From the dining car, a river

On the train you hold the waxed-paper cup
In two hands, careful, as if you caught 
A butterfly

With seesaw determination, as the carriages shunt
At the points, where the rails diverge and intersect
In that clumsy, stagger back way
You always thought unnecessary 

A summer cold is just past all sensible belief
(you say)
I think how you mantis, turn 
The taut, wrung out cloth of your neck
Outside, the hard, enticing glint, as the river passes

When you return, careless this time
With another cup, held at a clumsy distance
Like the besmirched paw
Of a particularly embarrassing child
Shadows lifting from your back
I consider, the isthmus of your face
The changing half-moon light
Where the sea erodes

One day there will be
Nothing left (I think)
The way sometimes, in our peculiar distances
All details are effaced

But for today
When you tilt your head
To better catch the trip-trap of the rails
The silt of time
In the hawkish, estuarine rake
Marks out the familiar, negotiable terrain

If I only knew the legend
I would keep the map
But, instead, watch the run, of unevening colours
The roads becoming flood-torn 
As the paper soaks
The spilt tea from the tray

The journey only ever takes us
This one way
Crumpling, with that mildly sneered distaste
We are lost

A sailor’s lament

Galleon ladies in death masks go
Dreaming of lost Mexico
The dead have gathered on the strand
To listen to the echoing
The sea is rising and the sand
Encroach upon this widow’s peak
Soldiers red and soldiers blue
Abjure this slow pestilence
The brigantessas to and fro
Worry oar locks where follow
By my cull and clinker boat
Sailfish on the wing
Clean the ashes from your hands
Taste this salt to reminisce 

See saw termination

Trucks pass, dirigible as convict ships
The bed sinks further to the earth


I confuse their seesaw complaints
With angels and with finials


The egg unscrews so you can hide
Notes obscure as phylacteries


 To                 older   
           your                 self
From           younger


Now I count sleep, the early evening
Brass is dragonesque 

The kitchen, milk-white, littered
with that aftermath stillness
The butcher’s block
Has the Euclidean solidity
Of plane objects and right angles
Blemished, ingrained scars
Where the meat was
Gratuitously dissected 


Focus attained, like wisdom
Blurs in and out
Until lines mesh


Inertia slows, the universe
In the illusory drawn out moment
Between deity and big bang 
As if a waning summer afternoon
Was still too humid for our liking
Perhaps a Wednesday, close 
As the outbuilding laundry, cement troughs
Sparkling with those frozen mica constellations
Make you think of murder
Cloths jugular and tightly wrung
Wrist bone dinosaurs
Roughly hewn in the grey slick overcast
Of madly chalked astrologies
Here the maiden, here the serpent poised
Unfamiliar and yet, in the slip and grasp
Of mild toxicity
Still, the coolest room, the drains reminding
In the Coriolanus of their death throes
Only eternity offers to reimburse returns
For your 5c obligatory deposit
I will give you back, like an obligation 
Unwanted but
How in augury strangely accurate

For my elemental friend (and the statue of his mother)

You have that violin face
Cheeks held in and strident


A pizzicato 
When you laugh


You imagine 
Your mother lost her arms
In an undefined post-industrial accident 
But it is just the way she sits
In the shadowed folds
Of voluminous robes
Romanesquely disappearing


Made of all those dead butterflies


The velvet hammer blows
Of half-drunk pyrethrum 


Wears a beauty mask, most evenings
The grey mud of warfare


Steam rising from the endothermic heat
Like Botticelli’s Venus


From the mezzanine
Crowned in smoke
Where you harshly inhale and expel
In quiet disequilibrium, looking on


With a jackanapes grin

A hollow sound in your chest
Of trains slowly leaving

Mare Erythraeum

There is a stain, not quite like a face
On the Rorschach linoleum
Where your thoughts fell, almost
Blue and tinging red, the way ink thins
Efflorescing on the surface
To seesaw evening colours, the floor
A new, scattershot horizon
Worms and satellites passing
Before, indelibly, sinking in


From the other room
The cat squall of tv
As if drawn curtains 
The invading green of northern lights
Could disarm a necessary distraction


They made an X-ray of my father’s jaw
To see if that’s where the anger lay
A snowy landscape, but in reverse
A summer blue gleam to the night’s 
Precise and errant sophistry
Trees gone to half-mossed stumps
Knowing, therefore, that this way must be south
An owl’s hard hunting screech
Beyond mouse bones, on the horizon
In the harsh and overbearing light
The dome of St Peter’s 


There is a window when we are close to Mars
Looming in the southern sky
With that machining aspect
Of our well known trajectories
While descending robots roar 
At familiar landscapes
Made of a sudden, strange
Marked in red, precisely dotted lines
Image of Mare Erythraeum (adapted) courtesy of Google Mars.

Cat amongst the pigeons

A cat, with a Rorschach face
Sidles by, asking if I have any doubts
As to human superiority
Inventory is all around
Like god, neatly arrayed
Pewed and tagged in Sunday’s best and legion
Though, the shelves
For those essential 
Civilising products
Are nevertheless
Half empty, quiet as apocalyptic streets
Except for those two, fighting
As the last roll of TP unspools and stops
Still at my feet
Foregoing any ill-considered doubt
I pick it up
Ensconce it surreptitiously 
How did you get in, I ask
The cat says
Shhhhh, with that familiar grin
I’m not really here

Ulysses over the handle bars

Magpieing the colour blue
a seam of sky, in the pocket
of my too worn jeans, where yellow
crabbing days wore through, coins
and threads lost like summer
(I guess) a horse of cloud and air
leapt in a lunge, the trident shape
Poseidon’s scowl in wavelets cast  
against the sleepful gabions
ah, futility, Ulysses thought
the stained glass, of a martyr’s eye
cyclopean in the way it fixed
a furied vein, the bolt-tight
gun-metal jaw, ricochet and
gutter blunt, a crown above the minotaur
with blasphemies and buckled
wheel, half turning seesaw back
in the blind, almost crow-black
breakneck intercession

White feather

Water sheds from each leaf
Something white and feathery, in that susurration
As if the poplar, in bird guise
Was wont to fly away, but shamed
By the brute, demarcating quill
To hold and shiver, await
A falling axe
I think it was a goose, I don’t know why
They once thought a sign suitable for cowardice
A piercing bird, high and far-journeying
With that strange lifelong bonded love
That we wish we had
In the misshape of our victories
Somehow, more important than a war
A feather fallen to the grass
Jewelled with droplets
In the placid, stillness in between
The morning’s chasing rain
An unwanted grace
Gone in the next upswirling breeze

A door to the far side of the world

Sidle through, the door jammed
To that narrowing perspective


Where if you leave or if you stay amounts
To two scraped arcs
Worn into the boards
Never touching but
Almost the same


In a curving universe, the mathematicians say
All parallel lines will eventually meet


But it seems, this exit
Will only ever go one way

Amanuensis in declining summer

We slow, walking into water
Lapping salt, uncertain how to speak
Arched words, in the face
Of an amniotic resistance 
To advancing life

Remember how the Madonna grieved
When her child rose again
Counting days like seagulls
Above a garbage shore
On your holiday towel the stains
Of eggs and leavened bread

Sister what’s-your-name
Can you spare a coin for love?
You have a gravid face
Breaking open sunshine

Just a quiet deception
Something fragrant in your mouth
Crushed sweet seeds, a flower
An azure sea, a breeze below
The moon when summer
Turns, more or less, as the hand
Before your smile
Bent as it repudiates

God does not write home
With platitudes and dreads
Homilies about these dismal
Seaside coloured days
Sandwiches quite stale
How the scavengers are blessed
When they steal and beg
Other frail beatitudes from your disregard 
The deck chairs bellows semaphores 
In candy-coloured cyphers
A breath as light as new-made saints
On convalescent afternoons