Hungry

When I was knee high to here
before my legs could do more than crawl,
sugar dipped itself onto my lips and my brain,
and my smile was big enough to fill
the photo all the way up
like the hypnotic wheel of your mind twisting into spirals
after watching a TV marathon non-stop, persisting
in the vain hope that it will be
sweet in the hereafter
when it stops.

That was when I first tasted a Tim Tam:
damn.
My first sugar kiss
such bliss
and your flickering mind
wondering how did I miss
this
until now
raised on bread and water and smiles,
it riles to know they were keeping you
from this.

But without teeth bigger than milk-size,
fun-size me couldn’t ask anyone for an upsize
yet.
Couldn’t do more than suck and smile
for the while, this dummy wanting more,
thinking he’d discovered
that really all life’s meaning
was just chocolate-covered.
Somewhere there were secret codes and covenants,
preaching messages only taste buds knew.

They had me hooked and they knew it,
angry Oompa Loompas diving deep and free-basing,
loading up some molten cocoa river proselytizing,
just for me. It meant a decade and more
when only the gods could deliver those glycemic goods,
the mouth-stuffed joy I could clamp down on
and fix my jaw around
a dog with a bone
getting over life’s bittersweet after-blows.

Cause I was hungry,
I was a hungry Tim Tam,
hungry like the wolf preying on the moon,
like an Argonaut on an endless Odyssey.
And damn.
Damn you, Tim Tam.
This is not a complaint
and it isn’t a confessional
where I tell you I was unfaithful
to what I swallowed by the mouthful
even though I played the field fast and loose
and tried them all or enough, sweet and salty,
and not giving enough attention
to the lack of my intention
to get fat, big, large, king-size
because it was all in the eyes.

Or maybe I’m just making excuses
for the little kid who knew nothing but the fact
that if this was going to be how the cookie crumbled
then there was no faith that couldn’t be tumbled
if there were biscuits.

Popcorn

Here’s where I see blisters in the air,
when hunched over the popcorn machine
the kernels whizzing like lawnmower seeds, frenzied,
it was summer, short in tooth, long in smile
and their skin burst now,
only you realised that it had reached
its white-faced end in minutes,
that growth of time,
pushing pain until then,
the irony of release.

In that long youth of night,
when minutes might well be
the strange, unseasoned cousins of days,
adolescent in turning themselves over,
this is the machine, conductor:
heat, darkness, pressure,
treading down their soles
as the trek turns.

Little corners

little corners of little cities
are bounteous enough
that you can paint and scrape away
at the closed rooms
of open worlds
pulling your eyes up the ledge
with you – falling in

faster than the wind allows
is how you cycle through days and shades,
left hand offering the right
agreement and consolation

when you had reached
a place above you
whose handle you would decline
but you mean only a sliding door
from memory, not a metaphor

for these little corners tantalise
and dance to their own tangents
not you, left, right, aquiver
the way a gaze tilts the question
unexpectedly, mapping for answers

Earthspine

Had pictures had their way, archaeology
might have been my calling,
but the world leaves nothing undiscovered
by chance except tomorrow, yourself
and others’ intentions
like scuff marks and grazes
and hollows as yet uncarved.
Yesterday the washing line, the swing set and slide
while still small in grass that’s jungle high
brings giants reaching down to hug you
up into the soon world,
which can never really become itself again,
entirely, even if you wanted
a return to before words cemented their meaning.
And in the same way, chasing headlights
flying along power lines
believing that you have stumbled
on electricity spreading its arms
and following the leader will take you
into some Aladdin’s cave, eyes widened to wisdom,
always we return home.
Once picked up how hard it is
to abandon gifts and burdens both,
letting go of everything or enough:
songs and faces and scars
having become the spine that pins you
to the earth.

Rules for splitting syllables

I am always catching up with the past
but mostly its fears
nestling skull-deep and muscle-stitched,
restless hints behind the eye that twitched

and it has worked me over
like the tree whose yearly carapace
circumnavigates a sea of years
becoming more like itself, more the tears

a child feels, rushing anger at inconstant rules
for splitting syllables and making meaning
out of watching the earth rise up
severing, bisecting and dissolving love

having made pacts with myself
I have been constant
in breaking them

the way I tie shoelaces and tomorrow,
or move my brow from mystery to sorrow
I stay in motion
hoping to fling myself free

these yesterday syllables binding me

Before the ground gives way and melts

I utter a kind of prayer,
for those soles to soak into this slab,
hoping never to leave the ground.

Season without impression, a day keen
to melt into another with its ambiguous grey:
what are you?

Tuned out to all the whistles, shouts and hollers,
an orchestration without the beach music,
just a clipboard-worth of a segment of life.

Officially we will plunge in sequence,
only the usual players will arise
for the knighting, honours fluttering.

Not even a joust or some proud contest
to the death, a chance at eternal recognition,
this is just another box to fill.

I wish against the future,
seeing no reflection, only they peel
the wrappers off icy poles and gulp sausages, restless.

Two hands wind up wet ends into a ponytail.
Glad-wrapped sandwiches are disinterred
in search of anyplace but here.

A number in the queue, I am holding
out for an exception. But the line watches.
They cannot wait all day.

I beg to differ, if it takes the sacrifice
of a few small hours when instead
I fall through the horizon

discover light retracting

into infinity

this is the stuff of dreams
you have not yet suffered
in all the uncounted, numb, nocturnal hours.

But we are saved in ways we cannot see.
We push up from this forever world,
legs beating us back awake and up.

When I return years later to the scene
they have filled it rock-solid:
part-wish, part-truth, part-liquid.

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?

Afternoon light, 2 o’clock

A sun-blessed street dance:
Whirling antics, figure eights.

Wafting years have fled, leaving
Recognition, nostalgia, dreams.

Glance youth’s free-lit days:
Laughter beats back night
Bears boundless hours where

We forgot tomorrow
Yearned tomorrow
Begged for more
Wished it would end.

Until crossing life’s meridian
We espy forgotten yesterdays.
Guests to life’s new continents:
Spin on, on, on.

Isle of Distant Smiles

How her fingers delight in tracking the
Lavender scent of bristles,
Mid-afternoon and middle age feed
A flotsam of stirring thoughts
An accumulated detritus of days
Shatter against rocky shores where
We long to bottle up the hours and
Hoard precious yesterdays against
Our constant fear, evaporation.

How soon her hand returns from
Dream-flight, lost delight of a
Single voyage round her childhood,
Stranded on an isle of distant smiles.

A Reading Zoo

We were animals,
Our fifth grade a colony
Divided by our teachers
Into a pecking order.

We were classified:
A taxonomy of pre-teens
Stickered with some native bird
According to our calls.

We were heard:
Our words trilled or died as
Benign smiles and nods marked
Anthropological work: ticks, crosses.

We were a kingdom
At whose apex I was permitted
Books, their names escape me,
Their insides: hollow trunks.

We were herded
Apart, some to the savannah’s
Far reaches, the flightless,
Separated from prying eyes.

We were taught
But these were not flying lessons;
I would realise years later
They only tracked our flights.

We were attended
By braying crowds of teachers,
Or worse parents eager to
Lunge upon each misspent note.

We were beaten
Until our audience was sated
That we had grown averse
Or fearful of this eating.

We were readers
Before, but as I glance back
I wonder why these cages
When we should all fly?

(28 February 2015)