Riding the carousel river

Do we create rivers or follow their bend,
and does the mind hibernate, intentions end?

Pulling at questions, ratcheted and unwound
embers drained from the time-seasoned ground.

Each half-way fall cleaves in half until
you spill over though you’re moving still

Towards and away, on the carousel,
when the music clams, how will you tell?

We keep asking

While three or four each child
adores to paint with why:
to splatter parents crimson-wild
till fury stuns the deep well dry
where mysteries are locked and filed
heeding Poe’s raven’s senseless cry.

Their dim amusement grows then wanes
as eyes shift from glaring windowpanes
to shield when asked not “what” instead
that question they have forced to bed
so curdled by their childhood years
knowing only “why” will lead to tears.

So this poem offers no solutions
only wanders amidst pale confusions
it diverges even as you read
to serve one purpose: simply plead
that when that question does arise
you’ll ensure its swift reprise.
(2 May 2015)

A Reading Zoo

We were animals,
Our fifth grade a colony
Divided by our teachers
Into a pecking order.

We were classified:
A taxonomy of pre-teens
Stickered with some native bird
According to our calls.

We were heard:
Our words trilled or died as
Benign smiles and nods marked
Anthropological work: ticks, crosses.

We were a kingdom
At whose apex I was permitted
Books, their names escape me,
Their insides: hollow trunks.

We were herded
Apart, some to the savannah’s
Far reaches, the flightless,
Separated from prying eyes.

We were taught
But these were not flying lessons;
I would realise years later
They only tracked our flights.

We were attended
By braying crowds of teachers,
Or worse parents eager to
Lunge upon each misspent note.

We were beaten
Until our audience was sated
That we had grown averse
Or fearful of this eating.

We were readers
Before, but as I glance back
I wonder why these cages
When we should all fly?

(28 February 2015)

Out of Time

Old foe, lost lover:
are you lonely, do you weep?
Try as I might to leave you,
with all your time-worn aliases,
we are still other-bound and
will not come unchained.

Master and slave, villain and victim,
peddler of opposites
your face appears in every mirror,
photos speak an inescapable truth.

From where you stand, refusing stillness,
everything abandons you, the solitary
runner pursing an unreachable horizon
and I wonder whether you are ever lonely,
to be ever doomed to your path.

So we are both trapped. (Are we?)
When do you sleep? Where?
Who is waiting for you?
What colour are your tears?

I have more questions for you
But I fear we are out of time.

(11 & 22 February 2015)

Morning, January (8-9 January)

I go out with the morning light
of summer, in dawn’s breath
to feel dew on dandelion limbs
tickle bare ankles while
winding rose stems studded
with beads, translucent
pearls of water hang still.

At this moment, when nature steals
away from image to metaphor in mind
I do not know that this is a day
where people will claim to be wordless,
where I will be shocked at not being
shocked by the grey predictability:
hatred, ideology, aggression, death
again drawn together
as sure as beauty and peace.

Like these wandering thoughts
this poem does not end
with answers.

What holds (26 November)

Are these broken or breaking?

Inhale first from this basket
fresh-gathered tears plucked
new yesterday, a wilting harvest.

Or touch uncracked glass,
its hollow form whispering
a single note before it fragments

into sieved and severed stories:
unwilling revelations
unburied with a sidelong brushstroke.

Words descend from aching place,
staining paper with the trails
of unvarnished truth.

Then these homes, where what is
within goes without, all the
pronouned pieces displaced

by the breaking: marble shatters
too, you simply missed the lines
marking the coming separation.

Taking flight (26 September)

Like the placid moth
Wintering on the narrow frame
Dancing, shuffling sideways to
Escape this questioning finger
Through open window’s glow

Their drifting faces betray a
Knowing resignation
Cannot cloak the
Misery of downcast souls
Revealed in half-mast eyes.

World weary, cannot countenance
More of this same-turning, unyielding,
Labyrinthine, winding, puzzling,
Never-ending forward march with
Half-cocked heads drifting, falling.

Who provoked this war? Who formed
Platoons from their numbers,
Assigned stripes, designated lines and
Bound wings against rebellion
Thinking sunken lips would not rally

Shared stories, screamed endlessly
On mute, whispered eye-to-eye
In the huddle – we know – listening
For cloud’s brief deflection
When light will flutter in.

Before waking (11 September)

Gazing light shears through
This peeking gash

They seem to be multiplying
These murmuring goblins

Unfortunate that I,
Gouge eyes in their fabric,
Distraught menace piercing
Tired sentries.

Each careless slip raises
Memorialised regret, self-spoken
Promises on certain accidents
These sprouting holes
Appearing like some sleight of hand
With unsympathetic ease
At my touch
Pulling, testing the integrity
Of these fickle bonds.

Self-doubt: tempting to peel
Away in a single gesture
Hold tight the reigns
Bullish matador:
Seize, grip, swish
That singular unspoken breath
Before darkness is stripped bare.

You startle at these little fears
Parting gaps and loosened edges
Threading thoughts together.

Doubts first start coming apart
At the seams.

There’s nothing to say (29 May)

Really, because it means
what it says is her reply
to a foolish question that
comes after I have read it
by line
so they can see it pull at us
these marionette-stringed words
reverberating like the dancer
extending each carefully-planned step
with such poise that you
can’t believe this was ever rehearsed,
and as your eyes flickered
from the page to theirs
you could feel a knowing gaze
from them,
sense between half-breaths a floating
hesitation, eyes peeking over the precipice
and forgetting grey carpets in square rooms to
inhale poetry
whose fragrance does not need to be
labelled because after our collective silence
though we can try and distil the scent,
retrace the dancer’s route,
turn the flashlight on or dust for clues
instead we hold this note because
within it echoes, and echoes and
there’s nothing to say.

Meditation on two sculptures (21 May)

This is written more with slam poetry in mind, or at least the rhythm and roll that comes from being read aloud with pace and passion

I never folded them with my own hands.
I never took the time and care to calmly add the fine creases,
or bend edges skywards, twist and raise each corner
into the carefully finished form upon my shelf.
And yes, I’ll admit that my first reaction when I came across those two abandoned trophies
after your quick departure –
symbols of our wasted hour together –
my first reaction involved the formation of a small smile
before it turned inwards
into something closer to the needless balling up of paper.

Most days I crane my head and see them,
aging reminders of one moment and so many moments
when you or they or them or all of you
retreat and make your disappearance known in one of a dozen conjuring tricks
where you ignore this crowded hour, forget the lines and perform
only for yourself
your first trick a dozen spirals
blossoming in that empty wasteland.

There is no other trick.
No one applauds.
Should they?

And all I want to do
is to show you, and them, and all of us
that you can unfold your mind and see that blank space
is unlimited opportunity that can be refolded and enfolded
in infinite dimensions until you have so much more than
this single token.

Because you do not want to visit the edges of this territory,
do not see that this leg of the journey is in fact part of a bigger map,
unencumbered by the limits of the now.
Tomorrow is here today, but maybe I am not the guide
to show you, to take you there or you are yet to find that guide.

It need not be me.
You won’t believe it.
You may refuse.
Go ahead.

But are you searching?

But if for a moment all of those temptations and distractions
the blue lights and grey noise
with their remarkable hum
would disappear
and your evaporating vapor trails of thought
would condense
there might be something more
than this.

Because now all I do is look up and question,
look up and wonder whether I am the only one looking up.
And if I tell you all of this, not just that you have added
another crease, another fold to me
but that you have this, all of this –
this life, this moment, this opportunity, this chance –
would you still remain blind?

Or maybe I’m the one who doesn’t see?