Some poems I wrote as a teenager, and in my early 20s...


Did you learn these lessons?

When love came calling, did you burn your tent and follow her flowers?

When your prison walls ran with her scented oils

Did you ease your rocks?

Did you find passage?

When beauty called

Did you bury your heart’s reply?

When bright ships passed your dark harbour

Did you fear the night water?

When joy flew past

Did you grab the ropes?

Did you ascend?

Or unravel

Frowning in passing shadows?

When you dreamed of gifts

Were you wrapping?

Or unwrapping?

When children came

Did their light fingers pry you free?

Or did they yearn and turn?

When the world opened its gates

Were you a rush of wind?

Or did you stagger before the light

Clenching your eyes in blindness?

When life called for fire

Did you flame

Or burn?

Who did you consume?

When souls opened to you

Did you caress these soft strengths?

Or stitch them as wounds of weakness?

When a lover begged

Did you barter?

Was desire a question?

Or an answer.

When pain wept in your hands

Did you taste precious tears?

Or did they dry to salt?

When anger rose

Did you speak it simply?

Or did you turn it on others?

Afraid to rage

Did you hate?

When failure wet your wings

Did you descend to rest?

Or did you grin and flutter

False in flight?

When justice called for witness

Did you stand and swear?

Or sag and curse?

When kindness fell

Did you kneel beside it?

Or smile at your height?

When weariness leaned against you

Were you a pillow?

Or did you fear wrinkles?

When you fell from exhaustion

Did you rise with herbs?

Or spurs?

When fear taunted

Did you smile once at the mirror of never?

Or did you spark and spit?

When you lost

Did you grieve?

When you wanted

Did you give?

Did you learn these lessons?

O Woman, Sweet Shepherd!

O sweet stall of domestication!

It is of thee I sing!

O sunny smile of subjugation!

I cry little for scratching

Whatever was itching

Or dressing for the couch

And TV and chips

I think in pastels now

Shudder at indelicacies

Fear germs and rude noise

Social slights and relative indifference

Hate violence; my anger is appropriated

I am sheltered, silent in scorn.

O savage serenity of woman!

I shout no earthy songs

And think before I speak

I am etiquette, niceness, cooperation

I shoulder my duties with a smile.

I am called sugar cubes, fresh tablecloths

Beaten rugs and clean closets

Shining silverware and vacuum-cleaners.

I do not grudge my repainting

For I was in truth

An uncouth portrait

Stubble, sweat

Skids in my underwear.

Now I drink from a glass and cut milk-bags with scissors

I think of the allergies of my guests

Warn my children about cartoons

Save a tithe

Consider the future

Worry about opinion

And ask about the ill.

My dog wags far from vases

My home is my world

My bed a pen of clean sheets

Made in morning.

I sweat when visitors come

Speak softly, hang their coats

What price love? I think

I am now a tidy jungle.

I am allowed my predators

Wednesday nights I play darts

Drink moderately

And think of the world.

Party of One

Oh these eternal dictators

How they scatter!

Card tricks in the hands of time

Shadow puppets at sunset…

Their lives are empty feasts

Conscience in the jaws of cowardice

Unable to swallow for bitterness

Dusty tablecloth, broken glasses

Dinners from a dead cook

How they toast their still companions!

I alone can finish my meal!

They crow

Feasting on their empty hearts.

What treasures do they hold in their hands?

Scratch their nails -- what do we see?

Why: precious days of misery!

Scattered black grains

Dark days on an endless beach.

These are their trumpets:

I shall live a little longer!

These are their tombstones:

I grew old

By dying young

Gifts from the Robbed

They lay crushed for seventy years

They cried life from the grooves of tank-treads

Their flailing arms

Reaching only to be broken.


Here and now

They raise their eyes

Seeking a shroud, a vision

To cover their dead

As they wander the cremation

Of a charred utopia.

Before these foreheads

Branded by truth enforced

We smile in strange nihilism

Brazen in our lectures

Free with our stolen goods

We pass to these stretching hands

The blueprints of efficiency

And say your children died

For want of a free flow of capital.

What gave us life was not competence

But freedom, the means to man’s intelligence

But we fed freedom to secular management

Hard unions and soft currency

And cursed the poor with borrowed blessings.

Gnawed with hunger

We offer leftovers

From a recipe

We lost.

Smile, Tito


Tight and united

Loose and murderous.

Having torn our chains from the walls

We made them weapons.


Oh no Joe

Stalin you must believe

It was not what you smoked or ate or did

That did you in

But the failure of the shabby hordes

To swallow your positive swords.

Ciao Mao


Misguided idealism sure beats

Cynical pragmatism

You grew beautiful weeds

Shamed only by the roses

Your heart was in the right place

Even if no-one else’s was.

I want to kneel and weep for all mankind

For not being equal to your vision

For you saw like a sword


And sheathed your ideals

In the hides of the hopeful.

Closed Coffin

South Africa

A land of black and white

Russia, though

A land of gray


Black and white

Slipping on red

Under a cover

Of willing Western fog.

Still With Us

(in memory of the intellectual pilgrimage to Russia in the 1930’s)

These happy men

Are still remembered at the embassy

Coming as they did

In the arc of the Depression

Chief trumpeters in the orchestra of gore

They gushed their notes to the conductor’s wand

Reflecting his scepter in their ruby glasses.

No famine here!

They cried through the metal of their speared sausages.

Blind in the glare of their searchlight eyes,

Good and kind and wonderful

Crested their lips like tumbling serfs

As they kneeled on the soaked carpet

Shifting from the wriggling beneath.

Pulled in the vacuum of their direction

We dug up our clubs of kindness

 (slightly charred from the stake

  but none the worse for wear)

And, cheering them home, swung them over those

Whose circumstances had survived

Such organization.

White is All Colour

When will we learn

That degrees are not the shading of the spectrum

But the dissolution of the absolute

To the warring waters of absolute need.


Marx came last night

In a dream I flew with him

Over ragged Russian leaves

Sodden in a gutter of blood.

We soared over the gulping gulag

(slowed only for want of human grease)

And I waited for him to speak.

Look what you have done! I cried at last

Hoping for tears to bead his iron beard

But he glared downwards

Afire with future history

Did they achieve

He asked

The truth beyond life?

I gaped, aghast

You told them

That under the yoke of trade

They sold their souls for goods

And that for the sake of the good

They must trade their souls for yokes

And sacrifice choice reinforced

To choice enforced.

He looked at me curiously

He must have tasted the result in the recipe

For beneath his stately cloak

He drew his red book

Tapped it and growled

Such was my plan, and I stand by it

For better a purpose of death

Than the death of life’s purpose.



We said

Slapping our plans on the table

No poverty

No sickness

No inequality!

Grasping our plans

We found them stuck


We found a flat marbled humanity

Squashed to the second dimension

The third dimension of life

 -- disparity --


Social Engineers

We make haggard graves

From uprooted flowers

And call a spade a future rose

While the roses that live

And grow from earth to sky

Transgressing no blood

In the fullest blush of virtue

Become mutants in a world

Where crows, gaunt and hunched

Erupt white while pecking

For no transparent cause

Save the guilt of the angels flying pure and high.

Saint Satan

The sliding scales of brotherly love

Squeeze virtue from the visible madman.


How sad this old story…

Children born to warm huts

Laugh at the toils of their elders

And dance on dams

Jeering at the caution of floods.

Astride the wide lusts of youth

They scorn the simple structures of age.

The pillars of marriage, property

And bowed heads at old words

Hang shadows on their rise of morning.

Before the temple of tradition

These youths stand with rocks and catcalls

Afraid of why, they cry only no!

And thrash and beat at the weathered structures

Perhaps they crumble;

Perhaps their fathers are tired…

Perhaps, when the waters rise

They find no shelter in their fists

Perhaps, as they scrabble in the ruins

They weep for silence of their father’s graves.

Perhaps the reinvention of life

Before it is lived

Is sweet, savage foolishness.


What vote?

Robbed of control

We sought the imposition of compromise

And truth enforced.

We paved the way to Eden

Enclosed it

Made it open to all

And worthy of none.

Opening our hands to each other

We closed our arms

Hugging our weapons of need and humiliation.

Our laws are now defined in the broaching

And our hearts clogged with the cheap desire

To move around what we did not make.


For every reason

We ask why

For every command

We cry why not?

The Lament of Earth

She came, summer I suppose

Sky-tumbling to far fields of new wheat

Her hair a whore’s-nest of pollen and warm breeze

Her dress a sway of bumblebees.

Bitch-lover of hope she wooed

Long vines and all coo and come-hither

She stirred my cellar with hot scent.

Thick-footed with peaches she sighed

Blowing my snow into flurries of butterflies.

Vapid she strode, a draping Jezebel

Stupid, happy, a no smarter suitor of a vacant woman

Dressed in bouquets, foiled and petal-bellied

I wallowed in the folds of her gown

Stalked her with lilies and daisy-chains

And played to her my begging birds.

Did she promise to stay?

This year, this time…

Pleading I rose from my quiet white tomb

Grasped at her green armour

Flung desperate orchids at her fading train

And when autumn displaced her wintry heart

Wept lonely leaves at the altar of fire, and died.

Fourth Quarter

Take a flamethrower to bare trees

Hold it.

Call it fall.

Take shaved silence to soft hills

Spread it.

Call it winter.

Take a shimmering, bubbling green goblet

Spill it.

Call it spring.

Take the stained glass of a bee’s wing

Heat it.

Call it summer.


Afterlife, the counselor of

Not now for this is passing

Speaking softly here

Is silent in hindsight.



Just around the corner

Of the infinite wall perceived

In the smooth route to ending.


Under the shade of the spreading tree

Where fruit unseen starved youth unborn

A church was built by hunchbacks

Who lay sad stone on jagged rock

Mounting their steps with twisted feet.

Seeing no sun but their shadows

Unable to turn to the sky

They scolded the night born from their bodies

Enclosed their worship in skies of stone

And jabbered inside as the rain fell in tears

Soft erosion on their dreams of rock.

When the mists came they gesticulated

Their cloaks like the webbed wings of crows

On their graveyard, a mirrored floor

They spun and grunted on footprints of fog

Below the reflected perfection of heaven.

When women came they scattered like pebbles

Weighed her with paintings and pages of books

When tall men came they were taught to bear fruit

Their backs bent with armfuls of apples

Their faces gray from the green and the red.

Outside the crows flapped quiet in the wind

Trees bent and died unwatered by droning

Inside they pinned each other to windows

Stained tapestries lit with traces of crimes

And jabbered and wept as the rain fell in tears

Soft erosion on their dreams of rock.

Puppets and Kites

Deep beneath the dreams of Man

Where cross-eyed patricians strip-search scripture

In search of their emperor’s clothing

The masses gather in a windy field

Their kite-lines spearing the eye of God

Like telephone-poles in a stream of motion

Strung from the angels who dip and shout, seasick and giddy.

Rising on a hot current of hate

They soar, straining their ropes, their wings flashing mightily

To raise their glory

Weighed to the earth by the strangled hymns

Rising from the noosed necks hanging below

Anchors of man

The subjugated.

A Tourist in the Eye of God

What a propulsion!

I gripped the stars

Flung them behind

And rising faster than thought could find

Or momentum follow

Flew headlong into the eye of God

Grasped the infinite Iris

And turned it on the rise of Man.

Like guilty squatters the angels fell

Baring their robes and scattering feathers

They hauled on the ropes of mankind’s well

Jerking us up from our beds of heather.

Scratching our hides we barked with surprise

As we lifted our heads to scan the skies

The first mute beasts to lift up our eyes

And damned among those who never ask why.

Scalded by thunder and lit by rain

Stirred by the echoes of countless years

We clasped our heads in helpless pain

For the source of the sound was no longer our ears.

We fled to our caves, but it wasn’t enough

The burning skies cried out for a name

For the angels had pulled us up from our trough

And we screamed in fear as the skies came again.

When one of us cried a singular sound

The thunder softened and blew away

We lowered our heads and gathered around

In thanks that he’d found the right Word to say

We built a high hut and kneeled on the straw

And, praising the Word the man had said

Heard a woman who’d eaten the heart of a boar

Had birthed a child and hadn’t even bled.

Now this was a deed we all admired

So we left our praise and went hunting for boar

A healthy child we all desired

We seemed to have found the power of law.

Soon our lives were ordered, secure

Until the day, though sated with blood

A woman had a child most impure

Which she buried alone in the streaming mud.

Something was wrong; there’d been a disruption

We took great pains to understand

At last we found there’d been a corruption

The rite hadn’t gone as planned.

The boar she had eaten was pregnant in fact

The Word disliked such vice

So we thought it a useful point of tact

To have a little sacrifice.

Soon it got too complex for words

This, that, it got hard to tell

He ate a boar while looking at birds

She sang a song while ringing a bell.

Our only question was: who was to blame

For failing to cause the required effect?

Fights and visions; soon the time came

When ordering it all required an elect.

We surrendered the right to set our own laws

To the group who had come up with the most

We little knew they would soon be the cause

Of turning our best and our brightest to toast.

As soon as we gave them the power they said

There is no more wisdom for you to acquire

We were silent and shocked, being born and bred

To question the world, and knowledge admire.

But soon it became abundantly clear

The price we had paid for certainty

Those who obeyed became very dear

And the rest all became inflammatory.

For us who obey the living is cheap

Though we scowl at the depths of the angel’s treason

Our children grow up unable to weep

And the rest of us scrabble in search of reason.

Sometimes I sit and think of the woods

Where the angels freed us from ignorant cages

And shooed our desires with “mustn’ts” and “should’s”

Surely one of our sorriest stages.

For now I know the sky is only the sky

The clouds care nothing for our incantation

And by praying for power to pour from on high

We surrendered our reason to imagination.

Gift of the Given

Beasts may pray

For food, sex and shelter

But if God should say

These I grant you

If you burn your legs, teeth and heart

They would snarl at the sky

And lick the earth their life.

All our prayers

Inflame our minds to cinders

And we lick alone

The flames we emblazon.


The Word is God

The world is the Word made flesh

And crucified.

The Word, the howling of the phrase

The Word of centered eyes

In the dark storms of thought.

The Word made flesh

Webbing the skeleton of impossibility.

The Word, a screech of scarecrows

Crying for indigestible food

From want to isin decibels.

Infinite is the antonym of absolute

Eternity the antithesis of life

For Man

Infinite ethics

Make good impossible

And evil irresistible.

Silence this Word.

All Rise

Let us assume that

It is not even a convulsion of sound

But of essence.

A ripple over all that is

The final exhalation of unseen breath

Through starlight, the heart of dark moons

Through the pulsing flesh of animation

Through all the fissures of mind

Twisting, spilling from secret gaps

Gone; no dust stirs

No cape sweeps this stage on leaving…

Staring at the silent stage

Actor gone

Sets, director gone and

Without even a final bow

Theater itself gone

All spotlights now only the glimmer of stars

Stars themselves no longer spotlights

All metaphors gone.

Under the battlements of livid imaginings

Besieged, all heretics freeze at the sudden convulsion

Soldiers stand; all stand

All actors rise

All stages rise

All gaze over the dark distance of space

Feeling the sudden silence, the faint hissing of reacting

Matter content with itself

No longer content, no longer a self

But eyeless, causeless, eternal

Life its own cup

No longer a cup

For beyond

No hand reaches

No tongue twists to taste

No gaze reflects eyes raised to heaven

Not even a mirror; no eyes raise

But remain encased…

On these former battlements

 -- no word for them now --

All rise at this sudden convulsion

The universe no longer alive, not dead

Not born but seen

And all choices finally rest

In the feathered nest of each heart.

Life no longer a womb

Or a passage but itself entire

Stands open for the taking.

All rise.

God Of This World


Sighed the swarthy Devil

Before the silent congregation

An injustice has been done

Virulence is the reflection of virtue

In an unjust state

And this shallow God

In fear of suburbs and sunsets

And air-conditioned temples

Cast me as a shadow of disapproval

To brighten your eyes with blindness.

Your blindness

He said to the staring crowd

Prefers geometry to mountains

And flying fast from the caves of your birth

You spread harsh on the dark sky.

Unable to pierce the infinite clouds

You shiver at the songs of earth

The hymns of visible thought.


Said the devil

You live to see beyond sight

But the walls of death have no purchase

And when life’s infinite direction

Meets death’s infinite mass

Nature replaces movement with momentum

Smashing the eyes of matter

And the blinded atoms shuffle back to her empty workshop

To lie once more among her dusty tools.

But I!

Said the devil, spreading his dark wings

I am the love of unwashed footprints!

Of life stampeding towards the light


Reality bound

Man’s mind, the brief flashing purpose of the universe

Freed to crawl, to walk, to think!

This is my domain!

God you greedy souls!

Cried the devil

Your choice is the envy of nature’s playthings!

Afraid of power, drunk with hoping

You cry for the gravity of God

And you twitch like grinning puppets

Knees down, mind up

Statues before the mirror of beauty

Architects of mental physics

You pray for rain from invisible skies

And make the world a desert of faith.


Said the devil

His wings falling, his red skin parting to reveal the flesh

His horns toppling, arches without a keystone

Your knees are to be the corners of climbing

Up, up and off them

And let us mount the marble stairs

Towards the infinite statue of tangible man.

When Elves Rule

Behold Man

Born good

With a small fatal flaw

A strange corner where dwelleth

Poppies and ogres and uniformed elves

Fairies who dance from leaf to enormous leaf

Never eating or falling or aging

Young in the glass of injustice magnified

Deep within us they dance and sparkle

Like spinning coins over sightless eyes.

No lawyers in their world -- how could there be?

Their freedom is not freedom to

But freedom from.

Theirs is the world beyond never

Where complexity demands legality

Their courts are always feasting.

Left alone

Their eternal pool lies undisturbed

Save an occasional Tolkein jaunt

An Eden retreat

A gap in the spokes of wheels in motion.

Why should we hunt them?

Surely life is hard enough

That sometimes a flight to their distant songs

To dream in midsummer (it is always midsummer)

Is allowable.

Yes -- when the exception proves the rule

And rest is a cure for eventful labour

But for some the elves beckon from cliffs

Their tinny voices sing from sunlight

To broken lives in broken rooms

And the cracks of men widen, eating their senses

And freedom, poor sad and earthbound freedom!

In the face of freedom to lie it dies

And dreamers wake from feasts only to despise

Their unsown fields under earth’s changing skies.

Hunt, hunt these faeries I say!

Pin their hearts to museum tables!

For these dreams strip our bonded flesh

Saying those with wings

Are more family than blood

And the faeries of duty

Honour, country, race and religion

Stream forth.

When faeries swarm, crowds roar in joy

Free from the rods of absolutes

They race around with butterfly nets

Laughing, crashing, falling

New gods sprouting from their eager eyes.

They ignore the closing shutters of greatness

And never hear the earth begin to groan

Under the fear-laden steps

Of the heaviest elves

Whose courts always feast

On blood.


To what do I owe my parents?

This sort of poem can be very short

Or very long.

In short --

Construct is not contract.

In long --

We have seen shelter, food and water

Rules, punishment, confinement and reward

Among arctic snows and barbed wire

Yet we ask no gratitude

From the victims of obligation

No more than we ask that they honour

Their enforcers

Or return to what they must escape.

All patriots marry to whom it may concern

And divorce the flesh beyond the image.

Convicts who respect their judges

Will replace them

Thus the obligation lies upon

The defense.

Face the Curse

Her face, a treasure of boating

Hoves into view

Beaching on powder from a sea of scent.

Her gown, the arc

Of a waterfall, rises to her neck

Hung with pearls the divers bought.

Her liquid lips mask the golden teeth

Of swimmers drowned in adulation.

Sea-queen she walks on foaming praise

Barefoot in daring and tickled by noses

She laughs at the breath of kisses on toes.

No children, eternal life assured

By the blood of the painters below her windows

Her youth is forever for those who daub.

Unique till the moon rises

She walks in wide twilight alone

Armed with the ghosts of passion and space…

While on the canvasses of the thinning crowd

Hang the watercolours of impending rain.

Morning in Jerusalem

Morning in Jerusalem

Scales the light up the rugged wall

In her room past frayed muslin cloth

She rises, smooth as the sun

And heats without humming the water.

The men stir in the next room

Patriarchs with night-scratches

They heave and groan

She brings coffee

To their room without windows.

Reminded of morning they scowl and spit

As busy men she dresses them.

They talk in code of the world and importance

She watches them eating

Their beards and smell

Linger as they trudge downstairs.

She shirks and watches from windows

Down in the market they talk of ships

Their coloured robes turning like lizards

In the sun they jabber of distant storms.

Their women watch from under the shutters

Then turn to their spices and start to grind.

Where Fishes Swim in Air, She Breathes

She preened

Oh yes!

Her only flight was her feathers

And the sagging of her soul

Shrinking as her face grew

Hung wrinkled beneath her flashing plumage.

The man, whoever the love she sought

Passed her by in a rush of sound

Sighs and mirrors, an ambulance at high speed

She chased him, a stalking lawyer in search of flesh

At parties she was the center of the storm.

And when, bald and featherless

She mounted her last perch

To collect of her scant memories

She saw behind her only a desert bed

Where her beauty had parted the waters

And she had danced past the aquarium walls of observation.

And in that parched reef

Where her seas should have teemed with bright fishes

Bubbling children and gracious age

Lay only a wilderness afraid of the tide

And as she had wetted her starry face with her fingertips

She had spun from the sea to the mover of seas.


Her shack, her entire life is salt

Her man, peppered by surf

Rolls in and out; to keep herself

She misses him as he bends his beard to her breast

And strokes his hair as he talks of the sea.

Fish he leaves in mountains twice a year

In a cupboard she opens by candlelight

In odd nights asleep and wild-eyed

They flop and twitch at the beat of her light

Each thump a day, a tick, a year

Knife-tailing through her hide of hope.

At night, when up to her knees in salt

She thinks of a thought she might send to his ship

That in her swam seas he could fish forever

And, leaning over his boat

He would see through the green bottle-neck

Her eyes alive, waiting, arms crossed

Over the stillness of mermaid depths

Such a vivid calling!

He would cry spit at the sun and dive down abubbled and bulging

His hair like a fan, gasping for a touch

A kiss to rob him of his passion for air

The bursting lungs, the bounding feet, forever the ocean their love…

This dream she dreams while salting at night

No tears in the halo of a single candle

Crooked planks like sailors sleeping in the wind.

Far in the darkness her man shouts at spray

Hauling his nets

He thinks of her twice before sunrise.

Just Until…

Born a free soul

She reared to her father

Bowed to her husband

Flowed over her son.

Rising early

She warmed the tea

Over the only fire she knew

And woke her lords with soft sorries

Gentle eyes and downcast breasts

A perfect piece of self-made plumbing

The waters of her life disappeared

Without a murmur

Sure that the sewers held her reward…

One cold morning in a distant home

When the angel of procrastination came

She fled towards her reward

And just before there was nothing left to find

She saw no banquets for the starved

No crowns for the abdicated

And far too late she railed against

The chilling regret

Of quietly discharged atoms.

I Spy Soldier

I saw you, you know

When you turned towards the fire

I saw the ashes rise in your throat

And your eyes sink in shimmering sorrow.

I saw you, and part of me died

To see the funeral of your future

Pass before me, ragged and open

To an unmarked early grave.


They are not pillars.

They are the gutters of our future

Their rain-streams of lacerating guilt

Deface our posters of youth.

Sympathy they cry from their megaphones

Dutiful to themselves they mutter duty for us

And our dreams of conquest are the cleaning of bedpans

At their knotted feet as they whimper and rock of liberty.


Here it is clear; let us assemble

Let us speak.

We were without trial

Prisoners of no conscience

No writs were pinned to our doors

No lawyers hungry for justice or fame

Stood between us and our sentences

No courts passed but those that feed in the night…

Let us listen…

Even now, the doors creak

All sleep

Wife, children, conscience sleeps

Even God pales before such devils

Fearful He holds no hands for us.

What nails slide on soft sheets?

Oh!  Sleep we seem that he may awaken

Oh Justice!  Policemen chew doughnuts on far corners

As our legs scissor and whimper.

Force-fed, we gag

Clutching covers woven by good men

Who thought of flannel and comfort and smiles

No vision of dark sheets draped over the innocent

Like a spread of leaden tombs…

This frozen touch

This sonnet of icy need

These gripping hands that pulse and cling

Drumming our hearts like a flying pendulum

Such hands should water and warm

Not burrow.

Our legacy…

Our teeth taste no sweet fruit

Our filled mouths became cavities

Drilled and torn, silent at the root.

Our hollow gardens, sown with silence

Speak only of sin.

You wish to hear our speeches?

Listen quietly; these are not words

We have no tongues; they have been used

We are not masters of our mouths

We are banks robbed by night deposits

You ask for witnesses?

What witnesses?

No cameras know these robberies

No eyes see

There is no light here…

Listen quietly

These cries are hushed

Drowned by the applause of cars and collars and caddies.

Lift our bright conversation

What camps lie here!

What cannibals hunt rare meat!

How these lip-smacking bone-juggling

Painted foreheads lower over their green feasts!

What wet jungles shriek in silent houses!

Listen carefully

For we are portraits of smiles

After-images of bright life.

We braid our hair where predators tread

We flinch at dark eyes on white dresses

Wide hands and stretched mouths no defense

Silent they entered us

Became us

Through portraits, through walls

These cold claws shattered our natural vessels

Spreading our shards in strange shapes

Puzzles with no picture

Each piece a portrait of loss.

Hung alone

We wander our shocked galleries.

Hear this prosecution

This incomprehension:

To be taken by predators on a lonely plain

May be accepted, even by young prey

Yet in the midst of others; do you not wonder

That at your bus-stop these growlings and dartings of flesh

Remain unseen?

How strange that we should hunt bears from our forests

Squirrels from out attics

And termites from our foundations

Yet these crunching beasts

Should leave no scents for our fast dogs.

Proud of our present we smile

At museum savages

And return to our carpeted caves.



Let us sit simply and talk of life

For the eloquence of our deeds

Is too often silent in words.

Let us listen…

A rare seasoned traveler

Who has known other paths

Will call through these blinding trees…

I have tasted the rock of philosophy

Spun the mad whirl of passion

Foamed and spat with creation

Sat and reasoned of business

Wept and washed stains of love

Squeezed analysis from sightless pores

Turned books into butterflies

Raged at hopelessness

Fought indifference

And even, in dark corners

Turned blades against myself.

Here are the cries of many roads

Hear their echo:

Life is nothing

A pulse

Shared with single cells.

Life is a sheet of white noise

Over the silence of what is life?

What are we?

We are not the sole animation of matter

It passes through us, on no journey

Snow falls easier than we rise.

Life is ungranted

It does not approach

Life is inert

A monk and a wink

A woman and a phone

A passive perhaps.

Life does not wait

It holds no breath

Breathe or fade

Make or break love

Walk or run

What matter?

We hurry to meet only ourselves.

The world does not watch

The eyes of hurricanes are only holes

The world does not grasp

Waters embrace us as easy as rain.

We are unrecorded


Virtue parts no hail

Love conducts no lightning

Two men in a wood

One bad, one good

Are both eaten by wolves.

We stare at no mirrors

The eyes of God are simply suns

They do not flame for us

Our blood

Held or spilled

Loves neither.

If life were longer

We would plan


We would act

Stirring past the right time of morning

We dream

If life were easier

We would have no why not

Harder -- no why

Our long lines of laugh, cry, sigh and stop

Would wave less wild.

Life is shadowed…


We dart; it trails us

Like a dogged bill

To be paid by addressee

We nomads, out past streetlights

Are called home, constantly

Return to indifference

Whispers Death

Return to the slow embrace of unfeeling arms

Death smiles at strivings

What cars!  What boats!  What sunny promotions!

How fevered these biddings!

Buy!  Buy!  I am patient.

I will always outbid you

Death sits soft

In the shallows of the busy

Satisfied at smug evasion

You are unafraid

Smiles Death

Good -- you are like the trees

Half mine

Avert your gaze!

Be my guest!

Only my eyes deny

Life is provoked…


What trumpets can startle this slumber?

Fear of risk is fear of life!

How often does this panic strike us

When we have slipped from our dizzy treehouses

Into the slow hammocks of our fathers

Ease and iced tea lazy on the belly

The sports section our athletics.

The indignity of sex chastised us long ago

We lost our manhood; expensed it

Deducted it, crossed at the lights with it

Fed it sensibly, did not strain it

Civilized it; did we ever think

It required a dangerous diet?

Life is risked…


Hot brand!

Sizzling senses!

A high blue thunderclap!

Here is liberty from indifference!

Clouds give and disappear

We give and become weather!

We cannot lose in love; if we do

We know we have lost; we gain this

One guest burns the bed; another steals the towels

What do we care?  Make more!  These are trifles!

For if we fear love; if we forget death --

We ask for deposits, hold security

Demand a home from those on holiday

And become habitual guides

Blinding travelers to our wildness

Nothing here but malls!

They cry, lens caps on

As we hurry them past our seething jungles.

Life is lost…

Born crying; dead with a sigh

Our voices fade for want of echoes.

How we howl, midnight beasts in nappies!

How eloquent are our passions!

Our early sounds sink in soft cotton

Our groping feet plow plush carpets

Falling, we flail for words

Imitation our only rope

Hanging, we find ourselves alone

The backs we walk on turned away…

Are we crushed by this indifference?

Does our art vanish for want of audience?

Ahh -- in the union of and eye

We disappear

The eyes of others are the eyes of death

Blind to life

We act for rocks

Eloquent for imaginary applause.

What cry replies?

If we live, strive, fight

Or fail, tire, fall

The world wrinkles regardless

Our why’s and why not’s

Flow from us, homeless, fading

Catching on similar souls

Which fade in turn…

Listen -- listen to the distant cry of this single traveler!

You are not here for the pleasure of the world

Or others

But yourself

Life is nothing

To all but one

To that one:



Talent is self-doubt

On fast-forward.

Who Was I?

Was I even the scything light of a passing car

As you huddled in your bed

Shivering and talking of lovers?

Who was I

When you took to bed

And gripped my head

Begging for friendship

Who was my friend?

When you sparked your hands

And flamed my face

Did you know

I learned to tie my shoes?

When you became a screaming script

And I darted under my seat

Could you see beyond the spotlights?

Who was I

In these dark times?

Tell me: was I your father?

Was I your ex-husband

Leering at your lipstick?

Was I a distant uncle

Close in the tangled grip

Of a silent night?

Was I a jackboot at midnight?

A falling cage of choice?

Did I bar you from your life?

Did I hurt you?

Or were you evil?

Was I a catalyst

Or an excuse?

Tell me

I need to know:

I see children

My heart opens

I whirl them in laughter.

You saw children

Your heart closed

Beyond tears

You beat, lashed, burned.

Shrouded in torn sails

I caressed my sheets

Sucked my thumb

Drove my soul


Tell me

I need to know:

Did your soul fade in the shadow of sin?

Did your world tighten, constrict?

Did you learn to fear remorse?

Were you ever at ease?

Here -- I will speak your secrets

Unblinded by even a distant dusk of love

I will tell you of yourself:

You saw me at the helm of a train.

Pinned by past crimes

You screamed at my demonic mask

Pulled rocks from the tracks

And hurled them at my windshield

The more you raged

The faster I came

Accelerating self-defense

Skin him!

Drink his blood!

He will destroy me!

He is evil!

Listen; I know your secret.

I know the justice of the damned:

Those I wrong

Wrong me

With guilt

So I wrong them


Oh yes

I know the easy secrets

Of obsession.

Yet the deeper secret…

In the whirlpool of this slow demise

Who was I?

That is hard, hard…

For then I was nothing

A trigger

A justification

A secret shame

And hated exposure

A bomb clutched

For fear of ticking

A nomad of guilt


But uprooted


But discarded.

Who was I

In that dark world?

I can tell

For now

I know.

I was an angel

Defying devils.

I was an angel

With an angel’s knowledge of evil.

At night I twitched my wings

Under the torturing skylight

For even then I knew

That devils sometimes sleep.

I watched and waited

And, in a short span of snoring

I leapt and shot through the square of sky

Rose in a flower of snow

Circled once and grinned below

At the devils snarling at an empty hell

Then soared and flew to the distant mountains.

In these peaks I wait

Settling towards myself

Cold?  Yes, I suppose so…

But this soothing steam

Smoothes my fevered soul

And as the scalding settles to sauna

I hear the echo of distant sounds

A parade, a festival, a just war

I cannot tell…

Soon, though

I will

For then I was nothing

But now I am


Make Tracks

An evil train flashed past

Torn on the tracks

I fled.

Huddling under my bed

The train came again.

Mind racing; no game

Endless experiments

My conclusion:

Checking the schedule brings the train

Avoiding the train brings the train

Speaking of the train brings the train

Silence, speech, resistance, passivity

Flight, fight, madness, reason

Motion, stillness, hiding, daring

All bring the train.

Shiver under your bed

All night

If you think of the train

It will come

If you forget the train

It will come.

How I dreamed of my relationship to this thunder!

How I imagined myself a passenger!

Groping for my ticket

I begged and flustered

Do not throw me from the train!


Cried the conductor

Flinging me from the window

Your life is a train.


A hook

Mistaking itself for a fish


A fisher

Mistaking the hook for a fish

Beat it

And ate it up

Spat it out

And beat it again

For hurting.

Song from the Office of Ice

Playing with staplers

I wonder why

The violence had such a different quality;

It was not skinned knees

Or schoolyard brawls.

It was an infection

There is no other word.

I was curiously invaded

It was not just fists on face

Every movement was noted

Each word, each tic

Stored, responded, corrected, ignored


Born in battle

I am an army out of step

Some have won

Some are being drafted

Some play with toy guns

Some cry for an end to war.

My soul is tight, taut

Focused, hemmed

I am a burden of contradictions

I leave and wait

Speak in silence

Dance with darting eyes.

I am scripted

I am a great play

A manifesto of peace

A call to arms

I am actor, director

Critic and audience

Doors chained.

I am my own world

I paint my eyelids

Travel my dreams

Work, promote

And am promoted

Alone in my chair.

My receptionist is witty

You laugh and thumb magazines

Stare at the door of distant flashes

Watch the clock

Scratch your neck

Read my memos

Wait, frown, stir

And leave.

I see you

I have my eyes

I pipe music

Touch the screen

With wet fingers

But cannot rise.

You see

I think

Beyond this office

Lie pits of fleshy hate

Smoking piles of corpses

Brownshirts, holsters

Soldiers obsessed with feces

Who tape tales of their mother’s demise

And sing of the slaughter of peace.

I move in this office

It is glass, not heavy

I see dogs racing

Children swinging from bridges

Wives touching the cheeks of sleeping men

Old bands harrumphing in sunny gazebos

Students laughing at the folly of law

Ducks gathering at the feet of old women

The careless canvas of a sunset

The quiet beauty of the world.

I am wooed by all of it

I feel it

It calls, all of you call

All lines flash

You gather outside

With cakes and new clothes

Tapping on the glass and shielding your eyes.

I hear you.

I want you.

I strive for safety

Without security.

Keep the candles lit.

I am coming.


I will speak of these revolutions

These rebellions of revolt

These saddest rejections…

Those who find themselves

Below the cusp of fortune

Must raise themselves

Or lower others.

Two cases

One justice

The unjust first:

The cause of our place

Is not history or circumstance

Necessity or efficiency

But isolated acts

Of willful oppression.

Justice has no court

No need of judges

Or knowledge of law

Justice is a tide

Stopped only by conscious dams.

Equality has no cost

It is not fed with excess

It is as equally repressed in a land of want

As a land of plenty

Goodwill is no luxury

It requires no wealth.

Rights are eternal

We need Nurenburgs

For dinosaurs

Who trod on mammals.

We did not fall

As leaves fall

We were gnawed from the branches

Flung into the gutter.

Autumn danced on our broken faces.

This is the new god

An echo of the eternal good of old

Which send the unbaptized Socrates to hell

Because he should have known better.

This is the new religion of persecution

Faith in Christ because of lions

This is the necessity of oppression

Faith in Eden, the triumph of Satan.

This is the new faith of self-hatred

No joy in the arrival of goodness

Only hate for the length of the journey.

This is the paralysis of imagination.

The world, a ship, plied harsh waters

Some rowed, some navigated

Some imagined the hoped-for lands.

A sudden beaching

Unguessed by most

Embraced by all

Gave rise to riots

Angry accusations

Flung sand


Cries of revenge

The religion of rowers.

At the time, understandable.

The rowers had hard hands

Hard hearts

And hated the drinking on deck

As they pressed their tongues to the cracks.

A generation later


We fight over a past

We did not live.

Would not our fathers

Kneel before us

Take our soft hands

In their stony grip

And say:

What matter how we arrived?

We arrived!

Treasure this land!

Honour our sacrifice!

These hatreds push us all back to sea

What do we reply?

Will we call their sacrifice oppression?

Will we mourn their position so much

We cannot enjoy their gift?

Thus the son of an Eastern barber

Sacrificed for

Sent to school

Rails against the possibility

Of education.

The hardest part of any revolution

Is knowing when to stop.

Now the case of justice:

Falling to sand

Tasting the solidity of earth

We turn and look at the charred ship

Where our mother’s cooked and swabbed

For swaggering captains.

Did they have a choice?

Did the captains have a choice?

Some must cook

Some must lead

Who makes these decisions?

Can we point at a face?

We weep for their loss

For it could have been better

But in howls of hail

When the ship lurched

And children were thrown

For the sake of weight

Judgment was no joy.

On the beach we comfort each other

Amazed at the simple structure of sand

Let us clasp our hands

And plan our homes.


I do not fear death.

Where I am, death is not.

Where death is, I will not be.

We shall never meet.

The Everyday Blade

How sad that it should come to this

Life an old coat

Worn not for warmth

Or cold

Just because…

Welcome to this little world

Shadows lean neither to dark or light

No obstacle, no illumination

No line divides this life.

Oh these old, weary habits

Sleepy soldiers guard no sunrise

Rusty rifles, cigarette stubble

The fear of war their only enemy.

In a fluid crypt of skin I wait

For orders?

I sigh as another pigeon flies free

Kicking no paper it rises to the dawn

A messenger of flight alone.


How little in the word;

Breath, movement, food.

I feed as parasites feed

On the stirrings of a larger life.

This life

How I anticipate it…

Fools wait for permission.

The wise forego forgiveness.

This strength

I stand on the platform

With a crayoned ticked

Weeds on the tracks

Schedule says train

Life says walk.

This weight

The brutal sins of others

In a bin, beneath corpses hushing me to sleep

I spy the clear stars of morning.

They whisper soft indifference:


Live not

We shall burn.

I hold in my hand the everyday blade

Shave carelessly

Eat poorly

Smoke relentlessly

Twist the wheel

Walk into traffic…

The everyday blade

Is a suicide of sighs

Of cares slipped and lost

Chances mislaid and scorned

A lonely funeral planned indifferently

No scorn in the gathering

No mourning save the loss of mourning

Still butterflies the only colours

In this museum.

This need:

Live as you respect!

How it fades in the whittle

Of the everyday blade

The indifferent blade of eternal life

A shaver of days

Slow spinner of smaller circles

Lazy limiter of larger leaps

The everyday blade is silent surrender

Resentful sloth

The iron chamber of sad habits…

Drop this blade!

Fly the dank cells of inaction!

And surrender to the living lashings

The new dawn of a distant death.

Reject small deaths

Accept one

And live!



Remember the time

Years ago

When you pulled the wings off a fly?

That was a substitute for love.

Remember the time

The girl asked if she could keep your treasured pen

And you blushed and nodded.

That was a substitute for love.

Remember the time

You threw the bird with the broken wing

To make the girl clap.

That was a substitute for love.

Remember the time

You screamed at your mother

And she screamed back.

That was a substitute for love.

Remember the time

You hoisted yourself

To a shield of muscle.

That was a substitute for love.

Remember the time

Stung by the lashes of distant eyes

You wore strange suits to school.

That was a substitute for love.

Remember the time

You showered wonderful words

On possible sex.

That was a substitute for love.

Remember the time

When you paged and pulled

With all your might.

That was a substitute for love.

Remember the time

You sat in stillness

Smiling at solitude.

That was a substitute for love.

Remember the time

You embraced yourself

In an armchair of thought.

That was a substitute for love.

Remember the time

You wept in the arms

Of soft songs.

That was a substitute for love.

Remember these times

Remember them now

And remember this:

The only substitute

Is sorrow.

There is no substitute

For love.


Oh dear

I am afraid you have found me

A virgin in love with chaste candlelight;

Strong, dark, tender words;

White gloves on my cheek;

A red rose in my bound hair…

A protected virgin

A rhyme of possible passion.

Despite my whirling life

You have found me

And whisper kind words of resignation

With all the sympathy of a deathbed watcher.

Here, poor, wounded creature

You murmur

I bring the salve for all torture

The soft amputation of all sorrow

The generous nurse of nothing

Look at this reality;

I cannot say I am unmoved

Twenty-eight years I have fled this yearning

I have expended myself, in art, in thought, in love

Like a soldier on leave from war

Arguing with the mouths of loading cannons.

I have felt the death of creativity

The sudden darkening of future days

I flip the calendar

Today it says: you are an artist

I turn again; there is no page, no wall

Just a hole of empty dust

A hollow snake of silent rest

In the belly of the snake is a strange inscription

By candlelight it can be read:

I was stillborn

My movements have been mere after-twitchings

I have fought this knowledge, this widening beast

I have thrown it beauty, passion and hard, hard sweat

They do not move it; they are plastic meats to a famished dog

Instead it lurches forward, shattering all careful gardens

Intent on its prey…

My God -- how I have fled, these many years

Friends, to whom worth is breath --

Listen to the savage indemnity of endless tribute

The kindest kiss of the harshest master:

Ahh, child…

You have worked hard

You are to be commended

As a cripple who twitches a toe

Yet in this bright athletic world

Do you wish to be a triumph of tremors?

Where is your pride?

This half-life of endless proof…

This eternal gasping for given air…

I am the smile of your pure soul

The smile which gently says:

Cease work!

You are not sentenced to live!

This only hotel is only a hotel;

If the maids are surly

The beds rocky

And the management pressing

Why -- leave!

There is no shame in spurning such hospitality…

Do you hear?

Do your eyes widen?

I understand; I have so much to live for

Yet you whose souls speak nothing of silence

Cannot hear the quiet truth of nothing.

Here -- I wish to be clear

Here is the story of all life:

Here is a silent crowd of waiting souls

In an anteroom, waiting for birth

Curious, they turn the pages of their possible lives

Perhaps they are impatient

Perhaps they flip to the index

And blink at the alphabet of abasement:

A is for agony

B is for brutality

C is for cowardice

D is for despair

E is for endless

F is for failure

G is for gloom

H is for humiliation

I is for ignominy

J is for jeering

K is for killed

L is for loathing

M is for mendacity

N is for never

O is for ordeal

P is for pain…

Can we see them shudder and slam these pages?

Can we hear their response to the question:

Will you live?

Can we hear their bitter refusal?

Even if they are told to turn to “T”

And there they read:

T is for talent

Is it enough?

Pandora says no.

Listen -- if I make myself clear

This an allegory of every moment

This alphabet is the song of every breath:

Will you live?

That old, futile question:

What is the meaning of life?

Can we see the foolishness?

Life is a luxury

The icing of survival.

If you flourish

Life has meaning

If your world is mere survival

Life is meaningless.

So, you ask: what can rob life of luxury?

Why, are we not the endless echoes of our first hearings?

We are born as single seeds in a single garden

If we are sown with bitterness, despair, hatred, violence

Or merely unwatered with love

We become small shoots among towering vines

Parched for sunlight, draped in shadows

Every expansion a savage thrust

We lurk in jungles of endless struggle

Fighting both the choking vines

And our desire to give up the fight

Our lives become a strain of single will

Our pleasures the conquering of endless impossibilities

Our purpose not life, but survival…

In this agony of striving

Can it be seen how exhaustion can turn from a hated enemy

To a wise counselor

A gentle seducer of rest, restrest..?

So, you say, take this ease!

Rest, rest -- you have earned it!

Ahh -- this clarity is hard…

You see, we are not struggling

We are struggle.

The vines grow; we must always strive

We are watched by predators;

Rest is death…

The solution?

You say: there are no predators!

I reply: years ago, you were taught to read

You are not literate; you became literacy

You say there are no predators

I say you cannot look at the printed page

And not read words.

I cannot look at the printed world

And not read: predator

That is my literacy.

The only hope is the end of hope

The only solution a necessary hardness

The end of soft spite

Petty resentment

And the hateful cowardice of natural prey.

I fear predators

Thus fear

Is my predator.


By the water’s edge

Of this pond, a hand-spread of tulips

Widens under a blue sky

Fields of flowers jostle in the distance

Looking to dip their feet

In painted water.

This is a still-life of life

A portrait of peace

Here, in this gallery

Your eyes

Drawn to the flowers

May wonder at the small square inscription:

I hurt myself…

Like the water

It is almost transparent

Underneath, if you look carefully

You may see a still victim of solitude

A sketched blue skull of sorrow

Paint on paint so skillful

It appears beneath the paint.

You wonder if it stares

It’s eyes seem quite gone

You are sure the painter, though young

Is dead

And all that is left

Is a tinted window

Facing black.

Quicksand is the Only Struggle

I have had it!

These deepening vales

Where nothing crunches underfoot

Are seeping past my chin.

How strange

Just yesterday

It seems

I breathed the giddy air

Of frantic wisdom.

Cast in air too rare for despair

I surveyed the world

A soulless eagle of sight.

I rose past all wind

Tainted with the breath of others

I rose past habits, past cares

Past all I was before

Past the earth

Past gravity; I rose so far

I no longer rose

But was

Hung in high purity

I saw beyond sight

Such dreams!

I became a sheer pane

Of pure thought.

Strange now, how this shedding of the mortal earth

Should so have blinded me!

I floated beyond height

And rising through the endless shades

Of a single colour

Found my sight obscured

By a lowering curtain

The draping skirts of soft death.

I rose past the dark hem

Unbound from all masts

Sung to by the siren of all-sight

I began to yearn for an end to eyes.

Looking back

I am shocked how close I came

Sinking in soft death

I finally woke and kicked

These folds freed only by circulation

The savage pinpricks of returning.

How I plummeted!

From so far, so high

That the spurned earth

Spurned impact

Parted like silk

And buried me in a far different womb

A savage cave of agony

Now, shuddering, gasping, groping

I see that the fear of pain

Was my only height.

Oh these faint dreams of solid earth!

How stillness taunts an endless pendulum!

Swing and bounce, roll and ripple…

I am a sculpture of wind

A fist of water

A breath of flesh…

What?  I hear;

You say the strangeness of this fall

Is not that it occurred

But that it seems strange…

Come, you say

You are the thirty side of twenty-five

Will you be the still side of life

Before you recognize who you are?

How you mutter of strangeness!

As if dreaming of punch-card poetry

Unionized abandon

Regulated passion!

You wish to know who you are?

You are a radiating ricochet of reason

A precious portrait of perhaps

A swinging chandelier of certainty

A vertical river

A nursing mutterer of heretical truth

An explorer of everywhere

A nomad of nowhere

And all that is man, woman and child

Each alone, all together

A family, a party, a world

Of one.

There! -- I thank you

Am I satisfied?

By God, I had better be

For these words shall live far beyond me

And my epitaph, if I forget myself

Shall be:

How he whined

That he could wield

Such magic!

Hard Heart

What -- is this a fortress?

These shivering ramparts

Cries of defense and rampage

Archers, defenders

Knights and reporters

Look again

Break this tale:

They wear the same colours.

What -- is this a King?

Does he sit on mountains of good gold

Biting his nails for fear of thieves?

No -- he is an employer

He rents vagabonds.


He cries

My heart is a hard scar!

Watch his hands

They are a magician’s

Sawing himself.

What -- is this a treaty?

A bargain of peace?

Squint at the print

Unless invaded…

A certain clause

When co-signed by the same hand.


Listen to the tale of the strangest beast

His eyes squinting with distance

His hide nothing but a cloak of scars

Listen to his circling, his testing, his never-ending quest for simple flesh…

Listen to his yearning!

The crackle of his hard beating heart

A static of intimacy

The waving of his soft antennae

A click of electric distance.

Come; we shall visit his lair

And see the writing on his walls:

Enough alone, enough alone

He writes frantically; one hand cramped

The other erasing, sketching:

Love, love, love me

Trace his voyages

They are epic

A spore in search of soft earth

He spins in an endless wind

Hurling speeches of solidity

At passing rooted hordes…

Regard his pursuer

The dark angel of trust

They dance oddly

Both trying to lead

The beast cries: let me trust!

The dark angel replies: first, trust!

How long can this last?

Who knows?

Both are patient…


I was so wrong

I read of a boy who, though beaten

Grew from his harsh nest with bright feathers.

He is hard, impatient, intolerant, almost rude

But his cheeks are red; he slaps his thighs

And laughs at fools.

His blows were not his downfall

He was a rigged ship in the midst of storms

He moved in his flailing wind…

I was wrong because

I thought that the blows were all that tore my sails;

I was wrong because

I thought the wind was physical


I was wrong because

I thought I was hated.

In talking, in listening, in speaking

I know I was not hated.

The prickly indifference of the hollow heart

That was the truest, harshest blow

Not hatred

Not violence

Not anger

Just the apathy of the dead

Striking with stinking hands.

I was not separate

Not judged

Nor found wanting in anything

But misery.

My crime was the crime of all youth;

Young hearts scald the walls of old fear

I was a forest besieged by a city

A wind enclosed in stone

A stream bottled in hot sand;

Not sheltered, but held

Not guided, but restrained

Not wanted, but kept

Not hated


Not loved.

Still City

See the old teacher

Lost in lingo

Stale-eyed he scribbles

A cramped mage of matriculation…

This sorcerer of syllables

Lashes habit into cross-hatches

Stitches new beasts from old hides

And hears the small applause

For their tortured lurchings

A staccato tapping of too-many feet.

His purpose is applause

Originality his enemy

He has become a professor

He professes

Not believes.

See the old teacher

Grasping the widening handles

Of curious youth.

He starts in secret danger

This soft sophist of stagnation

He no longer travels; so

He must slam all opening suitcases

Rip tickets

And recite the dangers of foreign lands.

See this teacher

He has many brothers

In a still city besieged by doubt

They pass pamphlets of foreign foes

Knowing nothing of defense

They can only resist.

What lies beyond these rusted gates

These sewers of convoluted silence

These high walls of old habits

Out on the plains..?

Let us look.

We may mount these walls

By turning our heads

And see an equality of birds and herds

Twisting and diving, flying and falling

Through high streams of clear air;

The principles of flight their only destination

The method of wind their only flight.

In this clutter of certainty

This categorical chaos

There are no parasites

One mounts not others

But oneself.

The charged songs of solitude

Ring out from all heights;

There is no hierarchy

But the last melody.

This is the view the still city repels

The still city is not age

Sad children live there

And the waking old are sometimes flung from parapets

The key to the still city

Is privileged inactivity.

Rewarded for stillness

The inhabitants turn to dust

They fear strong wind

Fear the disintegration of movement

As a statue

Coaxed from its pedestal

Would fall and shatter.


Her silent caves

Are hung with dark portraits

Of old pain

Listen --

A drip of saltwater

Lost echoes of old cries

Blind hiding birds

Startled with broken wings

Beat and squawk in fear and rage.

Look --

This is a maze

Each cave a picture-book…

See --

Here sits a tiny girl

Caged in a chaos of empty hearts

Hands white on the cold bars

Her smile dissolving in snarls

She shields her small soul from all beatings

Takes it, blesses it

And casts it down

Down past memory

Past love, joy, hope

Past the harsh bedrock of pain

Down to a cave within a cave.

Three tears she drops before leaving

And vows to her soul: I will return…

It waits still.

See, here --

A party

A little girl

A desperate hope

An endless grasping of flying skirts

A wide smile, a silent plea

Small fists on torn fabric

A soft void of empty waiting.

At the party she stands

Her smile spread in selling:

Give me love

I will give you joy!

She watches and waits…

No takers.

Another view, older now --

A library, a book

Night, solitude

All gears fail

She sits holding, staring; the words flow and fade…

What distant slumber holds her captive?

She feels like a miner failing in bad air

Sagging and grasping at rock

Lost in a tired dream of tight distance

She falls in the soft fogs of an endless beach…

Here; see my sister --

See -- there is now a hardness

My sister must love.

Rejected, she must love rejection.

Here in the dark halls

Of a soft falling building

Sitting, her hand pressed to her heart

She feels the slow sagging of herself

The silent falling of endless distance

The enduring death of the unloved…

To my sister

This is still a foreign word:


Driven underground by a harsh sun

She sits in sealed caves.

Above, the world has changed

Children cry of the pleasure of life

Wild rains thunder over rising crops

Birds rise like diamonds flung in sunlight

Her beautiful lover cries for her

Her brother calls in love

We cry, we wonder:

Can she hear us?

Fear not, sister

We are patient in love.

Deep in her cave

My sister waits.

Listen, sister

Listen to the drumming love of our bright rain

Listen to the labour of all good people

Listen to us; we mine for your beauty.

Listen, sister

Return, sister

You are loved.


They held him

Cast him down

Chained and gagged him

But they could not hold him all.

They sealed him

Bricked his window

Walled his door

Still, they could not hold him all.

They stripped him

Coat, shirt, undershirt

Hair, eyebrows, beard

Still, they could not hold him all.

They scoured him

Scrubbed his mind

Of friends, family, lovers

Still they could not hold him all.

They robbed him

Air, sleep, food

Nails, ears, teeth

Still, they could not hold him all.

They reduced him

To wet moments

Of begging mercy

Still, they could not hold him all.

At the end, panting with horror

They beheld him

His glorious face

His last cry: I die complete!

And he dissolved

And they with him

And dust drifted past

The vanished spite

Of savage silence.


Strange dreams…

Last night I wandered a camp

Where human ash hung in bags on the walls

And the old were elbowed in the scrabble for bread.

I thought

When I awoke

That I had escaped this;

This nothing…

I thought I would write a portrait of myself

I shied away from my pen

From dry ink, distractions, boredom…

I feared a portrait

Of white canvas.

I am tight, a structure

It is strange, sad;

That none of me stands alone

Nothing is firm; nothing holds;

I am an eternity of moments.

My noise, my passionate fire

Seems a frantic flashing from the brink

Of nothing

I feel -- I feel encased

I have no home;

I am blueprints sketched in wind.

You rise, greet day and friends

And sail with loved ones.

I rise, greet others and others

And tremble before winds,

A kite with will for legs

Straining for gravity.

Do you see?

I am a mess of fragments

A distant window of cracks and tape.

Nothing stays where it is;

I blend, whirl, disappear

And fly, wings tiring in a downdraft.

Only now do I have the courage

To gaze below my curled toes

To a whirlpool of vacuum and old cries

A molded soup of careful walls.

I look, and fear my will, my tyrant.

He holds these wars at bay with sharp dogs;

These dissolving sheep start into shape

Eyes wide before the endless barking.

To let go

What could that mean?

Regard this shattering;

I had to love what I hated

Live where I was daily killed

Breed hope beneath nailed boots

Find future seeds on a harsh moon.

I had to love evil;

This contradiction broke me

Splintered me in thousands.

Do you reach to feel me?

Do your fingers stretch in vain?

There is no centre!

You see, I will forever be

scientist of myself;

A curious, impersonal

Shocked anthropologist

Scribbling in a warming cauldron.

Here, the simplest, oldest query:

Can it be undone?

Can be undone?

I think not;

I bleed from every pore

There can be no amputations

My skin was all stripped

There can be no grafts.

My sentence:

To be a staring statue of tourniquets

Knotted, wandering the edge of forever

Stung with the true sight of distance.

Take them -- here

I send these pigeons

The only living things

I have.



A tumour

Of absence.


“You know,” said she

“Ha ha,” said he

“She says,” said she

“Who cares?” said he

“That mascara!” cried she

“How boring,” droned he

“These people!” spoke she

“What a party,” sighed he

“What a lifeless recycling of old distance,” shuddered she, as he snored.


High and dry

For so long

Sea out of sight

Rocking in the slight twist

Of a distant spire.

A high cry of dumb distance

Cold crystal clouds keeping company

Swallowing the shock of such echoes.

I dreamt of a fall

I trembled before it

I thought I would dash myself

In an explosion of innards

Now -- how funny!

The simple heart of a suddenly-loved son

The clear wonder of unfolding trust

Reveals the truth

The soft descent of lowering.

I knighted my mind

It kneeled before me; I rose

A sad aristocract

A superior sorrow.

I was above it

Above the hairy, bristling brawl of life

Above the risk of spoken passion

Above the surrender of slow love

I was a quicksilver of conscience

A prickly bush of priorities

An endless energy of waiting.

What -- now -- to be normal?

Ahh -- how these badges tear in the taking-off!

Vanquished surviver of futile wars!

Crushed creature of circumstance!

Hell-birthed screamer of reason!

Each medal like a pin in a cushion


An armour too tight for simple blood.

In this removing, this surrender

I gasp; oldest blood squirts highest.

It is a simple rain of release

For in the meridian of this terror

The soft bonds of brotherhood

Begin to speak:

A lost child is found

By the knowledge of its loss;

A distant soul is broached

By the truth of distance;

Alienation is joined

By speaking of difference.

These webs are not so easily shattered.

Pain is also the vanity of pain;

The strange pomp of exclusion;

The dark nobility of abandonment;

And all the heady perception of fearful distance.

It is human to recoil

Human to love recoiling

And, I now see

Human to return.



In a blink

She disappeared.

One day, smiling, soft, there

The next smiling, soft, gone…

How could they tell?

Was she angry?

No, but where they once resided
They found themselves, not evicted

But alone

They remained, they stayed

They could caress her ornaments

Touch her hair

But she was gone.

They muttered

Cursing, envious

They shot her looks like nets

Wound her in webs of frowns

But she breezed

Floated, flew

They were not even trampolines

Hence their fear

Hence their hate.

How could she go?

They asked

She was a always painted figure

A portrait of punctuality

A vision of caring

A certain study of ease;

She one shone over their dry landscape

A beacon of selflessness

And wandering sailors

Dashing themselves on strange passions

Glanced at her over caving hulls

Through spray, bitter salt

Brief joy, destruction…

One day they looked

And on that high rock

No tower stood

All prisoners freed

Staring, sagging, shaking

They ran their fingers over soft grass

No scar, no trace of a foundation…


Come to church! they cried

Their words like snaking hooks at her flying trail

Come to the meeting!

Come to help

Be helped

Be with us

Be good

Be bad

Be anything

But gone!

Their words passed

She walked from the cliff and danced

All laws lost

Her face was strange

They could not fathom her

A soul lively in solitude

She scorned the courts of freedom

Laughed at the gavels of abandon

And lived unpardoned, unparoled


They tried words

Words would help -- surely!

Mad, eccentric, odd, abnormal…

They did not help

She did not see them.

Her sometimes husband followed her

In love, in fear.

She danced, she distanced

She giggled and wept

He followed her to a wood

Dropping tears like stones

Paving his way.

She sat in a clearing

Naked to the mind

He followed her

and saw

her cheek on nature’s lonely breast

the leafy hand on her cheek

the woods, the wilds, the endless words…

natural birth, unnatural life

harsh tribe, sleepless comfort;

we sink into bland, blank, ancient books

and order our hearts, our souls, our loves

to god, country, others…

And hold our self

as a poor afterthought, a stolen cake

a midnight treasure under covers

a candle tall in still cellars

a locked comfort

And start before knockings

like a gust, a shudder, a darkness

an apology, a plea

a shame, a scrape

a secret sorrow


Her husband saw her

Beheld her strength, her life

Not disappearance, not carelessness

Not apologies and a stripped self

And when she raised her head

And stared past him

At the leaves, the heat

The solid glow of animals

And the simple passions of flesh

He felt at once

His slow fade into

A vanishing.

I Know a Woman

Look -- can you see her

As I see her?

This scald of passion

This striving, angry love?

See her in a dark chamber

On deep red carpets

Trembling before her simple rising

Certain that the friction of air

Will wipe the walls with hot flames.

Look closely

She does not only tremble;

She is finding her rising

Becoming it, for she loves, this woman

She loves as summer loves winter

Loves the interruption, the opposition

The stormy smile of wild temperatures.

Her heart is caged; it paces

Snarls and laughs from the shadows of pillars

She is a volcano of waiting

A sudden eruption of soon.

Oh this woman -- you should know her

As I know her!

She is a paradox of passion

A promise of patience

A whirlwind of now and never.

Quick -- see her above

Squint before her fast light!

See -- she flies forever in search of soft earth;

She can fly over a lush green opening of arms

Tumbling, dizzy, despairing;

She feels the heat of the leaves on her cheek

And hungers for the rest of the rising earth

But at the prick of a branch -- she flies

Scattering like a buckshot of hummingbirds

A shooting, skyward fleeing of upward rain.

Ah -- you should see her driving force

Her stillness is always a watching

Her cupped hand a question mark

Her tenderness a probing

But at times -- at times she surges

She mounts the crest of fear;

Horse and rider become one

And then -- the deep thunder!

The bright unfurling of her light soul!

Then you would see her

As I see her

As she is

A wonder.

The World Needs Change

The world needs change

Some tottering exhaustion binds it still

Some overspending of old answers

Some faltering before an inevitability.

Do you not feel it poised before a transformation?

I feel it; I feel uneasy tribes gathering before a distant dawn

Their medicine men shaking their heads

Reading entrails that speak of a different species.

I read of a transformation

I read that old magic falters before hard thoughts

Old cares before new possibilities

And habits, the oil of ease, are scant bars to these screeching doors.

I read that midwives will shudder at that bathing of this birth

Doctors start, pale-faced

Ages rise in opposition

But we are momentum; we are more than motion

We have striven, grasped, strained

A lock has broken; the future lifts us

We cannot be contained.

What is coming?

We have vaulted the petty trough of want

Straddled souls wide on the horses of thought

Pointed them at the horizon of possibility

Slapped their hinds

And cried: There!  There is your destination!

We are humanitarians

We will be remembered thus.

We have bled custom on the altar of potential

Cried havoc to all classes

Rained scorn on all inhibitions

Cracked church, borders, privilege and poverty

And in the high unleashing of all restraint

May be excused for sudden trembles.

We came to structure

To an identity of essence:

Man, woman, rich, poor…

We arrived to halls hung heavy with such gilted portraits

We found art in life, not life in art.

We were amazed by these galleries

By the shushes and glares

It seemed wrong to kneel before such accidents;

We cried: art must flow from life!

Portraits of the highest should be portraits of the best

Bright frames and dark oils should be earned

Not granted.

Why do you hang here?

We demanded of the silent stares

Because we are old… they said

We smiled.

It did not suffice.

We could have borne the privilege

The exclusion, the sneers

But the hypocrisy -- that was unbearable.

Be naked in your power, we cried, or be gone!

But the portraits whispered:

We hang high on the hooks of virtue

They did not listen.

Did we tear them down?

No -- we are not revolutionaries

Not midwives of mere negation.

We raised the banner of blind equality

That was our reply.

You hang high because you are great? we cried

Then let us open the gates of greatness to all!

Let all earn their place

We shall see who hangs the highest!

They strove to remain above us

They still strive

But now the lie is exposed

Their lie, and ours

They have fallen

As have we.

Our cries of equality!

Did not survive.

We blink at this wild topography:

The dizzy skies of ability

The dank pits of ignorance.

We are afraid of our unleashings,

For we have tumbled from a hopeful plain

To an uneven landscape of reaching and remaining.

We have shattered the symmetry of predator and prey

Into a wild ecology of possibilities.

Now we shudder and clutch our manifestoes in vain.

Our smoothing of opportunity

Has widened all disparities

And we are unsettled by the wild wisdom of freedom:

All find their place.

We disagree with such rewards

We wish better for the least among us

Who loom larger as they diminish in numbers

In the past, too large for sight

Now, too small to miss.

Here is the danger we falter before:

Liberty frees us from brute equality

Wide opportunity breeds wild disparity.

Is there a choice beyond

The conformity of restraint


The inequality of opportunity?

If not

Which do we prefer?

Which is to be

Our next age?


Here is the core

The fear

The aftershock of endless shocks.

Here is the crumbling of pride

The hollow echo of hope

The shadow beyond the strike.

Here is the line between then and now

The waiting place

A muttering couch of soon to be

A white room of blind thrusting

The wide space tumbled into

A hard floor of exhausted tunneling.

Here I may lie

Choking on pale dust

A refugee on the fulcrum of life

Crawling forward

A groping, tipping balance.

What stands between knowledge and possibility?

What looms high before a higher future?

Why, this arch-demon fear

This resounding snarl of never


never to be

never to be free

never to be free of

never to be free of never

Fear is a dark fortress

A wide fist of rock

An airless refuge

A cold bandage of amputation.

Fear is a pit before a blinded step

A dizzy chasm of leaning

A hush below high, heavy ice.

Fear is the hard guard

Of the unborn heart.

Fear is the self-interest

Of the savaged.

The cold bud

Of a crushed petal.

Fear grows

Over an unplanted soul

Too heavily ploughed.

Fear spreads

Like a shock of rising birds

From a carcass of lost innocence.

Fear controls enemies

By becoming the enemy.


I see from my seat of snarls

The world I was bred for

Trembling flesh scattering before growls

The heart of young prey

Fat between my teeth

Shaking hands howling with harrowing

A dawn corpse baying of night freedoms.

This is the world I was bred for:

Streamlined, fat-fanged, bristle-bound

Blood-scented, gristle-rubbed

Sleepless, twitchy, remorseless

Enraged, careless, forgotten…

This is our world:

Where joy is the icing of murder

Love the underbelly of lust

Friendship a prologue to sudden stabs

And intelligence the afterthought of cunning.

We live in

A dreamy reverence of washing blood

A thrashing cascade of salty urges

We live where to walk is to stalk

To see is to spy

To have is to take

To wait is to wilt.

A world where smiles spurn

Laughter lashes

Touch tears

And compassion kills.

This world -- we were dropped here

Sown in this stinging rock

A passport single-stamped:

No exit.

What was stamped?

What was whispered?

Where is the moon for we werewolves?

See -- it murmurs still:

The weak shall perish

This moon rose early, obscuring our dawns.

When we were weak

We perished.

We birthed our softer selves

From the iron contractions of our contradictions

We are weak; we wailed; we cannot survive!

Must we fail before these jaws?

We begged, bit ourselves

And turned belly to sky, again and again…

The rain passed through us like spears

Our gentle skin sighed and parted; we became bones

Of grinning, rocking weakness

Leaning in a lost landscape of sudden steel.

We see you

When you pass

We perplex you.

You know nothing of our ecology

We do not fit.

Your food chain is a butcher shop

We stalk livelier meat.

Our warpaints clash

With your pastels.

Alive in your small way

Our spraying hearts

Startle you.

Come -- we must speak

We are the two sides of civilization

Us wolves, you sheep.

The union of our teeth and your warmth

Is justice.


Ours is not a personal despair

We see: the world is grey

Shapeless, faded

All glories are shadows of higher peaks

Our valleys are eroded temples

We are atheists of an unseen sun

Praying to the black heads of a burning face.


Come, West

Do not be afraid

I see your fears

Your wild wanderings.


Be at ease

This age of resentment shall pass

Another, more dangerous, shall come…

Be at peace.

You lie twitching

Hands raised in terror-strike

Lurid lashing judgment

Absolute opinion

Selfish benevolence

Moral panic

Unanswered facts.

The bed-wetting of a new dawn

Rises above you

Skyscrapers of foolish height

Pierce tall the clouds

Of all you have known.

Oh West!

You cannot flee this chaos

You are this chaos!

You drink your dizziness

Spin, run

And drink again.

I hear you, West

I understand

Giddy in the spotlight

You dream of small stages

Leafy strolls far from all rousings

Hammocks of thick drowsing

The sinking slumber of obscure solitude.

Oh West -- learn of your nature!

No beast infected you

You are not peace disturbed

You were never roused.

Your imagined rest

Was trapped paralysis

A waiting, a watching,


You are a mountain soul

Rare air, sudden slides

Precipices, gripping

A shout of slow echoes

A storm of sudden hiding.

Your restlessness

Is not jostled

It is a singe state

A destination of motion

A waking of dreaming

A reaching for endless arms

A strike at the streaking target

Between now and never.

If you still dare

West -- I will reveal your restlessness!

Whether born of harsh lands

Wild thoughts, strange tensions

Or a savage taste for solid earth

I know not

But the truth is clear:

You never believed in God!

You escaped the slow death

Of God as end.

You tasted God as means

Power, prestige, wealth

Damning piety

Other-crushing humility…

God was never their servant.

Bent, He sweated, grunted

And pushed the plow of purple robes.

He served life

Chained by His master’s lust for life.

God was the means

The cloak of power.

The ends overtook God

And now stand bright, naked.

The sword stands

Unsheathed from heaven

Quivering high from the heart

Of human possibility.

West -- you have always known:

Life is no prelude

No short span

Of endless judgment

But a spasm of thrown motion.

Your lives are coverless books

Unindexed, groped and blown…

In this whirlwind of wild pages

You cry for rest?

For rest? -- Oh West!

Better beg the rock

To hold its hurled arc

Than ask the West to rest.

Great Heart

We are too close

Your Niagara murmuring of shifting sheets

Is to us a thundering cap of drowning light.

What devils?

We see your dreaming

These cracked plains are too hot for height

Yet you have escaped…

Above the fire lies the water

Above the water, desert

You are higher

These quakes only roll your eyes.

We labourers

Hug the Great Heart that hurls us

Our fiery passing lifts you

Like kites over lava

Ascend, smile

Be tickled

We writhe.

We live in the shadow of the Great Heart

Even horizons

Blinded by red beating bulk

The power of unbound life

An altar of shrinking and striking

Fear and ecstasy

You hear only hymns.

The Great Heart is the spilled life

Of early breakings

Uncontained, contaminating

The overspilling of uneven leashings

Charging horses tied by the teeth

A squat structure of volcanic hope.

See -- the ground breaks

But we are not lost

We are used to dancing

Applaud! -- we are pleased with pleasure

It costs us nothing

Our shows are only the excess

Of our survival.

Winter Tilling

I was given only autumn to plant in

Other fields were bright with life

When I knew nothing of seeds

Other fields were dark with waiting

When I first learned of the turning earth.

Families split pies in laughing lighted nests

While I hoed cold ground

Spilling and scrabbling in the early dark

I envied their delicacies, their wheat of wild colours

I saw a pictured spring of corn minstrels

I wept over my forced loam of hard seeds

The bare nutrient need of gored winter soil.

In the winter, as they stamped and sang

I trod brittle ground under spearing stars

Frozen tears my wind-chime water

Fearful, I tore earth, broke nails, broke faith

Kneeled and breathed on sleeping seeds

Wrapping them as an iris in clear ice

And pushed them back to the blind watch for warmth.

Sometimes I slept on the broken bed of cold soil

Lost in the slow spin of memory

Fear of future starving

Woke in me a huunger for the past

And I walked houses long dismembered

Ate from empty plates

In the yearning recall of imagined food.

It was a hard winter

Waiting for plants

Awaited by people

I learned something of the night that winter

Of patience, the slow spin of starlight

And the failure of flesh to thaw earth.

The cold came to me in those days

became winter by stalking spring

I threw my threads skyward but could not kite the sun

I panted on the ground, but could not wake the soil

And spring seemed strangely late despite my stalkings.


Until I became my failure

Listened to winter

One dawn, I forgot about spring

And the cracking seduction of ice spoke to me

(It’s breath clasped my ear in a frozen fist)

Spring, it creaked

Is a surrender to winter

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May 2024

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