Climbing up Hills Before its Too Late

Looking down at my fleshly toes,
I creak to the loo at 4 in the morning,
a listing dreadnaught,
careening into doorframes.

Flick of the cold light puts first signs of age
in stark relief,
and I transfix on swollen pink
round the callouses

I’ve gathered like memories.
There was once a boy who
drove these long-neglected feet
over wild fields of autumn,

revelling in the sensation
of sharp, dry leaves,
that crackling sound of victory,

young projectile body,
tumbling down slopes,
a mad-capped wind at my heels.

Do I still want to climb mountains,
like that one over behind my house,
with its antenna
erect and ridiculous and
contemptuous under the sky?

I dream of that hill,
and the things I might find up there,
a place above the heaviness
of concrete,

the weight of noise.
Up there, I know,
on nights thick with summer
young bodies still writhe and love
in the grass under the stars.

Up there,
musical bodies go off like


Sand and mud,

sea water and volcanic ash

have claimed my streets

and my woman.

Even in her cleanest places

pips of sand invade,

and I must run

a fine toothed comb

across her vulva,

across her armpit.

City of sand

tears at my soles when I walk,

and the dirt and the chairs

and the billboards

of the young women

cling to me

where my hair once was.

Monstrous boys approach me,

dripping with water.

The water goes to the earth

in heavy clots

and leaves behind a face

of pumice.

I look away

and women heave past me,

smeared with makeup,

which leeches and

infects my city.

And they’re too young to be dead,

but the sand and the rust,

the loneliness of space

has stuck in their pores

and they’re old

and terrified at twenty one.

Take my city

to the dry cleaners.

Wash it, press it, fumigate it,

until there’s only

the floating fluff

and the white faces

of the bakers

in the pure fragrant morning.

Take my woman

to the beauty parlor,

tie her up, powder her,

make sure she

never grows old.

This sand and volcanic ash

clings to me,

and washes me for death.


Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014


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.