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.

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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,

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.

The all-divulging sea

In the steady arclight
of afternoons past
bewitched by imagination
trading memories
for the eel-skin future

warbling and ajar with loose change
those small schemes
whose butterfly netting
swat at skyscrapers
hardly leaving a stain

your back pressed up against the window
of some line you read
once this morning
or in a somewhere moment
all its indented caverns aflutter

while bursting in again
the moon falls quiet
restless and reflecting
as the all-divulging sea

Earth, smoke, dusk

Years later it would spark and burn,
suspicions though from the back seat
mistook country murmurs for smoke
as the mountain road wound,
curved and never let you look
beyond a fraction of a minute.
Melways in your lap spoke signs
as the navigator peering out
sending passage from over the shoulder,
over straight ways becoming loud
as light scatters in slits and slots
cut through by holidaymakers out of time,
wanting to step out of time holding
aboard the few spare days
miseries like sour fruit, skin tight.
Little did you see, rattling by
through the pass because
the days depend on knowing
as you glanced ridge-wards
looking for landmarks
through the jagged horizon
that where there will be ash
the forest stands again now,
dark smear, twilight,
crumbs, leaves,
day’s sprout.

Sea-spray

I have been reading the sea,
through one of its many windows, you might say,
if you knew the bliss and waft of foam,
inviting fingers of the waves, their willing arms
talking dust and detritus to swooning tips.

Hold the stain of these pages
by the spine of their dull watermark, sand-blessed,
up to the shade of youth,
faintly superstitious and quiet
to all the bellowing infinities.

The tide of days sweeps in,
soon and now.

A little longer we will sit here,
catching the near-far silence with wondering,
entrained on the here and soft horizon.
We will wait, still longer, until the mist
gull-high and dream deep fills the soul.

Magnesium days

Writing to be read, not read into,
a sleight of hand that glimmers sweetly
up in a whirling test tube
caressing quick-burn dreams in its sight
then dispenses into chemical days.

And time-bound, it feels like
yesterday’s ferment, soured, sweet
a busy chef stoking the feast
and genuflecting in our direction
so we might barely scrape the glaring bright.

This would be magic, not only awe,
in other ages, other lights.
Instead this elemental world asks nothing
though we reassemble its toy-kit parts
into misery and dreams and approval.

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.