Mind Rain

she's there, between the eye and the brain,
like liquid crystal under the surface of a lens
listening to rain, thunder, strange city weather
like flames and devils in the wallpaper,
dancers in the air of the bedroom on dim mornings,
the shifting, coy disguises of the body
possessed by the ghosts of actors and the words of history
we like to take a walk to buy chocolate at night
we like to lie beside each other
raining through each other's minds

this is the outside, streams of whatever-you-call-it
flailing like octopus arms around whatever-it-is
everything bleeding, everything exploding
in and out of forms and bodies, the hot red and yellow
of it all, the deep green taste of the thawed lake,
blinding, tilted out over the trees, mirroring
their echo, their resonance to their own insane sound

this has no direction, that has no flavour, no texture
the ice cream is the same to me as the news and the sex
as I swim into the flow, as I divide into a million rivers
of attention and thought, tickling at the molecules -
they say it's an illusion that one second follows another,
one thought into the next, one dream into another day -
one by one we unreal things kneel down in the dust to pray.

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.


John Cameron Mitchell, the writer, director and lead actor of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, has come to visit us at our house and talk to us. Unfortunately Liadain and I are living with my mother and sister so I have to wait until really late at night to get some time alone with John to talk to him about things. I can't really remember what I wanted to talk to him about, I just had this feeling from seeing the film that he was a very interesting person so that's probably why he popped up in my dream.

We're talking in the living room downstairs, and for some reason he has taken his top off and approaches me from behind. I'm sitting down on a stool, and he leans against me from above, gently, like an enquiry, "Do you want to do this?" I feel kind of attracted to him, but it's mostly just because I like him a lot, and besides in the dream I'm just as in love with Liadain as in real life, so I just don't move, and he gets the message and walks away again. There's an awkward silence, and then he says,

"I want to know what kind of person you are. Are you aware of what you do? Do you understand the complexity and sensitivity of other living human systems?"

I think for a bit about what he means, and I realize that he thinks I'm toying with him - trying to be all attractive to make him fall for me, and then ignoring him. He thinks I don't believe other people are as real as me. I don't want him to think I'm that manipulative, and I find his question interesting, so I think carefully and start to reply, but then my mother and sister come running down from upstairs.

"Alan, watch out, he's an eighth house sun, he's ruled by Scorpio, he wants to kill you!"

I reassure them that John doesn't want to kill me, and they go back upstairs. Next Liadain comes down, wondering why I haven't come to bed with her. I tell her that I'm talking with John, and she glares at him suspiciously before going back to bed.

When everyone's gone I say to John, "I wasn't trying to toy with you. I know how people react to me but I wasn't trying to use that to make you like me."

I woke up repeating, "I don't want to toy with you," and the dream must have had some kind of effect on me because I kept thinking about John's question when I was on the bus on the way in to work. My first reaction was to feel guilty - yes, I am a bad person, I was toying with his feelings and trying to manipulate him to like me through sexual attraction, I've done this with many people and they've been really hurt. But I thought about it some more, and I realized that I wasn't lying when I told him I wasn't toying with him. And I realized that I had no reason to feel guilty about people who've accused me of this in the past. It's a game - someone is attracted to you or becomes obsessed with you, and they want you to give them something to make them feel good, like a relationship or sex or whatever they think they want from you. And if you don't give it to them, they get angry with you and call you manipulative or bad, because obviously you did something to make them fall for you. Their obsession gives them a claim over you in their own minds.

I've had people pull this number on me several times, and it has really confused me because my instinctive response has been to blame myself. So John's question is something that many different people have asked me in different ways, because they think I've hurt them or neglected them in some way. They accuse me of not believing, in some way, that other people are important. My mother and sister, friends, ex-girlfriends - many people have accused me of this, just because I won't play their emotional games or pander to their soap opera dramatics.

So I ended up feeling angry with John for pulling the same number on me. Shame I woke up out of the dream before I thought of it that way and could tell him to his face.


Waste Pipe, Chicago 2001

I have a strange vision.
It's something about beauty
that words can only indicate,
but not describe.

Today it's a tiny brown lake
tinkled with sunglitters,
suburban home to ducks and gulls
snackling in the dull water,
behind a huge, empty shopping center,
deathly quiet,
ringed with willows and grass.

Thrust into the thin shale
at the edge, where the ducks
squat and ponder,
a concrete maw like the head
of a huge, pale worm:
a sewer pipe,
trickling naked waste
into the man-made lake.

It's hot. Car exhaust and slime
and willow-bark and birdsong
combine. I can't find it disgusting
or beautiful only. I only know
I am at peace
before my vista of water and viscera.

On the side of the sewer pipe,
in metre-high letters,
someone has written

That's my vision.
That's it, exactly.

Everything and Her

my world is unfamiliar
the Buddha bracelet on my wrist
the heat of the air
the distance to everything

she doesn't answer her phone,
and suddenly I'm alone in America,
a boy perched on a hotel bed,
uncertain about everything

maybe I'll visit the city museums
and wander with an open hand
where her hand should be,
a tourist, alone in the everything

outside the trees are shimmering
and I forgot my path, my way through
this labyrinth of mornings, in dreams of her
and what we mean together: nothing and everything


pink, smoky cirrus
accelerated sunset
35,000 feet

the Canada tundra
a jagged jigsaw
a desert of lakes

I only wanted
to stay high
in your arms -

crazy cloud,
never raining,
never dying.


concrete mountainrange starshadow
the uncountable windowpanes
of the Sears Tower
dark outline, a figure in a dream
barely beheld, looming
we wished on a penny
thrown into the smoking, black river
we would have followed each other into,
laughing, shocked, overwhelmed

on a hotel bed you swam in the dark river
of your own mind, and I couldn't reach you -
face hidden, crying, pinned in place
by the pressure of all your past and future.
You said your face was not your own,
that your dreams were an alien landscape,
that you were afraid we would destroy each other.

I could photograph the Chicago skyline,
caramel sun, grey lake, jagged buildings
making us so small,
but not you - bigger, more real
than water and skyscrapers,
smiling in your sleep like a Buddhist statue.
I want to expose a film to your inner suns -
delicious alien light exploding in the skin, bone and eyes
of the destroying goddess dancing

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.

You Felt That Way

dark houses
the burned bones of children
you felt that way

black hole stomach
like an iron universe

no mercy
for an old yellow rose
in a glass of water

or a girl with her face kicked in
leave them both to die
you felt that way

in your rage for relief
Sartre: iron in the soul

instead of blood
silverthread pain
let me not feel this way

I need to love
an old yellow rose

decayed petals
in a glass of water
I've felt that way

and I prayed
for the ones I love
not to discard me

in my ugliness
dark houses
walking with girl-ghosts

black hole mind
falling into silence
into bare loving arms

it burns me to love
it's not poetry
you felt that way


because I can't touch her
I translate her

her arms and fingers
are the feel of the wind when I walk

the tired sweetness of her voice
is a yellow rose I found in the road

her kisses are the smooth cold
of the mirror against my forehead

and, crying in bed, she's the soft sleep
embracing me in her mercy