music

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

Bone Ghost

my dad looks like a tree, wooden and pretty, alive but in a different way from me, hard to understand, maybe nothing to understand, just how trees grow and stiffen and start to rot, nothing to show for it until one day the heart is eaten all away and a strong wind snaps the trunk like old bone. if I was old, how would you see me? bitten to the quick like a nail. dried and crumpled like a fish going off in the sun. helpless like a worm on concrete. would my eyes be bright to you, would you love how I moved, would you think of it as a soul, the silent wave making me move until the last second. some of us don't like the sea, the endless dark pulse, the endless enormous life.

robot ghost dances in my bones, curves into the air and the roads leading away from every doorstep and every embrace. running knives in hand across the battlefield of every meeting and every dream. fused into the marrow with music, pulled into the future by the gravity of what i was born to be. alive on a membrane between this world and the next, the book and the reader, the dream and the dreamer. the ghost and i are both sure we're real and when i finally rip him out of my flesh and we see each other someone's universe is going to disappear and the murder of every living thing in it and the loss of every memory and every sound and the nothingness of every detail of every dance and every shining light

mother brightened me in the mornings. used to climb into her bed to read about dinosaurs and volcanoes and when she woke I'd listen to the water in the pipes above the bedroom ceiling when she washed her face in the pastel bathroom. everything was a story and i was always the hero and the light in her face when she looked at me told me it was true. nothing would ever be impossible for me, i would live forever and everyone would love me because i was the hero. sunlight through the curtains in those mornings was golden and i waited for her to wake. stories wove themselves in my mind and everything dark and fearful died in the shine of what was inside me, an answer to her call, an inner sun to her hungry moon. tell and retell the story and its lines become engraved too deep, the dance goes stale, the face becomes a mask and the sun a nova, a magnesium wick, and the hero a destroyer. now my mind sinks inwards through layers of tissue and sinew and nerve and finds no core. there is no ghost dancing in my bones. there is no person i was supposed to be. all the heroes have been kindling for a cold fire burning atoms into dreams.

Lego People

I'd met some new friends and we were all sitting together in a cafe somewhere in America. They were very eccentric people and that was why we all liked each other. We drank lots of coffee and talked loudly about crazy stuff and generally made a nuisance of ourselves around the shopping centre. When we left the cafe the craziest guy started doing a dance in front of an elderly couple who were returning to their car - there was cheesy music coming from somewhere, and he posed like a ballerina, and then started vogueing. We were all laughing and taking pictures. Eventually the security guards came to chase us away, but not before we'd gotten into a music shop and started playing on the electric pianos which were arranged around the walls. They had a beautiful shiny wooden veneer  that I loved touching.

When we developed the pictures later we found that they were all pictures of toys instead of real people. Instead of me and a girl and a guy sitting talking, there were Lego people with bright yellow faces standing on a stippled grey landscape with big smiles. The scene in the parking lot with the dancing guy was all cuddly plush toys - a squashy cat and a floppy brown dog and a crocodile with big friendly eyes. All the cars were matchbox cars. We were puzzled but we loved the pictures anyway.

On the way home I saw a large climbing frame made of wooden logs and rope ladders, and I started to climb one side of it. It got taller and taller as I climbed, and I started to feel vertigo as I looked up and down. The ground was getting pretty far away, and even though it felt very solid I was afraid that if I climbed to the top I would fall off or it would collapse. No sooner had I thought this than the logs started to shake and the ladder I was on started to peel away from the side slowly. I was a little scared, but I realized that the ladder was falling slowly enough to prevent me being hurt. It tipped backwards and when it got near the ground I rolled over and jumped to my feet again. My friends and some other people had gathered around and were worried about me, but I told them that I was fine. We looked up to see what had happened to the other children, and it was only my ladder that had collapsed.
 

No Fingerprints!

I was on holiday in Europe with a group of friends who I didn't know very well, and my mother. One of my friends was gay, and the others were trying to set me up with him because they thought that I was gay too. I'd been going along with it for some reason, but I didn't want to do anything with him. We were in Amsterdam in a dark coffeehouse/nightclub, and we were just leaving when I decided to go to the toilet, and the guy followed me, and stood too close to me at the urinals. On the way back I knew he was checking out my ass, and it made me self-conscious, so I walked faster, pushing past people, as if I was putting on some kind of tough-guy performance.

When we left the coffeehouse we suddenly found ourselves in Paris. We wanted to go sightseeing, and the first place we went to was a huge art gallery which looked exactly like the Louvre, but for some reason I thought there was a way to get into 'the Louvre' from inside this place. I wanted to spend the day in the Louvre but no one else did, because they said they would get too tired from walking, and their necks would be too tired from craning to look at all the paintings and statues.

One of my friends and I split off from the others to look for 'the chapel of Camille Saint-Saens', a small chapel the size of a suitcase built by a priest of that name. On the way there we climbed weird off-kilter marble staircases and passed through huge rooms filled with paintings and artifacts. Every room was decorated like a palace. We couldn't find the chapel.

Eventually we emerged into a gigantic two-level gallery full of tourists. On the bottom level, in the centre of the floor, the famous pianist Evgeny Kissin was playing the biggest grand piano I had ever seen. It was dark brown, and so perfectly polished that he would glare at anyone who approached him to try and touch it. "No fingerprints!" As he reached the climax of the piece he was playing, his head tilted upwards so that I could see his face. His eyes were closed and he was grinning. When he finished, everyone clapped, and he bowed and smiled broadly, and said "The genius Mozart will play again at 4pm tomorrow!".

You, The Marionette

you, the unstrung cello, with your factory hands and your crazy pale hair, what do you think you're doing? knives for the kitchen and kisses for the bedroom. you're supposed to be a healer. what else did you think would be any use? no physician heals the self

you, the bad actor, you live in a sea of mirrors, you're running through streets paved with faces cut from friends and family, you're always lost in someone else's labyrinth. you told yourself you were a chain on an angel but did you really think about it? your storm-smashed glass, your excuses to be angry. you, the maker of the sea. smiling shining everlasting if only it could always be that way



like furrows for planting seeds, red lines on your forearm. you, the unimportance of damage. so what does it mean when you stand in the empty white kitchen imagining yourself torn to pieces by knives. something is calling you - let me go. you said it was the closest thing to your dreams of flying, weaving through the rushhour animals with a mind like a razor, a razor through meat. let me go past the ring of hills into the psychic woodlands where dead pine needles crunched under the soles of my shoes in the silence of sleeping shadows. let me go out of the gravity well to swim in your space hotel.

you, the imaginary one. you met your twin and he told you the truth. he loved you and gave you the truth. where were you when the sky froze and the neverending mirrors toppled into the darkness of the sea, when the girl with no face danced the other universe open, when the star maker was visible in the eyes of every living thing, where were you when the fox screamed in the early morning through the fine mist of the woods, where was your heart when everyone else was given theirs. you, the island of the sun. you'd like to be marked. you'd like to be special. you'd like to be noticed. you'd like to tear yourself apart. you'd like to disappear. you, the one who was supposed to be loved and never hated, the gazer upon the face of the dark waters. Nero was an angler in the lake of darkness. we love for so many different reasons. we are shaken through space and time until we are free.



you, the mercenary. a visionary in the pounding aftermaths of your dreams, you're awake when you're invisible, forget what you think you know. your blood solves nothing, your thoughts are telegrams sent too late: when the door to the world of light closes stop you've seen all this before stop you've pushed the demons back a million times stop what new thing could you have to say now stop I broke myself, I lost myself, I wanted to eat the tendrils of the sun, they were made of gold sugar stop she told me I wouldn't ever die if I would only love

black windows falling. cold metal on your arm that you wish would bite deeper than you meant. oops - an accident. It's nothing. something bloody to show for all the wars you're going through. scars from someone else's battle. you, the healer. two homes high above the clouds, one a darkened pool of water that you fish in for tools, weapons, secrets. one a bright, quiet house, hidden between two leafs of a book with infinite pages. the clawed hand from the sky, the thousand-fired city catacombed through a mountainside. you, the hero, letting your friends pay the restaurant bill while you stare at the new continent in the sky. so strange you never noticed it before. I've been asleep all my life. crestfallen, ashamed, guilty. you stare at their faces full of love, at your own hands, twenty years older than you, the hands of someone shocked into silence and oblivion by a dead baby, a dark-eyed girl. never meant to hurt. you. anyone. dust and blood in spirals at the bottom of the broken staircase. the dread ringing in your ears fading with the grateful, lying thought, this is a dream as you give up the struggle and slip under the waves with your dark sister. sometimes it's true. if it's false, you lose everything, and start again with empty hands and a little more confusion. isn't it better for everything to be real than unreal?

your little comforts. the blue sky at the top of the mesa, the gravestones they turned into pavings for a park, dead acorns painted gold and hung on a string for Christmas. you, turning death into life. The mirror tells you that you’re dying with every second. life into death and death into life, the skeleton dancing in the valley of skulls and snowdrops. baby heads pushing out of the frozen soil of the suburban parks, the arcs of the suspension bridge lurking in the fog, bubbles and frogspawn collecting in the corners of the shattered cesspool. you, the witness, desperate for understanding. you, the mariner. you, the firm grip, the knife, the cut, and the end of the cut. you, the one who isn't harmed. you, the liar, the lie, and the truth the lie tried to hide. you, the menu and the meal, the map and the territory, the hand and the glove. you, the spiral flower.

offerings in the morning darkness to the empty chair, crying for a mother who never existed. you held her out of the bathwater until her death turned to life again. later by the wild shore raindrops closed your eyes, shouts from the hillside from friends hidden in the ferns and grass, hunting lemons and papaya for when the beach is set on fire. we'll set it on fire. we'll offer it up if you want. anything but what you're asking. you, the one who knows what the fire rituals mean, you, who kissed the sand at the centre of the universe, you, the only other person who saw the rainbow's end in the trees near the jetty, while the storm rains churned the sea and you floated with no dreams left.



the dreams came back. I am their playground, writhing between pillars of lightning. I, astronaut, caught in the birth of something that howls with flame and darkness. silent absolute zero burning through your bones. you, the one in the sun's heart. this is my mind. this is my gift and what it costs. to build bridges across a shifting sea, to link the cold cores of stars. this is the other world you wished for. I don't know how I didn't die.

I never left her behind

I never left her behind
her heavy beauty and the calm
of her clearwater eyes
the certainty of her voice
as she spoke to me about losing

already lost in the height
and the dizzy softness of this life
she played guitar and sang brightly
and never agreed not to love me

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