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.

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.

Night Poem XXIII

Night of my ingrate tongue,
I want it all,
I want the sky to stop my lungs.

Do you remember how
I demanded everything impossible from you, night?
I sat upon your voluptuous cushions
like an indolent vizier.

I swallowed the whimpers of a thousand adulterers,
I demanded the towers of my oldest enemies,
and sent for the harpist, the lyre.
And before long I had sucked the marrow
from all the stars.

And you just looked at me, and grinned,
you, night of my ingrate tongue.
And instead of kingdoms, continents,
dawns, eternities,
I had discovered the loneliness that is love’s core.

Night Poem XIX

Night of desolation,
you reduce me to this,
husk of a crippled light.
I was a man,
and man is a beast of the day,
filled out like a coat without substance.

I was a man,
and man is a word, no more than a whimper,
in your dark amphitheater.
Why do you strip me of everything,
save these two ancient aches, death and love?

Alone by your silent lake,
pure amplifier of my id,
I fear only death, its totemic heartbeat,
its beckoning festivals.

Alone in your infinite vault,
I remember only lost loves,
the luxuriant spider of a vengeful heart,
the torrid, teasing skin of sudden memory.

Night, you destroyer of my sunlit facades,
I am remade with every dark hour,
the perfected image of your
adamantine agonies.

Night Poem IX

She could cure me with those black eyes.
Or she could be tonight’s infinite hair,
let down for me to drift in,
exhausted by a sexual shore.
She destroys the dawn at its edges,
she corners the world in a room.
With a smile, she torments it
until the confessions flow like blue honey.
In a room the size of a pin
I hold her gaze,
to delay catastrophes.
I discover expanses of desolation and love.

Night Poem IV

Voices sleep in the night,
bodies quiet and alone,
all cries drawn inward,
and love kept in its hold.
Anger subdued in its kennel,
and regret floating above their eyes.

Trusting the night,
bodies laid out,
display unearthly banquets
for the devouring moon.
They are infinitely fragile,
the most brutal hands,
the most vehement lips.

I sit at my window,
and the air is thick
with the voices of sleeping animals,
the ancestral echoes of dreams,
the long dead in their earth,
and the death preparers,
cradling their sweethearts
in the white sheets of the living.

I sit awake with the
self-forgetting all around me,
like a witness
to the night that goes
erasing their brief bodies,
and I am sad,
and I am in love.

Savage Night (Owl Song)

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Listen, that one voice
translating the night.
Suddenly, I too speak
from the owl’s dark mouth,
the way the night
speaks through holes
the trees bore into the stars,
those sky wounds.
A single voice, a lament of wings,
the lament that soars with dreams.
I had thought my life
like an impenetrable hour,
a warm stone held
in the palm of my silent heart,
until the owl came
to cry beyond my window,
that messenger,
crying the savage night.

Fierce

Fierce white feet,
paddling harder and harder
going nowhere
on the bristling waves,
somersault of light,
a foam of dolphins
drenched their glistening fears.

Player piano and the
drowned musician,
mazurkas of the forbidden heart,
it killed us with a bowl of fruit,
a single pineapple that
reached the shore.

Round and round in circles,
fierce little feet,
their widening wake,
carrying the laughter of
their skin.
I thought of spiders and seabirds,
things that never dreamed of death,
or burst pipes,
or a broken coast.

And the children trailed their toes
and combed the sea’s green hair.
She shuddered at their touch,
she welcomed their kisses,
and the paper boats that ignited
beneath a flaming feather in the sky.

Moth

I’m watching it take a long time to die.
Last night, over and over,
it tried to reach the lamp,
nirvana,
scampering up the wall
until its crabbed wings gave out.

But you just didn’t get that it’s over, moth.

I watched it out of boredom,
the banality of it’s death,
there was nothing else worth doing.
The silence of a dying moth
kept me awake.

It’s still at it this morning,
keeps falling on its back,
choking on the last green spasms,
the light’s not even on anymore.

The world’s long gone out for you, buddy.

Outside when the sun comes up,
I’ll go scampering after my own lamps.
Outside on the blazing pavement,
the spasm of life will go on, self-defeating.
None of them will know when to give it up.

Black Currant

I wouldn’t say I am at a loss,
for speech, for words, for flowers.

It’s just that, in the mouth
there is something,
dark, growing, blooming,
death.

I call it death,
but really it is the birth
of an exquisite black currant.

Where am I going?
I’m going to the middle,
the middle,
to the heart of the black currant.
At each bite, through the skin,

itself a galaxy, a life, a cold and deserted song,
I’m wading into the flesh,
blue, female.

It is a breast, a fullness between my teeth.
I know what I will find there
at the centre.

It is not a final nipple, not
completion, lust, perfection, fleeing guitar.
At each bite, the currant diminishes,

at each bite, the lungs full,
so gorged with the juice of fear and sleep.

Animals sleep in huddles of sand.
My palm is a vast plain in the night.

A single tree shelters the
black currant,
the current of my death in the desert.

A wind like a woman strips the dripping canyons.
What is it I find at the centre of my currant?

All fruit falls in the mouth of death,
my voice blooms in the mouth of death,

an ejaculation of stars,
smeared over the parallel skin of her waist.