Elephants

The little creatures
hare, mouse, beetle, man,
who leap and burrow
and exhaust their urgent hearts
in a handful of clutched seasons,

never take much notice
of these great beasts from another planet,
a former earth,
who set geological time
with their slow, creaking strides.

Long ago, it seems,
the trees, the dark rocks,
the cliffs of a gargantuan epoch
rose up, left the cramped soil,

became stones possessed by wanderlust,
and pulverized Jurassic forests
into scorched savannahs
beneath legendary journeys.

And still, miraculously, they migrate,
as if those petty, biting forces
that gnaw like sand at the stubborn bergs,
the fierce birds of prey, the schemes of men,

and reduce them to grovelling stone,
could not assault these bastions
of unhinged, colossal nature.

Herds of lumbering strata,
trunks that boom the
deep hoopla of madcap life,
dust storms kicked up by stampedes

that blind red Saharas
and spawn unharnessed hurricanes
for blighted Zanzibars.
What can you teach me of myself,
behemoths of the granite prairies?

To be something completely one
with its own grey blood?
To possess myself and my herd
in the deep wrinkles of my hide,
where I count and shelter each member?

To be mighty,
that things may tremble at my approach,
may heed me,
yet dangerous in what is essential,
never capable of cracking the earth
beyond regeneration.

You, great beasts,
stubbornly stride into centuries
that have no more use of you,
and how much we need

your vast and thirsty savannahs,
your strange, untethered soul
that never knew the harness of Pharaoh,
perhaps we are only now just learning.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

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Talking With You

Talking with you

into the early hours of each night,

we filled up my little room

with thought sparks and moments

and silences full of promise.

Did we know the motive

that brought us back night after night?

Did we sense

the hour had already fallen

barring the way home?

Did we feel the coming dawn

of the travelling hearts?

For suddenly all the moments,

the dreams, the dark hurts

rushed and bayed

at the walls of our crumbling caution,

lead us on

to more exquisite collisions.

And we spoke on

into the tired ear of the night,

recklessly pulling down

the separations between us,

and transforming into

new and fragrant years.

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

Scatter

Her words scatter

the dark animals of his sleep,

and out on the nocturnal avenues,

these constellations

the fissures of a deep need.

Sometimes the girl hates those things

that come too close

and draw their hurt

like a curtain about her room,

and in the dark

would have her listen, understand.

For she has her own dark ribbons

to bind tight the beckoning night.

What she has is hers alone

and the boy sent out

into the reviving cold,

what will he find when he comes back,

when he’s shed the chrysalis

of his insect fears?

She’s had time to hold the night

in her own lungs,

and in her breast there’s space again

for the animals of his sleep

to clasp on to.

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

Flow

The pool was humid and clinging

and you were all for

going for a dip with those boys.

And when I held back

perhaps you saw in me then

the hesitation that I’m built of,

how I only ever dip my toes first

into the mad and dangerous

flow of life.

But you were all for it,

stripping down to your

bikini top and short shorts,

leaping in, laughing, teasing,

seducing them,

riding on their high, powerful shoulders,

even though you couldn’t swim.

And I was suddenly aware

of your sexual flow,

and how you held yourself

taut like a bow in its stream,

that could enter men with pain or joy

and the slipstream of infinite sorrow.

And I was burning and shivering,

dragged by my toes

into that fragrant torrent,

a winnow, a flying fish.

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

The Bright Season of Yourself

You were coming into

the bright season of yourself,

the one full of impossible clouds

and rivers bridged by your

intoxicating plans.

You were electric and formidable

in those striding hours,

in which your heart had taken

the full and painful cup of the mountains

and savoured the silent wine,

in which those consumptive childhoods

that clung to you

fell away like blades of grass

as you rose from the burnt crow fields.

Sometimes you crawled into yourself,

into that ancient and suffering place,

built of the walls and stories you told

of the world you didn’t want to face.

But then everywhere

the scent of freshly shaved afternoons

on the returning breeze

and the hum of dragonflies

in the gardens you scattered

deep into the ripe valleys

and the days drunk with your arrivals.

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

Kyoto

A weekend trip we’d planned for weeks,

a rare moment

we both had time for.

And you had built it up,

a tower of blocks,

each an expectation bound to fall,

and I was not exactly

the fullest bag of fun that weekend.

You see, I’d noticed

those changes in myself,

that would later create so much trouble,

the strands of hair

that fell so freely now,

the new impatience,

restlessness at the end of another year.

My porcupine heart,

your bubble of expectation,

weren’t they going to collide?

And it was something so small

that lit it.

How your sweet face burst,

your body clenched to a fist,

your mind made up to go home,

and a whole day swallowed

in your raging hurt.

You stayed but,

was it the day

something unravelled from us?

The veins of our lives

wound so tightly about us

were perhaps bound to fray.

But this was always your way,

to severe the strands,

only to retie them

just the way you wanted

to fit the wild seasons of your heart.

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014.

Others

There are men passing in the street

dead in their soiled trousers,

soiled in their dead hats.

There’s an awful suit

rolling sales pitches down the road,

dying of self-inflicted catch phrases.

There’s a bright spark, a porch light,

obsessed with reading books

on how to write books

on how to win friends

and resurrect dead ambassadors.

There are women who put on

catastrophic shoes

for nights of love with

indentured civil servants.

Why make the effort?

Why go out into streets

smirched with unpardonable berries,

inedible afternoons

and pigeons fed on

violent detective serials?

I’ve mastered the precise science

of staying indoors,

I’ve acquired

through long years of trial and error

all I need to avoid the others

for at least another century.

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014