They held him
Cast him down
Chained and gagged him
But they could not hold him all.
They sealed him
Bricked his window
Walled his door
Still, they could not hold him all.
They stripped him
Coat, shirt, undershirt
Hair, eyebrows, beard
Still, they could not hold him all.
They scoured him
Scrubbed his mind
Of friends, family, lovers
Still they could not hold him all.
They robbed him
Air, sleep, food
Nails, ears, teeth
Still, they could not hold him all.
They reduced him
To wet moments
Of begging mercy
Still, they could not hold him all.
At the end, panting with horror
They beheld him
His glorious face
His last cry: I die complete!
And he dissolved
And they with him
And dust drifted past
The vanished spite
Of savage silence.
Last night I wandered a camp
Where human ash hung in bags on the walls
And the old were elbowed in the scrabble for bread.
When I awoke
That I had escaped this;
I thought I would write a portrait of myself
I shied away from my pen
From dry ink, distractions, boredom…
I feared a portrait
Of white canvas.
I am tight, a structure
It is strange, sad;
That none of me stands alone
Nothing is firm; nothing holds;
I am an eternity of moments.
My noise, my passionate fire
Seems a frantic flashing from the brink
I feel -- I feel encased
I have no home;
I am blueprints sketched in wind.
You rise, greet day and friends
And sail with loved ones.
I rise, greet others and others
And tremble before winds,
A kite with will for legs
Straining for gravity.
Do you see?
I am a mess of fragments
A distant window of cracks and tape.
Nothing stays where it is;
I blend, whirl, disappear
And fly, wings tiring in a downdraft.
Only now do I have the courage
To gaze below my curled toes
To a whirlpool of vacuum and old cries
A molded soup of careful walls.
I look, and fear my will, my tyrant.
He holds these wars at bay with sharp dogs;
These dissolving sheep start into shape
Eyes wide before the endless barking.
To let go…
What could that mean?
Regard this shattering;
I had to love what I hated
Live where I was daily killed
Breed hope beneath nailed boots
Find future seeds on a harsh moon.
I had to love evil;
This contradiction broke me
Splintered me in thousands.
Do you reach to feel me?
Do your fingers stretch in vain?
There is no centre!
You see, I will forever be
A scientist of myself;
A curious, impersonal
Scribbling in a warming cauldron.
Here, the simplest, oldest query:
Can it be undone?
Can I be undone?
I think not;
I bleed from every pore
There can be no amputations
My skin was all stripped
There can be no grafts.
To be a staring statue of tourniquets
Knotted, wandering the edge of forever
Stung with the true sight of distance.
Take them -- here
I send these pigeons
The only living things
“You know,” said she
“Ha ha,” said he
“She says,” said she
“Who cares?” said he
“That mascara!” cried she
“How boring,” droned he
“These people!” spoke she
“What a party,” sighed he
“What a lifeless recycling of old distance,” shuddered she, as he snored.
High and dry
For so long
Sea out of sight
Rocking in the slight twist
Of a distant spire.
A high cry of dumb distance
Cold crystal clouds keeping company
Swallowing the shock of such echoes.
I dreamt of a fall
I trembled before it
I thought I would dash myself
In an explosion of innards
Now -- how funny!
The simple heart of a suddenly-loved son
The clear wonder of unfolding trust
Reveals the truth
The soft descent of lowering.
I knighted my mind
It kneeled before me; I rose
A sad aristocract
A superior sorrow.
I was above it
Above the hairy, bristling brawl of life
Above the risk of spoken passion
Above the surrender of slow love
I was a quicksilver of conscience
A prickly bush of priorities
An endless energy of waiting.
What -- now -- to be normal?
Ahh -- how these badges tear in the taking-off!
Vanquished surviver of futile wars!
Crushed creature of circumstance!
Hell-birthed screamer of reason!
Each medal like a pin in a cushion
An armour too tight for simple blood.
In this removing, this surrender
I gasp; oldest blood squirts highest.
It is a simple rain of release
For in the meridian of this terror
The soft bonds of brotherhood
Begin to speak:
A lost child is found
By the knowledge of its loss;
A distant soul is broached
By the truth of distance;
Alienation is joined
By speaking of difference.
These webs are not so easily shattered.
Pain is also the vanity of pain;
The strange pomp of exclusion;
The dark nobility of abandonment;
And all the heady perception of fearful distance.
It is human to recoil
Human to love recoiling
And, I now see
Human to return.
In a blink
One day, smiling, soft, there
The next smiling, soft, gone…
How could they tell?
Was she angry?
No, but where they once resided
They found themselves, not evicted
They remained, they stayed
They could caress her ornaments
Touch her hair
But she was gone.
They shot her looks like nets
Wound her in webs of frowns
But she breezed
They were not even trampolines
Hence their fear
Hence their hate.
How could she go?
She was a always painted figure
A portrait of punctuality
A vision of caring
A certain study of ease;
She one shone over their dry landscape
A beacon of selflessness
And wandering sailors
Dashing themselves on strange passions
Glanced at her over caving hulls
Through spray, bitter salt
Brief joy, destruction…
One day they looked
And on that high rock
No tower stood
All prisoners freed
Staring, sagging, shaking
They ran their fingers over soft grass
No scar, no trace of a foundation…
Come to church! they cried
Their words like snaking hooks at her flying trail
Come to the meeting!
Come to help
Be with us
Their words passed
She walked from the cliff and danced
All laws lost
Her face was strange
They could not fathom her
A soul lively in solitude
She scorned the courts of freedom
Laughed at the gavels of abandon
And lived unpardoned, unparoled
They tried words
Words would help -- surely!
Mad, eccentric, odd, abnormal…
They did not help
She did not see them.
Her sometimes husband followed her
In love, in fear.
She danced, she distanced
She giggled and wept
He followed her to a wood
Dropping tears like stones
Paving his way.
She sat in a clearing
Naked to the mind
He followed her
her cheek on nature’s lonely breast
the leafy hand on her cheek
the woods, the wilds, the endless words…
natural birth, unnatural life
harsh tribe, sleepless comfort;
we sink into bland, blank, ancient books
and order our hearts, our souls, our loves
to god, country, others…
And hold our self
as a poor afterthought, a stolen cake
a midnight treasure under covers
a candle tall in still cellars
a locked comfort
And start before knockings
like a gust, a shudder, a darkness
an apology, a plea
a shame, a scrape
a secret sorrow
Her husband saw her
Beheld her strength, her life
Not disappearance, not carelessness
Not apologies and a stripped self
And when she raised her head
And stared past him
At the leaves, the heat
The solid glow of animals
And the simple passions of flesh
He felt at once
His slow fade into
I Know a Woman
Look -- can you see her
As I see her?
This scald of passion
This striving, angry love?
See her in a dark chamber
On deep red carpets
Trembling before her simple rising
Certain that the friction of air
Will wipe the walls with hot flames.
She does not only tremble;
She is finding her rising
Becoming it, for she loves, this woman
She loves as summer loves winter
Loves the interruption, the opposition
The stormy smile of wild temperatures.
Her heart is caged; it paces
Snarls and laughs from the shadows of pillars
She is a volcano of waiting
A sudden eruption of soon.
Oh this woman -- you should know her
As I know her!
She is a paradox of passion
A promise of patience
A whirlwind of now and never.
Quick -- see her above
Squint before her fast light!
See -- she flies forever in search of soft earth;
She can fly over a lush green opening of arms
Tumbling, dizzy, despairing;
She feels the heat of the leaves on her cheek
And hungers for the rest of the rising earth
But at the prick of a branch -- she flies
Scattering like a buckshot of hummingbirds
A shooting, skyward fleeing of upward rain.
Ah -- you should see her driving force
Her stillness is always a watching
Her cupped hand a question mark
Her tenderness a probing
But at times -- at times she surges
She mounts the crest of fear;
Horse and rider become one
And then -- the deep thunder!
The bright unfurling of her light soul!
Then you would see her
As I see her
As she is
The World Needs Change
The world needs change
Some tottering exhaustion binds it still
Some overspending of old answers
Some faltering before an inevitability.
Do you not feel it poised before a transformation?
I feel it; I feel uneasy tribes gathering before a distant dawn
Their medicine men shaking their heads
Reading entrails that speak of a different species.
I read of a transformation
I read that old magic falters before hard thoughts
Old cares before new possibilities
And habits, the oil of ease, are scant bars to these screeching doors.
I read that midwives will shudder at that bathing of this birth
Doctors start, pale-faced
Ages rise in opposition
But we are momentum; we are more than motion
We have striven, grasped, strained
A lock has broken; the future lifts us
We cannot be contained.
What is coming?
We have vaulted the petty trough of want
Straddled souls wide on the horses of thought
Pointed them at the horizon of possibility
Slapped their hinds
And cried: There! There is your destination!
We are humanitarians
We will be remembered thus.
We have bled custom on the altar of potential
Cried havoc to all classes
Rained scorn on all inhibitions
Cracked church, borders, privilege and poverty
And in the high unleashing of all restraint
May be excused for sudden trembles.
We came to structure
To an identity of essence:
Man, woman, rich, poor…
We arrived to halls hung heavy with such gilted portraits
We found art in life, not life in art.
We were amazed by these galleries
By the shushes and glares
It seemed wrong to kneel before such accidents;
We cried: art must flow from life!
Portraits of the highest should be portraits of the best
Bright frames and dark oils should be earned
Why do you hang here?
We demanded of the silent stares
Because we are old… they said
It did not suffice.
We could have borne the privilege
The exclusion, the sneers
But the hypocrisy -- that was unbearable.
Be naked in your power, we cried, or be gone!
But the portraits whispered:
We hang high on the hooks of virtue…
They did not listen.
Did we tear them down?
No -- we are not revolutionaries
Not midwives of mere negation.
We raised the banner of blind equality
That was our reply.
You hang high because you are great? we cried
Then let us open the gates of greatness to all!
Let all earn their place
We shall see who hangs the highest!
They strove to remain above us
They still strive
But now the lie is exposed
Their lie, and ours
They have fallen
As have we.
Our cries of equality!
Did not survive.
We blink at this wild topography:
The dizzy skies of ability
The dank pits of ignorance.
We are afraid of our unleashings,
For we have tumbled from a hopeful plain
To an uneven landscape of reaching and remaining.
We have shattered the symmetry of predator and prey
Into a wild ecology of possibilities.
Now we shudder and clutch our manifestoes in vain.
Our smoothing of opportunity
Has widened all disparities
And we are unsettled by the wild wisdom of freedom:
All find their place.
We disagree with such rewards
We wish better for the least among us
Who loom larger as they diminish in numbers
In the past, too large for sight
Now, too small to miss.
Here is the danger we falter before:
Liberty frees us from brute equality
Wide opportunity breeds wild disparity.
Is there a choice beyond
The conformity of restraint
The inequality of opportunity?
Which do we prefer?
Which is to be
Our next age?
Here is the core
The aftershock of endless shocks.
Here is the crumbling of pride
The hollow echo of hope
The shadow beyond the strike.
Here is the line between then and now
The waiting place
A muttering couch of soon to be…
A white room of blind thrusting
The wide space tumbled into
A hard floor of exhausted tunneling.
Here I may lie
Choking on pale dust
A refugee on the fulcrum of life
A groping, tipping balance.
What stands between knowledge and possibility?
What looms high before a higher future?
Why, this arch-demon fear
This resounding snarl of never
never to be
never to be free
never to be free of
never to be free of never…
Fear is a dark fortress
A wide fist of rock
An airless refuge
A cold bandage of amputation.
Fear is a pit before a blinded step
A dizzy chasm of leaning
A hush below high, heavy ice.
Fear is the hard guard
Of the unborn heart.
Fear is the self-interest
Of the savaged.
The cold bud
Of a crushed petal.
Over an unplanted soul
Too heavily ploughed.
Like a shock of rising birds
From a carcass of lost innocence.
Fear controls enemies
By becoming the enemy.
I see from my seat of snarls
The world I was bred for
Trembling flesh scattering before growls
The heart of young prey
Fat between my teeth
Shaking hands howling with harrowing
A dawn corpse baying of night freedoms.
This is the world I was bred for:
Streamlined, fat-fanged, bristle-bound
Sleepless, twitchy, remorseless
Enraged, careless, forgotten…
This is our world:
Where joy is the icing of murder
Love the underbelly of lust
Friendship a prologue to sudden stabs
And intelligence the afterthought of cunning.
We live in
A dreamy reverence of washing blood
A thrashing cascade of salty urges
We live where to walk is to stalk
To see is to spy
To have is to take
To wait is to wilt.
A world where smiles spurn
And compassion kills.
This world -- we were dropped here
Sown in this stinging rock
A passport single-stamped:
What was stamped?
What was whispered?
Where is the moon for we werewolves?
See -- it murmurs still:
The weak shall perish…
This moon rose early, obscuring our dawns.
When we were weak
We birthed our softer selves
From the iron contractions of our contradictions
We are weak; we wailed; we cannot survive!
Must we fail before these jaws?
We begged, bit ourselves
And turned belly to sky, again and again…
The rain passed through us like spears
Our gentle skin sighed and parted; we became bones
Of grinning, rocking weakness
Leaning in a lost landscape of sudden steel.
We see you
When you pass
We perplex you.
You know nothing of our ecology
We do not fit.
Your food chain is a butcher shop
We stalk livelier meat.
Our warpaints clash
With your pastels.
Alive in your small way
Our spraying hearts
Come -- we must speak
We are the two sides of civilization
Us wolves, you sheep.
The union of our teeth and your warmth
Ours is not a personal despair
We see: the world is grey
All glories are shadows of higher peaks
Our valleys are eroded temples
We are atheists of an unseen sun
Praying to the black heads of a burning face.
Do not be afraid
I see your fears
Your wild wanderings.
Be at ease
This age of resentment shall pass
Another, more dangerous, shall come…
Be at peace.
You lie twitching
Hands raised in terror-strike
Lurid lashing judgment
The bed-wetting of a new dawn
Rises above you
Skyscrapers of foolish height
Pierce tall the clouds
Of all you have known.
You cannot flee this chaos
You are this chaos!
You drink your dizziness
And drink again.
I hear you, West
Giddy in the spotlight
You dream of small stages
Leafy strolls far from all rousings
Hammocks of thick drowsing
The sinking slumber of obscure solitude.
Oh West -- learn of your nature!
No beast infected you
You are not peace disturbed
You were never roused.
Your imagined rest
Was trapped paralysis
A waiting, a watching,
You are a mountain soul
Rare air, sudden slides
A shout of slow echoes
A storm of sudden hiding.
Is not jostled
It is a singe state
A destination of motion
A waking of dreaming
A reaching for endless arms
A strike at the streaking target
Between now and never.
If you still dare
West -- I will reveal your restlessness!
Whether born of harsh lands
Wild thoughts, strange tensions
Or a savage taste for solid earth
I know not
But the truth is clear:
You never believed in God!
You escaped the slow death
Of God as end.
You tasted God as means…
Power, prestige, wealth
God was never their servant.
Bent, He sweated, grunted
And pushed the plow of purple robes.
He served life
Chained by His master’s lust for life.
God was the means
The cloak of power.
The ends overtook God
And now stand bright, naked.
The sword stands
Unsheathed from heaven
Quivering high from the heart
Of human possibility.
West -- you have always known:
Life is no prelude
No short span
Of endless judgment
But a spasm of thrown motion.
Your lives are coverless books
Unindexed, groped and blown…
In this whirlwind of wild pages
You cry for rest?
For rest? -- Oh West!
Better beg the rock
To hold its hurled arc
Than ask the West to rest.
We are too close
Your Niagara murmuring of shifting sheets
Is to us a thundering cap of drowning light.
We see your dreaming
These cracked plains are too hot for height
Yet you have escaped…
Above the fire lies the water
Above the water, desert
You are higher
These quakes only roll your eyes.
Hug the Great Heart that hurls us
Our fiery passing lifts you
Like kites over lava
We live in the shadow of the Great Heart
Blinded by red beating bulk
The power of unbound life
An altar of shrinking and striking
Fear and ecstasy
You hear only hymns.
The Great Heart is the spilled life
Of early breakings
The overspilling of uneven leashings
Charging horses tied by the teeth
A squat structure of volcanic hope.
See -- the ground breaks
But we are not lost
We are used to dancing
Applaud! -- we are pleased with pleasure
It costs us nothing
Our shows are only the excess
Of our survival.
I was given only autumn to plant in
Other fields were bright with life
When I knew nothing of seeds
Other fields were dark with waiting
When I first learned of the turning earth.
Families split pies in laughing lighted nests
While I hoed cold ground
Spilling and scrabbling in the early dark
I envied their delicacies, their wheat of wild colours
I saw a pictured spring of corn minstrels
I wept over my forced loam of hard seeds
The bare nutrient need of gored winter soil.
In the winter, as they stamped and sang
I trod brittle ground under spearing stars
Frozen tears my wind-chime water
Fearful, I tore earth, broke nails, broke faith
Kneeled and breathed on sleeping seeds
Wrapping them as an iris in clear ice
And pushed them back to the blind watch for warmth.
Sometimes I slept on the broken bed of cold soil
Lost in the slow spin of memory
Fear of future starving
Woke in me a huunger for the past
And I walked houses long dismembered
Ate from empty plates
In the yearning recall of imagined food.
It was a hard winter
Waiting for plants
Awaited by people
I learned something of the night that winter
Of patience, the slow spin of starlight
And the failure of flesh to thaw earth.
The cold came to me in those days
I became winter by stalking spring
I threw my threads skyward but could not kite the sun
I panted on the ground, but could not wake the soil
And spring seemed strangely late despite my stalkings.
Until I became my failure
Listened to winter
One dawn, I forgot about spring
And the cracking seduction of ice spoke to me
(It’s breath clasped my ear in a frozen fist)
Spring, it creaked
Is a surrender to winter