A White Church

The road rises and falls on its way to a white church in a field of green.

It is an old church with a belfry and no bell, and the slender windows reach to the sky.

There are two great doors, heavenly blue, the paint falling, and locked.

The secrets are kept.

I cannot feel the sheen of the pews, or look for peace through leaded windows,

Stand before the altar and weep for my sins and losses, or feel the imprint of The Bible black.

So I stand on the kept lawn in pale winter sunlight and watch as the light moves;

Read the dates on the stones in the churchyard and touch the lichen and wonder why, here

There are just nine graves, angled to the south where the huddled sheep are preparing for winter’s cold;

Where there are belts of pines and tall oaks and the roll of the sea and the bones of a man from Kent

rope

…therefore our milk skins

bruised at dawn torn

betwixt.. crucifix. hammer.

nail. caught on/tore yr clear-

skin nylon. thighs ruined.

 

evident, the philosophical

undercurrent, the smooth-

flowing narrative.

 

also, tension: the linear

arrangement of days;

their despoilation.

hurt you

for you

open scissor blades

on the white page,

 

symbol                                                                                             x

omen – say,

a pair of horns                                                                                 Ỵ

 

 

or thorns

from the garden

to wear like garlanded

kings.

Do Something To Me

contains erotic content

Jackets, rackets, hoodies,
bras and hankies. Kitchen,
picnic, travel, children’s
toys, and uniforms.
There is the same smell
in every shop: rough-soft,
moth-balled, time-stopped.
I was clearing the shop
of clothes that wouldn’t sell,
installing new racks for the goodwear,
banging on the beams, everything was everywhere.
She stood under me looking up
and I hung low in my shorts.

Nothing underneath, the Rain
had entered her top. My bells
shifted and rang in their sensitive sack.
Cathedral, she said. Huh? Commando
Freebone’s bell rope. and reached
up and tugged it, once, twice. 3pm.,

and a Southerly circled and pushed.
Palm to her nose, summer clothes,
she said, was all she had. At the end
of the shed I stopped for her to look
mature. No one is coming, I said. Not
yet she said, and took my place

where the moisturised seam, in its silk
cot. She held where I’d thickened
like a door handle, and said, I’ll leave
the room unlocked.

Then she pushed her finger into my
cloth, having writ her motel number
in the dust on the face of a clock.

When you’re sure I’m sleeping,
park around the block,
I won’t wake up if you do things.

towers

Towers hang the air like the Titans at Cocytus, black at

sundown, the dark blue sky and like when there’s this guy high

on the deck gabbling prayer. Her dark eyes. Fingers, silhouettes stretched

miles, other worlds here as you sleep. In the sea deep,

crevice, desert. Rocks. I’m hollowed by the drip-drip

of decades, fuckin ages; waiting. Saw myself: the way you do:

how you hold yourself when you don’t know what to say because you’re

weird. Which is fine. You need, distance. To think it’s not real, it’s myth

that formed us and everything is cyclic which

makes me sick. It is the inkling of lunatics like us, once,

to think you lose your head again but you’re innocent, done because someone

has seen the light. Well,

 

apparently this happens: in my sleep; my forgetfulness; indifference;

like when you brush your hair and catch the wind when,

the fridge stops.

dressing gown

My mother’s lilac gown

lies on a shelf in my wardrobe

neatly folded, defunct.

 

I tried it on once –

it was tight, too short

at the arms.

I had a thick jumper on,

which made it worse.

I never made her laugh.

I stuck corks in her tight curls,

chicken bones in her wine glass,

feigned death,

rattled chandeliers,

whispered scriptures, wandered the hall

at Midnight

with her salmon-pink shawl

over my head, and still…

nothing. Not a flicker

of a smile.

 

I have the shawl

in my bottom drawer,

entombed half a world

from the corpse

it warmed.

The Village

Stand still.

The children are calling,

Muffled voices

In these dark rooms;

Near the  broken shelf,

By the copper’s bulk,

Scratching on slates.

This room was a school.

It says so, in chalk:

Boys. Girls.

And this – well –

It is locked.

The shadows lean in,

Ragged curtains shake.

There is grime on the glass.

Dust in the light.

Families lived here,

Above the silvered boards.

They flogged the earth.

Flump, a spade thrust

Into the  dark earth.

To make a weary bob.

Spuds and kale and shiny beans.

Plant and reap.

Reap and sell.

Now vines thread up.

To the filtered light.

The families have gone.

Well, almost

modern poets

Poets never look like poets.

Not the ones I know.

They used to. Like Byron,

who fought in Greece,

& Christopher Marlow,

in South London.

 

But Eliot was a Banker,

a Royalist, Anglican.

And you’re at a bus stop

in Grey Lynn, ruminating

the mysteries of a Lamb

& Pickle sandwich.

Anyway

Anyway, you are not here.

You are –

It doesn’t matter –

Elsewhere.

I could have told you, for the umpteenth time,

About my thoughts (such as they are)

And how they centre on you.

Or us. As we were.

There was a time, before our eyes dimmed

When we thought each other handsome.

I know it is true of you.

I pray you do not look at me.

Pictures even.

Because I am not that person.

I am adrift, now.

And that makes a difference.

Had you been here, you would know

inferno

We descend, then, to a place of greater pain.

Here darkness reigns, lit by the long hum

of afternoon; fluorescent tubes, monologues

at the dinner table; a bedside lamp,

in daylight a spent moon. Men hate their jobs,

wives, their bastard children; and women,

themselves, spouses, long impotent

with rage.

 

For a time we stared, said nothing; then at last

I said: “Master, who are these people?

Why are they here, and what have they done

to merit such suffering?” And the Master:

“They squandered their prime; fell in love, suffered,

married young; had children, mortgages:

securities, shelter. Men receded, turned in –

became reticent; abstract, lost

in the mirror; trod the carpet of the living room,

paced the hall in the muffled hours

of midnight, week-day afternoons; and women,

not loved, bitter; silent, blowing bubbles

beneath the surface, eye-deep in dishwater.

 

No sin has condemned them,

but their circumstances; and now they wander,

dead Shades across the endless

quarter acre, Sunday mowers; sprinklers,

blooming flowers, the rustling song

of cicada.

 

Each soul is cloistered, censured; beaten down.

And no-one hears the howls but their own, far away

like a shell to the ear”.

 

And I thundered: “Where is God’s love!” “Son”,

replied the Master, calm yourself. This is but

the second Round! There are hells

much worse, speaking of which…

Take my hand: for further down the road

I will show you the misery of those that hunger.”

 

And we went on down the road.

 

Chieko

  *Chieko’s sky

i saw a film about her once, Chieko,
married to the famous japanese sculptor
a poet too who could write strong things
in the worst of times, i don’t know
if Chieko could.
she was mad     mad the way the mad are
who have to do too much living in
one head one heart     her name alone was
enough for me to love.
she had a line, someone read the poem
on the sound track and there was sky
in that shot a scratchy blue
and Chieko laughing on a hill
with her husband.
she wrote ‘the sky over Tokyo
is not the real sky.’
it took me nineteen years to understand
that less than simple fact,
i lived in that city for two years
that would have froze her blood today
if she saw how empty those faces were
in trains dead drunk lost under the moon
that goes on and off.
i knew of course her real sky
was the one over her home
a village i can’t imagine, let me,
thatched rooves you couldn’t even make out
the houses from the hill at first but
then you heard the water in a
stream all stones
and that sky was a place
she always wanted to play in
but never could.
i began to think of my own sky,
that sky where everything was
the sun shining the garden back
at you in a wind blowing colours
off the flowers, the moon that
slipped down drops of rain,
the edge of stars breaking like frost,
the high clouds long as your dreams
over a depth of blue.
i knew her sky was my own sky
no matter how far apart we were
in fact, in sense, in sex
that sky over Tokyo wasn’t real
her song of the sky was real,
Chieko, let me sing you
a memory of my sky:

i felt the stars touch me
i was not in exile
i felt the stars draw me up
over the falling away
of dream.

sometimes
a star would reach down
deep into my hope
i’d stand in its lightness
nothing of this earth
could fill.

the stars would give
full measure to time
i could find the darkness
on which they turned
old merry-go-round

of horse-head
silver
nebulae.

Chieko,
like an earthquake that sky
taps       inside the head
can fall       i’m afraid
can fall a sunspot blown up
on a paper screen
a leaf rent with autumn.

harris park, sydney
september 1998.

*’Chikeo’ refers to Chieko Naganuma, a Japanese poetess and painter. Wikipedia notes: ‘.. she married Kōtarō Takamura in February 1914, a sculptor and poet, whom she met soon after he had returned (to Japan) from France.
Following the breakup of her family home in 1929, she was diagnosed in 1931 with symptoms of schizophrenia – she was hospitalized for that disease in 1935, and remained there until her death from tuberculosis in 1938.
Kōtarō’s book of poems about her, “Chieko’s Sky” (智恵子抄 ‘Chiekosho’), is still widely admired and read today.’  The specific poem, which, I understood from the film, Chieko wrote, was in fact written by her husband based on her remark on the Tokyo sky. In order to close the circle here, so to speak, I append a translation of it by a Mr. Paul Archer, a fine poet and translator. In searching for the poem online I found Paul’s website, and he graciously allowed me to include it in its entirety here below:

            Talking Like A Child
Chieko says there’s no sky in Tokyo,
I want to see the real sky, she says.
Surprised, I look up at the sky.
Among the cherry tree leaves
Is the kind of clear sky
I remember from my childhood.
The leaden horizon tinged
By the moist pink of morning.
Chieko looks far off –
Every day there’s a blue sky
High above Mount Atatara,
That’s what I call the real sky, she says.
She’s like a child when she talks about the sky.

Paul welcomes anyone to view the entire sequence, which he has translated, on his website at: http://www.paularcher.net/index.html
The movie I say many a year ago is titled ‘Chieko-sho (Portrait of Chieko’) of which Wikipedia notes: ‘Portrait of Chieko (Japanese : 智恵子抄 / Chieko-sho) is a 1967 Japanese film directed by Noboru Nakamura and based on a poem by the Japanese poet and sculptor Kōtarō Takamura. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.’

Last Days in The Sun

The cricketer in autumn;

Deliveries so many leaves

Falling, trailing where once

They spun and dipped;

When he cocked the wrist

Venom flicked from upturned hand;

Parabolas of slow death

Rolling out, shining.

So long ago, when the sun

Loosened the fingers, when

He bounced in on his toes

And knew. Just knew.

That each ball was loaded,

Cocked for the slow kill