The Handflower ☊
In this night’s dark stain, come, lay beside me;
I will take you, man without a name,
who turns his face away and bites my shoulder,
who needs but cannot bear the bitter dregs.
I will carry your weight, as every sister
who wore the handflower became the bangle,
learned to spread her bones and sink beneath
the waves of each particular obsession.
Curses follow me of those who fear my right
and shudder to know the love I count in minutes
of every hour, who spit their gall where I laugh.
This flesh is mine, it has bled, and shed,
like a snakeskin every unworthy touch
and kept for itself, the taste of one kiss.
Landscape from a Window
What comes in at the window
is more than the bitter tang of noon grass,
the aftertaste of love’s hidden thunder
you imagined you heard
as you lay, supine, on the single bed
the sunlight askance upon your hip and thigh.
What drifts through the window
is the feather of a bird that fell through sky,
its black mass defines the leaf and blade;
it is the isolation left behind
the corner of a farmhouse where a single garment
snaps the line at the bite of a colder breeze.
What lifts the edge of curtain lace
from the frame is a terrible precision of sight
that views the empty field with horse
standing in its lonely traces,
and sees its own mortality in the landscape
of your shadow cast aside in naked sleep.
On Desiring to be Rain
Portrait of the artist as a raindrop:
I adhere to the deep secret of moss.
The dampness encourages me to grow
in hidden ways.
I give birth to strange mushrooms
of infinitesimal thought,
pale and convoluted and delicate.
You may think me dumb and dull,
because I will speak of the way I see
a glint of light run along a sunbird’s black beak;
shackled to my ink, I write it into lines,
and add besides, that feathers
are the perfect colour.
I have yet to be born as a snail
and unravel my spirals of thought
in thin trails of night silver.
Rain me as some thing
Rain me as glow worm
Rain me as curling leaf of fern.
Under storm clouds, I will sing the song with words
I do not understand, in B Flat Minor.
The Ashes and Other Lines
Once I heard a peacock cry,
harsh enough to crush the last hope
of a weakening heart.
Once I saw a man, back bent
to his guitar, plucking a trail of tears
from the strings and beyond his window,
the sky was blackened.
Why do you sing to me of suffering?
Rather let me go.
Once, I was spared drowning
and washed up, rolled in the small surf
with other broken things – shells, nets,
glass rubbed smooth, opaque as a dead fisheye.
My white limbs were too limp to hold me
so I crawled over cold sand, alone
but for the bitter curlews
picking over stones.
I could not see, then, beyond this spite
of survival, when every shore
seemed too meagre for hope,
nor guess what hands might reach for me
at the low water mark.
The sky looked down
and seeing me broken,
reached out and brushed his hand
against my shoulder.
“Come with me,” he said.
So I followed him, for his eyes,
though fathomless, were kind.
I belonged to the bat’s wing at dusk,
and the swallow’s arc at dawn
until the space
beneath my heart grew brave.
And I have seen the sun set
into a westward ocean in a slow bright
slide without giving a hint of steam,
like a silent sigh.
And I have felt the rough edge
of a lover’s jaw slip down my neck,
leaving a raw trail of nerves
my skin remembered long after
he was gone.
Why do you speak to me of beauty?
These are only ashes.
The Trees Held Their Silence ☊
The trees held their silence through winter,
wrapped tightly within the hardiness of bark
and brittle outer branches. They were silent,
as was I, as were you, my Love, unshielded.
We touch, without touching, sometimes
and know without knowing how we do.
We sink deep, sometimes, fall into blank
spaces, shivering our way through the cold.
The trees called to me in the early spring,
telling me to look up – I looked up
and saw the swallows had returned to me
and in their returning, I returned, as did you,
my Love, unhindered. We rise to the light.
We awaken, seeing no further than each other.
The moon hides its corners
at full brightness,
takes up space, which is no space,
which is merely time
and fixed motion
Though I try to turn my cheek,
the corneal edges
until the tears drip
and cling to blades of night grass,
and no amount of time
will bring back what
has been lost.
The wind blows down my throat,
deflects the gravity of hair
but I am pressed
to this square of earth I occupy;
space will not move for me,
nor time, unspooling
its infinite line without binding
consciousness to any
fractal sliver of
The immediacy of the moment
has passed like night birds
that flit before my eyes,
utilizing motion through space
until time swallows them,
as my conception of self has been
swallowed and spat up
in these shallow fringes
of midnight’s eddies.
A thin mist settles on my shoulders,
conversations play out
in other living rooms, somewhere close
a dog’s voice cracks the moon;
emptiness fills the space
in which you never loved me.
Time has reached the natural
limit of reverse.
Contemplating people, I have observed ☊
the vast divide between the clean and those
who choose to remain unwashed. A child
will feed pigeons, happy in the dust.
A bull pierced through the shoulder sinks
to his haunches. Never was red so dull.
The female form excites the muse
but all becomes ordinary in reduction.
A platter. A bowl. A long-legged table.
While masculinity resolves its headache
in paunch and penis. Hills rolling unregarded.
A study in plane and colour is as academic
as mud and blood, piss and undressed lamb.
We have eyes that slide past drooping nose,
and oh so many teeth. Sharp. White.
She scrubs herself in a blue room.
He plays ball on the beach. Lover of sand.
Here at last, a man with a guitar. To wake me
in my grave. Carve your tune in basalt.
Singing the seas to a crying woman.
Where she reclines nude under stars.
We cringe. We crawl. We crow.
So little time to find the soap … Rinse
the sullen crimson tide from your fingers.
Ponder the inevitable fall. Cracked heels.
Rise from bed. This life. Uncovered. Art.
The Return of the Magi
My mind is missing
a vital part –
a tiny pendulum cog
like those that switch back and forth
inside old pocket watches
balanced with a chip of diamond
and necessary to basic function.
Without it, I don’t see
the need for polite conversation;
my smile has developed a mechanical hitch
which stalls it halfway.
I have given up on epiphany,
on cognition –
afraid that any thought
would lead me to retrace my steps,
go over the same ground,
rearrange the syntax of a single sentence
in the hopes it might say something
other than: Your journey has been nothing
more than wasted effort.
Maybe this is preferable to the discovery
that my fallen star is crowned with thorns.
Waiting in Limbo
A journey brought us together
at a crossroad, star-mapped, when moons spun
bright as hollowed pumpkins.
I forget the day before:
where I was, the odour of sunlight
upon the daisy path
beneath my calloused footfalls.
But every day since
is measured by the nano-silvered liquid
of my brain; suspended and expanding like
invisibly connected points of light.
Did we think to die
unexpectedly at the door of this bleak planet?
Or lose our grasp
on language so thoroughly as to dissolve
in the void, lost to these empty spaces
of in between?
Still, I call for you through closed lips, trembling lids.
Waiting in limbo.
If I had known,
the day before you left,
that the cold fires of dawn
would never be as warm,
nor that birdsong
would not be written
for me alone, but that I
would hear it as a stranger;
if I had known
you were never to return
with the turning tide
to the harbour of my bed,
nor to reply when
the winds followed you,
calling in my lonely voice
with its plea to come home;
if I had known
the hour of my loss,
I might have died
slowly upon the last kiss,
or saved my tears
and stoked the night fires
with your name, until love
was burnt to ashes.