graveyard

Signs Of Life

In the crevices of the cityscape, high up on forgotten, unwitnessed rooftops, or deep underground in eternally-lit car parks and basements - tiny and green and clinging desperately, there are grasses and ferns, shrubs with browned leaves and loose roots - darkened with car-filth and stunted from shallow beds - fed on poor chlorophylls and glass-reflected sunlight - worming through gaps in the paving mosaics and the storm drain labyrinths, the roadworks fissures - or trapped in dry pots on balconies, island universes unpollinated, glass bubbles hurtling silently towards dying stars - new leaves and shoots for a cold spring - hurricanes held fast behind double glazing -



God help us, but there are signs - I wither in the wrong arms and the wrong gaze, my love - like the patches of green we see in the dead cities, like the tenuous flowers in your gutters, I am vulnerable - I feel myself change in response to sunlight, anger, coffee, sadness -  I miss my family, I miss solitude - I cannot turn the page of my book and I cannot switch off the television - children frighten me because they are still savagely free - and I don't know if they're better that way or better like me.

There are no bees for the blooms and no nests in the tall trees and the water is lumpy and sick with plastic and pollution - and yet there are swans patrolling the canal docks, there are willos leaning away from the tarmac and the concrete, leaf-shadows still move on the water's surface too. There are house cats curled up fat and sleepy in sunny patches on new hardwood tables in the steel penthouses and there are mosses and ivies creeping across the stonework of neglected warehouses and the walls of car parks, old stairwells, dull alleyways -

Where we lie awake at night in fear of the inhuman demands of the next day - instead of going insane we go asleep and are filled with new patience every morning. Our children run down corridors uncaring that the light at the end is flickering - for them the sun is the only sun and now is the only time and they have no memory of our failures - life crowds their minds and heats their blood and drives the words out of their singing mouths with their birthright savagery. This purity, this vulnerability, this renewal.

There are signs of life - music in the city squares and parties in the rental honeycombs - children free-running in the urban gardens and somersaulting off the statues - new expressions and new addictions and new perceptions in eyes that didn't exist only a few years ago. New eyes - can there be a greater miracle than new eyes? Where did that mind come from to see the light entering those eyes, what radiates, what binds? Lord, what soul is this that knows you? How did a new being come to exist, how is it that this world can be witnessed? Glory, glory, glory - or something like that. Words to do with dumbfoundedness. With crying for all those dear ones that we have left behind in time and will never see again, all those new leaves and secret green and glowing things, all those new eyes opening on an always new world.

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

No Voodoo

My mother was crying
while I shovelled dirt into her cat's
shallow garden grave.

She looked small and lonely,
where in my old memories she looms
huge above me, smiling,
her hair the strangest and darkest thing.

Now she dyes it,
hides her face when she's in tears,
speaks too softly in public.
For many years, I've felt more like a father
than a son - calm and balanced
while she splinters and shivers.

Once, after a fight,
she turned my photograph to the wall,
and it was like voodoo - a curse,
for hurting her like so many others.
Now her curses have lost their power
and I'm just happy to see her,
even though I'm also glad to leave.

A long time ago (she says)
she lost me in a department store,
and she thinks it damaged me,
the wandering and weeping through the aisles,
searching faces and smells
for my one and only familiar spirit.

I was the best baby boy
in the whole wide world -
but I thought another might come,
better and brighter, and she
would take her light away from me.
Now, burying something else she loved,
I know it wasn't her fault.

Torn apart by dogs, crushed by cars,
hit by a heart attack on the office stairs,
or lying in the arms of another woman,
she's slowly losing everyone she loves.

She tries to find the Light, to breathe it,
because she thinks she lost it,
even though it still makes her cry,
it still shines in her face
that I would recognize in any world, any life.
 

A Ghost's Journey

The wind was driving the clouds insane -
terrified shreds flying off,
glowing sun-pink over the pine silhouettes
and foaming into a daylight moon.

We climbed the graveyard wall and crept
between the decaying headstones,
counting the years that have gone missing:
1843. 1875. 1912. All times as one.

Through a low stone arch, many tombs
like soldiers' markers in a quiet clearing.
The last time I was here, the sun marked me
as I invited the ghosts on my journey.

One followed, out of love. Now it was stormy,
and I'd returned, and no time had passed.
A new bench beside a new stone; statues
cut into an old sepia photograph.

I hugged her and kissed her hair,
feeling the energy between us. I wondered
if my ghost friend would stay or go,
if this was to be an end or another beginning.

Her mother sat smoking by the dead wife's grave
as we kissed, and the pines shook and crashed.
All time as nothing. All the death around us
had never happened - just life turning to life, forever.

Magick

    woke up with hangover, sick and cold
    caught sight of myself everywhere
    in billowing light, water-clear;

    movement to and from became
    the growing and shrinking of things,
    the silence of their disappearance;

    sky built into an upside-down city,
    birds in fluid flocks curving
    out over the waste ground,

    sunlight like blood in our skin
    thickening our happiness until we bend
    under it, like snowdrops under their petals.

    Sat in a park to stay calm -
    hidden in a maze of drainpipes
    and alleys and fire escapes

    a place with a path of gravestones
    children ‘asleep in Jesus’ - maybe wake
    to the impatient tap of fingertips

    on the coffin lid - “You’re missing it all” -
    to see angels falling like meteors, like pips
    from an apple held over the ocean -

    this is the ‘other’ world - an hour
    became a century in my sickness
    and happiness - machinery for flowers -