A Failed God

He dwelt here for a while,

once for a week, some say,

thirty years another time,

 

and walked, tramped,

hitchhiked through the dirt,

the grit, the orgasms,

the commerce, the sorrow, the hate,

 

the creaking mortality

that we’ve dug up

for the fertile sun.

 

And perhaps he puzzled over

how to set it right,

 

but found such beauty

in the way the sunflowers

and the giraffes

bow their heads and die.

 

And so he left,

that brooding god,

and I don’t think he’s been back.

 

Out there, beyond the

vast black of all the eyelids

closed in prayer, he wanders,

 

sowing galaxies that just

bloom more solitude,

casting new worlds

that always fail:

 

this one too barren or too fecund,

or too much ice or too much fire,

this one’s buckled rings,

 

this one’s moons will collide

in one billion years.

 

With calloused hands

he pulls them from the mold,

with potter’s hands,

sets them spinning,

 

dreaming one day

he’ll get it right.

 

Copyright, Ricky Barrow 2014

Upgrade Me

The trees wilt

in the belching air,

the city effaces itself

with cheap wine and rust,

the rivers choke on trash,

the elderly vomit

and talk to themselves,

reciting dead phone numbers,

and even the sun can’t face it

and stays away for weeks.

 

The sky’s a black,

slippery tongue,

the children massacre

eels of thought

and grimace

with eyes like teeth,

and usually

I could bear it all,

let it roll off me,

like tarred rain,

like a dying dog.

 

But the better half of me

has up and gone

and I’m left with

the hunch-back,

half-drowned alley cat,

rejected by the

bakers at dawn.

And I’m expected

to hobble along

to the gleeful,

sherbet-spitting,

diabetic soundtrack

they’ve jammed on repeat,

 

with this crash-test body,

paralyzed at the heart,

hands clapping,

knees jangling,

backbone snapped and pinioned

in seven places,

smile hooked to the rafters

like all these marionettes.

 

Why don’t they see

my eyes rolling in their cage,

lunging against

the padded walls

of this sanatorium

for the terminally tame,

this wireless, solar-powered,

hyper-connected, hyperventilating

solution to modern living?

 

I’d like to request

another one,

packaged and sent by mail

with a brochure, a manual

and a ticket for an upgrade

with no strings attached.

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

Oak

The rain comes down upon my leaves

and my dry center

shrinks about my roots,

and all the insects and

lizards pull themselves

into the rough old folds

of my trunk.

I am the meaning of shelter,

refuge for all the harried,

striving things

when the world,

in her sullen rejecting mood,

shoves them beyond her

with palms of wind.

In my twisted and weary branches,

do you not see your own pain,

man?

Do you feel how the universe,

presses down upon us both,

that heavy eternity

which only wants to rest and cease:

and we both must carry

its thousand-fold, weeping moons.

Man, you forget me,

your original bearer,

and huddle instead

under the skin

of my dead brothers,

and dam up my streams,

so that the rain

might not touch you.

The waters beside me

fill with your discarded effort:

rusted bicycles,

journeys, detergent,

those things that

sustain you barely.

And each year

fewer and fewer insects

scuttle about my infinite trunk.

When they have taken

all their colours

and burrowed deep

beneath the earth, at last,

what then will I shelter,

what precious things will I keep?

Are we not both,

you and I, man,

perishing with the

things we are losing?

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

Katherine

You were the girl

who had come from so far,

with infinite messages,

infinite letters to unfold,

to commit to heart.

Over unharnessed peninsulas,

bearing scents, spices,

markets, sails

up to the dock of my soul,

you brought such things

to open me.

You were a wind,

overwhelming, full of sea,

against which I closed my

assaulted eyes.

Yet the onrush crashed

through the unaccustomed streets,

flinging open windows,

pantries, mailboxes,

and the wounded bark

of the still young trees.

Ageless wind, ageless storm

had entered you,

and you were majestic beyond your years,

and you had come,

yes I know it now,

to crack open the

shell of the boy,

to be the violent

sun he could not withstand.

You approached,

beautiful, naked,

breasts of dark heat,

and he howled anyway,

raged against the

loss of the child,

the safety of childhood

now caught in your

annihilating eyes.

But even in this raging

new shoots burst forth,

painful as birth is always,

the seeds of a

verdant undergrowth,

of infinite thrusting vines.

Under your abiding palm,

which grew gentler, rounder,

a forest sprung from the boy;

vigorous animals prowled there,

dark birds dared to probe

the peaks of night.

And at last you had,

as one who reaps like the wind,

a man to lie beside.

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

To a Young Poetess

Young poetess,

your words lie in wait,

mute for so long,

harnessed for so long.

Now make of your pencil

an enraged mouth,

let the sentences,

crowded and tossed together,

boiled in cauldrons

of restless sleep,

fly from you

faster than the

pain and meaning

that forged them.

Yes defeat will come,

like and anvil.

There will be nights,

black nights,

when your pen will

lie upon its cold,

un-responding stone,

an alien, wounding thing,

its ink the dark clot

in your throat.

Take heart.

Even the lioness

falters in her gorgeous chase.

The anvil too, is a message,

to be received, transformed,

passed on to break others.

Beat from it arrows

of crystalline pain.

Young word-sayer,

unleash your quiver

across my surrendered page,

tear fissures through which

I might, at last,

receive your searing,

wind-flung, reborn voice.

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

Happy

There’s a man staring at me,

at all of you,

through eyes as heavy as boulders,

and he hates us all.

And his face is

shrunken to a pinprick

of essential loathing,

of joy never received,

of love never received.

He’s picked off

all the legs of his

insect brain one by one

until, at last,

there was pleasure, ripe, burning,

about the puss-hole of his days.

Look how his eyes,

black rejecters of the sky,

pull you in,

churn you about

in those factories

where hope is blast

into iron ingots

and spit back out,

hard pips of despair.

He loves his work,

and to him, you are

already cadavers,

mute, empty:

he’s hollowed you out

with the surreptitious

scoop of his smile.

Grinning, he’d like to

shake hands with you all,

to transmit, by finger, his venom,

so that your children

may grow withered and old,

so that the tree you bought

may die in its pot,

your house may

rot through the soil

and your job

may be out-sourced to Bangladesh.

And he’s christened your children

with a broken bottle,

while he jabs, drunkenly,

at the passing crowds

and kills dogs in his sleep,

and flays your

neighbor’s cat.

He’d even step on a snail

to brighten his day.

He has you all,

like rusty pennies,

which he stuffs in his pockets

and rolls into mothballs

between his soiled fingers.

He rejoices in the pennies

that feed on your minds,

and sometimes drive you mad.

He loves your wars,

your fanaticism,

your neighborly spats.

And he can’t wait for the day

of the ultimate orgasm

when you blow yourselves up, finally,

with biological, neurological,

pathological weapons of

mass reduction.

Grinning, he haunts

your shopping malls,

happier than you,

drunk on the

death of laughter,

that god who hates you all.

Spiders

You left without saying goodbye this morning,

and I took that silence into myself,

and who knew

that such a thing unspoken could be a fever?

And I, like a spider,

vibrating with secret fears,

wove web upon web about your silence,

until from the rafters, the corners,

the piled up things of our little house,

hung a thousand threads

that would have terrified you.

This is the kind of fuss one can make over nothing,

one abandoned by goodbyes.

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

A Cure

We saw it going,

the whole thing

sliding from the table:

cutlery, crockery,

weddings, honeymoons,

lives clutched together.

We saw that impending catastrophe

with bated breath,

and it fell.

Why didn’t I, like a dog,

come crawling, howling back

with my bleeding regret?

Why didn’t you

crash, rage through my door,

and tear up my loneliness?

Is this how it will be,

love spilt and burning

between tears

and coffee and work,

and the awful trams,

always impeccably on time?

Must heartbreak coexist

with this excruciating

every day ennui

that yanks you,

drags you by the hand,

reluctant child,

down through sleeping,

breathing and getting dressed,

down to the bank,

to the dreaded dentist’s office?

 

 Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

Here And Now

What are you today?

One so full of expectations,

like a cat who has

clawed up his week

and sits near it,

so that he may

wait for it to stir or die.

Today may yet bloom,

it may even spill over the sides

of the over-full pale of water

you hastily carry

to extinguish the

raging fire of your

everyday madness,

your clenched need for events.

But what if today

were to slide past you,

while you were

grappling with some

unimpressive thing,

while you were

trying to gather up

all the motives

that would propel you

out the door?

You know too well

the things that defeat us.

And then when the day

reached its most languid point

and turned back

to grope downwards

again into the place of sleep,

you’d be the one

orphaned by your grand schemes.

But there is freedom in that,

like one who,

waiting for a bus,

suddenly realizes

it’s not coming after all,

and has nowhere to be,

like one who,

with a sense of release,

has that slowly vibrating afternoon,

dripping with the sap

of the cicada’s song,

all to himself.

For the day wants to

scatter your expectations,

like pages torn from a diary.

The day wants you

to sit awhile

on this park bench

in this perfect, finally realized,

aching moment

he took so much trouble to create.

 

 Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

Keeping Count Of Lost Things

Go on, count them,

count the things you have left.

Count the moles on her skin,

those dark blots

of the sun’s bewitching,

melancholic brush

that marks everything, quietly,

for slow death.

Count the moles,

the white hairs,

and the cuts and bruises

of her day.

Count the toenails to the end

until you fall from the bed,

from the world

into the tangled mess

of fallen crumbs and fallen nails

and fallen people.

That lost mess of things

we’ve shed without a tear.

Go on counting them,

all those things

she’s thrown off like underwear,

until you’re gone enough

to fit, finally,

through the eye of a needle.

Scavenge through the wreckage

of her burnt out body,

strewn over a lifetime

of play and love

and reckless dancing

in those flaming dawns

that kill us,

and wonder why it is

you’ve fallen for this one

who’s bound to die.

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014