The phone shrills, eternally Until it stops, beyond a threatening hiatus In storm clouds starts again An annoying reincarnation, when the machine kicks in Of a robot voice, the timbre thin And splintered, with the urgency of desperation Yet, pronouncing stumble stilted Admonishments and infractions Warnings ending with that spy film click Of an unseen listener, purpose all but unknown The intent, inexplicable Except perhaps to instil A vague anxiety As if somewhere, cloying in a desert land A machine lumbered ingracefully Towards us, having cut the line Nothing left But an ill-determined menace A cat’s breath In my mouth That strangely intimate purr As if I were a child feeding On some wild nectar In the cup of too wise savagery The insistent hunger When a voice in the white noise Of emptiness, says suddenly Is that you? And as then, I still don’t know Which one of us it was, or is That speaks
Almost half awake blanket warm That strange lopsided walk Of sterile corridors A smile in the side Threads of rotten teeth Holding desperately to silence Except the ventriloquist muttering That untowardly thinks; you left a bird inside Obtuse and andiron blunt Chest too cramped to so childishly fly Arms that half stretch out The sinews almost disconnecting Wishbone flexed To that hyoid shout That leaves me palely clinging Against the ribs a cowl A rose in my mouth The glass has two faces One folding in The other folding out Falling sideways Through the airy space That I halting breathed The miasmic shape That you left behind
Still quite young I have a map for sunday afternoons Going nowhere, just the roar of mountains The whisper of wet tyres leaves a wake On shining roads with a machine-like grace The first reluctant drops of rain Where it pools in my hand Still cupped to lave and scry Sets the mirror of the day to trembling Distant thunder wraps her cloth around my ears I imagine fierce and blinding A ragged sky all crumpled I wonder where those onward trains Where they go, where they leave These smeared signals black and white and red and green Broken tendrils on the pane I have a pocket full of earth To grow a dandelion for my ticket
At the beach we fall like Carthage Tasting salt In the dunes butterflies grace Small stars on the bramble bush Bright as copper burning There is no one here but dreams of wanderers Worn as sea glass In twisted nubs that fire never made Green and agate against your lips A taste like mermaid skin, you say I say, as if For curling winds We bow our heads Your face big as the sea-lorn moon Pocked with hollow frowns A garland temple on your brow Pollen on your breath All fell down Two mouths make butterflies, of course Flying away In utter blue To wind-torn speechlessness
January is the longest month After the cacophony Of the morning’s war We lost the world in chipped cups Bird demands and traffic ricochets Rope burn and gravel skies Dead teabags high as Babylon Cigarette ends crushed into the floor Stations on the map Of harsh, devoured moments Crooked and splayed and almost immediately forgotten There is no running water To keep the dead at bay The crisscross handle bites at your wrist The throes of something Desperately still alive As if you inadvertently held In a stigmate hand Knocking at the walls Lazarus emerging The day suddenly brazen Climbing hand on hand To the second floor A smudge on your chest From wounded lath dislodged When you scraped against the parapet The surface lunar dry But beneath, a rich wet earth That smelt of hungry winter Tugging at your coat and hair The building has no face We are in the socket of its eye The pages of Salverte’s Philosophy of Magic That you translated In blemishes of ink Blown on a rising wind Through the sunrise swelling blindness For the unfathomed dead to read
What is a poem? May as well ask, What is a bird? If your answer is, A creature that wants to fly, you are in the right place. Some consider the purpose of poetry is merely to create of mundane thoughts something poetic, a sort of polemic or didacticism or biograph dressed up in Sunday clothes. The creation of something poetic is, rather, a consequence, not a purpose. If you wish to give a sermon or a speech, do. However eloquent, this is not quite a poem.
In A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream Shakespeare has it that;
The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven; And as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name.
From the intrigues of the imaginary, the poet makes something both astonishingly new and yet profoundly familiar.
Lewis Carroll infamously asked, How is a raven like a writing desk? Later in half-hearted glibness answering his own conundrum, because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat and it is nevar put with the wrong end first. I would simply say, the fault lies in the question, and return it to its beingness as a rhetoric koan; a raven is a writing desk – ink spills from both, how then is it not?
Edgar Allan Poe will tell you, a poem is the rhythmical creation of beauty, its highest purpose to evoke a sense of beauty in the reader. A poem, as French philosopher Gaston Bachelard has said, is a contemplation, written from a reverie. A kind of semi-autonomic daydream, in which purpose, language, tradition and elaboration entwine with the subconscious impulse. This reverie has the singular purpose, in its newness, to impel a consequent reverie in the reader. Akin to a suspension of that surface of critique, and falling into an auto-hypnopoetic trance.
If childhood is indeed as a glass of dreams, a glass darkly, poetry returns us to that wide awake reverie, to that reflexivity in which the world is images and mysteries that, before experience so fiercely trammels them, merge in unsuspected and unprecedented ways, that we are driven to order and unpuzzle.
The reader’s induced reverie is of course informed by what is significant to the reader, what resonates from their own journey of unpuzzling strata. If the poet is only trying to impart experience, well. We all already know what a bird is; what we want to know, what we want to feel, is of its desire to fly, and in the immensity of that blue, for a moment, in a dream, to fly with it.
Thus; A poem is a bird that from its desire to fly, creates itself.
We are going on our holidays Never going back Through the apocalypse traffic The vaporous mirage A dissolving dragon’s breath Of steeples thin as falling glass Spilled tropicana cordial On the strangely serene damask And leatherette upholstery The boats all turtle-backed Marooned above the shingles Sea birds stalking on the keel Crusoe desperately waving From the shadowed underside Level crossings and cattle grids Iced-cream coloured songs Droning on the radio The static full of summer lightning Not quite knowing why We are dressed as cowboys When we prefer the Indians Nested in the back seat Breathing deep the plastic old car smell Smeared in grins Tears and sugar On squalled faces No, we are not there yet We have bows, and Colt 45s Caps and arrows For passing threats In Clint Eastwood voices We are gone Lost as lariats On our cowboy holidays We are never coming back
In my bird garden I asked a dove If she mourns lost winter afternoons The sky furiously balming Your brow against the glass Breathing shallow But, with that reluctant mist That warns of life in mirrors Fast evaporating The bird replied Though we are Neither not so cold Nor defined by the shape of rain That we would forego Our easy days Still, when the magpie sings We will find an eave to hide behind Life is fraught Bridges far between The house you build By tumbling roads Will fall one day to the bright stars Of soft, emerging asters You think a bird a fool, but How she watches, how she waits On her flimsy precipice The magpie is a winter mountain