Category Archives: Elsewhere

The Season Of It

Some summers I would write
Poetry in the night
Automatically as if possessed
By the house I found myself in.

The old walls and wide floors
Like water to float a body in
Making my thoughts quiet freely
In the silence of it all.

I resent my porousness now
The power of my circumstances
To cause my head to fire or rot
To make good sense or not.

I fear my life draining away
Without the notes I need
To know where I’m going
To see where I’ve been.

A moose in paint looks down on me here
Alternately sorrowful and confused
The conscience of a butler
Brought far from home.

In the parallel universe of myself
Sat on some other couch
I am elsewhere and happy
I envy him and hope he knows.

 

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Word of Mouth

The man who cannot speak our language
is a handicapped stumbling fool
not differently challenged
or gently beset by special needs
but a retarded moron of a village idiot
slow and stubborn and stupid to boot
not in any way up to par.

Worst of all for him should he knows a few words;
Cat and dog and please mister thank you
for then we measure his internal thinking
at the level of his limited output.

Better perhaps to be the sullen stranger
who says nothing but is no doubt
(in his utterly foreign head)
plotting against us
and our wives.

-Cortijo Los Lobos, Andalucia

Answers to questions (Carnival)

What do you think of when you hear the word carnival?

I think of my dead father,
a terribly dramatic answer perhaps.

Of Tom Waits singing ceaselessly
although I cannot hear him.

There are no good-natured humans in costumes
that would make sense to small children.

An older man standing before a makeshift Tunnel of Love.
Tear it down today, put it back up tomorrow.

He is telling the girl who stands beside me
he has a ticket for her, single ride, no returns.

There is no pleasure left, only boxes
containing things that are never explained to me.

Somewhere amongst it all is a boat, no engine,
and a han drum is playing

(this is the wooden board
beaten to tell Zen monks to come eat)

for Han is also a Korean cultural notion of lament
and the Turkish word for a caravanserais,

the sort of place that any weary traveller
might stop for the night.

Or forever.
There is thick pale grease.

 

McCullin can’t die

The Perfume River
smells of cheap gas
diesel and blight.

The Children Without Limbs club
meets on the near bank
each morning at sunrise.

They do have some limbs
just not the usual amount
but still enough for Tai Chi.

There is a man called McCullin watching
first name of Don, photographer
of wars (by profession).

He has come back to the river
for the first time in thirty years
according to my imagination.

He has a broken face this McCullin
a nose too much east and west
standing there with a small Leica.

The children without limbs like him
calling him Mister Don
standing still if they can for his pictures.

McCullin has been everywhere the world offers
his eyes knew the children of Biafra
the children of Eritrea and Lahore.

McCullin has had thing explode into him
around him, upon him, and on him
but McCullin cannot die.

He has watched the bullets in the face
and the whips on the back
and been allowed to leave to tell.

Now he is back in the ancient city of Hue
in the Vietnam of his youth and ageing
his survival and being always lost.

At his hotel he has an album
of children without limbs
who are approaching grandparentry.

Today’s children look the same
in their spirit and broken selves
and Mister Don bites his full lip.

Before coming he was in Memphis
at the house of a retired pilot
he’d known well back in the before.

A good man now and a nice man then
whose own unexploded shells
have been fulfilling their remit over time.

Two children in the morning’s cool
share a pair of hand-knitted mittens
for which one mother was spared work.

McCullin takes more pictures
and knows he cannot die
until all the bombs are done with.

He wishes for a place
where arms and legs
are lost to threshing machines only.

It will be a long day for McCullin
counting hands and feet
and he will be alive for all of it.

Forty Thousand

At forty thousand
The  blood thins or thickens
While the heart constricts or
Like the shopping bag of a poor man
Swings empty
Something like that
One or the other.

At forty thousand
The Atlantic still stretches beyond sight of land
Water to water and all of it cold and far down there.
Some of us fear what lies beneath when we are on the surface
Others, the surface itself when we are far above it.

In the sound of the see

My spine of stones
stand in line
six and back to back

they interlock
as vertebrae
yet carry only lack

at water’s edge
they suffer tide
countless mornings through

but do so with
equanimity
immersed beneath the blue

they’re a caravan
within the desert
moving ever slow

the endless sand
their enemy
and how they each will go

returned to dust
as we all must
a skeleton no more

but years remain
to lose themselves
within this gentle war.

-Mahoe Bay, Virgin Gorda