Netsuke

Whole, half and emptying
history needs all its hollows,
pleasure and pain alike

in recesses where dust won’t go.
Smooth pockets that make a second
heart for holding sun and silence,

all that fits past clasp and key.
Say the unwritten is unerasable,
not true, never having been

more than out of mind, a sound,
a hint or wish to know
how to cast a jigsaw of the sky.

In the columned quiet
of monuments, tombs and temples,
you wonder what was left unsaid

and why.

Creatures of habit

“When I was young” becomes a catch-cry for knowing another room,
walls smothered grey, where someone now sits
craning their mind towards now’s never, where we always meet.

The breathchain leading nowhere, goodbyes proffered as interludes
hanging in the chill of life’s mimicry line and shadowdance
where the divisible left and right come limned

in twain and entwined, panting, fleeing, carving the hollows,
smoking out commands, chatter lines and indelible strings.
If there is a pattern, it is always knowing patterns

were once there, with someone to recall them before words
and without more movement than the drag of blue tomorrow,
what skies smells of, because the blue of rivers

reads the earth and its solace and sighs.
Something about the dust falling to the beat of stories, like us,
serving pulses and masters and days, we creatures of habit.

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
hanging,
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.

Under Siege (April 18)

My humble opinion is being
profoundly threatened by the right to say,
in fact, that it is not settled because
free speech is under siege from
moralists and false believers
opposing what they espouse while spouting
medieval views and a constant
torrent of denials on a stream of
hot air.

And Voltaire would remind us that this
is the best of all possible worlds
where white men will have their
words defended to the death.