A history of unremarkable fires

His habit sprung from Siberia, I’m told,
inventing heat against hunger
ceasing only with my grandmother’s panic
at the sizzling mattress.

The other grandfather declaimed metaphorical,
warning of bridges aflame with the irreparable
and irreconcilable, whole texts of taunting,
years of anger’s hardened crust.

Still the wild world seeps through
even casements we thought closed
to the dark perfume, strange bottles
singing meaning into memory

when our guide, whose face now past the hour,
told of pine and eucalyptus
razed to hold back the inevitable,
named what we could not help swallowing.

French lessons

Baby steps and the sweet sounds of discovery.
Sudden infants again we are enamoured
with vowel games, laughing at lip-smacking antics.
We are terrified, tantalised,
subject and subjected as pale pages
squirm with whole geographies of conjugates,
rituals and rites.
Ask us how we made sense of syntax and sign,
threading it together, pulling off
false impressions.
Ask not, because our gods became singers,
Aznavour lamenting yesterday seemed solace
for poseurs snatching, lifting, arranging
into fictions for the test.
Enraptured our teacher bought
imitation as the real thing,
imploring us to come back next year, once more.

The Falls

At night, on the spline of sleep and sense,
Not stopping for the breeze of thought,
The stuttering river is here again.
These steps, these branches
Hurried aside as we rose
With the updraught of expected joy.

It’s the silence after a sneeze
Caterpaulting into the chasm,
Between what it was like and what was.
There were waterfalls aflutter, then,
Carrying their pulse from greasy stones
Down through your eardrums, down.

Finger cartography

First select a truth to uncap, pressing
its nib into finger cartography:
gears, grooves, scars, burns.
A snow-globe eruption, too little trust
in the caution against reaching out
grabbing silent, raging Pyrex.

My middle finger stays a prima donna for days
climbing a full octave, higher, higher,
clamoring for applause.
History again, hissing “jamais vu,
from out behind the curtain:
encore, encore,

The world refuses sleep

Tide and time have laid their dust on,
seeds beget vines and the garden
turns full with waylaid words
as reckless and sugar spun as ivy
yawning its way up the three o’clock sun.

Scraping up the humus and knots and
cross-hatched pulleys gathered over months
it is easy to believe this is a second story.
The world refuses sleep
dreaming in bursts of ever and always.

Hours yank themselves free and
a thought you had
tilts its head and flees.
It will come back, you know,
or some other seed its place.

Wild things

drinking in wild things and light
everything the colour of cymbals
urging winter into memory ground

ink of the first geranium
anthem bursting in rhythm
of sweeping daylight

rituals from the roots
of melody born
in vines the shape of longing

enough to hear the shade
pressed between quivering leaves
thoughts still wild and ripe and free

All the things we could not do

We went only as far as the shallows before summer
days backed up again into the trunk, yellow raft and
damp towels and life wrung down into a pronoun.

We stepped no further than the curling foam where you could
safely wonder at the planetary curve, bulky panoramas
edging their way nearer understanding.

Quick, that fusion of taunt and terror shivering
down hot sand, though we did more than skim the edge
holding back the primal seas within.

For this was morning and it would be long dreams breaking before
our endless rum-lust for fear snapped asunder
with all the things we could not do
carefully and not at all.

Moon quartet

Each time I try to write a verse
I make a carnival of the lines
because what I want to convey,
such awe – that pendant, silent

and pensive in its scarf of night
cut from the cloth
of every night and every moon
and every eye.

It doesn’t matter.
Holding the same horizon up
to the rattling of fingertips
unfurls such joyous song.

It is the sound the tide makes,
the glow of a restless tomorrow
stitching lines of memory
into shadowed, sleeping ground.

The bounteous, glass-blown sky

They have come to preach
poetry on street corners, stealing
apple-gloss skies for a smile and
borrowing marshmallow nights
with their star-draped nets.

So often have they erased the past
we might believe
they are discovering
stories that have always existed,
making them heard for the first time
believing they are happening only now.

It’s fortunate that the language of the universe
is infinitely renewable and endless
like air or rain
on the cusp of memory.

Land-dwellers and sky-tossed
magicians who ripen the earth
while each of us can heft moon, star,
hope with the ease of a word,
simply spin joy into a whispering foam,
sandbars all the way to the horizon
whose hollow holds a shared imagining
with their would-be reader.

They are only longing to spin thought
into song
and hearts on their axis.
So the tune spills out
rushing like the globe’s unending light
rising like verb whose infinite syllables
strike the mind with each rotation
offering a new glimpse of a hidden world.

Even if somewhere an endless library
has already collected this
before it formed
on a porous skin of cellophane,
everlasting and invisible.

Everything is something already said
in the moments between words

and still the sky need only touch its ink
to shapes dull against the dawn
until the firmament pulses with light.

That’s how the poets stand, waiting
rapturous and dazzling as the wind does
its trick where you somehow feel
the soft print of its fingers
more in the ebb-calm
and the day lives itself out

until night arrives blossoming
its million lantern tricks.
When it turns grey in the hush, fades
for the slow drift of myth must pour out its wax
making a quiet marvel
of the bounteous, glass-blown sky.

Underfoot a rippling breeze

Over autumn and the moss-drunk earth
where trees describe trees,
parched days invent their own music
festooned with leaves.

Soon a lunar dance
across the star-ranged skies.
More delight for the earthbound
dreaming of gravity

amidst wind-kissed branches.
Between arms twirling and quiet
days lapping into nights,
underfoot a rippling breeze of hope.