The Place Of Mistakes

Here, the God of Hammers reigns,
Long live the God of Hammers!
Swinging clubs, set me in place,
Secured in Plasters of Paris.

I looked into that pit of Hell
Where he tossed his mallets;
There I lost my sense of smell
And all the sensate palettes.

From my perch the lightning
Bruised throughout his business;
I hear that loathsome striking still
Within a loamy distance.

He pushed me through the hole
Of souls, in to new abysses;
In this way, I claimed coal,
Feeding the fire of kisses.

Night Owl

Thank you for your photograph,
Passport-sized, white frame,
On the reverse side in red ink
You wrote your name and
Number. The image I received
On the spine of a silently
Howling owl in a dream
Last night I placed beneath
My pillow and in a dream
Within a dream you emerged
From the portrait large as life,
Your lipstick as red as the ink,
A deep red, deep as blood in
The whales stampeding through
The caves of my sleep searching
For their calves already hauled
Onto the harpoon-stationed
Entrail-made slippery deck
Of hail-harried vessels in
The steep Pacific breaches.

You gestured to me not to speak,
Finger over your lips and I was
Transfixed. I watched you
Carefully, devotedly, as you fell
Asleep in a red dress, your blonde
Hair falling over your eyelids and
Your nostrils and I reached to
Brush those beautiful strands away
When your mouth opened and
An alarm fell out and I woke
Sweating, and drowning, as
A refuse collection vehicle
Reversed outside my apartment.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is filled
With roads downhill
And greyness still,
Timber yards
And paper mills,
Mist, and rain;
Houses built
With wooden slats;
A girl in the pines
They left for dead.
Furnaces, steel,
Forests feel
Endless. Settings
For a thousand films
And TV series will
Give glimpses but
Never the essence.
Rain on my mouth.
Interstate routes,
Rivers, bridges,
Flow until just south
From the ridges where
We met and loved.
A glove, a rustbelt,
A Methodist church,
I dropped my prayers
In roadside dirt.

Death Of An Obsessive (Twelfth Sonnet)

Lunch after Sunday, a walk with our dogs,
Over stiles clambered, some lumberjacked logs,
Through cowpatted herd-fields, a traced rabbit path,
And beyond the axe-pond where sometimes we’d bath,
To find that cottage, abandoned and dark,
From lintel and jambs hanged swallow and lark;
Roofs sunk to woodworm, gnawed holes from the rot,
A cracked window showed the home of a sot.
Children had played on the rosebay-raped swards,
Supper’s at seven, your heels on the boards;
White linen’s fresh, pegged to washing lines sang,
Before words turned beneath ivy to slang.
These losses framed by a mind’s fatal breath;
An airbag inflated, scene of a death.

Surfaces

I walked towards my own ghost,
Floating only as ghosts can float;
Like a drifting bouy, slow
On surfaces strange and remote,
Where no sounds exist, no
Harbour alarms, no tired boats.
As certain, yes, as infinite
As armadillo scutes wrapped
Round a universe’s components,
Defending flesh, soft underbellies
And then bones, shrew-like thoughts,
Or the scent in my kitchen
I left behind of burnt toast.
He beckoned me into the folds
And fabrics of his being as
He smoked new fogs through his nose,
Billowing over a greying coast.
We were the same shape, for
Sadness bloats the lonely minds
And comforts like a winter coat.
I stepped inside his fashion,
Morassy cold moments, bitterly
Cold, where he stood and told me
About his life, such unrecouperable
Losses as though he had gambled
At the great southern casinos
Where everyday players lose
Their chips and notes, he wagered
His soul, and now pays
For his choice, which was not
A choice, by taking listless nightly
Walks along the seawalls draped
With grieving molluscs, barnacles
In grim mourning costumes,
Along the shores
Of consciousness.

My pillow drenched with sweat,
I moved to reduce the clammy sense
When my hands fell through
Where the pillow had been, and
I remembered then, with unending
Awe and horror mixed at the
Contemplative designs of
Suffering, there was no kitchen,
No burnt toast, no rendezvous,
For looking back I realised again
That I was the ghost
And he was the man.

Amazonia

Californian seraph,
Amazonian wraith,
Stalking through forests,
Turning those graves
Where quarriers
Profits had gold
Coffins laid
Alongside cousins,
Flemish Margraves and
Iberian Dukes,
Escudos in pockets
Left by their brains.

With ivy and apples
You’d rise and reclaim;
Brazil-nut trees high
Over canopies rein
While moss runs amok
In their orbital cups;
Epiphytal orchids
Climbing kapoks.

Institutionless,
Nature’s state;
No surgeons here,
No interest rates;
The only needles
Are pines which bore
A broth, a braid.
No wills feeding
Outbreaks in swine,
No dates, no petrol,
No courts and no crime;
Just miles and miles
In greens and whites.

And so they raped you
With tractors and bulls;
Cattle for steak,
Dipped mint and a port;
Wines from their grapes,
A knife and a sword.
They lamented your loss
As they burnt you twice
On cruciform wood;
We can still hear today
The faraway hums
Where they
Buried you under
Highways and slums.
Dismantled to fatten
The lenders for life,
They will no more
Sustain us
Than unwatered rice.

Corvid Heart

A magpie-spirit flies
Into my attic window
Every Friday night,
And then some afternoons.
Plummeting to the asphalt,
Feathers on the roofs
Of neighbours’ cars
In reds, and Citroën blue,
Feathers in the roadside
And rhododendron, too.
Oh every time this happens,
Surprising me anew,
I rush downstairs, three
Apace, to where she
Died on frozen
Grounds below.

I try to start her corvid heart
With jumper clamps and cables,
But sometimes hearts are
Just too small,
Unstartable, unstable;
And that is why she visits me,
Asleep at a writing table.

Kingfisher Song

You were too eager to please,
I chided myself, so keen to
Write that the venerable pen
Leapt from your desk and in
To your head where it bled
Through the clenched fist
Of your thoughts, the other
Hand, where I could not write,
But fell asleep in fields
Unfurling fallow whites.

Bald world, as blanched
From colour and sounds as
When the midwife caught you
Like steelhead trout in
Nets of coastal fisher-folk
Who could not speak themselves,
Brine burnt their throats;
They held their plunder up
To the sun, trident-spiked,
Piscine mouths in pristine
Exhibitions of shock,
Joyous affinity as one
With the kingfisher god,
As later priests held up
Broken bread and the veins
Of the grace and the good.
I’ve observed how a ritual is
Repetition streaming through
Survival’s gills, waking up,
My pen still in my hand,
Without scolding myself,
Then wrote.

How A Black Cat Came To Symbolise Bad Luck

We found a stray, sympathetic beings
Come what may, to universal plights
Known by neglected domesticated
Mammalia these days, for extinction
Is less a mass event, it’s a slow unwinding overnight,
Finding craters and sink holes appeared.
Neighbours said ‘this stray, it will bring you luck’,
But it’s getting a little late for that.

Mangy hair, a silver bell made proclamations
Like an Emperor of Sounds, and we didn’t complain.
Blue collar, no name engraved on a non-existent disc,
A slightly wild-eyed glare as the stray
Ate all the tuna we placed in a bowl
On the patio. He ate like an empty-stomached wolf
Whose belly rumbled in time to forest rainstorms
And whose timber ribs ached through every bone.

No care for recrimination, nor reprisal;
Naturally, he returned each day to his gorging place
With increasing confidence and weight
Bordering on insouciance and later
Encasing lipids, sat beside the back door,
His claws clicked along the porch,
No doubt walking over graves;
For one day we drove to work, unaware

That constant betrayals bled berried thoughts throughout.
Arriving home, three blackbirds mauled,
Three less songs. Those empty nests.
Avian throats provoked a furore of Sophoclean choruses within willow-fleeces
For sons eviscerated indiscriminately
By a stray that was not hungry, had no need;
A tiger never forgets its claws, and neither did he.

Chanting, yes, the aggressor’s name,
Empathies of sparrows wore masks
Regardless. So they stripped the cat
Of his title, its talismanic black
Entitlement and charms, and we received
In dreams instructions from the flock
To trap and stop his fortune, eternally,
In a waving form, in porcelain.

They said this last one will bring you luck,
Handing the charm to a boy at the front,
Just like the maneki-neko in future versions Of Kobe, or Tokyo; on a sea-front,
Kimono-wrapped, now found in restaurants,
In plastic, or ceramic, and fabric-wrapped,
Guarding fish shops and arcades
Which, in time, replaced pagodas and temples.

Landfall

Soul’s Landfall,
Where I defended myself
From remembering you,
Groynes reaching
Out into the grey-brown
Wash of Forgetfulness,
And gabions, their
Amnesiac nets protect
A sandstone cliff.

My memories then
Collapsed into
Themselves like
Immemorial dark stars,
Like crumpled photographs
Which re-posted
On social media
Are tagged with negative
Phrases like Missing
Hurt, and Regret,
Where other minds
Have memories as clear
And well-composed as
Chandeliers, with
Configurations in
Crystal set.

Arriving at theatres,
It’s as though,
Expecting me
To speak at length,
Audiences near and far
With craning necks
Gasped when they became
Aware of my tonguelessness,
My arms and elbows
Meaningless, and
Pinned to my sleeve
A still-beating heart.

So with hatches battened
And shops boarded up
I stooped into storms,
Eyes in water, weather-worn,
Where lashing gales made
Their own Landfall,
Battering just behind me.
Incapable of gazing backwards,
Pacing forward unprepared;
This is how a limbo feels
For the lonely
And the scared.

If you have someone to hold,
Hold them again once more;
If at night you lie beside
The unspoken beauty of love
Then love with words reformed;
And if you’ve lost no less before,
With Patience and Time,
You’ll be together once more.