death

Rain Thoughts

feather raindrop river

A day of persistent rain, soft and smothery, comfort-cool,
music-box bells and windchimes, a stopped clock,
second hand paused eternally, twitching,
unable to cross over into the future or even to leave the past.

On the way to buy dinner we see rivers twitching down the gutters
leaves carried, leaves clogging, left alone leaves rotting
down and dark into red green depths and drunk into death
and we're talking so softly about joy as the light leaks out
and twilight sets in and street lights glow dull and all that rain
shifts out of focus and turns invisible and spiritual
and almost wholly immaterial, and what's left to discuss is the unreal,
the ethereal, what is promised to us, what we have to trust in -
the return of the fallen leaves on the other side of the cold -
the return of the water from the depths of the world -
even our own return from the end of the road -
because sometimes the journey never ends, some time soon there will be no return
from a sudden darkness.

The Silver City and the Silent Sea

In a bright house high above the sea
my family in the clouds and me -
blessed mothers, ragged sundresses,
the forgotten sister, scared of caresses,

older ones with electroshocked eyes
and shocked white hair, weeping eyelids
and blackened skin, rumbling voices
and stories of two world wars

and we ran over evening-wet grass
throwing frisbees and dodging water pistols
and bumblebees, hornets, kisses,
catered quiche and mixed salads,

table tennis and babies and and and -
that long gravel path, that short fall
from the highest of those pretty clouds
down to the dark cobalt sea.

I remember, once, parties with children
in older decades, with younger elders,
and now those children are grown and making
babies and mistakes, doing drugs and doing well,

seeing other continents, styling their hair,
every new face collapsing into new lines
and all our eyes glinting with mischief
and sadness / glory / defeat / peace -

and oh Lord, how we sang in our agony
when once we knew that we must die -
and how we tore at our clothes, our hair,
how we searched for you everywhere and nowhere -

how we lost you in those cold churches,
those marble halls and motionless hands
those secret symbols and foreign words
and how we discovered other worlds

and slowly we let each other go,
so fathers and sons apart do grow,
and mothers and daughters sweetly fight
for their image of love on lonely nights -

and Lord, in your wisdom you let us slip away
our blood thins and our skin wrinkles
like fruit discarded after the party
and like clockwork mice we run down -

our circles grow smaller and our voices weaken
until we only eat peas, and read the same books
over and over - we accept everything -
we stagger through time until it takes us -

and watch our new forms dance on evening-wet grass -
children and grandchildren, world without end, amen -
without even a promise, or a dream of a promise
of finding ourselves in those perfect white clouds,

or that silver city, that perfect house
on a hill overlooking a perfect bay,
long gravel paths coolly beckoning
down to that dark cobalt sea.
 

Lost We

be with me now. in voice. broken overruled. help to lift me skywards, lady. arms like music box dancer, poised like ballerina. pink and blue gauze ballgown, costume jewel tiara, lipstick smile and pale skin. music to dance to until we die. on a desk in my sister's bedroom one morning, thin summer light through single glazed window. brass window fasteners twisted to open, dusty windows never cleaned, cracked from tennis ball impacts. how we leaned out and looked over the gardens and the hedges to somewhere distant. our enclosed world. bookshelves and drawers and wardrobes crammed full of memory. accumulated possessions of 15 years emptied one day. our home, full of sunshine and voices, full of waking nightmares. we walked the carpets in the small hours trailing dreams from our fingertips. our skin and our smell we left in the corners untouched by cleaning. I am a small child lost in a red crystal. I am a man waiting for a small child to descend from the overworld. I am a boy lost in his own cold bones outside an empty dark school waiting for a man to come and bring him home. I am an old man trying to remember his father's face. lost moments strung together on a tattered string. lady, be with me now. let me live in the song you lift to the sky. your arms and eyes darken and you teach me about the sea. one day I said that I would learn how to swim. that I would swim the broken sea of my parents' dreams. let this story fall from me now. I am of the sky and the waves and the stars, if you will bless it to be so.

--

lost we reach for words. lost we. only for moments crushed. how blurred horizon breeds cloud ghosts, blurred vision like rainwater window, songs for sliding down. how in panicked sparks sunlight cuts into the mind. naming evanescences in amnesiac time, in time of perfect garden, age of gold, names given again for new beginnings. meaning emerging from chaos birthsack. love from eyes. horizon of sisters and brothers and lost toys, lost books, lost living brightness. friends poised invisible under weeping willow, unable to cross the water. lady wreathed in smoke stepping through puddles that do not touch her skin. soaked earth yielding fruit and footprints, lunar memories, a future death plummeting back through time.

--

touched by voices and listened to by light, we transmigrate. these are your windows and doors, winter-chilly and smudged with tears and hope. doors in the dark, doors in the day, doors along an endless corridor of what may be. that window you flew out of in your mind every night. rising through tortured cloud giants. purple starfield and streetlight glow. naked temples flattened and opened like unpeeled tesseracts into streets and houses and staircases. mother and father embracing underneath the black gates like forgiven titans. sister and brother hand in hand under petrified glittering forest, canopy of silk and birdflight, music of absolution. memories of other planets, washed down through new mind as over waterfall in tiny urban park. where as a child you stand and sing, lady. where you stand and sing us all to wake again.

Sofia

...don't even say a word.
    ...play sad music and sit in silence
        ...stark and stunned
daydreams like escaped moons
so easy to follow into the outer dark
thoughts bound in order
celestial harmony of divided spheres mediated by corpus callosum
I am disjointed now and
    > struggling <
    >> for expression <<    OF:
(+) <= clues I find / or maybe not clues / but delusions
a cross or a host or a
(religion abandoned us and left us helpless
    before the contents of our own minds
        (let me be moved by those
            who the Lord hath awakened
SOFIA // AEON
and once
    THIS
        (this focus and this fire)
        >> or being : this one : Flower <<
        endless and unendurable agony
    - star death
    - golden wreaths
    - pulses in metal heart
    - lost in expressions of time
I was supposed to embrace it all / link it and find it
as one unified / an understanding made singular and named
    BUT
        this turns out to be
        I M P O S S I B L E
(i am sorry /                (this one is moved /
i am so small /                by One greater /
i thought i was more /            the impossible work /
than i am )                is already accomplished )
        ET LUX PERPETUA

I'm diving now, wrestling with my own gift
(and it is a gift)
at the first of the doors in the deep
there is St. Sofia / the ragged blind woman
a girl who once loved me / and so forever
in paradisum deducant te angeli / her arrows
her wings / her dark eyes / I kneel
in the dark garden / to kiss her shadow's feet
of all my loved-ones / she is my guardian

O Kali Ma, Holy Guardian Angel, androgyne Uriel, silly little girl,
let me pass through your golden gates and safely on to the underworld.
I love you and I am yours, and cannot survive
in my own mind's wild labyrinth, unless you give me passage
and bless me with a kiss that marks me for all to see.
Now I lay me down to sleep / and pray the Lord my soul to keep
guard me, Jesus, through the night / and wake me with the morning light
and if I die before I wake / I pray the Lord my soul to take
------------------------------------------------------------>
Birth                            Death
<------------------------------------------------------------
I pray the Lord my soul to take
into that great tunnel
from my window to yours
(two universes become one
((+))
my lady, grant me thy grace.
my lady, open thy door for me.
my lady, kiss me and bless my journey.
my lady, in sleeping and waking keep me safe.

lady, I remember
you had rings on your fingers
and bells on your toes
and so you had music
wherever you go

through the first door into bluey ocean darkness -
and behind me the dead girl dances -
torn dress and dread hair weightlessly writhing -
haloed in the illumination of the upper world.
we blow kisses. she is so cute.
all around me the supernatural dark. the pressure.
the foot of the Lord on my neck and nothing
for me but twenty years' journey and a broken sword.
a long and a hard life, sinking
towards far smooth sands, peaceful and inviolate.
the creatures of the deep tear themselves apart
from within, if they rise, exploding
into the sun and the air like saints
destroyed by the solar divine -
and we of the light and the surface
journey only once into the realm of iron and ice.

        (+)

the lady tells me:
    / open your eyes now
    / to your inner ocean
    / realm of ice and iron
    /
she means:
    / overlay, map
    / two universes become one
    / reunited twins
    /
she means: begin the great work

the insane king: Lorcan? Stalin? Shah Jehan?
his great temple's dark twin
reflection of a broken heart
a war between chambers and vessels
MAHAL: what I said then and what I say now:
>> I bring the sky and the earth together <<

fall we will, but rise we must
and thus become one with all that rises
    L E V I A T H A N
we are panicking in the world of surfaces
counting and checking and cataloguing and linking
driven by our obsession with the light and the dark
and the realm of ice and iron stirs beneath us
a blue blanket over a bloated, empty belly
and a terrible child stirring in a terrible womb
the terror of the blind guardian and the blank page
the mythical beast rising through words and waves
and I am a mariner / a fisherman / a swimmer / an island
is drowning something we do or something that is done to us?
it rises anyway / regardless of names / or purposes
ancient illuminator / we the pages of his text
and the world and its words        / mind
and the world and its blood        / body
and the world and its soul        / spirit
are one, One, ONE

            (+)

Thy will, not mine, be done.

Mama Kali

Mother, let's begin.
    Ramakrishna swooned at your feet
drowned in black wines, and you lapped
at his wounds
tenderly, like a cat with the runt of the litter
raw and trembling and wet and sightless
he was lost in spiritual darkness
a cave opening up and singing endless -
endless space, endless cold, endless heat
and endless unmarked time
    falling like Alice
into the mind-rock, the heart-chamber
the hollow earth

We've been waiting here for years
for you finally to give birth
we are brothers and sisters of primordial forest
snuggled lightless among roots and ferns
sometimes the air is sweet and thick with rain
sometimes the sky crumbles and burns
Mother,
    did you
        leave us behind?
Or did we simply go blind
and deaf and dumb, amnesiacs running
as if in a nightmare, and was it you
chasing us after all, was it you
carrying us when we slept?
What we thought were rivers and seas
or the arms of another,
was that really you all along, Mother?

(We're having trouble with father)
(he's been angry for thousands of years)
(and he refuses to forgive us our sins)
but Mother, we are who we are
we are as we were made
we won't lie any more
please love us as you made us

Mother, here are garlands and pinches of herbs
here are fruits and young leaves and seeds
here are incense sticks and sugar cubes
and oils and soaps and -
this is a picture of you, Mother, this is a statue -
- do you like them?
  - do you forgive us?
    - will you come home?

Mother, there are skeletons with scythes
dancing in the valley where we buried daddy
when the blood-rage finally ate his heart
and babies are growing there among the weeds
and the skeletons are black-boned and giggly
and they lop! the babies' heads off
as they sprout through the spring soil
and shot into our graves like a bullet from a groin
we are your sown seeds and dad's death-harvest

Mother, what we wished for never came,
and it was you, it was you -
here are milk sweets, here is rice and wine -
the offerings rot in the bowls year after year
and you tell us that you never left?
Mother, have we been insane all our lives?
Mother, is this not the real world at all?

Mother, did you travel through my dreams?
Were you the virgin girl with painted fingers
who kissed me after the car wreck?
Were you my guide in the ancestral asylum
walking through tableaus of genetic ritual
with my small hand
            in yours
                    did we
say goodbye to daddy sweating before the pig ovens
did we fall deep into the black together?
Did you stand up in the shallows and brush
sand from a waterlogged dress,
and tell me that I had no name?

Mother, can we unravel time and bless
all past mistakes? Can you tell me why
you didn't name me?
when I've stood alone in a thousand dark gardens
and begged to be consumed by starfire
Didn't you hear me? Didn't you believe me?
Where have you BEEN?

Mother, they are laid out on the plain, 6 bodies deep
in blood lit by lightning from converging hurricanes
and in the dead armies I see your stamping feet
I see your arms stirring the clouds and your eyes insane
I hear you laugh and scream and your anklets ring
as you crush your children and drink blood and sing

this is the unstoppable black universe of you

and only I am left alive
and I am no-one
the war was death
and now the dance is death
but Mother, Mother, at last
you are here, at least
you are beautiful
 

Ghat Smoke

we are all going to die
that's the perspective
haunting my dreams
hanging over me awake
like clouds lit by the sun
chemical flames flaring
across a grey ceiling
thoughts of emptiness
thoughts of loneliness
and the harbour of the body
frozen in time
the lucky ones find each other
we are told
hair alight with sky fire
kissing to crazy music
we must marry and retire
to the baby-making bed
and give purpose to it all
then death will not touch us
death shuns lovers
we are told
but the graves are full of us
our smoke rises from the ghats
and the battlefields
bloody footprints, bloody mire
and the blood of lovers
tastes the same as any other

wind over dunetops
silver blue island waves
meet me somewhere like this
so we can talk about life
when it doesn't matter any more
we'll both be dead
finished forever with blood and smoke
and we create our own islands
we are some kind of ridiculous song
we can replay our lives
did your skin really wrinkle so fast
did my legs gnarl that way
watch us crumple like leaves
the sun burning us hollow
watch the years pour through us
we will meet at the river's end
we always feared the sea
endless toothlike mountains
waterfall over the world's edge
was that the dream or is it this

slow silent withering
in our mirrors and our minds
who you say I am is nothing
who you say you are is nothing
these words are not the words of a body
that will wither or burn or fall
the body is earth and earth is silent
and these words belong to something else
something original
I mean primordial
something lawless and experimental
not intended and without purpose
therefore deathless and meaningless
ridiculous by any normal standards
something more like a ghost or a virus
unnaturally endless and reflective

this story ends with us cold and rigid
or so they tell us
but I hear different

John's Perfect Heart

John's life was a quiet disaster
of needles and computer screens and alcohol
bank notes drifting gently down
onto the bodies of his parents

pets asleep in the filth of a swollen toilet
doors and windows blown open
in his mind, lights winking down a river
walking to work in the rain and the rot

he saved lives and stole them, ran screaming
down stunned streets, smiled carefully
in shops as he bought suicide implements,
melted and shook and snarled in the gym,

drove endlessly along roads, roads, roads
as future memories swam in his veins
- he would marry and father sad children
- he would die at someone else's funeral

John's life was his own, and every choice
split the universe in two, each half perfect -
perfect in panic and pain, in rain, in madness -
such a heart raging in such a savage heaven

Ghost Ship

her mind is disintegrating
blood leaking between memories
every day melting into one breakfast
every evening into one cup of sugary tea
there was a father, a husband, a church
images rewinding on a damaged videotape
giving way to unknown faces and voices
that slide easily off the mind's surface
recycling like paper and glass and identity
and the house setting sail across the sea
into the deep straw horizon glow
with her crew of photographs and ghosts
bound by memory into deathless illusion

Ragged Umbrellas

 

the sun is a dark smudge in the sky
for the ghost women of the birthday
pale fat arms cradling plates of apple pie
trailing smoke from a burnt out day

the clouds bleed quietly down for hours
and they dance under ragged umbrellas
singing about how they love to be powerless
the houses of ritual have made them careless

and sometimes the light shows their true faces
behind the opera masks - there are no words
for their expressions - there is no place
for comfort or for grace, the songs they heard

as children, when afternoons on dirty strands
became evenings drifting out to sea in dreams
asleep in the back seats of cars, hands
twitching in the rhythm of piano lessons, hymns

washing in from memory shores like wrecked ships
as sadness and failure like cold voids
suck the clouds and the sun down into their lips,
their skin, their hair; they frown, they get annoyed

by children who will not obey, pets who want to die,
dolls who will not stand upright, friends and lovers
self-obsessed and desperate, who cannot cry,
cannot speak the truth, cannot stay together -

the ghost women drift through parties and wakes
as the songs and the rain tell them in whispers
that they were once young, that the hand that shakes
is a punishment, the skin that is wrinkled and crisped

is a judgement on their innocence, and they watch
the children learn about loss, they watch the graves
open and swallow and close and wait, they watch
the works of the Lord, noting who he damns and saves,

what his plan might be, why he does not love them -
they gather between lifetimes where the water shines
dancing on the endless beach under ragged umbrellas
pale arms linked, lonely only in their minds

Moral Terror

In the rainbow jungle the soldier said that you must make a friend of horror and moral terror and I listened not because I understood but because it was Brando and when he speaks we listen and when he dies then god has died too and we are alone in the jungle at last with all the other monkeys who fight and fuck and sacrifice and feel feel feel in their hearts sensations so real they can be weighed in ounces or metres or joules - the units don't matter what matters is that the heart emits a measurable force that is not magnetism or gravity - the monkeys are adaptable and can swim through those like void but the heart-force twists them shapeless and kills the cramp out of every cell of their bodies. the body is ash and mud and levers and sacks, it is a suit of armour, a cello, a computer. like the knights of god riding into battle waving the banner of the skull and bones, we charge headlong into the unknown journey of our lives with every breath reminding us of the end. Yeats said man created death - did he know, or was he just writing pretty poetry? I know what the mystics know but I am not mystical - I'm nothing but a flower falling off a winter stem. I understand everything but I don't have any words for it. I know who I am but I can't tell you. I've been spending my life trying to bridge the gap between the body and the mind - what we know and what we can communicate - and I think it can't be done. I thought if you brought the gap close enough that a mind would pull sparks across it like a synapse but I've never seen it happen and maybe it will never happen. The body knows. The mind can never know.

Moral terror is an old woman lying in bed at night praying to Jesus to keep her from shitting herself while she sleeps. Jesus doesn't care; if he's listening I'm sure he loves her, but her shit and dignity is of no concern to him. He wants to bring her home and he knows she can't bring the flesh with her. Her body will die like everything else and no history will record her shame. She says that when she brought me walking through the park when I was younger she never imagined I would see her this way and she cries and she says that we are only clay, only mud, what are we, what are we? In her dreams she chases rabbits to try to cuddle them. Every corner of memory in the house is emptying itself. The bird died months ago and the empty cage catches her eye in the evenings, and she calls herself a little bird. In the bathroom as she takes off her soiled nightdress she says that it's time for her to die. I told her that she still had things to do and she smiled and said "Like what?" She knows what we are and there's nothing she can do or say about it. There are no words for what's really happening to her. She says that she doesn't know what to say to me, that nothing she can think of suffices. I am more and more quiet. She's dying, whether it's a month or a year or ten years, and there's nothing to say about it because every pretension and hope and platitude is dead in the naked body.