Foreign Objects

An ode to the creepy, bearded man
hunching into his tight-lipped Googling,
plunging into greying pages
an infinite sea of black and white suspicions
troubled by images floating to the brim:
strange bodies, bauble eyes, hard facts
revealing all the unheard truths –
an ode would not be right.

Instead: prepare a dark maelstrom of Gregorian chant
accompanying a chariot of Valkyries ascending
in Wagnerian fury and triumph,
ascending beyond the planetary abyss
into planes beyond human understanding.

So enlightened, he eases his shoulders
into the comforting folds of his trench,
slips into the uninitiated masses
who cannot quite identify
the tune
to which his fingers tap
some alien song.

Party Animals

Breakfast on the relics of each jungle night
where now they feast on headphone juice,
unclenching feet from rubbing cages, tight
leather traps, heels and straps now loose.
How gripping close a coat might reveal
the sour chill, enchantments too soon made day,
rhythm of yesterday’s animal ordeal
or aftertaste of yawn-ripe kitten play.
No guidebook exists, nor an Audubon Society
to catalogue and collect their number:
these stripes and spots have no deity,
bending only for that dark horse, slumber.
Between the strobes and twisting light,
pouting for selfies with halogen so right
for the scent of lens flare, a fierce pose,
a tribute: this zoo will never close.

The Cartographer’s Dilemma

Square, triangle,
the shortest distance between two people
is the cartographer’s reach:
border to border.

Take four people and then ask
of the possible combinations,
permutations of happiness.

Hands huddle around glasses, cutlery,
channelling careful autumn dialogue.
Chains of laughter and questions and
hands slicing through
the invisible forms of conversation.

Silences: if, might and could.

Who sits with whom?
The when and where,
The who leaves bound or bordered,
Colonised or content?

There a bird lands, confused or alarmed
on a car’s side mirror.
Finding a companion, a twin
or a bittersweet shadow
refuses to leave.
It trills then pecks, again.

They talk eye-to-eye but
hearts are elsewhere,
unsure of how far their feet may
stretch into neighbouring territory.

And these, if we admit it,
these are just symbols
standing in for a thousand lives or more,
for all the unread stories drafted
in the distance. Islands whose shores
blur faintly: salt, stones,
the idea of recognition.

Under our gaze they remain true as maps,
suggestive as a smile or laugh,
as open as the water
gathering forever between us.

A Light Slumber

When in lost youth smelled astronaut glories
From stick-on skies, aviator stories
Filled empty hours adding noise
Pretending these much more than toys.

More real, then, no glowing sorrow:
Of all that, “What will you be tomorrow?”
When you grow up, grow tired
Of such delights finding life mired,

Yourself possessed. For whose sake
Those games, those laughs, now fake
Reminders that haunt his daydreams
As he slips from recounting endless reams.

Pastoral of middle age or floating sights
Caught up in that enslumbered head:
What lives on in these late, drifting flights
But dreams once thought laid to bed?

The Leaves that Fall on Dreams

It’s how the light falls
On picture frame or dark glass,
The potter’s floss of words
Or memory’s discarded stash.

A sudden glimpse that fracture makes:
This is where I try again,
Where the leaves that fall on dreams
Sway on instead, enjoin their soundless song.

Day-talk breathes less than promises.
But it’s how the light speaks
Back to us instead, between breaths
Of endless time.

(16 March 2016)