, looking into these eyes,
I was, for more than a moment,
Quite ready for the Eightfold Path,
Abjuring all desire - except to steal a second glance.

 

Despite Philosophy

As another solitary Sunday slips away,
I sip and savour wine and thoughts as dark as the darkening sky.

I think of strength and am led to view my every weakness.
I think of freedom and know myself to be enslaved.

I call up song, but, light though it be in the verse,
It is heavy, ever heavier in each following refrain.

Another glass of wine will not rescue me, nor sleep.
Even oblivion is not entirely oblivious!

And so I walk on in what is now night,
Hoping, despite philosophy, in you.

 


A Summer Evening Alone in the Rubrics

The day quietens and the skies clear.
From my high window
I watch the late sun light trees I cannot name
And buildings I can.

My solitude is palliated by the quarrels of sparrows
And the faint evensong of American pilgrims in the far Pavilion Bar,
But mostly by the presence of many absences,
Favoured pulses in my circuitry.

Our every love – unbalanced, undervalued, or unfulfilled – falls short:
Son-father, brother-sister, friend-friend, lover-lover … no exceptions;
Yet, somehow, this evening at least,
The disappointments and the squanderings fail to mark.

If it were not so, my unbodied guests would be putting me to the question,
Restlessly sifting evidence.
Instead, I sit surrounded by what was, is, unrequited, uncompleted in my life,
Most wondrously at peace amidst it all.

 

Dancing in Antalya

Each movement moves us closer.
In the circle we run rings together;
In the line we are drawn into an even tighter geometry.

We constellate under the stars,
Concatenated by the patterned chains of steps,
Concelebrating as our synchronized limbs keep the feast.

When the music stops, the dance dies,
But, in the graveyard watches of the night,
Rises again, its afterlife assured.

 

The Tower

The dream is of Dublin …
Or is it?
Some buildings I almost know,
But the streetscape is indecipherable.

I am lost,
Trying to find my people and my home
In the company of an emeritus professor of history -
So ancient and frail he needs my steadying arm -
Whose polished commentaries on the pedigree of our route
Fail to take us any closer to our goal.

I sense that beneath the concrete and the asphalt
My near kin lie in unmarked graves
Which, search though I might,
Are beyond discovery.

I seem irremediably disconnected from my unfindable dead
And from every alley, every avenue we follow.

At length, a mighty watchtower looms above us,
Baroque and beautiful.
I know that I must clamber to its heights,
Survey the city from its antique platform,
Or condemn myself forever
To discerning nothing in my wanderings
But monuments to my confusion.

 

The Vistula at Toruń

The river here is as broad as my philosophy,
Under the autumn sky a flowing lake of far-travelling gold.

I am far, far downstream of you in this time and place,
And yet the silken rope that moors us each to each,
Miraculously holds.

When I rest against the parapet
To close my weary eyes,
You are instantly before me,
Your face against mine.

Amidst so much water under the bridge,
Amidst such an expanse, a confusion, a matted history
Of glistering dreams,
How can a single vision so determinedly engage the inner eye?

As darkness falls and I rush for a barely catchable train,
My heart's blood answers the river's restless whispers,
And still the mooring holds.


Daybreak

At five I am awake and under way,
My body singing like the sun-struck birds,
Imagining a life shaped like today,
An end to grey defeat and joyless words.

I amble to the lake-shore, close my eyes.
Relive in sharp recall the midnight hour,
Embrace you, touch you, hear your tiny sighs,
Submit with scarce a struggle to your power.

I wander now where shabby buildings loom,
Enrobing them in passion’s cloth of gold;
My gaze goes high, seeks out your curtained room;
My mind invents wild stories, never told.

This newness builds a keep, where peril waits,
But heedless, headlong, glad, I hasten to its gates.

 

Copernicus

Trembling trees give back the morning sun,
A lullaby for my tired eyes.
I surrender for a dream-crowded moment,
Awaking to the ache of my mischievous mathematics
And a nostalgia for simplicity.

 

Invitation to a Journey

Join me in the quiet, leafy grace
Of that spacious, sunlit square;
Ever since I saw and loved you
I have somehow waited for you there.

Let us simply walk together
Under the chestnuts' roseate blaze,
Treading the stones in mysterious oneness,
Travelling far in each other's gaze
.


Life in the raw – from Wexford Bridge


The sun goes insolently down;
Faint music titillates the town;
Beneath the tide's high-rippling penetration
The river’s outruns delicately drown.

 

Carrowmore

 

The scattered tombs of Carrowmore greet me in empty stasis;
On Knocknarea, the dust of dead Maeve lies unstirred in her high, deep mound;
But in my own dark cairn the shining movements of a remembered smile
Burn life and a path back into me, like a holy pillar of fire.

 

Inscrutable Secretion

On a speeding train I read about what I thought familiar;

But my ignorance pounces on me at every turn of the page.
I am made restless and am yet at peace.

I meditate on all that is not
In a tunnel of haloed clouds
Viewed through a smeared window.

My manifold musing is suddenly a conduit,
Trickling what feels like warm resin
Into the spreading cracks between my thoughts.

Is this flow significant? A balm of new cohesion?
The flammable foundation of some moral conflagration?
Or a fragrant overbrimming of uncontainable love?

 

Vilarnadal

September 2009

The dark Pyrenees are always with us,
Complexifying and beautifying the horizon,
Our autumn garden’s monumental wall.

In the warm afternoon fruit ripens, over-ripens everywhere.
Figs fall at our feet;
Pomegranates loll shamelessly open on the branch;
Sweet grapes, barely covered by flame-red leaves,
Offer themselves to our fingers and our lips.

When night descends we are caught unawares by stillness,
Which forces us to reverie, contemplation, mystical states.
Listening to the deep voice of this silence,
We hear everything necessary.
Nothing.

At dawn, as cocks are crowing,
We fill a jug from the fountain’s imperturbable flowing,
Take comfort from the abundance of our unknowing,

Which the stately mountains solemnly share.

 

Into Winter

Summer’s end – even in Ireland – is hard to bear.
Outside my window, in the comfortless October sunshine,
They are still playing croquet;
This morning I collided with a tall, young man
Striding through the autumn chill in bright Bermuda shorts.

For me, though, no regrets.
This fast-closing winter will be a sanctuary.
The still eye of its rowdy storms will be my anchorage;
Its silent, savage frosts, my book of hours.

I shall walk in meditation through dark, snowy streets,
Savour the fragrance of turf fires, which cense the night,
Observe everlasting rituals in the shelter of forgotten, cavernous cafés,
Contentedly accepting from every encounter, every steaming breath,
A shivering consciousness of ignorance and its boundless possibilities.

 

Speranza Lasciata

I have slept too much since you left, mia piccola,
Dreaming of you on a terrace, my late-morning caffè latte gone stone-cold,
Slumped after lunch in a fragrant old church pew, distressed but unawake,
Low of spirit in the the città alta, sad in the afternoon sun aslumber.

Sooner than I think or wish, the night will bring another sleep, 
Not under starlight and dewdrops, but in some dark, dessicated place, 
Where my foolish lusts and melancholy loves will urge Dante on each other,

                          Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate,

And where, with them, I too shall die to hope, die to you, die to everything.

 

Solstice 
  
The December morning shines and shivers in me. 
I am radiant with icy uncertainty. 
  
At noon I escape to dark wine and meaty pasta.
Stilly, intently, I savour the steady warmth of my companions
Like a child silently encountering Christmas comforts,
Not knowing how to voice completeness
  
Alone again in a lucid dusk,
I coldly re-contemplate passion’s agnosia
Under the pallid moon and wan stars of heaven. 

 

 Distractions from the St Matthew Passion

St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, March 2010

Fairy-lights twinkle around the Virgin’s head,
Serenaded by three choirs: … dieses fromme Weib;
And I sit attentive in remembrance to every word you ever said
Goaded to contemplation by their every stripe.

Saints in their glittering niches move not a finger, not an eye
Amidst this Lutheran song: Mein Hirte nimm mich an!
Tides of tenderness, ever flowing for you as the years go by,
Pool deep, finding what basins of the heart they can.

Sculpted ceiling, ornamented altars, columnated nooks
Echo the simple croon of death: Ruhe sanfte, sanfte ruh;
In my mind I wonder at your shining, spearing panoply of looks;
Yet am as azure in serenity as the tiny, fresh-faced choristers robed in blue.

 

Lessons from the Cold

Night comes later day by day, and night by night the day is ever closer.
This winter, of which I hoped so much, is ending in a bright whimper of crocuses,
Leaving me still hungry for its dark joys, dark wisdom.

I have learned nothing from my restless hibernation except…
That hope unsustained sustains itself;
That, heaven or hell, desire has an afterlife;
Unexplained re-burgeonings of love require no explanation.

 

After Precipitation

 

It has rained in the night.
Every leaf in this city today is two degrees greener;
Every passion, two degrees cooler ...
Except the thirsty heat that has made its home in me,
Which is not slaked by shower
Nor doused by downpour.
Impermeably sheltered from every storm but you,
It resists all lightning but your lips,
All thunder but your heart,
All flooding waters but your sudden turns of tide.
To these it uncovers itself,
Flaming, magnesium-like, at their approach,
Hotter, thirstier than ever.

 

 

Dom

Each morning when I leave our love-lair in Franje Račkoga,
I lift my eyes to heaven - first to the curtained room where you are still sleeping,
And then to the gracile steeples of the cathedral.

Our common tongue is mine, German.
If I  try to meet you halfway in faltering Polish, mostly you smile my efforts away .  kindly.
Your German is, of course, impeccable, entirely free of my Viennese flourishes.

Though neither of us speaks much Croatian, that place in Franje Račkoga is always naš dom, "our home"-
Not too far from the Polish, admittedly, but Dom in German means "cathedral";
Still, there are cathedrals and cathedrals.

I like to think of our home as a cathedral honouring tender concupiscence,
Under the auspices of some ancient Slav goddess who smiles on impossible passions,
And whose liturgy is the mutual reverencing of bodies, the mutual transfusion of hearts.

The other cathedral, under whose towers we lie together,
Is dedicated to the Assumption.
I assume nothing, except that our dalliance will and will not end.

The demands of my imperial masters and of your imperious restlessness
Will surely part us before we are much older,
Will put me, perhaps, in a soldier's grave.

Yet I can never abandon the hope of you, down years, down lives;
Never have, since our souls first slipped from the world's womb,
Recognizing the nature of my quest only when I find you, and lose you yet again.

Each morning when I wander along coffee-fragrant Juriščeva.
My breast is alive with the thunder born of exquisitely remembered pleasures,
Born of the fear and certainty I have of losing you repeatedly and eternally

No matter how many homes, domes and hidden nooks we share.

 

Vivamus,  mea Lesbia, atque amemus

                   After Catullus

Let us live, my Lesbia, and love,
And let us value the mutterings of harsh old men
At no more than a solitary penny.
Suns set and can rise again,
But we, when once our brief light dims,
Must sleep one unchanging, everlasting night.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a  hundred.
Then a second thousand, then a second hundred
Then keep going for a thousand more, then a hundred more,
And then, when we have done a multitude of thousands,
We shall mix them all up together so that we lose count,
And so that no evil eye can envy us,
Knowing the great number of our kisses.

 

Deus Absconditus
 
After too much wine, too much remembering,
I wandered into the Dominican basilica,
Where the lunchtime mass was ending.
 

I stood at the back, amidst uneasy young couples,
Who, as the Benedicat faded,
Clutched and touched each other,
Guiltily opening themselves to echoes of the night's embraces.
 
The congregation drifted out into the sunshine,
But I stayed, observing the remnants:
Grey nuns;
Soft-smiling parents of troubled children; 
Newly-weds, devout and at one in their awe of matrimony; 
Fresh-faced priests quietly pleasured by their immaculate albs;
An old man with a crutch kneeling, praying on the stone of the aisle.
 
To the accompaniment of the organist's flourishes from Bach
I cast my eyes around the comic-book baroque and the complacent neo-gothic,
Thinking: this is all a terrrible, terrible mistake!
 
I wept warm tears - the wine no doubt;
But if God had not already long left the building,
He'd have done the same.


 
Roof of the World

When I was four years old I found a way to the roof of my world.

On a quiet, lonely afternoon I squeezed and slithered under South Road School gates,
And climbed a fire-escape to the secret enclosure
Where I sometimes played odds-on kiss-chase with Christine and Angela.
There my eyes lit on a drainpipe to the summit, to the circumflexed cap
Of this elegant, dour academy for little boys and girls.

With only a heartbeat’s  hesitation I gripped tight and clambered fast to the gutter.
Then, hidden in the valleys of this high place, I wandered and meditated,
Finally ascending the red tiles to their apex,
Over which I gingerly peered at the entire streetscape of my known universe,

To rejoice briefly in my conquest before going breathlessly home to tea.

 

Entering the Night

It was just before my seventeenth birthday that she betrayed me,
Snogging with some lanky rugby player after the school play;
He revealed all, bragging in the dining hall next day,
As I unobtrusively imploded, silently bending a spoon in half
Before leaving the building for my night of the soul.

Thirteen hours later I lay on the rack of my bed,
Tortured by the taste of tainted kisses, the sting of worthless declarations,
Until, not knowing what I intended, I struggled to my feet,
Pulled a storm of clothes over my pyjamas and tiptoed down the stairs
Through the front door, into night.

I carefully made my way towards her house via pitch-black, narrow lanes,
Flattening myself against walls to avoid the policeman’s torch,
Choosing the very obscurest, shabbiest, most desolate alleys
To match the wasteland within me,
Making friends, becoming one with this bitter night

I climbed on to the ledge above the big bay-window to be near her room;
Some half-formed fantasy had painted an image of us speaking tender truths to each other;
But she heard me, saw my shadow on her curtain, and screamed,
Sending me, panic-stricken and ashamed, leaping into tenebrous uncertainty,
Scurrying away like a thief in the night.

In the  morning I made an appointment with her family, apologized, abased myself; she just smiled.
Her father spoke gentle words to me, forgave my fire, seemed almost to admire it.
She and I parted, and I suffered, though somewhere in me something smiled too.
I, the inoffensive, blameless boy, had entered the skin of a nocturnal marauder,
Could now frequent in convivial fellowship the creatures of the night.

 

 

SELECTED POEMS: November 2013-

 

Foreword

(from October 21, 1974)

 

The question,

which entered me like an arrow,

points through my heart

like an answer.

 

 


To Freedom

  

You have bound me around with your enchantments

Till I can scarcely breathe;

And all the constrictions – the fear, the devotion, the need... -

Feel  like keys to freedom.

 

Out of the Desert?


This change in me is sudden as a sandstorm,

And just as uncertain as to cause.

Suddenly, I am blinded by your beauty,

Which I had seen before,

Plunged into deep, astonished silence by your talk,

Which I had heard before.

 

Perhaps this mysterious storm marks journey’s end,

Surcease of desert wandering,

A last, bewildering, throat-stinging flurry

Before my thirst is finally, blessedly slaked.

 

Lost to the Light

I emerged from class,
Tired and snuffling,
Into the full blaze of the autumn morning sun,
Which took away my vision of the world,
Reducing it to a collection of vague dark shapes,
As my eyes, my mind, filled with brilliance.

There has risen before me
A shining impossible to circumvent,
In whose aura all percepts lose significance.

I am lost to the light.

 

Change


I walk the quiet streets with quiet thoughts;

So many silent strangenesses to face.

No circumstances ever yet have brought

My days to such a solemn-joyful place.

 

I circulate with fire in every limb;

With half-closed eyes I see all things anew;

And in my breast vibrates a soft, sweet hymn,

For there I bear the sacrament of you.

 

The emanations of that troubling site

Command devout attention, fierce desire;

They warm the blood all day, all dream-filled night;

They reconstruct my inner world entire.

 

I cannot stop these changes changing me;

Their source is you; I gladly let them be

 

 

 Concert

 

The night is still and opaque,

Freezing mist deepening the darkness;

No scintilla of a guiding star,

No hint of a horizon.

 

In the concert-hall all is astir;

The finding of seats, the tuning of instruments;

No echo of a reference point,

No fixing signal anywhere.

 

The orchestra is of mixed talent;

Its sounds do not immediately seduce;

Yet its struggled-for, hard-won harmonies point a way,

A way to love in this unchartable confusion.

 

We have no option but to live our desire

With a focus sharp enough to fend the tangle;

No half-tempered convention but a hammered sword,

No lukewarm half-answer but a piercing flame.

 

 

  

Not Grey

 

This journey has given me much grey,

From rain-swept granite to curtains dressed in dawn;

From solitude that drained my days

To self-blaming moments, when every kind of light went out.

 

Yet, whatever happens in our lives to be,

Grey is not this story.

 

It has often the roseate warmth of laughter;

When sad, it does not wear the grizzle of despair

But the yellow of longing unfulfilled,

The bright green of hope in waiting.

 

Our most unclad truths have no colour;

They glister with the shine of angels.

 

 

We lie together

 

We lie together, just as long we said,

Like children in a deep and puzzling wood;

Our closeness in the soft world of this bed

Awakens every nerve to feel the good.

 

My arms surround your beauty, as a cloud

Surrounds a mountain-top with its embrace;

My wanton murmur is barely aloud,

My touch as substanceless as threadbare lace.

 

And yet you feel the mantle of my love

Enclose you in a drifting, waking dream;

Feel it as the hand the warming glove,

Feel it in your every joint and seam.

 

We lie in comfort, in a state of grace;

Encompassing gentleness lights your face.

 

 

Wakeful

 

Shocked into sharp alertness by your distress,

I have abandoned all thought, lost all need, of sleep,

And keep a troubled watch through this troubling night,

In hope of finding your spirit healed at, by, its termination.

 

 

Triumphus manuum


Our fingers seek the other’s fingers

Like vine tendrils seeking something to entwine.

We hold softly then firmly to what we find.

Intent on finding more.

 

Our palms stroke each other’s face

Gently as a June breeze, but top to bottom,

Determinedly downward;

What is reached for is down and deep.

 

Caressing manipulations ignore all abstract meaning,

Focus instead on the neck, the shoulders, the breasts;

Which crave to be touched and fondled,

To be handled with loving care.

 

When we enter upon the adventure of joining,

Giving, receiving sheer sweetness and light,

At the moment of high delectation

Together our hands clasp the glory entire.

 

 

The Happiest Man

 

You are at the buffet seeking health-enhancing mysteries;

I sit here sipping coffee, staring at my scrambled eggs,

Wreathed in smiles.

 

To my left I see a Frenchman frowning and grumbling into his phone,

Disapproving of his croissant, and, from his glance, of me,

Wreathed in smiles as I am.

 

To my right I see a cluster of young sportsmen, Adidas-clad;

Determined laughter issues from their faces, which are not

Wreathed in smiles as I am.

 

The breakfast-room seems awash with mirthless male visages,

Struggling with their mirthless morning, longing to be

Wreathed in smiles as I am.

 

When you return with yogurt and fruit your eyes kiss mine,

Then sweep the scene amusedly, till soon they are

Wreathed in smiles as I am.

 

 

Uetliberg

 

Our steps through the shading trees to the sunny summit

Had somehow spread a sweet, salvific salve

Over every little soreness in our souls,

 

And our savouring of an almost ceremonious lunch

Had effaced all sense of insufficiency in our lives,

So that our shared, shaded descent was serene.

 

We sat together snug as sardines in the train back to the city,

Which, as it picked its way smoothly, sedately down the hill,

Lulled us, entwined, into a silent, smiling, restorative sleep,

 

Abolishing all traces of our white night of sadness, rescuing peace.

 

 

 Clear vision

 

This vision in the crook of my arm

Is you in all your golden splendour.

You have come here, alive with every charm,

To abandon yourself to my complete surrender …

 

Which, with a smile, I gladly tender!

 

 

Te Deum

 

The autumn here is not as in the islands,

Where winter is upon you before summer is ready to leave.

Here days of warm sunshine surprise with joy

Even when the Christmas stars are in the shops.

 

I chuckle at my perfect day, at my perfect mood.

Shadowy moments seem brief, bright ones long;

Almost every heartbeat echoes new contentments,

New hopes - in a soul which had forgotten hope.

 

Night will come, alas, bringing its insidious gloom,

Its sapping of joy, its cold cloak spun of every feared doom,

But I can resist with a hot fire of knowledge – carnal, spiritual –

With flaming candles in multitudes formed of loving trust not ritual

 

In the end the test and the truth are your presence;

I simply cannot look upon you and fail to smile in sparkling glee,

Which all eyes see, and some eyes note, a Te Deum,

Which my eyes feel, and my inner world choruses to the skies.

 

 

Perfect weekend

 

The snow is pretty on the dark boughs

As I tread softly towards your door,

Thinking about perfection.

 

I have no truck with aspirations to flawlessness,

Or staking shaky claims to moral high ground,

Or living life so wanly it seems like death.

 

The perfection I will tell you of dwells in meaningful smiles,

In infinite bundles of slow, tongue-filled kisses,

In pure and simple, shared, sharp, pleasures.

 

Let us live as perfect beings perfectly alive in perfect love,

Giving each other only fond, foolish, fondling moments,

Never, when there is a stumble, marking the hurt.

 

 

No Limits

 

Each day, I pass another frontier,

On a cavalcade which takes me through all gates,

Over every bulwark, around each encircling rampart.

 

The border lines do not disappear,

Nor the crenellated complexity of their manifestations,

But, though they mark edges, they are always crossable, crossed.

 

The urge to open a road beyond

Is rooted in each movement of my loving quest,

Impatient to lay claim to a realm of joy unbounded. 

 

 

Lion-love

 

It was, though supposedly a summer afternoon,

Very much like this March day, grey, cold and showery,

And we were taking my grandchildren round the zoo.

 

I have never been fond of zoos; I have always felt

The animals’ obvious restless boredom as accusation, reproach,

Their indifference as bitter longing to be anywhere but here.

 

Suddenly the lions were before us, but I was suddenly alone.

No one else in our group, in the entire laughing, bustling throng,

Seemed to attend to the leonine love-scene being enacted.

 

The male, bounding up to his mate, lion-kissed her with licks

Which stretched from her chin to her forehead, over all her face;

She, charmed, lay down, showed him the softness of her belly.

 

This was a moment of high romance, breathtakingly frank;

Somehow in the drab confinement of a Victorian animal display

These proud creatures had found passion, fallen for each other.

 

I thought of us two in the confinement of our separation,

Sharing companionship, fondness, desire, adoration, addiction,

Though every indication is contra, every circumstance hostile.

 

We roar by times from the sharp sores of physical apartness,

But more often out of the triumph of deepening delights together.

We are one with the lions, loving fiercely whatever the auguries.

 

 

 

Lamb’s Lettuce

 

The sweet, bright leaves reflect our bright, sweet day;

The lamb’s lettuce you hold holds a looking-glass to life,

A crystal mirror to a clear present and a clear tomorrow,

Its deep green tongues pointing to a shared journey far within.

 

 

We Kiss

 

We kiss in a miasma of chaotic desire,

Shot through with images from every fantasy,

Every carnal pleasure,

We have ever enjoyed together

Or apart.

 

We are one in a frenzy of thought-borne lust

That cries out for embodiment,

For a probing by hard edges of soft inlets,

More and more,

A full gathering of wanton resources.

 

We seek each other’s flesh,

Stripping away clothes like yesterdays,

Handling breasts and belly and thighs,

As if they were the promise of tomorrow,

Tonight.

 

My greedy grip is ubiquitous,

Dancing fluently over your naked body,

Lingering where the flesh subtly swells,

In dark crannies which leak and move

At its approach.

 

Gone, as I unleash tumescence,

Are all my silly sadnesses,

Sucked away by your smiles,

Which apply moist lips most intently

To drawing magic from my wand.

 

I move to taste your deepest depths,

To perform climactic tunes on you down there

With the restless blade of a never-resting tongue,

To let and listen to them play

In your vocal folds’ wild vibrations.

 

Ready now we are to launch ourselves at coitus,

You to feel me, treasure me, in secret places,

Me to give my searching what is dearly sought.

Within you I am whole, wholly yours,

As you, when I flood you, are wholly mine.

 

 

Melody


I am in silence;

But melody takes flight from

My mindful tongue touch.

 

 

Enthroned


Queenly in movement.

You sway breathless, high enthroned,

Scissoring my loins.

 

 

Pleasure-blush


Hiding in your mouth,

My shy membrum virile

Blushes with pleasure!

 

 

Moving Picture

 

We sit in sun and shadow watching carp,

Discovering that time is on our side;

The rush of minutes, often razor-sharp,

Seems changed into a soft, revealing ride.

 

We dawdle up a breezy, charmless street

In quest of food, of comfort and of drink,

Where suddenly we find a graced retreat,

And all our hungers pull back from the brink.

 

At dark we fill a college single bed

With life that it has never known before;

Anxieties that pierced my gut and head

Have sheathed their blades, rush vanquished for the door.

 

The day has made us whole in quiet ways;

But night has lit a fearless, wanton blaze.

 

 

In Profundis


Ringed by budding rose,

I am speechless with tense bliss;

Deeper I cannot.

 

 

No Return

 

You enter my bed like an angel,

Folding your wings;

Your eyes are doves,

Gentle in my gaze.

 

I take you to my arms.

'How many kisses' you ask?

As many as stars on a still night;

As many as our heartbeats!

 

Sweet passion binds us

And frees us to follow its prompting;

As long as there is life to live

There will be love between us.

 

We are salamanders at ease in this fire,

Our hearts feeding off their own burning,

Till the light of this combustion

Illumines every sensual step of our way.

 

Immersed in each other’s hair,

We set a route to take us far

Into the deeps of no return,

Happy to go there.

 

 

Golden Autumn


Trees as I had never seen them:

Silver birches transmuted into gilded fans,

Weeping willows laughing showers of aureate tears,

Straight-living poplars coiffed like glamorous blondes.

 

We passed admiring but calm among these glistering wonders,

Knowing where, within, the true gold gleamed and glowed.

 

A Dream of Pockets

 

Sometimes before a journey into absence

You will fancifully offer to put me in your pocket!

To grant me companionship of the road,

A sharing of tight, congenial space …

But my perception of this homely image

Does not rest in the peace of comfort.

 

I am drawn into blood-stirring fantasms,

Into fondly wicked images of your sweet flesh,

Whose enchantment holds and enfolds my wanton heart,

Summons my distending, hardening fibres

To present themselves - at rigid attention -

Before the moistly fragrant hollows.

 

This proud tumescence moves from niche to niche,

Excitedly pleasuring the warm halo that surrounds it,

The generous, streaming give and the firm, irresistible take,

Till frenzied, crowning quakes shake your fair body

And a glorious splash of pearls falls and trickles everywhere.

Then in my daydream the next pocket opens … and is filled …

 

 

White morning

 

In this alb of snow

Ill-starred percepts of the night

Yield to rich, wise light.


 

By Winter Light

 

Your head, bowed by the window,

Haloed by winter light, cannot be looked away from.

My eyes, drawn to its solemn, spirited gold,

Are compelled to revel in this and everything.

 

My breath, slowed by contemplation of your posture,

Takes tiny parcels of air, honeyed, calm.

No other sweetness is required than the dainty portion

Which now hovers in my mouth and lungs.

 

Then desire drapes itself stickily over me,

As your singing body silently moves me;

My veins pulse with loving want of your loving want;

The whole of me foretastes our surge to come.

 

 

Our Love Candescent

 

My message of distress has brought you here;

You lie with open arms within my bed,

Bestilling noise from every nagging fear,

Expelling hope-scarce patterns from my head.

 

The tale you tell is golden, comfort-strong,

Astonishing and stretching up with mirth

It tells our truth, corrects each leeching wrong,

Preparing for glad plenty after dearth.

 

And when that plenty comes, it comes alight

With the fulfilment in your radiant face,

Ablaze with illuminings of the night

Which fill the entirety of our space.

 

No darkness now survives our twining hands,

Our love is candescent in all its strands…

 

 

Hellespont

 

I have crawled across this Hellespont

Awake in all my senses as the miles slip by,

Aching to touch your smooth hand, your warm lips.

 

The distance will be forgotten when I climb your tower,

Approach your guiding light, which burns as I burn for us,

As you burn for us, as every star in heaven burns for us.

 

We shall not even think of sea when you lick salt from me,

When I cover your body with salty kisses, seek out your salty places;

When every motion between us resolves itself in salinity.

 

These moist assignations, wild priestess, bring smiling immersion in grace…


 

All Roads


This street is straight enough to have been Roman once,

So different from the twists and turns I rode high up,

But the same in its taking me away from you.

Sometimes all roads seem to lead to aloneness…

 

Thank God, this seeming is just that.

Even when distance and the moment offer little comfort

Our path finds its way out of farness, far into closeness,

As we tell our bright, true tales of our bright, true love.

 

When night falls we listen to each other over the miles

Take refreshment from smiles and loose laughter,

Crest butterfly heights, probe deep, urgent darknesses,

Ending every road in a lucid, languid tangle of intimacy.

 

 

We fly

 

We fly in tens of miles of empty sky…

Languidly reaching for each other’s soul,

Unlike the distant clouds below, not shy -

Enlivened by what our quiet want makes whole.

 

We fly and think to lie with arms around

Each other’s gentler parts, nay all, entire –

Afondle in our dreams as angels sound

The silent trumpet-call to our desire.

 

We fly respectable as flying priests,

Confessing wicked thoughts to willing ears,

And free with absolution’s freeing yeasts

To raise our hearts, intoxicate sad fears…

 

Until we leave the heavens, flying done,

Determined then to crown what is begun…

 

 

Love in Winter

 

We walk slowly around this cold garden,

Which rustles still with unfallen leaves;

We are seduced by the burning colours of autumn,

Reds and yellows, and every halfway hue,

But know their day is done, foretasting snow in the wind.

 

Not quite yet, but soon, we shall see the skies full of dark power

From frozen, distant parts; the North Wind shall blow.

Every towering cloud shall have a dazzling lining

As lightning fills the unsteady dusk, the falling night,

Illumining the avalanche of spilled white, flittering bounty

 

When the bright carpet is laid, heaped in corners, dipping in gutters,

We shall trace a deep path together in this powdery world,

You confident in your mountain-bred snow-familiarity,

Me hesitant, snow-ignorant, with all my south-coastal carefulness,

Both glad to be out in this crisp, crystalline morning dream.

 

When we tire and the chill begins to bite, our arms will reach out,

Embracing the cold and warming it, embracing each other, warming us;

We shall make our way to a silent, secret place where winter waits,

In all its wrapped-up, creamy comfort, its tempting enclosedness,

Turning its back on shallow desolation, arraying around a generous core.

 

There we shall open strong red wine and dally together under a blanket

Our kisses laced and spiced with every sharp taste of Christmas;

Our hands, no longer icy, will trace perplexing but pleasing patterns

On increasingly naked skin - maps of love which we can read and follow,

Shall follow to the last arrow, the last contour, the last ecstatic elevation.

 

 

Looser Living


To feel horizons

The wisest, truest lifepath

Lies in loosening.

 

 

My Mistletoe

 

Your roots go far into me;

They deep-fasten our bond,

Perfect our twining transmutation.

 

I cradle your strong tracery

Softly in my hard-timbered limbs,

Swaying with you in sturdy congress.

 

Take rife sustenance from me.

You who are now my nub and my core

Should ever feel my sap pulsing within you.

 

 

 

Awakening Sylph

 

Why so drowsy, my drowsy sylph?

Amidst the excitements of fore-spring your eyes swim

Your graceful eyelids heavy with languour.

 

Are you already spent, comely sprite of air,

Or is there elemental distillation at work within,

Guarded by your sensual, sleepy silence?

 

Will you take your time to build your storm

From soundless, boundless, ethereal musing -

Releasing it only when it grows loud with mischievous need?

 

 

Always New

 

With every changed angle, shifting light, transitory smile

A new set of facets, a new configuration, a new vision…

But familiar vantages, reminiscent merestones;

All is joined to all, but always new.

 

The sight of your nakedness tells numberless, beautiful stories,

Overlapping, but never entirely iterating secrets,

The unspoken tales tied together but every one unique;

All is joined to all, but always new.

 

And the excited, murmuring melody of our love

By times bursts into frenzied, roaring crescendos,

Ever flowing, ever growing from movement to movement.

All is joined to all, but always new.

 

 

As Stars at Dawn

 

Here in the clasp of bliss we lie,

Untouched by fate except our own,

Unmoved by rain and sharp grey sky;

The underlying plot is ours alone…

 

The thunder of the day is barely heard

Above the roar of blood and shout of hearts,

Which surge around each strongly gentle word

To make a potent mixture of our arts.

 

We hold each other, smiling deep within,

Shining as solemnly as stars at dawn,

Forgetful of all sadness and its kin,

Recalling only why we both were born.

 

This life we lead entices sweetened air;

Each breath makes us more wantonly aware.

 

 

The Meadow of Heaven

 

Climbing from the rough,

We find heaven’s still meadow,

Where we shall make love.

 

 

Lively, on my Way

 

The creeping days without your touch, your voice,

Sometimes lay me quietly low, confused;

I rise when I perceive the mystic choice

Of rescuing all moments yet unused!

 

If I can offer every hour to you,

Honouring your heart’s allegiance deep…

If every patch of time be woven through

With stitches that your memory can keep…

 

If I can give you every mood I feel,

The temper of each impulse, each hot pang…

If each sense finds bright portents to reveal

In your fond halls where all our trophies hang…

 

Then loneliness will not survive the fray,

And I shall find you, lively, on my way.