By the enclosing sea

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 

Blind morning sun

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?

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.

Cowboy holidays

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


What the dove said

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