Camera obscura

When I am not so much strained, one day,
holding scatterings unsaid, when I have gained
and lost enough to let the truth of things
slip out like seaweed, what of the water?

The past gushing, the bough boiling,
a bag of almond meal never used for fear
at letting sweetness fall. Nor do they make
guarantees for the future, guides for how to take

yourself apart from yesterday. We are
outlasted and outdone by distant years, perhaps,
in their consoling way. Will I know? Crafting walls
whose doors we fear to test, not trusting

how to sketch space when the sudden moon subsides
leaving little room for seeing what silence hides.
You hold tomorrow up and take this pulse,
decant the sun, shy away, softly fading false.


The young man should not look others in the mirror,
for some it means stretching down towards a fate
wizened or withered, bending as well as porcelain.

Or is it watching oranges and lemons plummet
from branches bending nearer autumn
as grey waves swoop away promise of distant lands?

But these are shores and drops the old man
lingering over the nectar of decades
has seen and known and stumbled over.

So the still young look on regardless,
towards tomorrow’s glassy valleys and Byzantium

much as the berg calves itself into the ocean,
the rift, so far, a thin hope for charting life.

Moon encyclopedia

I see a campsite, to begin,
a composite against shale sky caving in
to mallow breath and dulcet laughter
as the night drinks itself into the after

where I would take you, there and back,
to tilt imagination, make its axes crack
unzipping yesterday, demand the dormant sky
reset its cloud-tuned course and so defy

the silent hour –

(when, for need we sent the youngest out,
a ward against morning and memory, and talked about
never falling into iron-tongued tomorrow,
its noun-spent names, life’s clam-shell sorrow)

    – until the guilty yawn
breaks our lull and talk’s new torn
by fingers dipping into an endless and unending much
where between arcing, slender thoughts, a touch

as if each listener might be delivered such
in a same instant of conjoined breath
an ever clean-smelt from air: our moon enyclopedia.
Before the never dawn, we’ll stay together there.

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

The Unpromised (27 October)

If you had read the labels
flashing bright neon colours,
extolling youth’s extra sweetness
whose contents and capabilities
were new and improved,
such-and-such percentage more likely
to produce successful results
(ignore their bleak predecessors with
inferior lives unworthy of mention)
you would surely claim to have been
misled that night.

Wait, wait.
They’re finding a place.
Let them assemble their better selves
As the band gathers again.

How quickly daybreak fades to render rough gaps
With pre-filled, sanded stories growing smoother,
Flatter, softer, easier to sell as night sets.

Self-made, remade, BYO, DIY, all new
100% organically-concocted claims:
Better to claim your own, to print
A golden version before others grab hold,
Their rough lead a dot-to-dot
Defacing the surface to reveal
What sustains them is:

bitter lives still wedged in high school’s
halcyon days (you really wish to re-inhabit?),
an unsmiling marriage,
an unmentioned divorce,
the promise of monetary miracles,
a high-flying half-pack a day (maybe more) or
that green bottle that silvers your speech,
grander lives of siblings easier to share than
loose ends that never knotted and left you
days that “make you want to end it”,
waiting for another go in
five, ten years when
it will all work out in the end.

They’ll form the same circles and ask you to
Ignore the wear and tear the real world brings,
Degrading lives by petty sacrifices made
Lacking Cassandra’s gift
– but which one? –
As here unwanted middles emit the
Scent of broken ends.

The photo’s done.

They make a cornered retreat, floating back
To the unpromised lives
We may all come to endure.

We hear (27 July)

tangled plaques these twisted words,
rebelling at their limits like some
helium-filled story longing to be
unwound, untold, exasperated in a
single rush of exhaustion.

cannot find the beat where truth
first glanced fiction, abandoned the map.
cannot scratch off the coating that
formed when in that pulsing instant
memory was a second thought.

embraced in these miseries,
until they are no longer ours,
until by sharing pain we mute
throbbing secrets into
cracks in solitude’s lonely walls.

suddenly they are only quoted moments
because telling a story
makes it your story
untangled with that first breath:
“this is what happened.”

Two seconds, or three (17 July)

Uprooted memory, a transplanted cut-out:
these few trees, this sudden light.
All that’s missing is the haze
and the fog of unfamiliarity.

And as time splits I could be there
seeing that unbroken tree-line
where Northern hemisphere blue is
cloaked in unbelievable flatness.

Were I not aboard this silent carriage
both then and now
we could be in Yesterday
awoken from ancient slumber.

In this double mirror is the untangling
of a million inhaled moments, scents
flasked in opaque, corked containers
whose uncapping sloshes forth some

old cologne, musky breath, undated,
knowing you are their brewer,
you stirred the pot and distilled their
forgotten essence.

So branching off on routes unseen
this single patch of brown recalls
half-surrendered hours and these
two seconds, or three, seem limitless.