Little Mjölnir

A hammer I found
On a tall mound of earth,

Only man-made,
So little like Thor’s.

I swung it at mountains
Of old washing up,

I heaved through the trees
Of ancestors lost.

The townspeople laughed
As I toiled and I huffed,

Its handle unvarnished,
Its corners were scuffed.

Look at him missing,
They sang and they coughed,

But they couldn’t see
The meaning of moths,

Shattered my ego,
Departing the docks.

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.

The Place Of Mistakes

Here, the God of Hammers reigns,
Long live the God of Hammers!
Swinging clubs, set me in place,
Secured in Plasters of Paris.

I looked into that pit of Hell
Where he tossed his mallets;
There I lost my sense of smell
And all the sensate palettes.

From my perch the lightning
Bruised throughout his business;
I hear that loathsome striking still
Within a loamy distance.

He pushed me through the hole
Of souls, in to new abysses;
In this way, I claimed coal,
Feeding the fire of kisses.

Amazonia

Californian seraph,
Amazonian wraith,
Stalking through forests,
Turning those graves
Where quarriers
Profits had gold
Coffins laid
Alongside cousins,
Flemish Margraves and
Iberian Dukes,
Escudos in pockets
Left by their brains.

With ivy and apples
You’d rise and reclaim;
Brazil-nut trees high
Over canopies rein
While moss runs amok
In their orbital cups;
Epiphytal orchids
Climbing kapoks.

Institutionless,
Nature’s state;
No surgeons here,
No interest rates;
The only needles
Are pines which bore
A broth, a braid.
No wills feeding
Outbreaks in swine,
No dates, no petrol,
No courts and no crime;
Just miles and miles
In greens and whites.

And so they raped you
With tractors and bulls;
Cattle for steak,
Dipped mint and a port;
Wines from their grapes,
A knife and a sword.
They lamented your loss
As they burnt you twice
On cruciform wood;
We can still hear today
The faraway hums
Where they
Buried you under
Highways and slums.
Dismantled to fatten
The lenders for life,
They will no more
Sustain us
Than unwatered rice.

Isabella

We loved in a realm
For spirits reserved,
Though if this residency
Permitted permanence
I could not tell.
Perhaps it was supposed
To be a turbulent
Temporal visit, until you
Punctured me three times
With love and said I should
Dismiss all thoughts and
Earthly worries, and
Deposit our hearts in the
Underground streams
Which feed the willows
And lawns of Surrey.

The wounds were in me still,
So you coated my coma
With love like a varnish;
How time must tarnish
And blemish and steal!
I blushed in my sleep
While you blew the cobwebs
From my dry and dusty body
And my lungs were refilled.
What I lacked, you crafted;
What I did not know, you thrilled
Me with impossible, vertiginous
Stories beside our windowsill
Where we merged our words
And when I awoke annealed
In a different Time
And different world,
My Isabella, our bones repealed,
I found my soul in your soul sealed.

Swan Song

This is how it begins,
Because everything is
Born from beginnings;
From alpha hatchlings
To supplements of omega,
Although one is not
Necessarily completely
Distinct from the other.
Even the Miseries of Achlys
Were initiated and embossed
On the bronze shields
Of Athenian hoplites,
Before Time made remedies
In the form of Poetries,
And reminded me of
The birth of sorrows
Growing like
Bone marrow
Inside me.

It takes form
Like honeysuckle
Seedlings,
Which we may mistake
At first sight
For pervasive weeds;
A season later and
The fragrances fill the
Nostrils of bees
And the space taken
By souls we remained
Quite oblivious to,
When in reveries
On sun-soaked lawns
In June. It pollenates
On the tide of a Muse
Who exudes the words
And the words turned into
The life of poets,
Prior to their
Metamorphoses
For swans reborn.

Painful, humid days
Swept away by prevailing
Blustery trespasses
Of outlaws from
Atlantic squalls
Bring rainfall.
Sometimes the downpour
Is sufficent, Muse-willing,
And the songs of the rain
Are recorded as they land,
And some we give to the fields
And the valleys,
The water table’s replenished
From the peaks,
So that we can
Return to the springs
And the streams and feel
Inspired again.

These days,
Do not write if not
To unify something
Whether the schisms
Within you, or the
Disagreements of a family
Of nations, something
To chime with the
Pendulum of your soul.
Do not write unless
It terrifies someone,
Whether yourself, the poet,
Or someone who would
Rather mute the swans
Of their language,
Shackled on a
Stagnant pond
Of compliance.
Better to write something
And have authenticity,
Your poetry will flourish,
Than keep the words inside
As someone else’s charity.

Song Of The Elk River

Delightful kayak,
Slender vessels of joy!
Although the river rages,
In ribs of driftwood
We’re delivered safely
Over ice-cold rapids and
Through the traps
Of countless ages,
Whitehorse-west and
North of thawed
Townships where
At torpor’s end
Aubading lumberjacks
Sing with hair of the dog
Of a haunting elk,
Its chimeric proportions
Known from Manitoba
To islands beyond
The frozen shelf,
And where the great
Mackenzie roars
We roar with little
Echoes back from our
Purified alveoli.
We reached the launch
By chartered flight,
Land of caribou herds,
Mosquitos rule
The endless night;
We shared the aurora
And an insect bite.

Days at one with the rocks
Rampaged by torrents,
Branches and crags
And this great river
Blend all the same,
There’s no distinction as
The foam fizzes and spits
At paddles and rig,
A whirlpool’s teeth
Sprayed the wherry
Where precursors
Of the Łutselk’e once
For pike and burbot
Fished, long before
The European explorers
Hired scouts to forage
For exportable coal
And a chieftain’s wife.

Our bodies were given
As blessings to the water,
The force of the river
Steals our breath as a
Payment for sensing
The riverbed’s soul.
Submerged and turned
In unison, my thoughts
Under the surface
Roll towards the Aleutian
Baidarka, inexplicably,
The scent of seal-fur
In the nineteenth century,
Pursued by light rains
And the hunger of huskies,
We come up for air
And in time the waters
Quietened, it’s an
Imperceptible shift,
As if the river
Did not so much lose
The argument, but is
Attuned to the level
Of cloudberries and
Lilacs, into still waters
We steered, a lagoon,
And there on the shore
We fleetingly caught sight
Of that wonderful monarch,
King of Bugle-Calls
And bull-thistles,
Eyes as bright in
Their patronage
As unearthed lazulite
Lifted up to the bright
Limelight sun from
Mines much further away,
With vestigial tusks
And antlers as wide
As prayers from a Trappist.

That mythical elk,
Unwinnable prize of
The lumberjacks song –
Their drunk serenades,
For not before long
Evening is tidal
Many moons behind us.
Blind to our surprise
Encounter with spirits
And garlands and nectar,
It would soon be time
For the touring company’s
de Havilland turboprop
To rendezvous
On the nude strip of
Southern plains,
And we would not have sight
Of that magnificent emblem
For more than a minute
Nor ever again.
We rubbed tired eyes
As the flight surpassed
The days and nights,
Into sunsets we flew
Like two sea-eagles
Pregnant with conjecture,
Your head on my shoulder
And in the eyes of our mind
The Song of the Elk
And the language of pine.

Ekcha Rubdizô

Layers upon layers
Like sedimentary strata,
Then all of a sudden
We find ourselves
Out of reach of the arms
Of those who crafted with
Sandstone and chalk;
This is just my example.

We set sail with deliberations
Exempt from sense for
The infamous whirlpool,
Regardless of rumours,
Regardless of her
Layers upon layers
Of teeth with limpets bleeding,
Emboldened by newness
Of youth and cordite
Stored in wooden tubes,
The viewer and the viewed,
We preached to the priests
Who refused to immolate
A sheep with swallowed rue.

An inverse plume
Of drowning hues,
There are no songs there,
No shanties; no grebes
Or aquiline sea-portents;
Our waterlogged thoughts
Are dissolved of fantasies
And Poseidonic prayers
That enriched our years
In tireme training
Like flares lighting up
Underwater caverns
And lantern-thoughts
Iridescent as herring
In the cranial Mediterranean
Crevasses of monk-seals,
Dreaming on their rocks
Of squid and of molluscs.

I pulled the plug
And a whirlpool vortex
Of washing-up water
Rejoined a greater creation.
Oleaginous bubbles
Swelled like the fur on the back
Of the duck-hunting dog
Bred for swimming,
Or like the cumulonimbus
Over the fens, heralding
Mid-spring rains soon,
And I knew then from the patterns
Bled through my pen,
And through those clouds shaped like
Three hearts in a cuttlefish exhumed,
The certainty of storms by noon.

Charon’s Obol

At the worldly water’s edge I met
A ferryman fettered with every man’s debt;
Most men ferried were frantic and wailing,
But fretless he focused on only the sailing.

Sails unset, and a sulphurous shore-line,
He had not expected the twisting shrine
To offer me forward, unholy day,
Across the bubbling barking spray,

And twice, three times again he inspected
A register of sadnesses’ shipment selected;
On the sediment’s surface I thought it strange
To speak of no toll, no financial exchange

For embarking his dark gondola. My name
Was not listed, but it was all the same
Payment to him, to steer me on beyond all reach,
Where strange landings occur on a stranger beach.

His grim hand flaking pointed barge-wards,
Above us flew three haggard blackbirds;
Anchored not far from where I appeared,
Like a friend in a dream, the same yet weird

And disconcerting, we had not met for years,
I saw myself moored with morbid fears.
I tripped on the littoral margin, and spumes of red
Bit my bare legs. Inelegantly, I clambered instead

And sat opposite from my hanging host
As he pushed off with oars from his dockyard post.
I looked over the lip of the creaking craft;
Nothing reflected, fore and aft.

At the midway point of this bleak crossing
(The worst of the details I’m continuously glossing)
I noticed, new horror, three holes in the deck
Through where the wild waters would willingly wreck.

My chaperone slowly turned his head,
And said without moving his lips of the dead:
“I have two skulls, two holes they’ll seal,
You must choose which two are real”.

His great grim hand, the bone-blockers rolled,
Across the base to where I sat cold
In the heat of the river, a terrible choice,
I had forgotten the feathers to love and rejoice

And as I felt my last heart sinking,
And all I could see were the hollow heads thinking,
I dropped those skulls with heavy regret,
And awoke beside you, covered in sweat.

Featured image is Charon and Psyche (1883)
By John Roddam Spencer Stanhope – Private Collection Roy Miles Fine Paintings, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43610750

Love Lies Bleeding

Our bond was forged between two places;
The sky-found fables, familiar faces,
And back in our city the seasoned disgraces.

I envied your consort on the heath,
His stubble sharp as lamprey’s teeth,
He made a garter and a wreath

And toured the church where he would kneel
Before love’s faulted spinning wheel
Which trades between what’s right and real.

As younger lovers we shared seven rings,
Your leaf’s butter-wrapping annulled nettle stings,
We tamed the marshes and the lings.

You poured your songs into wandering missels,
You gave me a crown of Tyrian thistles
And peace within my Roman epistles.

But in the river there’s catfish and perch,
The river that throttles the crumbling church,
Where Love Lies Bleeding, under a birch.