Even beneath uncontestable rain
My weightlifting neighbour
Presses his bench; he strains
Biceps and triceps against
A violence of indisputable greys
A month before July. Contorted face,
I pray he does not look the same
When extorting sighs from lovers,
Sincerely he appears to agonise;
Self-afflictions behind a fence,
An audience of cypresses blink
Under dark green umbrellas.
I cannot justify nor rationalise
The constraints of the body,
And I furthermore pray
For his ligaments to remain
In place, for our ambulances
Are overwhelmed and our hospitals
Like Ministers for Roads
Offloading excess silicates
Have cancelled triple bypasses.
The barbells rattle and wheeze;
Barbaric routines, might I pray
One more time that he should find
WD40 in a kitchen cupboard, please.
Across the flooded lane, which ego
Dictates may as well be as wide
As the Irish Sea, wider than speech,
Wider than a bouyant comet’s tail,
Even beneath uncontestable rain
I fail in the never-ending bout
With myself, I’m the butterfly
Shadow-boxer punching metastatic
Targets which look like me,
Where no winner flouts his
New-found wealth, silver belts,
No podium nor medals nor
Pouting for swarming paparazzi,
Nor even simply the satisfaction
A man may find when pressurised,
Moving kilograms up and down
Under a turbulent kingdom’s sky.
A weight can take so many shapes,
And when a weight is lifted
We mean to achieve a sense of relief,
So why when I strive
To lift aloft my dumbbell-mind
All I find are aches and grief.
I have been brainwashed,
I have been white and greenwashed;
Nothing will cleanse me.
My heart is the shape
Of the hidden parts
Of Hobart, underground,
Where organs were first
Blueprinted in secret.
In my formative days
Training as a registrar
In unrequited love
I marvelled at Nature,
How it compacts with
Discipline, (Mr.Jobs proved
Something similar when he
Jettisoned a prototype
Into his gourami tank and
Oxygen bubbled, perfidiously),
Revisions but always
Winning, passing exams,
The questions it set.
If only the Hippocratic
Students had seen
Where Kindness ducts
And Goodness bled,
Glands of Compassion,
Instead of nephritis
And an empty chest.
If the same funds poured
Like liquid oxygen
Into the mutual airways,
Into the heaving lungs
And diffused calyxes
Of a nation’s hospitals
As flows into the coffers
Of saints and the pockets
Of sinners, and then also
The unpressured ports
Of safe celebrities,
Humanity probably could
Have procured a cure
For death by now,
But then procurement
For your leaders’ concern
Is always a matter
Three million antibodies
Bought but not working.
And children playing
In squares devoid of contact,
This unflinching sleep
Unless it’s at your border,
Who checks the orders?
Yet still the raft-makers gloat
Over the woolsack.
Less the requirement for tablet or shed,
Poetry’s gardens are seeds in your head;
Daily distractions will chatter and chase,
All their dull efforts, one rhyme will replace.
Minutiae delights, heaven’s your ceiling,
Don’t hide from your self, hardships revealing;
You don’t need a war for a war poetess,
Injustice and conflict sow your success.
Your heroes don’t live in scripts or a screen,
Your heroes prevail inside you unseen;
Don’t over-bake, or burn with keen edits,
Don’t wait for their praise, the obverse discredits.
More words you’ll intuit, let the free world fight,
Follow terms for your self, and freely write!
From scalp to soles, all muscles atrophied,
She courts water flavoured with aniseed
For an emetic. It’s seven days now
Since signing her sisterhood’s wasted vow.
Her chest’s like mine, her bones are clean,
Servery patients crowned her queen;
We meet without eating, only talk about food,
She tires quickly, and quick to brood.
Tattoos shrunk, teeth turn black,
A single cordon keeps death back
In exchange for her youth, an appetiser;
May a long later life be one tranquilizer.
N.B This poem is written in remembrance of a member of my family’s experience, and as a response to Wisława Szymborska’s Bodybuilders’ Contest
Should divinity and deftness intercede,
There’s no foundation for your faith deceived;
Corrupters of stories, creations and states,
Copious fields would have fed four forty-eights,
And yet instead they filled those fields with flame,
Concealed nature with no natural claim;
Buried sacred jewels in a barren place,
Showcased a generational disgrace;
The flag and the spire conspired without end,
So don’t be deceived nor miscomprehend,
Authorship of the powers you will need
Is bound in the beauty of one good deed.
Crushed under a crown, they self-stripped your health,
Better steps forward are with care for yourself.
All I found on the furthest shore
Was dust and decay from the last world war;
Tentacles touched my outer fears.
No alarms, no fog horn warnings,
No afternoons or Monday mornings,
No offertories or confetti cheers.
No football scores, no pundits,
Neither bandstands now nor trumpets,
Seal-skitters sentinel the ebbing bar.
At a skate park unveiled just last year
And from the playgrounds disappear
Sedge warblers’ stolen repertoire.
No sewing buttons, no lines in the sand,
No comeuppance and no endocrine gland,
No daffodils in song and no Siberian Iris.
From a throne he instructed the shogunate
To construct a wall, and call it great,
And that way he would conquer a virus.