Poetry

Hanging God’s Grave

for Bruno Solařík

we gathered beneath the illuminated sign
at donkey-in-the-cradle
where distinterred now
the homeless kings sleeping in rows
whispering in the monastery courtyard
you were hanging God’s grave
when you fell from the ladder
amongst the winged hearts and heads
and curling golden flames
looking up to your fall
no matter how hard we try
still we cannot see the severed arm
caught in the rafters
concealed with secret narratives
by the engraver living upstairs

but on the other side of the city
there are new borders to be crossed
like wine stains
on old military maps tailored into theatrical costumes
to gatecrash all seriousness
riding out at a gallop from the stone rotunda
from the mouth of a laughing beast with two tails
following a stag into the eastern forest
pursued by pine spirits trapped in glass
and seven Chinese pirates with blue pigtails
we are lifted by the uprooted trees
rising into the air like a flock of rabbits
like an arboreal armada in night’s ocean
all trailing ancestry and damp earth
caught in its migratory path
we are carried for a timeless hour
and dropped back like clods into the city streets
so young the assurances of tobacco
for just one more drink

last seen in weathered stone
we became statues on the bridge
gesturing ‘touristical’ disturbances
for nightly entertainment to reshape the city with our laughter

from PHOSPHOR No 1 (2008) available at Surrealist Editions


Metro Place Blanche

Beneath the stone arch a black barge glides already seen
In repeated flickerings
Arch of tempests and irrevocable messages
At the prow a Russian sailor
Playing an accordion the colour of sexual nostalgia
A melancholic tango
The moaning ventilators of a tunnel that swallows its own dark curve
An underground river carrying our restless thoughts
Past alcoves where rusting traps shed their skin
Almost invisible in a light of the faintest filament
Where a hand of glory grasps an outdated almanac
And gestures mesmerically
Towards the descent of our ancestors on a wooden escalator
Seen through the wrong end of a telescope
Silver coins drop from their eyes between the slatted steps
Dusted with old footprints and feathers
Removing our blindfolds we watch the movement of the clouds
Through passing windows the shoals of reflecting eyes
The look-at-me-but-don’t-look faces fading on posters
Again the spirit boat approaches the shore
But never reaches our time
Now it is the ghosts that should be afraid
On the platform opposite a cormorant opens its wings
And we realise that our shoes are wet
On a bench somewhere
A newspaper reads itself to sleep
The banner headline
Always you will forget me


Lost Promise

We will walk the plaster cracks and spider lines
The twisting and narrow streets
With green ink dripping from our fingers
Past the hotels made from fallen leaves
Past the crumbling marzipan houses
Glowing amber the barley-sugar cathedral
Where insects enact the arrest of a conscientious objector
Caught in the resin of a human eye
See how fast the friendless corpse with severely parted hair
Runs after the empty hearse
Past the closed cafés polished with beeswax and turpentine
Past the postcard kisses kept under glass
We will walk arm in arm across the ceiling
Beneath the cherry-blossoms at midnight
Collecting echoes that no longer have a purpose
Treading lightly on carpet remnants
I would teach you the language of windows and latches
And you would teach me the mysteries of sleep
Faraway I can hear a knock at the door
In a house where I used to live
I can hear the sound of crows and distant bells
A barrel-organ abandoned half-way across a bridge
The sound of dice thrown into the river
More luminous than an unsilvered mirror
I can hear your voice the colour of mimosa
Your forgetful spells wrapped in cellophane and tied
With threads pulled from a lunar eclipse
A passing shadow
Covers my eyes with your fingers playing guessing-games
And in an enchanted forest
Snow falls from the trapdoor of your glance

from MANTICORE No 6 (2002) available at Surrealist Editions


Sidereal Navigation

for Stephen Clark

The faceless children of all ages
In a row
Conjured out of cloth
Sewn together with dry ink
And ragged thoughts that hang in winter hedgerows
Their seismic remnants of transgression
Chalked across the night sky
With planchettes on their feet
They slide down a meadow of frost crystals
To the sea
Their pirate hats filled to the brim with green marble
From a stranger’s grave
The moon rolling behind their shadows
Fastened by lenticular hooks and eyes
Against the wind
Smoking churchwarden pipes
They take to the waves in a coracle
Abandoned in the street
Like a coffin
Or a bed of aeolian harps
With long spokes and rusted springs
That protrude from the sand
Like the immutable handwriting of a poet
Delivered from the last century
Or perhaps the one before
We sail


Unfinished Afternoon

She rests her right hand
Amongst the neglected souvenirs from vanished cities
Collected like rumours
Upon a mantelpiece over a forest fire
Empty like the naked branches
That surround our naked thoughts
With her left hand she offers me fruit
Seeded with nails
Nestling a tiny bat curled up like a stone
But instead of rust and blood and fur
I taste the sugared alphabet of her lips
In a kiss that is a place
Where we had once upon a time gathered without purpose
Wax seals and noisy shells
The whispering buttonholes
We buried their pantomime costumes
In twilight gardens
Lost in the softness of unhurried assumptions
Their painted bones
Polished smooth by our youthful laughter
We added to a mural of our fingers
Distorted by the revolving mirror-ball
Teenage lightning
Casting silver shadows which fall like brambles
Across our path
A swathe cut through the unsettled dust
By the cruel streaks of our tongues
Glittering
Until the forgotten hours unclasp our hands
And an iron gate closes our mouths


Shipwrecked

An ocean swell beneath the flowers
Raising plastic galleons from a bed of earth
The pieces float up like polished fingernails
And gleam against her thigh
Marking the contours of a pomegranate
From which night seeps
Corrosively
Onto salt-bleached floorboards
Which burn my skin with a scattering of flints
Like licorice cockroaches that taste of gunpowder
That taste of names reversed
Of places faded on the brittle parchment of an old map
Like the calligraphy of her tongue
In my memory
And a knotted eye staring from the grain of splintering timbers
Backwards into the crumpled stars
Blown softly across my face


The Beginnings of Anatomy

for Bill Howe

This black lung
Stretched like the membranes of space
Embedded with fireflies
Like a fingerprint smeared with crushed berries
Like a nightwatchman’s brazier
Each breath
Incinerates a fossilised star
And exhales the spores of an autumnal evening
Stretched like the gauze
Of a robe between the teeth of wild boars
Like the murmur of overcoats
Like the reverberation of an invisible object
A mirror turned inside out
And a coagulant black powder
Fallen to earth
In a field of whispers

from MANTICORE No 1 (1997) available at Surrealist Editions


Keepsake Of Transparence

There is a day torn out and scattered with lilac blossoms
As I look back through a tear in the curtain
Out into the wooden stalls
Where she sits unseeing
Through a hole ripped in the shadows
Pushing back waves from the lighthouse door
She places around my neck
A red-and-white lifebelt or an ivy wreath
The cry of seagulls and a ruined priory
Bolted and enclosed in her listening
She thought she could hear spiders crawling in her hair
And I am invited to dare oblivion
Against the varnished petals
Opening on a patterned carpet below
In a telephone box like a red crayon
Scrawling awkward silences
Between the snowflakes that fall around our words
There is a night more distant than a porcelain hand
In a glove of ebony hornets
Reaching out to pull a sleeve from empty coats
Like a fur trailed through smoked glass
Snatching the darkness that leaks from our mouths
From black shawls laced with vodka
Unravelling the spirit-catcher from her shoulders
In an artificial light
Scrolled with the soft cruelty of her games
Her sharp potions
Combing my skin with long metal teeth
She falls asleep behind a barricade
Of satin and velvet
In the restless gasp of leather
Suspending time with green liqueurs
The remote intimacy of her smile
Recedes into the shadows of empty arcades
That I have never seen
Where I could never hear the speculum tears
Or the footsteps of departure
The shy threats that she made
And the saline breeze on ancient stones
The lichens that spelled out the gentle lacerations
Of our exchange
If only I had read you then
Encompassed by the night in its entirety

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