Theme for Class

In school they never let you
pick the topic, especially those
secret and distant
worlds I once dismissed out of hand

offering no more
than mystery and flight,
fantasy filling hours on end
with its looping plots

the constant adrenaline tug
of knowing how chapters
were just beginning
to unlock keys to untold lands

where you already knew of ciphers
and suspense, how each dangling drip
begat an understanding
that peace would always be elusive

that the earth must tremor
and the seasons topple,
so all stories repeat their truths
in different lies.

Paper dance

sensing only the same tempo, melting
and reshaping itself

is how the dancers ended up
searching for silhouettes through the floorboards,

waging war against the constant choreography,
leaving the watchers waiting and the music

flailing, trying to meet
the riff, riff, riff

as legs speak in tongues
so that each adjustment and rise

becomes an offer and a pose
grappling with a set of parentheses

dangling like the open sesame
chanted to cleave the shade

and send the lamplight scurrying
into the twilight’s daze

though the show goes on regardless,
scenery rippling, wavering, dancing.

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.

In your own words

We traffic in words
their fuse and pop and darting light
the mad electric parade
becomes our mind,
a
reaching out as we revel
in making thought from old
with the scrambling hop of fingers
pressing into the grease-proof clay
always springing back and forth
between new, never and timeworn delight.

O, how we revel knowing words.
Touching, they merge
to trip us beyond,
and even meeting at the intersection
of silence and confusion, staring
blankly
distraught because the lights haven’t bloomed
again and all our moves are governed
by the same recursive loops
drummed into us,
no matter. True enough.

No matter these,
when the boundless sky swirls here
and there at once
enough that you know what I mean
in your own words.

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

A fist of night

Trying to smear together the stars
detaching the made and stitching
is like excavating for new constellations
roaming your mind along a razed field

whose silent ears and tufts already stand
and sway much like an outstretched hand
turning its fingers and beckoning here
(how the nearness of things, in a way

is also a line, a plane, a reminder
that you are descending into forever sand
(the elsewhere city is here again, always)
speaking itself into a dust of atoms

that become again, and have always been)
through the backbone of all these yearnings
to take a fist of budding night
and clutch new words, new stars, new flight.

Between falls

Wait at the vacant drop
displaced from ocean home
and this taste for words, an obsession
in cataloguing kept thoughts
will some day expire from overuse

perhaps fiddling at the margins
trying to push every symbol and break
into place has meant losing
sight and preferring
the skin-deep difference

there’s a density to looks
and the way a smile smells
or the mind retreats
flapping towards the equator
when winter’s skin forms

instead it’s always line music
always edges and rests and rhymes
inventing a pleasure of gulls
shaking loose a patience of drops
until, between falls, we rise.

Peeling the rind

Is this how painters try and plunge the world
into line and shade and hesitation
committing themselves to the ineffable,
unerasable and solid flesh, a slow appreciation

that builds a moment piece by pace
with a surer formula than luck?
So the circular becomes impassable
each lush hint seems to duck

behind the moon that captures still
a scene for monumental time
ripe rind, globed fruit more edible,
its egg-white glaze sublime.

Knowing it isn’t art but metaphor,
that life leaps not on nor off the page,
still I’ll hold a single second back
and allow mind’s fruit to age.

Maybe you know

the fat, constant sweep of the fan
blades my mind, stopping it from flat-lining
into those meditative valleys

that swing and blow and dream, cold and ripe,
beyond the pale dawn, cast in white,
where they’re sawing down fresh metaphors of the flesh

for the tailor in his absent humming
and sharp cologne knits lips and words together,
guiding his needle in to make new light

where I am here for a single blazing moment
taking tea with the muse
and the daemon, both and all marveling

at tomorrow’s more, how gusting magic unsettles
one word from the next,
where any suggestion becomes a supple text

to lean on, wafting, like this one
a sudden spear of fresh-sewn language
blooming from a rough-tossed seed

thrown outwards with a single fanning need

Smoke and silence

So let me tell you how it works,
or doesn’t, this surrogate for other things,
I try to hold in place tight as a pin.
Doppelganger, friend, foe, silhouetted stranger
I would have erased you two lines back for being
too close
to convention     and the truth.

And even now having reached out to revise
over thoughts of hope or despair,
both being at work somewhere,
this is always more than collecting the day’s shaking fragments,
that lifelong day I’m trying to rearrange into a moldable shape,

I will still ask whether these lines
are good enough,
or if I am,
– smile –
and doubt will laugh its crippling way
along this stream of thought
until I stop and ponder and retrace
and delete signs enough
where some edge of heart-map behind the narrator
saunter into view.

Here would be a good point to stop and take
the ceaseless river and turn it
back on itself, a coat’s padding revealed
or a harmless suggestion raised from a frown.
Even now and here I long to do it again,
to edge backwards towards the rushing river beat
and its parade of smoke and silence
longing to reveal colour without body,
washing over meaning until all you see:
glittering sunlight, your reflection,
hints without answers.

Whatever I do, however I turn the lens
close but not too close,
the twist-necked starling prodding at a truth
it’s easier to retreat from,
or keep moving onward to the next

but writing, even this,
is always the hope of discovery
saying something for the first time,
finally running towards instead of away,
allowing
words
their own freedom
and yours, too:
mine.