Monthly Archives: January 2009



This is for somebody who knows exactly who she is. And that, in itself, is a wonderful thing.





The boy watched the tendrils snaking their way from his fingertips, twisting over each other like strands of gossamer on rushing water. A metre away from where he was standing, in the white space behind him, he could watch the flowing strings twine together, wrap around a central cord and become rope-like stretching out into the distance beyond view, towards the glinting mass on the horizon. “What is it?” he asked the girl on his left who sat, cross legged and still, one hand held by her face. “It is the past”, she whispered, and slowly gestured to the spyglass that he had not previously noticed, rocking to and fro by his feet. The boy bent down to pick it up – the tendrils flowing in a graceful arc, following his movements – and looked closely. It was a brass telescope, an old nautical item that had slightly rusted around its joints, shimmering ochre following leafy browns and dank, sticky black tones. The glass remained pristine, however, reflecting the whiteness of the space the couple shared in occasional flashes, throwing spectrums onto the floor. The boy raised the telescope to his eye, and followed the path of the gossamer, watching it thicken and tighten, seeing strands join together and slowly create the mass that stayed unmoving, miles away from him. “It looks like crystal”, he said. “It looks like a diamond; I can’t focus on any one part. The light keeps striking different facets and fooling my eye, the light keeps making me think I can see the whole, but I cannot.”


                                                *          *          *          *


They were sat on their own, on a swinging bench in a garden, somewhere. The honeysuckle was blooming with the evening, giving the air a sweetness that mingled, not unpleasantly, with the autumn fragrances of mown grass, violets and rotting leaves. “I want to give you a present”, he said. Her eyes lit up as he reached into his pocket, fingers clasped around a silver box delicately embossed with pewter lilies and arabesques. The girl took it from his hands, and carefully opened it. “What is it?” she asked, looking troubled, confused. “I can barely see it; one moment it is an egg, and then a feather, and then a tiny bone. It looks like all things, at all different times. It keeps changing”. She closed her mouth, and looked down at her feet, suspended above the ground.

“It is a gift”, he replied, a small smile playing on his thin lips, “a present”.


                                                *          *          *          *                                 


The smoke billowed in the sky, mingling with clouds of all shapes and sizes. The clouds were being blown by many winds, and piling onto one another, creating almost-sculptures of vapour, which you could see, if you looked hard enough. There was a whole garden of old statues, which burst inwards to form a house, which dissipated into a set of talons on a great bird that was a shoal of fish and the stomach of a horse. The clouds moved on, to different skies, a long way away.

The Estuaries


The Estuaries

It was said that the people of the estuary never even noticed the change. Their bare-footed wanderings merely ploughed the same furrows in the silts and mires as they had done for the past few centuries, and the leather-handed elders still sat, slowly tattooing each others shoulders and smoking the same long, ebony pipes. Indeed, the river people of Albion had not looked up from their scrying bowls and embers whilst the suited and booted drones of the great cities had pulled each other apart, tearing the pockets from brothers and sisters and hiding beneath the ground in lead-lined bunkers. Theirs was a quieter life, an existence governed by the very slowest of tides and heavy, sluggish long-shore drifts; dark and broiling waters brought all they needed in gentle, lapping waves; waves of convenience and fated consequence.

The cities lay deserted merely weeks after the great crash; cars piled up in scabrous mounds, wind-screen wipers jutted out of metallic skins like elbow joints from an open fracture and the winds carried a black, oily miasma inland. And so it went for many decades, until the suburbs gave up their final sons and the housing estates breathed their last words to an infrastructure so desperately reliant on abstract concepts, concepts that collapsed with nobody left to observe them. The last stand of the urban man was a quiet one, a sorrowful acceptance of fate and blame. Clutching a remote control in one hand, and a carton of dried fish food in the other, the last house dweller died without a sound, spilling a bottle of mineral water onto the thick carpet of his home. This was all many, many years ago.

Stillness had prevailed for weeks before moisture began to amass above the higher ground; huge, throbbing, obese hulks of vapour congregated above the wastelands, sucking dry the humidity of the old towns. The cloud began its rambling journey south, kicked hither and thither by excitable breezes, borrowing small sips from this stream, that brook, or taking huge evaporative gulps from water butts, swimming pools, fluke infested puddles. It rolled across the skies of the land and hung heavy, granite coloured, over the great basin of the land before releasing its burden in torrents. The rain came down hard, screaming with relief and the joy of the fall. It bounced off the ersatz strewn over the roads, the iron cores of wasted structures that lay exposed to the jubilant elements, the chicken wire and substations and shimmering mirror-lakes of broken glass. The raindrops huddled together and form rivulets that sought out any indentation and downward slope, where they came across other rivulets and tributaries that swelled and flexed their watery muscles until they leapt out into streams which, in turn, found rivers and gorges and waterfalls that raced through valleys and exploded riverbanks with showers of black peat as they neared the estuary. Shopping trolleys, great masses of unspun fleece, burst tyres and pendulums, gold-leaf encrusted icons and railway sleepers tumbled over ravines and floated nonchalantly into the mouth of the great river and disappeared from view while a small girl burrowed her bare toes into the oily, multicoloured sepias of soaking earth, and toyed with a strip of paper she had found curled in a tube beneath the dank tresses of her dark, matted hair. Her name was Petra.

Petra was the grand-daughter of the oldest member of the wanderers who huddled around the fire beneath the outcrop of sand. The ancient figure, the grandfather of Petra and many of her brothers and sisters, watched her through the flames, flames that were tinged blue from the bromides and salts embedded in the gnarled knots of wood and shore-rope that were slowly burning in front of him. He knew a different world once, a world of paper money and oil tankers, a world that rejected the nomadic nature of his fathers, and he had not raised his head to watch it fall apart. The two branches of his family had come together from Egypt and Romania, and had settled for a while on the banks of the Thames to establish some sort of order amidst chaos and rubble, a sense of quietness and solidarity against the roaring of the tidal barrier to the east. Already, he had seen a pattern emerging – even his people had some need for hierarchy and tradition, and new rituals were being born with each generation, as if human nature itself was an organic growth demanding repetition, recorded memory and the acknowledgement of the passing of life. Already a leader had risen, calling himself ‘The Farikh Al Dromoshvya’. A gentle young man, thought the grandfather, and although plagued by visions, fits and ecstasies, he was developing quite a following among the estuary people with his softly spoken words, carefully balanced parables and talk of miracles and histories that never were. The old man had seen such messiahs rise and fall before, both here and in the old country, and felt sure in his old heart that this supposed saviour’s ways would be forgotten by the time his children were old, warming their bones as he was now. He returned his attention to young Petra, who was mudlarking out on the spits, no doubt seeking the pointless relics she spent so much of her time amassing in her nest.

Indeed, Petra was looking for such things. She saw the skull of a cormorant, half obscured by a child’s plastic shoe, a tin can that she cleaned in the shallows and strung around her waist, and a length of piping housing several small, translucent crayfish that moved quickly into the dark cracks of the lead tube when she lifted it to peer inside. Her dark arms and black eyes scanned the mudflats that sucked at her small feet, and her quick fingers absent-mindedly toyed with the string of amethyst rocks that were laced around her wrist. She was nearing her fifteenth birthday, and was seeking an item to mark the occasion. It was forbidden to wander past the far dykes; there were said to be treacherous sand-drifts there, great gulping swathes of quick-mud that she had been told swallowed some of her people in the past, leaving no trace of their misfortune but the shallowest shining footprints on the grey silt. The elders also claimed to have seen wild dogs past the headland, and swarms of rats that would drown even the strongest man with a million tiny feet and claws and filthy teeth until again, there was no trace left but the mourning women wailing along the waters edge. Despite these stories and warnings, Petra found herself wandering in that direction, her attention caught by a shape sticking out at an angle from the mud, glinting ever so slightly in the late afternoon light. Her breath quickened more than once as she felt the ground beneath her gape around her ankles, threatening to inhale her into its murky stomach, but her feet were nimble and well accustomed to glancing over the unsteady earth. She continued to walk until all she could see of her home was a thin plume of black smoke curling its way above the headland, the grasses of the dunes mimicking the movement of the vapour on the hillocks, buffeted by the same breeze.

As she kneeled beside the item, obscured by wandering grasses and tiny, spindly hermit crabs, Petra raised her eyes to look at the coast line. Her entire life had been spent within a square mile of marshland, and she had given little thought in the past to what lay beyond the greys and browns of the horizon visible from her nesting place. Now, as her fingers scrabbled around the oily edges of the buried shape, she wanted to see what was behind the headland. She had heard stories, of course; the rats, the dogs and all the rest; but items such as this – with a heave, she raised the painting from the silts and watched in awe as mud dripped off the gold gilt frame and exposed shapes, colours – these sorts of treasures came from somewhere, somewhere not overrun with monstrous, hungry creatures. Back at her nest she had stored items she had found; bottles inscribed with symbols, pages and pages of writing she could never hope to read, wheels and drums and a small box made of silver, lined with a deep red fabric that had somehow survived the damp and the years it must have floated in the mire. Sitting back on a railway sleeper, Petra examined her latest – and surely finest – discovery yet. The painting was beautiful; a portrait of a couple dressed in vivid greens, surrounded by papers and items that were long lost to the world of the estuary; globes and vast maps, crucifixes, quills and inkpots… The young girl sat back on her filthy heels and swam in the scene she held before herself. She knew so little of the fallen civilisation that had rejected the elders of her people; all she knew was that they were cruel, destructive, poisonous and wilful of their own downfall. She knew that the reason her people had to spend days slowly filtering their drinking water was due to the carelessness of the city people, and she knew that the heavy, black clouds that hung above the coast she saw as a child, before the first great rains came, she knew that was because of the poison they revelled in too. She had never thought they could produce such beauty, though. Petra stood up, and stumbled slightly on some loose, wet sand beneath her feet. She picked up the painting, and headed further around the headland, further away from her home, many miles further up the river until the water became gradually saltier; her blackened ankles disappearing every few seconds into the wetness she walked on. As she reached solid ground, she carefully placed the precious frame onto a soft patch of grass and shook out her dark hair from its restraints, and looked at the new horizon that stretched so far, so far out to sea. The land here was riddled with naturally formed caves, and the sands were littered with things from the old world. There was a black stone statue of a young boy playing a flute, his body curving beautifully three times in gentle, undulating sweeps. There was the top of a heavy stone sarcophagus of sorts, depicting a couple immortalised in carved rock, a dog beneath their feet and their hands intertwined, petrified forever. There was junk in piles, spewed up by the living river as it travelled east to purify itself. There was a boat.

Petra sat and wept into the sand, her tears staining the grains between her toes, her mind struggling to deal with all that she saw. Her people had been wanderers once, she thought, hadn’t they? Why had they stopped moving? Why hadn’t she seen such things before? She picked up a book and flicked through the crumbling pages, its yellow cover mildewed and crawling with sand flies. She returned her black eyes to the horizon, the vastness of the sea. As the sun began its lazy descent over the estuary, Petra climbed into the boat, and slept, dreaming of new lands, of boys with flutes, of people and paintings, of visions and beginnings.



Written for the exciting and wonderful ‘Magpie Magazine’

There is a small set of stairs beneath
The smoke and blue-stained primates of a Southern town.
Maybe only three or four paces – no more –
And remarkable only
For the shadows left by my first stretching roots;
Criss-crossing tendrils
Burnt web-like, cordite on concrete, zeniths kissing
Each others fingertips, exchanging secrets and
Pulling liquid out of stone.

I can almost remember when
Knotted barks and dewy brackets
Stretched through that old house, pebble-dashed,
Its windows straining against boughs, the first
Velveteen buds of spring
Rubbing; children’s noses pressed
With blanketed raptures on the bars
Of the cages at the zoo,
Underground, they thicken. Great cracks

Quickly after appeared in concrete –
Years passed beneath the coughing
Of multi-coloured exhausts, white lines
Flashed at eyes beneath a camphor path!
The leaves may curl once a year, but my feet find
Colder sands to press into. Disused slate mines,
Catacombs, tube lines.
Southern towns and pick-axes; these may be
Roots, reflections

To turn on their head, now’s the time!
Let us move outside, take what is ours and push –
Push deep into the soil, find cracks in which to
Force the leaves,
And let the earliest knuckles of drinking wood
See some light, for once.

Photographs From Behind The Hills Of Cenes De La Vega

Work in progress… will be re-posted soon.

Rope Trick Part II

bu091h6another story along the same lines as but shorter.

The tree-dwellers noticed him arrive, and observed the newcomer with suspicious eyes from their leafy abodes, high in the temperate, ochre canopy of the old forest. They saw him before he had arrived, also, treading a determined, if not somewhat stumbling path away from the cities to the west. He wore synthetic fibres to keep out the north-easterly winds that were kicking about the forest floor, throwing leaves and deciduous debris up against the knotted yews that creaked and kissed each other’s fingertips above. The stranger carried a bag with him. He had the ability to make fire; he heated water above a tiny contained furnace, and drank not from his hands, but from delicate, white cups he hooked around a belt on his waist. The tree-dwellers saw him construct a rudimentary shelter on the forest floor, hacking away at the young yews to bend and tie a frame on which he rested the saplings, and leaves, and a shiny blue skein of another man-made material which whipped and curled around his flustered face as he tried to hammer it into the soft, peaty soil. The stranger spoke into a box he held in his right hand.
“Day one,” he said. “Today, I have escaped the trappings of material life to live in the forests, alone, where no other man lives or walks. I shall become one with the soil, and learn to listen to the whispering voice of the roots that tangle beneath my feet. I shall escape my life, here, beneath the dancing of a million, sun-soaked leaves. I am of the same blood of the great European woodsmen, my ancestors, who needed not automobile or telephone, who knew nothing of social networking websites, wrap-around sunglasses or revolving doors.”

The people of the boughs far above his head gathered closely to watch, with mournful eyes, what they had seen in silence many times before. Within forty-eight hours, the stranger had laid a path of cut flint through the trees towards the river bank that lay frothing with soaps and detergents. He had made eighteen different tools with which to kill, and the tools lay bloodied around the entrance to the hut that had sunk into the soil, tilted and stilted from several attempts to maintain some straight lines. Carcasses of four different animals crawled with blowfly, as only the flank meat had been removed while the rest was left for the air to weep on. The remains of many fires spluttered and spread around the forest floor, catching onto the ravaged young trees that had been trampled and thrashed around the site. The tree-dwellers watched the stranger sit, place his head in his bloodied hands, and then stand up to walk back the way he had came, a north-easterly breeze spinning ashes around his freezing legs.


aug17gypsyfortuneThe one hundred and sixteenth Farikh Al Dromoshvya lowered his left hand, flitted it about his face as though it were a moth, and reverently placed it upon his heart. The many who had joined together in the lowlands to hear their leader speak let out a collective sigh, a purging of life-breath, tinged with sadness, hope, regret. The Farikh brought his speech to a close, plucked one long, white hair from his worn old scalp and let it dance on the breeze towards his people.
A low, mournful horn was blown, and it seemed as though the trees themselves wept into the reverberations that crept through their ancient tendrils. Blossom rained down on the once nomadic people of Drehjnev, spinning in tiny vortexes around the feet of the children who sat at the base of the lectern. The poet laureate, in his deep green robe and mask of pheasant feathers, walked towards the front of the crowd, his footsteps in time with the guttural coughing of many horns. Twigs snapped beneath his bare, calloused feet, and the trees continued to cry their white feathered tears onto his long dark hair. With a deep voice, the laureate sang the old songs of Drehjnev. He sang of how they, the people and the ancestors of the people, had travelled far between the floodlands. Of how their ancestors had awoken in smoke, and had to herd their cattle for decades to find pastures. Of how the first Farikh Al Dromoshvya had brought order into chaos, creating the beauty of ceremony , the communion with the promised land of Drehjnev. The poet stamped his feet three times onto the grass, and the music softened, became a single, deep, throbbing hum. He threw his head back, and bellowed “The sky turned the deepest Kracznow grey with the beating of a thousand wings!” The crowd stood up, the bells and charms around their waists chiming, and replied: “And our forefathers were but yellow birds held underground, trapped in stasis, unmoving in amber. We sing to our beloved Farikh, who taught us love, and thus he made us free”. Cymbals crashed, feet began to stamp, and horns were blown in rhythm as the children of Drehjnev began to dance, and cheer, and weave between the trees and resting cattle.

The one hundred and sixteenth Farikh Al Dromoshvya could hear the revelry as he walked slowly, with his ancient’s gait, back to the abode that his title granted him. He smiled to himself as he opened the heavy door, glad that his people were happy; that they should not mourn for what they knew was coming. The Farikh’s hard, leathery soles climbed into the high seat of his study, and with a twinge of fear moving through his chest, the Farikh knew that he must now turn his attentions to The Art of Dying. For as long as there had been a succession of Farikh Al Dromoshvyas, there had been the book, the impenetrable ancient history of his people; written through visions in the dying hours of those selected to lead. Each Farikh, for one hundred and sixteen generations, had managed to write a page of shaky, barely legible script, telling what appeared to be a singular narrative received at the hour of death. The story told of two figures – often seen as gods or deities of past civilisations – from many centuries before the floods, and contained words and concepts long since lost to the people and leaders of Drehjnev. The book was, to the nation, evidence of the nation’s divine nature. Not even the greatest scribes could fully decipher the complexities of the visions, or see beyond the mundane, surface nature of the jagged indigo ink symbols on the old, old paper.

The current Farikh, dressed in his cotton shroud, opened the book to page number one hundred and sixteen. It was empty, blank. He knew he had at least an hour before the time of his death, he could feel the coldness of it lapping, coming like small waves on the shore of his being. Every seventh wave was a large one, enveloping a part of his body, sapping away at his consciousness and replacing lucidity with new, strange scenes. He could see the moment of his birth, so very clearly. His mother lay down her pestle, and gripped the bridles of her cattle until her hands bled, the life spasms wracking her body, tossing her fragile form as if it were a wooden poppet being thrown about in the white waters of the river Granscz. He could see his initiation as a novice, on his fifth birthday, and the nervousness he felt as he sang the laureate’s song to his tutors. He could see their astonished faces, their eyes light up with the subtle inflections of his sung vowels, the improvisation on the basic, ancient melody. The one hundred and fifteenth Farikh Al Dromoshvya had died only a week before, and within a month the child had been inaugurated, and shown the book that lay before his old, shaking hands.

The Art of Dying had commenced its dance. The Farikh had burnt the edges of the sage, its pale blue smoke curled around the old mans black eyes and tattooed scalp. With a strained breath, and a cracked, fearful voice, he began to speak words he had heard only once before, as a small child, confusedly wearing the ceremonial headdress of the leaders of Drehjnev . ‘I am the black bird, I am the sky. I am the past moments, wrapped in the roots of a world-tree. I am the water sipped by stone, and held on the feathers of my people’s wing. I am the black bird, I am the sky. I am the past moments, wrapped in breath of my birthing cattle. I am the water sipped by stone, and held on the feet of smaller lives.’ As the dark, nebulous air of the room began to slip away, the one hundred and sixteenth Farikh Al Dromoshvya dipped his quill into the indigo pot at his side, and wrote, continuing through visions and a quivering hand the ancient history of the founders of the nation of Drehjnev, documenting the final moments before the great alignment of celestial bodies, before the great floods. He saw.

* * * * * *

“It’s on days like these,” he said, “That I can’t help thinking of my roots.”
The conversation died in the air, the last syllables that dripped from Joseph’s mouth had already been sucked into the plastic receiver, and trapped with the slamming down of hands on ringing metal. Then spoken vowels dawdled along fibre-optic cables at a sluggish speed of light, ripping themselves between the wooden obelisks of Britain’s telecommunication system before failing to leap out the other end into Tanya’s straining ear. The whole redundant journey was over in a billionth of a second, a sub-atomic tragic race which ended with a peculiar sort of resolution for Tanya. The line was dead before the words reached her cocked head, and the flat tone sidled up against her ear, its drone confirming nothing other than that she no longer loved him.

Of course, she had suspected this for some time. It was her twenty-fourth birthday.

Joseph walked away from his land-line telephone, switched off his mobile and threw himself onto his settee sideways, so as to land with a leg dangling over one of the arms of the soft, charcoal grey fabric monstrosity that sat, bloated and obese, in the centre of his living room. He scratched himself, and scrabbled around in the swollen cleft of the seat, searching for the controls to the television. His eyes fixed on the coffee table, a black cypress rectangle standing upright like a squat sentinel in the sea of magnolia. There was a slight stain marring the otherwise flawless veneer. Tanya had left her mug of peppermint tea there last night, and the condensation had left a herbal goitre, a single semen coloured ring on the surface. Joseph set about removing the stain with a succession of different fabrics. Once satisfied, he leaned back, one soft white hands reached behind his head to adjust the tan suede cushions, and the other negotiated the television controls.
It was a Wednesday afternoon, which meant the glowing tube that leered from the corner of the room did so in a more polite, ordered way, showing cartoons of plastic violence and spewing idiocy into the minds of the young. Joseph hated kid’s telly. He was an adult – he had unfolded himself from an awkward adolescence six or seven years ago, he had let go of all the play-dough magics of his early years and had long since trampled them underfoot; the cystic yellows of his youth mingled with ashen tones until there was nothing but monochromes clinging to his otherwise pristine brown leather brogues.

Joseph looked up. The sky had turned a deep grey, and he could hear the beating of a thousand wings outside his window. The rain began to fall.




Benjamin Jiva Dasa Norris

Memory (2008 ) is the latest commissioned sculpture to be housed within the German Guggenheim gallery in Berlin. Its creator, Anish Kapoor, uses the stark, white space to accentuate the scale and confrontational aspects of his latest work to generate a lasting, stunning impact.

Memory consists of a twenty-four ton Cor-Ten steel tank; its outer shell an almost fragile looking rust-covered collection of tiles (the earthy, almost bloody pigment is perhaps the most immediate reminder that this is a Kapoor piece) seamlessly held together, creating delicate curves and leering bulges which almost glance the sides of the gallery walls and ceiling, and causing something of a disconcerting sense of the defiance of gravity in the room – it feels as though the tank should not be able to sit as still and sentinel-like as it does, as if the entire colossus could roll in somnambulance to one side at any moment.

To say that Memory is confrontational is perhaps an understatement. The piece literally looms in the viewers face, reminding us of our own relatively tiny scale, and of our positions within the gallery itself. Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the installation is its purposeful inaccessibility; we are forbidden to duck beneath the curving hulk of iron and see behind it, instead we must exit the gallery and re-enter with fresh eyes through another door, into a brighter, whiter space to observe the other side of the tank, the back of which has a more flattened, less familiar plane, made all the more unmovable and alien by the brief moment just spent between entrances on the busy street outside. Kapoor almost teases us with disorientation; we cannot help but want to view the sculpture as a whole, the very way our minds (but not our memories) work creates a sense of longing for a little distance, a little space to better apprehend the piece as a whole.

The next dimension of Memory is accessed through the gift shop of the Guggenheim. Again, a minute of familiarity, distraction; up a small set of stairs and down another, before we realise we are to one side of the sculpture, staring into its belly through an aperture in the wall it rests against. Kapoor has managed to create a true void; beyond a couple of inches of the rusty metal shell, we see nothing. Blackness. Depth incalculable, and volume incomprehensible. The meaning of the installation’s title starts to make sense as one looks into the darkness: By segmenting our viewpoints and taking full control of the ways in which we can see the sculpture, Kapoor forces the viewer to use their own memories to try, and fail, to construct an image of the whole in their own minds. This idea of ‘mental sculpture’ has less to do with the steel tank, and far more to do with the individuals movements around the tank: memory as a fleeting, unreachable creation made up of singular, mental images from different viewpoints. The void itself, a triangle of black space, acts as an empty canvas (for the darkness is so complete from certain angles it looks as though it is a flat, two-dimensional plane, a black square mounted onto a white wall) for the mind to attempt to sketch the image onto.

By fracturing both physical and mental space, Kapoor creates a steel metaphor for the intimacy of the individual’s memories and the cognitive process. Like our own memories and dreams, Memory is viewed in a third person perspective – whether standing at the front, to the rear or looking within the sculpture, we cannot help but mentally place ourselves at the other points. From each perspective we must mentally take ourselves back through a set of doors, or up and down a small flight of stairs to attempt to comprehend the mass that fills the space we stand in. In this way, Memory is permanently situational, its true physical, tangible nature remaining nebulous. No matter how quickly we move through the doors and around the heaving curves of steel, no matter how firmly we hold images in our mind, each moment we place ourselves in and see as ‘present’ immediately disappears into the past with each and every movement of the self.

Tiny Jungles

410-lipstick20plant20trinidadI shall pull away with my jackdaw’s hands
Your bed from my ageing frame –
It’s forestry and troupe of fools
That spin around your thighs.
I shall push my nails beneath
The leaves of skin I leave behind;
Dust and suet, all the kings men,
Between your filthy window frames
I would tear out thirty
Pieces of silver to be
Somewhere between
The new woods and you.

How We Used To Speak

For Matthew R Webber

height=”309″ />rimbaud

“Singing for the love of broken horses

On twisted palisades, stretching to the left

A thousand ringing symbols

Falling from palms like

The archer on his knees,

The whip-bearer whispers

Into unborn ears

Dripping, filling up poppy cups

(Each war is exactly the same)”.


“Cutting cacti with leathered soles,

A view of three boys, from this

Hotel room – either east or west.

Separated by tastings, goblets raised

To the king, the king is dead.

Long life is overrated.”

Can you hear him? I thought I could.

Fluting breath – even here, now! No.

Eastwards of a Southern service

Between sips of communion piss,

Small talk from smaller minds –

Oh, months apart.

We used to talk so much, heavy vines

Hanging from your battered lips

Which wrapped around the forking paths

That fell, stony, from my chipped teeth.

Your hands are worked, man,

But not as worn as I remember them

In a hired room hot with dust,

Our voices excited with old songs and

Unread books.

I gave you cracked paint, you gave me

The words which I could see with.

It has been too long, friend.

Lower your eye.

Was there ever even envy?

Viscous tar-like matter knocked from ears

Thick with insect legs,

Or scrabbling around a coffee table

That we adorned with Sunday mornings.

We used to dance, as well, you and I.

We smuggled Czech glass

Beneath our greatcoats

(All the better to prick and probe).

Do you remember the horror of the hostess?

The time we shocked the Christmas

Out of those who questioned our crowns?

We have not the time for darkened air

To taint the corners of our visions.

Sunrise In Vrindavana





















Morning was slow to come

On the grey, silt banks of the Yamuna river.

But still, it came as it always does –

Bouncing off of terrapin shells

And the matted hair of older gods.

Old Song

flamenco202Many thanks to Matt for the future-memory and one of the best lines a poem can have. Oh, to head Westwards…


















One, two, three, four.


The soles are revealed

With the undressing of the dancer

Ready to pour a tray of flames

Down the spine of those who stop to watch.


A stamping from such shallow heights

Signals the need for minute rapture

And carafes pause in their pouring,

Captured, silent, seven


Pairs of black eyes fix themselves

On old, old blood sewn in

The bustles formed around her hips

As six new strings breathe earth again.


This is the third, tonight

And those who watch, agape, may tell

Something was sealed

And fired in terracotta, for all


Like brush-strokes in the hands

Of a master on the scaffold

Telling old stories

In new and fearful ways


(See, children come and children grow

But still speak of Michelangelo)


But this set down

In dried mud and hay

And this is much more

Than an old dance in Spain.


For what are we are but stories?

Beaten into earth

And formed between the toes, woken

By the finger-snaps of dancers in old dust.


(And this is why we listen

And this is why we watch

And why we should not mourn for that

Which is never lost).



I was reminded of that day

Before you were even born, when

Snow came to the Basque region. It

Settled with its tents and self-cleansing

Stakes that pierced

An arid lip in the vineyards that lay

Fallow this year (though long before

The wet luxury of choice filled the hearts

And wooden knuckles of the hungry).


Indentations seemed to manifest.

The shape of foot-falls pressed in powder.

Every seventh step bore a fruit, or

The suggestion of a flower – perhaps

A mallow from Albion, or

Bergamots from Turkey. It was early morning.


He soon was noticed, though, carrying a heavy

Twisted staff of Cypress wood, like

Some sort of Saint, he was. Bearded,

Sombre in his movements.

Slow in stature. Old.


It took him a long time

To walk above the sleeping furrows. And

The bent old women, their faces

Many calendars of baking sun shrunk back

Old what were now cold and brittle bones,

They stood up, pulled the shawls

Around their sons, and rubbed the residue

Of March-earth into tiny knots


Between each finger. They watched him.

Presently, the old man spoke. He spoke of change,

Reminded them of things they had all

Vanquished from collective memory.

He spoke of movement, of travel

Between lands, he shook with a sad,

Rehearsed laughter when he saw the boundary

Formed by the valley’s zenith, and pulled his

Coats close around his throat.


And the townswomen soon saw him

Sink below the ridge from view.

Every seventh footstep clearing snow

To make way for that which grows

Beneath the hardest, oldest bark

Or the most aged, tired hands.