time

Rain Thoughts

feather raindrop river

A day of persistent rain, soft and smothery, comfort-cool,
music-box bells and windchimes, a stopped clock,
second hand paused eternally, twitching,
unable to cross over into the future or even to leave the past.

On the way to buy dinner we see rivers twitching down the gutters
leaves carried, leaves clogging, left alone leaves rotting
down and dark into red green depths and drunk into death
and we're talking so softly about joy as the light leaks out
and twilight sets in and street lights glow dull and all that rain
shifts out of focus and turns invisible and spiritual
and almost wholly immaterial, and what's left to discuss is the unreal,
the ethereal, what is promised to us, what we have to trust in -
the return of the fallen leaves on the other side of the cold -
the return of the water from the depths of the world -
even our own return from the end of the road -
because sometimes the journey never ends, some time soon there will be no return
from a sudden darkness.

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

Smiling Shining Everlasting

She asked me years ago how I stayed the same
when I cut my hair and years fell off my face
and I was just a boy and I wandered in my thoughts
in libraries and offices and bedrooms alike

how to remain the same, she wondered, in the grey world
the same as in the bright, the rainy, the blue world,
the neon worlds, the dark dancing worlds
how to walk through worlds wide-eyed as one being

as if I knew something, or worse, as if I didn't -
either I kept some knowledge from her, some secret,
or I had been given a gift I didn't deserve
that she, stronger and smarter, should have received

and neither was true - I kept nothing secret
but neither could I share it. I am what I am.
I create myself every moment in full awareness
but I can't tell you anything that would be any use.

How to remain the same through years of rapture
and disillusion and amnesia and loss and laughter
essentially untouched, walking in innocence
we are outside time and nothing can destroy us

it's nothing that you don't already know
we are outside time and nothing can destroy us
she asked me where the barriers were in my mind
between this and that, word and deed, yes and no

she saw me as a world, an atmosphere, a star
beautiful in my ignorance, beyond arrogance -
she saw me skimming stones at the edge of the sea
she said I was this: smiling shining everlasting

like all our generation, spiritual but rebellious
we ache for the church and the god we rejected
we see purity and we fall in love with it
and afraid of being abandoned we try to destroy it

but it exists outside time and cannot be destroyed
lighting us up: smiling shining everlasting.
In the neon world, the dark dancing world, the grey world
I'll do what I have to do, and so will you.

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

Grange Road

Grange road runs crazy
from between the church and the shopping centre
up to the foothills of what we call
the Dublin Mountains

and we know it for this small slice of time,
a year we've spent in a strange house
full of musty books and stale chocolate,
rusting knives and forks,
shivering patience of lace curtains
on windows overlooking the road,
catching the odd glint of red at sunset
over slate rooves and cold chimneys

we know it for what it has been for a year
alive at night with drunken teenagers
kicking over bins, smashing car windows,
hanging around Londis asking you
to buy them alcohol
they'll bring it to the park
they'll drink it hastily in the darkness
they'll break things in an ecstatic rage
and blindly let the road swim them home

it's a river of life and death
and apparently random decisions
we saw a boy in a red car lose control
around the tricky corner
and destroy 2 cars in a headlong collision
they both lived - this time -
residents gathered to watch, talking
about the other accidents at that corner,
the ones who made it and the ones who died
right there on the road
in bloodstains bleached by the streetlights

over the park wall among the dead leaves
you can hear the cars moaning past
you can imagine dying souls travelling home
there's a stream that follows its path
for a while, under and over ground, through gardens
it runs to join the Dodder
where this road is forgotten
its memories emptied into cold black water

prayers and curses for two miles and fifty years
and we've known very little of it but what sings
in the blood in the small hours
what beats in the heart in the wind
an infinite procession of hooves and then tyres,
young feet growing older, then young feet again
what is a road anyway
it lays itself down in your mind
and in your dreams you follow it
and every other road you've ever known
to the gates of your sacred city
 

This is the place

this is our place,
river water walls, no words
nothing but the view over empty rooftops,
silent daylight, heavy glass
I know the flesh means nothing
it's withering and burning in time
every few seconds I have to begin again

this is a place
where things slowed down,
slow breeze, car engines, spiced tea,
mornings into afternoons into evenings
night-time too long and too short
ghosts started bleeding out through my skin
dreams and memories of someone like me
emptying himself to start again

this is no place
for anyone real
the stage is set for the pale players
the water spirits, revenants in the mirror
we who can never be full, we who
can never feel at peace, we
who can't stand the sight of the sky -
trees, birds, the dark mouth chewing stars -
every newborn word is crushed -
it's no use, I have to start over

this is the place

Cold City Cat Food

Outside the front door, stars, in holes between steel blue rings of cloud. air's almost too cold to breathe, can't stay still, muscles jerking, body trying to survive blindly against the ancient glacier enemy. body doesn't know about time, and the warm living room waiting just a few moments into the future. mind knows about time, forces body further out, past the slippery first step, down to ground level, to see Mars steady and orange above the terrace roofline.

pick up the cat's food plate, pouring off the rainwater and dead leaves. the neighbour's cat likes tunafish, comes to our house every day looking for what we buy cheap in white label cans from Morrisons or Tesco. gets bored with cat food, I would too. domestication and boredom go together. but I remember when I was wild, and it's still there, not just as an artifact in my symbolic mind but as hormonal and cellular memory in the body, chemically-burned knowledge of the way the world really is, waiting. let a giant meteorite or comet strike the Earth, all of the cities fall apart, and watch the chemical, atomic body resurrect itself, rise up to take control. the fighter, eating roots and garbage and doing what's necessary to survive in the unknown present. meanwhile I'm getting a nice domesticated belly and tired eyes from staring at cathode ray screens. there's time for it all, it's all taken care of.

muscles getting a life of their own as the cold buries itself deeper into the meat. turn around to go back to the warmth, but then there's the terrible shrieking sound of cats fighting a few streets away. is it Jose? put the plate down on the wall, run to find out, forget about the cold. bare feet starting to go numb on the concrete and tarmac but they'll recover. breath steaming, jogging carefully, watching for glass and tin and stones to cut my soft feet. the fight's a bad one, someone's in pain, an ear or whiskers or fur torn, an eye scratched,  a claw ripped out? let's hope it's not Jose, he's such a soft little catthing and Stan doesn't look like he can pay too many vets' bills. not like my mother who brings the cat to the vet if he looks tired, at £30 a visit. learned how to manage money from my mother, what a fucking tragedy. still, at least she cares about cats. i got that from her too.

every street is cold and quiet and empty of movement, red brick terraces with lights out and chimneys dark and unused. we all have central heating or electric heaters. no one burns wood or coal any more and even the candles in the wondows for Christmas are electric. they have an artificial waver built into them as if to appear more realistic despite the fact that they are green and red and yellow and placed under curtains that would have caught fire. gardens are paved with concrete slabs and the plants are all in pots. feet numb now, no cats in sight, the fighting noises have stopped and there are only the factory vents and the distant cars and my own breathing. my lungs are getting chilled. I make miaowing noises but there's no answer and any minute now someone is going to wonder what psycho is creeping around the street in the small hours trying to be a cat. time to go back to the warm place. time for bed, even, maybe. no work tomorrow. the faint, faint mist of the galaxy overhead, reminding me how short my own life is. measured in increments between short, pointless weekends, and moments like this, mostly unrecorded, lost somewhere in time, "like tears in rain", like something that never happened. there was no catfight. next morning Jose will be scratching at the door looking for more tuna and luvvins, and it all goes on as normal for another day.

takes a few minutes for my feet to get warm again, held over the heater as i balance on one leg and try not to look silly. the vectors of the house take over my mind so easily, as I count off the next few steps mentally. a cup of tea, some time on the computer, then get ready for bed. lock the door, turn off the heaters and the lights, brush teeth, snuggle, fall asleep. i don't know anything about the stars and i don't know why every night i have to stand for at least a moment on the porch looking up at the sky. maybe something will fall out of it, or into my mind. maybe one day they won't be there. maybe i won't be. there's no story to the moment at all, no compulsion and no reason. like a marble in a bowl, i roll into the zero point and stay there until I'm moved again.

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.

Dark Lifetimes

I thought I wasn't human sometimes
like when we drank too much on the tracks
of the old railroad, and ended up
throwing garbage at each other
and I got sick on my own coat
and had to scrub it in a puddle
before I went home

Or when I was on the bus in the morning
and the tough kids were smoking in the back seats
and my elbow hurt from trying to sleep
leaning against the rubber window ledge
I saw two burnt out cars together in a field
bleeding rust into the long grass
- this year's Halloween blaze -
- will be like islands in a sea of oil -

I went crazy, I stole bicycle locks
and left the bikes behind, I talked to rivers
and made them promise to remember me,
I thought my cat was a spirit sent to guide me,
I screamed in the living room at night
when my mother was away on holiday,
only alive after dark, naked warrior for destroying
demons that existed nowhere

dark lifetimes lost for nothing
smoke from smouldering moments
I was a slow fire, lying alone
on my teenage bedcovers being a burning snake
a star in a strange structure of light
compare this
to the taste of cider in your throat
the smell of your own sweat in bed
the nothing you thought you were
and always would be

Fire Puja

once just a bubble, something bursting and sprawling, then blankness,
a tired boy sleeping through a long car journey across Ireland
to the Sligo coast and a cottage near a bright strand
scared of being alone, scared of his grandfather
a ball of fire in a man's head, squeezed like a star's core
and the laughing pressure of the bedroom's darkness
I will only be the bright things, and the dark things will not be me
water bulging between pebbles or still like diamond in rock pools
fair hair in the wind and the sun, frozen in a photograph
staring at the sun until it burned blue and left tracers for hours
outshining everything

his brain the altar and shrine to the scientist superhero
not the bed-wetter, the boy of fevers and rashes and failures
not the boy with the broken parents but the warrior battling demons
with a wooden sword at the bottom of the garden, slashing nettles
and bindweed, dandelions, cattails and bluebells,
all of the living things advancing mindlessly on the realms of the dead
reading in the crook of tree branches under a laurel canopy
learning that stories can curve into a perfect fulfillment,
and that a life could be made into a story, his own devil's bargain

mama, dada, his heartbeat in the pillow,
reading comics in the windowlight with the darkness shaking -
his cuddly toys who walked unafraid into his dreams
and there built cities for him out of a churning red landscape -
they bred beings and stories like great factories of the unreal -
vast hands descending from the sky,
implacable beasts with lion heads and fish tails,
the endless running through endless corridors of a school,
a hospital, a tower, a labyrinth,
like a rabbit lost in the warren of the world.
he stole a red crystal in a trinket shop
and it poisoned him until he flung it into the undergrowth
that grew and grew like a cancer, crowding the edges of his awareness,
like the grass and the weeds, the rain, half-living forces,
revenants pressing their faces
against the windows of the kitchen and the hall, moaning,
until his whole family was mad with an unexpressed panic;
his dad went insane, quietly, in front of the evening news,
mud on his suit and money in his pocket,
walking blind into a different life, and his mother
burned everything in her mind
until it flew into the air on the wings of a firestorm -
all without speaking,
without moving from the bedroom where she sickened for years

he glimpsed the ghost of his death out of the corner of his eye
all his life, like horror movie eyes in dark windows
smoking his throat raw around the back of the house
where the wood rotted in the damp
and the country's granite skeleton poked out from under the foundations;
houses built around the margin of an eely reservoir
with a lightning-scarred pine and a broken throne where a cat slept, wind-sheltered and far from territory and food,
tiny under the humped orange clouds, bare awareness
of voices and water, traffic like remembered music,
air moving through reeds in gaps in the mortar
and no such thing as time - time measured by light and dark,
past and future gathered into the present
like friends into one room

points of light in the sky, lanterns on the river, phosphorus fish in caves,
distant headlights on roads, roads, roads
merging and splitting like stories,
like veins splayed out under spotlights in an operating theatre
he fell asleep on the ground behind the garden wall and woke up twenty years older
with lines on his palms and sadness held
in knots of muscle in his back and his chest -
two bottles of cheap red wine and three hours of hangover agony
high above the street, on a metal balcony in the sun
dizzy, almost dead, parched of water and love and meaning
and driven by the machine of superhumanity,
the total revolt of the total illusion
and all the words every spoken, ever written, melting
into this one crucible of his suffering body -
he wanted the elixir, he wanted the incorruptible element, and instead,
sick with vapour, he distilled the world into ash and slag and poison -
laughing, crying, no identity, he had nothing left to do but float,
his own little light shaking in a paper cup
down to the delta and out to the forgiving sea

finally he became a pilgrim: 22 hours by plane, 5 hours by boat,
to eat sand and press flowers and build temples -
the moth only touches the flame for a brief moment -
burned, it has to rest -
spiders stringing webs between palm trees, toads littering the pathways -
full moon - handfuls of wet rice - pits full of fire -
sawdust and plastic in the lungs -
chairs and walls and spires and late nights working like ants
streaming over a mound of earth -
singing all day, and still the god does not return -
crying at night, and the god does not return -
the god's chair and house are empty, the god's children are cruel,
the god likes sushi and Versace quilts and Armani sunglasses,
the god is alive as every star in the whole sky -
he has to be, because that is the god the boy worships, arms of fire raging into the patient dark
until every embrace is broken and every voice lost into memory,
every watch stopped with every heart,
every river emptied over the edge of every shattered planet,
and every blaze quenched and frozen - past and future consumed -
the universe stretching into the era of proton decay
like a black, bottomless photograph
held in a boy's hand, then discarded
as he runs into the garden -
sunlight dancing through sprayed water
as the end of all things
is recycled into every moment