“… what thou gorgeous wearest, which scarcely keeps thee warm.”
Wm. Shakespeare, King Lear, 2.iv.
When Siouxsie played Brighton we
cottaged by the sea, you, me, a bunch
in a transit the colour of dubious day
an hour before light; with one broken
drumstick you played a kind of Roma
music on the guard of an old lecky fire
and I kissed every line of your scowl
and you let me, you let me; we slept
side by side, our shoulders cold out
of our sleeping bags, so we could
wake with our fingers knitted, right
hand to left; you stayed, as guard to
a derry, keeping it for homeless folk;
it rained before I left, I wore nothing to
be dry, shivered in the train, de-Edened,
but believing that two moons, you, me,
could only collide again, and soon, by
the demands of gravity, by its laws;
never; that’s a hard word, but I guess
I’ve grown up, and grown up with it.
eep in the Murder Wood is a bank of quietness, and out of it there’s a tree growing (in the only way it knows – straight out and straight up) that she calls the Love Tree, positioning Murder/Love Love/Murder; this tree she salutes on her run, or stops by, touches two fingertips to her mouth and then to the tree, or two hands on her bust and then to the tree, and sometimes braces her back against it, looks out, and thinks about you, whilst gazing ahead at where three unrelated branches make a rough triangle; within that triangle, other limbs born of trees make other shapes, and it’s her business to look further and further into them to see how far it is to the furthest visible point; she waits there to grow cold, or to catch the quartered, quartered, quartered sunlight, wondering who holds the world record in woman/woman kissing and who held the stopwatch, but in all this gathering of dross wool again she thinks about you, can’t help it because of the pressure of the tree on her back, her breath slows, she can hear every sound in the Murder Wood above the blood in her ears, it is all a way of happiness
When we practiced our cursive, the sea
was white and the wave-caps were blue,
the ocean effectively in negative; Ws
were shore-break ripples, while the run
of lower case Rs were Triton’s anger.
I refused common Es and Ss, became
alone a celebrant of rollers, breakers,
priestess of the breath of endless brine,
I knew only the hiss and heart, the salt.
Teacher told me in fact I wrote nothing;
page by page, I wrote till I drowned her.
I love – how strange for me to start a poem like that – macrozoa,
those hostages to gravity, those generants of levity, possessed,
though the mockers would not have it so, of the greatest dignity,
belied by our obsession with whether their forward-faced elbows
are the three and four of knees, the ace of individuality, singular
to them, oh how we wrangle about do they walk on their fingers
or is any limb of ground-propulsion ipso facto a leg, its terminant
a foot; can we not grant peace, for once? They’re pachydermata,
but – hell! – does that mean they’re all totally thick-skinned?
Think, for once, and respect all the bygone woolly mammoths,
the mastodons, and, more modern, those parlayed into our ivory,
and know that even as they are big each one was once so little.
Each patient elephant – I once saw one waltz – was an erst idea
conceived between (what we call) its bull and its cow, gestated,
birthed, and cared for by a herd of aunts and uncles, a caritas
despite the harsh hair of its back, ranging in the pull and pluck
of each moment, whole, irrevocable, blissful, blessed elephant,
the joy of its being young untouched by our anthropomorphism,
though we bestow the word “baby” in our careless sentiment;
I could, if I wanted to – and I once had the notion – make them
into my heraldic achievement, or situate them in a frieze, there,
just below that cornice that coves my bedroom walls, cozy them
to my sleep-pattern, but that appropriation would be a big diss;
I’d rather celebrate them, their simple littleness that’ll one day
grow to Mughal grandeur, never haul a howdah, be left alone
without a mahout to goad them, Ganeshas, little god Ganeshas,
divine offspring, diminutive, our heavenly Lord/Lady, becoming
– what? – whatever the road from bush to the river will make,
whether the flow be the Ganges or Limpopo, there they learn
the art of jetting with their proboscis, while our own juveniles
point with excited indices and cry in joy, “Tembo! O Tembo!”
* I promised someone a poem about baby elephants.
Who but Pharaoh would order bricks to be made
without straw? History doesn’t record his next order,
which was the simple “And bring your own mud!”
In the history of bricks, she is quite the rare one,
taking down my English bond and reassembling me,
chequering Cheshire red with Staffordshire cream.
I’m now Flemish bond, a true wall without bows,
but with the occasional projection (a climbing wall
I may be, but they stop so far, no thieving vantage),
she laid me, boxed me, set me around with a broad
come-to-it as if to say you may look, all may look,
but this wall marks someone’s say-so, so no beyond.
Happy me to have such construction, bricks without
straw, or mud, made only of magic by someone with
a history of magic, taking my own bricks of being.
As if anything beyond could be worth the thieving!
That was the thing, you see, that made a braw byre
out of my boxing-up; and everyone saw it but me.
I asked her what it was for. “To keep you so safe,”
she said, and I thought “Liar! If it’s byre, house,
box, or doocot, I prefer freedom to safe promises.”
And so I effected my exit, leaving only bricks
unbroken, though bereft of straw, my own mud,
a no-deal Brickxit, just the outside walls intact.