V.97 Nightingale II

It was probably a sleepless
thrush, or a lady blackbird out
In the morning to center me.
Later in the week a green tree

(green, you remember green, a sharp
asset, a zone) is filled up
by a murmuration. Words fail
to register all of the ways

that words fail. Over the next months
poetry leaves me as I hold
my black plastic controller and
curl up in bed as the womb hurts

curl up around an old and new
goal, to have the numbers raise up
and buttons click neatly and soft
as the shots of unreal guns sound –

As the game becomes my home, I
hold myself in the vibrant light
and lines cut to suit the dull eye
and suspended in a rest mode

I wait until the suspense that comes
from restraints, as in chess, or love
is suspended in turn and light
of sun over the river grows

V.90

When you read an ancient poet
and find yourself or part of you
becoming-drift with ancient sands
always enfolding each other,

it is not something of success
or failure – to be the great soul
is to draw all strings into one
cord, and feel your sudden failure –

everything has its ancestor –
unwind one thread and say of it
this is my colour, my tenor…
It’s all a scrub with tiny blooms,

stone, shell, what more? Repetition
is never quite exactly apt –
this courtly poet whispers through
eleven centuries to tell

me of my love for you, clearer
than the scarcest cut ice, trekked out
across the sands and wrapped in palm
to impress the caliph. My song

is an alm on the tree which grows
and falls and grows again. Years pass
and the desert widens, but faint
movements stir the clacking branches

The Field

An itinerant worker returns from a civil war that never quite happened, back through time to their partner, and on their way they see things in England and Wales that cause thoughts to occur. In sequence the field repeats, each one slightly differently. In each field a different voice, a different group. Maybe a village, or a city, or a bird

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V.88

The lake surface is dusk-white noise –
Just so many cut paper gulls
and silhouette ducks – then the dark
cuts across this inner distance

I sit in the greying evening
reiterate a dead song-form
– that of assuming the stances
of nature. But nature is gone

and what remains is a dammed stream
and what remains is a lake house
– people moan and run from nothing
and wheeze. I can’t reach beyond it.

There’s only the monotone lake
whose forms insulate nothing from
nothing. An image of a false
image. I make my offering:

In the morning, a red dawn comes
and fixes the sky in crystal.
Intergalactic prison ships
revolt and institute the new

through law. But for now, the moon hangs
in soft focus, and swans are fed,
by fallen branches whose mirror
in the lake caresses the sky

City Woods

The wode is a kind of dust –
it piles up around the land’s cracks
where the cleaning equipment
sighs and faints in exasperation

And up close and in it
a tangle and heap of word
with cuts and slices on the plane
where trees fall and bring light.

To walk by, paths which increase
and curve with a complex
runic twist – to read this
it would take a kind of Hecate

Bluebells raise their damp towers
where small grey flies hop to try

Calliope

I want to receive you like the bed after becoming so tired I cannot sleep and odd things run through my feverish mind

I want to sit stunned cross legged on the covers and reach over to catalogue you mindlessly at first, but then knit all of you together with my tongue

I want to hear your voice collapse like, in the grey fog, immense waves in a storm collapse on chalk cliffs, I want to collapse

I want your gaze to become decentred from the locus of your self, allow the sun to become everything of you, scattered over you on the forest slopes in the snow

I want you to think of all of your best lovers whilst we recall them by knotting together, and it becomes hard to untangle from the past to go make coffee

I want us to forget each of us which gender we are, at the moment of climax when all there are are damp surfaces and depths and the universe achieves its end smiling, I want us to sweat

I want you to feel your dark hair rise all over your body, feel it grasp everything like snakes as I become statuesque

I want it to be like tearing the book of your life in half from that moment each time, each time you look at me and laugh or sigh and the rain pelts jealously on the window

I often think of collapsing with you on the floor as soon as we cross the threshold, with a little ceremony and incense, the censer swaying back and forth over the carpet. I often think of you

V.86

There is a gradient. The sky
moves from polluted red through pale
to black. And orange flashes as
the tractor trails wheat dust. The road

merges off the circular path,
intentions are coded in light.
Industrial farming machines
don’t fit through the old town crossing

and crunch the box off the lamppost.
In the streams of thick logistics
molecules are reshaped en masse,
and fly into the gradient –

the dark leans over the ripped grass
like a pervert, waiting to glance
the raw dirt and turn it to dust
to fall onto the road and sink

in the torrents of the moist air
gradient down to the river.
A car is shifted by the flood
and sits at the car park entrance.

Gradient of dystopia,
this passing through the osmotic
barrier of roads, where wheat dust
bounces, falls and scatters like bone

A Last Grave

For H.B

If you’re there, then now would be it
the time to let an autodidact rise
with the dreams of his grandchildren

And as I say this, to myself
under the graveyard tree, which is,
I think, nourished by the dead,
and yet lives, a breeze softly stokes
the leaves, each a red flag, and green.

A pile of ash keys against the wall
turns to dust, and the rain begins –

touching a white poppy in the field
but under the ground, under, waits
something, a crowd. A mass,
that moved once, and will move again.
For we know what happens,
when we bury a seed

Vague

Behind the facemask of my mind there isn’t a lot happening. The dullness of disaster has arrested complex thoughts with its neutralising swarm, experienced as a blank mass descending over everything like snow, or asbestos over an old factory. Which isnt to say I’m having a particularly bad time. After all kids would play in it like snow, and were presumably happy for those moments, even as the traces of later pain knitted themselves into the depths of the lung. Although I do have chronic pain of a kind, it’s really not anything to send letters home about – I can still enjoy the bubbling steam of the coffee machine that cost me £4 in a charity shop. These cheap, or at least notionally cheap pleasures help us in the mornings as they grow darker, colder, here in the north. For the best skill in life is to hold on whilst letting go, and knowing when. The chances of death are still certain etc. etc.

Stranded on the immensity of the ocean, I am treading water. The giant fish-object silhouette hovers in the deep, just on the edge of the dysphotic zone. My eyes are sliding off its almost-imperceptibility as the water laps around my ears, as the waves pull me up and down. My stomach is turning and turning to try find a way out, but of course there is none. Dread is with me in the cold water, amongst the water, invisible. My eyes are wide and cold and I am in constant tension waiting for the teeth to snag me from behind.

Then something changes. I relax, see the surface rise away from me in its liquid glass transformations of the grey clouds. I take a mouthful of water and taste its saltiness before I open my lungs and breathe it in. It is light and cool inside me and I now hover, buoyant as the water, breathing the ocean in the dark. And moods are like this, aren’t they? I suppose.

Heaven

In this place rain has fallen like this forever – a mist, the monsoon downpour and white noise. Then the forest, the edge of a forest where blackbirds call meekly and woodpigeons shelter on the curved branch.

Lightning cracks through everything in vanishingly small moments. And thunder unites.

Spaced along the eternal border are houses, backing on to the woods and in each, the back door is open and swings slowly since the wind is slow. Raindrops fleck the glass, and wet the mat.

In the centre of each garden, one of the risen stands, staring into the swaying woods which moves with the shifting intensity of the rain. It is warm, and their clothes are wet. They never look away. They want nothing except to continue to look. This they are granted.

The lord’s prayer dances on their lips, but it changes nothing, and means nothing. Still they call it, whisper it, softly. Its sound is completely lost in the rain.

They seem still, and at peace. And they might be