AMONG OTHER THINGS
have driven to the mall.
Any second now
will be too dark.
This close to the edge,
among other things,
Leaves rattle overhead.
of canned applause
the screened porch
in next door's yard.... more »
I know it's not playing Gaelic, it's simply not good enough
to dismiss as someone else's all that elemental Atlantic guff.
And to suggest that everything's foreign beyond the proverbial pale
amounts to a classic case of hitting the head on the nail.
But give me a dreary eastern town that isn't vaguely romantic,
where moon and stars are lost in the lights of the greyhound track
and cheering comes to nothing and a flurry of misplaced bets
blanketing the stands at dawn is about as spiritual as it gets.
Where back-to-back estates are peppered with satellite discs
and the sign of the Sunrise Takeaway doesn't flick on until six
and billows from the brewery leave a February night for dead
and the thought of smoking seaweed doesn't enter your head.
And while it's taken for granted everyone has relatives in Chicago
who share their grandmother's maiden name and seasonal lumbago,
it's probably worth remembering, at the risk of committing heresy,
as many families in Seatown have people in Blackpool or Jersey.
My own grandmother's uncle ran a Liverpool snooker hall
that cleaned up between the wars and went, of course, to the wall.
I must have a clatter of relatives there or thereabouts still
who have yet to trace their roots and with any luck never will.
I know there's a dubious aunt on my father's side in Blackburn,
a colony on my mother's in Bury called something like Bird or Horn.
I have a cousin, a merchant seaman based in darkest St. Ives,
another who came on the seventies for Man. Utd. reserves.
If you're talking about inheritance, let me put it this way:
there's a house with umpteen bedrooms and a view of Dundalk Bay
that if I play it smoothly will be prefaced by the pronoun ‘my'
when the old man decides to retire to that big after hours in the sky.
If it comes down to allegiance and a straight choice between
a trickle of shingly beaches that are slightly less than clean
and the rugged western coastline draped in visionary mystique,
give me the likes of Bray or Bettystown any day of the week.
If it's just a question of water and some half-baked notion
that the Irish mind is shaped by the passionate swell of the ocean,
I align myself to a dibble sea that's unspectacular, or flat.
Anything else would be unthinkable. It's as simple as that.... more »
being in the loop.
Grant the spruces' wish,
the golf compound
graying out of use,
suvs in the it lot,
a chorus from the quad.
Bless the elsewhere
where others are
not here or you.
after midnight . . .
is that rain or bells?... more »
To unbalance. To keel over, accidentally, or submit to the pressures of gravity.
To plummet in worth, especially currency.
To lose altitude. To take place at some pre-ordained time and date.
To swallow tall tales at face value.
To lag such a distance back along the trail as to disappear from view.
To surrender, especially a country,
to the enemy camped in its margins for all of two nights and three days.
To vanish from the radar of grace.
To have no qualms any longer when it comes to telling friends and foes alike
precisely where to stick
their olive branches. To be the kind of sap who lapses now and then
into clandestine amorous crushes.
To indulge a whole continent its own broadleaf syllable for autumn.
To arrive back unexpectedly in the afternoon
and happen upon yourself dancing a single-handed two-step on the landing
to Bechet's ‘As-tu le Cafard?'
To go, especially too far. To leave some unknown pal a shot behind the bar
and teeter out upon the dawn,
its parabola of stars, as wobbly on your pins as any newborn foal.
To bolt awake on a balcony
and see the horizon's twinset of Med and azure in the Blinky Palermo abstract
that has lain open in your lap.
To realise the only part of flight you can handle is that moment after take-off
into a blank of unmarked blue.
when you feel like a kite getting nowhere fast or a balloon strung out on helium.
To listen to sound effect CDs so often
every track eventually returns to the common denominator called ‘wind in trees'.
To think the hymns of Ulrich Zwingli funny.
To praise a glass half full of homespun pear brandy that tastes of lighter fuel.
Also, to dwell on the bruise
of one dropped apple. Also, to descend and keep descending until it becomes
a sort of modus vivendi, a buzz.
Also, to stumble and nonetheless to continue, and always to be happy to go down
in history as anybody's fool,
and somehow to believe in parachutes, and still to find it within you to forgive
the leaves whatever it is leaves do.... more »
FROM THE PEARL WORKS
Little Yang Sing, Yuzu, Hunan, Wong Wong, Imperial Siam:
all those bright syllables cascading into the bottle-bank at 5 a.m.
Spring. We get it.
After weeks on ice, buckets of pussy willow outside Woo Sang blossom & each evening is granted a little extra credit.
This is the goose-egg symbol of perfection that your perfectly pursed little lips mouthed in my direction, darling, many many moons ago.
O . . .
And this? The handful of coppers daylight borrows from October.
Come bright hour. Be bright. Be ours. Be extra, ecstatic, immaterial, other.
Glory be the carnal surface:
aluminium on flats across, blasted lime by late sun; the water cooler's translucence, a still p.m. in the office.
Friggin' Wigan pier! Nada here, zilch, squat, divil the peep . . .
‘The point's the road to Wigan pier,' she's giggling, ‘not the pier.' Deep.
Herewith my current credo: all pastoral is virtual, ever was & shall be, world without end . . . Boom!
This day of our lord I glimpsed into the server room.
I sleep in my daughter's bed one night, I sleep in my son's the next.
I pray that I will wake each morning to azure, to absolution, to text.
I toast my new age. I drink its tongue-roll, its wheel-whirr, on the road to Montecarlo.
Quarantaquattro, quarantaquattro, quarantaquattro . . .
Grazie Signore for ordinary time, for this privilege of sound & light,
for bricks & stones that hold its heat after the sun has been & set.
Glory be this glare, this solar self, this blanched out screen.
Glory be its tangerine charging me all afternoon. Glory be its indoor green.
Grazie Signore for this fathomless astronomical fluke of landing here at all,
for the full circle that we've come, the blast it's been, the ball . . .
O slow coach, freeze-mode yellow solar yoyo O hand-thrown old gold snow globe
O rose most blown O whole whorled ‘out there' lodestar de l'aube
O glory hole l'aurore O bowl-of-cored-sloes stone-cold low glow
O homophone O grown son showboating solo over our known world so moments ago
O heliotrope O blossom bole O trompe l'oeil orange grove we home in
O old soul, no bones glowworm without whose strobe we'd mope eternal gloaming
O closing words O lovely hopeless song (one more!) invoking love gone south
O storeroom door that's on a slope & opens outwards O open mouth... more »
It needn't be tinder, this juncture of the year,
a cigarette second guessed from car to brush.
The woods' parchment is given
to cracking asunder the first puff of wind.
Yesterday a big sycamore came across First
and Hawthorne and is there yet.
The papers say it has to happen,
if just as dribs and drabs on the asbestos siding.
But tonight is buckets of stars as hard and dry as dimes.
A month's supper things stacks in the sink.
Tea brews from water stoppered in the bath
and any thirst carried forward is quenched thinking you,
piece by piece, an Xmas gift hidden
and found weeks after: the ribbon, the box.
I have reservoirs of want enough
to freeze many nights over.... more »
It needn't be tinder, this juncture of the year,
a cigarette second guessed from car to brush.
The woods' parchment is given... more »
The Modern Pastoral Elegy
A Tick-Where-Appropriate Template
It begins with unspecified "you" and "we"
raising fists of defiance to the void,
the morning we opened the obituary,
a pun on "decompose" you'd have enjoyed.
These crocodile tears shed in rhyme,
in an age too commercial to care,
recall how we met the first time
and the feisty old trooper you were,
what a feisty old trooper you were:
the snook you cocked at convention;
writing only when the muse was near
your solitary published collection,
Parnassus—A Calling Not a Career,
we reviewed and/or said we admired:
its allusions to myth, its classical power
we found "inspiring" if not "inspired"
and "important" as a euphemism for "dour,"
important to find euphemisms for "dour";
your committee work; your taste in shoes;
your alcoholism and/or love for jazz;
your appetite for social issues
that none of the young crowd has;
your impatience with those smart alecks
who expect to have and eat their cake,
and some daringly inverted syntax
the occasional end-rhyme to make,
occasionally an end-rhyme you'd make;
your insistence upon a thing called "craft"
(perhaps you meant margarine):
how establishment critics originally laughed
at your pamphlets from the Slovene;
how you very nearly popped your clogs
as we fought to get your name cleared;
you were our stag set upon by dogs,
indestructible in duffel coat and/or beard,
the indescribable duffel coat and/or beard;
your years of silence and/or second wife
whose whereabouts remain uncertain;
a paean to your flowering late in life
in some council flat in Suburbiton
and your dab hand with a hoover
seasoned with the odd gratuitous clue
(much as we champion your oeuvre)
that we're better writers than you,
we're better writers than you;
the valedictions when last we met—
"Shut the door, comrades, adieu"—
however innocuous when said,
now seem prophetic: you knew;
your despair and/or your courage;
a warning for our planet and times
culminating with a rhetorical flourish
that pans out along these lines,
that pads out along these lines:
Something something something world,
something something something grope.
Something something something unfurled,
something something something hope.
Something something something dark,
something something something night.
Something something something lark,
something something something light.... more »
Three Six Five Zero
I called up tech and got the voicemail code.
It's taken me this long to find my feet.
Since last we spoke that evening it has snowed.
Fifty-four new messages. Most are old
and blinking into a future months complete.
I contacted tech to get my voicemail code
to hear your voice, not some bozo on the road
the week of Thanksgiving dubbing me his sweet
and breaking up and bleating how it snowed
the Nashville side of Chattanooga and slowed
the beltway to a standstill. The radio said sleet.
The kid in tech sent on my voicemail code.
I blew a night on lightening the system's load,
woke to white enveloping the trees, the street
that's blanked out by my leaving. It had snowed.
Lately others' pasts will turn me cold.
I heard out every message, pressed delete.
I'd happily forget my voice, the mail, its code.
We spoke at last that evening. Then it snowed.... more »
Trailer Park Études
The nights midweek are secrets kept.
No soul on site, no signal/bars,
and zilch for company except
a zillion bright disarming stars.
I'll flit through ambers, quicker, higher.
I'll break each hamlet's stop or yield.
I'll fix some noodles, start a fire
and climb up to the topmost field.
The stars at first are sparse, unclear.
They surface in that drag between
the darkened grass and stratosphere,
of powder blue and bottle green.
They blossom, thick and fast, in droves.
They pulse, in clusters, magnify.
The smoke that's my potbelly stove's
frays outwards through each needle eye.
I'll head below. I'll char till dawn
some apple logs down to their core.
By pewter light when stars have gone,
I'll do a bit, a little more.
You live inside its sound effects
whole weeks on end: its pin machine,
its cardboard drum, its soft-boiled eggs,
its silent running submarine.
It's like the god of liquid rub-
ber stirred at dawn to slip downstairs
and sip a cigarette, to drub
his fingertips on solid layers
you poured across last summer's drought.
You love it, learn to, as it slows,
and even as you come to doubt
its dribs and drabs and pigeon toes.
Forget the welcome rain outstayed.
For days the leaves are parchment sheet
and wind hangs chimeless in the shade.
Still rain remains the point of heat.
The rain is near. Like everything,
it's best those seconds just before:
the broadleaf 's backwards canvas sling,
the fly strip flapping through the door.
The wind's this ancient bloke below
who chunters "we," who wheezes "us,"
though no one else will come or go.
You want to ask the wind "Who's us?"
but hold your tongue till, in your head,
the wind and him have somehow mixed,
the type of wind that loves a shed
and banging on of things not fixed:
a belt-and-braces year-round wind,
a kiln-dried cobwebbed hardwood wind,
a greenhouse wind, a treebound wind,
an end-of-season car-boot wind,
a padlocked shower unit wind,
an upturned wheelie dumpster wind,
a channel not quite tuned-in wind,
a hollow flight-path thunder wind,
a dog-eared wind, a knocked-sign wind,
a spouseless phantom ocean-blown
autumnal graveyard Scots pine wind
who speaks in plurals, moves alone.
One night last June, in cups, in love
with pickled gin from bubbly flutes,
our clothes in coils about the stove,
we climbed the dark in birthday suits.
It's true! The grass was mown that day.
Like hippies chained in meadow flowers,
we tripped above the cut and lay
in blades of petrol suede for hours.
We listened to the lowing black.
We giggled, kissed. We possumed dead.
We woke as flesh and straggled back
like beasts for parlor, dressed, then read.
We trafficked grass in bedspreads, shoes,
and never spoke of that again
through winter's interregnum blues,
of being spooked by skin, of when
the only care we had was grass,
the only stir for miles around
our freezing bones, our clinking glass,
our dying to be rumbled, found.... more »