I wrote this on a December Tuesday sitting on the flat roof of a four-hundred-year old house in Callosa d’en Sarrià on the Costa Blanca, and, when it got cold and dark, finishing it by the open fire inside the house.
Yeats’ priest persists in baying at my moon
or is it me, too soon exposed to dogs,
who hears the curate and the canine in
each night sound starting black bats from the bogs?
I hug my hands together till the cold
they nursed in solitude begins to thaw.
I tell myself the quietly moving shade
that paces me cannot be what I saw
or thought I saw: Two moons split up the clouds.
The rift revealed the outline of a man
as tall as Yeats was, ragged-edged and wide
enough to be three men, a wagon span
of oxen boxed with Borax mules for a child
who still believes in Christmas, or in life.
And he or it, or maybe they, all float
up to the here-and-now where fear runs rife.
Some other things cry carols in the mist.
I know the tunes and no one knows the words
or even what the language ought to be
when maidens sing this while the hero girds
his loins to keep them maidens. There’s a lapse
of feeling, tone get lowered, and the breeze
is a kaleidoscope: all different songs
I hum with trepidation till I sneeze
and draw the shade’s attention. ‘It is time.’
Its words make me believe again in life
and hope to have some years of it ahead.
The moons illuminate the shade’s Buck knife;
it swings to cut my no’s off and I’m swung
up on the spirit’s back and into space,
and we’re travelling to a linen children’s book
and though its pages, to a secret place.
A golden mountain, talking sheep, a king
and wizards wearing hobbit boots appear
and disappear as pages turn and blur
my vision, or is this mist spun from tears?
‘Behold the wonder,’ a cold voice says.
‘Remember when your world was yours and new
because you thought it so, when you believed?
What happened to it when you thought you grew?’
I see his knife grow handles like a scythe,
and other stories I had stopped believing
come tumbling from an index in my head;
but, even as I cower, the shade’s leaving
and the tome is closing. Collar follows sound
and I’m between the covers of a book
as big and dead as London after hours
and Fagin steals the light each place I look.
And then a tiny toddling chubby sprite
got up in diapers gets up from a crib
and sings the song that Cher sang on that ship
and tells me, ‘Hurry, mortal! Don this bib,’
which makes such little sense of course I do
in hopes that if it’s meaningless, I dream.
‘The hope of your existence!’ Baby says.
‘What scares you so that waking makes you scream?’
‘Why do you act the mummy while you’re living?
Why toss each chance for action on the skip?
You’re courting death, impression that you’re giving
him, standing head down planning to jump ship.’
I rush to answer: ‘Baby, Sophocles
was write that knowledge brings us gnawed-butt grief.’
The sprite rejoins, ‘I’d like to help you (spell)
but time is up. You’re due to meet my chief.’
More through miasma than through guided flight
we jingle through a jungle of near bliss,
of random joys and broken toys and eyes
made large by Kohl or larger by smack’s kiss
and always Baby hurries onward shouting
‘Don’t you love it, Bubba honey? This is life!’
until the moon refocuses on lawns
where squads troop colours paced by drum and fife.
Tired out, I want to fall but find I’m prone
upon the ground and also to one-liners
and to iambic lines made of ten words
and Pentecostal virgins, dragons, Shriners
and fatty foods and heavy wines and coolers
propped full with bonefish filleted on ice.
I’m warming to my own made-up religions
when Baby says, ‘We’re here.’ I hear, ‘That’s nice.’
Those last two words reveal and introduce
a Voice that I always, always dream
I will hear and fall in love with, and I do.
Hummingbirds tongue treacle from the stars
and sing it onto Dali’s roof as glue
that anchors tiger paws in Cadaqués
while all their maws meow here at the Falls
and oranges blossom, as I turn to face
this chief muse, goddess, woman who enthrals
me, turns my leaving doubts to shouts of joy
I drink in silence, laving every part
until like heated helium I fly up
to join her in adventures of the heart.
I hope I wake before I die to write
the strange and joyous things I see tonight.
If I should wake before I die I’ll live
somewhere forever with my Christmas ‘Eve’.