Friday, September 6, 2013

Small Things

I worry for the small things
 - Raising Arizona

those with teeth and thick skulls
need no advocates.
their fists are dumb machines
smashing the earth,
clumsy with the insolence
of wounded giants.
everyone knows
when the sly world plots
and slides a flat blade
through their shouting skins

and those with flexible tongues
they can look after themselves.
they use words like dangerous toys
spinning a beam of colours
into a white shield.
pain stares in its blank slant
and goes away empty handed.

but small things can't argue
their way into shelter
when the world explodes on them
implacably as stars.
they have only feathers
for the hurricanes
and thin leaves for the fires.
when bulldozers eat their houses
they squat on the edge of valleys
with nowhere to go.
The world is too mean for trust
but generous enough for murder.
It's getting worse.  I worry
for the small things.

From This Is The Stone, Penguin Books 1991

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why I Don't Like Being Photographed

For Nicholas Walton-Healey

the true fact is that I am invisible
            the light that bounces off my skin
through the aperture of a lens is quite
                        a different phenomenon and is possibly
a spectre who will walk around
            inside the shape my name is supposed to be
ordering books on the murderousness of opera 
            or secondhand Dior nighties 
or committing acts of production that wake me in terror at 2am
                        or conversing with unsavory strangers 
on the corners of the internet it is very confusing 
like invisible clouds that liquefy the tundra 
                        the phantoms won’t stop proliferating 
they keep sending me emails that I can’t read
                                     no matter how hard I squint they
are never about what they seem to be
            success love happiness no one seems to know
                        how to escape into another dimension 
stuck on our mundane sofas watching that movie
                        where the monster wriggles inside our own skin
and up in their mansions on the hill the dead-eyed madmen
            whisper it out and feed it every morning
it all ends in explosions that’s what it’s for
                                    and then we export the virus to another planet
            as if there had been a time when once we were
 more than data transmission in brutal economies 
                                                            yet still we go on imagining
                                    rainbows and other physical objects
hovering beautifully in the vapour of our breath

I am never quite sure who is thinking
            perhaps it is me or perhaps it is my photograph
who maybe went fishing which I have never liked
                                                            and is admiring how the light
                        ripples its endless changes over the same river

when I’m especially sad 
            I like to read Viktor Shklovsky who was 
the saddest critic of all time and who always began
                        his books with a description of a landscape
            those were optimistic days 
he said the nightingale doesn’t know
                        that it has been refuted
                                    he said a riddle always has two answers
one is literal and wrong and the other
                        renews meaning by rearranging things
I wonder if there are still crows in Yalta
                                                one day I would like to buy him coffee
                        and we could converse in cyrillics about fairytales
                                    and how art has its own laws  
and how a poem is a riddle of sorts and not like a photograph
            which may be another kind of riddle
but dissimilar
                        of course

Saturday, February 23, 2013

from Divinations

I listened for you in the throat of summer, in the fanfare
of trees I lingered and spelt their shadows

you rose out of my darkest soundings, inaudible fish
eyelessly twirling in warm currents

autumn cauled your arrival, tracking my veins with weariness
and floated you out on sad leaves of blood

down to the icy waters where my fingers
will never prise into life your voiceless promise

and my kisses will never spark your hair
joyously into brief unknowable beauty

nor will the eager petals of your skin
char to brutal seed