BURNT OFFERING – A BOOK OF POEMS
BY STEPHANIE SINCLAIRE
“Shall I come before him with burnt offerings …
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
You know what is good and what the Lord requires of you –
Do justice and love kindness.”
The Book of Micah
With great love for my father Howard
and my daughter Katey
and for Dan
I first got to know Stephanie through a home cassette course which I was running on the nature of dreams. It did not take long for me to realise, however, that I was not the only teacher, for Stephanie, with her inherent sensitivity and perceptiveness, taught me far more than I was ever able to teach her. It took little time, as well, for me to perceive that I, one who wrote a little poetry, was in the presence of a poet. There is a world of difference between the two.
On sending these poems for my perusal, the last thing in Stephanie’s mind was that of publication. But so impressed was I with their haunting myth-like quality and the subtle barely-perceptual spiritual undertones, bearing a gentle message for all who read them, that I ordained it a criminal act should they not be shared with others.
I hope that you will enjoy these poems, which have been succinctly arrayed in such a way as to tell the story of a life journey, as much as I have.
Golden Eagle Publishing
Let me take you to the blue place.
River of dreams. Tigris Euphrates
of a pale life where long
winds blow ceaselessly.
A small dot. Bluebeard. Sister grief.
Winding sheets. Flesh is soft.
I take it off and lay agog
just for you.
The reverberations of the skin will
read a song a needle will release.
A fiddle-de-dee for a girl
with soft dark hair.
Komm mit mir. I’ll take you there.
A dustbowl train track. A train flies.
Sand in the eyes children cluster.
A cigarette bug that comes alive.
An amethyst ring for bribes.
Hands that freeze.
The cats have gone.
Someone wanders from room to room
opening and closing suitcases
switching on and off the light.
A man is there lurking in the dark.
A small girl squirms and freezes
ice princess eyes saucered laid out on the bed.
Part of her stops there, is dead.
She pulls at the black night.
The frail tinkle of bells.
There’s no stopping him.
A hurricane has come.
A harpy soul in flight pulls the hats
right off the houses.
Windows whistle. Candles dance.
Swimming pools disgorge their bounty.
The howl will never stop.
The earth has popped her cork.
Children cow huddled thrilled.
There is a boy his tongue in my mouth.
There is an elevator in my knees.
There is a cut that never heals.
A mouth that does not speak
but will disgorge whole humans eventually.
Head’s in the dinner
an Italian smell.
Smart-ass spaghetti-face eats slow.
Cool as hell.
There are fishes gold and turtles three
called Winken Blinken and Nod
and always a cat.
Talismanic gods sleek as Cleopatra
litter the life
and a very large woman with a knife.
A walking Kali goddess
part Godzilla and part Marilyn Monroe.
Hot fertile shimmer a hallucinating
volcano fond of White Horse and the whip
who once sang like an angel.
She says I’m pretty she says I’m not.
She’s quite keen that I can say
but distressed I have no wit for quips
for I’ve gone mute of late.
She says my father’s Bonanza’s Hoss.
She’s a walking Hitchcock movie.
Her laser eyes see though doors.
There is no hiding.
She’s riding for a fall
taking us all.
The children watch cartoons on telly.
Roadrunner. Tom and Jerry.
They think the characters are real.
Downstairs there is a fantasy.
A death deity
beats a blue baboon.
Howls and turns him red.
He plays an accordion.
A snazzy tune-topper in a tux
with a taste for delicacy.
All his clothes are on the porch.
The crockery makes a snide mosaic
running pretty with rivulets.
There is a house decrepit and musty.
A gelding named Eagle who flies down lanes.
Two goats Sodom and Gomorrah.
A hotrodder drives.
One dies in my arms.
They take him away.
The children cry.
By night a woman gouges paint
and fills the marks with gold by day.
Las Vegas is an astronomical delight.
The planets and the stars reveal themselves
in all their neon glory.
Joe Louis is a sulky daddy.
Silver dollars shimmer on the walls.
Louis Armstrong blows his horn.
Gabriel hands. Banyon trees.
Naked ladies glitter.
One-armed bandits tinkle
Wiley croupiers sliver
skilled in the art of tricking you.
The children are distracted.
The Bluebeard plays his tune.
The Kali doll devours her young.
Casts a rune.
Life goes on.
There is a refuge in books and the
crooks of trees
oak willow yew.
Carve a hole down through the sea
to China and out the other side.
A tiny astronaut with a black-eyed gut
floats beside the cheddar cheese moon
watching Earth swirl in her energy soup
a million miles away.
I decide that I will marry God.
It seems reasonable under the circumstances.
I will sweat red bullets.
A calling card.
Be carried through clouds.
Ascend in front of the community
where spidery widows congregate
rollicking fat on the fill of their mates.
The blue place. Locked room tipping the stairs.
The half-life is in the blood 250,000 years.
The crack that rides upon the air
imprints a hand.
Spins my head a whirly-gig.
A fancy dancing totem pole
which spins and squeaks and speaks a certain fallout
Speaks my face small not proud.
Tinny bibbles in a mushroom cloud.
There’s something in the ear beating out a tune, a bold
tattoo, a battering ram. There’s something in the eye
gleaming at the edge, a star-stabbed sky.
There’s something in the blood: slow moving sulphurous
lead. There’s something in the back causing it to crack.
A skeleton. An Adam.
He says you can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
White worm features hazy defined by telly green glow.
An Italian man, pope in his pocket, slayer of women,
arms and the man.
All those years asleep in my memory.
Giggling at dawn we put eggs in your pants.
You roll with the crunch. Abhor violence
but marry my mother, a pistol packin’ mama.
There is a snake that eats its own tail.
Insidious invisible man you coax your box to sonic cadenzas.
Devour your daughters.
Leave them wingless, pulled off at the root.
Their ghosts shell whisper still upon the shore.
One floats sceptre-thin.
Another rides headless hell-bound after hounds.
the borrowed ones;
salvation had its price.
A kingdom of riddles.
A yammer shrills along the gutters of the brain,
I cannot translate.
A rhythmic evangel eddies out of reach.
The tongue is torn.
Silence is complicity
Fury mutilates the earth
A mute Har-magedon.
The bells are sounding
notes of stone.
Goliath does not fall
but sways gently as trees
a hundred weight
scours a landscape
A false priest performs last rites buried in the night.
A hooded dominus, mask impenetrable, says nothing
but sings for its supper.
A whore you are, the mothers say.
Freud too. Co-conspirators.
Judith got her way, beheading Holofemes.
Salome danced with beautiful John his head upon a plate
and all those gods they sacrificed castrated thrown to sea.
And then the frozen ones.
A statue of sea shells swirls on the sand.
Bloodless maidens. Silence is consent.
He is within and won’t wake up.
He is a devil circling my bed.
He climbs inside.
Takes a knife
and cuts me top to tail
A red pupa emerges and sits on the edge.
I sleep for years.
There is a dream: A third child is a son.
And another: a man, golden haired.
His shirt is pink
His heart is rose.
He strokes me kind along the the side.
I curl a petal to his wing,
A warm land undulates soft and hard enfolds me.
Sweeps me sonorous.
If I may call you that.
I have a bone to pick. A rib
to be exact.
You thought I’d comet for you.
Perhaps expire early.
Wash you in translucent light
for which you longed.
Which so eluded you.
Smoulder, I call it quits.
Pronto, I’m singeing, an ember.
Dear Ms. Apple
I know nothing
of which you speak. I eat heartily
of the lotus fruit, languorous
honey-sweet. Perhaps I could recommend.
I can’t help you.
Light-seeker. Winged unluminous
worm. The wingless glow
Lucifer green. No hood-winking
The blood is spirally never-ending
swirling – waters of Charybdis.
I know you loved its red blue sheen,
found it yours.
Loved the way the black eyes gleamed.
Glistened overly so like your own.
There was a contract.
No turning back.
I shall be your bright Chimera for
all eternity and you my Bellerophon.
Dear Ms. Black
I dine with Polydamna I must
confess. Partake heavy and continual
the banish drink: Sorrow. Care.
Sorry to disappoint but I’m finding
this irregular. Out of order so to speak.
just isn’t on the menu.
If you’re out of your mind I warn you,
it’s no longer fashionable.
No, but I have misplaced it.
You see, I said I’d be your card but
it just won’t do. I’ve given you
several readings on the spot and I fear
I’m becoming you.
Please, it’s past
the time when these things may safely
be attacked. There is a whole new generation.
new. Full of undamaged promise ready to be
gleaned; I’m just gob-smacked. Attention wanders.
You don’t remember?
I promised I would be a very good
looking glass. Not like that impertinent one,
that silly ass who told the wicked queen
her beauty is surpassed. No. I comfort you.
Mirror your quirk, efface it.
Witness your brightness.
The way you problem solved. The way you
memorised the whole Encyclopaedia Britannica,
edition 1968. The way you slam-danced figures.
Roots, squares, you name it.
Mind mind mind.
And there was heart there too. A little
screwy but loving in a deeply tentacle way.
I would be your oracular bird and you my
scared king. Hold your soul for all eternity
when you were finally brought to sacrifice.
If you are referring to Uranus, sacrificed
by the woman in his life, I do see your point.
You must be Cyclops whom I cast into hell.
Sky father heaven, if I may call you that.
Now we are getting to the point. What is malice?
That Underworld. Chaos. Darkness. Away from
earth, light, day. Was it something I said or didn’t say?
I’m afraid I can no longer dance attendance.
I no longer dance. I’m afraid I must dislodge you.
You’re rather awfully stuck in my throat and
I just can’t breathe.
I don’t know who you are.
I thought you were a god once.
That must count for something.
Don’t dramatise so. What will the
neighbours think? Look at the doughnut
and not the whole.
Don’t forget, Pegasus sprang from the
blood of Medusa. You should thank me.
Get a grip. Set goals. Shape up or
ship out. Remember Murphy’s Law.
Prepare for the worst.
I have taken your advice and set sail
immediately. I shall leave you forever
with your man-eating mare. I shall dance
at Lupercalia and marry Pan again and again.
I shall sail to Eleusis. Shed my skins.
Watch the night corn grow. Prepare for the best.
I will become something that is not you –
not shadow, you won’t ever see me, ever know.
I have burned the book and it cannot be
restored for all the gold in your kingdom.
You will have to forge your own path.
Please don’t call.
The warmth of your voice hurts my ears.
I’m sorry, but I have forgotten your name.
What was it … Circe? Please,
Don’t be such a hambone.
My soul is a hollow-haired Caribou.
The time clock of my unborn
is a magnet pulling me
across the icy flooded treachery
of the Porcupine Rover
past enemy wolverine and coyote,
to the unsheltered serenity,
the geometric hell-blast of tundra
to bear my calf
below vulture and whooping crane.
The raw receptor of unprotected
nerve ends finally dulls.
The uncensored river
of discordant images
begins to move to the metronome.
The tick tock of flesh resounds.
Louder than the whisper
My hands and feet are tied now
firmly to the wheel.
My teeth chatter and clench
down to the cobblestone streets
of birth and death.
My heart is a stag.
Reindeer antlers sprout from my crown,
fantastic gnarled trees.
I am a proud sylvan bull
hoisting the grand sculpture of my horns
across the frozen northern route,
past grizzly bear and ice pit,
to meet with the herd;
to mate in the rush of spring
by the Arctic Sea.
I become jaded.
The earth becomes small.
I allow people to die
in India, Uganda,
in knife fights in dark rooms
on the Lower East Side.
I look after my own
and no longer try to save the world
save by touching those around me.
The imminency of death at last
Urged by the sting of wombat and botfly
we move to where the bulls wait.
My calf is ailing and trails behind.
I linger to prod;
a coyote is circling, to prey on the weak.
With a leap wolf jaws clamp.
With a gush
of adrenaline I rush to the herd.
In my bones are many pockets
stuffed with hot rocks.
Press the trigger and they explode.
Scalding gravel rains through my muscles.
Some will splatter foolishly
searing those to whom I speak.
Some will cool and harden, become
dark pregnant clouds that
loom in my dreams, drift away.
The rest will jangle softly.
in the shadows of my recollection.
We pace restlessly in sea breeze.
The stags are approaching.
We have reached our destination and
dine on alpine flowers blooming furiously.
Young males dance against the underbrush
to slough the velvet of new antlers.
The air is sultry with musk
and the scent of summer coming.
Bucks vie for leadership
in gargantuan tussles,
locking and clashing
the monolithic limbs of bone
that tower from their skulls.
Calves gambol about
gorging on snow blossoms.
We prepare to return
to where we began.
“Painting shall free me from fear” Kandinsky
When I painted
(A lovely girl
in the garden)
I followed the curves
(A sepia photo)
And as my hand
In the flowers
My sadness melted
In the yellow
Blue and peach
(As I stroke
By dark eyes
I forgive her
Back at me
The days I walked the earth
A folded lily, calla arms
The arms I opened up to everyone
Sinners saints and thieves
And gave my flesh
Those days are gone
The years I travelled
Around and round this place
And arm to arm
Who could not love me
But protected me from harm
Those years are gone
The months I longed for refuge
For long shadows on cool floors
In the arms around me
Who thought of me as currency
Who could not save me
Or even cap the agonies
Of my desire
Those months are gone
The hour in the darkest
Night when lips
Finally gave name to
When I reached out
No one there
No one there
Those hours are gone
The minutes that raced around
My face like seconds
In another world
Thoughts of an over-active
Mad morning glories in the sun
Tumbling forward one on one
Those minutes are gone
Now all thoughts and hours
And days are merged
As sapling creek to sea bed
Flows and I relax, relax
No longer following my nose
In a circular dance
The whirlpool is outwitted
The arms are my own.
For the moment all is quiet.
There is no fire under skin.
Me heart is quiet as the grave.
My eyes are tired, tired.
My soul a poet-priest who sails
Away from me.
I am chaff.
Hulled. There is no pull.
This healing denudes me
As I become another
Who is myself
As I shed each year
Back to birth and farther.
Shed glamour glory
A somnambulist Aurora
Who walks but will not wake
To claim her crown.
A hedge of thorns
The blind is down.
There is still
No clarity in seeing.
There is a painful slow
A small fresh flowering
A fading siren
In soundless blue.
We met in an airport
(You entered scar-faced vibrating singularly)
We met in a pub, the King’s Head (like ‘The Deep Blue Sea’)
You leant towards me.
We made love in a strange bed
Daniel in the lion’s den (Lioness you said)
We made home in a shared bed
(It’s been all these years now)
It looks like we’re in it for the long haul
(And you still don’t know who I am)
But somehow we really get along
(Who ever you are).
Do you remember?
When you called me
By your first love’s name
And I called you by mine?
It was then I knew
We had a chance this time.
It was then I knew I’d got
Beneath your skin, and you mine.
I read the poem he handed me.
A bit of a doggerel,’ said he.
‘Oh no!’ said I, ‘It’s simply great!’
He smiled quizzically, scratched his pate.
‘I want to see you more,’ said he.
Said I, ‘That would be fine by me.’
Said he, ‘Once weekly without fail?’
I smiled weakly, turning pale.
I thought I’d better play his game,
Whilst conjuring means with which to tame.
So to my fate I marched bravely
Knowing I was one of three.
In no time flat I loved completely
And doing so did not deplete me.
Though I knew there were two more
He only knocked upon my door.
Though I made no attempt to censure
He through their portals ceased to venture.
Though he still maintained his right to do so
Our conversation turned to trousseau.
A while before we tied the knot
I put my troubadour on the spot,
For though he sang of chivalry
In theory I was one of three.
I said, ‘Though I pledge my loyalty,
There may be something to remaining free.
Do you think our bond would be more true
If I exercised my freedom too?’
He noticeably blanched. He nearly choked.
It was a while before he spoke.
He sputtered, ‘Me for you and you for me’
And now there’s one instead of three.
You offer me fidelity. A gift. A prize.
A box containing Snow White’s heart
softly beating just for me.
Let me lift the veil from your sweet eyes.
I pick the lock and with a start
a pig’s heart beating there I see.
The love I need needs no pledge
to hedge its bets or tie it down.
It flies upward to the highest place.
A phoenix or a turtle dove.
From muddy earth snow white roses will emerge,
their blood red hearts will speak of love.
Lions in love true lovers are.
They need no oath, no pact or boast.
A different code they heed.
The hunter and the hunted merge.
The union that they wanted most.
A fierce and flooding rush of blood
Turns to touch as soft as ash.
Beneath your hand a rosy blush.
A glistening bloom a golden hush.
Soft fruit grows from bitter seed.
Outside I am a looking glass
I mirror you
Inside I am a circus, 3 rings, more
Geometric spinning out to space
Each an instrument of being
A tarot pack, The Fool
They’re all there
The trapeze artist
Loves me most
Though I tire of no net
No fun, she says
The lion tamer cracks his whip
Through fire rings
Each one shouting
As I whiz
Singeing tail and mane
It’s all show biz
How can I stop?
If I bite his head off
I will drop
What you see:
A silver pool
Drop a coin and
All your dreams
Inside I scorch and
Pop, a witch’s
Steaming pot, a molten core
A desert Magdalene
I’ve thrown the key
She is unthroned
I am serene
O happy puppet am I
Just pull the string and I smile smile smile.
I clean the house, advise and support,
Do all I can to maintain a rapport,
Your everyday dimestore madonna whore.
You can even dress me in style.
Make sure not to spoil me.
To do so would soil me.
“Give her an inch and she’ll
Take a mile mile mile”
I’ll be like a nun and forsake any fun
So that you can keep building your pile.
I’ll never complain. How shockingly vain!
I’ll just quietly choke on my bile (& smile).
You can be sure I won’t
Cut my wrist, and if I
Do, I mend in a tryst.
I should be here for a while.
My world grows smaller, it fits
In my chest. Yours revolves
Larger at your behest.
I haven’t the will to beguile.
I shan’t forget that you rule the roost.
Cock of the walk. A butter glazed goose.
What can I say?
I’m heading for a fall
Like Humpty Dumpty.
I’m running on empty and
I’m not very happy at all.
(A bereft and horrible child am I
The author of my trial am I)
I long for the landscape of a caress.
I want to shatter the hourglass.
Fie to the world and all the rest.
To hell with the petty dog eat dog race.
Just for a minute a timeless embrace.
O for an angel gentle and mild
Forever tender and wild wild wild.
I have no doubt there is a kind of love,
A fire for me in you, but it’s not
The kind of love which I aspire to
It’s not the fire
Which sets the heart aflame,
Hot purity which cannot retaliate
Or contemplate deceit or shame.
It’s not the balm in which two souls
May be reborn when lovers touch.
(The memory of your cheek within my palm,
No sacrifice too much)
Your love for me feels hooded, masked,
Rooted in a borrowed sheath of fickle truths
Where hidden lies the ruthless bitter bruise
Of childhood enmity.
Your armour is so strong
Protecting you from vulnerability.
Mine is loose.
The cataclysm of my life
Has moved it like a geographic plate.
I lie there just beyond, fragile and exposed
But stronger still and in a place
Where no false word can compensate.
I locked the door
because I felt locked out.
There is no in
to your locked heart.
A leaden box
withholds your grail.
One thousand tiny wounds
deflected by its metal frame
read a braille message
I cannot reach to get in touch.
A restless phantom
from some distant plane.
(One thousand tiny words upon my heart
leave me buckled and ashamed)
I locked the door because I knew
a real person of flesh and blood
would say, “What’s wrong?”
or “Let me in!”
Would speak, would seek,
But no, just an icy
turning of the knob
above the wind.
Only words will unlock this door.
You can’t come in.
My love for you is infinite, infinite.
Infinite, it echoes bright the light
Which spills from stars in empty space
To flood the night, the hungry place
Where sprites unbidden gnash
And weep, raise the hair
upon my neck,
Toss me in a restless sleep.
My love for you is endless, endless.
Endless, it echoes bright the light
Which seeds the mountain, tree and
Bloom and leaps upon the river’s back.
A silver sliver bleeds a trail across
The land to feed the field we reap
To feed the world, the golden leaves
Which shiver in the hand.
My love for you is painful, painful
Painful, it echoes bright the frightful
Thoughts of loss which gild the lily
With a poison gloss, suffocating as it
Shimmers in the light, dancing like
The bones of ghosts upon my grave,
The soundless clatter in my skull,
The mindless chatter
Clutters up my brain,
The fragile life, the flicker flame,
Crackle, splutter, hiss, I whisper
Love me ever, leave me not.
I stand before you, a tiny castle
Made of bone. I appear as solid as
A stone but I am not, I am an echo
Of an ancient sound, a light which
Spills from cells in empty space to
Dance upon a river bed, a bluish
Sliver trailing deep within my skin
To glimmer red beneath my cheek
When you are near.
I am a hum, a light,
Mercurial, a wave.
I can disperse, disband the electric
Magnetic energy which holds me fast,
A living memory of a primeval blast.
With one command
I turn to sand and
Slip through your dear fingers to
Leave a hollow place, an empty hand
To cup your face when you are free
Of me at last.
But with a kiss I reappear.
PussPuss sits atop the cupboard.
His large eyes gaze upward.
Contemplating the universe no doubt
Or communicating with passing angels.
A checkerboard Buddha
His paws pressed together.
Katey imparts visions:
A man becomes sunflower.
A silver girl wafts down
On air with floating leaves
To crouch beneath a speeding car
Then rises from a shining pool
Head glowing like the moon.
Her large eyes gaze upward.
Tigers hiss, prowl a wood.
Her delicate hands hypnotically weave.
A drunken saxophonist liberates
A whistle repeatedly pierces.
A clackety incantation.
A discordant duel.
The church clock strikes twelve.
The pub spills its children
Roaring and mewling.
Small oracle, Katey glistens.
PussPuss and I intently listen.
PussPuss appears to float on air.
He has crooked himself between the panes.
Settled on the cross where cool air swells.
Black as a rook cloaked in blue.
Not precarious but curious.
Half wedged under glass,
White rabbit legs like Wonderland.
One white-tipped paw drapes languidly
The surrender of saints by Raphael,
Marlene’s elegant ennui.
PussPuss strikes an extraordinary silhouette
Coal black against a blue sky sea.
I stare at his configuration
Until diamond light dissolves
And flashes verdigris.
He was a bit of a pin head as a boy
But his proportions are exemplary now.
Whimsical like a faery in the Dream.
A perfectly contained wildness.
Cobweb or Peaseblossom tumbles down,
A slinky waterfall from window, chair to floor.
He springs to my side with practised ease.
A small black prince inquisitively peers.
His coat of earth. Eyes the green
PussPuss does his morning
Hosanna to the sun glistening
In the light.
Then a little bath.
Contortions more exquisite
Than any Kama Sutra.
He sniffs the air
Eyes half closed in ecstasy.
A little snooze
It’s time for play.
PussPuss grows more holy every day.
PussPuss shone lavender this morning
Hallow hallucination, a purple hue.
A silent song unto itself.
Refracted fleeting grace.
Luminous electric violet.
Soft halo amethyst or flower.
A vibratory wonder-note
Heard by the eyes.
A summons. A signal.
Tiny boxcar set on eternity.
His sleek black arcs and drifts
Undulates surprise of white.
Each perfect movement
Flowing a river.
He is very nearly a god now.
The meditation is complete.
It is the life.
I float above
The covers swell
Below my legs
A muffled sound
The black cat’s breath
Rise and falling
With my own
The sun sneaks in
And smacks your cheek
A cheeky ingenue
I love you more
Than any other could
A silky thread
A threat binds me to you
You slash the sheet
Emerge gold-pocked with light
A treasure trove of heart
And sinew rope
A sheath of flesh
The sour cloud
Of sleep on skin
I roll the cat
A tumble bundle
Black on white
A wizened Nefertiti head
Half mast wink and
The sun departs to tease a leaf
A gilded flicker
Clucks the caps
Of smog-wreathed trees
Imparts a fleeting
You look upon my smile
And think –
If would she could
Love me a little less.
Your panther hand upon my knee
Upon your face a panther’s smile
Within your chest Pandora’s box
Leaks the secrets you revile
The tom tom of your panther heart
Beats above the gentle hush
The time has come for opening
Risk the fierce volcanic rush
Your panther hand upon my cheek
Your panther heart beneath my hand
The gnash of geographic plates
Form jagged cliffs from gentle land
Time will wear the landscape smooth
And lashing rains and slicing winds
But in the stillness will be heard
The mocking jig of skeletons
Dancing a riddle upon your feet
Confounding you when all is well
Searing those who come too close
Delinquent flames of buried hells
Your panther hand upon my knee
Upon your face a panther smile
Within your chest Pandora’s box
The lock is rusting all the while.
There is a shadow
The rooks are emerging
The ground is shifting
Rocking gently beneath my feet.
The fire is out
The sky draws in
The clouds are diaphanous
Ice is falling
In ten-pronged white genetic flakes
There is no edge
As I fan out to endless space
Shadows fly through me
Through glass plate
The ground see saws below
There is no anchor
They enter me
You will find me
Floating boneless in the snow.
There is a crack from sternum to
Pelvis, from labia to tongue
It leads to rooms and hollow spaces.
The key can be a touch,
An echo, voice, hypnotic litany,
The way you’ve looked at me,
Certain smells or places – and
I descend the ladder rung by rung.
Shadow people live here.
Uninvited guests who feed.
Black lung, silver liver, heart.
They like the organs best.
The gnawing has a rhythm I can tap a tune to.
A rapid whirling dance, I skip, I dart.
There is no rest.
Insatiate longing mothers greed.
There is a garden; the trees are mariners.
Prehistoric creatures rising majestic, clearing
The air, light-dappled, broad-backed, limbs waving.
They are breathing for me.
Their sap defies gravity ascending fleetly ring on ring.
On the root is carved a pact.
I will find my way there.
There is a teacher at a pulpit
Smacking a baton, thud on thud
Falling upon the seat of sensation:
Medulla oblongata, cerebrum, cerebellum.
The organ of thought.
Nerves alight, St. Elmo’s fire:
Sometimes the pokes provoke a sudden inspiration –
A lightening bath, a panic storm or flood.
I am Noah’s ark –
Amoeba, fish, reptile, ape.
As ontogeny recapitulates philogeny
Finally human begetting human,
A river of flesh, a sheath, a flame,
The hope of light.
But what seed is rooted in the progeny
And how will they be shielded from the rape?
Devoured from within
The earth is shrivelling beneath the sod.
The bells are howling in the steeples.
It is a glittering repast presided
Over by cannibals designed to self destruct,
less humble than the loping beast and small.
Who are these people?
What is their god?
I am a large wolf-spider, a water bear.
I have an extreme impulse to dance,
A malady or spinning prayer.
Your speech is percussion.
A lashing tarantella,
The meaning is lurking, a germ in the grain.
I navigate the blue to find the deep veridian lair and
Watch the sway of light on prickling leaves advance.
I wake to this curious
I turn in bed as if the grave.
Laid out – Lazarus
Waiting for the touch.
The seducement of dream
Is pulling me back,
Pushing down on chest and limb,
In a soft embrace,
Returning in shards a picture puzzle
Forming distant lands
Of jagged rock like Montserrat awash
With light spilling shadows
Alizarin and deep on emeraldine.
A feather drifts and shudders on a breeze.
The coasting shadow of a massive bird
Weeps over me.
In a claustrophobic room a woman changeable
As wind speaks of one who mocked me.
How can these strangers enter me so deeply?
John says walk the middle path.
All will be well.
But I am waylaid in a poppy field,
The road unseen and
Emerald City still a dream.
A trumpet of light dazzles my eye.
You disappear in a tingling haze –
The line of your cheek luminous
And the turn of your nose
All that remains.
The blast is swallowed
By cloudscapes in lazuline skies
Returning you – carved by cool
Hands in shades of
Lavender and grey.
I awake again and far too late,
The fingers of noon light
Strike laser sharp,
My heart calf-keening
As if this journey
Of 10,000 miles
Hadn’t moved me from this place
Or shucked a husk of
These small insistent hells.
But I still rise.
She is wild like I was
Despite the fact that I have been subdued
These long years,
Nothing peeking at the edges.
It must be potted in the genes
Or my mother’s oath come true:
I hope you have one just like you!
Forgetting I was just like she was.
No amount of tying down or
Locking up dented her will –
She bolted at the first
To sing in bars and marry men.
Her vast knowledge of flora and fauna
Lost to high notes
And tender kisses.
But still, the reining in
Is a putting down,
A suture that festers,
A time bomb in the blood.
(Or are we just plum crazy,
Set to ignite?)
From mother to mumchance
Embalmed in this masquerade.
I would like to free this one.
Let her fly.
Break the chain
Of exploding women.
Rocketing their feverish pearls
In timeless sprays,
The uncollected clusters falling
Across strange lands of another’s devising.
And so I bite my tongue
During this mad stacatto dance.
Small fine limbs akimbo and scarves winging,
A multi-coloured leap, a swoon, a banshee rite.
The shrill cries pull my skin but still I say
Shrike! Pipe! Grow large and utter forth
And if the vase should drop,
Let the pieces lie.
Do I recall the name or face?
I am more of memory than of now.
I remember feeling, then I feel.
I drink my coffee and coffee-coloured
Quarter-horses come to mind, on mountains
Where silver birches speak in tongues into the wind.
The madman with his knife against my throat –
The way he moved the watercolour off the bed
With reverence and gently tugged the lace.
I remember running down a flowered hill in
Stockbridge, in a floral dress, the wind is
touching like a demon lover –
There is the great oak where witches swung.
This I knew before the telling –
Healer, midwife, poet, sister.
All the lost ones gathered there
(I have been back, their shadows roam
there still and mine among them)
There is the boy who remembered any utterance,
Its hour and date, collecting lost pennies from
Pittsfield to Lenox to to buy a propeller –
And the beautiful Irish lass whose brother
Was her lover, (who had been killed in Vietnam)
Who gave herself to everyone to quell her grief,
Then sold herself; the whore of Babylon, Long Island,
Woozy with potions of forgetting.
I had brushed her hair for hours –
(For what are hours to the lotus eater or the
seeker of the lotus in the crown?)
I had brushed her hair for hours and listened to her song.
And Bill who spoke ten languages but could not speak his
Mind. His eyes feverish with volcanic clusterings as
A drawing by Schiele, his gun beneath the pillow,
Swooning on October Mountain burning his arms with
Cigarettes to distract a larger agony –
And the albino who loved Diane and boxed her ears
In Central Park, made life-sized plaster casts
For company and killed himself.
These skinless ones, their terrible tenderness
Too searing to survive or wear the masks
which melt against their heat like wax.
Their yearning drives them –
Daring to bare what will be pierced and pierced
Again, for the world will not countenance a reminder –
These who cannot muster the ambition
Or volition for that which time will
Make a joke of –
Will we laugh and walk away?
The realms of present tense and past are merging
And the geography of life and death is
Separated by a narrowing path.
The world is not a solid place.
I will shed my skin still further –
Will you laugh and walk away?
And further still –
Until I am red and throbbing and all grace.
Come my child, dry your eyes
And walk the earth with me;
Not to seek but to speak
Of kings and fools
And everything from thumbnail frogs
To Bariboussa Indian hogs,
The rapid wing beat of the hummingbird,
Cleopatra’s Needle and the Sphinx.
Shall we walk into the ruby sunset
Until the horizon drops us on a cloud
And make a cocktail of your tears
To sprinkle on the tigerlily, marigold and rose?
Watch your phantoms evanesce
In ochre and vermillion light?
Speak to flowers of their purpose?
Let me tell you of the things of worth,
Your fawn plumage and your radiating smile,
The circumstances of your birth.
More blood and water than the doctor had ever seen.
A deluge, a flood, a large fish slippering through,
A creature almond-eyed, alert, amused and
Wise as visitors from distant planets in
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.
As you sleep beside me
I am gripped in the primeval jaw
Of transforming forces beyond my ken,
Become lioness to guard you
From treacherous winds, wild
Unknowns and death
And I at last becoming mortal
As you grow beneath my hand,
Your heart beat gently tapping,
My ear countless times descending
To check the flutter of your breath.
All those February dawns
Of your first month,
The earth beneath the crust,
The sky as white,
The black trunks piercing like confessions overdue,
The pines snow-heavy above mosaics
Of bird print and of fox,
The cat’s jealousy of you and
Silence, silence, silence.
Your chuckling glint, your straight true gaze
And I, a walking crucible,
Full as moon and round,
The rhythm of your cries merging night with day,
Causing surges like the tide
As all that I had known
Rises sceptre-like from secret files
And the hourglass explodes.
Let me tell you
How I wanted to protect you
And to guide but could not avoid
indelible patterns surfacing
Linking generation upon generation
With incantations long forgotten,
Confronting the leers
Of all that I would hide from you
Risen to face me in the mirror.
Though this may be of some importance,
Is it more so than the sailor’s jagged song
Or the laughing of the kookaburra, hyena and the loon,
The mushroom spore, the chimney smeek,
The elliptical trajectory of the moon?
Teasing with its skirts of buttery light,
Transfixes poet, lover and the madman with the knife.
Reflecting and eclipsing,
Engineering our surrender.
Surrender, surrender as we journey
Piercing to the core, surrender
Reflection, reaction and remorse
Until the seraph is awakened.
I should tell you this and so much more,
But there is no knowing in the telling.
The world is shifting from the fairy tale,
The myths and ancient lore,
Disregarding and discarding,
Shedding sheaths, exposing us unshielded in extremes
As edifices crumbles and the scientists reveal what
The mystic always knew: the carpentry of atoms but a dream
And it seems at last that I know very little.
So, it is time, my child, to walk the earth,
Not to seek but to be and to speak of what we see –
The church’s copper bricks startling against the
Slate grey sky, its shroud of winter trees attending,
The deepening violet as chimes strike five,
The bobbing of the crimson rose, its drifting petals
Revealing buried treasure of fuscia and of peach,
Its scent distilling childhood memory.
The prickling romp of the cat, his inky silhouette and
Silky undulations, the gold fish in their dish enflamed.
This last lance of light unfurling and the shadows it addresses,
The resonance of the your small guitar
And the rhythm of your dance …