Shine

When I wanted a river,
An ocean arrived
With its astounding medley
Of tremors and surges,
In its sudden bending and sway.

Absent Poseidon, the sea cannot
Be locked shut and its glare
Pretended away.

I have known sudden
As something relative,
Shocking and startling increments
With their readable auras.

Citrus,
  Bright sun,
    Soft teeth,
Pressing an ear to the vagabond skin of time.

This is dancing weightless
On the silent pond,
Holding the brine of white noise
Between lips.
And wanting, waiting.

You cannot wash away the bay,
Forget the bitter lapping
Against the sweet.

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Glaciers

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.

Moonfall on a broken atlas

Hand on the rudder, reading pagewise as the silt
scurries up in the wake
only the slow drift of hair askew and dripping,
this swirlpool of story

We in silence here have been sitting
and still drifting until the float
of mosquitoes swells, reminding now night
that it too should be stirring

With faces bending low into caverns dark
the limestone of slow-brewed selves
jutting in some other script whose curlicues
tease out an atlas obscura

And running back with the flow, forward-bound,
you know, as the breathless drop does
where water takes on water
  together and asunder, waiting

Absent-hearted, the pause holds back the tide
of days bearing up the calling night
whose darkness pools as much as light,
where moonfall and falling boats both rise.

Walking dreams

I’ve been scrambling the thesaurus for its tangerine clouds,
trying to whip solutions from the dust into truth.

Instead a mess of stars and gusts send hinges daywards
while all answers adhere to the flanks of trailing ships.

And all nouns collect behind the frowning ether
furnishing the shadowed rooms, dreary with their suggestions.

Sitting here, watching and scouring the silence,
the days keep slipping their skins, becoming new words.

Complaining, over coffee

Oh and I suppose there should be another,
an again? Lest they all turn out the same
we might add a scent of difference,
an impression of bowing into the wind
as it hoops its unseen lips and slips back
the resolute umbrella, hand behind it.

Send summer’s citadel, even knowing that it too
might become part of the living loop
of dragging feet and vacant bodies
pushing sullen minds through their distractions,
peasants and aristocracy slipping
into houndstooth and herringbone,
crests as much as their ancestors smiled on.

So truly, there will be others
glancing through solace and regret,
perching on the smoke-edge and finger-turn,
pushing back the could and would
into a corseted acceptance of something
we embrace behind a nagging should.

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.

Fidget

The fidget man I’ll call him,
a name whose sense will hold
for this today, a fickle increment,
spins like a heady dial
as he sells
to the ravished crowds
exhausted and impatient
the nail technicians slump
their frowns
into laps
of grey armchairs
between waiting on hands
and the angry drunk woman
taking a break
from her free hours
upbraids the pigeon-taunting man
who was only delighting
at the giggling
of infancy’s
easy cruelty
and two teens decide
to stand
for a picture
of themselves
because without it
this minute
would just slip by
like any other.

A grammar of taste

The sky speaks.

She (or he, it is still too early to quite decide) is caught up in that hour before morning loses its solitary scent. Ignoring the kitchen’s light switch and working from the ingrained comfort that comes after months in the same place, her mind drifts, loose and roaming, to where the traces of dreams are yet to be fully scrubbed from the eyes’ grimy corners.

From the window of the apartment looking into hers, four flights up and across a slightly nauseous gap she has learned to bear, a camera flash, or a too early glimmer of sun. Or just a lamp flicked on for long enough to confirm the hour is yet small enough for a return to the luxurious coma of sleep, a few more placeless, anaesthetised minutes before facing the day. Sometimes a light is just a light, a trick the mind offers us, rather than a question. Sometimes it is also the hand behind it, reaching outwards and guiding.

Her fingers (and we seem more sure it is a ‘her’, if reading mannerisms and outlines allows us a clue) clutch an orange, bought two days ago, moving slowly over its pores. With a thumb nail, pressure and a little leverage, soon the bittersweet notion of citrus breaks free. She expects this to happen, knows it with a familial reassurance, but smiles a little anyway, content with this tenderness meant for her alone, this moment. It is a singular pleasure, one of very few she’ll permit herself throughout the day. With its stubborn weight of routine, soon the rigid hours will own her again, she will serve them. Soon, she will check off tasks and the hours, meetings and nods and handshakes and a mind knotted up in the daylight life that eats into night, where even then are there few shadows to escape into for their little pleasures.

As she pops a segment into her mouth, this could be her madeleine moment – someone should call her now, coincidentally and early, that they might together appreciate the cool spice and tang of this shared reprieve – but her tastes these days come more from the self-improvement section, not her childhood indulgences. She gave them up, gives them up, in order to keep reaching and floating and moving. Past loves have faded, for the most part, and they say exes are best remembered in their most rancid form, to fan away regret, rather than regurgitated from that confusing emotional pit. She prefers not to let her mind turn down those corridors, though what can she do in those unscheduled absences when the wind rushes in, umbrellas are unfurled from sleeves, and couples link arms to hurry down grey-slopped streets together?

Best to remember that she knows where to draw her mantras and heroes from, now. The commute to work, still by train on a practically gentrified line, is filled with a self-talk of generic phrases congratulating her on upgrading her attitude and wardrobe, reminders and rehearsals about how posture and volume lead to partnership, faint echoes of Mrs Waugh in fourth grade and those constant reminders about “stiffening up your spine, girls” that now seem to be the best-selling creed of bleach-toothed success stories.

She cycles through her morning playlist, much of it at a tempo fast enough to psych you up for an adversarial joust or performing CPR, whichever comes first. Days require you to be versatile, even within the monotony. Chomping at the bit for action, her foot detaches from her thoughts, in a tss tss tss, a nodding blur that almost matches time with the train’s steady rattle, a free and cracking whip of motion and force and elsewhere. Her mind works up a sweat.

Portrait #12: Woman contemplating an orange near daybreak.

She’s caught up with the way the rind slips her little hints of memories, though she doesn’t get to choose which ones. She’ll go there anyway, resting an elbow on the chopping board, and even taken somewhere else she almost notices that the light may have flashed again. It seems she’s tallying up the purchases she’ll need to make, a mental inventory. The necessary maintenance and chores and taking out the trash that will be added to calling her mother for a second time this week. Add extra chocolate to the list, coffee beans, new tumblers. No new tumblers. No more tumblers.

Can’t we get her to focus, even in these empty minutes before the freeway whirs into life, on something other than the here and now?

The sky is watching, or will be watching, speaking in tongues and rays and indecipherable little hints that we ascribe a mind of their own. We must give her a grammar of taste, a way to name the dangling emotions and savour the run-on thoughts as more than a slow stream of juice that wets lips and appetite.

Speaking to an empty room, though, the sky offers nothing this morning. Nothing that will be taken.

But it has time, it will be here tomorrow too.

As she exits, she pockets a fruit for later, and hurries off to join the whirring crowd.

Foraging for stars

Cutting up the sky to reinvent the earth,
in some small way, would be like plucking a star
from its socket, endarkening a nest of stories.

Their blazing path peeled clean away
dips the ordered life out of joint, amiss.
Can’t you have that too, the dream made flesh: this?

Must it always keep diving back under the dark surface
into escaping orbit, far and slippery beyond your touch?
All the while you wonder rivulets and speak so much

your eyes wishing myths might breathe again, for once,
for the first time, your mouth and lips testing
the bruise of these soft syllables, foraging for stars.