Archive for June, 2013

23/06/2013

Oil and Water

 

From where to where the question spins.

A roar of throttle run aways.

Escape is energy enough,

Escape and mysteries in rain.

 

They split the emptiness of streets,

And leave their molten lines of tar.

Like Carver’s “Elephant” in flight,

The tyres barely touch the road.

 

Refractions in a thinning slick:

The life before has slipped and bloomed,

And through its rainbows run the tales.

They leave behind their drying tracks.

 

The stories we can only guess,

Or write our own escapes instead.

 

Inspired by the photograph of the same title, which can (and should) be seen here:

http://stgpla.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/oil-water/

 

23/06/2013

Peripheral Vision (Turrell Light)

 

The dark absorbs all sense of self.

A draining whole, negating space.

I stand and stare, alone and small,

A mind as lost as light itself.

 

There is no movement, nothing drifts,

The echoes of the first and last.

As flux eternal overwhelms,

The grip on truth disintegrates.

 

On truth: on what was built as such.

These fragments dazzled by our words,

These hopes and histories which choke.

That truth, that fraud, collapses in.

 

And I am left: a tiny thing,

A light in light, a flame in flames.

 

 

23/06/2013

Rothko Room

 

A London bright with April crowds,

With bridges arching north to south,

And skies a Hockney kind of blue:

A day for hitching heads to clouds.

 

We never really meant to stop,

There was no choice: we wandered in

And stop. We did. In charcoal grey,

And claret rich as Thames and Fleet.

 

The sound was drowned, and heartbeats slowed.

The room was emptied just for us.

I heard you breathing, knew the pulse

Of blood had found its perfect rate.

 

Outside the room a London boomed.

Inside we merged, surrounded, gripped.

 

 

22/06/2013

Rainy Saturday (Barnoldswick, England).

 

No need to water flower beds.

We’ll sit and watch the shoppers dash,

We’ll watch the swallows dodge the drops:

The day will pass with nothing lost.

 

We know the way the branches dance:

The wind blows up the street (not down).

The cat will curl between the pots,

And twitch and mutter through her dreams.

 

We know the patterns of the hours:

The shadows round the basil plants.

We know the moods of sleep and food,

And change (which hardly ever is).

 

I read a book on pointless wars

And wonder: what does all this mean?

 

21/06/2013

Creatures Beyond

 

Beyond the dramas of the town,

Outside the battleground of now,

The creatures, barely human, form

And question our complacent ways,

 

By simply being with the hum,

And spinning through the forest lanes.

By breaking and remaking whole,

By calling all the creatures home.

 

They nest their fictions in the earth,

Lay naked all their tales and truths.

They slip – revolting – from our grasp.

They drip – as fungus – from our pasts.

 

And bloated, we build roads and walls

And so much noise we drown their moans.

 

 

20/06/2013

Jesenica – Aberdare – Iron – Coal – 1913

 

The garlands of narcissi shone,

Amongst the regiments of steel.

From orange dust, in which they coughed:

Came building’s load, and railroad.

 

Just like the metal there was coal,

Which clogged the lungs, and coated souls,

And saturated hems and hopes

Of every waiting valley girl.

 

And from the margins built the calls,

Along the tunnels, from the slag,

Around the coke and winding sheds:

They sung the gallows, whispered war.

 

The patterns of despair were set

Across a Europe drowned in sweat.

 

 

16/06/2013

The Revelation of the King of the Talking Birds

 

The dream let loose its chirm of birds,

Each one had words to call the world:

The verbs of night, the howling nouns,

All clichés bursting from their beaks.

 

And in their flock, right at its heart,

The silent bird, the mystery bird,

Swept all the others round the wood.

It led them, though it never spoke.

 

The birds had followed through a storm:

Bedraggled, fuddled, half alive,

For news had spread that HE would speak

And tell them all how they should be.

 

He opened up his awful beak

And to their horror, softly squeaked.

 

 

inspired by prompt #5 – Cliche from

http://mindlovemisery.wordpress.com/

 

 

15/06/2013

The Thunder Birds

 

The thunder birds could tame the sun.

They flew, although their bones were stone.

The broken parchment of their wings

Could soar them through volcanic skies.

 

With jade for eyes and quartz for teeth

They hunted over nightmare seas.

At night they slept upon the moon,

And hung like bats with diamond claws.

 

And when they roared they split the earth,

The sound would echo on for years,

The scars they ripped were canyon deep,

Whole mountains crumbled at their screech.

 

One day they simply disappeared.

They left this world, they left their fear.

 

 

15/06/2013

Three Storytellers

 

He hears his name in robin’s songs,

The cadence calls him from the scrub.

He answers in his shaky voice:

They understand but don’t respond.

 

She sees the heron spell her name

In semaphore with arching wings.

She signals back, she jumps and flaps,

They catch her drift, but on they pass.

 

I see the clouds, I hear the trees,

I feel the rumbling through my feet.

The world is here, and I am here,

With robins, herons, clouds and breeze.

 

They speak to us, they know our names,

And nothing here will ever change.

 

 

15/06/2013

The Ottoman and the Atheist (A 19th Century Riddle)

 

Between the trees a light breeze blew,

A gentle ripple shivered leaves.

It seemed the trees had never moved,

Their roots held deep in solid ground.

 

It seemed the breeze was passing through:

Once here then on. It barely touched

The earth at all, it had no weight.

The trees were real, the breeze a myth.

 

And from the breeze the stories grew,

And from the trees the tales were true.

In time the trees and breeze would change:

The breeze grew leaves, the trees took flight.

 

It seemed the breeze had never moved.

It seemed the trees were passing through.

 

 

15/06/2013

A Balkan Street Scene

 

For several years the street seemed old,

The tired shopfronts never changed.

They clung nostalgic to a time

Of paint and flowers, songs and life.

 

The woman in the orange dress

Has sold her paintings since things changed.

Back then she couldn’t paint enough,

But now her days just pass her by.

 

The men – the three who barely move –

Observe the street and how it’s changed.

They raise their cups to passing girls:

They judge and drink but rarely speak

 

Today is sunny, tomorrow rains,

The street’s the same, the street has changed.

 

 

15/06/2013

Moonrain Seasilk

 

You sang a song I couldn’t know.

The moon had soaked the blood of life,

The words were lost beneath the rain,

The ghosts of ghosts sat at our feet.

 

You screamed as if the world had lungs,

The shattered glass smoothed soft by tides.

No speech could reach the pain you brought

Into the sealight roar of dawn.

 

You danced one evening on a lawn,

Immaculate in lunar silk.

You skipped the shadows with each step,

Your starfish heart within my heart.

 

You sang, you danced, you screamed, you drank,

You came alive as sunlight sank.

 

 

09/06/2013

A Week in Slovenia (Part 7 – After Thought)

 

1. Tourist Boats

 

We skim the surface, hide from facts,

We see ourselves reflected back.

A dreaming ocean laps through streets,

A knowing sea floods round the trees.

 

We are the silver and the gold,

We shine our light on glittered crests,

We speak as if we lived these lives,

We dive for pearls and bring back shells.

 

And this is how we see the world:

As waves, as mysteries deferred,

As everything we want to be,

As everything we never were.

 

We watch you work your grinding shifts,

And think we see the harbour lights.

 

 

2. Borovnice

 

I come from salamander peaks.

Around the veins, around the mind,

I bite as mountain vipers strike,

As sharp as pine, as deep as time.

 

I loosen tongues, I calm the fears.

My red is black as blood is thick.

I’m crisped by snow and swelled by May.

Within my soul the rivers flow.

 

The mountain clouds and owls arrive.

You hear the church bells call the hours,

And half awake you hear my voice.

I offer up my essence here.

 

My hillside memories are true.

I filter rock, and ice and dew.

 

 

3. And What Will Become of Us?

 

I hope you find a job this year.

I hope you find the love you need.

I hope your stories will come true.

Not much – I know – but hope is all

 

That anyone can give right now.

And yesterday the markets filled,

And yesterday the sun was bright,

And yesterday they sang your name,

 

But now the wind blows from the north.

Across the plains, the dragons stir.

From deep within the mountain caves

Come sounds we wished we’d never hear.

 

I hope you keep the joy and peace.

My thoughts are with you through these years.

 

 

4. Holiday Photos

 

Somewhere an avalanche is still,

The point just seconds from its fall.

I close my eyes and count out loud:

The avalanche awaits the pull.

 

I’m there, beside the mountain lake.

The waters clear, then from above

The ice does not collapse. The world

Does not come tumbling down on me.

 

The stillness is beyond itself.

The lake reflects the silent peaks,

The forests barely breathe at all:

I see a cloud refuse to roll.

 

I’m there – just for a while – I’m there.

The avalanche just hangs in air.

 

09/06/2013

The Dance and the Dancers Both

 

The dance begins at half past two.

They break us, bend us, lash us to

Their silhouettes and pirouettes,

Across the maps of fiefdoms formed.

 

On barricades and barbed-wire proms

They build themselves a wall of trees,

And there they prance their mountain dance

To rules set out by forest kings.

 

We cower beneath their dancing shoes,

Their ballroom, breath room, cold war gloom.

They chat, and rat-a-tat, and crack

Our tarantella minds with tap.

 

At three they leave us to our tears,

To empty moves in darkened rooms.

 

 

stream of words poem written in response to:

http://mindlovemisery.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/prompt-7-nonsensemadness/

 

 

 

09/06/2013

Night Birds Calling

 

In other times, on darker nights,

The ones who carved the stones would quake

At forest howls, at spirit streams,

At shadows flitting through the trees.

 

But us: we see the lights of planes,

We hear the distant hum of roads,

We search the nightjar – tick that box –

We walk straight lines of forest tracks.

 

Oblique we stand – their world breaks through –

There’s distance here that we can’t know.

We hear the birds, we sense the fear:

Religion, science, mean little here.

 

Our pride and indolence are new,

These creatures scream from something true.

 

 

05/06/2013

A Week in Slovenia (Part 6 – With the Swallows of the Sky)

 

1. A Mountain Pass

 

The poetry is closing in

And trapping words in limestone blue.

In mountain forests, catching clouds,

Words lose meanings, clouds lose rain.

 

The air is pulled through lips and teeth:

It bites the throat, it takes a road

Of sunlit snow through mountain tops.

The sounds may form, the thoughts will not.

 

How will I find a voice for this,

This pass which crosses through the peaks?

It used to be the only way,

Now purposeless its tracks are still.

 

As evening gathers clouds and flow

We hear the night birds call the snow.

 

 

2. The Impossible Swallows of Mount Razor

 

Against the backdrop of these cliffs

The swallows seem impossible.

As morning lights the highest peaks,

The swallows swirl and dance the more.

 

Because we know all this will end

We breathe the pollen scent of trees,

Make crystal memories of streams:

We try to find the solid ground.

 

Too soon the wings will fold and furl.

We’re living in the past again:

The passing through, the sleepless dreams.

We’ll stare at walls and hear the calls.

 

I close my eyes, there’s nothing there

But mountain birds in mountain air.

 

 

3. Ljubljana Airport

 

So this is where it all begins

(And for all that, it’s where it ends).

The spirit drifters check on through

To other times, to brand new lives.

 

The Forest Man is watching planes:

He has his papers and his pass.

You see the girl who shifts and frets?

She can’t believe she won’t be back.

 

You see the woman dressed in grey?

Her mysteries mean so little now.

She longs for shadows, hugs the wall.

The angel at her shoulder weeps.

 

A palimpsest of all who pass:

This stone and steel is first and last.

 

 

 

4. Sky Layers

 

The edge of air lays curved and dark:

An empty hell of frozen lungs.

Above the highest birds and planes:

A point where science fiction ends.

 

Beneath the earth-rim, filters fade

The black of space – a lighter grey.

It sucks the clouds up from below:

Their hazing emptiness is filled.

 

Then further down through mists, the clouds

Begin congealing, blowing knots,

And twist themselves in rain and storms:

There, where light and silence stops.

 

And last – inconsequential – lies

The thinnest layer, the layer of lives.

 

 

04/06/2013

A Week in Slovenia (Part 5 – Just Passing Through)

 

1. In the Lobby of a Hotel, Kranjska Gora, May 2013

 

Are we between the wars again?

Or back when Empires froze and stared

At mountains barely understood?

We take “the tour”, we are the world,

 

And then that gap has opened up.

There’s knowledge here no one can know:

Israeli cases, linen suits,

A sporting team, some Irish girls

 

(Who laugh, then buy too many drinks).

We all look lost, but some breeze through.

The world we are will shift and twist,

And leave us clinging to our pasts.

 

We see ourselves one step removed.

We pass our evening sharing time.

 

2. Listening to an Israeli Tour Group

 

I roll in music born of tongues,

The beauty of the unheard sounds,

The meanings gleaned from rise and fall,

The other worlds I cannot know.

 

A flow of fear and joy combined,

A mystery from a mythic prose:

There’s sun in there and lemon groves,

There’s salt and desert, birth and dreams,

 

And then the stillness when they leave,

Their final rumble lingers on.

I hear the echoes down the hall:

A question mark which breaks through song.

 

Whatever place the words come from,

The human voice always belongs.

 

 

3. Borders

 

One border is a mountain range,

An earthquake shattered caravan,

A sheer drop of broken seas:

We stand outside its distant age.

 

Another border has its plaques,

It hides in parks and deep in books,

It towers like the end of time:

We cannot touch its heroes here.

 

The final border has no words.

It creeps out from the forest edge,

It fights for life with every breath:

Its meaning is its force within.

 

We cross a line and sense a change:

The air is clear, the buildings strange.

 

 

4. New Europeans

 

The rain falls straight from limestone clouds.

She huddles tight beneath the roof

And stares at puddles, danced with drops.

The bus will come in half and hour.

 

In other years the water fell

On streets she felt she knew too well.

But now they melt around her feet,

Their patterns seem an old deceit.

 

Across the street another bus

Takes other people to the north –

Frustrated, tired and seeking truth,

Or work (whichever comes by first).

 

The rain falls straight, there is no wind.

The bus will come in half an hour.

 

 

03/06/2013

A Week in Slovenia (Part 4 – From the Adriatic to the Alps)

 

1. On Piran Seafront

 

Ten thousand years of people stare

Off out to sea and feel its breath.

Ten thousand years of questioned souls

Who turn, and shrug, and build their worlds,

 

Those years are here within this point.

Entranced, we watch the fish and boats:

That silver dart, that bobbing float.

We are those generations now.

 

Then Trieste fades and Piran falls,

The bells un-ring and we are back.

The fish all hide, the sun is bright,

I hold your hand, we are alone.

 

The Adriatic Sea is blue:

It always is – is ever new.

 

 

2. When the Birds Fly Low

 

You see the point in being close:

An avalanche destroyed that house,

An earthquake took the town that day,

You closed your heart as war raged on,

 

You see the way the birds fly low.

You buy the cheese and share the bread.

A flock of alpine choughs descend:

They work as one, they fly as one.

 

As snow is creeping through the trees,

A dusting through Arolla Pine,

It brings its memories of times.

The birds fly down amongst the town.

 

You turn your back upon the cold.

You feed the birds and drink your fill.

 

 

3. Rainfall in the Julian Alps

 

The sun won’t break the clouds today.

The mountain crags have gathered rain,

The sparrows hide beneath the eaves,

The church bells echo hidden peaks.

 

The peace of circle patterned slates:

The point before the rivers form.

Within a pine a blackbird preens.

The air is still, the rain is clean.

 

A miracle has formed the sky.

Here in the sky, we are the sky.

The snowmelt cycles up, then through:

We breathe the ice of years gone by.

 

Within the clouds I see the sun.

Amidst the rainfall there is song.

 

 

4. Night in the Julian Alps

 

We do our best to kill the still

With street light, owl hoots, cow bells, cars.

We build and burn, we run and hide,

But up here nothing comes our way.

 

The mountain’s cold and silent depths,

The forest’s growth on rotten roots,

The haze which twinkles dying stars:

They are the silence we can’t dodge.

 

We think we are unique in this –

Us falcons, martens, humans, frogs –

Not caught in headlights: we freeze at night,

And stare into the mountain depths.

 

The long collective mass of life

Is just a tiny flick of light.

 

 

02/06/2013

A Week in Slovenia (Part 3 – Part Forgotten)

 

1. When Summer Comes

 

When summer comes the fields will fill

With flowers as rich as sun itself,

The clouds won’t form around the peaks,

The streams and waterfalls will dry.

 

When summer comes our days are long,

Our swallows laze against the sky,

Our lakes will haze and we will swim,

We’ll live our dreams and drink our wine.

 

We wake and find the air has ice,

The snows retreat but still have bite,

The birdsong has an urgent force:

We wait to take a breath of sun.

 

Forever waiting, never here,

When summer comes the end is near.

 

 

2. Unmarked War Grave

 

How many layers before the skull?

You breathe the air, you touch the grass,

You scrape the earth, you search for tracks,

But rarely can you see beneath.

 

The silence of the mountain air

Reverberates amongst the trees.

Old shots rebound from bough to bough,

From tight-lipped year to silent air.

 

And if you could reveal the skull –

Dig back once more the soil and skin –

What would you find but naked bone,

Corroded name tags, wasted times?

 

The silence held the truth too long:

That what was gone has lingered on.

 

 

3. Contradictions

 

The ivy rose to touch the sky

Whilst dragging down the tree it crushed.

The castle high above the lake

Had also found a sky to touch.

 

The mountains seem to stand as truths,

Yet on their slopes their lies are writ.

They’re not immortal: just like us

They rise, they age, they turn to dust.

 

A bridge is built to span the gorge:

An enemy will burn the bridge.

The bridge will fall and find its words:

The enemy will do the same.

 

The world is wrapped within itself:

The opposites have tales to tell.

 

 

4. Sentinel

 

Behind the trees a woman waits.

Her dress is grey, the snow is late.

Her youthful dreams inspired her once,

But now they eat her from within.

 

She waits to meet her southern guests,

No different from the other times:

They’ll pass the café by the slopes,

They’ll walk straight on and to the slopes.

 

She thinks of times when this made sense:

When eyes like hers had hidden depths,

When snows in May were something rare,

When friends had love and time to share.

 

The snow would fall from now to June.

The southern guests would pass by soon.

 

 

5. Burja Bora

 

The mountain butterflies all fled

Extremes of scarring sun and storm.

The butterflies had lost their wings.

The winds so strong they tore off roofs.

 

The winds so strong they broke their hearts.

The mountains turned away and wept,

The leafless forests bent and cracked,

The butterflies found caves and hid.

 

The butterflies found caves and slept.

They spent their years in worlds of thought,

They rolled through centuries of doubt,

They let the hurricanes abate.

 

And when at last they crawled back out,

The skies belonged to voltine moths.

 

 

02/06/2013

A Week in Slovenia (Part 2 – Overheard Tales)

 

1.  The Angel and the Buzzard

 

Above the Ljubljana plain

A buzzard wheels, then tips its wings,

Its eyes fixated on a point

Where, in the grass, a halo glints.

 

The angel fell to earth in search

Of Jason and the golden fleece.

Instead he found a world of fear:

A mythless world of worthless wealth.

 

The buzzard lands: it speaks no word.

The angel and the buzzard stare

Into each others’ eyes, and know

They come from better worlds than this.

 

The angel nods, then leaves this world.

The buzzard screams for all it’s worth.

 

 

2. The Forest Man

 

Beneath his canopy of pine –

Far deeper than his stands of beech –

The forest man is moving rocks:

He’s building walls around his tales.

 

His beard: a twist of ivy fronds.

His mind: a mass of histories gone.

He plants his feet with sapling oaks,

He carves the tunes of violins.

 

His walls are taller than before.

They hide the world of dragon’s teeth,

Of golden chamois, witch’s curse,

But still the forest man builds on.

 

He knows our world has lost its myths.

He’ll keep his stories safely hid.

 

 

3. The Shadow Figures of the Vrsic Pass

 

I took the high road through the pass.

The rain and mist whisped round the pine,

Above the trees the clouds touched earth:

I saw the shadow figures there.

 

I moved towards them, they withdrew.

The shadow figures knew the tracks:

They knew them like the hazel grouse.

They padded lightly with the lynx.

 

I saw their faces briefly there:

Beyond the rock face, glaring down.

I saw their questions, wild and raw,

With human eyes and shadow souls.

 

The mists soon closed the Vrsic Pass:

The shadow figures melted back.

 

 

4. The Once Great Dragons

 

Of course the dragons are still here:

What else could make a mountain shake?

What other creature barks at night,

And turns the forest tops to steam?

 

Their fear lives deep within the woods

And writes itself on cavern walls.

Their scales are found on river beds,

Their teeth and claws still scour the land.

 

And in the dark you hear them prowl

The village margins seeking blood.

Their rumbling feet, primeval growls,

Will haunt your sleeping, drifting hours.

 

The dragons curl in caves and cry:

They once were myths, but now they’re lies.

 

 

With thanks to Maja and Luka.