Thursday, 14 March 2013

A Thought for a Fox

- for Edward James "Ted" Hughes

In this midday moment's forest
there is something else alive
beside a boy's idleness
and an innocent stare, watching a silent den.

Two cubs arise and sniff the air;
their mother has been killed, no star
of fox to shine a path
through darkness, where they live and are.

With scraps of meat, he tempts the two;
the bolder one pads forth, tentative.
Its brother follows, nervously, and now
four innocent eyes, blind to evil, shine, and now

the first is eating scraps from out
his hand, softly as a dream of fox.
The second dances there behind,
smaller, each pad a moment: time ticks,

and it whines. He lifts the stronger 
of the two into his arms. It writhes
and wriggles free. A cracking lingers
in the air, and then comes a metal noise:

a trigger pin. The first is killed.
The bullet enters the lit halo of the other,
the anima mundi shot to rags. He kneels in tears: 
the poem's there. The poet's born from out the ether.

The Sentinels

In this life, the good
become scapegoats,
fear burns the body free
of all hope.

There's just one rule
to live by:

When Rome starts to smoulder
and its pillars smoke
then get the hell
out of Rome.

Monday, 11 March 2013

There Are Two Kinds of Woman

And although he entered you, 
did he really ever enter you? 
Did you ever let him enter you? 
Want to? Although he parted 
those silken curtains, did he ever
see behind? Did you ever let him 
dip his hand into the waters 

of your mind? So now he is gone. 
I know it - you too. And though he 
came and went, he left no residue; 
I've seen inside of you: behind 
those mirror-ball eyes, you're 
clean and clear. I'll shudder 
at your bedrock. All else is lies


Ignorance like fire shall burn you 
      through, then the only 
               thing to quench 
      will be deaf ears for you 
               to speak into, and 
      the kiss of some 
               supine wench

Sunday, 10 March 2013

A Dream Sequence of Horses in Five Movements

One night sleeping, dreams pressing heavily
down on me, I become a child, wandering
lost in the vast dark of the American
wilderness. I wander into a paddock,
somewhere in Rochester, Minnesota,
and see the horses, shining like spectres
in the glade: wisps of horse, crystal outlines
in the moonlight as it filters through their manes.

They bray with bated lungs and nay
when I disturb the scene, parting the air
with my presence. In a quiet prayer,
I ask them to forgive me, to have me,
and they both bow: setting aside their iron pride,
and I am happy, I am proud. I climb over 
the fence, over the stoop, and approach
the more golden of the two, bending

to tug at a handful of dewed grass, tenebrous
and tense with the touch of moisture. She
approaches, nuzzling into my palm and taking
the feed: she could have bitten me right there,
stirring me from my dream, but she didn't.
Eyes peaceful and yet watchful, she chews.
If horses could smile, hers would be a rainbow,
showering a spectrum. I look down

at my hands, and they've started cracking.
I glow a light violet, the smell of flowers eeking
out from me. I have become a nocturne, spilling out
fragrant notes. The horses champ, standing there 
still, glistening, and listen.


Now I am a young man, a horse wrangler, on
the sprawling hinterland of 1850s frontier West:
to the East, a dream of Democracy and ahead
of me a peopled land to be unpeopled: Indians
to steal from, settlements to come: railyards,
whiskey bars, tenements, steeples.

It is darkness before dawn, and I have been
on the trail of the horses for days. On the back of
my steed, in Navaho territory. A star is rising
hungry, gulping down the blackness and lights,
breakfasting, turning on its brother, the night.
And before the red tears raw and erupts, there

in the glare cresting a hill, in the morning twilight,
I see the quiet herd. I am about to charge, lasso
at my side, saddles firm around my feet, my steed
tense with understanding, charged with knowledge
of the pursuit: less equals and more my inferior,
implicit in being reigned, implicated with me.

And in the growing grounding of man and horse,
the morning now stirring, I see amongst the animals
a man, walking quietly and proud, as if his feet are
hooves, and the horses know. His feathered hairpiece
bristles gently in the breeze and he seems to put the
beasts at ease. Quietly, I watch and weigh: 

I'll stay, and wait it out another day.


The sands shift, and now I see a woman
riding a horse by the sea, its four legs
lapped at by the water, scalloped in the tide.

The air washes them both and the sea is a gulping,
the horse sparkling like salt crystals, its mane
the white rush of waves cresting and breaking.

Sleeping and yet waking, dream pouring into reality,
the woman’s wet golden locks streak the wind,
the white silk of her dress caresses this velvet horse.

His troughs of muscle quiver like waves on his bones,
his breath the long and steady pull and release of the moon,
and the two of them swim through an ocean of air.


And now I am an old man
at the races, watching
the horses,
my youth: 
when I was a boy
uncorrupted by 
when there was no nullity,
when the beauty 
overcame me.

And I remember 
a dream of horses,
a dream within a dream:
feeding them cubes of ice,
their soft warm slobbering tongues
pouring forth from them,
their heads like the heads of eagles.
So gentle, they could have bitten
me, but they didn’t.

They were so good and strong.
And now I only come to watch them
in order to place a bet,
to watch the hopeless crowd
feast on the American Dream:
earning and losing, betting and winning,
and carrying on the same broken tune.
10/1 on Chariots of Fire:
I put down five.

A scotch on the rocks.
I sit in the stands and watch.
The long shot. A good runner.
He comes in first. The eagles are no more.
The racing pigeons endure.
But how magnificent.
How terribly sad, and sadly


I stir from my sleep
and I am child, young man, woman
horse, old man. But I am twenty-three,
to put a number on it. I turn on my side

hoping this turn will send me under
the waves, back into dreams
where horses endure, strong and wise
and silent. Just let me dream, please.

And I crack and roll across the 
hills: thunder on four hooves:
I am the horse now. I am the hills.
I am the sky now. I have been set loose.

On Solipsism

Here is why I don't believe there is a God:
it is not through lack of evidence, through tide
of rationalist proof, through the benefits
of humanism and secularism, through the knife-glinting
poker-burning bone-racked cries of history's
confess! confess! confess! and convert! It is because
of this, and this makes me hurt:

imagine a life created, purely for the benefit of man.
This is a chicken: you must breed it. You must eat it:
it is good. And this is the cow, the lamb: do the same,
but milk them. Be tender when you can. What sort of God
could do that? Nature's red in tooth and claw - sure,
I get that. But what is red about man? And what man reads
coveting in God's plan? In all those thou shalts and thou shalt nots,

between the beauties and the rots, there lies a burning question,
as I see it: what's so bad about coveting your neighbour's wife
or your neighbour's ox, when man covets the entire world?
Endless economic growth and gridlock: a malign cancer
from that first day, from that first book: be fruitful and multiply.
But after fruit there comes the fruit fly. Yet who should deprive
the fruit fly of its right, when man reigns murder in broad daylight?

I Fear in Love...

I fear writing you into myself,
for that I'll one day un-write you,
through being forced through your
passing day and the overwhelm of night.
You, who I want so badly to quicken
with me into a new shape: two souls
sprung to a new song, enveloping each
other; not a contortion, but an agreement.

I fear writing you into myself:
what part of you shall be unmade?
And of what of us shall be remade?
Will the hand be better played, and not staid,
through the two of us? Can love really
speak openly through us, and not
subdue us? And will Heaven shine
fondly down on us? No rain-tarnished rust?

I long the burn of your singe as you
melt into me, but I fear the burn
too strong, that you'll be chained to me:
we'd writhe storm-tossed on that steely
sea, and sooner or later, eventually,
one or the both of us would sink.
And down into that icy drink - but, no!
I would not have it! My love, I'd never have it so.

Friday, 8 March 2013

A New Panorama

And with the drowning in my ears
came a longing, a longing that
children should be shrouded in light
and kept from harm's way:
kept from no play.

That adults should knife the working week
in the throat, and dedicate
all their days to love, to art,
to softness, to penetrating hardness,
to swallowing, to expressing

the inexpressible. And with the sadness
came a desire to sleep and awake
renewed: to step out into crystal morning
ringing, echoing with new possibilities; 
all bears would be bold

and tigers would gallantly stroll
and pumas would streak the darkness
with riotous speed and swift
and the trees would hang languorous
and sweep our tears away.

And there came a desire: a desire
for someone like you, for someone gentle,
caring, patient, kind, interesting, interested.
And a desire to know you further:
to lock hands and not knock heads,

to climb into the embrace of a rising square
of air and ascend the series of steps:
each step a progression and necessary,
never to stop and tire, but to gasp, Look
how high we've risen: what views!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


In the silence of her understanding
comes a smile
that trickles like a bead of water
down my ear, to my cheek.
But I don't rub it away:

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


Do you let the sun in?

What does it feel like, those rays
like water breaking across your face?

Or would you shut the sun away?
Lock it up inside a box, and
oil the hinges to keep it
from creaking with the heat?

We are on a life support system,
sucked on and sucking, hungry
for a sense of satisfaction:
unknotted, full up and happy.

The roads split the landscape
into segments of country, fields:
this one for corn, this one for
meat, this one, and this one...

But can you taste the earth?

Is it sweet? Or has the taste
been sterilised away, overcome?

We spin the world into a gown,
abstracted from oil traps
or sheared from skin of lambs
plucked from cotton buds.

Everything we are
is the world, what we
have taken is
now us.

Put up walls to keep
the sky out
to keep the wind 
from drumming;

or let the wind in

and feel the breeze,
becoming your senses.

Food is there to feed,
clothes are there to clothe,
medicine is there to
medicate, it seems;

only entertainment is not
a resource - aside from
playing cards. But art and
folly - they are free.

Would you weave a tarpaulin
to keep the rain out?

Or let the rain in,

and stand there soaking
in the rain belt?

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Egg and Spoon Race

When I
first saw you, I was
pickled in your wide stare, your
eyes gouging at the back of my skull,
spooning everything away, like cooked egg-
white from the shell of my brain casing. My own
eyes spilled out like yolk, and you soon realised they
tasted good on the back of your spoon; you licked your
fingers clean of my residues, like slices of warm buttered
bread. But, being a romantic, a sucker for over-egging the
pudding and fussing like a cook over custard, I stuck around
and had you pick me clean, till I was no more than a scrunch
and a crunch of hollow glaucous sphere, egg-shaped in your
palm. You hated treading on egg-shells, you said. It felt like I
was about to break under your weight at any minute, so your
play went. Well stand on me, I said. You’ll see. Crack me on
 the edge of your spoon, swipe me with the knife. Poach me.
 I’ll make you my wife. I love you: don’t you see? You lay
me on the floor; centred me beneath your foot, and
adopted the crane, brooding hungrily like a bird
 over cuckolded eggs. But still I would not yield.
 You shifted on your heel, and still I never
 bailed. You said you never realised
 how much I’d been holding –
 how much the yoke of
you weighed.

                                                                                                           The water 
                                                                                                        was scolding and
                                                                                                            I was cooked. But you always 
                                                                                                    knew you had me hooked. Soon, we nested;
                               and now, I’m crested in the curve of your embrace, cool and metallic, but not out of 
                                 place. For you pickled me, devilled and devoured me, boiled me. Now you carry   
                                                                                                 me, as I once carried you. The steady race,  
                                                                                                         the steady hand. The finish 
                                                                                                          clear. The egg and 
                                                                                                            the spoon.