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.

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.

Hydrangea Blues

Like a riot of careless children,
the hydrangeas return to my garden.
They love the violence of the wind,
they dare it to unfurl them from the stamen,
to become a sail of pure disarrangement.
Audacious,
they out-do the infinite hues of the sky,
they out-sing the clouds.
And they are beautiful and full of hungers,
and they have forgotten the agony
of last summer’s drought.
And I am in love with their petulant hearts.

Goodbye Apricot

So, you’ve packed your things
and you’re ready to go.
On a little leaf folded into a dinghy,
you set off on a great, wild wind.

It’s all too big for you,
for me alone, I fear.
You’ll smash to pieces
on some calamitous street,

or a handsome hotel drifter
will hold you tight,
and on some cheap and neon night,
ruin your pretty little feet.

I’ll read about it in the paper,
and lose my appetite,
and my day will retreat into its room
and never speak to me again.

But that’s okay,
because if I’m honest,
you’re more like the apricot’s hard core
leaping on a tide of world.

I’ll never see you again,
that’s for sure,
but you’ll grow sweeter in my mouth,
with a sweetness that is sad.

And like me,
the lovers of all your hours,
bewitched and inconsolable,
will break their lips on your dark pip.

A Perfect Circle

My day in endless loop,
I pretend, at least,
that there are tomorrows
loaded in a cosmic gun,
that go off with a bang and a bright sun.
You see,
there’s so much I should be doing,
and outside a world
to love and reject,
to take out on summer walks,
to fight with in evening streets,
and forgive in shadows of tenderness,
presses up against my window,
and peers in.
But I will lie here
in the thickening moods of myself,
while the day is lost to the sky,
while the knots of my love untie,
and the birds of the dusk rise and fall.
I will lie here on this floor,
in a room smeared with gold,
and cultivate stillness,
as a rebellion against the promises I’ve kept,
and the hours that march us all
to scaffolds of life.

Night Poem XXV

The night calls out,
death is death is death.
A crow beats its wings,
and night parts from night.
Absence, dawn,
she slips in like a lover,
remembered and forgotten.
I remember life,
and death is death is death.
I accept the beating of rugs in the morning,
the cries of women to each other,
the importance of trans-continental trade,
of men who whistle when they’re sad.
Life is death is life.
I am life,
I am a war of life
that the night could not eradicate just yet,
a music of ruined and resurrected love.
I declare myself an open city,
and the dawn slips in like a lover,
a liberator.
I pour her a cup of coffee.

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.