Two Tattoos

I loved your tattoos,
A dreamcatcher,
A European wolf;
They reminded me of two
Weeks in Paris where
You fell in love with me
And I fell in love with you,
Paving an inked way
To the gardens and inlets
Of a coastal Francophile
Formative truth. I traced
The stepping stones of your
Spine where the bones led
Me down to the gentle
Mouth of your wolf.

A Sioux leader I knew
Had something similar
In his tattoos, with his
Dreams of teaching these
Invasive species
From a different soil
That their time was wasted
In this eternal toil.
He taught them a thing
Or two, and hung their teeth
From the fringe of his comb.

I held a teenage affection
For my two favourite actresses,
Then, mid 1990s, next century,
Jennifer Jason Leigh
And Audrey Tatou and
The marriages in my mind
Lasted like an English summer
For a day or two, but
Then it was you, and if
Anyone was tattooed just
Inside my skull and on my
Beating heart, it would
Always and still does
Beat the syllables of you.

Some imprints are more
Than skin deep, like a
Red Rorschach Test
On our bones and in
The loves stored in our heads.

I would have tats too, I said,
As you rested the threads
Of this bliss on my chest,
On that beach, and I stroked
Your soft and beautiful hair,
Scent of sand and curlew breath,
And you replied, if only
Your pain threshold was higher,
And anyway what would you
Have tattooed on your back,
Our hands entwined,
We relaxed into that time,
For life’s best ink is love,
Love lost, love found;
I will never forget your response
In the sand, and the dunes,
And there across the Sound.

British Columbia Feet

Several separate feet washed
Up on pebbled, shingled beaches,
Belonging to British Columbia
Across its furthest breaches
Over a decade, and various
Authorities slowly reached
A consensus that bodies
Which belonged to those lost
And neglected and homeless
Vagrantly inebriated
Often detach through natural
Wear and tear in salt water
Their hands, heartprints,
Feet, thighs and forearms.
It’s an explanation intriguing
Me because I have beachcombed
Many bays and inlets where
Collecting sea-glass, I have
Seen empty crab carapaces
And plastrons of unidentifiable
Species, but never did I see
A human head or teeth.
So is this what happens to
Men and women who found
Their escape on wide Pacific
Shorelines, or is there someone
Preparing their next murder
In a garage or a shed, while
His partner makes ablutions,
And prepares to go to bed.

Pareidolia

Pelagic frogfish
In the sky,
Captured by a satellite.

Religious icons are
Baptised
In bathroom tiles.

Cumulonimbus heights
Before a storm
Transformed to toads

And turtledoves
High above
The dreams of love

I found in your words,
As comforting to me as
Waves on the coast,

The sound and scent
Of my homeland.
Have I learnt nothing,

For I yearned to return
To your love, but all
I find beachcombing

On the edge of the ocean,
My sand-swept existence,
Though frantically I search,

Are flotsam thoughts,
Are the rusting returns
Of briny whelks on the keel

Of a boat, a vessel battered
By strife and winds and surf,
Messageless bottles,

A raucousness of seagulls
Being seagulls,
Conches and shells

In the foams
Of the moment
Seem like conches and shells;

The waves resurface
Their childish driftwood gifts
Offered up at my feet,

How the mind plays tricks
On a desolate beach
To rekindle itself.

Chirapsia

I massaged your back,
And the shorelines of my hands
Reached pebbles shaped like
Hearts, smooth and
As timeless as arts
Of bread-making in Assyria,
Where your aunts
Tandoor-baked Lawasha,
A delicate knead
Under knuckles ringed with
Garnets and wrinkles;
And reaching further still,
To the cave paintings of
Cueva de las Manos
Where human handprints
Abound and surround
A rhea’s three-toed foot.
The pebbles amassed
Themselves into stones
Which in turn composed
Into rocks and then cliffs
Over the minims and clefs
Of millennia, until
A whole coast emerged
Within your deltoids and
Trapezius, everything
Formed and reformed like
Disciplined ghosts
Of well-drilled archers
Who died fighting for Priam
On shores just south of
The Dardenelles’ mouth,
Where turquoise
Beaches of glass still
Shimmer, the same glass
Delighted the necks of
Ilion’s women,
As bright as Cassinian moons
In Saturnshine loops
In a distant, limpid river.

The Dancers

We collapse into each other
Though remaining far apart,
Two spinning supernovas
In a gravitational dance.
The passion is the poise
And exerting influence.

Raucous auklets on breezes
Of poetry, the aromas
Of coastlines in Chile,
We soar with promises
The Pacific cannot keep;
Nature’s in a trance.

And we are as complete
As seagulls pirouetting
With the sea, it’s in our
Names and genes, envelopes
To souls which dance in time
On two undiscovered beaches.

The Traps

Within wars weft, lifetimes before,
The traps of my self were set;
Bearded sappers breached the shore
Where future selves I met.

I surrendered myself without fuss;
The ingenious tools of men!
Colonels, handlebar-moustached,
Still sing of the clamps on my pen.

Clamps with jaws and razor teeth
My pen-holding hand ensnare,
Poisoned punjis shape a wreath,
My soul is pierced and bare.

Confidence and care suppressed
By granite rocks atop a stick,
Man-made methods, liver-pressed,
I watched the other authors tick.

Pelagic scenes the sappers reach
Where I was meant to live,
But mines entrenched along the beach
I cannot now forgive.

The Beach House

Through bamboo screens you’ll see the beach,
The beach where self-awareness opens
Slowly, like a barnacle unfamiliar with
Relinquishing its briny truisms,

Seagulls with pearls in their teeth
Buffer in time with the sea and beat
In a chorus the sunken skin of their souls
Like raucous musicians drunk on

Their own instruments. Love’s apogee,
From the beach you will free the sea,
Bound by corroding shackles, a monotony
Of men and desalinating prophesies.

Bold, profligate sea, you tossed back
Illicit passion on to the beach unapologetically,
As if a shark’s fin toughened or the Mother
Of All Wisdom, as silent as driftwood

And as memory complicit.
The curve of the earth was unimpressed
And distant, unimpressed by the sharpness
Of white horse crests, we shared

A heartbeat within an empty cockle’s nest,
Held to your ear, coveted, caressed
With shells, and we were awash with love
And sins across miles of blue emptiness,

As when your voice, or a semblance
Of your voice, remained in the room
While you were nude in a kitchen upstairs,
Garnishing dishes, asparagus spears

And salted North Atlantic fish;
And as when your rings fell into my stomach,
Jettisoned treasure, and the scent of varnish
On your toenails, a scent padlocked

In my buried chest forever.
Through bamboo screens you looked
Into the moons of me, and I was lost once more
In the intimacy of quiet eyelids.

On that inattentive sea’s behalf I listened
While into my widening ear you whispered
Directions for finding our love again
On four far and final islands.