Archive

River Hymns

That evening was a special place,
Carried to me by the river. I hung
My feet in the water like fish hooks
And let the sun writhe overhead, turning

The riverbank the dappled colour
Of late July and the underside of leaves.
Heat blared on from the apex of the day,
Continuing to break records like twigs,
And so, the city stood still; an open oven.

But I had my transient oasis,
Caesarean cut through a concrete belly.
I had founded an emptiness, like Columbus,
And declared it all mine.

Leaning back, I was content as a lion’s roar.
No phone. No pen. Just my wet soles
And an orchestra of crickets and birdcalls.

The church bells tolled, soft and hourly,
Telling Time about the clandestine
In sporadic pulsars. Darker, water flowed
Towards entropy and sunset.

Light on the surface; the debris of day.
Twisting past, swerving through the earth,
The river wrestled with its current like a vein
Of beauty inside the genius of madmen.

It was rare. A postcard perfect moment.
I didn’t want to move, I didn’t want to change;
And so I repeated some lines like mantras
To prolong the mirage that poured past
As though lost and happy in a labyrinth.


Sorry for the brief hiatus, I’m currently enjoying my last couple of weeks in Italy at the family home in the hilly Umbrian wilderness; it’s lovely, but also like a home for recovering addicts: no phone, no internet, no contact with the world outside the village walls. A good place for trying to capture some semblance of the Sublime and bygone eras, however. Enjoy the poetry.

You Sleep Between the Sighs and the Sunrise

You sleep between the sighs and the sunrise.
Scratch marks running down your back like train tracks,
Chasing the curvature of your pale spine
And the memories of moans in the black.
You wake each day with fresh finger traces;
Repeatedly healed in the night until new.
Different, distant. Slowly, you are time-changed –
A concertina of hands holding you.

But not mine. Meanwhile I stitch the remnants
Of what is left in the depths of my dreams;
Wearing your aftershocks as a pendent,
Oscillating wildly between extremes.
The doctors would call my love a crisis.
My lips condense heartbreak into silence.

Open Balcony Doors

Open balcony doors, flung wide like arms.
Not a cloud. I invite in the sun;
The kitchen plunged into a bright atrium.
An engorged sink, filled with daytime.
A sunbath, basking.

The curtains play in a breeze
As light as their white linen.
Hung like two tall nightclub bouncers,
They billow with world-breath
And flicker into happy surrender-flags.

The summer seeps into my bones
And heat steadily sneaks into the home –
An all-conquering fifth column;
The thick, gluey air, heavy like marble.

My throat becomes dry, slowly
Parched like a starved riverbed
While the room coughs as a dusty attic
Finally opened up to the ablution-sky.

This seasons eats movements.
Clears my schedule. Scorches it.
Mirage-like and doused,
The days become their mercury air

And outside, warmth beckons like a lover.
Unconscious footsteps. I plod.
Unthinking baby steps.
To the sun-calls, the light-falls;
Each ray like a siren’s lasso,

Pulling me out onto the balcony pulpit.
The crow’s nest. The pier.
My deep breaths emulating explorers,
I stitch myself into the simmering.

Immobilised in the season’s shadow.
Nature is held hostage, tied and left to yellow;
The grass dies, the trees blister.

I gaze on for months, burning slightly,
Mesmerised in the cauldron-bulb
By the flexing of the strong sun’s eye.

False Idols

I see you, hiding
As a face in the puddles
Of this street;
Dark and dense with wine
And ghost memories.

Looking at me,
Full of tremors and echoes,
Like you are still a hole in my earth.

A wet murmur.
Bright craters, glassy imitators
Shine like mirrors
In the rare, rippling light
Of the urban night.

A cloudy veil around the moon;
A river of streetlights;
A semaphore traffic light
Illuminating you with primary colours,
While, beating your eyelids,

You jump from water to water.
Briefly disappearing like a hot storm
That remains in the muscle memory
Of the air, still twitching –

And similarly, you stay with me;
Accompanying, following.
Like a sticky religion, like honey
Between your fingers on hot days.

But I should know
Not always to believe what I think.
To value conversions, clean hands.
This is not you. You were you.

You were once too human.

And this is just a drunk creation,
Nostalgic self-flagellation,
And thoughts like biblical arrows.

My imagination has remade you,
Summoned and raised you,
And I have created something new:

A love, worthy of a pedestal.


Falsi Idoli

Ti vedo nascondendo,
Una faccia nelle pozzanghere
Di questa strada scura;
Denso con il vino
E le memorie come fantasmi.

Guardandomi,
Pieno di tremori ed echi,
Come se fossi ancora un buco nella mia terra.

Un mormorio bagnato.
Crateri luminosi, lucidi imitatori
Splendono come specchi
Nella rara luce increspata
Della notte urbana.

Un velo nuvoloso intorno alla luna;
Un fiume di lampioni;
Un semaforo
Ti illumina con i colori primari
Mentre, battendo le palpebre,

Salti dall’acqua all’acqua.
Brevemente,
Sparisci come un temporale estivo
Che rimane memoria muscolare
Dell’aria, ancora spasimando –

E allo stesso modo, tu stai con me;
Mi accompagni, mi segui.
Come una religione appiccicosa,
Come il miele tra le dita nei giorni caldi.

Ma dovrei sapere
Di non credere sempre in ciò che penso.
Per valutare le conversioni, pulire le mani.
Questo non sei tu. Eri tu.

Prima eri troppo umano.

E questa è solo una creazione ubriaca,
Auto-flagellazione nostalgica,
E pensieri come frecce bibliche.

La mia immaginazione ti ha rifatto,
Evocato e cresciuto,
Ed ho creato qualcosa di nuovo:
Un amore che merita una medaglia.


So, this poem had a very interesting life. It started off in Italian with the first line, which I came up with and really enjoyed the internal rhyme, however I got around halfway through and hit a bit of a brick wall. I translated the poem into English to see if that would make things easier and fortunately it did, with the “path” to the end becoming much clearer and different language choices suddenly appearing. Then, once I was finished, I translated the final few verses back into the Italian.

There are subtle differences between the two versions, but mostly for language purposes. It was my first time writing a poem in this way and I liked both versions a lot and thought they both deserved publication – also I’ve been threatening to publish poetry in Italian for a while so this seems like a good place to start. Writing in Italian is much more of a challenge for me personally as it’s not my mother tongue, however I really liked the interplay between the two languages and testing my own poetic abilities in this way.

Milano

Suddenly, now I live on parallels
As a new city, country
Manifests itself around me
In a grey fog and a splutter of smog.

Milan: the Italian antithesis of Italy.
Lurking beneath the umbrella mountains,
Industrially beautiful
And incubating movements.

This city is like a whirring.
A buzzing, fast, metropolitan, vast
Push beyond a terracotta past
Into the unexplored, the not yet transformed.

A cityscape like cracked earth.
Buildings fissured by sun stained tarmac,
Littering shadows from the balconies,
Looming down like gargoyles.

And this is now a home.
I am concealed, unknown
And sealed away beneath the sprawl.
Alone, I piece together language like a puzzle.

But tonight, I stumble home
Through the night and wine,
When I turn a corner to find
An illuminated Duomo

Lit up like a petrified, white ghost
As a spectacle of statuesque marble.
This is the river’s source.
This is from where the city pours.

Rippling out across the map
In the shape of a bicycle wheel,
So that even when stopped,
Cast and halted,

It is still turning onwards,
Driving forwards.
Overflowing and spilling out streets,
Canals, tramlines and undergrounds.

A dynamism, truly electrified.
Swallowing up antiquities
And sweeping the ground clean
Into an international blank.

However, it can also relent,
Abruptly;
Like a cigarette and a slow cappuccino
Or a warm, green veranda in the rays

Of an unconquered sun god.
Opium air.
Golden hour.
When life slows to the speed of a deep breath.

Milano, you have chewed me for a year
And spat me out as someone new,
While I continue to submerge myself further,
Profoundly, like you are my baptistry.

 

Another Plane

Do gods watch me soar
Through the sky like a ladder
Waiting be climbed; higher, higher
Relentlessly up and through
The uninterrupted blue,
Until I find myself in
Another plane.

Alone in the almost ozone
With only thoughts
And a body, mid-transplant,
Mumbling adopted, magnet sighs.
My passport ironic in my pocket;
Home-swapped, like a gameshow.

The plane trail propels me onwards
On a slick of cloudy railroad,
And I leave behind uncertainties
With a burst ceiling of clouds
Discarded, like clothes on a floor

And instead, watch the earth
Flower and roll below:
Alps mountains like towering mothers,
Clouds clinging like children,
The crumpled paper peaks of earth
Crashing around like a foaming tide.

But like an aluminium bubble
In a blue, full, pint glass of air,
Our plane continues rising, rising;
Floating up to the top
As though the sky is nothing
More than a liquid morning prayer.

Icarus-like, we continue
Towards the sun –
Even if there are no myths
In an abyss of modern age
And the magic is defunct,
Revealed, routine.

Insulated to the awe, the world
Revolving, with a hummingbird buzz
We fly through epochs of gazed heavens,
Conquering miracles and puncturing the sky

Because now, we forge divinities ourselves
And then live to become them momentarily.

 

 

 

Revelations

A blue dawn, summering storm
Wakes you with a clatter
Of colliding clouds and sideways rain.
But then you look down
And see her,
In a dream sanctuary

Between the sighs and the sunrise.
And suddenly, sleepily
Your legs, arms, fingers,
Thoughts are intertwined
In the disappearing night;
Coiled around each other
Like loved-up snakes

While she continues to be
Safe and self-contained.
Oblivious. Twitching subconscious
Words on the cusp of her lips.
Tired eyes tightly shut
Like two imprinted, inky little stamps.

You are not affecting
And she recuperates
In the night like a deprivation chamber;
Inhabiting parallels.
You keep watch like a guard dog.

Her hair shields her face
From you
As a separation,
Like a wall of palms,
And she becomes more miscellaneous
The more you look.
It could be someone else

Again. Bury the feelings
Deep like a guilty bone.
You smell the morning breath
Brewing in her cauldron mouth,
Watch her limbs out-stretched
Like a content child;

She is often beautiful.
You decide to retry sleep
Or redemption,
Covering your bodies
Under the ghost-thin sheet,
Laid dead like pharaohs,

Waiting for the inevitable alarm
To unveil you.
With your heavy
Hands, you hold her
Close like an undeserved gift,
Like something hasn’t been broken.

Scars

We showed our scars for the first time
And shared the wounds like love letters,
Revealing some of the ways we were marked forever.
Our damaged bodies pulled through the years
Like scuffed toboggans, baring fading remnants
Of ageing hurt, the colour of fine red wine.

I went first. A cut through my cheek
That slits my face faintly with a sickle curve,
Reaching in and around, playing hide and seek
In the allure of a sanctuary thorn bush.
My cheek flapping open like a new mouth.

You went next. A sunken bite mark arm
And the memory of mousetrap dog jaw –
A small dog, you reassure me, no pit bull –
Just a colour-blind limb like a juicy bone
And a family pet the size of your powerlessness.
The wound went deeper than mine

And I returned serve, my hand tentatively
Sliding further down my body,
Pulling up the bottom of my shirt
To expose a keyhole belly slit
And a young boy, curled under his bed
Like a foetal, dead caterpillar.
Wailing and dog-whimpering
With tremors and appendix aftershocks.
A body like a burst, useless organ.
But you reached out, touched it.
Read the raised, twitching belly scar like Braille.

You pushed your fingers into my hand
And guided me into your mouth.
You pulled your bottom lip down like a drawbridge.
I pressed my fingertips into the pink
Hiding behind your lip. It was bumpy,
Like grit clumps, rock lumps, van velocity
Embedded with a tarmac impact;
Your body skating over the concrete
Like a pebble skipping across water.

Your tongue didn’t flicker any words. I saw
Hospital beds, IV drips. You held my wrist
And aimed next for knee cartilage –
Gently, gently, careful. The glistening
Skin like a surgically cut crossword
Of incisions and hard answers.
A bystander telephone call mapped out.
Your mother’s phone hitting the floor
Like cobweb echolocation,
Searching for her baby. You said nothing,
And I had no worse scars.

You said more nothing and hid more hurt
In other places that I could never see.