A R C H I V E
These words are his : orphans at conception –
Thessaly, Ioclus – foreign names, yet
All too familiar how they cling to her,
Their torsos twisting back to see he’s gone,
Dread knotting muscles under puppy fat :
That same thrill of solidity in flesh
She’d felt in him (that’s transitive, no doubt...
Lent via touch), reminding him to crease
The diaphragm’s ecstatic twitch of loss.
You hear the one about the Queen
Who tried to tickle her own kids to death?
She split their skins and they unfurled beneath
Her fingertips, dense as begonias
Forcably hand-pollenated by
A groundsman to the King. The fragrance spoke
Of nothing quite as much as innocence :
How all of Aea gasped in their gardens
To feel the grip her father took on her,
The day he plucked indignant chords of breath
From her taut ribs... arpeggios. She was
The only lyre in Colchis (Orpheus
Had yet to lay down riffs on love and death),
The tendons of a princess strumming joy,
Face down in mulch, and writhing, tasting salt
And something darker that she couldn’t place.
All too familiar how it clings to her
Today: the dirt... especially the words.
She ought to dash their brains out on a rock
Just for allowing him to go. Just that.
You hear the one about the girl who died
Laughing? She never even got the joke.
Imagine lovers in a place like this:
tongues straining to describe each other
in the corner of a damp foyer,
hesitating over their agreements.
Imagine fingers tracing the small print
of button-flies and fasteners:
the intricacies of their syntax,
half-lit by exit signs,
almost credible as a deterrent.
Imagine limbs declining
in the blotted shade of a stone well,
behind a phalanx of nibbed poplars,
against a block of concrete slabs,
spiral bound with razor wire.
We brush our toes against it:
paddlers becoming giddy swimmers
as we lose our footing
on its jutting angles,
sickeningly slick with algae
for an instant, where the pruned skin
of the strand gives way to something
Submerged, you seem, by turns,
withered and swollen,
waves lensing you
as they well up and subside –
than our heartbeats could predict.
If we put our faces in,
let the brine lap our cheeks,
we might share your quiet ease:
the way your sallow smudge
shimmers as you curve,
exploring new dimensions
of the peeling hull
with lollops of the tail.
We daren’t. We kick away.
for Jess and Tom
“Some walls and rock-faces, some crags and trees
Are simply asking to be climbed. They send
Unwritten invitations on the breeze.
They grab me by the fingertips and bend
Towards me as I lift a knee to start.
They cling to me. They shift. They nudge me on.
Sometimes I’ll lose a foothold and my heart
Will race… my grip – my last gasp – almost gone…
But then… they’ll reach out with a hold and climb
With me – beneath when I’m above, above
When I’m beneath. These days I think that time
Is like that too, and so are you, my love.”
“When I was a girl, I climbed my mom.
Her knees were promontories, her hip a ledge,
Her breasts were boulders. I would swing out from
The corner of her collar to the edge
Of her smooth shoulder. When I flagged, her arms,
Those slender branches, would provide my bed.
Now that I have to make sure nothing harms
Our baby – cracks his limbs or splits his head –
I know my mother had to climb with me,
The way I climb with him. The way I've learned
To climb with you, my love, instinctively
Anticipating every twist and turn.”
“Sometimes it feels to me as if the entire
Earth comes with me when I climb: the ground
Beneath me, wide and welcoming; the breeze
That teases me with dreams of flight; the sky
Above, untouchable and deep; the sound
Of singing from the all-surrounding seas.”
“That’s me, my love. I’m yours and you are mine:
The ground beneath each other, welcoming;
The breeze that teases us with dreams of flight;
The sky above, its darkness, its sunshine;
The seas surrounding us that hush and sing;
We rise and fall together… day and night.”
The world’s greatest fighter, Achilles,
Gave both friends and opponents the willies.
When he brandished his spear
Grown men trembled with fear,
Not to mention the colts and the fillies…
There once was this bird, Clytemnestra,
With a genuine feathered ancestor:
You see, once her mom
Had copped off with a swan
When his cunning linguistics impressed her.
There were three old spinsters called Fates
Who administered men’s mortal dates:
They span out one’s life,
Measured… cut with a knife,
And they didn’t brook any debates.
There once was this looker, Narcissus
Who fancied himself as his mrs:
He would gaze in a puddle,
Give his shoulders a cuddle
And blow himself… big sloppy kisses.
The Naiads, Zeus’s first daughters,
Inhabited fresh inland waters.
They would tempt boys to strip
And to take a long dip
In the pools of their liquid hind quarters.
Queen Pasiphaë, queen of Crete,
Had a yen for a certain bull’s meat,
So she donned a cow suit
And enticed the great brute
To donate her his bovine gamete.
There was a great godhead called Zeus
Who didn’t need any excuse
To descend from the skies
In some jovial disguise
And put his great godhead to use.
One zero one, one zero zero one,
One zero zero zero zero nought:
Nought one, nought zero one nought zero one;
Nought one one one one zero one one nought.
One zero nought, one zero nought, one one
One one one one one zero zero nought.
Oh, zero one! One nought one zero one
Nought one nought one one nought, nought nought one nought?
One one one zero. Zero one nought one.
Nought nought nought zero zero zero nought,
One one one zero one? Oh, one one one
One one! Oh, one one zero zero nought!
Oh, one. Oh, oh, one; oh, one one. Oh, one;
Oh, one; oh, one; oh, one; oh, one. Oh, one!
How stale, flat and unprofitable
seem all the barcode-cancelled pancakes
in the orange crates beside the bread.
“Hey, you,” she murmurs
as we separate the books,
“you’re too cool for words.”
Bright drips of weld
fall from the new penthouse,
sizzling into the gutter –
tracing hot ellipses
against the rainclouds.
There’s no point in asking
where you’d rather be.
This is no place for a bird
with dawn in her eye:
Bloodshot flocks of your cousins
legging through the silt
That their igneous tongues
dredged from your tear ducts.
There’s no point in branding you
Not a girl on the quayside
playing with matches,
Nor counting cherry stones,
dropping their small hearts
On her belly’s skin, freckling it
I guess we’re both unreadable
in this pale firelight.
I’m hardly visible,
crouched in the rushes.
And that blush of yours is camouflage…
you drop your head to smile.
We’ll go our separate ways again.
But next time, maybe,
We can wade in the Camargue
of a Glasgow night out,
Elbow with the West End storks
out on the razzle,
Put our feet up somewhere shady
where a pink morning
Can trick us into feeling
we’re on fire too.
Even past this cold, hard waterstop –
this thing that flats our breath,
we nose you: nose your leg joins;
nose your holes, your mists, your meat.
Even when you drag down the last suncub
with a spider paw, and claw your outskin
off, we mooneyes you. We eyes
your upthroat river, as it bulges; bulges;
bulges with the hotsweet red in it:
hotsweet like sunhot metal juice.
We tongues the curl of it already
as we teeths your give, and eat drips
from our chops. And even as you shade
the lookthrough, we upears you:
we upears the drumming runner,
footing on the woodground
through your bonetrunks;
we upears feather bladders in there,
inning out and outing in.
And if you stillhide, cloudish,
quieting, we fur the crackles
of your instrings and your muscleroots;
we fur these outside airs you lick at us;
we fur your thinks. Make no mistake,
upstander, skinny bear, we are
the reason you are fattening now.
The time will come for you to warm
the muzzles of the pack.