Exchanging names like strangers
in a lifeboat. You say to me
“Let’s sleep for half an hour.”
Laughing as you reach beneath my t-shirt.
There is nowhere I can go now.
I jump forward in time from moon
to core to nebula.
A face I could not reconcile
with all those drinks I longed to taste
just once with you. Your face
was something new to taste.
To hold you near was something new,
a kind of mild celebrity. The subject changed
from day to day, the things we knew.
The things we did not know.
I never knew the proper form, your lips were full
of things to sell. But what was that?
I couldn’t say.
The prototype you hung to dry
so many brawne girls gleaming white.
Each part of you was brawne itself
your colour and your apple scent.
I never caught you in a line at sea or under
amber skies; we never spoke of it at all.
Your body slipped through every sign.
Sometimes you seemed a different brawne
your skin and hair and eyes would change
and I’d not recognise the title of that song
you’d hum quite tunelessly.
You’d smile and there was nothing
I could place between. No arcady or temple glade
no Beatles B side ‘Thank You Girl’,
no crass electric century, the waking dream
you left behind.
How simple then, this action hardly noticed
by an unrewarded glance, made sense.
Mere minutes spent alone with you
I would defend most savagely.
To watch you sleep, your neckline full of sun
not watching you at all, no time to see
this turn from truth to beauty with forgetfulness.
Full brawne and lovely with your laugh
an opening or a closing scene, one day
so full of heat, where we would always lie
by swimmers till the end of day.
In carnivorous winter, inhaling
the airwaves like smoke and a smell
of leaves there’s no reason to think
that the night is so still and so small;
you carried me here in your jaws
and once I felt your teeth in me.
Soft as applause.
A violet fuzz that’s so hot in the rain.
I am no stranger to the moon’s extinctions
soaked to the cotton bone, as eyes
ignite so ardent and bewildered.
Only dizzy with your tongue and tiger’s mouth.
In white dressing gown
she curls her hair, and talks
The moon shifts orbit by a shadow’s length.
Looks out of place.
And I like
to know that there is nothing
I can say.
A small flame falling through
a darkened library.
‘So many unsolved mysteries’
thought Philip Marlowe quietly.
And I like the way all things
come to an end outside her window.
And I like the way she takes
her time to tell me where she’ll be.
And I like the way she gives
herself the chance to look away.
And I like to know there is nothing
in the world that I can say.
Something that whispers
itself ‘Pacific’, or
the pause between,
that cheerful look of mayhem
on your face, goes on ahead
Talking on the phone, I see you voiceless
wearing the red bra you showed me
for luck or the crook of your elbow.
How your left arm falls
where the last word can only be languid .
Here then, you might say, I have it.
One word that is more than to forget.
The phone that rang for me once
at 4.am. I never heard.
Humans love this new technology
that uses its ghosts with such economy.
later where people come walking
their dogs in the afternoon.
Sunshine. So normal.
It’ll be hard to find a place
to lie down with you. That’s all
I want. Wrapped up in our coats
and scarves. I like it there
where the sand is full of old sun-cream.
Bodies who have left their scents
by their side. Things that have
rubbed off and released.
Whatever you would want or would not wish
to be is here. The spoils of happiness.
The view eight stories high that shows
you traffic and a cheap hotel. An ashtray
stained with caramel, too many birds that hide
behind too many leaves.
Too much to learn from angles in the Doric columns,
corners facing corners. Maps are sold like tickets
to a murder; it intrigues you just the same,
your private theatre, confessional or bridge.
It left no scar. It was far
I want to be awake, when you’re awake.
I want to be asleep, when you’re asleep.
In the cold nicotine drag of Monday
I want to taste the coffee when you taste it,
to hear the traffic argue when you do.
I want to move alone through an empty room
and make myself a mask of calm prepared
to meet you. I am never prepared to meet you.
I want to put my body between you on
the subway when the people stare.
I want them to stare at me. I want to stare
them down for you. I want to feel tired
and satisfied when you feel the day is one
long bus ride.
Today she is different wearing
the same colours she was wearing
yesterday. She has withdrawn
and she has not withdrawn. I have
laughed and not made a sound.
In these moments we are both
entangled in a clear blue sky.
The beauty and the fear that are half
a person each. Buildings stand
and do not stand a thousand years
or more. The last time I saw her
there was no sun or moon.
I felt both empty and complete
with the pure simplicity of opposites.
The way I could tell her anything
and see her smiling shake her head.
I miss that old apartment and my calendar.
How many weeks was that counting the rooftops
and antennae. I liked the early evening there,
the scent of old sheets waving friends goodbye.
The bed was wide and easy to forget.
The door was strong and easy to make safe.
Woke by an aftershock one morning
I enjoyed the sole possession. I kept
it clean and tidy, smelling good. The walls
were warm outside you faded in
and out sometimes.
Some nights I’d take a call and leave
to meet you by a fountain or a bridge.
Two hours on foot to cross I was corrupted
by the green glass dawn.
Your voice was softer than your skin
with words you used and years
before that made you theirs like drinks
and chemicals and other men.
Today I saw someone who asked no questions
in whose face I saw no rain. Someone with my face
was idly checking their reflection for calamity.
Just a perfect shave or the quizzical birdlike
gaze of an older man as I breathed out the desert.
For days I had avoided it that frozen meteor.
It hit without a sound. Five oceans rose.
I could not say that’s how it felt to me. One year
ago my life was full of echoes. You do not feel
those points of impact, worlds in darkness
worlds in light. A thousand hours to simply
walk you home.
Those thin shreds of light on my ceiling
tell me nothing that I don’t already know.
She is there behind the window and the wall
rolling it round like the world
between my fingers or the cigarette
you let me place between your lips.
1 October 2015