The Toll-Keeper’s Song

It’s a small price to pay
Said the man at the toll,
As he held out his palm
And I paid with my soul.

For the man was of envy,
This man was all sin,
I thought I was driving
But he steered me within.

Now I am the toll-keeper
Plaintive with song;
My palm’s always empty,
The night’s always long.

Someone Else’s Song

I heard the end of your song
Before you finished singing;

I found the end of my life
Before I finished living.

Now I’ve been singing someone’s song,
Their words in my mouth, verbatim,

And over time their phrases replaced
Everything I had forsaken;

Routed out, vicarious mouth,
Only my soul’s voice was not taken.

Hymnal

My days ahead aren’t numbered
Just because of death;
My years are not for hymn boards,
The pages are not set;
My time is unencumbered,
I’ve lives to live ahead.

Clawing presumptive ends,
I’ve closed the dismal thread;
I threw away the herring bones,
I locked the empty chest.
I’ll join a flock and learn to fly,
If flight brings me to rest.

The Song Of The Moon

I used to live in a forest
Where all the world was dark,
But now I live in a clearing
Where at last I see the stars.

I used to live in a strata
With amethysts purple and blue,
But I could not touch their colours
Until worlds were opened by you.

I used to live in a town without words,
As silent as the night-sea;
But now I reside in the poem
And I gather the oceans in me.

I used to live in an aperture
And watch the lights flash by,
But now I remember the camera
And let the memories lie.

I used to live in a forest
Where all the world was dark,
But now I can see the trees and the berries,
The song of the moon, the heart of the stars.

A Midwife’s Song

The barren bones of a poem inside me,
Some people have got it, and some have not;
I exhumed the soft tune of a sonnet,
Some people want it; most poets forgot.
I dress the dead metre with words and wax,
Our patrons in the palace were shot;
There are no survivors of their syntax,
Their betrayers reworked each person’s plot.
My adversaries expurgated wit
By blackly burning the books of my life;
Mistaken, my imagination lit,
The embers gave birth to a blue midwife.
This is the poem, newborn on my bed,
Where words and verses and whole worlds bled.

The Shaken Tree

Midriff mildew stings
A hair-foot giant flower bee;
Seven counties in her wings,
Nests in embers we foresee.

A female blackbird black won’t give,
We trapped her willow wanderings;
She stole the roads, the pheasants live,
When murders end, so too detectives.

A company of wigeons
Fed seeds beside the streams,
Wreaked havoc on decisions,
Commuting coughs in web-foot dreams.

In the river there lived a spirit,
A translucent Naiad, butter-blue,
Now the water she will not visit,
Her body turned to wood for fuel.

There is no taking from nature
Without nature keeping track;
Wild boars will measure the failure
When they bring the forests back.

 

The title is taken from a Chinese expression, “to shake the tree and feel the wasp sting”, written as:
搖樹,感到黃蜂刺痛

This Man

This man held a song in my throat;
Oh how I clean the stains daily,
Yet he left only once.

This man soaked my stomach
With the skin of a pig
And the heart of a stoat;

This man now cannot say what he wants
Because he does not know,
While the parliamentarians ferment revolt.

This man did not think of the rift and the ripple,
Nor long on the legacy-love of a tipple,
Nor the blackbird nesting within my vision.