Poetry (Written)

The Uses And Limits Of Physiognomy

 

          There are those unable 

to shake off the shade filming their bones 

until dying and decay lays 

the cathedral of their sternum on the open grass; 

the drunk, singing mead hall of their ribs; 

their skull’s basilica under a sun of soapstone. 

          You can tell a lot about the man’s grief 

by the way he wears his facial hair. If long, 

small particles of the last thing he ate or lips he kissed 

can be collected, and studied under an electron microscope. 

Both shabby and clean shaven 

denote despair in different ways. 

          Every woman’s chest is a soapstone room 

of various dimensions and utilities. 

Her essential self is always the one 

singing matins at the ledge of the open window; 

          vaguely aware of dawn 

frisking like a hare on the spiny hills;

of the new light that never stopped 

entering her bones.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Baudelaire

 

          When you entered through the entranceway, 

and they called that ball 

of naked oily skin 

yourself, 

it was a shock that made the bone-saw wail; 

that made the spiny tail of you align;  

that made the ocean, like a white noise, leap 

up on you, and wet you, and recede. 

          You, or what they chose to call you now, 

ungrown and indefensible, 

a sea-ape more accustomed 

to water-pulse than air; 

they carried the placenta, 

that was your life awhile, 

to discard it as a lungfish does its mucus in the grass. 

          And here you are: a lunged, unwalking thing, 

restricted in a caul of wool though free enough  

to flap your aimless fins and shrill 

with new vocal folds your primal name; 

          your first duty seems to warn 

of how the moon clips back revealing 

a stork’s blue eye in endless reeds; 

in the feathered night a line of faces 

obscured by their atrocious beaks.

          The unkind world, the unnoisy ache of wards 

where throats are pierced and plastics placed inside; 

where seven ages come to trade in time and dying;  

where others are sliding themselves

down wounded birth-canals, 

themselves the wound;

themselves the crying.

          When you entered through the entranceway,

the path you’d followed 

reared up and dipped again. 

          On a Möbius strip, two-sided, days with nights, 

you moved while going nowhere. 

          Your mother after all is just your flesh

and all that’s flesh is just your mother.  

          Matter’s boundless, though what makes it matter 

writhes inside a woodlouse on her back; 

writhes in all the white wriggle of her limbs that pray 

like a monastery of fingers pray for grace. 

          It’s why we stoop and turn the worm; or stow 

an uprooted albino toad in a bank of shade. 

          It’s why we love small things, 

as we were small and wailing though still knew, 

behind us, 

past our parents’ skins and fluids, a dry wind blew

and caught in it 

a breath of us that breathes 

in every sphere of watermeal.  

          It’s why this sense of ownership will not say no. 

          It’s why we can’t take off 

the conquerer’s clothes. 

          When you entered through the entranceway 

nine horses went ahead of you, the contracting womb, 

the slosh and dredge competing

with the trudge of dusty feet. 

          It was Caesar at the gates of Rome.

          It was Baudelaire’s Man, plunging in the shadowed Sea. 

          His contest with the world: to rule, 

or to be ruled entirely. 

 

Personality

 

So much we’re born with I suppose: 

a leaning of tendencies in the nerves.

The rest perhaps we make up as we go 

as, while beach-walking, we make collections 

of those stones we think are coloured best.  

          The rest is all a fantasy. 

I say myself and all I really mean 

is the things I’ve loved for long enough

for them to print themselves on the blank of me. 

The way light left long enough on paper will stain it whiter. 

The way that even a rock pool wave will grind its shape

after years of returning into the rock’s smooth curve.

          I say your name only for convenience. 

You are every beauty you have seen. 

You are these words if they are fine 

or any words that are. 

          Waiting for you I’ve lost all track 

of how many times you came to me 

and by how many different roads. 

          You are everything you say you are 

and everything you say 

you’re not.