Poetry


Today
There is no journey to trace
No perfume to smell
No food to taste
No song to play
No sun or wind with its hand on my face
Just the whole of missing
To attend to

There it is in that poem, Sky
By Szymborksa (who’s left us too, did you know?)
The one you gave us to read at your funeral
It would take her endless sky
Her moon and stars
Her planets and all their deputies
To fill the hole (with room to spare)
You left us with

But today
There’s no such work to be done
No shifting or heaving
No map to chart
No special pleading
There’s just the whole of missing
To attend to

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I want to be a thin sharp blade
infinite brightness
blazing off my slender surface
shielding my slender surface with its light

I want hunger
infinite brightness
a thin sharp blade

I am hunger
a thin sharp blade
shimmering with infinite brightness

I am ephemeral and absolute
Still and thunderous
Dead calm and raging
Known and forgotten
Spotlit and haunting the wings
Hidden by a tree
Found hanging there

Come find me so I can disappear
so I can know I am unfindable
so I can be found
so I can elude again and be found again
and disappear infinitely
sneaking away like a burglar
with a black cap and a sack full of jewels

Come find me so we can fuse together
so I can escape into your pulse
slipping lightly under its surface
hidden by you and seared together
until I cannot be found

Come find me so we can glide lightly
caressing a pock-marked landscape
together with our treasure
that we are not one, but two
you seen (beloved camouflage, my alibi)
and me hidden inside your pulse

Let me slip out of your pulse
and go away for a time
to wake up alone and remember
it was a dream’s shard
and crave it again (one hit, my fix)

Let me hate you for a time
so I can know I am not inside you
that I have slipped into my skin
which I craved to leave
(which I never left, only dreamt of leaving)
which I ache to wear
sneaking away like a lover
with a black heart and a sack full of tricks

Let me hate you so I can know
I am a thin sharp blade
infinite brightness
so bright you dare not look
dare not avert your eyes

I’d like to know
Just where is yesterday
When I might hunt it,
When time’s distortions work
To fill invented bliss?

I need to know (I need the answer)
Where is yesterday
Just now I’ve called it,
When future’s echo chokes
On our strangled bliss?

I mean to know
Where is yesterday just
So I could smell it,
When tomorrow’s burning
Explodes itself in dreams?

I’d like to know (Give me the answer)
What happens when today
Is spent just wanting,
When a memory’s howling
Tears me from your lips

When the axis of my swelling heart’s geometry fractures
Her ruptured pact with gravity like pavement split by an ardent sun
I hear the sea
Inside the engorged crescendo of despair’s symphony
Inside my aria of solitude
I hear the sea

When the salty butter drips from my toast and my tea is sweet and bitter
And when the sleeping dog sighs at my feet
I ride the sea

When the bullying sky falls like a fireman’s blanket
Stifling the breath of my smouldering rage
Inside the sweltering tears that blister my naïve skin
I storm the sea

When I am Narcissus hunting myself in a glassy pool
That grants only the ringed wake of my finger’s intrusion
And when I am Narcissus stalking my shadow, at least
Inside a mute’s cry and braille to the skinless
I roar the sea

When the needle of my fragile compass stalls
My points of reference abruptly unreadable
And when I am unthought, finally
The discrete idioms of my wits’ scattered parts indecipherable
Inside my gibberish of muttering
I wail the sea

This poem was inspired by a wonderful piece of music I heard many years ago as I was approaching Cremona in Lombardy at dusk on a summer evening full of longing. It was on RAI’s world music programme, and it took me a year to find the disc The Sea by Ketil Bjornstad, Jon Christensen, David Darling and Terje Rypdal.