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Friday, 29 October 1999 00:00

White Oak: Black Water

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Great passion leads

To abstraction

W.B. Yeats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desire is

not there or

then but in

remembering


Contents

 

BLACK WATER..................................................................................................... 4

HEART SURGEON............................................................................................... 5

INTIMIDATING SWIMMER............................................................................ 6

A POEM BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP........................................................... 7

MY ALBATROSS................................................................................................... 8

INTIMATIONS...................................................................................................... 9

TWO MAGICIANS............................................................................................. 10

THE BORDER...................................................................................................... 11

THE BORDER...................................................................................................... 11

NAVIGATORS..................................................................................................... 12

THE SOUND BARRIER.................................................................................... 13

SIGHING SPIRITS............................................................................................. 14

ORPHEUS ON THE UNDERGROUND....................................................... 15

The Definition...................................................................................................... 15

The Bridge............................................................................................................. 15

The Ever Open door............................................................................................ 16

Semicolons:........................................................................................................... 16

Their Spheres........................................................................................................ 17

Time Zones........................................................................................................... 17

In Step.................................................................................................................... 17

Her Question........................................................................................................ 18

Fear of Snakes....................................................................................................... 18

Waves..................................................................................................................... 19

The Frozen Lake.................................................................................................. 20

The Lower Levels................................................................................................. 20

New Tortures........................................................................................................ 21

The Last Song....................................................................................................... 21

No One Listens.................................................................................................... 22

The Bridge And The Abyss................................................................................ 22

The Inner Circle................................................................................................... 23

The Romeo Trap.................................................................................................. 23

Another Answer.................................................................................................... 23

The Last Illusion.................................................................................................. 24

Last Fragment....................................................................................................... 24

THE LIE................................................................................................................. 25

DECEMBER.......................................................................................................... 26

IN BETWEEN...................................................................................................... 27

ROCKABYE........................................................................................................... 28

ON THE SHORE................................................................................................. 29

THE PALACE OF TEARS.................................................................................. 30

TOGETHER OR APART.................................................................................... 31


BLACK WATER

 

Black water still

Tidal and deep

Surface emulsion

Iridescent as oil

Cupped in your hand

Stained like whisky or tea

With tannin from the soil

Your hand in the water

Watch it disappear

Deeper and deeper

Sepia to blackout

Just like

Just like my memories

 

HEART SURGEON

 

She’s taking back her life

And only now it’s starting to hurt

Every smile has to be paid for

Every touch, every word

Every molecule removed

And all her strengths must be turned against me

All her acuity and edge

Her silence and her deliberation

Honed like a knife

 

I see her take that knife

Heartsurgeon neurosurgeon

Without anaesthetic

She cuts her eyes out of my eyes

Her face out of my face

It’s really beginning to hurt

Cuts her chest out of my chest

Memory by memory

She takes back her life.

 

She performs the operation perfectly.

She’s practised it on herself.

And when I look in the mirror

 

All I see is the shape of her vanished face

The darkness where her eyes were

The old heart pumping failing

Gushing useless blood...

 

Look at it all. Here it is...

Out through those arteries

Which no longer are attached.

 

She doesn’t leave scars. She doesn’t leave fingerprints

She doesn’t leave anything.

 

She’s a good surgeon, the best.

She’s practised on herself.

 

INTIMIDATING SWIMMER

 

Cut me like a sword

As you dive into the water

Lash out with your body

Like a dagger in the water

Blank me with your flip turns

Counting like a dancer

Rippling like a samurai

You know how to hurt

but your wake is calmer

 

Then turn on the light

Come up for air

 

You've grazed your lip

I can make it better

 

A POEM BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP

 

If words

Could keep

You warm

 

If thoughts

could take

Form

 

If letters

Could be hands

 

Figures

Turn to flesh

 

This poem would have

Unbuttoned your blouse

and be half way up your dress


MY ALBATROSS

 

So be my albatross

Hang around my neck

Feel my hot cheeks

As I plumb the depths

 

She said:

"I walked through the door and you gave me the startled look

Of a man hoping against hope

That I would walk through the door.

I thought what the hell

Your cheek was warm against mine."

 

Yes my cheeks are warm

Walking a tightrope of terror

Coming up to hit me

On either side

The loss

Bigger than we can imagine

 

My sweet albatross

Hanging around my neck

Feel my hot cheeks

As I plumb the depths

 

INTIMATIONS

 
Dreaming

Of being

The water

You swim in

 

I glide

In the slip-

stream

Hide

Alongside

 

Then slide

In your wake

You feel me

Slipping

Between

 

In between

Sheets

of

water

flesh

cotton

paper

 

Intimidating swimmer

My intimate


TWO MAGICIANS

Bow legged shaggy cougar

He came to drink at the pool

And saw you there

His predatory eyes

 

He ran after

 

Playing without suspicion

She grazed herself on the side

Then transformed into

Wavering butterflies

 

She ran after

 

Became the snakes she feared

Slipping across the path

And he a desperate cockroach

Climbing forest bark

 

They ran after

 

He was the

Wide-eyed

Frightened fledgling

Shivering on her sill

 

So she made her

Blue grey eyes

A sky big enough to fly

But not fall down in

 

And where are the two magicians now?

Beyond romance

Beyond chance

Beyond reason

Beyond sense

Beyond caring

Beyond harm

 
THE BORDER

 

Who recognises this border?

 

A torn strip of shirt

Hanging on razor wire

 

In the spotlight of a searchtower

Fledglings feed and hush

 

Grass gapes through the broken

concrete of a checkpoint

 

Do you recognise this border?

 

I'm standing by the bridge

Looking at the river

Imagining what line I've crossed

What lines I've yet to cross

Will she search me

Refuse my excess baggage

Grant me a temporary visa

When does my exile begin?

 

Writing on the water

Drawing on it

 

Borders

 

After floods in Honduras

The roads were washed away

A bridge was left behind

While the river flowed around it

 

Blood flows now

where it shouldn't flow

The Atlantic ocean grows

At the same pace as

our fingernails

 

There is no border

 

NAVIGATORS

 

It was an act of suicide

Setting off without maps

In search of new world

When the world is flat

 

The world is flat

And there are not enough rations

Soon the knives are out

Everyone fighting over possessions

The bulwarks are leaking

Now the currents run awry

and every landfall is a desperate

Search for food and water

And there's no turning back

 

Because the winds have shifted direction

And even if we make this journey

Through the doldrums between the black rocks

We'll come to the edge of all known things

And fall off the flat earth

 

It was act of suicide

So they thought as they hauled

Further and further westwards

But the world is round

Even without flat maps

 

THE SOUND BARRIER

 

Night accelerates

In the jetstream

Orange to red to green to black

The moon rises phenomenally fast

 

When cleared for takeoff and the pounding jet

Takes a delicate ballet dancer's step

Into the big air, four g’s of compression

That’s how I feel now

High up in the jet stream

I cry at stupid movies

But at minus 70 outside my moisture

Cracks into stars

 

I had looked out of the same window for so long

Down the same street

Walked the same mental pathways

Knowing where they would lead

 

Night accelerates away

Through a crack on the horizon

Like a slanting trapdoor

 

A new day opens up


ORPHEUS ON THE UNDERGROUND

 

The Definition

Darkness defines us

Her hair up, black suit, smiling

At someone else, I just missed her

Glance –

It was a deeper way of glancing

 

Separate tours through the plantation

We were captured by the same expanding black

Pupils of a crouching panther

 

He saw us when we didn't.

Even when we danced, I didn’t

Dance with her, but the air

Behind her

 

And when the music stopped

We were dancing still

 

So much undone, unsaid, unknown

Understood

 

We stroll through the night rain,

Leaves shake

She’s afraid of snakes

I can’t dream of leaving

She returns to her room without turning,

(I admired that non glance)

But the night outside was now so dark

Turned the window into mirror

And she could see me

Looking back

 

The Bridge

 

Waiting by the bridge

Black water

White oak

With my head in my hands

To focus, for I knew

This was a border, watershed,

No maps for what lay ahead

If I went any further

There'd be no point turning back

 

Then you arrived

Your flashing smile

And without even noticing

I had already gone

 

The Ever Open door

 

There was something in him unfulfilled,

Something bigger than the shadow that he cast,

A photo of something not quite in frame

A language he had heard but hadn't learned

 

All through his childhood there was a picture

His mother called the Ever-Open Door

It was small - a faded watercolour of

Timber porch and a big stone arch

Opening onto a path that curved away

Round rockery and shrubs and dry stone wall

Into an unseen landscape where

The distant sea was somehow near

 

That was how it was when he first walked with her

The path dark but familiar

Waiting to be explored

Like an unmapped territory always in his mind

 

Semicolons:

 

She pushed me away in the water

And then held out her hand;

 

She told me she wanted closure

And twice delayed her flight;

 

She didn't look back but in the mirror

Looked at me looking back;

 

Quick, Orpheus, give me one last song

Before furies come and tear me apart:

 

Their Spheres

 

He lived in two spheres,

Like day and night

Both full and integral

You could say he had everything

But caught in their contradiction

Everything to lose in both

 

She lives in one sphere

She does not contradict

She has nothing to lose

She does not wear perfume

Doesn't send him gifts

Doesn't meet his friends

Does not exist

 

Time Zones

So late in her night

So early in my morning

The night cannot be subdivided

A whole hemisphere is dark

 

In a pool of silence

Of pagelight and silence

She waits

Darkening the screen.

 

She may be all alone

But what does she want

With any Orpheus?

 

While I write

She sleeps

And when I sleep

She writes

 

In Step

 

 

And one time he was leading her through the darkness

And then another time she was leading him

The first time he reached out to touch her

She withdrew but then instantly

Reached out

 

Through the certainty of never

To the uncertainty of now

Through the certainty of pain

To the uncertainty of joy

 

Not Orpheus and his muse

But two lost children

Like Hansel and Gretel

Walking through the dark

Their hands never parted

Searching on the path

For whatever breadcrumbs

The birds might have ignored

 

Her Question

 

"Where are you?” she asked

In the misty square at night

 

Big red walls

Seemed to echo back her voice

 

Might have beens formed halos

Around the lights

 

Every particle can take a different course

Each collision lead to a different world

And we scatter in the air

And never can cohere

Till a voice says;

“I am here.”

 

Fear of Snakes

 

 

She had no maps

Moving slowly northwards

She was afraid of snakes

Snakes abstract, real, unconscious

But still kept on moving north

Towards the bridge

While each step pushed her back

To that fear she couldn't get across

 

Maybe HE was the snake

Lying low on the path to bite her sweetly

Then withdraw. The venom would act

Stabbing her insides

She could feel the loss already

Waves of fear kept sweeping her back

A force stronger that the river

Brimming up inside her

Like a hunger that hurts the more it eats

 

Her resistance now her only direction

But still hoping he would wait

She tried to be the wall against which

The current pushed unabated

But then what can she hold on to?

She was the force she was fighting now

Beside herself - gone

 

The dam broke  - water flowed

A torrent an avalanche a blaze

And the force inside her like a river

And like a river runs away

Leaving snakes stunned bridges undone

Maps irrelevant the landscape changed

Her

Standing on the other side

 

Waves

 

Like the quiet of a tube station broken

By lightning bolts running

Along the steel track

You turn to your fate

A subterranean gale

Blowing on your face

 

And then someone wonders

Why you were looking?

 

Or as the impact of a comet

Darkens the whole planet

There is no time to panic

Her energy comes in waves

And following in their wake

Everything is changed

 

And then she politely asks:

Do you want your old life back?

 

When I didn’t have her body

I still had her voice

When her voice had gone away

Whatever I may say

Everything has changed

 

She comes in waves

Around me

Like a tidal wave

Sounding

Deep down here

In the underground

 

The Frozen Lake

 

 

The chill got to her. Ahead

The sky bone white as the landscape

Nothing to steer by on that frozen waste

 

Every step

An ice break

 

But now it is too late

She’s already made it to the middle

The future seems obscure

Too frightened to advance too

Tired to retreat

 

But the thing about frozen lakes

Is that most lonely place

Far from either shore

The ice is also thickest

And the most safe

 

The Lower Levels

 

 

There's nothing he can do

In this place of shades every

Shadow overcasts another, each

Action incomplete, timelagged

But still he searches for her

 

Faces turn, hoping he has come for them too.

Their sudden disappointment. He turns away

He must be strong - the thousands he can't reach

And she's waiting somewhere.

In this world

Every level compacts another under it

 

Foot falls on broken teeth

And even he's reached the rock base,

 

The lowest he can get

He hears it Unmistakable

Tapping

From underneath

 

New Tortures

 

When reality bites

And the knives are out

 

The greater the love

The more to suffer

 

The Last Song

 

 I was waiting in the restaurant

One cold December day

She came down and sat with me

(No-one noticed) but when she left

I saw her place was empty

Then I knew she'd been here.

 

And she is here at this moment

In this room, she leans over

Finishes these lines

But the moment I look up

She's gone. It's just me reading.

 

That's how I know she's been here

 

I see her long brown hair

Trailing on the underground in dreams

I would ask what she's doing

Haunting me here

In semicolons and silences

But she would only shrug

Unable to say

 

She cannot speak

when I am listening.

 

While I sit under the rain

Imagining missing her forever

She sits under the sun

Half hoping I will find her

 

But I won't. She hides so well.

 

At her best

When no one listens

 

No One Listens

 

Deep in her fear

Hid

Her pride

Her pride was strong

Her pride was right

But her pride was

Coiled up

With her fear

She was lost in a space

Where his voice

Could not reach her

 

The Bridge And The Abyss

 

We are on a narrow bridge

Over an abyss

 

And the important thing is

Not to be afraid

 

Don't incite your fall

By pre-empting it

Imagination spiralling

Over the parapets ahead

 

And don't look back

The heat is so intense

Blinding yourself

With burning old bridges

 

We are on a narrow bridge

We were always on it

 

And the important thing

Is the bridge

And the abyss

 

The Inner Circle

 

This is the inner circle

Drawn

By his own voice

 

He stands there, unable to move

 

He cannot be drawn one way

Forced into his future

The past still calls him

It has an equal sway

 

Only the night is undivided

 

Black water

White Oak

 

His past a dark river

His future a blank sheet

 

The Romeo Trap

 

Sometimes the song they sing together

Is a trap

Sometimes the rhythm fetters them

To rhymes and reasons

That they don't have

 

Sometimes the need for love

Diminishes their belief

Sometimes the belief in love

Diminishes its effect

 

At some point the song must stop

 

Another Answer

 

Maybe that is

How he gets her back

Maybe she’s the one who has to sing

To rescue him from daylight

 

The Last Illusion

 

Only by breaking his promise

 That he had devised for himself

Just at the last moment

When they were coming to the light.

Only by cutting off his future

By dwelling on the past

Only by looking back

To see her swallowed in the dark

And then the blessed relief

As furies tear him apart

Like silver axes descending

To sever the strings of his heart

Now they carry him back

Beyond the gate

 

THE LIE

 

The scalpel flashes across your mind

Lie

Lie

Or tell the truth and die.

 

Relieve her of her madness

Light up her seeming darkness

Her confusion is so clear

Only loss on either side

 

Whatever you do you are divided

The parting has already happened

Though you cannot get her back

She was always right

See her standing on the other shore

On the side of light

 

But before you disappear

Into your darkness

Feel the keen edge

The razor blade of insight

 

Lie

Lie

Or tell the truth and die

The scalpel flashes

Across your mind.

 

DECEMBER

 

Now the wind comes

Westerly and strong

 

We are not the player

We are not the song

 

We are not the instrument

But like two strings

 

Helplessly struck

By the same things


IN BETWEEN

 

Everything entwined

Our limbs toes our

Dreams and dissertations

 

Open eyed

Our skins are indistinguishable

 

Everything makes sense

 

Then the phone rings

Or we row about the past

And the flight is already boarding

At gate six

 

Our fingertips touch

Plate glass

On your arm I remember

A childhood scar

It doesn’t make sense

 

Now miles of empty air

Separate us

Useless empty air

 

In between

My hands reach out for meaning

But nothing is worth touching anymore


 

ROCKABYE

Driving along

Your hand on the nape of my neck

In our own sweet

Special way

Or with you at the wheel

Your leg outstretched

Your hand

On another place

 

We cross state borders

Heading northwards

In search of snowfields

Though the weather is warm

 

Who knows where we're going

Don't care. No maps.

Soon we've squeezed out the last

Drop of the daylight

 

We find patches of snow

Under the trees

But we'll keep on driving

Till this road hits the sea

 

So put your foot down

And don't look back

Keep on driving and

don't ever stop

 

What's known is over

What's found is lost

And ahead of us

It's only hearsay


ON THE SHORE

 

Hit

By the big saline wave

Of sleep

 

Caught

In the electric fizz

Of its foam

 

Then washed

Deep into sleep

Drawn under the sheets

Spun by the currents and turned on the tide

 

Till some storm

Tosses us back

Here on the dry shore of the morning

Naked and raw

 

Time to wake up!

Get in the shower

Sand in our eyes

Wash the salt from your back

 

The sound of the waves is receding

 

But here

On our mattress of sand

Our imprint is left

The curvature of your body

The restlessness of mine

 

Like a plaster cast

Of our desire

Which these little words

Can't fill


THE PALACE OF TEARS

 

There are no more border guards

In the palace of tears

No bugging devices

No eavesdropping spies

Trying to find out if you're defecting

To the decadent West.

 

Now you can rent a car

Drive it to Moscow or Milan

Buy gift wrapped chocolate

Tread on marble floors

Extract your cash from a swift machine

In the palace of tears

 

Bodies which together

Seemed so light

Floating over each other

Here take flight

Hearts unravelling like barbed wire

In the palace of tears

 

I could say to myself

Time spent together goes so fast

Before we know it

So will the time apart

Me waiting in arrivals

You coming through the gate

 

But the airline soap removes your smell

I can't remember the last few days at all

Like dipping my pen in frozen ink

Or touching fingers

Through frosted glass

 

In the palace of tears

 

Former East Berlin 1999


TOGETHER OR APART

 

Together

Or

Apart

 

Much easier to see

Just one dilemma

In the frame of forever

See it now

 

Together

Or

Apart

 

But unpick the words

Suspect the simplicity

 

Apart could be

Communing despite miles

A constant presence

Like a subtitle in your life

Apart could be

The meaning you hold

Like two strings vibrating

To the same note

 

Unpick the words

 

Together might mean

Cleaving down the middle

Inseparable as a wound

Dependent as enemies

Demanding as

A beggar's bowl

Imploring the pennies

That make you poor

 

Unpick the meaning, unpack the words

Go beyond the dilemma

 

See us both

standing here

And listen to the world

 

Beneath the footsteps

And murmur of voices

And the passing cars

The world is so quiet

So quiet

 

And we have to keep

Ourselves

Together

 

And stop

Being

A part

 

 

 

LAST FRAGMENT

 

 

sequence of scratchy black

The stutter of the projector

As the reel flaps.

The screen is burning white and blank.

What? Can it have ended?

I stand up, shade my eyes

And glare back at the projectionist:

The story isn't over.

This must be some mistake

Then it dawns on me like halogen

Brilliant, innovative, yes

This is the last shot

The unexpected ending

Of the film I've come to see

My hapless shadow protesting

On an empty screen

 

 

 

Read 1593 times Last modified on Monday, 27 October 2014 16:56
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