Monthly Archives: November 2011

A blob of cheese? A bit of undigested potato? In any case, the product of a dream, though there are no spirits in it.

Coins I

Sovereigns: Hunting

Walking down the Kings Road
One foot on pale pathway,
Safe on the sidewalk
Encased in red trainer,
Falling apart. The other
Sluices round the leaf-strewn
Gutter, amidst the filth
Of food wrappers, rot,
Dried-blood spoilage
The traffic left, behind grinding
Hard toothed tires.

Cars honk at my back,
Bent and made broad
By my anorak, a visible red;
Rough lads call out, blessings,
Curses in their dream tongues,
As I bob down, magpie-like,
Sluicing trash through my fingers.

Down here, where the rot is,
The basest filth of this filthy town,
Down here where the death lies
Writ small amid the modern boneyard,
Among the stiffened rags, I can see,
Where no one else has looked,
The faint glimmer of gold.

Pale yellow, like pound coins,
Like the sun through a cloud,
The bright roundels of treasure,
Cast up from the depths,
The circles of light,
Gifts from the dead.

Here, looking down
Amid the bracken and the dirt
Of ages, the same sort of dirt
There has always been
Though it comes in different wrappers,
I plunge my bloody fingers down,
Risking infection,
And pluck up the true,
The tricky gold.

Brushed free of the pottage
From the garden that grew it,
Free from the forgotten leavings
Of man, I take the pieces,
Heavy and round in my fingers,
Nails split, bloody, with beneficent puss,
I test the true gold in my ghostly
Mortal palms, feeling the weight, the shift,
Intolerably solid. I look upon the cast face,
A King, surely, caught in profile,
The numinous made bearable.
My anorak has many pockets,
Down they clink,
This coin is not for spending.

I shall care for these treasures;
Display them to my lover, to friends,
A gift from the trenches
To pass from hand to hand.
This gold must always be in motion,
Always making the voyage from boneyard
To man, taking on flesh.
This treasure is constant for those
Who have trained their eyes to see it:
The scrapers in the rag end dust
The poets, certain children,
The hungry and the mad.
This gold is eternal,
Beyond the perishing body,
Kept still too long it twists
Like a knife in the hand
Leaving you bloody.

I have them, here, now, coins
For the moment,
But I shall give them back
To the darkness they sprung from.
And when my hands are empty,
When the wounds of seeking
Have healed at last,
Every scar healed, the wounds all dry,
I shall return here, one foot in the light
One foot in the gutter, bending
Again to my boneyard,
Risking the catcalls, risking
My death, seeking, finding,
Hunting the sovereigns,
The treasure, the gift
From the darkness,
Bending my face down
To where reality is,
To find brightness at last.

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This is what happens when I read the classics…Sine Virtus, Sine Laus.

The Forest of the Suicides
-Dantesque-

The trailing blood
From ill-slashed wrists,
The improvised rope,
The poisonous hair,
The body, dangling,
Grows down to ravaged earth,
Taking root in soil
That is the corpus of Dante.

I walk down this avenue,
Of -in this- successful,
The faithful boughs, murmuring,
Their words in dark sap,
Beading. Congealing. Dead
Words coagulate in harpy dung;
Bird call and the heat from hanging
Dugs radiating against my scalp. Filth perched,
Reminiscent of Damocles,
These angelic reflections, over my head.

It is not so bad. Here.
The voices of my brethren
Begging me, sit. In space
Between the feet, the roots, that were
Legs of women fleeting from rape,
Deer swift and sure.
I find my rest, and it is merciful.
I am allowed, here, to let myself go.

Becoming a voice which rises,
Unaware of Your judgment-
You Giver of Life, take payment in words-
Out of the sap. The talons raise
Weals, but scratch the cover off
New sounds among the freshets;

Paper is only so much metamorph wood,
This is only a story;
This flesh and wine could stand
Transformation.
My feet, no longer cold,
Take root in this transubstantiate earth,
Sending up flowers, bearing their fruit
From the Plenty Horn of rot;
There is requisite peace.

The Order of the Good Death and other matters

Recently I have been in contact with Caitlin, a mortician and celebrant who founded a website called The Order of the Good Death whose mission, found here http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/category/mission, is to ‘prepare a death phobic culture for their inevitable mortality’. This is a very important calling for a culture such as ours in the modern West. We tend to see death as something to be avoided at all costs, and therefore through avoidance, we magnify its terror. We are not meant for stasis, we creatures breathing change, and death is something which we need in order to grow. Our culture, at this stage, seems to centre around youthfulness at all cost. We spend billions each year on cosmetics, cosmetic surgeries, clothing, all to create the impression of time standing still. An impression is all that it is. We are children of earth, we belong to the soil, we belong to that which created us, and it is to that we shall return. A graphic and vivid understanding of the physical process of death is the cure. It remains morbid only so long as it remains alient to our understanding of our selves.

When we mourn we are mourning the loss we feel, not the fortune of the dead. Grief is for the grieving, and this does not devalue it. It makes the joy of life deeper and infinately strong.

I suggest that you poke around this site. The writing is beautiful, humorous, and incredibly kind. Check out Caitlin’s video series, ‘Ask a Mortician’. And if you are in the mood, see my fox poem, illustrated, here; http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/for-our-friends-the-roadside-foxes . There is a lovely video to follow, ‘Mr. Fox’ by Max Swinton.

“A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”
― William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

A poem from an Asian myth.

Aswang

Running, at speeds beyond joy,
When air grows knife blades
That, cold edged, pierce the tatters
Of my lungs, the black dog pursues me.

My eyes leak a slow steady stream,
That is not precisely sorrow, nor totally
Competitive bliss; this is a game, and like every contest
It is life. Death. The grinning dog gives chase.

I run because he loves me;
Bare feet on moss, arms parting branches,
He runs because he loves.
This is our courtship, our longed for consummation.

The black dog’s teeth are white and sharp,
His limbs firm, untiring, he is so strong.
I am the girl I always was, athletic, but human,
Trained like all females to surrender the chase.

And the truth is; I want to.
This death is mine, created for me,
My creature, my servant, my trusted friend,
Long expected, missed deeply, come at last

To drag me down.
Lungs ache, but could go further.
My mouth feels bloody, inexplicably cold.
I allow my ragged feet to stumble

And after a moment of quiet,
He has me there, foot paws on shoulders,
On my back, in the moss. Kisses,
Familiar, the smell of rot, a body

Warm, unbreathing, the longed for thing.
Delivered at last. Ears up, furrowed forehead,
In the manner of dogs, perplexed at the failure
Of the Frisbee to launch itself again on air.

The end of the game is only ever a pleasure
For one player. Not for the winner
Who must go again, with a new partner,
Loved differently, some other plane.

Mary: a makeover. From my Icon: Iconoclast series

Icon I: Contemplation

But what of Mary?
She gave birth to Christ,
That greatest chimera;
Half God, half Man,
And something of lion
Thrown in, around the eyes.
The soft, infant mouth, full lips hiding
Sharp, carnivorous teeth.
She must have been something
Of a predator herself.

Let us look beneath
That milky pie-face
That bland innocence
We slather, peer beneath
That curve-hiding robe
Of ground up stone,
The lapis hem cannot disguise
The long curved toenails
Predatory, dark, which stand
Among the well-gnawed bones.

The leg is curved beneath
The painted canvas,
Hairy, well furred,
A pelt rough enough
To withstand the drought
And the heat of the desert,
Protection sufficient
For a heavenly cause.

Narrow hips follow leg,
She springs from her root;
Her womb thrusts forward
To seven inch clitoris,
The birth canal,
Like a male urethra,
An indentation in the fleshy tip;

A feature she shares
With her desert sisters,
Matriarchal hyenas who,
Like her, have had their status
Degraded by men who cannot stand
Or comprehend female power.
They misinterpret. Females, denied in villages
Where they are given male names
And led round by chains,
Bound round their necks.

She curled on her side
In that stable in Bethlehem,
That Mother of all mothers
Curved her body round the stone,
And the dust from the field,
Delivering the hard-sent earthly redeemer
Through that passage, that voyage
Through death. The journey she made
To drink from that fountain,
The water which pours
From the river of life.

The strong are always harder tested
At their birth
Than the lambs they feed
Upon, the herds they guard. Their entry
To the life of sunlight,
Of rich, good blood
Is perilous and comes
At the risk of the mother,
At the risk of all mothers
In the passage under earth.

The hyena in the Veldt
Brings forth her cubs at great pain;
Two of them usually,
One child at delivery is dead,
The threshold offering
The strong owes,
To purchase its strength.
Who was Christ’s twin?

Mary bent down there
In the dust, like her sisters,
And opened the passage for God.
With the sharp teeth
The icons closed lips never show,
She rent her womb
Through the head of her womanhood,
Birthing the Son, the chimeric Lion,
Bathing his life-wounds
In the stream of her blood.

This is how a poet reacts to a scrim of meat dust on a cold black road

I saw a fox get hit by a car. I tried to help. This was the result:

The Vixen in the Grass

I vowed new life

For the fox

On its bier by the road;

My arms swathed red,

I fingered the claw marks.

Its distended eye,

The color of berries,

Twitched in the socket

With implacable pulse

That nonetheless ceased

At the moment its heart did.

 

I absorbed something of her,

My sister the vixen,

Something other than blood,

As I stood there staring

By the side of the road.

She took something of me

In the breath of her dying;

Some strong, invisible force

From that other world.

 

I promised a life, of a kind,

To that victim; that mentor

Who led me where none else could
lead.

The red-haired lady, flame tipped,

Who leads me on still,

Slinking before me,

Arms open, beckoning

Along the winding pathways

Between bracken and stream,

Leading to the deep places

Where every leaf

Is gold edged with meaning,

And every shadow

Has cutting depth.

 

They say, those tricksters,

Iconographer poets,

That a lady in white satin

Will meet you, to lead

You to death. Somehow

I do not doubt this, though white

Is so blameless; she must be red.

The color of my arms,

After lifting the body,

The color of fur, flayed

On the road, the color of waste

Of flesh on the bone.

 

I see a woman

Who is somehow two creatures,

A being made multiple,

Symbiotic, absorbed,

A creature brought forth

By the mingling of blood.

My lover, my daughter,

My death by the road;

A long tail, like a brush tip,

Peeks from the rim of her gown,

Her smile, sharp toothed, dazzling,

And her eyes, like pink yew berries,

Numinous, glowing, brimmed holes

In a down garbed skull,

Leading deep, ever deeper,

To deaths other kingdom,

Leading us onward,

More real that we are,

To that other world.

 

 

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A Few Sample Pages

The Birth of Dogs

     The Woman has no name, not one member of her clan does, names have
not come into being yet.  Words are spoken, words have always been spoken,
in some form, ever since the coming of the Word that forced the world from
darkness, the Word that forced the light.  The Woman, who we will, for
simplicities sake call Eve, lives a difficult life made easier by the fact that
she does not know it.  Her family travel through the plains, making the
tools they need from day to day, curing hides, hunting, foraging and retaining
few possessions.  This is normal.

Things are hard, she struggles to find enough food from day to day to feed
herself and her children, but she makes do, from the sweat of her brow.
She has not yet discovered how to make bread, but she does grind the grain that
she scours fields for in the basin and boils it inside of a skin held over the
communal fire and filled with water.  She eats the resulting gruel without
flavour since she has not yet discovered salt, though the crystals surround
her.  She will, given world enough and time, but the land is still young,
even if Eve is not, her species, still young, barely through the dawn.

Look at her a moment.  Don’t worry, get as close as you want, she can
neither hear nor see you.  Your scent is covered in layers of time; you
are, in fact, invisible.  Look at her thick hair, she lets her daughter
groom it and the adolescent five year old has plaited it so that it rises up
like serpents from her head.  See it shine?  That’s the palm oil that
her daughter used to dress it and to prevent the hairs from breaking.

She is familiar, isn’t she?  She reminds you of someone in your family,
your mother, perhaps, or your grandmother.  Something about her
eyes.  The similarity has to be in the eyes because her coloration is
wrong, she resembles no race walking the earth today though her skin is clear
and healthy, her features have a thick look about them, somewhat rough, as
though unfinished.  She is like a sculpture still being formed.

See the stretch marks on her stomach? Though she would, by our standards, be
considered quite young, she is barely twenty five, by the rules of her
community she is leaving middle age.  Her last child, the one she carried
inside of her until two days ago, will be her last.  She knows this and is
saddened by it.  She has had five all together of which only her daughter
and her almost-man son survive.  The baby she gave birth to the day before
yesterday died last night, in her sleep.  She woke with it blue and silent
beside her on their skin this morning and she burnt the body in the fire and
let the ashes scatter.  By the reckoning of her people the spirit had not
formed yet. Each child lost has scarred her and, because she can not conceive
of any sort of life after death, the scars have stayed fresh and close to
bleeding.
Her breasts ache with useless milk.  No other woman in her clan has had a
child recently, although some are obviously expecting, so there is nothing for
her but to wait until the flow stops.  Until then her breasts will throb,
and throb, with every beat of her heart.

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