My Hiroshima

I wake to strange words

from the tongue of my brain,

which apparently hadn’t slept

a wink last night.

Hiroshima, Hiroshima, it

clicks, over and over.

I’d left the TV on,

the one inside my head.

Outside, that relentless

stream of unconsciousness,

the morning traffic.

Have I woken?

Strange terror of a world

half awake to horror memories.

See, it doesn’t flinch

as the sun,

rays snagged in the tram door,

swings a truculent fist

in the faces of

sunken eyed commuters.

Sleep walkers,

obedient passengers,

ferried into the forge

of hatchling nightmares.

The future also dozes with them.

In fitful dreams,

time’s teethed wheel clicks,

a mechanical god drops in place,

and millions fall

from a churning city.

Have I woken?

In Heiwa park

the crows seem happier.

They sing as they

skirt around this precipice,

eyes wide open,

glinting.

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Baudelaire’s Albatross

Full to bursting, this café

feels like the echoing vault of a

cacophonous head. 

Ever noticed how sometimes,

the swirl of human chatter

rises to its own peculiar fever-pitch

of banal talk, tinged with urgency,

poignant, empty confessions?

I’m assailed by sudden collapse of plates

dispersing laughter,

pistons of noise firing

brittle eardrums,

words flung like cups and saucers

into incessant crowds.

I sit mute,

a disintegrating sphinx,

my mind a shattered menagerie

and flamingoes tumbling with

precious thought-chandeliers.

No match for this excited din,

and its brilliant vomited aphorisms,

I’m left hopelessly thumbing through

last year’s rule book.

I guess I’m destined for the

mountain hermitages of Han Shan

or Wu Pen,

poets, dreamers,

who stumble like Baudelaire’s

albatross in the midst of

clever people.

I’ll venture on mountain paths

trailing clouds through the

crystalline stillness

sharp as a peak,

that advances, erasing humming monks.

Far above the tempest of

tobacco spumes,

the orgasms of

guttural cities

perish on silent pulverizing

jet-streams.

And I, perched amidst the purity of

air too thin for even a whimper,

might learn, at last, how to listen,

how to speak.

Late Afternoon, Aoyagicho

About this time everyday

when the afternoon sun

expires in a bright yawn

over the treetops,

peace falls on these streets,

warm and heavy and

swimming with dust

beaten from mats

flung over leaning balconies.

A weary peace,

hobbling, senile

and spittle glistening

on a frayed old cardigan.

An old man out for a stroll,

with stubble for hair,

bowed knees,

a face etched with

ancient lines of ease,

who noone

pays any attention.

Nor do they see

the cracks in the

pavement, the earth

bursting through with

wild clumps of grass

waiting for the moment when

at last the old man

carks it.

And then the bedlam riot of

brutal youth can

once again begin,

amidst the collapse of

stolid bourgeois cities.

At the corner,

an old man catches his breath,

croaks,

his hand against the bent lamp-post,

and children are running,

running and screaming along the

path and

down into the gutter

where new shoots poke through. 

Copyright, Ricky Barrow 2014

Obiyamachi

Four feet tall, eighty-year-old

body, tilt-angled

like a wind-whittled trunk,

she walks her well worn

paths, carved deep by the

stone of her heel.

Slowly she goes, as if

each step were a winding down

toward eternity,

though the others,

who now, like giants,

vigorously steal steps, vault,

pivot at corners and disappear

above her listing view.

Yet, face bent forward,

creaking now into an entreating

smile, she convenes with the

earth beneath her, gently persists,

persuades it to give a little more ground.

And even though, long ago

this world passed her by,

the earth, in his secret, patient communion

with all things

grants her this gift.

A Ridiculous Thing

I cared for a stray cat once,

dusted off, took from the

top shelf of the closet,

my old merciful hands,

and carried its

scrawny, living-carcass home

through the freezing night.

I gave it a home

in a box in my flat,

gave it a bath and a feed,

and glared at it

eating my food.

The ridiculous thing

filled me with great clumps

of repugnance and benevolence,

that churned equally

in the gut of my regard

for this broken world.

I stroked it gently,

while it shuddered

and even as my own stupid glow

quietly expired.

Superfluous creature,

skirting the edges

of the last dried up lake

of compassion,

did he not hate the

bitch-mother who

tossed him into this world

full of hard heads and

hard hands,

and hers the hardest of all?

And yet, he just sat there,

on my cold kitchen floor,

with a brutal hold on life,

purring, lapping up my milk

and spilling his

untamed benevolence

all over my floor.

What can we do?

That tenacious love

was only his need

to cling to the here and now,

to a fleeing warmth,

ardent for this life,

like one who knows

every other day is his own

personal apocalypse.

And my compassion?

I needed that here and now with him,

just the same,

needed corners without

hidden horrors,

corridors without an abyss

to gaze into,

just as others need central heating,

hot chocolate,

a DVD box set collection.

After two nights, I sent him back

to the wild,

with hard hands and a hard head.

I don’t know what became of that cat.