The White Bear

I’ve never met him

in his real,

silken, terrible presence,

not even in those


which they call zoos,

where they

display his sisters,

like plunder,

for the children

and the gawkers.


And if I were to meet him,

in that brief encounter

without coward-proof barriers,

it would be like

stepping into that

last living essentialness,


while he obeyed

his furious command.

And even then,

he is the blameless one.


While our cities

go on expanding

like ripples,

finally triumphant tsunamis,

his pure, magic land of mirrors,

the last unexplored

kingdom of childhood,

dwindles to perilous

ice scaffolds,

as in my dreams.


And although I’ve never met him,

I know,

as I sit at my ease

in this warm metropolis,

which burns scars

through the atmosphere,

that he is engaged

in his very last journey

and struggle.

His taut, exhausted body

swimming impossible distances

and failing eyes

that glance from

horizon to abandoned horizon,

pursuing us all.


He is the pure stain on the white land.

He is the indomitable spirit

that loves this life,

that dwells in me too

and in the destroyers.

When the white bear and the ice

have gone beyond the

crown of the earth, trailing the aurora,

what pure dreams

will the child have left?


Copyright 2014 Ricky Barrow



I wake to your

restless soul,

which is, this morning,

like an apartment

tossed inside out

while you rummaged

for the key

to the temperate garden.

Looking for meaning

that we may rest with,

looking for clouds

that don’t wound the sky,

for mountains

that have ceased

shifting at their roots,

we tear up the

floorboards of

contented little

hovels of love.

Don’t lean too hard

on that west wall,

for our lives teeter

over this precipice.

We are so ready to

tip up precious things.

Because they’re there,

because the dark seed of pleasure

was right.

Sediment slips

from the rocks we had placed

at the foot of our cliff.

The buttresses fail

while we wait

for the hardening tide.

If the house and

the garden go over the edge

will you sit with me,

my dear,

on this coast

and watch the

spectacle of a

horror sea

sinking continents?

We’ll be more essential then,

with all the suburbs

gone to the bottom.

Copyright 2014 Ricky Barrow

The Pianist

It’s everywhere,

madness is,

if you look close enough.

So many folks

split in two,

like wood on the block.

So many souls

sent sideways and

out of shape

by the axe men,

driving a wedge.

This burnt out salary-man,

who comes here

every Friday,

to stake out the same spot

in the café,

compulsive, neurotic,

plastic cup of iced tea,

staring blankly

at the banality of others;

pay him no attention and he’s

just like the rest.

But look closely.

He’s tapping his fingers,


over an invisible key board.

The others don’t know it

but he plays for them

silent mazurkas

on the over-polished table,

hollowed where his

melodies have

burned deep troughs,

full of panic;

a passionate,

desperate, silent concert

for a mute audience.

In his eyes,

that slump over

the cold distances

of inhuman afternoons,

you know he’s been

hewn apart

by the axe men.

But those hands,

and their fiery gavottes

that could have been,

go on dancing

over the void

of so many lives,

trying to mend

what’s been torn apart.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014


Heads shaved,

and patches of scalp

showing through.

And naked skin,

pink, young and supple,

and old leathery flesh.

And bodies

herded into dark rooms

and huddled in circles

on cold wet stone.

And the smell

of mildew and

urine and fear,

and something


And outside, the sun,

turning young, green shoots


on the trees of Treblinka,

is quietly smothered by


falling like impossible petals

on the soul of man.

And you must

live your life

knowing this.

The Hendrix Experience

This minstrel of the mystic decade

will disentangle you,

muscle and skin,

from the marrow of white noise.

Grinding of his electric chisel,

a guttural shaving of those

superfluous parts of the mind,

carving off the flanks of

peripheral vision and

leaving only the perception of depth.

Then in that last patch of

pure matter,

between the eyes,

in which he has spared you;

on that pan of the mind,

he places the

solid palm of the ethereal sonic,

stretches it, a mile wide.

And you fear that you’ll fly apart

so close to the burning orb,

a white wavering band over a chasm of sound,

on which he plucks the lilting rhythms;

the last vision of Icarus.

Yesterday at the Supermarket

Yesterday at the supermarket,

a giant, filthy man

came rolling up to my queue,

stinking to the high heavens.

He wore a dirty tarpaulin trench coat,

smelling like an un-aired tent,

like he’d just strolled down

some clay caked crags,

like he’d walked off

a hundred years of dust and loneliness

and stumbled,

as if by accident,

upon this strange, pristine place.

The creases of his journey worn face

were filled in with salt

from tears and years and oceans

that had swelled over him.

His scorched face,

like the cracked leather on a

car seat where the sun always touches,

grinned at me

without sin or virtue,

just a face out of some

past saga,

a Don Quixote for this manicured world.

He wore his dilapidated life

on torn cuffs.

And I gawped at the back

of my spick-and-span

pale white hands.


Last week, a child was

knocked off his bike

at the corner,

just over the Kagami Bridge,

and now they

leave out flowers,

still wrapped in plastic

and there’s a can of soda,

his favourite brand.

Cars turn constantly

around that wound,

and the drivers don’t think of it,

and there are new flowers


while the scent of incense

and petrol

fills the nostrils

of school girls who

fly past him in gaggles.

And what have we

lost with that boy?

Someone else will

fill his spot on the road

and I’ll go on my way

scuffing my feet,

not so special after all,

just like him

and the girls who

come and come

round that corner and

pile up in schools, in

offices and in hospitals.

There must be something

that makes these people


some madness

they stuff deep in pockets,

hands clenching their agonies.

They hide it too well,

I think,

as they swing about this world

like a huge, cold pendulum,

oblivious to the ones

who get knocked off.

But perhaps it’s

buried deep in the soil

of paddies and

in the rice chaff

left out for the bonfires,

where it lies warm

and thickly scented

and is kept safe  and apart,

as dangerous things are kept.

And I suppose

when they came to

put today’s flowers down

at the corner,

they heard it burning and wailing

from deep within the earth.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014