memory

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.
 

Secret Green And Glowing Things

I used to have secrets - things that lurked under bridges in my mind. My sister spoke with spirits under a willow tree near our gate and grew up to have demon dreams. Imps squatting on her chest breathing out her life, and when she woke up the daylight was already seeping out of the sky. My secrets were about pale skin and sadness. hers were about doors to other worlds - worlds or perspectives, no difference. We had a secret, doors and gardens and cold rooms on holiday. We could have gone a whole lifetime without remembering it, and that would have been a different lifetime, a different world, a different perspective. Universes that will never exist.

Carl built stone villages when he lost his mind, and slowly he found it again, and came to the centre, the vortex, the centrifuge that purified him and made him certain. He wrote later on that to him the world was like a maze of transparent walls that he looked through to see other minds and the universes they would create. He reached into those minds and spoke with them and tried to heal them. New perspectives, new universes. He was never fearless, but he walked the labyrinth to the centre anyway. Those paintings and drawings of circles and whirlpools, so many of them, too many for sanity, too many for anyone but a healer who had given up everything except purpose.

Sister, mother, father: my world. Like a knife dance in an amphitheatre made of hills and fields and broken stone seats - and we spin, we cut each other, we play out the choreography as we were taught. Glowing things in our arteries and our minds, painting trails in the night-time as we circle each other. Flickers of moss and grass and needles on the edge of vision, radiant green splinters. We dance but we don't speak - if we spoke we would spill everything out. Blood, sound, secrets. We prefer to dance. The knives flicker closer, closer, closer. Glowing cancerous and free.

Draw a circle between you and I and there is something that will always be secret - I have nothing left to offer. Everything emptied out into past and future - a past full of memories I lovingly keep alive, a future full of new life, the only thing I had to offer. And so on, and so on, moths circling a lamp, comets falling in love with the sun, you can make the rest up yourself. Electromagnetic secrets rippling emerald in a solar camera, glowing and burned-out a million miles from where you are. Where I am, where you are - bits of information smeared over a soul like iron filings lining up around magnetic field lines. I had a sister who saw secret things, I had parents who blinded themselves, and I myself wished only to be clear and empty, clear and empty, without secrets, only walking in my mind out over that radiant field, green grass stretching out in a circle to every hidden horizon.

Doors In The Dead Cities

In between the river and the roads,
day or night, you can see sparkles -
ocean slowly pulsing into tidal river,
transfusion for diseased city, and
in between the movies and the ads
sparkles invade your mind -
split seconds of nothingness -
splinters of dead air and dead cold
whispers of a million words on bookshelves,
a billion chords on compact discs,
a billion beating locust wings,
desert roads in the mind, green blurs
on mountain horizon: trees, fields,
steaming volcanic lakes, whales and herons,
landscapes internal forever -
and lost at the moment you die?
at the moment you die,
lost forever?

You find portals beacuse you need to:
the museum behind the fake technicolour castle
with the prayer wheels and jade knives,
scraps of ancient bibles and screeds,
where they play chants through hidden speakers
between the glowing display cases,
and between floors you count a few empty shops
stuck in the haze of winter and old cloud -
between shops and between hours
you find a space you recognize
where someone sits who died before history,
shaved head bowed before a newer moon,
still pool beneath willow bridge, sandals
placed carefully beside shawl, pen, ink -
knowing something that you once knew.

Between pulses that tell us were are alive,
between instants of stimulus and response,
between droplets of this endless rain -
words, notes, snow, kisses -
flashes of something familiar from long ago.
Between work days and sofa evenings,
in between years of shifting identities -
frozen windscreen wipers sweeping
centuries off eyesight of lifetimes -
strobe flashes and advertising lasers,
glitters caught on river water and
apartment block window fronts,
cranes dancing in winter wind
like weather poles and wind chimes
beside glass-still pool of mind -
in a pure instant between instants
you are bowed down before a memory
that you do not know is a memory.

As if in a dream, there are those
who try to remind us -
in between meals and games and
in between all the sparkles -
rituals built into the chaos:
of sitting before a wooden tray for tea
of kneeling before icons and cruciforms
of sitting with someone strange -
someone of still pools and dead blossoms
someone of dead screens and dying rivers
someone in between the moments
of attention to this or that lifetime -
intersecting universes, colliding realities -
someone we find in the place where we are -
someone who is a memory
that you do not know is a memory.

Like cats' eyes peeping out from the dark -
in between our madness, our fits
of distraction, racing uphill,
looking out over frozen ochre city,
wide harbour, lumpen island and white boats
and sunlight thin and red and distant -
in between making love among the trees,
underneath fallen roots, luminous
emerald moss, tiny sprinkled mushrooms -
in between desperate hours of stillness
heart pounding as nothing happens,
guts wrenching as nothing is transformed
into other forms of nothing -
and all the forms of the mind,
demonic, angelic, ridiculous and tender,
pour into this moment as a billion sparkles
and leave you as empty as an hourglass,
timed out and clear, in between epochs,
waiting for someone's hand.

Between images of yourself
caught on windows, mirrors, pupils -
an old, tired theme of searching,
so sad and desperate and surrendered -
and yet the one last desperate hope
is that in between these ghosts
and false gods, false selves and wraiths,
you might glimpse the doorway -
to the frozen land through the back of the wardrobe
to the unreal city below the lake's bottom
to the magical land on the other side of the mirror
to someone strange waiting patiently outside time,
as if enclosed in a pale moon heaven
that you do not know is a memory.

blue

the man from hope wears an aquamarine tie
for air and water and falling from clouds
for cosmic particles flying relativistic
-- night-time dark water for buried memory
-- then swallowing morning light
-- becoming full, transparent and radiant
your memories are there among the shells
under all that invisible weight
at arms length but unreachable

-- mother never wore any kind of blue
-- but saw it in your eyes and gave it to you
-- you were to become what she never knew
a great water, a great sky
for sinking her old nightmares
lions and tigers and bears and mother and father
-- turquoise shirts and shoes, denim jeans
-- baby laughing through the baptismal rituals
-- and then the slate-grey photos in the dismal rain
the ancient in the peacock-blue overcoat
fragments of a clear sky, an old azure mini
mother's pale face turned to the photographer

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

Phoenixes

smell of cherry blossom and coffee
cut grass illuminated summerlike and
uneven ground, footsore and unsteady
sitting under falling petals, shadows
your easy touch on my cheek, hot
from walking and sunshine, your eyes
and smile drowning memory and questions
we cannot follow the seagulls
we giggle at the robin in the hedge
he's not scared of wind, or us
and in the evening cloud squeezes out
the nothingness, the cold, stars, fingers,
cups of tea on the edge of and old bed
a balcony over the river, I held you,
kissed your neck, held my hands
on your belly and felt the baby move
and saw boats and raindrops, smelled you,
remembered you from long ago
and for a game we rewrote our stories
a game of memory where we collided,
were separated, journeyed, cried,
crashed and burned and were reborn
as incredible winged things full of the sun

The Shah's True Love

I was playing a computer game with my friend where we had to invade a Nazi stronghold, and we could never get past the final stage, a train station full of guards in turrets and behind barricades, the air full of bullets. Finally I dived into the water of an open stream that ran parallel to the tracks, the bullets making tracks all around me as I stared back up at the helmeted soldier whose machine-gun was pointed at my face. I spoke to him through the water, marvelling at the fact that the AI of the game was so well-designed that the soldier seemed as complex and real as a character in one of my dreams. To get away from him, I swam deeper, searching for an exit. Finally I saw one,

and surfaced in the swimming pool of the Shah of a hot and isolated country. The Shah has wonderful gardens in his palace all ringed around with pools and vegetation and gifts and dedications to his ladies - he looks like Burt Reynolds with a fake tan - I am a visiting prince petitioning him for a bride from his harem and to show the intensity of my intentions I water the flowers from a can into which I draw the water with my own breath. He guides me from garden to garden and shows me where the names are carved in stone: her who he loved and left, her who he worshipped and discarded. I swim in the pools and water the plants until finally I let my guard down and fall in love with the only woman he has forbidden me: the wife of his heart, small and dark and full of gravity and electricity like the black sister of the sun. I painted white and orange flowers for her on the side of the pool, and when they were seen the Shah and his servants were full of anger and recrimination, and I had to make explanation and reparation, but behind her dismay I heard her soul singing back to me.
 

A Mind of Glass

what they told me would come to pass     what I promised myself     a mind of glass     and shantih shantih shantih     the peace that passeth understanding     I promised you I would be so     sitting underneath library windows     long lonely afternoons     friends and classmates in lectures     rain gentle on chestnut leaf and windowpane     butterflies in stomach     mantra poised on recently kissed lips     lonely all the time     even in bed even at parties even in kisses     mantra in a library chair     2nd floor dark corner bare concrete walls     books no one ever read     lost in frozen time like me     lost in broken light like me     happy voices from the stairwell and the study desks     mind of glass     body of feeling swelling into the crevices     all my life just a story     called "lonely all the time"     written by my parents     and their parents before them     back all the way to curious monkeys     beached fish and bacteria and cosmic dust slowly condensing to stars     glitters in the sky on cold winter evenings     outside the library waiting for friends and lovers     for words and embraces passed in code     for minds of glass and minds of metal     for an end to the story "lonely all the time" to be told     and next day all embraces and joy and words and linked hands lost in time     lost into memory and memory to become glass     mind of glass lonely all the time     and next day to the library to sit alone     pine needles and sycamore leaves collecting near base of window     washed by rain and wind     grey walls and fluorescent light     and I am just a shadow you passed on your way to a lesson     what I promised my family     that I would turn them into glass     precious sculptures drained and peaceful     lonely all the time     blood washed from the doors and walls     blood washed from the car keys and the garden tools     blood washed from the bunk beds and the playroom     what I promised you I would become     something more than a silly monkey     something more than a selfish asshole     something to justify all the hurt I gave and all the hurt I received     a mind of glass and rainwater     joy in our hearts     where we stand and watch the moon fade and glow behind breeze-blown clouds     where we lay down and kissed underneath the trees in the schoolyard     lonely all the time     especially together, especially together

and then on fire     on fire in the cold sand     on fire in the conference centres and the musty cellars of the holy houses     on fire in the woods of stolen car shells and bluebells     every sunset and every shopping trip on fire     the creak of the front door in the early hours reeking of smoke     the dark hum of the painted hall before dawn     on fire the incense and the leaves     on fire the car engines and the quiet mind     as we walk away weeping     or as we walk away blind and burned and breathless     as we walk away into another life     as we throw away one of our most potent destinies     as we discard one of the universes that brought us into being     not understanding what we chose     all things remained true that were true before     dances still ended in peace     poetry still bled out of the mind     the light was still clear and blue and soft     only that we chose love over death     unlike Nero we cast aside our rod and dove into the mind's dark waters     do what you have to do

now lost in the mind of glass     rainwater the only everlasting thing in memory     what I promised myself forgotten     that I would not let it slip away     and what was I for those thousands of days but a window     between the mind and the world     reflections to each other     while I do what I have to do     sparkling river pulled through circuits of great machine     for generating the future     "lonely all the time" the story read to all the children     born into cells     here I am too     now that the confusion seems greatest     I might be as close as I have ever been     staring out through windows at trees or rivers or walls     staring at empty chairs and empty screens     all of it without end     what I promised to say     something to make you happy     something to help you to remember that you are happy     to do what you have to do     but all along I only wanted to become more than I am     more than a self and more than a window     and in the end as it all burns around us     we will see the flames caught and dancing in the mind of glass     caught a billion times and sprinkled into confusion     we are caught in a peace that passeth understanding     knowing that all of this is nothing     in the mind of glass

Wishsongs

the walls are crumbling, but only because so many were built - skeletal ruins in the style of all the dead kings together, dark against reddened clouds. licked by dragons curled around the rotten foundations. the players are picking the last tiles, one by one, placing them carefully on the green felt. white dragon, five circles, west wind. they are all holding and so the final end is only ritual, until the final brick is exposed and the wall is no more, and the board is washed by impatient, happy hands. the family heirlooms in the attic turn out to be empty rusted biscuit tins and torn clothes, newspaper cuttings from an imaginary country, unplayable vision reels and books in a script that swims and dances. this house is a person and this person is a universe, and the mind has swarmed through every barrier, lives in the abandoned cobwebs and spider corpses, the hunched, autistic corners of the sitting room, the god-intoxicated wishsongs of the One True Church.

Twin Universe

now to wait for the truth, the root and the fruit, the voice that was supposed to be a birthright and has been silent, not the voice but the images, the dreaming flow in the mind and the unselfconsciousness, not THIS IS GOOD, not WHO AM I but the dreaming flow, the images that twist and shimmer and are never the same in the brain, liquid and milky and fickle, words written over and over like the name of god on the devil's book, words dancing like a face on the water and everywhere the image, the evolution of the image across a million years of a golden beach, erosion and sunlight and the footprints of fantastic beasts, buried monoliths and megaliths cracked and fallen, moons lost in memory and the words, the words, what was I saying - when I lie asleep sometimes I'm not asleep and that's when the other eye opens -

there's something in the symmetry of the floor tiles in the cafe where the old women mumble through mouthfuls of cake about the old rituals and the new rituals, and the rain thunders on the plastic roof of the shopping centre and the smell of chips - something that's reflected in the mind and emerges in science, in painting, in the rhythm of fingertips on intimate skin, something in the beauty of her obsessions as she sculpts her thoughts into something permanent, something that glimmers in an electrical web across the light years between stars - or am I being overdramatic - is it nothing but patterns averaged over eons of randomness - the laws, the edges of clouds and the incredible colours - blades of grass moon-bright -

another time I might have sung into my sleeve / I might have cried and hid my face / I might have stood in the shadows and watched you leave / another time I might have decided that it was time to go / peel back the air with my hands and peer into the universe under the skin of this one / the shy twin who waits