An Old Panoramic Photograph

Let’s drive the coast road longways
And park at scenic views,
Though no sight there’s more beautiful
Than margins holding you.

I cannot visit shores again
For there’s too many blues,
Returning from my armchair here,
In reveries renewed.

Children today don’t use cameras,
They wouldn’t know what to do;
I still have your scent and sunglasses,
Each day closer to a truth.

Your smile could light the vista,
Your hair could tame the dew,
And though I’m frail, it’s not so cold,
When memory’s kindled by you.

Veracruz

Ah verdant Veracruz,
Inquisitors landed
With seminal footsteps
On your sandy shores,
Anchored in foam bluer
Than undry eyes of lonely
Brides who cried like ghosts
Each night, for they
Knew the truth by then,
The truth unbound about
Those men both intrepid
And yet also afflicted with
Scurvy, to whom they once
Curtsied in courts, in
Galicia, and Castile.
Praising their gods with
Spongy gums, rashes infernal,
Thousands of miles from home,
Finding exotic diseases and
New fruits for their horses,
This coast too was a ghost
Of a nation destined to kill
Itself. They swore they saw
In those first loamy forests
Evidence of snakes
Eating their own tails,
And carvings of aroused
Totemic beasts whose tidings
Could block out the most
Ardent and stifling sun,
If rubbed with a little belief.

Those forests turned with Time
Into fields, the terraces and
Mesas of modern Mexico,
Where memories are as long
As the potential in doors unopened
And mines are as rich and fertile
As the self-sanctified appendage
Belonging once to none other than
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna,
Who, having traversed from here
To Baja California, was injured
By grapeshot fired from
Obusier de vaisseau on board
French blockaders, during
The Pastry War; they stretch
From unsung Sonora and Sinaloa
Which later sadly became layered
And synonymous with bloodshed,
To the caudillo’s hacienda above
Seagull nests and roadsteads,
And the hotel where we made
Ablutions, and took our rest.

That night I dreamt of seven miles
Of Atlixo, somewhere south of
Popacatépetl and the myth
Of the sleeping woman,
La Mujer Dormida,
A strip of land turned by arts
Within humanity’s hand into
A colossal supine statue
Much like Cristo Redentor
Only flat, yes, and not sculpted
From concrete with soapstone
But fashioned from the soil,
The land, into the shape of his
Image. I viewed this from the air
And marvelled at the ineffable
Grace and scale of his creation;
I wondered if something spiritual
And filled with meaning had been
Hidden under this humble yet
Hot-headed, passionate and yet
Disconsolate continent’s seams.
It reminded me of another dream
More than twenty years old, when
Two giant statues of a bodhisattva
Glided down a river, both imposing
Yet serene, navigating rapids as if
There was nothing inbetween
The reality, and the artifice
Of a mastered stream.

Kindling these memories, I forgot
That I was in a dream within a dream.
May the Mexicayotl transcend,
May the Malinchista be forgiven,
For there will be time in the end
When we too can see between rivers.

Sea Poems

I.

Somewhere on the sand
I wrote your name
With my driftwood-stick soul
And sun griddled hand.
The second time I visited,
It was washed away again.

II.

To find sea glass, I need
For the sea glass to exist,
And to exist myself.

III.

Marvel in greens,
A million different greens
In the sea and seaweeds,
Colours of good wishes
Stored in your emerald ring,
A life’s cargo jettisoned,
A series of jades and viridians.
Clouds play with their
Unwed fingers absent-mindedly,
For in clouds are formed dreams
And so we see the shapes,
A tortoiseshell, a carapace.
There’s a pillbox there
Encrusted with an
Ennui of barnacles,
Bulbous carragheen
And thongweed spleens.
Grown men used to stand here,
Shivering midwinter
In mushroom-coloured fatigues,
Sharing reused cigarettes
And the substance of regret,
Cleaning their muskets for
An invasion which did not exist.

IV.

One day my thoughts too
Will be as immaterial
As the bladders of archaeopteryx
Once imperative and cawing
On this lonely coast,
Evolution’s spindles
Created a curlew out of you,
And then a kittiwake of me.

Poem For Lovers, No.2

Let’s fill this house with flowers,
Attend some summer balls;
Forget those broken vases
Where we danced across the halls.

Let’s take a zigzag rabbit path
Between two sun-blessed dunes;
Waltz around a sandbanks
To lost romantic tunes

Which drift across the currents
And over love’s lagoon,
Reflections in her waters
Make a second moon.

I’ll pack the hamper in our car
And won’t forget those flutes,
Driving home above the stars
On blue Atlantic routes.

Let’s celebrate your loveliness,
Let’s grow old as weather,
The vases glued togetherness,
And rest beneath the heather.

The Drowning Bride

The Queen of the Skies retired,
Long live our runway king;
Her assignation had three names,
It’s best not to question pretence.

Eulogies for a fuselage,
Front pages in the press,
But forestries are macadam
And all the workers left.

Newsreaders are enthusing,
A partisan casting and bribe,
Like praising skills of a killer,
Some words as sharp as knives.

They’ll read from flooded desks,
Drenched laptops and manilla files,
By sinking sails and tillers,
About my drowning bride.

Ode To My Panic Attacks

It comes in waves,
Sometimes discretely,
But no less completely,
Gentle laps at a lake’s edge
Then grabs at my ankles
And pulls me beneath,
Rolls me over, death-rolling
Crocodilian behaviour innately
Only with sharper teeth
To drag me to where
The Lady of the Lake
Once lived, once breathed.
The lake and I are one
Entity; this is our unforgiving
Symbiotic relationship.

Sometimes it’s more obvious,
Similar to pounding surfs
Midwinter on Cornish coasts,
Devouring, all consuming,
A beach where families played
And lovers greeted each other
With trysting passion and embraces
Before our eyes transformed.
The dismal dunes are lost,
Subliminal caves, deep gullies
In my dreams are subsumed.
Eventually, whole cemeteries
And villages will fall from the cliff,
That line of rocks looks like
Petrified rooftops, they’d say,
People as yet unborn
Will stand on that new front
And read about losses
On interpretation boards,
On sea wall defences and piers,
Boulders imported from Norway
But ultimately futile,
Binoculars around their necks,
Words on those rainswept panels
As symbolic as the wings
Of albatrosses our sailors hung
Outside their cottage doors
To ward off spirits from
Unclaimed wrecks.

I woke up on a shower floor,
Seas tortured me and
Then returned to prior forms,
Purer forms of love,
And the lake again my lore,
To where they both waited
As just before.

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.