memory

Juicy Acid Purple

Linda was little girls
27 years old dancing in a circle for happy,
playing patched-up Pink Floyd cassettes
on an old player with the batteries taped in.
She hung beads and stars from her ceiling
and baked bread cake on Sundays
when she needed to remember home.

Home was her parents and Ricky.
Ricky would pull a condom through his nose
and make her scream. She loved everything he did.
Her mother was Mammy, almost blind,
but still canny enough to make her way to England
to visit. Dad was going to lose his legs to gangrene
unless he quit smoking, but he wouldn't.
They did everything their own way.

So did she, getting stoned before her exams,
living with a beautiful boy called Stephanos
who named his guitar after her - in Spanish,
Linda means beautiful. Besides, he loved her.
We all played cards into the small hours
and I'd curse the worst I could
until I finally managed to make her flinch.
"Alan, would you kiss your mammy with that mouth?"

We went to Amsterdam and I wanted to trip, but
"All that's behind me now," she would say.
"I like my bit of spliff and that's it."
She told me her stories, days and weeks
lost in a different world of crazed friends,
sailing dangerous on the edge of insane.
She told me about Juicy Acid Purple, a colour
only trippers knew. I wanted her to describe it.
"I can't, Alan. They don't have that colour here.
It's just not part of the plan."

After an eighth of hash, I always thought she spoke
with the voice of God. It was the most
important thing in the world that I listen to her.
I just wish I could remember what it was she said.

I moved away and lost touch, like she'd said I would.
Later her dad died, and she went back home,
and all I found of her when I looked was a note
tacked to a board; a second-hand report
from a distant friend; little girl-shadows here and there,
holding hands like girl shapes cut into newspaper;
memories, dancing in a circle.

Late Evening

Late evening, Sunday, stars and oranges raining through the open windows of my bedroom. I made it upstairs, so stoned I can hardly move, staggering through a roaring silence like under the ocean. Posters on my walls of roses and aliens looking like they move when I close my eyes. Girl across the road taking her top off, candlelight lilac, slowly closing the curtains. That was yesterday I think. She was nice. Cats screaming in the gardens at night. Saw a shooting star just now. Music and voices downstairs, spiralling in my head making me roll on the floor and pray for sleep. Sleep sleep, sleep.

The ocean is just the ocean.

The bedroom window brought in the morning, a teenage rain kissing my eyelids. A kind of desire rises, to make love to the sky. I open my eyes and the sunlight is so beautiful, even through clouds. I can’t move much, I feel so heavy, a ghost who fell into a corpse. The feeling of being me is falling in a vast and gentle well of dark light. The sky is like a girl who forgot to go home. She’s laughing at me because I think I’m home. The silence brings music into my mind from a great distance, years of being me singing forever in my heart. The girl in the sky is making me laugh now. I know she doesn’t exist, but she doesn’t know. We both think we have a secret.

My lungs feel like bags of cement. Somehow I make it into bed, some clothes off, pull the covers up to my neck, breathe out slowly, it feels like fifteen years ago, mother tucking me into bed, telling me I’m the best baby boy in the whole wide world. Years, lifetimes of sitting in the shade of a white porch in the summer in India, chanting from the arati going through my mind while I rest my feet and watch the river move, slowly, from heaven. This country is so cold. I’m sure there was a time when I knew what I was supposed to be doing here. Things seemed so simple when I was young.

I woke up when my girlfriend found me, she laughed and told me I was in the wrong bedroom, no wonder it all seemed so strange. “I smoked my tits off last night you know,” she just laughs more and puts her hand on my forehead. I still don’t feel like moving, but I like the brightness and the safety of the afternoon and her hands. “I love you babe.” She takes her clothes off and gets under the covers with me. If this was someone else’s life, would I know?

All the days, raging, tears and iron, monsters from the houses. The rain becomes old and haggard, giant trees, horrific amphibians gripping the mud and the ferns, sharks as big as ships rippling through a boiling ocean. Sand of the sea-bottom shifting with crabs and flatfish, millions of colours of coral, seaweeds dancing in the warm currents. A volcanic sky stained with ash like the forehead of a priest. The sky has to remember. Winds and burning rain for a thousand years, the sky has to remember.

I was born thirteen thousand years ago in a room full of sun and heat. I was painting a picture of three spirals on a sheet of blue silk when I died. The ground writhed like a stricken man and the fire and the ice came. Thousands of years of living buried and burned. The sky has to remember.

“Babe, you talked in your sleep.”
“What was I saying?”
“I didn’t understand it. I don’t think I heard properly.”
“Mmm.”
“It was weird, I thought someone else was in the bed. You didn’t sound like you.”
“Really?”
“It scared me a bit.”
“Don’t be scared.”

Still stoned, hugging her is like hugging the sky. I am a shapeless thought. Her body is like a feeling in a dream, moving in its own rhythm. I went so far this time, so far out into the nothingness, the falling-feeling. I never went so far before. I hope it’s okay. I hope this will be okay.

I woke again when the sky was still fading into dark blue, after sunset. It felt so strange. The last time I remembered sleeping through a whole day was when I was very ill with glandular fever. The whole night was taken up by terrible struggles with dreamed creatures, travels through landscapes of delerium, and I slept with the curtains closed as the day passed, bathed in sweat.

I swam down to the sea bed and felt the edges of the coral with my fingertips. Tiny angel fish darted through the crevices. The water was cloudy.

We climbed down into the caves, holding on to rusted railings, dodging starlings and bats that fluttered in a panic out of their roosts. The clay was red and moist, and stained everyone’s clothes. The air began to feel stiller and stiller, until the passageway opened out into caverns full of totally still, clear water. We shone our torches in to the pools, and sometimes you could see the rock at the bottom, forty or fifty feet down, and it looked as clear and bright as five feet deep. In other places the torch beam disappeared into unfathomable blackness. We took our shoes and tops off and swam through the caves, stopping to hang on to stalagmites, ducking our heads through narrow openings of sharp rock, tapping stalactites to see if they would sing. In one of the main caverns, one of the walls looked like a gigantic church organ, the limestone shaped into tubes that plunged from the ceiling into the deep water. We clung to the tubes with our hands while we waited to gaze into the deepest underwater caves. When we got out of the water we turned all the torches off, and stayed quiet for a few seconds in absolute darkness. There was no light for the eyes to adjust to, just nothingness hanging in space. In the silence it was like having no bodies. Our ears rang with emptiness.

I was sitting out on the wharf in a half-lotus when it started to rain. First the sky darkened and the sun was hidden, and then, as a boat appeared in the distance from its trip around the island, the first cool raindrops fell. I was sitting on a towel dressed only in shorts. As the boat came closer I could see the people sitting in it, my friends, young devotees of Avatar Adi Da Samraj, their faces indescribable. How do you describe the expression of someone who is visiting the home of the Incarnation of God? The rain grew heavier. The sea lost its green tinge and became grey, and the surface started rippling in tiny circles. The boat ground itself against the sand and they started getting out, heading up the beach towards the retreat centre, while the rain increased, until the sea was starting to hiss. I was still sitting down on the wharf, my hair dripping, my towel already soaked. The Fijian men waved and the boat pulled away again. Two girls from the boat stayed to swim in the sea. The rain kept deepening, hardening, pounding the palm leaves and the shore, creating a fine mist just above the surface of the water. I stood up and stretched, and lowered myself into the sea. The water was warmer than the rain. The vision, as from a thousand years ago, of the two girls with their faces turned up to the sky, rain pouring down their cheeks, hands holding back their hair; and then sinking back below the surface like mermaids. I took a deep breath and floated, with my arms stretched out behind me, and for the first time ever, I totally relaxed in the water. I gave my body up to the waves in a bliss of surrender. The rain pattered on my face and the hissing all around me became soothing. I closed my eyes and the darkness extended around and through me in all directions, so that I no longer had a clear feeling of where I was in relation to th shore, or what direction I was moving. Maybe I had drifted out into the deep ocean. Maybe there was no island. I truly didn’t care what happened to me in those few moments. The only disturbance was the unstoppable observer, the consciousness that noted all the phenomena of my senses; I still felt like ‘me’. That was all that was wrong, but it was enough.
    When I opened my eyes, I saw that one of the girls had left the sea and was running back to the dorms through the rain, carrying her towel over her arm. Just then, the sun appeared through a break in the clouds near the horizon. The rain continued, ferociously, but the trees and the sand took on this electrifying reality, as if the sun had traced their edges and filled in their colours with the luminous yellow all-colour of its own light.

ama amma

am am am

As we watched a rainbow formed on the beach, touching down perfectly on the dark sand, colouring the palms, bringing with it a silence so unearthly that it drowned the rain and sank my heart into the True Water. No moment like this has ever existed.

“My life is over now.”

The rain ends, the shell remains. The work is done.
 

The Knight at the Nexus of Memory

Everything smelled perfect and everything
tasted sweet in my grandmother’s house -
Star Wars on rewind in the VCR,
my uncle's chess computer blinking in thought,
the grey afternoon light, gentle minutes
settling around me like mystical tissue.

In the cotton silence of her attic,
there was nothing of me except a body,
tingles in the stomach, an ache in the mind
for the world above the skylight
and its spaceships and alien cities, alien houses
for alien boys with no place in this world -

or rolling on the side lawn with my uncle,
trying to trip him, getting breathless and heavy,
falling into laughter with my cheek pressed
to the soft grass. He didn't know I was hiding
inside myself, scared and small with no powers,
no lightsaber, no invulnerable smile.

My little superheroes were a virus in my mind.
For every day of warm rain and every good friend
there was the knight at the nexus of memory,
the dancing samurai, luminous blade cutting images and words -
the vampire, the unseen bodhisattva dynamo
powered by prayer wheels and playstations

and always hoping for a simpler life.
No one knew he was there, and so
no one saw him leave, sad and empty: old killer
in a land of reincarnating immortals.
Everything he shaped is coming loose,
useless dreams I don't need to remember.

Shine

today a feeling too big for words
something in the spiral of bare branches
against a cold cloudy sky
or the clusters of red berries in a hedge
that parts to show a stone step
where a ginger cat sleeps and eats food
that people bring him, every day, in tinfoil
and owned by no one he grows fat

a film about an insane pianist
blue sky for him too, and music big enough
for feeling but no room for rest
everything gone out of him but him
and walking out of the cinema I was clean
washed bare for the touch of sunlight
naked baby ready to be made into memory

in the morning it rained and the paths were dark
then it was sunny and they steamed
and pigeons waddled over the cobblestones
and when I stopped trying to talk
there was room in the silence for feelings -
the taste of stale bread and ham, lukewarm tea
dripping over my fingers to the ground
I don't want there to be an end or not to be an end

nothing but this

Resonance

once I thought we were born here with no clues
no path, no means, no scent of home
like a cellist without a bow,
grappling with an arcane instrument
before a vast audience of laughter

like they knew better than me -
"Tabula rasa", as if babies come into being
with no brain or heart, no feeling,
nothing that might have been carried
from a lighter, timeless world

look at her fingers tremble on the strings -
she's not afraid of the sound
but of the audience, what they'll do
when the sound wakes their hearts -
one single note, to kiss, to destroy -

something to rise out of the brain
into the early evening skyline
they know the trees are shaking in the wind
they saw the constellations appearing
like diamonds sifted out of the sandy clouds

take care - they never asked to be reminded -
"I'll know when I fall in love" - how are you so sure -
except that you are a singing wineglass,
a bell that hums when a voice speaks underneath,
that knows the truth because you feel it making you true -

your mother will lead the tiger out of the house
by its teeth, she'll put you to shame -
while you wander through glaciers, mazes
like endless Inca cities, stepped and geometric,
unable to escape the memory of death

except that you hear the violinist -
she doesn't know what she does, but the sound
is not bound by her knowledge - if you cry
when the crescendo takes hold of her hands,
what is it in you that moves, that resonates,

what did you recognise, that you feel so ruined,
devastated by happiness, reduced to nothing by love,
like an empty evening sky for seeing comets,
like wind for laughing, roads for the feeling of distance -
an empty peace in your clearlight bedroom

4D

All this time –
I have seen such changes
in you, counted the dry
husks of your selves arranged

like a calendar.
A simple thought – that I
might keep you together.
Your fragmentary life

I would chronicle,
wrapping your sloughed skins
around my wrists and ankles,
saving them from the wind.

My scattered lover –
as you freeze from instant
to instant, I will recover
the true shapes of your existence.