Inferno

3:45am connection limbo
the drunk and I, shadow
and crescent on knifelike benches

green, dead train on old tracks
imaginary, homeless and mistaken
moon splitting through the windows

the cold drowning whiteness
like dreaming on a gurney
drinking a night sky cocktail

two lunar ice cubes
and a numb tongue
to wake in an empty ward

sharing an ancient memory
when were moon icicles, waiting
silent in our frozen inferno

Buddha Bookshelf

It stretches out like a psychedelic skirt pulled taut -
they're shoulder to shoulder, smiling softly
before infinite setting suns shining
like rings in each planetary ear.

In each eye he sees things that have no explanation.
Today it's flowers for the famous faces.
The Pope is a marigold printed on a summer dress.
Tony Blair is a carnation held under a crying child's nose.
Dubya, such a silly lily, someone gave him as a gravestone gift.

He used to hoard his mother's cookies
in a heavy glass jar shaped like a bell -
once he dreamed that she kept a young boy's head
in a blue metal bucket by the fire.
He woke up so afraid of being a beggar,
lost in the dark, rainy streets, skidding, crashing,
his fingers tracing some remembered music.

He knows history. He read about the ovens,
the war machines and the Nazi lampshades,
but he keeps seeing them in blue,
made from Krishna's skin, stretched taut,
immortal fireflies for stars within.

No one would ever know he isn't crazy.
No one sees the Buddhas on his bookshelf,
endlessly mirrored, one for each decision and each life,
the cut of every knife, the kindness of every kiss,
the blindness of his soul and his unanswerable bliss.

Gravastar

Like the dust in the corners of the bedroom,
I need to suck out enough of my dreams,
write them down, that what remains
won't choke me in my sleep. I am a cord
that binds spirits, feelings, handfasted
until they recognise each other, and dissolve.

The girl who lives under the bed, huddled
over her only book, unable to talk. My grandfather
crying, telling my invisible mother how sorry he was.
He never wanted to hurt her. That time
is like a dream to him now, distant and psychic.
How the setting sun shone on the cold grass.

The real and the unreal melt together softly.
A nervous little ghost, hovering uncertainly
at the door. A gravastar: raining light, matter,
energy on the darkness of an unknowable surface.
My sandwich in the park, shared with pigeons,
while the alcoholic woman ate old lettuce, slowly.

Buddha and Shiva struggling from the corners of my room
to enlighten each other, deep navy against pale brown,
while the lovers wander near the blue waveshore. The pagoda
lost in a rain of bamboo and willow. Our kaleidoscopic photos
of family and friends, our coffeeshop conversations, these words:
a meaning that no single thing can hold.

Transient

sky on my skin in the morning, cold air,
the blades of a diamond, wings of glass
drenched in alien wines, hallucinogenic indigo

swimming awake into deep blue sheets
from a dream of a luminous girl dancing
in a dark sky, or a black, silent mile of ocean

now her breath warms my eyelids -
she glows, all the light in the bedroom
rises from her skin, she's been set alight

I can feel her like the empty body of the air,
on fire invisibly, ionized and irradiated,
torn by storms from the sun itself

she's alive in the mind's sea, a siren, irridescent,
opening unknown doorways - she's something
that isn't awake or asleep - dark, but radiant -

sky on her skin in the evening, tangled hair,
the waves in her mind wash over us -
breathing hard in my arms, she's going under again

My Own Ghost

you are my own ghost
crippled by rainlight

fresh with unborn skin
hearer of children at night

violent and young
frightened without fear

this silence is a jungle
you are meant to be here

Waste Pipe, Chicago 2001

I have a strange vision.
It's something about beauty
that words can only indicate,
but not describe.

Today it's a tiny brown lake
tinkled with sunglitters,
suburban home to ducks and gulls
snackling in the dull water,
behind a huge, empty shopping center,
deathly quiet,
ringed with willows and grass.

Thrust into the thin shale
at the edge, where the ducks
squat and ponder,
a concrete maw like the head
of a huge, pale worm:
a sewer pipe,
trickling naked waste
into the man-made lake.

It's hot. Car exhaust and slime
and willow-bark and birdsong
combine. I can't find it disgusting
or beautiful only. I only know
I am at peace
before my vista of water and viscera.

On the side of the sewer pipe,
in metre-high letters,
someone has written
"LOVE"

That's my vision.
That's it, exactly.

Everything and Her

my world is unfamiliar
the Buddha bracelet on my wrist
the heat of the air
the distance to everything

she doesn't answer her phone,
and suddenly I'm alone in America,
a boy perched on a hotel bed,
uncertain about everything

maybe I'll visit the city museums
and wander with an open hand
where her hand should be,
a tourist, alone in the everything

outside the trees are shimmering
and I forgot my path, my way through
this labyrinth of mornings, in dreams of her
and what we mean together: nothing and everything

Downflight

pink, smoky cirrus
accelerated sunset
35,000 feet

the Canada tundra
a jagged jigsaw
a desert of lakes

I only wanted
to stay high
in your arms -

crazy cloud,
never raining,
never dying.

Exposure

concrete mountainrange starshadow
the uncountable windowpanes
of the Sears Tower
dark outline, a figure in a dream
barely beheld, looming
we wished on a penny
thrown into the smoking, black river
we would have followed each other into,
laughing, shocked, overwhelmed

on a hotel bed you swam in the dark river
of your own mind, and I couldn't reach you -
face hidden, crying, pinned in place
by the pressure of all your past and future.
You said your face was not your own,
that your dreams were an alien landscape,
that you were afraid we would destroy each other.

I could photograph the Chicago skyline,
caramel sun, grey lake, jagged buildings
making us so small,
but not you - bigger, more real
than water and skyscrapers,
smiling in your sleep like a Buddhist statue.
I want to expose a film to your inner suns -
delicious alien light exploding in the skin, bone and eyes
of the destroying goddess dancing

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