love

Medium

she wakes
to radiant dark
the sound of her name

whispering faceless
bodies without flesh
she's their lost grace

If my spirit wandered
I'd find her bedside
I'd whisper a prayer:

carry me
out of today's city
out of never sleeping

into your moonbeam
your gates of charity
your tearful dream

Washed

woke up from dreams of murder
into tears of the heart and throat,
sobbing into my pillow
on a sleepy, rainy sunday morning
because I'd died, because she was still alive -
she was me, walking home alone, head held high
though washed and wrecked by pain

I remembered my years of forgetting,
of being at war with my own soul -
please god, let that soft touch on my forehead
be the fingertips of the one I love,
invisible, impossible, distanceless -
I'll be crying for everything I ever hoped was true
this joy, this rage, for finally finding you

Unzip

If you think you know me today, please,
unzip my skin with your knife;
see if you can stand to see me
unravel before you;
see if you can bear the little sounds
of organs plopping wetly to the ground.

Without my face, who am I
that you love me?
No insides, no outsides, and no shape.
What is the feeling, the thing I call my heart,
when you can see this bloody lump of meat
pumping gently at your feet?

Love, no need to heal, to kiss -
there's no need to be afraid of death.
I know I'll come back stronger,
held together by something even stranger
than this invisible brightness - and then -
we'll cry, and tomorrow, softly, start again -

Rushing Like A Ripple

you can't
write a poem
in the shape of a spiral
curling down
out of the blue
like an aircrash jetstream
like the myth of the boy
who beat a giant
in a contest of strength
because he threw a sparrow -
they both were silent,
watching it curve out of sight -
you can't
write down a tree as it really is -
luminous monochrome in moonlight,
careless colour carousel in sunlight -
you can't
find any words for loving her,
the unbearable emptiness
and fullness of it,
a scream and a tear and a smile

cast together into crystal,
kissed into clear glass
for warping light and time

rushing like a ripple in a river

Mahal

I
am some kind of centre
echo vacuum where sound cyclones
an eye behind black glass
a girl on her birthday, shaking
as the animals charge from their cages
a boy swaying in the treetop
summer wind, raincloud chic
a wave in a clear medium
a smile full of smiles

I bring
the giant's gold down from the cloud castle
so naive, sold on magic
carrying my riches in a satchel
appleseed and honest water
heart and brain pierced by an icicle
calling for my sister,
dead and buried in the belly of a wolf

I bring the sky
in between my toes,
under my fingernails, in my hair
all by accident, I never know where I go
a grinning face in a crazed mirror
shards of the shattered air
a jigsaw for a fevered brain
a dance of numbers, archetypes
around a hole in reality

I bring the sky and the earth
with me to the palace door
orange sun on the becalmed sea,
a road between the darkness and the light
unfinished, mapped and wished for
in the mad dreams of an emperor
sick with love, eating death
in small bites, like a handful of rice
no lover, no kingdom, no freedom
he loves her, always will, forever

I bring the sky and the earth together

Red Paper

A dark-haired girl
   shy since her birth
burns once
   like a magnesium flare
in every twenty years

The wish itself
   is what she fears -
to bare her litmus skin
   and weep
at each electrochemical kiss

3 Chords And No Chorus

When I think of you alone in your bedroom,
chilly evening light, white walls, quiet air,
picking out sad sweet songs on a black guitar -

I don't wish any more that I was there with you -
all our stories together have come to their ends.
But I wish for the bedroom not to be empty -

for your face to be alive with a smile -
singing to be heard, playing to be seen,
someone's eyes full of the sight of you.

Reasons Not To Go Home

The city is drunk
and then there's me -
sober, surreal, softly
walking beside the viscid river,
witnessing:
her spangles, white and orange;
her patience, the way she gathers
everything in strange arms
as gifts for the ocean.

I have gifts, in a plastic bag:
a chocolate egg left from Easter.
A copy of Time Magazine.
Stray words in my mind,
which I will write down
because that is how I can stay alive.

My mother gave me the egg.
She wastes nothing, except time.
She never learned how to live
with time, and its gathering
of all the pretty things
to the mercy of their endings.

Alone in my bedroom, I can hear
traffic, voices from the street,
wind sometimes, and if it rains
I will leave my window open
and imagine that I am on a journey
across many miles of water.

I truly have no reason to be here
except that I'm waiting
to feel my lover's hands on my face -
I'm waiting to lie with her
and whisper that I remember her
from a lighter, more gentle place.

One day all the stories of me
will end, like the lights on the river -
maybe borne like funeral candles into the sea,
or maybe disappeared into daylight,
but either way, tenderly, without harm,
no one there to see or be afraid.

For now, I can only be a prayer
in the living darkness,
heard by silent companions,
stilled into the air's memory
even as I am carried without end
from moment to moment. And she
is the prayer that I am, the plea
that I make, the desperate language
that no one ever taught me -
no one ever needed to.
 

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.
 

Honour

ice and cloud in the evening, walking home
to a feather bed and a glass of milk
only a memory of her skin in candle-light

the samurai a dancer in my mind
flaying the air in ecstasy
lord of the bracken and the ditches

leaving the flickering screens empty
hiding to listen to voices from the road
as the brown dusk brings mist

i kneel in her shadows
i lie down before her to see her smile
to me she is the flame of a cool fire

i swear we are not like this
this couldn’t be me, who kisses good night
hears his lover’s door close

stands on the bridge over the oily canal
unable to cry, no pleas left
scared she cannot love him as he needs to be loved

Samurai
cherry blossom on white robes
white like the eye is white

draws blade to strike the sun itself
dances before the sun itself
unafraid

only the ghost me is unafraid
only the ghost me needs no one
i’ll beg for the touch of her hand

i’ll never accept the ghost of the girl
the drowning dancer who smiles
and asks me not to ask her how she is