Dressed in smoke and sparkling wine Trident knifes through the sequined water. More ghoulish dick than spear-of-god, It topples — beat — comedy drunk, Lights, and charges the lines of heaven, To bring them down.
Men who dare not speak of childhood tell Of paperback musts like baking bread Of rockets, moons, and zoos of Eden, Vague Madonnas, Cherenkov blue. See! I can be trade-paperback Eve, Trade-paperback Adam, too! If Arid mouth and pounding heart forebear. Oh! Arid mouth and pounding heart forebear.
UDMH loves RFNA Deep in the rosewood belly.
In heat of summer, and London stench Divinity is covered by genocide.
And flowers bloom, In the wrong place.
Let her speak who, courting the night, finds comfort Not in nature, slumbering wild, but voices Which, conspiring, haul from the shore those treasures Tarnished by daylight!
Autumn storms came early the year that I, drugged, Saw, through bars, the travelling fair in ruin, Ropes of light — a shambles of coloured glass — writhe Hopeless with fury
Less than half remembered through fog which quenches Rides and riot; fifteen years lost to senseless Growth and blooming, laundering fresh the fairground Never quite bleaching
Pure my boy, that apple I squeezed for sunlight Dodgem spark and chrome to his unforgiving Eyes which, cheating air from poised lips, spoke “Sleep here, Absent yet living”.
Pills, too, crush — with heavenly force — a body Pressed and trained, then driven from earth at sunset Pretty under rags cut for lust but, fuck yöu, Thirsty for sweetness.
Daddy, who could slake me with juice on moist lips After blood in oceans had washed these calcined Bones? You fell and, falling, destroyed this temple, Numbered our heartbeats
Leaving Mass undone to the world left living: Bread is bread, blood blood. Disentangled, stitch-picked Fate fills rotten sacks with old rope. My embrace, Rigid as marble
Warmed in shallow seas by vague currents, tonguing Hope, forgiveness, sacrifice. Give me Old Nick Beating salt red wine through my chest and trembling Lovers will cower
Glimpse their awkward frame by my incandescence; Candle, furnace, queen. Let them sweat, as horses, Yoked in mines to haul carted ore to garnish Flesh, this great altar.
Stop! Now, hollow oceans that buoy this flare-light Spirit, swallow deep. We meet God in absence. Hollows raise and harvest us; metal blood lines; Shudder and silence.
Time was, these lanes had guards, To run your plates, to check your cards, Men who watched from distant towers, To separate the bones from flowers, Men who crowned me Queen of May, And planted others far away, My buttered, ruddy mouth of lust, A sealed curse in land of dust.
Time comes, an awkward truce, Pardoned shadows roaming loose, Fear and hope come riffled close, Desire and dread, a single dose, Deeply hewn his chiselled cheek, My Easter flesh come pale and weak, A hidden fear I dare not chart The worm which crawled into my heart.
Time will be, a resurrection, Nursed and bleached, and blank perfection, When all aloft shall fall and sit And, strewn on idle ground, emit Fortune's sigh in fortune's reign And blinded, vipered rivers drain Soft marrow from inhuman life; Narcissus rot beside his knife.
1. When I am dead and gone. 2. Another standing here. 3. Alike, at least, in love. 4. Will watch you quietly sleep. 5. Free, as now, from pain. 6. Your life a brim-full cup. 7. Freely adjoined to earth. 8. Will see you breathe this way. 9. As effortless as the breaking wave. 10. And toast you, at the threshold.
A man, at least, Larkin's bowler, Caught, mid-century, in solid, amber light. Taller than me, more prone to power, Flannelled close to virtue in garden cities But, planting his toes in suburban turf, Sebum, blood, and chyme rear on their haunches Pressed hard against visceral walls, in a formal Correspondence with the moon about the earth. I know him.
It does not dazzle by night, as the lamps of guards, As the boxed white dress, or the welder's spark, Surely as nothing as darkness is nothing, But white.
Turbines now shine on whetted ridge Where the road climbs from valley floor, Blades rehearsing the delivery of angels, Eventless, Unrequited, Perfect in action, Free of fluid and humour, So congruent to salvation that we can only Wish them well in superior progress and, In fear of wrath, reach instead for tunnelled sleep Which, alone, can ferry the rotten body's weight On poison Doe Lea, loveless child of Rother, Train, or shawl, of diamond; unmuddied by life,
Drunk, rather, on those deep, reducing liquors That stoke the unrenewing hearth within.
Who are these people, mine, who walk So proud away to darkness, as if darkness Were mere absence of light, Sharp and white as the blades on the hillside? These people, mine, are strangers.
Draped we came, like wintered chandeliers, Sequined and shifting, tangled by thread, spider-digested, Sheer under lace, lace under satin, talking as ships Talk with a strengthening breeze and, crisp as slalom snow, Haunted, withdrew, walked through walls and, when angels Arrived, in turn, to take their place to the sound of trumpets, Rose, Floated, vegetal, into the loamy night.
Iron wrapped in scalding tulle fired through the valley, Inhumanly sustained in condensing night As, arranged on the terrace like a problem in chess, We caught fragments of voices still within, concerning Issues of the day, projected under port or ether Deep into the formal garden beyond.
We snapped, you and I, from that Austen fantasy, Crossed the outfield to the permanent way
Demanded of solemn, moon-greased rails, judgement From darkness to darkness, feather to butchered heart, Summoning Anna, Zola, Turner's hare, in oils Muddled from moonlight on sleepers braced Between mannered garden and the field of reeds beyond, Demanded of steel the judgement of Paris as, Thin as tobacco and tall as the bastards of heaven, We had danced dripped in oil, smeared in candied light To the rattle of loose-chained wagons, and fancied it was love.
It was love.
With each step up the down I am falling Deeper into flowers known to the blessed In regal Latin, flecks less considered than the lily, I become among them, ascended to earthly degree, Smoking against by-laws in labyrinth night, staring On the embered city where, lost within, Cars are being taught to drive, alone.
Little more than a winding sheet, light in a breeze, Printed with drifts of May suffices to watch Such intelligence at work. They will purge me from this city And fire stop burning the back of my hand, The dazzle caged and the humours settled, As the great, abyssal rain falls to the ocean floor;
Belly-stone and puppet rope, hidden within, Stagnate and fray, for only then can I be taken, Slow-march May Queen, slabbed and borne On wipe-clean surfaces, in a driverless car, Down the broad streets of chaste desire, At last cleaved firm to the love of strangers And this, my walled and peeling spirit, Ended.
π, on earth, is less than 6, But these are hard, uncertain times, When rumours of chaos rattle at windows. We must be humble.
Let us write, instead, that “Somewhat less than 7” Is as close to π as we might comfortably get While Plato is tending the fire.
If a pumpkin is good for a ball, An apple for a falling moon, Then we cannot rightly deny The rhythm of breath, and cessation.
This matches that (in places), Atoms, thoughts, and life in-between Circulate like glanders, or the 5 pound note, We tumble like the air, from wing tips.
But to say no life is too short or overdrawn, Too empty, too filled with heartache, Is no great act of geometric fealty But a dark cloth around our eyes.
A circle, I admit. (You press me), As some word must, surely, be found
For the involute curl of living, For the sparrows who fly through the hall.
Yes, The Circle of Life I give you, As an image, “essentially fine”. But leave to the gods and to angels 3.14159.
Who stands at the gaping river mouth And stares upstream at those distant shapes Deep upon romantic trade — At the rolling of barrels, or the sewing of sail — Strung along shrinking, uncertain waters As they rise, withdrawing, To fount and nursery, to that upland mire, But in nervous backward glances?
Instead, we gaze seaward, Where nothing cleaves a name But the sudden glances of white horses In candle, plate, and crucifix, Rising from the altar-cloth, Leaping over those charted reefs; at river mud Lost within a stone's throw of headland So that flint-headed jets embrace, unseen, The rise and fall of the throes of England, Gone and lost to the haze of Europe When glancing blow and spiny shudder Of animal roar hits home.
Tied, laced, and wired; in full civilian pomp; In borrowed suits and shoes that pinch;
They turn their heads from the altar, They writhe like the compass on Arctic ice, They twist as the old dog rose.
For this casket. For this bride.
O, stage behind those awkward stalls, What theatre we make!
See me now, What I am become! What backs I break!
Behind sweet peas and runner beans The tarry eye of a pig Pressed hard against the stockyard gate — Bubble of black, viscous oil, sluggishly churning North Atlantic tears, sharp as a whetted knife, the guttering lamp behind more soot than light, writhing, self-extinguishing — Pricks spyholes through the flowerbeds. Nurse wheels oxygen, quickens her pace as eyes meet, White rubber wheels bouncing on concrete Smashed into tectonic plates by eruptions of ragwort.
Great pig — counts bottles in; Great pig — counts bottles out; Nurse, priest, Canadian nephew in order … Carelessly rosy Under stern measure of the mantel clock. Pictures, cards, on the thickset sideboard In field and range of our petrified gunner, man in the silicone mask, Slumped in an ancient seat, gurgling, foaming, syrup of air.
Nuzzling piglets to great pink teats, Horsemen midwife at the old sow's ear. There is not breath enough over the great Pacific That these not be treated With that special care that flows, in spate, from hope.
“Hello”, the echoing shout, “Hello” discharging the electric adultery of the release of a stranger's lock. Bottle trolley set on the red rag rug A rank of dead marines ghostless Dumb, sex-doll mouths gaping Deposed by new recruits, hissing, straining with life pressed into thick iron tube. “You should have that pig seen to”, Staring through heavy, greying net. Gaze returned.
Sisyphus shifting air The milky sideboard faces cold, retreating, polaroid C. F. his god-daughter, The disappointment a world to her reflecting patinate love
Her lungs a brazier of dreck, The salt in her final kiss.
He knows her as only God could know her, But stands alone at a white steel rail, Four hours on, four hours off, here to Archangel. Dreadnoughts might die in an instant, Their light and constant thunder torn from Fighting Ships, Great steel plate crumpling, concussed to the surface of the deep, But only in a second movement of tilting, adagio, on the slab of the wave Do her guts spill out. The rattle not the breath I know, final whisper of the mote, wren, dead in the cup of my palm in the summer heat by the railway, But a heave and retch of lungs, Jack Tar Specials Fouled, by habit, at the office of the hours. Thick as La Brae and twice as deadly, this
Heavy Bunker. Neither kitchen nor forecourt Nor the dull thrum of wheels as I glide to theatre But a creeping, desperate mass,
Levitating by conjurer's trick over pall of ocean: Embalming, Cloaking, Drowning, Fuse to the magazine.
Six school test tubes hang like the great sow's udder, From a crude, wooden rack. A bright iron nail in each — predestined: air, water (salty, fresh), painted, oiled, top bunged shut — Awaiting decay. A bottle of India ink, comically vast Topples at a careless gesture. The old, wooden desk: A lamp black tattoo.
I spool the ink-red ribbon in, Excite some ratchet deep inside, Then taut, straight, at the anvil-place, Bring each finger rightly home. And breathe.
There's joy to be had (or so I'm told, In whispers mother cannot hear), From writing “He stood,” where David stood, In boots and hat, and nothing else, His arse perhaps in ampersands, And commas for muscle To scurry inside.
The logs which will not split take mother Blow after blow of the axe to break; Blunder of swab-and-bandage sky, The stand of winter trees, Bleached as coral, beneath, Beyond, behind the glass, I type.
In red, we should move like Fred and Ginger, Kiss like James, and his gun-oiled love: Sane; measured; of reasonable scent; Teal preferred to olive; 6′3″ to 5′9″.
Around me are those who write, in red,
Such things with easy, steady grace. So why, on twisting scarlet out:
Magic; Monkey; Old Testament Rant; Buzzing; Whisper; Underground Light; Temple; Sigil; Ripple through Darkness; Acid; Witchcraft; Dressage; Fear?
In ribbons, black, I clearly write, With enviable poise, Respectably, Of matters.
Wound back in, And in my hair, In mourning.
It's pride demands you sailors speak Of potent draught and secret rhyme, So caked with brine on riven lip You'd bolt a glass of wormwood wine To slake the salt-crazed trench inside.
You'd have me flee, a frightened child, In dappled light to nose the ground To find the single, potent root To scale the dizzy height of man? A thousand times I water drugs! Till none abides, yet shambling comes Each transformation in its time. (What missed delight the gobbled peach, The scalpel breach with sudden flight. A flame is best, for dreams, let die, The final, scalding tongue to fade And utter gentle songs by night Of what was gained, and otherwise).
No! Ordinary guile and art Will do, will do — will drive you down To lap with cats, to fawn and sigh, To dine on nuts and fallen fruit And, though in stature at my thigh, Desire a buried sepulchre.
For all are beauties, poets find To keep their place before the fire. My ordinary face and frame Will do, will do — will bind the man Who sits entranced in dancing light His muscle, tight, like ropes of glass, By tender strokes, to dust refined. Such simple acts can be no crime When lives entire are brought to trial, It's courage, rather, rivals lack To pluck the flower which brings delight.
You ache to have some curse, malign, The rotting wound of man excise, And I will take such gardening on, To cloven bliss your body guide.
So! Tell me, Pig! You see the knife, And know the trade the butcher plies (Your mind divided, beast and man, Outpace your reason's fading light). When sacrifice the gods demand, — If fortune grant you keep your life And verse reprieve your piracy — That yearling calf be bound and tied (With burnished horns and handsome hide
As like as you to win the prize) With flux of blood and smudge of thyme, His puddled gait, his ended tide, The moon he spied through verdant hedge, The same you glimpse through slatted sty, By night the dewy, perfumed grass Of palace land your joint delight — Your gods are buoyed by such design? Athena grey by shining blade? Apollo warmed by temple pyre?
For, as you lie in wormy fruit And “witch” your stoppered mouth would cry, To every scent and sight alive As summer sunlight plays your spine; Outwith my brightly gilded isle, As farmers drive their cattle on, So meat-blind scions of Zeus drive man In quiet, hopeless, plodding rage, To ode and trumpet. Pig, write mine!
The ships which pass the painted horses, Pale sunlight's cavalcade reduced To skeleton crew in silken gown with string Of pearl, and heirloom broach, who scrape their heels At Triton and lifeboat, at Bar-Lemon-Bell, Anchored firm to a sandbank By inner, starboard light, as children Scupper fortunes in lines, on rocks, Sinking at pool, at Mummy's Revenge, The console driving the great screw beneath, Club-footed wanderer, compass rose, Flower of Babylon, skin-sloughed snake; By GPS, from Jakarta to Rotterdam; hulk Of comedian working his sentence on the rotting pier; Grouse shot inland at the great estate, Nouveau artillery echoing at the front, “A ball!”, where Downy Peach fucks Cardinal Red, Who fall at noon with a shot of cannon From the clifftop to scare old Boney away, By order of the admiralty, the Royal Marines Parade buttons to bandstands where songs from the shows, Where themes from TV, where sickening mayhem, Where screams in the eye, all challenge the ether Of the great, wild beasts who pad through town, Hunter-trussed glories of upright creation, Their doses titrated by contracting nurses, Each battened shut from September to March, As, hair-by-hair, they worry fur naked, As Jovian oceans boil inside.
A great slump, or subsidence of earth, attains When weeks or months before the fire What plays upon the great, internal stage Is infant stuff, so simply wrought, So unadorned with clasp and seam, That it proudly sits without admission, A gateless city, puzzle box.
Surely the great passage of work Which separates me from my infancy Should have left some human mark On this grave and silent form?
A leaping horse or garish rose May ask too much of a common life But forensic sheen of sweat and grease, Dull and vital, offending taste, Such is expected of lives entire?
For there is work, too, in ecstasy, Demanding a body's full weight, Bent at the knee, at the waist, and elbow; Thigh, shoulder, back alive, Though yielding nothing, A pose in the image of dignity.
I cannot hold that stories die With comb and clasp which, laid below,
Intermix with fragile bone, A finding in the catalogue of finding, Of time, of place, of the action of bodies, Unordained.
This: To feel, for a moment, a music, As the new bride of earth to dance With marble body of liquid stone, In ribbon, oil, beaten bronze, Lights and guts, by alchemy, absolved As, on the young earth, Egypt Prepared its queens, With ministries acute, and skillful, The small, sufficient fire of rampage Silent.
Better than the best Of all possible worlds our love. A ship, drowning in treasure, Sunk into mud at the slipway end. We stank like foxes As the factories of my childhood stank, Rubberworks, refinery, scrapyard, pit, Stank like foxes In the pub's broad horse-ginnel. New Year's Eve Held fast on pink, dusty brick, Penned by your bridling thigh, As the ram in his square Of five-bar gates, A grim chorus of patrician hills Proud, planted, huddled in rain, Veins uncovered and worked away In storeys, over centuries. As stuffed with pills As the Christmas goose, Sigils smudged into the dust, We lived as marble lives Until the circus entered town.
Better than the best Of all possible worlds security
A ship, drowning in treasure, sunk into mud at the slipway end. We stank like foxes As the Soviets of my childhood stank, Rocket-venom pooling into silo stumps in camera with Lieutenants Dressed in green polyester; Stank like foxes In billowing canvas camps By the bypass, by the airbase, Unlaced and gentle As cellophane over chocolate. We pixied with bricks, Bruising glass like smoke When the doors fly open On a brisk spring day while, To the dull chant of dialysis, Andropov in his sickbed dreams Of Hungary, The electric dead, His men flapping on lampposts As wind-spilled sails who whisper: “Nations, too, shall pass, this Warm-butter motherland, Shame and honour, Corrode and rust”. Until the circus entered town.
Better than the best Of all possible worlds your sleep. A ship, drowning in treasure, Sunk into mud at the slipway end. We stank like foxes In our crumpled, summer beds, The old, grey clock minuting the night As you clutched From your cot's menagerie A soft, dome-backed turtle, Embraced as the earth courts the moon; Stank like foxes As you turned, Uttered a moment's cry And descended again, deep Into pure lands which I shall know again Only in defeat. Our library bullying the house, Its frozen cuts silently demanding Necessity of necessity Where letters twist like maggots Pressed, in protest, into living flesh. Doors slam in the wind And I crow: “I know you”, Cock three glasses of rocket venom, And dissolve into sunlight Until the circus enters town.
With old, grey smoke We blow bubbles Which stink like the factories of my childhood; The ram in his square on the hillside; Penned by bridling thigh; The valley a doll-house fortress of paper-rotting mist; A child hugs a turtle's soft-domed back; The president, marooned in his hospital bed Anchored to his nation by needlecraft.
Better than the best Of all possible worlds we Bide our time and Fox-stink out that new-car smell Until the circus enters town.
Do not deny me, for marshal flame, Sweetness, down, fainting streak Of bluebell at the clearing edge. No less Do I ache for the tilt of butterfly wing For being entire.
As piered bridges drive Deep below, into clay under water, So I run from toe to hip; Only above sit refined and fashioned works. Pay such gilded toys no heed. Let the sounding box resound, Untempered: Pendulum, I-Beam, Groove-sunk diamond, Gliding planchette.
Do not deny me fair deal of love; Let this pretty, glitter, leap-case form Close the ashes here confessed, Flowered, flamed, apple-orchard red; Nor brand this fairy craft insane. By roll of die my father cast me
Of tallowed iron. — Go! — Ask for me In silence bordered by tumult: Highgate, Brompton, Père Lachaise.
You will find, within, Love, Will, Power, And the breaking of horses. And surely I shall bury you in sweetness.
Combined Heat and Power
A vague sense of flame under glass By smudge of powder, insufficient Licence to juggle Kiln-hot words which, Incandescent, comet the night; I have nothing else.
To glimpse a life, at the scale of life, I put my eye to the furnace O; And wish it were my tongue.
Unmoved, that penny trinket sits — Blushing coin of glass — prevents Adoption, by fire, of a body of fire, Brinking for change.