Moral Terror

In the rainbow jungle the soldier said that you must make a friend of horror and moral terror and I listened not because I understood but because it was Brando and when he speaks we listen and when he dies then god has died too and we are alone in the jungle at last with all the other monkeys who fight and fuck and sacrifice and feel feel feel in their hearts sensations so real they can be weighed in ounces or metres or joules - the units don't matter what matters is that the heart emits a measurable force that is not magnetism or gravity - the monkeys are adaptable and can swim through those like void but the heart-force twists them shapeless and kills the cramp out of every cell of their bodies. the body is ash and mud and levers and sacks, it is a suit of armour, a cello, a computer. like the knights of god riding into battle waving the banner of the skull and bones, we charge headlong into the unknown journey of our lives with every breath reminding us of the end. Yeats said man created death - did he know, or was he just writing pretty poetry? I know what the mystics know but I am not mystical - I'm nothing but a flower falling off a winter stem. I understand everything but I don't have any words for it. I know who I am but I can't tell you. I've been spending my life trying to bridge the gap between the body and the mind - what we know and what we can communicate - and I think it can't be done. I thought if you brought the gap close enough that a mind would pull sparks across it like a synapse but I've never seen it happen and maybe it will never happen. The body knows. The mind can never know.

Moral terror is an old woman lying in bed at night praying to Jesus to keep her from shitting herself while she sleeps. Jesus doesn't care; if he's listening I'm sure he loves her, but her shit and dignity is of no concern to him. He wants to bring her home and he knows she can't bring the flesh with her. Her body will die like everything else and no history will record her shame. She says that when she brought me walking through the park when I was younger she never imagined I would see her this way and she cries and she says that we are only clay, only mud, what are we, what are we? In her dreams she chases rabbits to try to cuddle them. Every corner of memory in the house is emptying itself. The bird died months ago and the empty cage catches her eye in the evenings, and she calls herself a little bird. In the bathroom as she takes off her soiled nightdress she says that it's time for her to die. I told her that she still had things to do and she smiled and said "Like what?" She knows what we are and there's nothing she can do or say about it. There are no words for what's really happening to her. She says that she doesn't know what to say to me, that nothing she can think of suffices. I am more and more quiet. She's dying, whether it's a month or a year or ten years, and there's nothing to say about it because every pretension and hope and platitude is dead in the naked body.

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

Old House

It's raining and I'm alone in the house.
It breathes in clicks and drips and gusts -
a ghost-paranoid person would find footsteps
in the noise of heating pipes in the attic,
dead relatives in the movements of the eye's periphery.

To me, everything is metaphor
and if the house seems alive, then it is alive,
along with every deceased ancestor
every wilful or beloved piece of cutlery
every book that opens at just the right page -

nothing is irrelevant and everything is musical -
the rabbits huddled together in the washroom,
the two years' worth of weather forecast clippings,
the plastic bags full of stolen sugar sachets,
the budgie's empty cage and the box full of his feathers.

The City of Ghosts

no way out of the city of ghosts
mum and dad are asleep alone together in a burning bedroom
she always wanted her words to fly up to heaven
this firestorm is her revenge for every cold cup of tea
every plea unlistened-to
she had the rotten teeth pulled from her jaws
and replaced by beads of poisonous metal
while he worked late at the office to pay for this transformation
a red brick building on the quays staffed by wraiths and ghouls
and he himself was a golem animated by parental sorcery
unbowed and polished by two thousand years of storms
heartless and beautiful and vampirically cold

their carpet becomes a lake of blood and bile
upon which their bed-raft floats
as they cling to the ancestral photo albums
and mutter their own names against a tide of amnesia
citizens of a republic of isolated house-states
with language abolished by referendum
we worship instead at the church of the repeated image
we have built a self-repairing machine
our bookshelves come to life and chant mantras as Gaeilge
our rooves sigh and slide gently away to reveal unnaturally dark clouds
Dublin turns black as the stars cough up eons of cigarette ash
and the sun itself swells and prepares to inhale us

mother and father have forgotten why they had children
maybe it was because they were cold and wanted to get warm
when they reached for each other they annihilated two universes,
set the bed adrift on a bloody sea,
and here we are, babies with gills and crimson irises
foreigners in our own country and strangers to each other
the hosts of the unborn are gathering beyond the veil
ready for the puncture when it happens
when ma and da finally die
and the kids' memories come crashing back
through lost lifetimes like meteorites of archetypes
through cloudbank and starlight

we will know who we are
when the cafes serve only haemoglobin from living veins
when cars wake up and start eating people
we will know who we are
when every door leads to another world
a wilderness of Narnias in the wardrobes and hallways of the ghost city
when the statues in the churches come to life
and herd the wailing faithful to the altars for sacrifice
when the government closes its doors and settles its affairs
and the TDs take cyanide on the orders of their leader
we will know who we are
when materialism is known for what it truly is
the acceleration of the birth of a glorious but inhuman deity

it may be true that we are killing ourselves
our obsession with ingesting poisons, our love of weaponry
all this is legendary in the houses of spirit
but like the man said, what is man
but a bridge over an abyss
we are not the naked monkey in the marital bed
the monkey lost and shivering under unforgiving stars
we are not the ghosts in the city windows
and mammy and daddy will one day remember
that they always loved each other
and the unborn will come crashing through time
in endless lines through endless doors opening to one room

until I knew you I did not know myself
says each reflection to each face

Machine Code Raindrop

this droplet from dark twig mirroring glints of glows
of fire in forest canopy burning throat of sky
and raindrop falling for insect-lifetime from space-edge
gathering images forgetting purpose frozen unfrozen and high

this fierce bonfire mind calm in rainstorm ghostly
called twice in pain from abandoned chest-locked heart
end of raindrop journey smashed into blackened skin
and arms bruised to bone and ash-whitened flung apart

seeks language made schizoid by intuition
seeks subjects and subroutines rivered from fingers to flame
for crashing continents for kissing oceans
leaf-ash floating higher, falling on storm-inspired no-names

singing and dancing closer, the leaf and the lover
flower-picker sweet and bell-ankled and henna-tattooed
clear water pouring from overloaded palms, over-
whelmed eyes, overcome heart-deep by ridiculous truths

and once in loneliness on knees in winter needles
roaring forest for choosing madness over agony
and raindrop floating earthward for infinite lifetimes
soaking into skin soft forgiveness of entropy

the inevitability of gravity, the hunger of whirlpools,
lost incantations and lore of amorality of love
of lunacy of loss and ecstasy of laughter of organs and bones
and taste of god the droplet bled from sun-veins above

No Voodoo

My mother was crying
while I shovelled dirt into her cat's
shallow garden grave.

She looked small and lonely,
where in my old memories she looms
huge above me, smiling,
her hair the strangest and darkest thing.

Now she dyes it,
hides her face when she's in tears,
speaks too softly in public.
For many years, I've felt more like a father
than a son - calm and balanced
while she splinters and shivers.

Once, after a fight,
she turned my photograph to the wall,
and it was like voodoo - a curse,
for hurting her like so many others.
Now her curses have lost their power
and I'm just happy to see her,
even though I'm also glad to leave.

A long time ago (she says)
she lost me in a department store,
and she thinks it damaged me,
the wandering and weeping through the aisles,
searching faces and smells
for my one and only familiar spirit.

I was the best baby boy
in the whole wide world -
but I thought another might come,
better and brighter, and she
would take her light away from me.
Now, burying something else she loved,
I know it wasn't her fault.

Torn apart by dogs, crushed by cars,
hit by a heart attack on the office stairs,
or lying in the arms of another woman,
she's slowly losing everyone she loves.

She tries to find the Light, to breathe it,
because she thinks she lost it,
even though it still makes her cry,
it still shines in her face
that I would recognize in any world, any life.
 

Fire Biology

there's only one secret
the spirit loose in the body
glowing in the bones
fusing like a star
many-petalled fire biology

taking shape from gravity
I danced with my imaginary enemy
my beautiful friend, my patient lover
but there never was really any other
she was not she and I am not me

I can't quite find a way to express it
I don't see any differences
one heart apparently multiplied
the same light in every pair of eyes
I gave my life to avoiding it

awake through the dark until dawn
drugged insensory
tinnitus, anger and caffeine
straining against the mind's membrane
life support for the dying dream

I've known all my life what I have to be
the spirit loose in the body
glowing in the bones
fusing like a star
many-petalled fire biology

Your White Chemistry

For what you are, I'm grateful
and if you get angry
and if you can't stand me
for a minute or two
and if I forget who you are
for an hour
and we become silent
memories singing in my head at dawn
chemical names to free tunes
and meaningless sentence fragments
gleaming shaking in white radiation
whispering you join me here
and thankful we creep under covers
if I forget who I am
and you get angry
I'm grateful for an hour
of singing fragments of tunes
shaking radio sentences I can't remember
creeping under what you are
joined by dawn whispers
and the radiators gleam silently
as I forget anger
I am shaking
I am meaningless
and your white chemistry sings to me
the gleaming tunes of your memory
an hour of whispering
under the covers
if the morning joins us
I'm grateful for what we become

Tat Tvam Asi

I chant between protons: prayers
spinning on subatomic wheels
elegies of the One Electron
sparkling across emptiness unreal

It's sitting across from itself
in endless grey cafés sipping coffee,
grinding the coffee, moulding the mug,
giving birth to the bean in agony;

It's arguing with itself over nothing,
just for the fun of it: who was wrong,
whose note resonates clearer, whose pain
lingers longest where it doesn't belong;

and the neutron wheels are buttercups
sunlit innocent uncertain and mortal
I am a structure of delicious isolation
unravel me to find an unexpected portal

It's a storm of blood through flesh
glittering and heaving organs wracked
by chemical lightning, shaking bone branches
crackling, wind-dancing, mind-connected

shivering down to the galaxies between quarks
it weeps and mumbles prayers in void alone
wandering through nanosecond universes
it finally finds a way to follow me home

For The Last Time

For the last time, the last time
I will not remember what they said
on the television between the exploding stars
and the million miles asleep in midnight red
I will not seem angry
when my friends neither live nor die
but freeze in a smile and a moment
like loved characters in their final episode

not because there was no more time
but because in my dreaming mind
I wandered, and left them behind

this is no voice speaking
rain of flower shades in blindness
just the sound of it behind cafe windows
the colours flushed from the streetlights
and birds burning and singing on the wires

it all goes wrong when I try to talk about myself
so I will talk about everything else
except that there's this question, "who's talking?"
"Who's singing, who's burning, who's sad?"

Who misses their nonexistent friends
who laments their long-distant dad
and the long-distance chats
sizzling along dark wires
and the moist fresh-dug graves of beloved cats
hissing with rain or vampire hostility
and can cats become vampires anyway
or can humans - reality and fantasy
are not much different for me these days

like the one about the beautiful killer
with the power to share his destiny
and of course he would choose me
and I would not care about killing
if only I could be beautiful and immortal too

surely it can't be time to review my life again
and all the crumbling myths I built
how are they still there, how am I the same?
how can I not have changed into something
extraordinary and entirely different?

bless me to let go of these stories
that never belonged to me
nothing glows like nothingness
and I have a weird craving for the womb
no, not even the womb - just pure emptiness
endless space without even one sparkling star
just an abyss without a face or a name
and finally I'd know that awareness
that they say extends beyond both ends of this life

wine from old arteries in a singing glass
images and feelings torn loose from narrative
here is a bottomless sea and a roofless house
no meaning, no weapons, no voices
and a yellow wind from below the horizon
and I will be made ashes in the furnace of the sun