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

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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.

Passengers in the Frame

it works better with a story behind it,
even if we are just passengers slipping
astride the frame, peripheral while wanting
to nudge the plot and almost protagonise.
bystanders always knowing that your pose
can sway too much and jar the composition.
still, you could jemmy away like a thief
on the cusp of some short-lived coup, breaking
anything that affords a feature role.
instead you dabble as stowaway, smile
in another’s tale, mere passing description
like the dark brush shimmering or footfalls
half-fading into dark, a waiting lark.

Random Objects

Begin here an unfilled lyric,
much like a city has walls we can no more see
than the quiet pillars of the mind,
barricades that need dismantling.

Only when we clear away
a confusion of souvenirs and sorrows is there
sign of grassland new,
canvassed by some unplanned design.

See how the years bear little relics
proving somehow that nothing gathered can be lost
against your will, only laid aside or reassigned
behind those spaces even dust won’t go.

Look: I’ve laid it out for you,
all the scattered pieces fallen and askew
sound confused and beg for naming
but I refuse to give the eyeless voices,

So I try again to make a list
but I’m falling short and open.
The scattering and the toppled props
reward me with disdain unless

I try once more to sort and ease
away now more than memories. Then hope
arrives and I object: O life, that leaves
us grasping for these walls to fold.

Chant

If you ask I will say I am waiting for the silence to disperse,
most oceans can be crossed without dissolving to a mist.

If you wonder why I say this is no salt story,
the shadows all are packed away and gone on tour without delay.

I am inclined to offer some excuse: a flock of pigeons drawn
like magnets to an outdoor feast, where light and sky and thought all ceased.

I want more than just moments cascading into one another,
but flesh and scent are gone, the memories lent.

That we had never traded places. For I am looking down
at birds and winging over years of this silent chant.

Heartfall

Heartfall and windside and daybreak
and the sudden absence of light,
or just shadows peeling quietly away.

First to winter and a boulevard,
veins quiet before cyclists come flaring
upwards against the wind,
screaming morning into life between trees.

Or there are no trees there like here,
only unnameable sketches of buildings,
their order interchangeable.

When just before nightbreak that same backdrop
settles under fogbreath
and misting mouths clatter
between nods and frowns.

The notion of sky is the colour of sky,
its aching magnitude
a reminder that you have been transported
into a world not of your mind’s making
whose matchbox frames and peeping windows
gather another people’s birdsong

but all is still sky, earth and
pulsing days between.

(“I assume you still write poetry?”
“Only when the heart rises, the wind subsides,
and the cross-hatching of memory appears.”)

In any order other than chronological,
a single moment feels like echoes,
sings like wheels in motion,

a kind of endless question and answer
not unlike tomorrow, today’s fresh-brewed child
dropped into all our lives at once.

Then the crossing light clicks over, ready for you.
Even its different tone should not be
different, really, only second or third, like

the unfamiliar rumble of a stranger’s face
known except for the darkening years
whose dwindling chasm spells out
bridge and length of your heartfall.

– 9 July 2016

Breeze over the lake

With a stretch they crunch uncrunch and gasp
while magnet ducks lulled like toys nod through
ruffled air demanding you pirouette,
there a one-two, punch-punch-swift exhale
here she levitates that cooing child
by shimmering nebula’s pebbled paths
a pair arrives like Doppler waves
performing their two-step in unison
as city’s patient ‘scape drowns horizon
revolves and all is submerged, vanished
as erratic days erupt into emptiness
leaving a single inhalation of life.
– 20 August

Among the Lollies

He is air-bound for a second
all three years, or two or four,
our estimate less important
than his almost levitation,
a would-be superhero
if not for the grasping voice
of the fearsome, shouting hand
berating him and apportioning flight
in singular, curious rage.

Her strange shame recalls
marshmallows
they used to offer as
reward for waiting,
that time’s hands might gather
double happiness,
but they never tested the parents.

Her wait earlier,
all false face,
now rises to acrid peak
and he is

weightless

and we wait, too stunned
to play hero against
mediocre, sour villains
who roam life’s aisles
with bitter hearts
no sweet can remedy.

(April 4 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.