Line caught, sea-bed-wracked, I snagged her on my hook, my worm a tasty snare in the water's darkness. I the Captain of this Vessel, I the one to tussle, wave-wrestle, in the spume I pulled her in: a good weight; 10 kilos, a handsome fish. And that's when she began to swish. She was flat and long, two eyes, almost jellified, staring straight up at me numb; her slimy nibbling gape: that's when I fell in love. Not from Dover, exactly, and not one to skate, I placed her in a tank - she skipped my plate. I keep her now on deck, beside the Captain's Wheel; we course a straight and steady, long and even keel.
But her honesty's my favorite trait; my briny love, my one sole mate.
She opened up a rift in me and the universe poured out violently.
But that will one day heal over leaving the faintest trace of a scar,
like a caesarean milky way on the blackness of night.
So now I leave her, gone stray, still a friend, walking off into new light.
I want my universe to trickle, too big to birth whole: I too small, too fickle, too much skull.
2 + 2 = 4: that's a universal truth, but a metre of empty space is its own empty face, a non-sequitur of blank horizon. Is it a universal fact that life must consume? The flower needs water to bloom. But the flower too needs death, and the worm - to churn a meal into a graveyard of fertiliser, a seal between root and anchor point and a tenuous joint. But life fattens on life, grows stronger. Its rights grow longer, and stronger and tighter. A man eats a meal alone of meat cleaved from the bone thankful for the silence of the plate. But elsewhere, rocked, is life a-gait, screaming noiselessly to deaf ears, hungry eyes. 2 + 2 = 4, a metre is a hundred-mate; a woman eats life, makes life, and feeds. And, somewhere else, history dies.
A poet should not smoke: his tongue his prized organ. Neither should a poet drink; maybe brandy, burgundy - absinthe. But a poet should whet his tongue on words, fire up his fibres on the flint of poesy, drink to outdrinking eternity and stealing the morning paper from Death's lawn.
He stole my wallet, his hand firmer, colder, harder than my own. But I speak the language of eyes: his were strong and clear so I let him take it without thought, without fear. I know he'll use it; for murder, for good. For goodness sake, just be as you should.
Part One For Ted Hughes From folds of curling, foaming sea frothy as laps of whipping cream, a head pokes out, and then it's gone - back down to re-enter the jam of its missing mum, from out the pram. A missing seal, a lonely pup; no mother's milk to idly sup. A cow alone, a calf orphaned: a seal come broken; bright eyes piercing awful, wide and wild from freezing water; a lost child, beloved daughter. Now searching, eyeless, in the dark, a blanketed searchlight from afar. Rolled beneath the beam of the ocean's keel, now come the calls of the orphan seal.
Her name was Flo. She died in October, 2010. We worked together for five months, and in that five months I barely grew to know her. But when I left for uni she gave me a spider plant. A ragged little thing, I barely knew how to look after it, and that Christmas I went home for a month. My housemate neglected it through my own neglect and when I came back it was almost dead: a spindling of brown shoots, only hanging on through its roots. I took it to my neighbour, The Healer, and she showed me what to do: it's pot-bound, she'd said, and she took it from the pot, de-clumped it, pulling the tangled roots apart. It nearly broke my heart, the sight, not knowing enough about growing. She put the two in their own two pots, sprinkled them with new soil, fruits of the loam, and not the loom; sowing, not sewing: the Sun, not the Moon. And now, I still have that one original, that ember. That ember of Flo, which I cannot let die. She was only forty, but I won't pretend I cried at the telephone call, or the thought of it all. But now, I have eight plants: I have given two away: one to that neighbour, one to a friend. And I cannot let it end. I cannot let it end. I must let it flow. I must let it go. I must see it grow.
The seeds we sow: we must scatter them so. This one's for you, night-angel, day-dreaming sun beam, woman I never knew. This one's for Flo: the seeds she planted, the things that grew.
Walking naked now through your quiet immensements and I am pregnant with a knowing: your boundary like mine rebounds with touch - too little; too much. Mine reaches out before me, an invisible field, pushed from heart-length to arm's length bristled by the slightest brush. Just respect me: don't correct me. Don't bottleneck me. If you want love, build it. Make castles in the sky, but try not to brush the clouds.
I thought I was guarded but your walls make mine look positively usurped, Ace-carded, yours becoming a picket line. You won't let me in, I know that. Only on a level which provides no sustenance. But whilst I can go hungry, living on spirit alone, I will not be left outside like a dog, wounded, calling my owner. I will find my own home one day: maybe you're willing me on to this and if this is the case then I thank you. I will keep my Mongolian Horde from your Great Wall; but it will fall one day and I'll be sad to see it razed. You know, it's just not the kind of love I want: I won't be a haunt, nor a ghost. But I want to be haunted - I want that the most.
I once thought I measured my pulse by your heartbeat. Now, I could just as easily say get the fuck out of my life. But that's no way to go about it; I'd rather say, I'm happy for you and now I realise I was wrong and I'm thankful you withheld your right. But enough with splitting hairs and splitting binary pairs: let me just sum up... I will be there with you and help your cup to grow but I won't be the one to make it overflow: everything you do, my friend, will always fill mine: love's a thing to share in, a thing for two to care in, and I'll be there with you at the end of this long and golden life... But enough of that: here's to the living. Pass the glass, pour the wine.
My body is a meaningless zero-point: fill it with female potential. Fill my empty cage with your female essentials. Take all my rage and break its spine, ask me for my credentials. Walk me down the line.
Some say nice guys finish last: they don't. The prize my eyes surmise eludes the finish line, and elides the present time. The finish line is not an easy shag or a victory claim: to shame you publicly or brag your name; to use the crassest metonymy and refer to you as an iron sea to be penetrated by the ores of my fleet would knock the both of us off our feet. I play the long game and I wait the long wait. A clear sheet. Nice guys might finish later and they might not finish fast: but that's because they're better lovers, and they never finish last.
Fiddling through the fissures, the bifurcation a foundary of stone, we roam up crags and rocks, clinging like bats by bone. We gorge on leafy moss, on tufts of spartan grass. We cannot help but gloss how we navigate the pass. Mother Goat is caring but she knows to have no hope: up here there's no knowing; we live by noose and rope. And if you are not careful, the fall will be so great that Pan will not be playful and you will not be saved. I bleat, blow on my ram horn, the gully deep as stomach's bottom: chewed cud will come your form, but kids forget - and are forgotten. At the bottom of the shaft two bodies: forms that I have known. At the bottom, my two calves: one bloated, one blown.
I Now he is old, he is close to death. In the rapt silence of night, alert as a fox to the murmuring stirs of the house, his bed no longer warmed by his wife, he thinks of the time when he was most alive but at once so dead. II
Spring is a time for the Lamb: the land is abuzz: grass senses the milder air, and all is a slow heaving from sleep to joyful labour. The Lamb cares not for the Wolf: She is busy watching her Babes, the uterine white of the Ewe; and the Ram is as proud as punches watching his first-born stand. But sickly bleats the last-born; the song of the Wolf's fast, shorn. III So Spring is also the time of the Wolf: an eye bright, blue to the opalescent Moon, red as it beams to the blood of the kill. It stalks the land, stealthily as death, and its snap of jaw as eternal as the wrenching night's maw. The Wolf bays at the Moon, begging forgiveness of it. The Moon is still, silent: the Wolf, forgiven, joins the pack; between pasture and mountain, the darkling stack. IV Stories are wondrous things: the old man tells them to himself, making sense of his hardships, all of them docked. But how to tell this one? He is close now, he knows it: he is alone no longer in his room. The curtains billow coolly and his mind conjures what he'd been withholding: his wife had been sick when she broke and spilled her waters; the doctors had not known: the baby was a stone, and two pounds underweight. It was born, still as night, and on the other side it awoke. They cradled it; grave and heavy was the silence, an overflowing groan. And now, near death, he knows why it crept and hid: the revelation lives as his child, so close now, it soaks him in a knowing: he only knew that life in death, and so in death he greets that life: a child's hand in his, soft and losing warmth. After years of mourning, he realises the Living are ghosts: they haunt the Late. He closes his eyes, then he latches the gate.
And now a shameless exercise in Green Preaching, a life beseeching an over-arching politik: we are one with the Earth, with ourselves, and in this war of man against matter and man against man and man against life itself we are all on the same side. We might think we're not; the differently drawn battle plans. But we always were. And we always will be. As all eyes shift to our children's gazes, to our lovers' hands: can you put a cap on love? Now we stare out to sea; we stand there pensively, and hopefully. The ships on the horizon: are they coming or going? Or will we build an Ark, a life raft, to rein us in, keep us warm, whilst the world gets quietly snowing?
And now to fall away and dream of love: the type of love that's first and thirst, and foremost, and never almost. The type of love that waits, the pain clothed in joy, clothed so long that it forgets it was once pain. Take me down to the Delta where the water's sleep and the water's deep: where love's a stair and not a leap.
I talked to God and She was not pleased. She said, the crying never stops; the listening never starts. And oft too dim's the flame you carry in your hearts. Turn human nature on its head and make of war a marriage bed.
Venom is poisonous only if taken in the vein. And those who use it publicly don't know your name. And all you need to know is that a feeling's never feigned: To not bloody one's hands with one's aching heart is the only shame.
The world is falling to shit: is that what keeps it fertile? Sitting here drinking coffee just waiting, waiting for the next storm that will clear the air and burn the tinders of the world down, but what awaits the fire? And why is the fire waiting?
His was a textbook, plucked from the shelves of academia. He savoured it, his exploits purely intellectual, and the book was like him: raggedly worn, spine compromised, but used books have the most character, he thought: not the smell of tea-stained, dinner-spattered pages or the spectres of long, lost pauses: merely the appearance of experience. And hers, hers was a novel. He'd bought her the book she'd wanted the day after he'd forgotten about her birthday. A romantic classic, he recalled. No doubt fanciful; yet - Classically inclined - maybe not drawl. Each alike and yet unalike: her dottings and jottings were the evolution of a long-memoried tradition of pencilled hearts and cupid darts, poems, odes and elegies, short sharp soliloquies scrawled long-hand on the blank pages at the back of the book; now rubbed clean with the gathering of character, which she'd carefully lifted, her slow turning, growing fat with words, her life a bright gathering point of light. She siphoned substance from thin air, a shaman, and produced life from out of nowhere, her body pregnant with the seed of creation. She did not memorise the words: she felt them. She held them. Cradled them then let them go, the feeling never lost, the shape imprinted whitely, distant growing fainter, a vague recalling of beating and wings. He was purely technical: underlining the unfamiliar or words he hoped to drop in polite conversation, thinking oneupmanship a courtesy he and only he could bestow. He littered the pages with arrows, demarcations in the margins, lightbulbs beaming out, signalling the location of his ego which now claimed territory outside the violence of his psyche. When he'd finished and had returned the book, he briefly considered rubbing clean his pencilled additions, but thought better of wiping clean all traces of himself. For here is where he'd been. Know them, these places. But she, she was different. She left the book unmarred, unmuddied; each word unmurdered and unbloodied. She thought, you will never know I've been here. If you somehow do, you have been looking in all the wrong places. But then she thought wrong of her former right; and before she set it free, one summer night, she took out her pencil and marked the first page, below where the title suggested the gathering storm of the passions held therein; a devotional note. Here's how it begins: I hope you enjoy this book. I tried not to cry onto the pages. I read it slowly, too; it took me ages, months of revelation and pain, but somehow, at end, I did not heal - never again... Then she paused and thought of the friend she'd never meet, who'd read this book; how to lend? Out of the ether, the shimmering star, she found her end: I shall close now simply. I wish you well. May you one day write your own devotion in place of this. And may you seal it in chains of steel, protected with a kiss... I hope these pages set you free and fair you far better than they ever did me.
The Poetry in me had all but died; Palsied hands, a stymied mind. But underground rivers still wet the tongue, The husk gone coarse, savannah dry. Awakened from my ancestral tomb, I take to She a suited groom. And out of that ancestral gloom I take ahold the weaver's loom. The fruits of labour are often sour When out of season, don't devour; Don't sleep on a bed of wilting roses, But clothe yourself in their fragrant poses.