Mahal

I
am some kind of centre
echo vacuum where sound cyclones
an eye behind black glass
a girl on her birthday, shaking
as the animals charge from their cages
a boy swaying in the treetop
summer wind, raincloud chic
a wave in a clear medium
a smile full of smiles

I bring
the giant's gold down from the cloud castle
so naive, sold on magic
carrying my riches in a satchel
appleseed and honest water
heart and brain pierced by an icicle
calling for my sister,
dead and buried in the belly of a wolf

I bring the sky
in between my toes,
under my fingernails, in my hair
all by accident, I never know where I go
a grinning face in a crazed mirror
shards of the shattered air
a jigsaw for a fevered brain
a dance of numbers, archetypes
around a hole in reality

I bring the sky and the earth
with me to the palace door
orange sun on the becalmed sea,
a road between the darkness and the light
unfinished, mapped and wished for
in the mad dreams of an emperor
sick with love, eating death
in small bites, like a handful of rice
no lover, no kingdom, no freedom
he loves her, always will, forever

I bring the sky and the earth together

Dark Night of the Soul

shrieking under folds of blackness,
hands clawing at the fabric of an unlit tent.
veins swelling in a vacuum, empty eye sockets wide.
the midnight of his memory full of monsters.
what we know as horror: the crossing of death into life,
the corpse walking with a blind smile,
the puppets jerking at their strings.
his mother's bloody grin, holding her own head by the hair,
and he ran out the door into the apocalypse they promised him:
the destiny of the destroyed atom, and a trillion ghosts
left to roam a nightmare planet in unfinished visions.

slicing himself for the feeling of bright sharpness, the reality.
sky on a frozen winter's day, the cloud diamondcutter.
the clarity when he first loved her, when he first recognised her
and became a river running to her. the deathly fear
when he lay awake in the living night-time, presences
crowding in his awareness, afraid to turn over.
when he took the elevator to the basement of his mind
and found the mutilated man, madness shining in his remaining eye.
the boy in the abandoned house who swallowed a living scorpion -
tongue numb with venom, his skin turned black and livid -
but inside he became a storm of daisies, summer light and wind.
someone who would love the demons and angels alike -
an alchemist, at war with the dead physics of his universe.

strange notes from the other side of a drugged mind:
"what the FUCK happens when we die?" and the feeling
of crossing into an unknown land. his only journey:
miles of roads lined with bodies and flowers, tiger paws,
daggers, vertigo footage from cameras falling off cliffs.
or, like faded newsreel, spotted and flickering, set to the sound
of muttering, whispering voices, old showtunes:
the body's last words,
spoken on a sunlit evening stretching into neverness.

Red Paper

A dark-haired girl
   shy since her birth
burns once
   like a magnesium flare
in every twenty years

The wish itself
   is what she fears -
to bare her litmus skin
   and weep
at each electrochemical kiss

3 Chords And No Chorus

When I think of you alone in your bedroom,
chilly evening light, white walls, quiet air,
picking out sad sweet songs on a black guitar -

I don't wish any more that I was there with you -
all our stories together have come to their ends.
But I wish for the bedroom not to be empty -

for your face to be alive with a smile -
singing to be heard, playing to be seen,
someone's eyes full of the sight of you.

Reasons Not To Go Home

The city is drunk
and then there's me -
sober, surreal, softly
walking beside the viscid river,
witnessing:
her spangles, white and orange;
her patience, the way she gathers
everything in strange arms
as gifts for the ocean.

I have gifts, in a plastic bag:
a chocolate egg left from Easter.
A copy of Time Magazine.
Stray words in my mind,
which I will write down
because that is how I can stay alive.

My mother gave me the egg.
She wastes nothing, except time.
She never learned how to live
with time, and its gathering
of all the pretty things
to the mercy of their endings.

Alone in my bedroom, I can hear
traffic, voices from the street,
wind sometimes, and if it rains
I will leave my window open
and imagine that I am on a journey
across many miles of water.

I truly have no reason to be here
except that I'm waiting
to feel my lover's hands on my face -
I'm waiting to lie with her
and whisper that I remember her
from a lighter, more gentle place.

One day all the stories of me
will end, like the lights on the river -
maybe borne like funeral candles into the sea,
or maybe disappeared into daylight,
but either way, tenderly, without harm,
no one there to see or be afraid.

For now, I can only be a prayer
in the living darkness,
heard by silent companions,
stilled into the air's memory
even as I am carried without end
from moment to moment. And she
is the prayer that I am, the plea
that I make, the desperate language
that no one ever taught me -
no one ever needed to.
 

XTC

I'm running
I'm high on birdwing delight
I'm drunk on old sunlight
I've had enough of insight

I'm suddenly brave
I'm dashing through the streets at night
I'm not wrong and I'm not right
I'm insane and impolite

I'm shadow, I'm ammonite
I'm spiralling through time tonight
I'm breathing and bright
I'm stealing the moonlight

I'm struck dumb
I'm afraid of the energy
I'm in love with the anarchy
I'm a part of the synergy

I'm as fluid as a symphony
I'm enraged in ecstasy
I'm the enemy of entropy
I'm a tender anemone

I'm a melody of one
I'm Celsius, I'm Farenheit
I'm running at a great height
I'm stealing the afterlife

I'm dawning in the dark
I'm in the park in the morning
I'm the man you see yawning
In the lemon-yellow light.

Heroes

I never moved the mirror
from its stand in the corner
where it was left, like a sentinel,
by the previous owner –

the still water of another mind
full of old reflections and purposes.
I used to be surprised to see myself there,
a ghost in my own home, lost on the surface.

I was hardly even aware
that on my way to the office, walking
past the arcades, threading the crowds,
rushing in the sharp, late morning,

I could have turned aside
where Westland Row meets Merrion Square,
under the windows of the Davenport Hotel –
or, really, any road, anywhere –

just kept on walking,
through Ringsend and beyond,
past the tailbacks and the trailers
to where the sea meets the long strand;

boarded a small sailboat,
anything that floats on water,
a catamaran, even a dinghy;
and set off into an unknown future.

I was hardly aware of my own hands,
their softness, their blunt power,
the way they callus so quickly
if I have to lift and carry for a few hours.

Or of my nose, its many colours,
brown and orange and pink,
the blocked pores, the faint sheen
after an evening on the drink.

The way my hair shines
under a yellow light.
The happiness of breathing.
The freedom of being awake at night.

Night-time when I was younger
was cool sheets and my mother’s voice,
telling stories from picture books:
the poisoned land, the hero’s choice –

the silly rabbit and the duckling
who hugged each other at the end
and made the whole world happy,
‘and no-one was ever alone again’ –

I’d go to sleep in the shuddering darkness,
the power of the stories whirling
in my stomach and behind my eyes.
I became a dreamer in the world.

I burned with that energy;
I chose to be the flame-haired hero,
to make his choices, to be the brightness
in the story, without fear.

I didn’t know - at every turn, every choice
I could have gone elsewhere.
The catamaran; the other girls;
the boy with the untidy hair

who smiled at me in the library,
and my spine tingled from end to end;
the thousand countries and cities
where I would have made friends;

the way I would have kissed
the Spanish girl in the sunlit alcove
if I’d been braver, if I’d known
she too was only looking for love.

In some weird future, the hero
maybe is dying on the dirty floor
of a Bangkok shack, heroin
in his veins, voices at the door –

or sitting at the kitchen window
as dawn begins to light the rooftops
of any city; she’s asleep in the bedroom,
and there’s coffee on the hob.

Maybe in the million stories
there’s just one hero, wandering
from room to room, screen to screen;
moving with open, wondering eyes

through the labyrinth of mirrors,
while the audience, if there is one,
accepts each change of mask and scene
without fear, even with a sense of fun.

Just to look at a tree, to really look –
a tree in a dream, on a diamond plateau,
or a tree in the rain in Merrion Square,
leaves dripping, branches dark and soaked,

the way the leaves open like hands
to catch the raindrops, as a child would –
you can’t be in a story.
You never hear of Red Riding Hood

stopping in the woods, fascinated
by the shimmering moss, the ancient stone,
forgetting her errand; in her immortality
she doesn’t have that freedom.

But you do; even the eyes of the girl
when she tells you she likes you;
if you really want to see her,
you can’t be a hero. You can only be you.
 

Freedom and the Travelling Circus

Freedom is a careful clown
Who takes his shoes upstairs
And polishes his toenails
With a brush of horsy hairs

Freedom's nose is festive
And his smile is gaudy paint
His buttons are a child's delight
Indubitably quaint

Freedom runs away
When all his friends are throwing pies
And wonders why the birdies
Grow much bigger than the flies

When Freedom sleeps he doesn't dream
Of persimmons or hoops
Nor of the bearded ladyboy
Who gurgles when s/he stoops

His head becomes a thousand feathers
In a pillowcase
And if he washed the night before
He'll wake without a face

Honour

ice and cloud in the evening, walking home
to a feather bed and a glass of milk
only a memory of her skin in candle-light

the samurai a dancer in my mind
flaying the air in ecstasy
lord of the bracken and the ditches

leaving the flickering screens empty
hiding to listen to voices from the road
as the brown dusk brings mist

i kneel in her shadows
i lie down before her to see her smile
to me she is the flame of a cool fire

i swear we are not like this
this couldn’t be me, who kisses good night
hears his lover’s door close

stands on the bridge over the oily canal
unable to cry, no pleas left
scared she cannot love him as he needs to be loved

Samurai
cherry blossom on white robes
white like the eye is white

draws blade to strike the sun itself
dances before the sun itself
unafraid

only the ghost me is unafraid
only the ghost me needs no one
i’ll beg for the touch of her hand

i’ll never accept the ghost of the girl
the drowning dancer who smiles
and asks me not to ask her how she is

Nemesis

the sun has a sister
a dark little petal
of a white spiral rose

her heart never exploded
like her effervescent brother
a trillion miles away

she looms through the comets
invisible, planet eater
silent in dreams

she knows what she is -
dark matter
for crushing the universe again