CONTEMPLATING SUICIDE 11 FEBRUARY 1963

you cannot hear me    no

you cannot   I am dead

so leave me alone

 

words lacerate the dawn

of your final preparations

breakfast for sleeping children

snug in their beds

 

fifty years ago you

railed against Daddy

Ted the cheater    Ted the beater

scorn    a wound that will not heal

ignore me if you dare

 

press play on the screen

your face and then your voice

the accusations in your patrician drawl

the stab of your New England vowels

 

oh Sylvia!    I cradle your book

I hear you read your poems

words leaking through your defences

the carefully applied

seal to windows and doors

the sibilant sound

of gas from the stove

head resting on the cold metal door

only you knew what

you had long practised and planned

in that cold London flat

 

you are dead   dead   dead

but you still accuse   still

 

 

BOWRAL ELEGY

driving past the local cemetery

one bitter winter weekend

the last year of my marriage

love vandalised

land laid bare

new vistas revealed

no insights offered

 

my four year old son

lights upon

bright flowers bunched

on graves set

against the basalt sky

and asks

why do they bury people

when they die

 

my inadequate reply

death as returning

offering back

something he might comprehend

but not fully understand

 

we are all one step

closer to the end

without a destination

 

all meaning

captured in his face

in the rear view mirror

HAKABA HAIKU

snow blossoms obscenely on bare branches
fills the forks with remnant bodies
wedged and wrapped in parachute white

winter silence haunts

MY FATHER’S PORTRAIT

my father

fashioning on crisp white paper

the outline of an Egyptian

against an alley wall

half asleep

 

our migrant adventure

taken for granted

at the time

 

the scratch of the pencil

on his best cartridge

the only sound in the sunlight

 

then the subject stirs

spits and gathers his cloak   tight

over his shoulder and head

 

so simply the sketch is ruined

 

the pencil shades in the cloth

obscuring the outline underneath

like dust settling on memory

 

how soft the hand

holding the pencil

 

 

 

 

THE COAL TATTOO

only the rich could love coal

this spat from deep within

a dark armchair

the grate of the Victorian fireplace

mocks with its sterile echo

 

hands like birds

accompany the voice

of this small old man in Wales

coal tattoos on the back of his hands

mark him as one of the tribe

arms swamped by his sleeves

 

broken by spending too long in the pits

or starting too soon or both

anger still there

fuelled by futility

the pits closed

bosses moved on

 

the last of his breed

counting each breath

all his young gang gone

taken too early by blacklung

or rock fall or gas

 

now they bloody go and plonk

a bleeding park at the pit head

civic mindedness absolving guilt

he won’t forgive

curses every long day

of his dying

ILLUSION

(For CHL)

I

elusive as the illusion of you

if I wake and find you gone

or find you were never here

I would not be surprised

elusive like some exercise of the mind

 

I wind down slowly

like a loose wound clock

in my fifty eighth year

 

am I to find or do I expect

you will simply take fright

or flight

a bird chases the cat tattoo on your back

 

too late for you to really go

now

 

II

 

out on the weathered pier

thrusting into the stillness of the lake

the timber grey weathered

split and splintering

the effect shambolic

like Bill’s homemade crab traps

lying around in disrepair

 

the lake before us

boats as water insects in the distance

fishermen returning

pelicans sweeping

for the guts and cast offs

the water grey yet slick and shiny

you lying down beside me

 

we watch the figure watching us

solitary black owning the place

a tree stump surely

shame swamps us

like the first couple

as the boat moves towards us

and the sentinel disapproves

your breast in my mouth

my cock hardening

 

he watches and disappears

the boat zig zags

we return to the house to fuck

 

III

 

both of you

a generation apart

bounce on the trampoline

shrieking and grinning ear to ear

like conspirators

clutching at your skirts

to stop showing your knickers

to her father and your lover

 

IV

 

and the moment you misheard

my “Hello you” as “I love you”

your alarmed interrogation

punctuating the intimacy of our bodies

entwined and naked on the floor

“What did you just say”

as if to love you too soon

was the gravest sin

 

V

 

as elusive as the best sex

my cock fully inside you

that small exquisite shuddering

breath held gasping

that small gag the stifled giggle

forcing you onto your back

sweating looking at the ceiling vacantly

completely somewhere else

returning slowly smiling

that embarrassed smile before you kiss me

and say “That…that was very special”

 

your direct way of speaking

exactly what you think when thought

the economy of your words

betrayed by the expanse of your smile

 

even when you leave me

you don’t go far and not for long

WALLABY

through the strict upright trunks

of the forest

a wallaby snug in its fur

wrapped in its fear

waits rotates its ears

longs to reach down

for the morning wet grass

 

I watch from my bed

the turning of a page

alerts it to my presence

alarms it sufficiently it flees

silent slow motion bounds

 

the view returns

a sentinel forest

the page I’d just read

YOUR CAT

and the rigmarole

of its morning     tai chi

each part      accessible

or not     cleaned

self-contained and ship-shape

what does it say of you

when

engrossed

it laps

its way to the edge

of the table     clutches

claws and falls

only     to land     embarrassed

upright

on four stunned paws

VOYEUR

because I see this view

I catalogue it as mine

 

because I am alone

no-one else can see

 

the sky at dusk

dusted pink

the soft vermillion

of the faded corrugated iron roof

below the blank peach

of the terraced walls

slabs of muted colour

the great chunks of paint

punctuated by the window

otherwise ignored

 

the flat canvas

smeared with paint

what the view became

or always was

 

I watch the window

 

as dust settles

on the surface of the glass

of water set on the table

near the window

why the taut surface

trembles with fear

from the hand which set it there

SEX SONNET

the unfolding lips of the pool

dampness glistening on the lush

flanks liquid oozing from the pulse

of frogspawn shuddering

the season gathers these urges

funnels the stream to a gush

dropping a sheet of water

over the edge like glass

 

then you surface in a mirror held

struggle against the water

changing it as it changes you

and for a moment bliss

lights your perfect face lost

I’ll never capture that in this