Author

On Smith Street and Nagle Lane.

 

 Outside the supermarket

A man surrounded by fat, heaving along his belly.

Is squatting on a chrome bench

Sucking hard on a cigarette.

He looks a cool breeze away from a heart attack.

On the same road

A young woman as beautiful as summer rain

Stands by a fast food restaurant looking lost.

Her eyes are wide and gentle,

She has all the innocence and none of the hardness

too many people in this place carry in them.

Around her are cold people, angry at life. People whom lovers have fooled

Life has lied to them, broken their dreams like old sticks

This woman is no reflection of these others,

I watch her walk along the street

And feel ashamed to follow her with my eyes.

She passes near the fat man

He drops his cigarette

And leans forward, like a boulder soon to drop

And says something I am not able to hear.

Her face changes, something horrid has been spoken,

She steps away; he is laughing now.

 The flower has been stepped on.

How long will it be before she is changed forever?

The world crushes what it falls upon.

That Queen, The Moon.

She started to stay away,

That beautiful woman,

And she didn’t share with me those sweet secrets she used to,

So the terrible feeling crept in like winter wind under the door.

I set out to a friend’s farm to keep away for a while.

I would lay awake in the morning, watching the sun arrive

Pressing against my open window, putting a foot inside warming what he touched.

Early, early, I would set out across the dew-wet grass,

toward the mountains, toward the pine forests.

Even as the sun rose, the moon still sat in the sky,

Like a queen, not moving, not being told to leave,

But pleased herself to walk in night dripping with diamonds

And to stay in the day, watching over that fool, the sun.

Slowly she would leave, unhurried, in her own time

To sleep in her private chambers over the hills.

In the forests, I could breathe, rest alone and witness the forest animals,

Like spirits

Dancing across the fallen logs and up the sides of ancient trees.

I listened to the silent streams and watched for fish.

I knew that without her life continued,

And no one is irreplaceable. 

Except for the moon, the moon alone is unique.

These are the poets

Poems are born from wild times,

From struggle, love and anger,

from men with soft hearts and hard fists,

from women whose smiles are like gold,

whose dreams are larger than the moon

And harder to reach.

Poems are not soft or weak,

They die if given 9 – 5 jobs

And secure homes with understanding friends.

Poems live at 2 am, drinking liquor and waking up in strange rooms with strange people

They live on new cities, tough attitudes,

Unplanned journeys, tall beautiful women on short dark streets

And fist fights with broken glass in their mouths.

Poems don’t live with old men who never danced in the fire

They don’t share a bed with someone who has never been broken

Poems see the devil and laugh.

Silas the famous poet, leaped from the ship at Troy

and dug his feet into the sand, his eyes surveyed the lines of men

heavy with shields and crazed with spear.

The sound of armed men crashing, ringing like thunder

Dying with choking screams and soaking the ground with their blood.

Silas wrote his best poems here.

Twenty-five centuries passing like shadows

Silas the poet still lives, standing on the city bridge, looking out into the lights

Seeing lovers walk hand in hand, deciding if he should jump or not.

Seeing the angry dying with a choking scream

On busy streets, in the arms of strangers,

The lonely driven insane by loneliness.

Pick up a pen and write of love that was never found

Of kindness that was never received

Poems are the children of the angry and mad, the ones not chosen,

Those who tried to hold another and were left

To lie awake at midnight cursing at the moon.

These are the poets.

 

A walk home

Walking home from a meeting,

Where a man had screamed at us, telling us how to vote

And who, in those greedy seats of power,

We were told, had the best interests of the people at heart,

I saw a mechanic at work in a small garage on the edge of town.

The sun was dipping low, the clouds were red and yellow

And the tall, thin man, covered in the black blood of automobiles

Slowly stepped out from under a car lifted high

And switched on his lights so he could see by.

How hard he works, I thought,

Long hours and hard labour

I could see the lines on his face,

The hardness of his skin

The thin hungry look he had,

No tax funded office, no chauffeured car.

Long hours into the night, oil, and bleeding knuckles.

The lights in her eyes

At university

I took a few English literature classes.

I would sit in the same seat each week, usually alone

But I would read all the texts

I would hand in all the assessments

And I did well.

I loved the poems, the novels, the short stories.

I took a subject called literature and the screen.

Every Wednesday night the class would attend the campus cinema

To study a movie on that big screen.

I met her on the first night

She had dark black hair and sat just behind me

Her face was gentle like an angel’s

And beautiful.

The dark cinema, would throw pure white light upon her

showing her brown eyes.

She wore woollen tops, and the sleeves would be pulled down over her hands

She wore jeans that hugged her beautifully.

We would talk in the darkness

And she would make me laugh

Her perfection would burn me inside

And each night I would think of her, counting down the days until I saw her again.

I never asked her out, I don’t even remember her name,

But I think of her often.

That I was too shy to tell her how I felt

Still haunts me.

I wonder what she is doing now,

Do you wonder what is happening to those you loved?

I hope all those old loves are happy,

And may they live forever in our hearts.

 

 

 

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Kindness of the saints

The maniac Simon Freidland creeps along the city street; his pants splashed with mud.

A tattered coat little defence against the cold, he sleeps on a mattress outside the train station,

His beloved wife left him when the money ran out, and the booze took hold.

He saw Saint Patrick last night

Between the Woolworths and the liquor store.

The Saint had nodded and understood all at once

How unfair life had become and this kindness of the Saint filled Simon with a warmth

That faded into a soft light at two a.m. just as the gentle rain began to fall.

 

Simon’s wife, only blocks away on the thirtieth floor of a high rise building

Rolls over in the warm bed

And runs her hand between her legs and along her belly.

He is in the bathroom and in this moment of reflection,

She looks in the mirror and thinks how time has rushed away

She holds back a tear

But the emptiness inside pains her.

What she has lost will not be found with different men each night.

 

Andrew stands in the bathroom and wonders about his health.

It has started to sting when he urinates

And sometimes sores appear on his body.

He has told no one. His mind goes to the woman in his apartment,

Lying in his bed.

He didn’t know her five hours ago and now she is spending the night.

He knows how to convince women to take their clothes off

But he can’t remember the date of his son’s birth.

 

Andrew’s mother lies quietly in her bed a state away,

In the morning she will be dead. She has been sick lately and now old age can take no more.

She dreams of the Virgin Mary, whose gentle actions and thoughts save the souls of tired sinners.

What dreams do the dying dream? She once wondered

And now, in her final hours she discovers. They are sad dreams, lonely dreams

No different to any of the dreams she has had before.

When that dream ends, she dreams Andrew has come home to see her for this last moment.

The lonely room within this quiet house will hold her safe while she fades away.

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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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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