Nearing There

‘You have twelve more years,’ read the angel. ‘Erm. that’s twelve more minutes.
What do you, I mean did you, want to do
with the rest of your life within these finite limits?’
The angel watched me take this in and stew.

‘That’s eight now,’ said the angel. I was whistling,
making mind maps of the places I should visit
if I did had time. Death’s scythe persisted chiselling
at the stump of my lifespan in a rhythm to elicit

a shiver with each chip. I was not buying.
‘It’s a dream,’ I told the angel. ‘You and Death
aren’t really here. You two have not been allying
except in those gory stories like Macbeth.’

‘Till now,’ said Death. Death grinned without a face.
‘There always is a last time,’ the angel added.
‘Don’t you mean “first”? I asked. They both embraced
my pedantry a moment. Then Death patted

my arm, that froze, and said, ‘you’re down to four.’
I sang a childhood song to show sang froid.
Death said, ‘This does not seem to be your year.
You’ve lived your life as if it were a schwa;

neutral, muddling middle, bland, unstressed.
You’ve not done aught that you must answer for
so question time’s not needed. Face stage left,
adjust your collar, try for debonair

as we get in step and march. You’re down to two.’
The angel turned the parchment page and said,
‘Well bless my soul, it was years!’ (Death withdrew.)
‘What will you do from now until you’re dead?’

Guest of Honour

He’s the only stranger here among his family.
He is strangely silent all the time he talks.
The mirrored walls reflect his animation
and he sees that, though he swears he’s sitting still
as the rubber flowers on the hotel’s tables.
A wall of sound wafts by him but he fails
to capture joy or meaning from remarks
of kindness addressed to him. Disappearing
into his cell phone’s menu like it matters
he swipes and taps and wishes he could cry
at reflections from its screen of an old man
so lonely he updates his own Sent Mail.

The wind resembles zebras

The wind resembles zebras more than zephyrs
as it kicks its heels up heeling over schooners.
Shoehorned into a hovel in the harbour
this wind cleans house and rousts the sleeping souse
who’d crept inside decrepit and sedated.
Weary but aware and seeing clearly
for the first time in this century, with a grin
he’d forgotten having, he salutes the wind
that whinnies, kicks the door ajar and jostles
the man to mount it, ride towards the horizon.


He stands at his window and looks at the snow
and the wolf tracks in front of his door.
He takes his new phone – there is no one he’ll phone –
and makes photographs till he’s bored.
Then he sits at his desk, which is large and impressive,
and wishes depressively dusk
would absolve him of actions which in dark he can’t do,
but the morning has hours to go.
A bird whose black shadow was large as his desk,
when it flew over dropping those rocks
which had scared him, seems smaller in the tree where it perches
and he stands up and pulls on more socks,
a wool jacket weighed down with a Ruger Vaquero
in its holster he’d sewn in himself,
and a parka and gloves, and finally boots.
Then he genuflects, opens the door.


I sit in the sand to write of winter travels.
Out west above the waves the threat of rain
accumulates and then, again, unravels.
Lithe bodies whose perfection gives me pain
that someday they will go, a useless cavil,
implant their outlines in my grateful brain.
When winter comes, comes cold, and time to write,
and after those, the dark and endless night.

The night brings bombs that vaporise old timbers
and interrupt our squabbles with a mite
of understanding as the blast dismembers
a neighbour whom we knew but just by sight
and recognise no more among these embers.
A soul as fuel gives but little light.
Through what was roof the moon shines in to bring
my thoughts outside to search the dark for spring.

As racers race, as flyers tend to fly,
a couple couples four feet up the beach
with sandy knees and sheepish smiles that cry
for company, but they are out of reach
and I can’t be bothered. (Lord, forgive my lie.)
I write in blood and watch the paper leach
the words into it till the last sun sets
and coming winter cossets my regrets.

I need a moon, or more, to lift my spirit.
This war goes on forever and the fight
invades my night child’s mind and tries to steer it
to madness, as if safety lay in flight
from Eden now our guns arrive to queer it.
We pave the earth in ash to prove we’re right.
How long can we endure, and at what price?
Last summer’s waves go soft beneath the ice.

Some images I won’t report:
the way
the seagull hangs six feet above Lucinda …
the way a blonde, to enter the café,
takes forever, in the door, to wend a
shawl around almost her hips … ¡Olé! …
the way her sister, coming in to spend a
penny is garbed solely in a tee
shirt no one else notices … Such sights
are lost on those who focus on cold nights.

The darkness where night children I imagine
have hidden half the winter goes to grey.
Grey goes to rose, and breezes bring a smudge in:
reality, another one, gains sway
to order my perceptions as they trudge in
in lockstep till they learn they must obey
only what I want them to, then fly.
I imagine summer’s coming by and by.

Why should we celebrate the present summer,
take pleasure in the joys our bodies bring
themselves and others? Life’s a short-lived bummer,
John Calvin taught our elders, and each spring
ephemeral. It’s autumn that’s the comer.
Let’s hunker down, avoid the urge to sing;
await the fall, ignore sweet summer’s sight
till night falls down and proves the pessimist right.

Reality! A great stockpile of missiles.
We had to use them by their sell-by day.
I hunker as another of them whistles
inside to poach my lungs so I can’t say
“diddlysquat” or “kudzu” or “bulls’ pizzles”
and blood replaces breath. I kneel and pray
My monkey mind consumes another bummer
but my wild side senses all of life is summer.

It dies with us. All of it dies with us.
Wait for, want not, and polish your regrets.
I know I do. I raise a muted fuss
as I deny until my mind forgets
most of the gifts life’s given me. The fall winds muss
my memories: As each new gust begets
confusion I applaud how sand blurs sights
I lower daily towards eternal nights.

I watch Lucinda’s waving growing dimmer,
indulge myself (I try to do that more)
in knowing it’s through her I get a glimmer
of what of all I care about is more
important than mere living. Chances slimmer
than ever to get near what I adore;
than what I used to hope for, but all right,
I turn my face to summer, shut out night.

Yeti mother sneaker yet another speaker

(taking notes at a public meeting addressed by Mai Selph)

He slurs his words but whose words would you have him
slur, not those of yours nor Jesus Christ’s?
His verbal bons mots do not if you halve them
sum up to something better than what’s spliced
between the sheets, main braces and stale phlegm
that cross and short connections in his mind.

I’d be preciser but I’m being kind.
I’d be grammatical but he is blind
to what I’m writing here: he does not read
and more precision would not add one jot
to this jammy, namby-pamby polyglot
who stands before us speaking. He’s enthralled
by what he thinks he’s saying. Wan eyes glisten
as he assumes because we face him that we listen.

Expounding Chaos

Pursuing nothing, you had made no sound.
I had focused on the absences in rock
and turned my back on each, till turning round
to what was left, your presence, I took stock
and settled on where nothings weren’t, and found
you guarding eggs. A nesting raven cock!
Your study made you steadfast, but you screamed
when I seized you by your neck. I had not dreamed
cock ravens could be captured on a mountain,
setting on six eggs on stony ground.