family

The King of Friday Night

I had to meet my father in the city centre, and I couldn't rely on the buses, so I ran, and very quickly running normally (which is so SLOW) turned into running on all fours, one of my most frequent recurring dreams. I relax quickly into the steady lope of a wolf, but now and again to get around people I display a primate's agility, running halfway up walls, swinging around lampposts, jumping over obstacles and onto rooves.

Running turns into gliding when the wind picks up, and I let myself drift down streets carried by the air. Sometimes gusts pick me up, and one of them flings me sixty feet in the air, panicking me a little, but it drops me gently again. Then back to running when I hit the city centre, the dense claustrophobic lamplit streets. It's Friday night in Dublin and I'm running through an exaggerated version of Temple Bar, massive cobbled streets and back alley networks stretching for miles and filled with drunks and students and goths and even families wandering around trying to find a way to get their children home safely.

Running on all four speeds up my journey and fills me with euphoria, but the drawback is that it draws everyone's attention, making me feel mildly embarrassed and them either curious or threatened. At least, that's how I explain the fact that Liam Gallagher, on seeing me run past him like this, turns around and yells at me, then gives chase, followed behind by his two massive bouncers. He outpaces them and follows me down a long alleyway, and I stop and turn around and without any explanation he tries to punch me when he catches up to me, a strange kind of joy in his face. I grab his arm and twist it behind his back, hold him for a moment and then shove him away, hoping he gets the message. He doesn't. He tries to punch me again and I grab his arm again and put him in an armlock, then grab his other arm, twist them over each other and flip him on his back and hold him there. Notably, I haven't said anything this entire time; I'm not sure I can speak in this dream. Liam looks up at me with a savage grin and says "Man...you're the KING OF FRIDAY NIGHT!!" He's happy to be fairly bested in the drunken macho ritual of his mind. The bouncers arrive, huffing and puffing, and I run off again.

Without finding my father, I realize that I have to go home again. My mother and my grandmother are waiting for a birthday party - whose, I don't know, but it's after midnight and there are no buses (and I don't even know what bus to get) so I start running again. The urgency is greater and so are the risks I take - running across rooftops, diving through windows, impossible gliding leaps. I run through the Irish government buildings to a far door and when I open it I'm out into the Phoenix Park, which is full of teenagers, an entire side of a hill covered with them smoking, flying kites, sleeping, cuddling. There's a young guy in a wingsuit gliding high in the air, but then he loses control and crashes fifty feet down into the grass. I'm concerned briefly, but he bounces up again. I carry on.

The Phoenix park darkens and becomes Cabinteely Park, and I'm getting closer, always getting closer. I jump over a gorge and the earth on the other side rises up suddenly to become a cliff, and I have to climb, digging my fingers and toes into the stone. I'm nearly there, nearly there.

Little Wooden Bull

I found a wooden bull in my granny's house during a party in which we were all there, at least all of my mother's side of the family. I brought it into the front room and it suddenly turned into a large and powerful real bull. I was afraid it was going to run wild and destroy the house, so I grabbed it by the horns and wrestled it to the ground, but I knew that the bull wouldn't stay passive for long and that we'd all be in danger when it rose up again, so I started asking my family what should be done with it, and who was going to take responsibility for it, since they had been keeping it in their house. No one was interested and no one wanted to do anything about the bull, so I decided I had no choice but to take charge of it myself. It had changed back to wood in the meantime, so accompanied by my mother I carried it up the road to St. Enda's Park, where we released it.

Straight away it came to life and started rampaging around the park, smashing through trees and fences. Other animals began to pour from its flanks and come to life themselves: a wolf, a tiger, a kangaroo, a dog, a rabbit, and more. We were glad that the bull was contained in the park now, but I was worried about unsuspecting people who might go into the park and be in danger. There was nothing we could do about that; people would just have to be careful.

As we turned to leave, the bull came back into view, charged into a thicket of oaks and reared up on it's hind legs. It was thirteen feet tall and its head was huge and horned like that of a bison. It looked straight at me, calmly and with immense power and authority, and I thought it looked like a god.

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.
 

Colder On The Inside

++

I was sitting alone and the house was cold
and it began to rain,
darkening to twilight in minutes,
freezing brushstrokes on the glass.
An office full of papers no longer readable
and a broken amethyst windchime
drained of colour years ago.

+=

The rain turned into sleet and snow
and there were phonecalls in the dark
— Will you make it home all right?
— Do you need anything?
In silence again, tiny blue figures seen
descending from the valley treeline,
all raincoats and walking sticks and boots,
caught out by the storm.

+=

On the clear days, fighter jets scream overhead.
In the spring, rich ancient woods fill up with bluebells.
Now that everything's dead, we who are left behind
must deal with noonday eclipses,
freezing slushy mounds of rotting leaves,
and stark stunning starfields
glimpsed at night between streetlight auras.

+=

I have a son who screams at night,
for no reason but the horrors of empty space —
ice-clouds engulfing the car on the way home,
as strapped into his car seat he watches the road
and the river recede through the rear window.
No reason but cold bedrooms and a sore stomach,
the clinging silence of clothes and books,
the terror of being in such a body.

+=

I'm waiting at the window
for some kind of reason or warning —
something in the rain, before it ends,
to let me know at last
where all of this is going.

==

blue

the man from hope wears an aquamarine tie
for air and water and falling from clouds
for cosmic particles flying relativistic
-- night-time dark water for buried memory
-- then swallowing morning light
-- becoming full, transparent and radiant
your memories are there among the shells
under all that invisible weight
at arms length but unreachable

-- mother never wore any kind of blue
-- but saw it in your eyes and gave it to you
-- you were to become what she never knew
a great water, a great sky
for sinking her old nightmares
lions and tigers and bears and mother and father
-- turquoise shirts and shoes, denim jeans
-- baby laughing through the baptismal rituals
-- and then the slate-grey photos in the dismal rain
the ancient in the peacock-blue overcoat
fragments of a clear sky, an old azure mini
mother's pale face turned to the photographer

Re-entering time

at the end of a long sequence, I accidentally entered a version of my own past time-stream through a story that must have had some similarity. the story was of an infidelity. then I witnessed a play - the stage made of doll's house cardboard, the puppets cardboard cut-outs of children, the movements controlled by real children - my sister and I, very young. I talked to myself. I was afraid to say much in case I should teach the young me something that could change the future. then I met me when I was 13 - taller, long hair, still a child but now more aware. I was writing code. I asked myself what I was writing. a code review. "but only if it turns out to be interesting. you're my guinea pig," i told the young me. He grinned and thought it was a waste of time. in the meantime, in the programmed drama, the man left the woman. I woke up explaining:

    We can know the immediate causes
    we can know the events that caused us to program ourselves as we did
    but we cannot know the underlying causes
    the deep motivations at the instant of decision
    that level of history can never exist and is lost forever
    and every attempt to recreate it is ALWAYS in some sense:
    A FICTION


or:    we cannot locate awareness in the past
    we can only locate it in the present


or:    thinking is based on programs
    (memory, stories) created in the past
    awareness is not thinking
    and only exists NOW

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.

The Process

Eventually, I always end up being the strange one.
From normal beginnings, I end up lost
in your forest of meanings and your many roads
without endings, the labyrinths of your lives

and always this creeping cold in the heart
the organs growing numb and the throat closing
over years of gaining and losing friends
years of making the same old journey

from normality and acceptance to alienation
I push you away, I freeze you out,
I tell you, and myself, that I don't need you
because of the creeping numbness in my mind

beginnings of warmth and ordinary eyes and arms
and hard work and sensuality and laughter
as I encompass you and dazzle you, I become
what you project, I reflect your dreams

and then creepingly it begins, something cold
that I never before thought was my fault -
I look at forests and want to live there,
by the water. I look at the stars and want to go there.

I look into the deep water and want to sink,
sucked into the blue-black water and forgotten.
I rage through my dreams to find a true self.
I do not want to leave you behind.

I find myself on my knees in the night-time
clutching my own chest, unable to name my pain.
I pray to be good. I pray that I won't let you down,
that I will fulfil my promises and not betray you.

I don't understand what demon is in me
but it must be what tormented Bunyan,
the rotting core, what he called sin,
that made him believe he was the worst of men.

It must be what tempted Jesus in the desert -
that we have the Devil in us. That from beautiful
beginnings we destine ourselves for a Fall.
It must be what mocked Buddha beneath the bodhi tree.

I have done something to my own mind
and I don't think it can be undone. I travel through it,
I speak of what I see there, and I bear witness
to the dark places and the terrible beings that live there -

terrible purposes that I see in all of us.
The ability to kill, to rape, to demean, to betray -
as much the Dark Lord as the Hero, we are -
as much the silken liar as the wise magician.

The knife in the grey darkness of the hallway,
the killing word born out of bitterness,
the devil-rage as after years of surface calm
we suddenly rampage and reduce a family to wreckage.

All because we don't see the seething darkness of NOW -
we don't see how immense are the forces inside us -
how each of us is potentially angelic and demonic -
how driven we are every day by unknown forces.

How a tiny wound left untended can rot a limb
or a whole body. How there are voices inside us
that can damn or save us, if we will listen.
How complicated and perilous it is just to sit quietly.

If I betray you, I am so sorry, you have to believe me -
I never want to hurt you, or anyone, ever.
If I hurt my children, I will almost want to die.
I have no prayer other than that this should not happen.

What is the force that we pray to, but the living universe -
the incredible energy that destroys and creates
and discards all us poor shells and mechanisms in time.
Is that my God? Do I live and breathe that contradiction?

I would have gone insane years ago
and I could go insane now, if not for this journey
in words and images and sounds, this travelogue
of a psychic landscape, this map of dreams.

Every now and then I can feel the edge of it
memories of fever hallucinations when I was young
vast shapes crashing together in the air of the bedroom
hanging on to the reality of myself, barely

and then when I nearly died in my own mind,
sucked into a vortex, and cried out for my parents
to come into the bedroom, come into my life
and save me, reach in and pull me out of myself

wandering through Amsterdam streets with my friends,
sitting in a sunlit park as my mind tried to drown me
and I forgot who I was, forgot who they were,
remembered nothing except this strange story

of a boy who had journeyed to this time and place
and then been set free, set adrift and abandoned.
Behind the eye, a naked awareness, calm and fascinated
even as I fought panic and realized I was insane,

and that I might not be able to return.
My friends left me in the hostel and went drinking.
I slept and wandered in dreams again, where I was safe.
We all met again afterwards. I had remembered. I still do.

Nightmares of being committed to asylums.
Nightmares of killing a child, a lover.
Nightmares of forgetfulness, of loss and failure.
Through it all, a desperate poetry of redemption.

I didn't have to make this journey into the underworld.
I had a choice embodied by my parents - the one
a golem set at the entrance to Gehenna as a warning,
beautiful and cold and functional.

The other, a scared child lost in the wightwarrens.
I chose to go down in full awareness.
I thought that I was strong enough to handle anything.
Moriarty says that above all Christianity is the religion

that does not leave us helpless before the contents
of our own minds. And that is what I wanted -
to discover what darkness and light may be in me.
Now it rages below the surface and I can't ignore it.

I have a very narrow path to tread - not only that,
but I have set myself the task of recording the journey.
Very probably no one will ever follow. No one
will read the record of what I did to myself.

Still, I do what I have to do.

Werewolf Poetry

I was in my old school    it was mixed    there was a different feeling to other dreams of being back at school        I wasn't stressed running from class to class    it was more like I was a visiting ex-pupil on a celebration day     then we gathered in the main hall, which was huge and round like a great lecture theatre        they started to play a piece of music    the words were from one of my poems    I was annoyed about this    my mother had sprung this surprise on me        I was uncomfortable with the attention because I didn't like the tendencies it needled in me    love of attention and need for approval

***

I was coming down a snowy and steep mountain slope, my travelling companion a girl. All around us were amazing patterns of ice and rock. I fell and slid down to the bottom in a mini-avalanche that buried me, but I was OK. It was a bad line to take down the mountain, the girl admitted. Then we found ourselves on the edge of a tall warehouse building. I was scared to approach the edge because I thought I'd slip on the icy surface.

My companion went ahead of my to a door in the side of the building, while I stared at the street below. When I followed her, she was gone, and the warehouse was dark and silent and full of closed doors and long corridors.

I chose one way and ran towards a door at the very end of a long straight corridor. I felt there was something behind me. When I reached the door I found it locked, and when I turned around I saw a small figure behind me, hunched over a light. I ran back that way, loping like a wolf, struggling with my own fear and trying to make myself appear powerful and dangerous. As I ran past I saw that it wasn't one small figure but several - children, all huddled together around the light, terrified of me. I ran on, realizing that a werewolf had been preying on these children at night, and that was who they thought I was. I wanted to explain that that wasn't me and that I wouldn't hurt them, but I didn't. I ran on and found my exit.

***

A storm was coming to my grandmother's house. The cats' things in the garden would blow away and we were anchoring them with stones. The cats themselves were confused and scared.

***

I was in a second-hand shop with Paul, wandering around. It was run by a Japanese lady and therefore had a lot of Oriental things and a lot of kitsch Western stuff. Weirdly, there were also a lot of things I remembered owning, such as mugs and comics and silly ornaments. I was browsing these old things of mine wondering if I should buy them because they gave me a nostalgic feeling. Then I thought "I gave all these things away, so why would I want them back?" They all belonged to Liadain and I, and we gave them away one time when we moved house. I found it very funny that this little shop contained so much of my and Liadain's life together and were redistributing it to strangers.

I sat down in the shop where a group of people were performing an odd birthday ceremony for one of their number. They were lighting candles and blowing them out with an exhalation of cigarette smoke. At one point they decided to start over because something in the ritual hadn't been quite right. For some reason I thought that the ritual had involved taking pills at the start, because I said "You can't chemically reconstitute these, you know. You can't turn back the clock and begin again - the drugs are already having their effect." The guy who had decided to begin the ritual again turned to me and his attitude said that I really didn't understand something. He told me a few things, most of which I've forgotten, but the most important thing was "Don't ignore things that exist." I asked "Like what?" and he answered "Well, like love." I didn't know what he was referring to or what I was missing, but I woke up feeling like I've been allowing something to slip by me, or that I've been ignoring something real in order to live my own life or to choose what direction I should go in. I've been wondering if I turned my back on love, or on my family again, by isolating myself. There are so many demands for love and companionship. I'm not just an empty means for the needs of other people to be fulfilled. I am a being unto myself. But what am I and what guides me? What am I missing?

Wishsongs

the walls are crumbling, but only because so many were built - skeletal ruins in the style of all the dead kings together, dark against reddened clouds. licked by dragons curled around the rotten foundations. the players are picking the last tiles, one by one, placing them carefully on the green felt. white dragon, five circles, west wind. they are all holding and so the final end is only ritual, until the final brick is exposed and the wall is no more, and the board is washed by impatient, happy hands. the family heirlooms in the attic turn out to be empty rusted biscuit tins and torn clothes, newspaper cuttings from an imaginary country, unplayable vision reels and books in a script that swims and dances. this house is a person and this person is a universe, and the mind has swarmed through every barrier, lives in the abandoned cobwebs and spider corpses, the hunched, autistic corners of the sitting room, the god-intoxicated wishsongs of the One True Church.