Monday, April 25, 2016

Recurrence at Rievaulx Abbey

Recurrence at Rievaulx Abbey

We stood in the rib cage of the abbey,
Its bones intact enough to conjure for us
Its sometime grandeur and the habits that breathed in it
as prayerful lungs, worklings in thrall to circadian infinity.

The whale of a ruin is marooned in the maw
Of a forest. We looked up at the sharp trees
To see a coven of crows lift together like the beads
Of a necklace, linked invisibly in silhouette,
And shiver down to garland a long tooth of the abbey -
A pillar unsiblinged by relentless weather and a rash king's decree.

We thought the crows beheld the lost ceiling, invisible to us
As though they remembered it. That they might be revenant monks
Keeping the dissolution at bay in a new uniform of feathers.

But our mistake was to presume that humans are the ascendant
of all flesh and foliage, that we might revive
in the empty waiting vessels of birds.
The egotism of our species knows no bounds.

The monks, when they lived, were shadow crows
Testing a new guise in the fluctuation of a wider myth
Than any known or spoken of in human words.
That abbey was a shard in the span of corvid time,
Just as corvids may be in that of stone or water.

What makes you sure you are not the phantasm of an owl,
a wolf or a newt? Is there any shame in such a fate?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Episodes of the Sky and, often, its Moon.

Episodes of the Sky and, often, its Moon.

Like a wave of cake cresting the skyline,
pink icing dawns on my suburb
and the endless changling roof
has me by the scruff of my joy.


A blinding moon is disinfecting the sky.
Perfect clouds seem to swish and swoop
but they're only imitating motion
in torn, obedient, stillness.


The moon stares up at me and
makes my walking improbable.
My Up is the moon's Down,
the True Down. So how can I adhere
To this ceiling? I am breaking the rules.
I am not an insect. I should lose my grip
On the pavement and fall headlong down
to drown in the inky heavens. Be eaten
perhaps, or ignored, by this white hot
element that bulges now like an eye
through gouges in a tattered blanket.


The sky is blue-black and fluffless,
as though it has just opened for the first time. Nothing stirs in it.

Unless you count the moon. So strong
tonight that it shudders my roving gaze.

It's still singing in my ears
when I've lowered my eyes.


The charm of the sky is its persistence:
past every house, every tree, round every corner
there is more of it. And tonight it all glows darkly.
It hums with some kind of promise
that I fathom too deeply to grasp,
a buried knowing that fails to speak –
fails even in thought. So I hold this pen,
aching to know
as one might strain to hear a distant sound,
and I write this.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Solid Grasp

A Solid Grasp

The telegram of the held hand
Has no stable transcription.
Like unrepeating birdsong,
Or underfoot twig snaps,
Touch has an imprecision
Far richer than precision.

Even though a double clutch –
A hand spoken heartbeat –
Is so obviously something
Known and something different
From the long slow clasp
That lasts a deep breath,
Or the woven finger crunch,
That knuckles as white as a prayer.

There are so many sentiments of the hand
And yet we'd know any new one
As though it were our own secret.
There is no foreign handguage.

Each time the fingers weave together
And ask the palms to impress one another
The juice is squeezed from an entirely new fruit
Whose pulp is the flesh of the moment –
Where two hands are trying to fuse.

The rhythms of a palm union, like a clam
Clenching and re-clenching to worship
Its own fond seclusion, can happen
At length in the large pocket
Of a winter jacket.

When the new fist composed of two fists
Pulses in a tremble of dialogue, we know.

What we know is not a message
For the mind's stenographer,
But an urgent despair and its glad cure
Arriving simultaneously
Dressed in eagerness.

Saturday, April 09, 2016



Today, my dream production is overflowing
Into the daylight and here is a memory
Of overlapping truth, desire, and fiction.
These three elements lap at each other
As a cat’s tongue at milk, or as an almost calm lake
Laps gently at its shores, foamlessly swaying
Its indecisive edge. So what are these
That make up this ghost of an event?

There is the snow, a mantle of certainty
Carpeting the nineteenth of February
Nineteen ninety two, in my handwriting.
This diary entry glows not from the actual
Diary, which I’ve lost, but from a dogged
Crumbling dogmatism. I’m sure it was then.
I think it was then. I hope it was then.
So it was then then. Enough doubt.

Then there is the sled and my brother
And our excitement, which we carried
Up the hill into the park to be unfolded
In footprints on the still falling whiteness.

There must be some truth in this.

The view I have now is from above our heads
As we scurry through the almost empty park,
Puffs of breath swirling about our heads like
Old fashioned locomotives. We become a cliché,
A cheap illustration on a postcard,
An advert on TV at Christmas time,
How could we not? But inside this, the body beam of
Recollection, unfilmlike, allows the quietness of snow
To be as real as any seen thing: the way it soft-pedals
Even birdsong into a mere trickle; and I can know the blur
When a flake catches in my eyelash; and I can feel
The snow compacting to a sudden silk
And seeming to tug itself away from my feet
So I nearly stumble with every stride; and the air
Pushing its chillful will into eyes, ears, lungs,
Demanding of us, it seems, that we burst
Just to survive.

There must be some desire in this.

When we reach the top of that best hill –
A hill that thereafter (and even therebefore)
Always conjured its own half-audible plea
For snow (as though it felt naked, obsolete) –
When we reach it - we are held still for an instant,
As though Time itself has reached out
To hold us steady for a photograph,
Or maybe, parentlike, to give us
A breathsworth’s peace to admire the view.
But in the haste of our heroic childhood
Only our old winsome sled seems to meditate
On its surroundings, snow-glinting beside us.

Then, released from this pause, we hurl
Fresh-fast down the slope as if no one else
Has ever done it before, hurtling like the
Descent of fact into fable,
Of act into delicious memory.

We had arrived first at the hill, made the first descent,
Slid further than any of the others that soon arrived,
Slid faster, and with better technique, natural.
In this brief climate, we had found  our calling:
We were pioneers, inventors of snow travel.

There must be some fiction in this.

But there is nothing as real as this, not even reality.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Seeing and Re-Seeing

Seeing and Re-Seeing

This city aches to be rolled past.
And so I do it. Roll past and through it,
Insinuate myself. I become a sinew
Of the city, a flexing tendon. My gaze dollies
Smoother than any image making machine.
My strafe-eye can hold
An instant or know a happening
With a ghost’s transit:
Moving through, uninvolved,
A moment’s insider, then gone.

The pavement is conveyor
To my hungry watch, bringing me
Seeings, seeables, sights, doings
Of many manner, shape, and drift;
Too many for any finite lister.

I am such a one, compiler of lists
That brim but are never quite full -
All jotted down in thought, but
Nonetheless set down for being inkless.

Housed in head, the listed seen can
Dabble in volition, rattling their cages,
Not to be set free but to be remembered -
Re-experienced in the cinemas of Sleep or Consideration.

One scene returns more than others
To the roadside that glides past closed lids
Unbidden at night, and sometimes, unchosen,
(When the couplings loosen between thoughts)
By day, a flickering matinee screening:

Two crows were pecking at something
Shouldering each other to peck the better,
Vying for food, it looked like, but traffic
Had my glances too, I am ever the divided
                    A bit of bread? But they were cawing
Loud and frantic, hopping, barging, as a tuft
Slid from between them and my gaze, revealing
Their quarry – it was no snack…
But a fellow crow, facedown in harried stiffness.
Hunched wings half splayed like a black angel
Unresponsive in the dust.
This beaked anger and death cooled the sweat
On my face. I shivered, new-sure of the scene
And looked on, waiting at a red light.

But the next peck had a tenderness,
Is this regret? Or are they trying to revive?
Now a beak was slowly lifting this lost life,
Only to let it drop back down, hopeless, very dead.
Already a ruffled effigy, soulless and stiff.

So my first guess had dissolved. It was not anger
But mourning, panicked and desperate.
With screams and shakes to wake a dead friend.
But the light went green and I was gone.

I settled on this sense of the scene in departure,
But these winged deeds remain foreign
To my wheeled pinioning, my cycles
Of thought. I must remain featherless and
They will never ride a bicycle, never
Stop or go at the behest of a traffic light.
This difference only enhances the power
Of this extended glimpse to replay in me.

Thursday, March 24, 2016



It’s a good tired day when 
The words come flocking
Of their own accord 
As though curious to know 
Whether they might be said. 

I am tired now, good tired
Enough to weaken the borders 
And let in a drip of dream 
With every gallon of waking.

Yes, as any thing makes its opposite
Stronger and starker by proximity,
So the tincture of sleep in my daylight 
Gilds each moment and thing with
A taste of madness and revelry and sin.

Now I can hear running, barefoot I think,
I discern the hastening of those who,
Maybe moments ago, threw their clothes 
To land draped and skewered on a bush,
And then, wild in darkness,
Drunk and squealing cold,
Leapt into night water,
with the benediction of danger and fizz.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Zoom Out

Zoom Out

And you’ll know the insignificance
                               Of your life.
And the relief of your problems’
                          Lost smallness.

But what happens in this macroscopic dilation?

From a wide enough viewpoint everything is right.
Or is everything wrong?
                                    No, everything is neither.

The allotment of praise here and blame there
    Complexity obliterates the thinking agent.
Leaving only fortunate and unfortunate parts of the world.

This is how an omniscient god would have to see things
To forgive all.
Let's say there is a murder:
The evil does not squirm in a single location. There is none
in the data. The deity sees all influences: nothing short of everything
That occurred beforehand ever everywhere. There is no choice,
Only an illusion of choice in the murderer, the jury, the deceased,
And in such fellows as I, crawling between ideas.
                                                                         The entire universe
Committed the act, and every other act too – Every flinch or blip
Of motion is a conspiracy of all particles to effect all particles.

This is how an omniscient god would have to see things
To forgive all.

But we can’t see things that way. Or we wipe away
The whole edifice of agency; of self itself.
Yes, the pang of guilt is gone, but with it goes you.
The bathwater, the baby and the bathroom too.

Our Virtue and Vice is but splitting hairs to the Gods
But we must keep to our solid illusions, choosing this
Over that, sometimes that over this. Or believe we’ve chosen
At least.
If life is a technique, it needs a dream of self to drive it.

Zoom back in.