Category Archives: Loss

Jacob’s Ladder

Sometimes a ladder falls
and you move one way or another,
not realizing until afterwards

that your instincts or your luck
saved you (unless, of course,
you were on the ladder).

The relief your split-second decision causes
is strong, but will be replaced at some point
by questions about the next ladder,

for all the laws that govern these things,
probability, fate, circumstance,
cannot be tempted or relied upon.

What will happen to us
and how much worse would it
if we knew?

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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.

On This Third Day of July

It’s ten in the morning,
on this third day of July,
and I am sitting on a narrow bench
(too narrow for the bones upon it),
on an old wooden deck in a tangled garden
at the back of a tangled house.

There are bricks and twigs
roughly assembled here on the table
and a long shell stuck nose down
into the hole designed to received umbrellas.
There are small reasons for all of this,
as there are for mostly everything.

It is the hot of New England,
for we are closer to the sun here
(although it remains uncertain
if the sun feels closer to us).
My fingers and this pen are a shadow on the page,
as if the left-handed sundial of myself.
Two lines the most moderate of detectives
could spend a full day in the field over.
What can be known from the little that is told?

They say in other dimensions you can slip through time,
as if off the back of a creased envelope,
and this is also true of relationships long-developed.
Any different word or way of saying it
can rip through this fabric we consider so strong.

The bricks, thirteen of them in their pieces,
some still clung to by mortar,
came from a chimney on the roof
(where chimneys tend to be).
There was a storm some weeks ago
while we were in the west and elsewhere,
as though a movie left running
with no one in the room.

The lightning rod served its purpose
and is propped up here beside me,
disconnected and dead for now.
The bricks I don’t know about,
they remain gathered up
awaiting word of their fate.

The twigs, also poorly collected,
are a kindling pile for the smallest possible fire.
They were fingernails from a branch
that was connected to a bough,
once limber on a thick trunk,
that was snapped suddenly by the wind
during the same storm and are nothing now
but items of evidence in a court that will never convene.

Upstairs my wife sleeps.
It’s ten twenty five;
what has been learned?

 

 

Dark light

What we see
in the dark light
persuades us that our fears
know of matters
we know to be not.

Dark matters
born in heavy weight
that will not matter
come the morning.

There are no known dreams
just a belief in the unknown
and the silent universal sounds
it makes for each of us.

Only the dogs
of our selves hear them
and each is unknown
by any other unknown.

The Love Desk

I have always made an effort to avoid missing those things beyond my reach; so little point. Not always possible, of course, but a proof of free will is sometimes to be found in our struggle against incapability (as free will itself can often be).

To love some thing (or one) is to be infected at the same time by a fear of its loss or removal. For all of that this struggle to avoid is also what leads to an unconscious holding back, even a reluctance, when it comes to fully celebrating the place of a loved one (or thing) in the very present of its presence.

This reduction of the here and now is (very precisely) a great pity and one I also try to avoid, as one should with variables in any equation. All good, in essence and theory also, but I sat at my desk today and sobbed at it (the desk itself).

I was happy to see the old thing again
sat there inanimate as ever, but massive and metal
not in need of any speaking, such a statement does it make
just by sitting across half the room’s width.

The weeping was also because
the nine or ten months of the year
we are not together
are a symbolic absence
of what has been lost.

I have another desk, in Austin.
It is there now
cluttered and full,
awaiting my arrival in August,
phlegmatic, unfussed, complacent almost
(I had a Nanny once who always told me
that to anthropomorphize oneself
was a terrible mistake, she never once
mentioned doing the same for desks
or other common furniture).

The Austin item has a metal top also,
but it is little more than beaten silver foil,
a thin layer on a wooden base.
This magnificent beast before me
weighs several hundred pounds
and on the rare occasion of its moving
requires many men and awe as well as cursing.

We lived in New York City then
as everyone should consider doing
if only for a little while.
It was a Sunday afternoon, a warm Autumn,
and we were walking downtown
when she pulled me into a shop
that stood across a whole city block.
It had many departments
(being that kind of store).

She took me down into the basement
where there were endless (and endlessly large)
industrial objects made mostly of metal
iron and steel, shot-blasted,
and not originally constructed
for domestic use or purchase
by the bourgeois classes
of which (that afternoon in New York City)
we were then masquerading.

Love at first sight is real.
As is loss, eventually and afterwards,
and therein lies the thing of it.