My Oldest Enemy

I was low last night.
I don’t know why.
The words would not come
To form a night I wanted to sleep in.

So I stared at a blank wall
And watched it become
Only wall,
It loved nothing.

I rushed out into the night
And found only a street,
Not death,
Not the echo of compassion,

Not even a dismal hedgehog
Nuzzling the mane of the wounded earth.
I put on my coat,
Pockets filled with used up solitude,
And walked and walked.

I don’t know what I wanted,
A voice, a breast, a crime,
The outbreak of a new war.
I was looking for the source of my ache,

In the silent doors
And the shuttered windows,
In the gardens with their flowers
Closed like the fists of women.

I was low,
And there was no origin,
No starting point of my sadness,
There was no woman to blame,
No wrong, no mistake.

There was only this vast night,
Night of dogs,
Night of flowers,
Filled with the destruction of voices,

Night that I could not sleep in,
Like the bed of my oldest enemy.

Some Kind of Perfect

She told me she hates to be alone,
That when she’s alone
The silence whispers to her
Curious things,
How she’s broken,
How she can’t be fixed.

I told her not to worry,
Cause we’re all basically used up,
And anyway,
Perfection is a sin.

She never spoke to me again, after that.
My guess is that she
Needed someone to tell her
She was perfect.

Later, I saw her walking with a guy.
She had ribbons in her hair,
And her eyes were sad
The way they were
When she told me about the devil in her.

As for me,
I’ve learned to live with the one in me,
It’s a one hundred year truce.
He gets to wear himself out
Picking apart the core of me,
And in return I get the
Keen insight of a crippled heart.

But I can’t see any other way
To go about these things.
Oh well, she wanted to be perfect,
And that means wearing ribbons in her hair,
And getting around with guys
Who would never dare tell her she was broken.

To a Friend

I saw my friend’s heart break open
In the foyer, in the university,
Staring down
At the cold screen,
The absurd message,
Clean font
And the unspeakable loss.
She is gone,
Beyond the world’s
infinite vowels,
Long piercing cries of the world.
She is lost to the carnage of the day,
So filled with its lives going up escalators
And falling from bridges.
Now she is one of them
And holds all the mute words
We will never hear,
And our sorrow is the echo of her going.
There is no stopping the world
From bringing us to these distances,
Between heart and hand,
Between love and mouth,
Between grief and shore.
It goes on, always ahead of us,
Over there
Singing with the ones we love,
And we remain
With our stomachs burnt with yearning,
Exultant in our loss.
I saw my friend’s heart break open,
In the foyer,
With the lights of the city burning,
Raw and unreachable.
I saw his love,
I touched the nearness of everything.

On Street Corners

Have you ever noticed how sometimes at night
the street slowly skulks home up the hill, alone and
head down, whistling to itself,
because the moon went its own way, three blocks back.
I look up, at the corner,
and the boys are passing by in their loud cars,
loud lives going to parties
where girls are probably waiting,
in T-shirts and jeans,
with music and shoes and dreams
made in sizes just for them,
waiting for the bottles of beer
the boys will bring,
offerings of love for their doomed youth.
There in a moment,
continents of lives whirring past my quiet eyes.
Have you ever noticed how sometimes in the night,
the trees shrug their shoulders on street corners,
and bury their chins in bushy collars,
and whistle alone,
because the moon and the world and the dogs
have already quit,
are not listening anymore,
have slipped off to other parties.

Summer, Here at Last: And a Tragedy

This summer’s passed us by they sulked.
We’ve been cursed by a season of miserable Mondays,
because someone’s accidentally
locked the sun in a cupboard,
and somebody’s forgotten to put the twelve pack of beer in the fridge.

They speak as though the weather is like central heating,
and there’s someone you can shake a finger at
when it all goes pear shaped,
a dodgy plumber, a senile electrician.

And I hear they now sell summer pre-packaged
in certain upscale supermarkets.

But boy did the sun put on a big comeback show for us today.
Still soaked in the pungent aroma of her
extended stay in tropical Rarotonga,
she wrapped us all in a big scorching, sticky sun-hug,
and caught the popsicle venders totally unprepared.

The mercury licked the stratosphere,
by noon it reached a wobbly thirty,
and the streets had that languid yellow equatorial quality
that feels like the onset of a hangover, sunstroke,
when even the fat, black flies don’t move
for the half-finished melted cones.

At noon the trees tilted to swipe their brows,
and a crowd gathered round a fallen man,
mouth open gasping heat,
a woman frantically fanning the life back into his cracked face,
and wail of sirens like the opening of hell.
Too late the sun winked behind a cloud.

You can’t beat Wellington on a good day,
goes the unofficial slogan.
Summer brings oiled up crowds off the cruise ships,
bums on the beaches, booty in the souvenir shop coffers.

And the sun’s supposed to dutifully play its part,
court jester to the pickled pedestrians.
But today she showed us who’s boss,
under her bright and fierce tongue we all sweat like popsicles,
and when she wants, she can suck a life down to the flimsy stick.

Kids pulled their tricks down at the skate park
high into the woozy air,
a crowd watched a few brave souls doing bombs into the greasy harbour,
judging the height of their spray with raucous cheers,
life and joy and death crackled on the skillet of the summer.

The Trickster

It was a cavernous mouth that the orange wig wore,
and it hungered and hungered after five courses of adulation,
and became bloated on the bedlam it sowed.
And when it didn’t get its banquets,
the mouth puckered and turned nasty,
and lit respectable senators on fire.

And the jeering crowds were not enough,
and the outraged champagne lefties were not enough.
He wanted hits and the big-time jerk-off circus
of ratings on a presidential scale.

And he obsessed over angles and entrances,
and made it his first order of state
to put up self-portraits in solemn halls of power,
to hide the terrifying defects of the trickster king
behind industrial strength spray-on tan,
to turn truth into lies and deny the lies again.

And he grew easily bored with the minutiae
that kept this inebriated world balanced on its tightrope
between fascist alligators and orgies of atomic lust.

The rope is sagging in the middle,
the tightrope walker in chief is tottering,
distracted by a shiny mirror,
the Big House pegs are all at breaking point.
Hold onto your britches earthlings,
the puckered mouth has bitten off more than it can chew!

Love Poem

Sometimes in your hair a wind of love dwells.
It rises at street corners,
or in morning gardens hurt by the rising sun.
Sometimes on the breeze
I smell you before I arrive at your chipped red door,
scent of dinner for two, baked sweet potatoes,
scones with cream and jam,
the things you make from the songs you hum to yourself;
out of these your soul wafts
through this drunken garden to me.
The summer is in your dress as you turn in the window,
the sky is in your eyes,
sky overflowing with a bouquet of cranes,
of lotuses.
And your world is in your embrace as I cross the threshold,
as I press myself to your impermanence,
and it is lighter than any migration,
than any wing, or moth, or mantis.
Sometimes in your hair a wind of love dwells,
and I seek it out with kisses,
which I plant like little assassins on your agile neck.