Cataracts

This poem is a waterfall
And lyricism sprays,
Grey Mare’s Tail in full spring-spate
Whisks and wisps the words away,
Cascading down through language
And reflections I have made,
To arrive inside a memory
Where unfailingly you display
The falls in blue and turquoise waves,
Tumbling over your shoulders,
Flowing over your spine,
Between the tattooed lillies
Which gripped those limestone cliffs
Through all of human time,
These rocks and ferrous boulders
You claimed were ever mine,
Since that summer we arrived
At beautiful Bamyan, we stood
Beside each other, held hands,
Long before they had the statues
Catalogued and classified
As iconoclastic, arts all ossified,
Desecrated, understated,
Very few survived,
Sandstone rained in torrents
Onto arid Afghan soil
Like a giant Siren’s teardrops,
Opposing islands in their own turmoil,
Falling down the Angel’s fourteen columns;
Hair scented of citrus, exotic
And foreign, we stayed four nights
In a hotel not far from the airport,
Sipped the most incredibly strong coffee,
Our room overlooked a sign which read
‘Welcome to Kabul’ but with a missing L
Illuminated under a broken-bulbed light,
There were bullet holes above the bed
And by the second night your back had bled
With those tattoos inked indelibly;
I trace the route now like a cartographer
From Karthoum to Addis Ababa,
There’s your angora cardigan, a lotus
On your parting, and hair slides,
There are mountains in Andorra
Where waterfalls much the same as those
I have described
Are hidden,
Undiscovered, pristine,
Pouring down into lagoons
Encompassed by meadows
Untouched by the awfulness of marauders
Or well-meaning but ultimately disastrous explorers
Or a shepherdess’s daughter;
Fascinated by the fabric of maps
And all to be discovered,
How symbols become plans
Which morph into experiences on our travels,
God-willing over the deserts
Where the skin and the sand become one long tussle,
Like Somali geelxir
Unmarried and removed from a tribe
We herded and rode our camels,
Your head and hair in a tannin-coloured tagelmust,
You smiled with your eyes,
Kohl on your eyelids,
Your smile an elixir of soul
And the antidote for all losses,
When you smiled
The water poured back upwards
And into the river above,
Red Nile to serenely green Lamadaya,
We slept in tents and sometimes outside
By the light of stars and kindling fires,
You’d recount the myths of Orcadian Selkies,
The Shropshire Ashray hiding in reeds
And the lowland roving Kelpies;
We always kissed and said goodnight,
Until one day inevitably you shed your own skin of sand and love
Where the cancer got in
And life fell out;
I can repair some memories,
The scent of your hair,
Faded now and fair
In a Polaroid,
The colours on charts,
And substitute with other truths
The ones I’ve left remain impaired,
Until I reach the calming oxbow bends
And language meanders gently from me
Into cataracts
Where all words pool, and end.

Decades later
When the waterfalls had turned to stone again,
My grandchildren would visit
My hospital bed,
Bored and taking selfies,
Into iPhone screens stared.

Haiku #390 – #393

390.

Drizzle days, this cage
Is rusty, of aged metal.
Make me next petalled.

391.

Duck dreams in stomachs;
We could have built such systems
For love, and kindness.

392.

But we built instead
Blind slaughterhouses.
I’ll sit beneath blooms

393.

Of cherry blossom;
You are never forgotten,
Merely different.

Flotsam Song

With cellular losses like flotsam
I could not see myself as old;
I had no thoughts to reach that far,
I would not be so bold, it felt
Like contemplations of reaching cold
And insurmountable peaks
Of Cordillera de Nahuelbuta
By driving a ’64 Ford Mustang car
Up those yellow buttercupped cols.

We had all this love to give,
Unused in their atoms’ aromatic fronds,
So this love was abused by the sea,
Our hearts of dark samphire drifted
Underneath the empty stars,
With childhood messages enclosed
On well-preserved papyrus.

When a product shipped in a box
Across the raging ocean
Disconnects, we search for lost instructions and scratch our heads,
Then hit re-start
And massage hope,
But there’s no restarting love’s long-lost hearts,
No manual, nor compass, nor rope.

Beachcombers found the seaweed,
Its on their kitchen window sill;
And jellyfish beaching swiftly bloat,
Being mostly made of water
They evaporate like coastal ghosts,
Leaving only purple rings in the sand
And a feeling that something was lost
And towards a far-off land afloat,
Where everyone is old,
And now and again I remember there
All that it meant to be young and alone.