garden

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.

Vertigone

that half self that dust devil that
storm chaser, that dark drunken nothing
neither brother nor son nor husband nor father
that devil that cannot that will not
am not, never am, drowned in darkness

that devil chuckle that angel whisper
come alive come alive come alive
and that dark rhythm, that one last drum
that heart that fakes that fist that fails

all gods all laws all promises driven down
deep and dark and memories of dust
that dust that brings that sickness that desire
for the centre, the centre, please god, any god,
that place of rest at last

that one sick moment of, that deafening spiral
into the self, that self I am not,
that am not me that moves as we
that cannot see that cannot be that free

that voice that lost itself in the garden
that garden of neverending bodies
that bloody grass, that dark green horizon,
that silent immortal pantheon of loss
in you and me and all of we who see

No-one's Garden

Parin tends a garden owned by no one -
bushes growing stunted in the red brick dark
between two terraces; old wooden gates
that only he opens; a path from street to street
never used and usually never seen.

With no alternative and no one to stop him,
he plants parts of his own mind in the dry soil
along with the shrubs and the ivy:
blue clouds blown across a cold red sunset
as he crested the hill at Roundhay Park on his bike;

the cold air and the noise the fox made when Sajid
killed it behind the school all those years ago;
the way the motorway noise never ended at night,
eventually drove the cat insane and made her shit
all over the house, until Dad wrung her neck in a rage.

Parin buried her in the soft dirt at the edge of the park,
because their garden was only glass and concrete.
The soil between houses is hard and thirsty, but he's healing it.
He remakes memories on the city council payroll
every day, in this dark little space between lives.
 

Pendulum

the russian army officers shout in the long, cold darkness together with the barking of dogs and the constant, low whistle of the wind. starving in the arms of a dying superpower while new gods and angels stand astride the world. the sound of their horns brings the stars  down. the seas are filling up and the bread is all stale and they're selling their uniforms for milk. the body of the great god is rotten and the woman clothed with the sun is getting big and craving weird things. she's raging; she's nesting in a web of flame and waiting for the armies to build. the soil won't accept seed and the air carries no scent.

the warehouse streets outside the city shake at night with the roar of joyrider engines; and then it all collapses with the silence pouring into the light of morning and the burnt out car shells smoke in the wood. glass and charcoal in a blasted black circle and tyre tracks through the snowdrop patches. because everything is like that. like balance. your god is a marble rolling in a shallow bowl, a number dancing opposite its negative around the void. the superunknown. pendulums straining for the centre of the earth. your biorhythmic low, your wild mood swings, your unimaginable zero. fascinated and distantly watching the bathwater spiral away, wanting to understand. watching the sparrows coming back into the trees and the flowers tearing their way through the pavements. even the rock flows. nothing is solid.

we began on the grasslands and the marshes wading through the floods for food, holding each other in the dark and listening fearfully for the cough of the lion and the hyena's cackle. sky fire, rolling earth, and each other. the tower was struck down and the language broken, and there was no brother or sister any more. astral babies trapped in a birth sack made of thoughts and images and memories, knowing nothing but the surface, the membrane warped by touch. music swelling in the muscles of the throat like vomit and sadness, and the stars indestructible and indifferent in the dark.

there's an invisible thing in the yellow bedroom living in the quiet space between gestures, and if we let it, it would crawl into our warm lives like a child. a piece of fruit desperate to ripen. an inside cat, staring in fear and longing through the weird cold of the sitting room window. a tiny universe of walls and carpets with no time and no balance, just voices and smells from a temporary set of lives. water spiralling into the plughole, the pendulum falling forever. the cat growing sleepy and finally drifting sideways into the place of veils and confusion.

still, always, hopelessly straining for the real voice, the pure violin string in the centrifuge, the knife shriek in the earthquake howl, the mouse squeak in the menagerie madness, the impossible contact that puts you in the fusion core of the fever and shows you the truth. a pendulum seeking the centre of the earth, not through choice but just because this is how things are: they balance. you'll know it when it comes because it will be nothing at all. a mirror, a surface like the skin of a ghost, something pure because it protects nothing.

the old, broken king drowning himself in the eely water off the metal jetty. frozen moments of motion between intervals of blindness, like movie reels and zoetropes and memories. photographs of stick fights outside run-down cottages. moonlight on the crabs and sandflies on the shore of a calm sea. nothing to describe. the feeling of falling in a dream, the feeling of crying in a dream. lentils sprouting in a shallow bowl set under a basement window. chai tea heating over a gas flame and children's voices through the wall. nothing to describe. everything running backwards like a clock returning to the beginning for a second chance, and all the wars erased and all the words nothing but sounds. memories churned into a soup of poetry and understanding. something lost on the road beside the orange peels and the coke cans. an old branch you swung on, and that was the moment you first knew. nothing to describe.

the mind is a train ride through regions of light and dark. it's a girl in a blue dressing gown who loves you. fishing for something perfect in the shallow floodwaters moving through the mansion hallway. reading the sacred texts of an unknown and doomed religion with your head rising like a seed on a stalk to the ceiling. shaving without a mirror in ice cold dirty water in a rusty basin, tiny happy guru picture at the foot of the bed making everything insanely new. impossible; nothing to describe. traffic cones and pizza boxes and papaya and incense muddled together into chaos. something like balance. something like zero. a watch chain seeking the planet core. your body flat on the floor before the altar, seeking the centre of the universe, and when you got there, there was nothing left to do but come back again.

criss cross, words minced and chopped together. anger against the father, the cabala, the computerized testosterone death machine of chanting bible heartbeat sine waves marching towards death like breastmilk soldiers. napoleon's men starving and freezing to death thousands of miles from mother and home. the wrinkled monkeys panicking in the treetops as the eagle passes; panicking in the banyan roots when the leopard's snout nudges through the undergrowth. death from above and death from below makes you the zero where everything meets. nothing to describe except the colour of the good leaves and the taste of the bad; the waxy smell of the air as you bowed to your icons in the dark; the way every flower thinks it's going to be the bloom that the poet falls in love with. for one immortal, a billion forgotten lives.

kissing her finger, lying beside her while the morning swells like a tide behind the curtains, wondering how much of your mind she sees when you're sitting across from each other in the jagged warm sitting room full of screens and empty plates and words everywhere. words in your head all the time, hanging from axons and dendrites over the unknown, swarming around the swallowing point, pendulums seeking the centre of the earth. you come close to her and then move away again. light grows and fades in a blue haze and the night comes before you're ready. then the day comes before you're ready. you're never ready. sleep and waking don't mean anything any more except as markers, limit points on an attractor. back to zero.

always returning to somewhere that doesn't exist.
 

The Empty Chair

Today from the rainy garden
we brought nasturtiums and sunflowers
and laid them in garlands
before the empty chair.

Together we knelt and prayed
and sang from full throats
in the dark and quiet room
as the light fell around the chair.

The eyes in the face in the picture
resting on cushions on the chair
were bright and loving and noble
gazing into the darkness of the singing room.

Leaving the room and entering the morning
we knew the daylight would carry us
through the weeping trees and streets
back in the evening to the feet of the chair.

We began and ended before the empty chair
laying flowers the master's feet
would never touch;
nor his hand brush the hair back from our faces.

In the morning we ate the fruit
we laid there the day before,
in the quiet winter kitchen
filling with quiet white light.

Feel us swaying, singing, crying
to the beat of the drum
and the chime of shaken bells -
feel us shaking in the light of the dark air.

See us holding each other close,
hungry for love at the foot of the chair
leaving gifts with the emptiness there
bowed to the ground in the arms of the air.

In bed below the skylight of stars
we would have sent our love
across the real, deep and terrible ocean
to the one who would sit in the empty chair.

Antimatter

solar powered, battery free hopeless incompetent hero drowning
partially helpless unclothed mystified you're my freshness and my sight
I'm outside everything, wiping a finger on the window of my dreams
fogged up and freezing, friends and failure, my god helps me to see into
the nighttime dynamo and the whirling metal glacier indigo
I'm not here, I'm not anywhere, I'm not a thing at all
nowhere, nothing, a twist in the sheet metal of the mind, a noise
in the storm of the mind, an image writhing on the surface of the mind's sea
all this is nothing, I need my own voice to come through
not some reflection of the screams and confusion going on in my brain
but my real awareness, how I'd want to speak to god, how I'd want to speak
to my own soul, my own heart, how I'd speak to my mother after this life is over
this is nothing, there's no reason for it, I can't see or hear, like something
not even born, wailing unformed and limbless, egg sac, egg yolk skin and eyes
not that nightmare, something real and ordinary, a fetus, an amniotic teabag
there's no identity here that stays the same across each moment and second
no ghost dancing in my bones, no woman drowning in my mind, no hero
puking into the dark river, no lion raising its paw to pull down
the screen of the universe and bring all pretending to an end
mama mama let me sing before the dark god coughs and the goblin claws my throat out
let me roll in the brambles near the reservoir, let me leave and never come back
fist, throat, name, hand, shoes, walls, sun, sister, road, knife, sky
a new style in the magazines or the third greatest novel in the history
of an insignificant country - another barefoot, smiling guru, another teacher
clawing desperately at a sick blackboard as the faceless students scroll by
on film strip winding around a prayer wheel, a maypole, a stick for entrails
three kilos of quivering calculating brain cereal, bone and meat, leatherbound,
decorated and stamped for approval and processing, rapid insertion into the equation
no purity, no home, no return - halved and quartered and divided until we are sand,
we are dust, we are antimatter, and our burning heals us, our screaming soothes us
I remember how I used to sing, and listen to singing, how I used to shout
when the birds and the frogs in the old garden woke up and the ditches shook
I am just a bag of memory, old stories repeating, sun and moon cycling, blood
in the veins and arteries, a system of systems, words and words and words
trying to find a new way of writing but my mind is empty, nothing comes
India, father, pillars in the evening, sand and kisses, the smell of the dead house
smoke from bodies, slow river, roots of mountains, clear water, the bellow
of an emperor trapped in a dream, horse rotting in a riverbed, flowers in eye sockets
fuck how I love to breathe, to feel it bursting in my stomach and my spine,
that insane loving energy shooting me like a maniac bullet at my own beautiful death

Watercolour Homework

all my reasons are at rest in her arms
and though the daylight shines through the curtains
we close our eyes and be who we are

she is warmer and closer than the sun
her face is like the soft shadows of leaves
she cries for me, then smiles and is calm

at night we are a dark sweet wind
our colours drowned in our bodies' blindness
being without, seeing within

she walks with me in the long garden
she kneels to kiss my shadow's feet
of all my loved-ones, she is my guardian

Samuel Beckett gives me props

I knew  I was dreaming, because Samuel Beckett was standing behind the hedge at the bottom of the garden, smoking a cigarette whose glowing red tip floated in the twilight  like a firefly. The dusk had brought a thick feeling of summer and smoke to the air, and I wandered across the uncut grass to talk to him.

He was dressed all in black, wearing a leather jacket and turtleneck and jeans. His face was deeply lined and his hair stiff like a yellow brush, just as he appeared in photographs towards the end of his life. He was reluctant to make eye contact, and pulled irritably at his cigarette, which I noticed was held the wrong way around, so that hot ash and unfiltered smoke poured into his lungs with every breath.

What are you doing here? I asked.
Well, they say I'm coming back into vogue now.

He shuffled slightly, staring at his feet. He wanted to tell me something, but was looking for words that wouldn't sound false. Finally he looked up and spoke softly:

You've got a strong heart. I can hear it from here. It'll carry you through.

He flicked his cigarette into the grass and walked away without saying goodbye. It was obvious to me that he hated melodrama and falsity above all things, and that he knew, with a painful awareness, how hard it can be to communicate truly and sincerely in words, so that someone can understand exactly what you mean. I listened to my heart for a few seconds - that barely audible pulse in the inner ear that tells you you're alive.