She woke with tears of irredeemable bitterness. Robes of a date tree Wrapped around her waist, Her breasts. Anthropologists unearthed her arms, Described them in rubics And geometrics. Did not document the reddish stars That ventured across her peach skin, Fine silk trees sprouted from her pores. Did not detect antelope scents, Nights in Romagnano Codifiume With no fires. They said her body spoke Cultural languages of pure, white snow. Could not discern a single phrase She had spoken. Did not hear the trumpets and tantaramas Of her grave. They said it was easier to kill her Than to disintegrate her individual form.
She was nostalgic for unknowns. Firedrops that burned red, silken panties, Beads of panther sweat, Photographs. Orange blossoms melted her senses, With their falseness. She kept the roots of nettles in wood alcohol. Walked home as a small Indian man Dressed in white. Made jars of pickles for children. She held tarot cards up to the lamp So as to see through them. She was last seen gathering roots Among the willows by a river of stone. Her home is now a Office Depot parking lot, Acquired through condemnation laws.
Once My Pretty Doubts
Once my pretty doubts put on a pretty dress, strolled down the streets of the town and smiled at the handsome young certainties who stood looking dapper in their bowties and clean shirts and shiny shoes. And my pretty doubts pursed their red lips, coquettishly wiggled their hips at the crowd, blushed and flirted with all the eligible certainties who yearned for pretty doubts, who believed they were the one -- each inevitable, undeniable, holding up flowers and candy, wishful of courtship; so certain the mob of certainties blessed with a rosy, candied scent seized my pretty doubts, tore my pretty dress, and each certainty in their turn held me down and soiled me.
In the Rooming House
Last night old gentlemen in the rooms listened bleakly for the lamps to murmur on; all believed steadfast in the turning of doorknobs, which each night brought order into the world. The creaky floorboards hastened toward disbelief, always the point of discussion loomed brightest at the end of an argument. The plumbing blustered its faith, unchanged after three decades, skirted the hard questions, but found in half answers a place to rejoice, since the plump day had queerly run through the world, begging a favor, which they had never granted, though on this plump day gave foolishly away.
They opened a file as soon as I appeared in print a red star and a yellow sticker meaning 'Trained at The Anglo-American School Of Typewriter wrestling'. I am on parole after 6 months writing Latin epigrams. I have given my word to mind my language no more going equipped with Pound & Williams. I have agreed to write proper English Verse like Masefield & De La Mare, stay away from Bunting. The Judge's dictionary has lots of words. Recidivist. Flaneur.You know the sort of thing. If I offend again I will be exiled to a place where the, language has no word for pyjamas. I will not use foreign words not even the ones we stole from other languages. I will not make my typewriter commit unnatural acts. I will not spill my politics on the paper. The Poetry Police are beating out a rhythm on my door, trochaic tetrameter paraphrasing Beethoven, Thus Fate Knocks At The Door. Read ma badge.You're huckled ya wee clype.BELT UP. They have brought a chair with straps,a copy of The Dodo Book Of Dead White Middle Class Chaps From Oxford. They will either bore me to death or re-educate me to be a useful citizen. They had a spy taping last night's reading. "I'll read some new work" came out as 'These words are a conditional discharge to stain your fingers and pollute your mind'
Cats Against Nuclear Power
They are an elegant exercise in perfect timing they can even make millions for mediocre composers prancing women in painted leotards a pale imitation denying Old Possum's grinning skull beneath the skin. We never hear their mating cries in the garden they do their fighting and fucking somewhere else. As a child in Glasgow that noise terrified me convinced it was the souls of lost demon children rising up the walls of our tenement to the kitchen window to hang there inviting me to join them. I prayed they could not make me get out of bed. Do you remember that film Children of The Damned their red eyes shining power and command taking over dull 50s England with ease. Does your cat order you about with superiority confident of who is the master race rebuking you for not anticipating his every wish. Having seen a Scottish wildcat rip open a dead sheep I am thankful our little masters from Egypt and Lake Van are like Napoleon small but perfectly formed garden size gods. I sleep well at night untroubled by evil I hardly notice the nuclear trains passing through on the line at the bottom of Crouch Hill. I believe the scientists who say it's safe. But my cat stays in at night till it passes he knows how small things die in the night wakes me up when it crosses Hackney Marshes believes water is barrier to anything unnatural.
Where I Go in My Dreams
The place in the dream is familiar, a sepia scene where the trams turn in a circle in the Vienna Woods. 1 have never been there in real life any more than say, San Francisco, another city I could navigate via films or reconstruct stone by stone from books. I have a strong and aching memory of leaning against the rear rail of the tram talking to a pretty girl. In Dutch she would be gezellige. 1 cannot think of the German equivalent nor what her name might have been even though we had just kissed, might have been lovers, our soundtrack a Strauss waltz, called I believe, Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald, the narrative borrowed from Kafka or Freud as you choose. The clothes make it pre-war, but which war, the sepia tinge implies nostalgia, slow tempos, good manners, not Harry Lime's shifty paranoia. As dawn approaches I know the film is running out even though I am still asleep. I hope to meet this girl again, learn her name, perhaps take her father for a beer, but for now, the tram starts up again, she steps off, and walks away not looking back up the moonlit road running into the woods.
I didn't go round the world. It went around me crossing time zones in my sealed-off balloon, following inflight-arrows across Europe, Asia, Australia. Don't ask what day it is - my body clock ticks in those concertinaed intervals between borders and continents, oceans urging them forward. I can't find sleep. Instead I have birds crisscrossing the lanes of my head. They saw my airship slip by and me peering through a window, setting my watch by the stars. I'll catch up with this shaky life, wrap it around me like a quick nap. Leonardo put such problems on hold with his ornithopter, needing wings to flap before it could move. So much for all that sky-gazing, wanting to get off the ground. Now I'll just sleep on possibilities. I'm still thirty thousand feet up, nudging clouds like a sunset, the day slipping through my fingers.
Thinking of my Mother on her Anniversary
I search her face across a hemisphere, embark on one more journey. Will you come? She's ready with the thermos, wearing her brown gardening-shoes, her glasses slipping forward on her nose. Says she's been planting dahlias to make a summer show, a new display for the place she calls her Park. Over the cloudbank it's candescent, close. I dare her to keep up with me. She shuffles answers to fit my questions. We float - almost sisters in the glide of it.
A cave of air softens, hovers over our heads. We've waited all year for this: the March lull, the park almost tourist-free. Put your ear to this unsaddled soil, sound out the mating-calls of beavers, rabbits, voles; hear horses' hoofbeats pound nearer-far. I have made an altar of calm among these ageing oaks, lines of stiff-backed trees. Our walk circles the ancient house, grounds set off by daffodils. A five-year-old sings a nursery rhyme, wanting to pat sheep. Their beady eyes distract, promising only puzzles. We call ourselves comfortable explorers, notice a wine-glass left among the ferns. A squirrel skids into wintry hiding. As the light fades, we study each other's faces for signs of sun.
from London Visions
Glad In Mayfair
Nothing here only the smooth purr of fabulous limousines and carpets softer than fur. Nothing here but a few boutiques, squares, and square gardens where days are longer than weeks. Nothing that is not completely owned and more out-of-reach than stars, nothing that could not be made or cloned by the infinite discretion of wealth: save an apple-skin sky over Hyde Park and a cat moving with stealth towards superior Grosvenor Square. And, yes, though I blush to admit it, myself, just glad to be there.
Who never tired of London but was often tired of life. Who, where the French philosophes played it pretty safe Making their gallic lexicon by a forty-strong committee, Wrote the first English dictionary quite single-handedly. Yet who protested himself the often guilty idler Loving taverns of an evening and to be a nighttime rambler When the noisy life of day like dung had settled down Into damp smoky shadows beneath a whorish moon. Who said, 'Be not satisfied with greater thoroughfares Follow little lanes and courts, not the grander squares'. Who in a very humble court lived an untidy sage, Like an ungainly giant in a periwig of age That shrank upon his head yarmulka-wise Drank tea by the litre and port pint-sized When in The Mitre or Turk's Head wittily opining In sentences that were ponderous yet refining Of a sophistry and wisdom which made him even then The supremely pompous Cham of our Great Wen.
Reflecting Thy Mind but made by maggot men A new grim Troy that burns forever and again. A nebula of lights, a river's will, born From a storm in heart's darkness, spawn Of a long proud history, you vivify me, London, like a modern jewelled Rood Tree. What I'm saying as I walk your rain-spat streets Is I find in your turning days time meets More than time but it is no easier to explain Than why the least white speck of love has pain In it and all the joys imaginable also. To some you're just a bloody West End show But to me, even in your Mammon's Quarter That cannot ever deny the spirit's slaughter You are a paradigm beyond words, Not some gross model built of golden turds But copy of a higher city, Wren's Zion Spun from light-stars by the billion. In Eastcheap, Cheapside and Covent Garden The splutter of ideas meet the silence of vision And like sparrows that in plane trees merge So I in all my active atoms often verge On understanding but end in leaf-strewn loss.
Such cruel ingenuity Volpone you possessed for foxing folk of their gold: exquisite your act those ointment-coated eyes horrible and liar's cough brittle as reeds in the throat. Such pretence at being old on which your lust alone blew the gaff seeing chance of rape on friend's white-armed wife who managed to escape. And you still live in guileful guise for every generation, welcome the sun's glory as second best to money and in place of opulent palace have an office in the City. Your games are more on paper now and somewhat technical if not less profitable but there's come-uppance as before, always parasites around to be the fly in every ointment you try.
Trawling monochrome seas of the past, old boat you occupy memory now: tall sharp-sparred mainmast with sky-stitched rigging through which hoarse winds shrilly blew. Your salt-starred crew with chapped hands and rum-ripe faces are gone: asleep in wormy bunks on land beneath earth's huge bulkhead undisturbed by ocean's roll and rhythm. In photography's album of lost days I find you pictured in deathlessness caught in the act of braving bold waves, and it is as if you still sailed on past tussocky headlands of time. Foam sudding your sodden sides, voices calling tarry commands, tired arms tugging at mainbraces events in the deaf-and-dumb language of image, you frozen trawler tossed forever in the bay of my mind! And I cannot help asking how real is the past? Or death, how blind? When an old boat that is now no more can sail still by my living shore?