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.

Driving On The Wrong Side Of The Road And Driving On The Right

In this recent dream, a series
Of reversions  and events
Only I could revisit in
Their random happenings,
Driving through this city
At night, accompanied by
Two people to the limits,
I have not seen them now
For twenty years
(We were friends back then,
It’s always an implied criticism
When long lost acquaintances
Tell me Nick, you haven’t changed a bit,
And I roll the eyes of my soul,
Disguised by this enterprise
Of living incidentally);
Into a one-way tunnel we drove
With two or three cars speeding
Towards me following a wrong
Direction, I see headlamps
Before their steel appears
And flashes away in to the night;
I brake, and a voice reaches me,
A girl who lives in a house
Above the tunnel, she transmits
Advice on how to navigate
This underground straight
And narrow. I send her a
Message of thanks, haunted,
Sweating in my sleep, before
Arriving at a dark parking lot
And I have all this stuff,
So much stuff I cannot carry:
Boxes with old work documents,
Condiments, sixteen years of
Abuse, a basketball, footballs,
A laundry basket and books,
A brisket and a wok, so we took
The unusual decision of opening
Another car’s trunk and filling it
With all my dreaming flotsam.
It seemed to me like baggage.

We are permanently eighteen here,
And in the next scene I cannot
Explain how we arrived at your bedroom;
Anaglypta wallpaper, a plastic bin,
An absence of parents.
I rolled up the skin of my memories
And threw those flaky balls
Into the waste. I expect you’ll return
Again tonight, you seem to want to,
Even though one is an architect
Who is hardly in need of contacting
A dead-end poet, and the other
I don’t know anything about any longer.
I don’t begrudge it, I cannot fight,
In the next dream, I waved goodbye
To my grandmother one last time.

So my unseen mind got stuck
In an eighteen year old’s plight;
Big deal in the schemes above!
Yet how foolish I feel now, to
Have lived for decades with a
Harrowing belief that I
Was driving against the flow,
These dreams have teeth to bite,
When all the time they were
On the side of my wrongs,
And I was on the right.

Aftermath

You’ve been shopping again,
Cruising aisles and clothing
Racks left in a season-ending’s
Messiness; sales are on four
Polished parquet floors
Inside my night-time mind
Where these more
Pleasant dreams
Sometimes reside,
And also you in spirit-form,
Sometimes hiding
Within me yet without me.
A paradox with summer storms,
We slipped into my department
Store with expectations to avoid
The rains and post-pandemic
Hordes, oceans of traffic lights
And umbrellas, holding hands
As we gladly made our way
Through this homage to
Commerce, this palace’s
Obscenely gigantic doors,
Deep green frames, lintels
Propped by angular art deco
Demigods with impossibly
Muscular jaws. I won’t be
Jealous of a statue in obsidian,
I sought myself, to reassure.
I’d visited here in different
Dreams several years before,
Alone and feeling lost,
Uncomfortable
In my only thoughts,
Though I have atoned
For those stones
As you know,
And now like everyone else
I can buy coffee, and tour
Menswear and menageries,
Counters and clocks.
All the fish have been caught.

Not knowing what you bought,
Jewellery perhaps, a camisole,
I could see beside your green
Heels three or four bags,
In purple and pink fabrics,
Even the inexplicable methods
For carrying purchases about
This city where you reach
So deeply in to me reflects
Your personality as perfectly
As the death of inadequacy
In Elysian markets.
Your ways delight and inspire
A primal circuitry, native,
As old as the hills of men,
Indigenous, sacred.
I just have bags under my eyes
From the tiredness, trenches
In my dreams are drenched
By July’s torrents. I longed
For the fresh air pursuing
A storm’s routes, its brute
Force, the airborne cousin
To the scent of grass after
Its mowing, from where we
Gave birth to a word: Aftermath.

I remembered in that dream
The store bags had lines from my
Haiku printed in white fonts
And I looked to you, as beautiful
As the day our friendship and
These sentiments too were born,
And I knew then the meaning
Of dreams where we met
On a simple bench in a store,
Avoiding the crowds, sharing
Moments of quiet reflection
And your laughter like lucid
Streams over those stones
I threw back in to the water,
A pure invigorating air
Only found in the Highlands;
Hands held, biding our time
Until the end of the storm,
For its end is on the horizon,
Then we may leave this building
And travel home once more.

Dreams Of My Father

Two excessively-sized
Ketchup bottles stood
On a lounge floor,
Tangible labels
With a maker’s name
Imprinted, a brand
I did not recognise.
Before disappearing,
A dog knocked over
A shiraz-gladdening glass
On to a green sofa,
We watched that wine
As thick as bloodlines
Slowly fall on to a
Sofa I now owned
And you did not.
Slow motion too,
The substance absorbed.
I implored my mother
Who had just appeared
From nowhere at all
To rush through the hall
To the kitchen, for salt
Would reduce the opportunity
Taken by that liquid’s blot,
But you have to be quick
In these situations
And, sadly, she was not.
I did not think it
Implausible
That the one time
She stood in the same room
As you through forty years
Of stubborn lamentations was
At your cremation and wake,
Yet here she was in a space
Fetching salt for a wound
In the universe’s clockface,
Where through me these days
Flow all such forms
I’ll ever deserve.
You took down a door
From its hinges with
A gentle, deliberate force
Just to shout to the boys
Upstairs in their rooms
Presumably, those friends
Who had not aged at all,
Turn your music down,
Although we heard no
Sounds penetrating
Floorboards,
And no-one gave the
Implications of that door
And excessive force
A second thought.

Interchangeable scenes
Between life and a screen
Where inside we see
A film, and next, a magician
Who walked on night-waters
Where I have floundered,
Who made toothpaste appear
In a celebrated
Mathematician’s
White shirt pocket.
A window in that lounge
Morphed into a doorway
Which opened on to a street,
I mean literally on to
The central reservation
Of a busy urban arterial way
In to a city I recognised
In some respects and not
In others, for it existed
And at the same time it did not.
We were to meet in a restaurant
And had separated to browse
In different shops. An album
Landed in my hand, two discs
Of music I did not buy
And did not want.
Inside a store,
Miscellaneous goods and
Purple fonts, lewd record sleeves
And no DVD of the one I wanted
To buy you left in stock.
Some of the residents dressed
In Fenland ways I had not seen
For decades. I passed by bars
Filled with unreal people
Returning to you,
A cathedral, restorations,
A palace with three children
And I thought the extent
Of a garden
As extensive as theirs
Is a privilege in this city.
I carefully parked a car
In a nearby parking lot.
A game in a programme,
Or a programme in a game
To entertain the citizens,
I refused to play and they
Wanted me to place my hands
In two see-through bags filled
With red ants and foliage
Before I departed.
A disappointed bag-handler
Shifted again in to
An actress who held me close,
We kissed as though our
Lives were martyred,
And her single kiss
Flew me back to you,
Where you walked on
City walls at pace,
Talking passionately
To nobody else
About the psychopathy
Of Roman emperors.

I can’t remember how we
Ended these scenes, nor how
I awoke in to blue mornings,
To a world where imaginations
From children are stolen,
If indeed
I ever did.

Ode To A Jug Of Milk

These dreams pour
In to me with fluidity,
Like milk from a jug,
Like clotted cream, from
A place in time both
New and old to certain
Degrees, where I am not
As one would be, when
Awake in passive daily
Routines. This drink
Plays tricks on me,
A mind as arid as
Deserts devoid of oases
And mysteries sealed in
Camel humps and dunes
That burn beneath my feet.
Too eager to be deceived,
I gave away my fortune
For its cornucopia
In return received;
I opened the throat of
My soul to swallow
Molten gold, and in
Flowed milk from the
Dreams of a goat.

Crows assemble
On timelines scratched
Across the planets
In my palm. A caw,
And the awful liquid pours
Through my stomach,
Through duodenum walls;
These organs worked hard
Behind the scenes for
Decades. Assortment of
Bellows and pumps,
Light industries,
Where will the substance
Pour instead when at
Cellular levels
And levels of lux
I am composting the dead
Autumn borders of
A farmer’s garden;
He who sows, I haven’t met.

I survive the nightly
Poisoning, an attempted
Abduction with chlorophyll
And monkshood. I wake
To a dawn chorus.
Such structures men
Conceive in seahorse
Dreams, in prison cages
Far removed from the sound
Of thrushes warbling,
And the downpouring
Of cups of tea.