archetypes

Dark Night of the Soul

shrieking under folds of blackness,
hands clawing at the fabric of an unlit tent.
veins swelling in a vacuum, empty eye sockets wide.
the midnight of his memory full of monsters.
what we know as horror: the crossing of death into life,
the corpse walking with a blind smile,
the puppets jerking at their strings.
his mother's bloody grin, holding her own head by the hair,
and he ran out the door into the apocalypse they promised him:
the destiny of the destroyed atom, and a trillion ghosts
left to roam a nightmare planet in unfinished visions.

slicing himself for the feeling of bright sharpness, the reality.
sky on a frozen winter's day, the cloud diamondcutter.
the clarity when he first loved her, when he first recognised her
and became a river running to her. the deathly fear
when he lay awake in the living night-time, presences
crowding in his awareness, afraid to turn over.
when he took the elevator to the basement of his mind
and found the mutilated man, madness shining in his remaining eye.
the boy in the abandoned house who swallowed a living scorpion -
tongue numb with venom, his skin turned black and livid -
but inside he became a storm of daisies, summer light and wind.
someone who would love the demons and angels alike -
an alchemist, at war with the dead physics of his universe.

strange notes from the other side of a drugged mind:
"what the FUCK happens when we die?" and the feeling
of crossing into an unknown land. his only journey:
miles of roads lined with bodies and flowers, tiger paws,
daggers, vertigo footage from cameras falling off cliffs.
or, like faded newsreel, spotted and flickering, set to the sound
of muttering, whispering voices, old showtunes:
the body's last words,
spoken on a sunlit evening stretching into neverness.

Heroes

I never moved the mirror
from its stand in the corner
where it was left, like a sentinel,
by the previous owner –

the still water of another mind
full of old reflections and purposes.
I used to be surprised to see myself there,
a ghost in my own home, lost on the surface.

I was hardly even aware
that on my way to the office, walking
past the arcades, threading the crowds,
rushing in the sharp, late morning,

I could have turned aside
where Westland Row meets Merrion Square,
under the windows of the Davenport Hotel –
or, really, any road, anywhere –

just kept on walking,
through Ringsend and beyond,
past the tailbacks and the trailers
to where the sea meets the long strand;

boarded a small sailboat,
anything that floats on water,
a catamaran, even a dinghy;
and set off into an unknown future.

I was hardly aware of my own hands,
their softness, their blunt power,
the way they callus so quickly
if I have to lift and carry for a few hours.

Or of my nose, its many colours,
brown and orange and pink,
the blocked pores, the faint sheen
after an evening on the drink.

The way my hair shines
under a yellow light.
The happiness of breathing.
The freedom of being awake at night.

Night-time when I was younger
was cool sheets and my mother’s voice,
telling stories from picture books:
the poisoned land, the hero’s choice –

the silly rabbit and the duckling
who hugged each other at the end
and made the whole world happy,
‘and no-one was ever alone again’ –

I’d go to sleep in the shuddering darkness,
the power of the stories whirling
in my stomach and behind my eyes.
I became a dreamer in the world.

I burned with that energy;
I chose to be the flame-haired hero,
to make his choices, to be the brightness
in the story, without fear.

I didn’t know - at every turn, every choice
I could have gone elsewhere.
The catamaran; the other girls;
the boy with the untidy hair

who smiled at me in the library,
and my spine tingled from end to end;
the thousand countries and cities
where I would have made friends;

the way I would have kissed
the Spanish girl in the sunlit alcove
if I’d been braver, if I’d known
she too was only looking for love.

In some weird future, the hero
maybe is dying on the dirty floor
of a Bangkok shack, heroin
in his veins, voices at the door –

or sitting at the kitchen window
as dawn begins to light the rooftops
of any city; she’s asleep in the bedroom,
and there’s coffee on the hob.

Maybe in the million stories
there’s just one hero, wandering
from room to room, screen to screen;
moving with open, wondering eyes

through the labyrinth of mirrors,
while the audience, if there is one,
accepts each change of mask and scene
without fear, even with a sense of fun.

Just to look at a tree, to really look –
a tree in a dream, on a diamond plateau,
or a tree in the rain in Merrion Square,
leaves dripping, branches dark and soaked,

the way the leaves open like hands
to catch the raindrops, as a child would –
you can’t be in a story.
You never hear of Red Riding Hood

stopping in the woods, fascinated
by the shimmering moss, the ancient stone,
forgetting her errand; in her immortality
she doesn’t have that freedom.

But you do; even the eyes of the girl
when she tells you she likes you;
if you really want to see her,
you can’t be a hero. You can only be you.
 

The Knight at the Nexus of Memory

Everything smelled perfect and everything
tasted sweet in my grandmother’s house -
Star Wars on rewind in the VCR,
my uncle's chess computer blinking in thought,
the grey afternoon light, gentle minutes
settling around me like mystical tissue.

In the cotton silence of her attic,
there was nothing of me except a body,
tingles in the stomach, an ache in the mind
for the world above the skylight
and its spaceships and alien cities, alien houses
for alien boys with no place in this world -

or rolling on the side lawn with my uncle,
trying to trip him, getting breathless and heavy,
falling into laughter with my cheek pressed
to the soft grass. He didn't know I was hiding
inside myself, scared and small with no powers,
no lightsaber, no invulnerable smile.

My little superheroes were a virus in my mind.
For every day of warm rain and every good friend
there was the knight at the nexus of memory,
the dancing samurai, luminous blade cutting images and words -
the vampire, the unseen bodhisattva dynamo
powered by prayer wheels and playstations

and always hoping for a simpler life.
No one knew he was there, and so
no one saw him leave, sad and empty: old killer
in a land of reincarnating immortals.
Everything he shaped is coming loose,
useless dreams I don't need to remember.

Anima

The girl's two feet are shellfish
pink as lasers from seaburn
she is standing in the shallows
she is whatever I believe her to be

her skin is a pale Krishna-blue
shading to white at the cheekbones
her dress is a crash of rainbows
I am a question that she asks

sunfire behind flowers of cloud
waves running through her
green and pearling colours
crying onto a tilted shore

she stands, the girl is a revenant
she is a condensation of meaning
the sand is the skin of a bass drum
she walks among the beach-snakes

"Who am I?" skylight up above
trapdoor spilling void into the ocean
the blue becomes full of doors
the girl is finding out about sleep

she has found a place
face-to-face with everyone in shortwave
beneath the sea-surface of the universe
a veil that shifts with her breath

absorbed back into her own curves
moon-empty, stiffening with coral
I am a pillar of seeing
with a sea-girl inside my mind

Assimilating Crowley

I was in Knock in the West of Ireland, wandering through the prefabricated  chapels and the fruit machine souvenir shops, when I felt a strange call, and headed out towards the medical buildings...I found this squat, grey hospice, and walked past the windows...and there was someone behind the window, in the showers, who was frantically trying to get to me, to see me...it was Aleister Crowley.

I had to trick my way past the hospice wardens to get to see him by pretending I had other business there. Outside his cubicle was a life-size picture of him in full Masonic regalia, and beside it hung robes, sigils and flowers...it was magnificently camp, a parody of mysticism. He was squatting under the showers in depression or some kind of senility in this hopeless grey place, but he became very alert and sane when we talked. We laughed at the doctors together. He seemed happy to see me, or seemed to recognise me in some way, as if he'd been waiting for me, or someone like me, to come along.

He told me "A god is not bound to the Earth. A god is held by no strictures1." I told him he sounded like J.R.R. Tolkien, and he seemed amused. He told me that he was not responsible for a lot of his excesses of personality during his life. He seemed to really love me and want to communicate with me. Sometimes he looked old and haggard, and other times young and fat.

I told him I was born on his birthday - October 12th - and he looked at me extremely intently and with great urgency, trying to see if I was telling the truth, because he thought this was very important. His hands were gnarled, with long yellow nails. He put one of his fingers in my mouth, and it tasted bad, salty and sour.

Something odd happened when I woke up...I had the feeling, as I was rising out of the dream, that it had ended because my sister was too tired...it seemed that she had been 'channeling' Crowley for me, and couldn't maintain it...it was strange. When I was fully awake, I realized that he would always be there for me - that I could look inside any time and ask him a question, if I needed to.
 


 

1. I realize now that he was trying to tell me that a god cannot evolve.