Eight Glasses

Water’s passed
Through seven
Towns on two
Banks of the
River Thames,
Or Isis as she’s known
At Oxford upstream,
Although it’s the
One and same
Dead river nymph
Before flowing
In to London’s
Bloated all-consuming
Hips, her public
Fountains and
Seven sips through
Seven lips on
Seven mouths,
Seven stomachs,
Some with ulcers,
Seven lies and
Seven dowsed,
Then hepatic ducts
And bladders where
Water in a hoisin-sauce
Soaked duck
Or any creature
Clipped from luck
Swirl in confluence
Post-gut, post the
Spatchcocked organs
All that’s good
Before arriving at the
Thirst-quenched populous
Downstream from the
Golden Cotswolds
And into throats
Of foaming dogs.

So too seven lovers
Fell through me like
Teardrops, like
Ethereal waterfalls
And hydrogen bombs,
Floating on to where
Other men and
Women meet
To hold, and sigh,
And comfort, tossed
From one lifeboat
On their journey
To the next, until
At some sun-blessed atoll
They found a form of
Peace. I crawled to
Blackened riverbanks
At Purfleet and drank
Salt in my sleep.

Those who know me
Might expect a
To the eight glasses
You would drink before
The day had even
Reached its peak;
But I am tired,
And I’d like to drink
Something else neat,
Some herbal tea,
Some skimmed milk,
And fall asleep.

Labous An Ankou

Little owl, Athena’s companion,
Protector of a Parthenon;
Tidings glad or firmly foul
Depend on where you’re from.

You took my parts collapsed
With Brittonic tradition, yes;
Nailed me to a cottage door,
My feather fetlocks pinioned.

To shepherd the dieing dearly
Through their letterboxes,
Protector of transitions are
The starry bear and foxes.

Barn owls frequently are found
In farming cattle troughs;
We sacrificed the way to float
For silence while aloft.

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.