Searchlight

It was your birthday
Twenty years or so ago;
We descended into a city
Of ghost re-rendered
Restaurateurs
Mostly only known to us.
Strange how
None of this exists right now,
Except perhaps
Within my pillow-bounded head.
(Can dreams be transferred
From my subconscious mind
Through or even then from yours?
Do you also walk these dead
Pedestrianised streets
Of the deeply-raised interred?
)
It is with a distinct sense of dread
That I am always falling asleep,
From fear of these cities
And people who are
No longer the same,
For they all emerged without me,
A subliminal sequence
Of years long ago.

You hadn’t changed,
Still good-humoured,
Still talkative,
You walked into an establishment
Named the Ho-Ho for
Whatever unknown reason,
And you told a silent joke
To a new waitress and her
Two dumbfounded customers.
And so it was your birthday,
And that Chinese eatery
We searched for
Where your coterie
Of twentysomething
Student
Aficionados
Had slipped, shifted
Away from its mooring
Adjacent to l’office du tourisme
Located by the river
Where eleven vessels
Ride the rip
In the seams of my dreams.
I am denim to a somnambulant
Nocturnal god’s demesne.

Inexplicably, my role
Suddenly evolves to carry your
Curry-coloured shoes,
And then also later a
Stuffed blue bear, a child’s toy,
(Still holding your shoes),
An armful of regalia
And vintage paraphernalia.
I held the door for your peers
But was not invited
To the benches where
The glitterati sipped
On bamboo juice
And green tea hips.

Your German teacher made a tarte,
The Chinese menu à la carte;
I wonder when my heart
Restarts.

I have had this awful
Gnawing sense my whole
Long life that I was born
For arduous tasks,
While with something inside me brewed,
Malformed to fail,
How the audience laughed
And now, half-formed,
I replay it all each night,
A searchlight from my
Buzzard soul above
A pre-dawn gorse,
Hovering over those very fields,
Hedgerows, lanes, old roads still,
For the fugitive source.

Visitations

In this weary adulthood
I cannot imagine
If those events actually happened
And if so, interred,
Misunderstood?

I am not one for turning over stones,
The hot stones of my youth
As impenetrable as the basalt eyes
Of the terrifying basilisk
Of myth, reputed to
Induce death with a single blink.
All these ghosts with their
High-level dependencies,
Their egos and their
Aggravating needs continuing
Long beyond our diaspora,
Long beyond death,
Remorselessly they approach,
Ceaselessly, a man once kindred,
A disappeared friend,
Their arms are tangled and
Darkly entwined like
Night-wire ivy in my dreams,
In the gloaming dream of the
Gloaming dream of the
Gloam of my stones.
They are heated,
Placed with skilled deliberation
On my back, my spine,
And I retreat, a shadow-fact,
Into a station, into a flat,
Into diminishing time.

And then you are there, living.
Will I be forgiven
For what I used to do?

The Ghosts Of Ishinomaki

Tsunami alarm,
Taxi drivers disarmed,
Higher ground atoning.
I reached a surface
Of realities alone,
Snow falls
Unexpectedly
In the gall
Of bamboo forests
And bodies,
Multiple unnamed bodies
Disposed
Without ceremony,
Candles rammed
In hope,
Aren’t we all passengers
Somewhere?
Husbands
Who had to go,
Puzzles, low light
Over old tables,
A coercive approach,
A lonely widow;
Monk’s robe,
Three to go;
Rain harbour,
A taxi again
To whenever,
Facial masks
Will not last
In heaven.
A meal, a bead,
It doesn’t matter
So much to me.
Harbour wall
Or nothing at all,
Drive me to where
I need to be.
A dozen hungry
Gangrenous ghosts
And I’m the host;
A child’s toy,
Dragon’s mouth
On temple gutters in red,
There is no distinction here;
Yes, sometimes I cannot
Distinguish
Between the living and
The dead.

The Coast Of Shrouds

I prefer heavy rain
As rain keeps me grounded;
A shipwreck submerged,
A ghost keeps its counsel.
Crowds too kept at bay,
A drowning skiff is confounded.

I lost all I loved back then,
And all I would love forever,
Is it surprising to know
I could not imagine life
And thoughts within it.
Thoughts like skittish clouds
On the coast of shrouds
As unseen suns diminish.

Alicia Also

Twenty years slipped
Since I last stretched
These pavements,
Hairs are the same
With less width
In the aching.
Four families moved
Through a house over there,
Its neatly squared garden
Where a fair woman fainted
And needed a sutre;
She relocated to Lincoln
And give birth to the ancient
Ways of the future.

The ghost house is there
On Precariousness Corner,
Windows all boarded,
Hoardings corroded,
The grass as grown over
As dreams of the homeless.
The children are children
Of those I grew up with,
But a good local ghost story
Is peerless and opened.
Schools expanded,
Red squirrels survived,
Ethnographic adoptions
But pine trees are always
The same and how they thrive.
The old lady who played an oboe
All through one winter
Is buried in our municipal way
Over the river, yet the oboe
Still has tunes to deliver.
Branches quivering in the breeze
Have unseen opposable fingertips
On musicians six feet deep.

Everyone here has new extensions,
Smartly paved driveways
And alfresco dimensions
In wicker and rattan;
The future transfused,
Indifferent, oblivious,
Anxieties gifted and brewed
As traits for the atheists
Whose numbers are swelling,
And bruised the religious
Whose numbers are telling.
Everyone has a disease we
Cannot see, which is that
Everyone steadfastly
Refuses to talk
To each other.

And there is the window
Where every weekend I’d rush
To see my neighbour Alicia,
Schoolboy crush,
Heartbeat in crisis,
Sufficient hormones to fill
The silver Cup of Dionysus;
Alicia also relocated,
This time to Bristol
Or Bournemouth or Weymouth,
And so I never took that one chance
To say something teenage and
Wishful. Alicia got married
And her children are older
Than I was back then,
Shy and less bold,
More innocent, yes.

Tuesdays, you can still inhale
The scent of soup drifting
From the east side factory,
Tomato or beef or oxtail tides;
Thursdays, winds change
And fish trawler residues blow
Over the town far and wide.
We drove there once to lay flowers
Where a nameless prostitute died.

All fixtures and fittings remain
Of memories kept for twenty years
Inside my mind’s shallow grave,
Yet while the world flew through
The universe delightful and bright,
I was left here, two decades behind.

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.

Widdershins

Dream-time, to university returned,
The professor said as one who knows
This semester will be earned.
Widdershins, the east wind blows.
I had not seen the man before,
Subconsciously hosting his atoms;
He asked collegiate ghosts to draw
Comparisons in speech patterns
Between a cause célèbre and trigger
From forty years before, in dialectal forms.
But he applied the wrong name for the rigger,
And misquoted a decade of snowstorms.
So in a rage, I left the class,
Found between the gymnasts’ hall
And the toilets by a second molecular mass
Who urged a return to my downfall.
The academic, he divulged, was highly strung;
His mother had not long died and was dissected
By his brother; he has her micro-parts hung
From a window ledge, with prayers reflected.
This was of no interest to me, unaffected
I wanted this interloping subject to feel
The limits where truth is neglected,
Garden shears in my hands are real;
Of profuse upset caused by objectification,
Without thought for the graves and pearls,
Veracity or ethics, an inconsideration,
For two unreturnable girls.