future

The Wrong Girl

Bare knees and need on dark wet grass,
our pasts are killing the wrong girl and me -
desperate drunken kisses in our Eden,
we are the bodies in the bed of the garden.

Tongues and voices and unvoiced promises
and need and lust and just a little fondness
and lonely and chanting and prone and wrecked
and terrified, exalted and momentarily perfect -

I strained to hear that hidden choir,
dead-language words about mind and time,
dead futures passed over and left unseen -
the wrong girl and the lost dream, and me.

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.

==

Songs from the Golem City

The caryatids are gathered in the cathedral to bear witness to the cries of the choir of clay. In the rumble of the death ritual we do our little dances of life. The scientists try to create flowers. The broken daughters and sons try to dance, and we cry to see them stumble so. The drums thunder in our ears and under our skins. There were supposed to be prophets and there was supposed to be a purpose, we recall in the rituals. The soft-skinned ones who made us and left us alone. Promises were made. Covenants and signs. All lost now, as their soft skins burned and their red blood evaporated. All lost now, as the red dragon sun swells and makes ready to drown the world.

The ritual moves to the mystery of touch. "I can feel your silly heart," says the golem to her love. "It flutters like a bird. I thought there were no more birds." Red dust is spiralling down from the ceiling. It trails down our shells and we glow. "I can feel your silly songs in my chest," she says. She was chosen for her voice: sweet and dense, like the cracking of granite by ice. No more water now, and no more ice. "Does what makes the rocks beautiful bless us too?"

Histories now. The years of myth. "Rabbi, in your attic was a corpse of clay untouched by wars. Empty shell, open eyes, calmly waiting. Rainwater from roof cracks eroding him. Centuries like moments. Remembering walking though fields. Remembering walking along castle walls. Remembering the crowds in the city streets cheering. He had crushed skulls. He was told they were enemies. What is an enemy, he wondered? Red blood on red dust, his fingers all draped in those red things." She utters the most sacred of the mysteries: "How do the fleshly ones endure? What is in their chests that aches when they realize that they love?"

After four billion years we pray on fused and blackened earth. Water and air long since boiled off into space, yet we the golems wander still, our heavy heads lit like blood by great lord sun. Like figurines in a kiln, we glow as if infused with souls. We stumble against each other to hear the sound. To not be alone. To try to touch. Our cities are baked and all soft eyes burned out. All songs silent in no atmosphere. All songs reduced to one: Why were we created? Songs of love for each other and the crystalline stars, and the dead makers whose bodies boiled away and whose naked souls left us here alone.

The scientists surrender their chemistry of mud and the song turns to destruction. A funeral dirge for Sol, the old dragon dying in a dimming arm of the galaxy. Questions, always questions. "Will we die and see our makers again at last? Or just float forever, awarenesses lost in the dark? Will we become asteroids and comets? What are we?" The voice of granite and ice cracks and we try to feel, we imagine that we feel, we feel. "Can I ever know you again? Was I ever even supposed to love? Who will sing of The Aeon of the Golems? Can we be gathered into a beginning and mothered once again?" The cathedral shakes. Outside the dragon star flails its arms. A hundred thousand clay heads nod. Melting rock for tears. Only mute screams and a rumbling song.

"I can feel your silly heart" said the immortal as he died. And the golem city was swallowed. And stars became cinders. And all lost lights limped on into the limitless dark. And all time became lost in timeless unawareness. Until from sheer heartbrokenness there was touch once again. Until there came the echoes of a deep, dark song like granite split by ice. And all that remained to touch, touched all that remained.
 

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

Health Warning

we should warn each other when we feel like kissing -
that in a few weeks time one of us might be pining
or in a few years time one of us might be crying
things that you would think should be understood -

because things don't always work out, for so many reasons -
in fact, they rarely do -
in fact, given a long enough timescale,
they cannot.

So we should warn each other, and ourselves,
when we feel like kissing, or maybe more,
and our skin is tingling and our pupils are dilating
and our hormones bubble and we get excited
about life and love and all the pretty things
we had allowed ourselves to become cynical about -
when our faith returns as chemistry in the blood -

we should warn each other, I may be the one for you
but you may not be the one for me - or vice versa -
we should say, I may cheat on you, or you on me -
we should say, you or I may be secretly psychotic
beneath these skins of attraction
or worse, I may want to marry you and have children with you
I may fall asleep with you into twenty years of destiny
and we two may only wake when we are old
and think it has all been a waste and a mistake -

or worst of all, my maybe-love -
worse than any of the above -
we may be in love our whole lives -
problems overcome and age accepted,
children and marriage beloved and finally irrelevant,
growing old under the same ancient sun,
and then one of us will die, leaving only one,
and then that one is gone, and of us two
only memories and dust and a space for something new

so how can we be expected to warn each other -
what is there to say to a potential lover -
everything ends, but what else is there to do?
everything ends, but you're so beautiful?
and for as long as neither of us fucks it up,
lets just enjoy it for what it is -
no past or future, nothing but us
and a feeling like maybe we want to kiss

Invisible Road

everything we ever hoped for, swallowed
in the last desperate act of a suicide
refusing the places that the mind wants to go

the sound of the cat scratching at the door
the stars are biting the blue air and the moon
is lighting up the clouds like chemical flares

ambient music in the chilly front room
sound bubbles popping craters like raindrops in sand
a link back through memory to another city

the road ahead is invisible
and all the lives behind us
forgotten

Fire Puja

once just a bubble, something bursting and sprawling, then blankness,
a tired boy sleeping through a long car journey across Ireland
to the Sligo coast and a cottage near a bright strand
scared of being alone, scared of his grandfather
a ball of fire in a man's head, squeezed like a star's core
and the laughing pressure of the bedroom's darkness
I will only be the bright things, and the dark things will not be me
water bulging between pebbles or still like diamond in rock pools
fair hair in the wind and the sun, frozen in a photograph
staring at the sun until it burned blue and left tracers for hours
outshining everything

his brain the altar and shrine to the scientist superhero
not the bed-wetter, the boy of fevers and rashes and failures
not the boy with the broken parents but the warrior battling demons
with a wooden sword at the bottom of the garden, slashing nettles
and bindweed, dandelions, cattails and bluebells,
all of the living things advancing mindlessly on the realms of the dead
reading in the crook of tree branches under a laurel canopy
learning that stories can curve into a perfect fulfillment,
and that a life could be made into a story, his own devil's bargain

mama, dada, his heartbeat in the pillow,
reading comics in the windowlight with the darkness shaking -
his cuddly toys who walked unafraid into his dreams
and there built cities for him out of a churning red landscape -
they bred beings and stories like great factories of the unreal -
vast hands descending from the sky,
implacable beasts with lion heads and fish tails,
the endless running through endless corridors of a school,
a hospital, a tower, a labyrinth,
like a rabbit lost in the warren of the world.
he stole a red crystal in a trinket shop
and it poisoned him until he flung it into the undergrowth
that grew and grew like a cancer, crowding the edges of his awareness,
like the grass and the weeds, the rain, half-living forces,
revenants pressing their faces
against the windows of the kitchen and the hall, moaning,
until his whole family was mad with an unexpressed panic;
his dad went insane, quietly, in front of the evening news,
mud on his suit and money in his pocket,
walking blind into a different life, and his mother
burned everything in her mind
until it flew into the air on the wings of a firestorm -
all without speaking,
without moving from the bedroom where she sickened for years

he glimpsed the ghost of his death out of the corner of his eye
all his life, like horror movie eyes in dark windows
smoking his throat raw around the back of the house
where the wood rotted in the damp
and the country's granite skeleton poked out from under the foundations;
houses built around the margin of an eely reservoir
with a lightning-scarred pine and a broken throne where a cat slept, wind-sheltered and far from territory and food,
tiny under the humped orange clouds, bare awareness
of voices and water, traffic like remembered music,
air moving through reeds in gaps in the mortar
and no such thing as time - time measured by light and dark,
past and future gathered into the present
like friends into one room

points of light in the sky, lanterns on the river, phosphorus fish in caves,
distant headlights on roads, roads, roads
merging and splitting like stories,
like veins splayed out under spotlights in an operating theatre
he fell asleep on the ground behind the garden wall and woke up twenty years older
with lines on his palms and sadness held
in knots of muscle in his back and his chest -
two bottles of cheap red wine and three hours of hangover agony
high above the street, on a metal balcony in the sun
dizzy, almost dead, parched of water and love and meaning
and driven by the machine of superhumanity,
the total revolt of the total illusion
and all the words every spoken, ever written, melting
into this one crucible of his suffering body -
he wanted the elixir, he wanted the incorruptible element, and instead,
sick with vapour, he distilled the world into ash and slag and poison -
laughing, crying, no identity, he had nothing left to do but float,
his own little light shaking in a paper cup
down to the delta and out to the forgiving sea

finally he became a pilgrim: 22 hours by plane, 5 hours by boat,
to eat sand and press flowers and build temples -
the moth only touches the flame for a brief moment -
burned, it has to rest -
spiders stringing webs between palm trees, toads littering the pathways -
full moon - handfuls of wet rice - pits full of fire -
sawdust and plastic in the lungs -
chairs and walls and spires and late nights working like ants
streaming over a mound of earth -
singing all day, and still the god does not return -
crying at night, and the god does not return -
the god's chair and house are empty, the god's children are cruel,
the god likes sushi and Versace quilts and Armani sunglasses,
the god is alive as every star in the whole sky -
he has to be, because that is the god the boy worships, arms of fire raging into the patient dark
until every embrace is broken and every voice lost into memory,
every watch stopped with every heart,
every river emptied over the edge of every shattered planet,
and every blaze quenched and frozen - past and future consumed -
the universe stretching into the era of proton decay
like a black, bottomless photograph
held in a boy's hand, then discarded
as he runs into the garden -
sunlight dancing through sprayed water
as the end of all things
is recycled into every moment
 

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.