Month: August 2016

The meeting in the reading room.

In the reading room of the library,

Under the dome of the white and golden light

Where timber desks surround a great central platform

And students sleep next to their laptops, their devices keeping their laps warm,

An old man sits alone with white eyes, half blind.

He laughs to himself as if an angel is telling him jokes.

As I pass, I see a book of poems open before him,

The page he has open, features Blake’s great poem.

He sees me and says;

‘If only all God’s followers were prophets.’

I stop and look into those wells of milk

And he smiles again, a black smile of soft lips and moisture.

‘In the end, we are all alone, but we can always have the words,

The poems never leave us; it is we who leave the poems.’

He wants me to say something; I can see the desperation in his old face,

The desperation for someone to talk to him,

But I say nothing and move on, sitting in a far corner behind a young woman

Wearing a red coat, every move she makes sets fire to the air around her,

the world under her heal.

What time does she have for poems?

Poems are for the desperate to whom no one talks.

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To a good home

The sun coming down

over the crossroads

throws a golden light across the dust.

The wooden fences create shadow patterns of crosshatch.

I left town before light and now as the cool air melts away

and I notice the mud on my boots

my mind drifts back to you.

I picture you still in bed,

not waking at this hour, not yet,

missing the sunrise but smiling softly in your dreams.

I will never forget how we would talk in the mornings,

You would tell me your dreams and you’d laugh.

But I’ve had to leave, and when you hold someone else

and tell them your dreams

make sure they listen

and treat you softly

May kindness rain on you in torrents.

 

A childhood love

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I stood knee deep in the water

Looking at the brown body half submerged before me.

Its skin like dry paper

Or the skin of a well-cooked chicken.

I watched fascinated by the death,

The water playfully lapping about it

While I felt terrified to be near it.

‘Not so near, not so near,’

I whispered to myself.

The river had the brown colour of chocolate and the smell

Was of swamp, fish and now death.

My shorts were wet; I was not supposed to be swimming

But the temperature of the day increased

Until the river sand burned my feet and I needed to stand in the cool of the water.

The strong current, the smooth stones under my feet made me feel so good.

The animal’s horns were white and clean, the only things, apart from its teeth

That were not rotting, falling away. A part of its rib cage poked through its hide

The cow must have come from a farm nearby, or perhaps a farmer had dumped it.

None the less I was frozen, knee deep and fascinated.

Someone from the bank called my name, a woman,

I turned and saw her coming over the sand toward me,

Her yells, high and forceful.

She was not from here; she came to this town to study

My parents paid her to take care of me.

I wanted her in the water with me,

I wanted her confronted with this death and this life.

I was only young, but I was fascinated by her,

She would let me watch her dry her hair after the shower.

I would sit quietly, watching her face,

That gentle smile, the movement of her eyes as they flashed behind her blown hair

That soft brown blown hair that danced like fires on the sun.

She stood by the river, not screaming, just speaking to me

Asking me if I were to swim.

So kindly, so gently.

She had shown me pictures of her time in Africa

She had shown me pictures of her boyfriend.

His dark black skin shone like precious stones, his smile

His confident look, challenging the camera.

He had been run over by a truck

She told me

They had been together on the street and he had stepped out

She saw him

Pushed along the ground as a boot would do to a banana.

She had held me to her as she told the story

I hugged her and listened to her heartbeat

She smelled of honey and spice

‘What is that there?” she asked

We both stood in the heat, the sound of the river like a crowd’s murmur

And pondered the mystery of this death.

 

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Winter not a summer

 

There is not too much speaking

We’re brooding quietly

While through the hills, the sun is peeking.

We’re just happy sitting here, doing our best thinking

You’re more beautiful than words and all of heaven’s holy birds

And I mean it – straight to you.

 

Many people think that all I say is true

Most of it is, but some lies

I say to stop feeling blue

But if I say you’re beautiful

I mean it through and through

And I mean it- straight to you.

 

Your smile, your soft hair

The pretty clothes you wear

You think you’re just normal but my hearts says beware,

You’re better than all others

More kind and more fair

And I mean it- straight to you.

 

You’re honest and you’re kind,

I love your pretty feet,

If I had to meet anyone again,

It’s you l’d like to meet

And no matter where you go I hope you’re always on a loving street

And I mean it – straight to you.

 

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Lazarus Danwood

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I look out my window across to the setting sun

coming down over the pine forest, the weather grows cool.

Her love grew cold, faster than the movement of the sun.

I stand in dread that we may have created something

That will forever haunt me

An innocent born from two people who cannot get along.

A knock comes at my door,  

A terrible smell fills my lungs, and I gasp,  

There stands before me Danwood,

A man dead six days now. I saw him buried.

His face collapsed, his eyes gone, his skin purple-grey.

I, in terror, step back into the house

He shuffles in, gently, terrifyingly softly

He sits at the kitchen table

keeping those black sockets fixed on me, staring, endless doom in his vision.

He motions with a purple-black hand for me to sit with him.

“Do,” he says in a growl that sounds like it came from underground.

I sit, moving my chair back from the table, out of his reach.

I say nothing, I shiver and nod, as if all the world had collapsed.

“Your misery and suffering, pleasure and joy are nothing,” he says, “it all comes to none in the grave.”

“What are you?” I ask.

“I was Danwood, now I am a part of the universe” he growls.

“How are you here?”

“I am here to see you, remember we spoke two weeks ago? You were my guest, you said

The young seem younger now that I grow old, and we all agreed that youth is a blessing.

I am here to tell you that we are all for the grave.”

He said nothing more, his mouth fallen open like cargo unfastened.

He reached with his right hand, took his left hand, broke it from his arm and put it on the table.

Those eyes, those empty black holes, kept me fixed, his teeth so white in his brown jaw.

‘Why such horror?” I screamed.

“I asked myself the same when I regained life,” he said, “the blackness was so soothing, so tranquil.

All forgotten, all silent, and now I again feel, I again see.”

With a low moan, he stood and shuffled again from the room,

he went into the blackening night, leaving me at the table, his left hand sitting where he left it.

The heart opens to failure

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There are no words

No poems

Sad enough to describe

This change she said.

It is true

I am too sensitive

I am too full of self-doubt

My joy is secret, untouched, unshared

She does not want to be seen with me.

But I still have legs to go on with

Eyes to see by

And I thank God.

Someone more confident, certain of themselves

With a brighter face and keener wit

Would suit her.

Someone who never doubts, never worries

Happiness is different depending on the person

It has to be this way, so everyone gets some

At least once.

Wounded and dying

Do not add tears to parting

What good is crying?

There are women who inspire poems

And those who stay to see you write them.

 

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My sister’s email

I’m feeling fine, you should see the lights here. Amazing- as if the universe were sitting on Earth,

On the bus as we came in, we turned down a dark street

And on a Church wall glowed a blue neon cross.

It almost made me cry again.

I found my room, it’s in a large building in a nice spot,

I’ve met my neighbors, they all seem nice.

You should hear the sounds of the city at night,

It’s like a recording of a dream.

I started work, I’m really enjoying it.

I hope you’re feeling better, I know this change is making me feel better

But I hope I’m not here too long; you know how I get

And how much I love home. Could you call Sal and tell her I’m OK?

Do you have any news? Can you tell everyone it’s going really well for me?

It sounds silly but it’s so big here, and so far away

I sometimes wish I’d stayed.

I haven’t seen him yet, but I’m sure he’ll arrive to see me soon.

I’ve called him to tell him I’m pregnant, but he hasn’t replied,

Could you try calling him? Could you make sure he’s here in town still if you speak to him?

I hope I don’t lose my job when the baby comes- but as soon as we’re together, it’ll be fine.

Anyway, don’t worry about me and sorry I cried when I left,

I was just tired.

The Broken Dreams

There is magic in her eyes

They dance like glittering fires

And burn with happiness

Or in sadness, they still shine,

Like lamplight in the rain.

I add her things to my collection.

The broken things lay on my bedroom floor

And I watch over them jealously.

They are memories

Letters and gifts from old girlfriends,

My grandfather’s driver’s license,

My cat’s collar.

All the items from loved ones now gone,

Left me, dead, gone.

I look over my horde, but they are no help,

they weigh on me

like stones in my heart.

I recall too late

How hollow every victory

How shattering every loss.

There stood my friend, head thrown back as he speaks to the crowd

Of his conquests and victories.

His smile and strong handsome features, glowing in the lights that shine on him alone.

No one knew then that in a year he would be dead

Run down, not looking up until it was too late.

I stay late to teach a class

Of young people who are ready to change the world

And I tell them to have passion.

Most people never have passion; most people live their lives counting years

Until they run out of them and they die, lonely in dark rooms.

How wrong I am

Many people have passion and it ruins them

It chokes them until anger, greed or lust drives them to the edge.

Perhaps the happiest people are those who find love and gather their children to them

On cold dark nights and tell them stories about people with passion