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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French lessons

Baby steps and the sweet sounds of discovery.
Sudden infants again we are enamoured
with vowel games, laughing at lip-smacking antics.
We are terrified, tantalised,
subject and subjected as pale pages
squirm with whole geographies of conjugates,
rituals and rites.
Ask us how we made sense of syntax and sign,
threading it together, pulling off
false impressions.
Ask not, because our gods became singers,
Aznavour lamenting yesterday seemed solace
for poseurs snatching, lifting, arranging
into fictions for the test.
Enraptured our teacher bought
imitation as the real thing,
imploring us to come back next year, once more.

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,

Wild things

drinking in wild things and light
everything the colour of cymbals
urging winter into memory ground

ink of the first geranium
anthem bursting in rhythm
of sweeping daylight

rituals from the roots
of melody born
in vines the shape of longing

enough to hear the shade
pressed between quivering leaves
thoughts still wild and ripe and free

Moon quartet

Each time I try to write a verse
I make a carnival of the lines
because what I want to convey,
such awe – that pendant, silent

and pensive in its scarf of night
cut from the cloth
of every night and every moon
and every eye.

It doesn’t matter.
Holding the same horizon up
to the rattling of fingertips
unfurls such joyous song.

It is the sound the tide makes,
the glow of a restless tomorrow
stitching lines of memory
into shadowed, sleeping ground.

Underfoot a rippling breeze

Over autumn and the moss-drunk earth
where trees describe trees,
parched days invent their own music
festooned with leaves.

Soon a lunar dance
across the star-ranged skies.
More delight for the earthbound
dreaming of gravity

amidst wind-kissed branches.
Between arms twirling and quiet
days lapping into nights,
underfoot a rippling breeze of hope.

Sand dreams

Here is where I retreat,
under yawning bark and view

releasing a tiny, forgotten universe
held together by lashings of memory.

I imagine owning the fabulous adornments
of a reckless youth, brittle inventions

or useful battle scars, the bright ferment
giving birth to aged sighs, a slow release.

To sit and sift through novels of a past
that feels real by its invention

with old rocking-chair men poring through
dusty tabloids of shuttered, bygone hopes,

cursing and loving the past in lamentations,
possessing it again in monochrome

under cover of roofs, hats, denials.
Devotion in this place takes no shape

dissolving out of reach and view,
though the past is always underfoot.

Or we invent it without seeing, without knowing
we have pinned all our hopes to its mast,

much as the earth astounds the castaway skies,
bracing the stars, the dream’s quiet music.

Pursued

Palate of silver winds and shades too slow
to tame the stretching vectors,
birds we scrape words across, like Zeno
inventing a puzzle of the entrancing sky,
draining its unclenchable mystery.

Until even in the woods of thought
under the wide-brimmed canopy of metaphor,
conversations become homonyms
for each other.

Inhabiting that small cabin of quiet history,
pursued by the flushing snow
of restless thoughts tilling rooftops,
with the morning carving its diminuendo
a familiar shape of day
whirring everything into the self-same shape.

To be otherwise, to be other
in words to step
beyond mere echo of that forest
outside these walls.

Voices I have read before, I shelter under
your steady frame, dreaming instead
how new colours will slide out across the tongue of time,
how leaves will split across their horizons,
spilling out new verbs
that we can taste the unmade universe.

No more than this, much more
we twist to escape the comfort
of everything we have already read,
and steady paths known by ripe grass
that swoops and waves and tells
without knowing why,
other than that it must.

A thousand dreams of blue

In a thousand dreams of blue,
over and over,
strummed by sandwiched sea and sky,
gull-clear and even-tempered
valves of light announce a melody.
Everything under-wing, this worship
of waves, whose art
is never letting go.
And somewhere, sometime
astir between despair and hope
plucks out the firmament
into a dazzling array
away from its short monochrome,
you announce yourself
the very definition of azure.

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.