Night Muse

I Never could sleep like this,

her body like a palm,

open to embrace the world’s palm.

Girl and the night lie entwined.

Night a sheet coiled round her,

yet who is the entrapper?

Young man longs to be

that other palm over her.

The world, to stem this surging

flood of life, invokes the night.

But young man is now palm,

clenched fist, unsteady hand,

holding up a falling sky,

so that she must become

the soothing one.

And perhaps she and the night

still find him charming

as he insists on these contests of strength,

dreams of fighting demons for her,

of waking grateful sleeping beauties.

For she clings to him still, sometimes.

But then,

as if sliding out of a

gown that is now too cloying,

she slips away, into nakedness.

And the night passes

a palm over her dark eyes.


Copyright Ricky Barrow 2013

Little Brother

He came home angry, the

precocious young

composer of bedtime

rhapsodies, pounding out

lullabies on chairs and

shelves and doors.

Mum boiling in the kitchen,

big bright orange

carrots of revenge she will

feed him later:

a dish best served cold.

He slams his bedroom

door: my karma is

suddenly an elephant

stuck in a small room.

To avoid collisions I

scuffle out into the cold night.

If I am in a rage I will

stand under the tree with the

wind chimes: when they

collide the silence is not broken

but gathered up in the

great arms of the old tree.

Little brother,

if only you would

stop here awhile and

listen with me.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2013

Little Heaven, Seven Eleven

My ancestors dreamed of gentle heaven,

of all the comforts denied them

and toiled on; centuries

huddled in wet sod fields.


Forty generations pass,

next lives and rebirths,

and I walk the aisles of

my local Seven Eleven,


bathed in the wide pan

of white fluorescence,

coddle by the warm artificial

air; purring ventilator.


Pupils dilate, transfix

on shining, ornate boxes:

Nipples of Venus, Apollos,

Mars Bars and Milky Ways.

Mirrors show row on row,

infinite sustenance.


All is treacle beads coming down,

thick with warm voices

humming mantras from the

ceiling, that

linger long in your ears

and call you back.


Approaching the counter

and the clerk with the

fat Buddha face,

face of enlightenment, with

the answer that I’ve

lost the question to.


Outside, night is

black tar dripping;

feeble lamp lights huddle at the

feet of apartment block canyons.


Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

The Girl who Burned

Inside her is a

hot brooding ball,

which irradiates her hollow places:

her palm, her armpit,

the red fire halos in the

web of her fingers.

Indeed, she is often

too hot to touch

in the fever of her sleep.

Awake, she is curling and

licking flames within her,

which spark out suddenly

where she tangles her black hair

around charged fingers.

Her beauty lies in this

way her strange soul

burns her body

to its final exhaustion,

this way she gathers up

all the fuel of the world

to  stoke her shimmering little life.

Perhaps this is really where

all light and movement dwell,

not in the sun,

but in the ones who die;

here in the depths of the stone,

here under the bright heel of a woman.

But then this mystery insists.

She, with hot hands,

who immolates herself,

who wears this luminous finery,

the skin of a girl,

only to cast it off,

a burnt out husk.

Does she find in this

infernal, cruel play,

a kind of joy,

an ecstasy?


Copyright Ricky Barrow 2013

4am Departures

4am, amidst unnatural bustle
already I am letting go; tight
clumps of you falling into my

Outside, the night still
a deep and entrenched thing,
still holding us together in
this room.
Here, we’ve marked
boundaries with the rubbed scent
of bodies,
conceded the ground of retreat,
built parapets and
trenches, and
clung to crags carved of books,
sheets, chairs.

And in that no-man’s land where
we dared to meet, how we
arrived in the pan of our bodies
and found it yet familiar.

Now we step beyond
our normal distances, busy
ourselves in tasks that need
to be done, in double checking that
we haven’t forgot: we watch the time.

Shuttling over the Kandallah hills,
down into a city of dull lamps,
heavy as eyelids.
Our bodies blur in the
floating landscape, where hands
steal solid shapes from the darkness.

At the airport, the sun is coming up,
lighting the spaces between us
that are now enormous.
How open the sky is.
You leap into its terrible freedom,
now a steal ibis, now a pin prick
piercing through.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2013

Human Geology

Of us two she is the one
who loves to travel.
Perhaps it is the turmoil
of a journey she loves,
the relish of breaking bonds.
For her, the terror
is in the barricades we build.
Two encrusted lives form
a geology of time,
in which patterns set deep
in the soil of bodies.
As we circle, paths are carved
around the same gestures.
Her flushed ecstacy
created this dark pungent corner
in our life,
which I visit often.
And would I have found
this garden, with its
luxuriant violets,
had I not pursued her
gloomy silence to its depths?
These familiar landscapes,
are the wreckage of entwined lives,
amidst which we now live,
dug deep in the hollows of ourselves.
I find great pleasure
in being the mole
who burrows in this place
and comes again upon a familiar
bend in her body.
But these habits cling to her,
become hooks that
torment the lightness of a soul.
Somewhere in her
an older craving rustles
and disdains this subterranean life.
She remembers that long ago
terrible wanderers came riding down
in the spring months
from where wild things still lived,
and laid civilisation to waste.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2013

Centaur in the Garden

I met a centaur down the
sunken garden path,
pausing where he’d become
somehow separated from his myth.

Often I have seen creatures wander
through these high weeds and twisted
old trees, lost deep in losing themselves,
but never one as strange as him.

The centaur stood alert and
unassailable and as I
looked, I saw his body
was covered in horrific wounds:

gaping sores across his flanks,
flayed strips of flesh on his hinds,
cracked and bleeding lesions on his hooves,
deep open wounds at his
throat almost to the artery.

I stood in thrall with the injured
beast, too far down the
sunken path to turn and run:
I raised a hand to calm him.

But the centaur, still straining
on his great trembling legs,
recoiled from my touch,
backed away into the twisting undergrowth
and left only his scent
and only his wounds.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2013