Leopold and the Gods

Leopold. At the kitchen sink
with empty bottles and
unwashed memories.

Tuesday. There’s rage in the sky,
veiled as a grey-black cloud, pent-up
primed to pop, to plummet
and consume. Later,
it rains and Leopold
tells his true name to the ash bush
that will not budge.

Months later. Without.
Words are like rain in autumn,
too frequent, too desperate
to fall and be read.
Some are true, some are knives
meant only to cut.

Leopold. Now overtly elated,
listen lover. Everything.

In the morning the river
is near and the estuary flat.
He watches a small plane fall to land then vanish.
In the distance are high and full trees
encircling a manor house,
falling onto the house
as if hugging the place tight,
encasing and saving, protecting.

Lazarus. Nothing dead can wake.
No roses with crippled petals
can be given as gifts.
Just barb-sticks,
just finger-bleeders.

Icarus. It was heat.
The fire of that sickness,
with sweats and burning words.
‘They consume, don’t they?’
‘We consumed,’ Leopold says
as he scrubs the plate
and hums Inchworm
imperfectly, closing his eyes
at the image, ever-image,
of ill fate.


tombs for thousands of years

or the dust disturbed by waves of doctrine
and lost worlds, like memory or shattered cities
I talk about tombs and think of Edinburgh
of a cold hand in a warm hand
or a cold body against a warm body
time slows, waves become a sea
become an ocean submerged
I am ice and my blood is ice
and my heart is ice
or for thousands of years I drift
or stand in a cornfield and will someone to pass
lifted from elsewhere and taken
for thousands of years the dust settles
and cold hands are forgotten
or evangelised and cast aside
there are gentle words on rolls of papyrus
no one can ever read
tongue stilled, memory entombed
repeated palimpsest

Pelham’s Eye

He reclaimed the face by adding an eye to the cog.
Now encased in a black jacket; bread to beef
to flickering horseradish to a loaf filled with slopped stew,
aching eyes.

When the hand coaxes words forward
it’s travel sickness again, it’s being beneath
Christ the King’s light-sucking chandelier.
To one end of that cathedral is fractured light,
pipework of colours.

When they finished reading a page they would discard
the paper, tear it out and wipe their arses, flush folios.
I have a half memory of Henry Miller there,
his dark season, the other half moves to Paris
to delicate lemon tea cakes glazed the same as sweet doughnuts,
fractured icing.

Listen, it’s difficult to make this place warm,
to force it to keep its heat but when pipe-creaking water
boils, clunking and dripping, the hidden heater groans
above plaster cracks and cogs turn dis-harmonic
and oscillating.

“Tell Hayter to get in some lobster.” Skim the herring pond
and listen, when the milk is sipped the colour fades.
White remains, full fat not skimmed,
against the perfectly spaced black of the cog, the pupil dilated
banging a ruler against his desk then silent,
then clunking and drip.

The room warms, we watch the image fade,
offer reflections, offer ash as a mark –
me cross-legged, me watching the clock, me unbuttoning,
me wide eyed.

Then going back find dizziness again.
There is the flickering focus of full sentences,
of your not yr, of chimney stacks absent
beside absent clouds in the absent blue of a clear day,
what a cliché, and slicing through this is the orange tail of an Easyjet
flying Liverpool to Palma.

Listen, they’re lifting a whole city by its gone-jarg roots,
your last flim wouldn’t be enough
to buy back its place in the hollow.
Look, this day-long bubbling pot of scouse
is as blind as a skald, pecked at by a raven so its only song
is a scar made of steam.
Lifting, removing, so Widnes stares into the abyss.
One day they will lift off this roof,
lift out the immersion heater, clunking and dripping,
mimicking cogs, turning though time is stuck and vacant eye
sees vacant hand sees chatter of beak.

Stuck like all America’s obese dead, held in defiance
of life’s unwinding, cradled by reclining La-Z-Boys
like lovers, their form imprinted there,
their bum-luck captured in cheek-dented death masks,
lifted out by cranes into a strange world they left long ago
for fried chicken.

Listen, we can sleep at night now
without fearing cracks, their widening,
their sudden moans of giving into pressure
or pleasure.

Take down the mirror give the wall a clock,
from the gutter hangs an ice-spear
waiting to drop.

Puffins of Lent

I meant to write a story, something about a child and a cliff,
how God made a fish masquerade as a bird. Need and want.
I want to taste salt in oil, have blubber slide down my gullet.
I need to walk and keep their chattering beaks to my right
and the water to my left, not want their silence or need their meat.

That was never the tale. It was about the haze of childhood,
fragments of consciousness, like a boat cutting through sea-mist.
“Now listen, son,” said James Stewart, “hold on”, as the wash
came at them and a foghorn told them they were alive.
That was it, the feeling of life, of nourishment after a fast.

I fasted of words, didn’t speak or put pen to page.
Broken. Words came scattered, shattered and stuttered,
they repeated recorded conversation, half-caught
gasps of shock, of her son being framed by the pigs,
squealing like a boar dragged from the river, hook in its throat.

If it came from amongst fish then it must be a fish, so says the priest.
Serve it with dill, peppery piss-flower, liver of herbage.
He climbed down the cliff, every step was his future fall foretold,
found good grips between wet rocks, brushed a hand against just opened
eggs, found that last puffin. Stayed there, hungry, watchful and weak.