This was first published in Angel Exhaust Ten, edited by Andrew Duncan, its publication solicited, I believe, by John Wilkinson, for which much thanks. It’s an interesting (I hope) hybrid of the Cambridge School and large doses of Lorca. I don’t know if the magazine is still available, but, just in case, here it is. It’s part of a large group of poems that have never been published, entitled VALUE.
‘A walled dream in which I am stupid
or a bullfighter’
He wants to make it more perfect.
The beaker belongs in his hand and a golden
armpit over his mouth can’t stop their
vicious whispers for more than a beat.
He is living in the surf.
The music belongs to them that
his feet will dance from, scared
to find himself
the dancer in their despite.
No one has told him off for a thousand years.
How does he know what to do?
He began by counting the waves
that rising now will engulf him
and he knows their numbers as beads of white
or as the scattering of white birds,
numbers revealing his pitiful age.
That pleasure is his for a moment
and the bending of a suddenly prolonged
lightning toward his feet, which burn.
When one day he will count ten fingers
on both his hands, and know himself whole.
And then he will be noticed,
everyone moving harmoniously
round the green walls of his harbour
which is all commotion.
to celebrate the departure of calm
as a breach in the climate, are pinkly
vacant. And he is happy
to be lost among friends, whose concern
is the delicate frill of his suit.
He gathers them up as fruit in his gloves.
He is the work of his own dismayed genius.
An amphora found in the city after
excavation crumbles into dust, his mother’s
arm. To the applause of crowds
he runs through the dance that will
fire their alien tribunes, who scrape and bow.
His charm is to be foolish as they are
foolish, with his wrists in a bowl of acid.
They have come so far for nothing but his smile
they can barely see in the earthbound light
what children they are. Those he has banished
gather in their nets
while a red tongue licks from a cloud.
These have been spared, in the great
waves they are crushed to infinite sand.
He raises a finger and a new music is born.
An acrobat turns on the stars to scream.
Let blood. Peel off his nipples,
starfish. The philosophic jaw
swings over his tranquil harbour,
midges on its slowly-dissolving
yellow screen. Not soft enough
to be wrought as the landing-stage
sets up a film he saw years ago
in the bright arena, and bled.
He cannot bear that flatulent music.
His love has become grenades in the arms of girls.
They take him by the nose through mirrors
that mistake the word ‘ghetto’ for ‘grotto’.
Under the rain he makes sisters out of flowers and owls.
The house is sliding. Where is the house?
He is walking uphill between sofas and trays of cachous.
He is a black man making good.
He is searching for strangers of his own kind.
Glass-like, they wait by his raised eye
for kisses and a basket of
wounded hair. The girls explode.
Alone now, he presses his thumb
against the neck of the vase.
He rests an ear on the stalk of its green throat.
Casually spread with gold
the evening dips in his throat
a violent rod, the engine of desire just
turning over as it probes, its stations
revolving as echoes in the machine.
Goldenrod. Love. The break of the lights
on the turrets, swinging his way.
He pauses for the applause of guns
to fathom his silence. He looks like
winning when a breach appears in the smoke,
his seventh labour
barely begun. A little wound.
He is wearing that horrible light
that is love for others. Windily showing
his disregard he sloughs it off as
symptom of a gilt and whore-like age.
Glistening in what darkness becomes him
now and as though at rest
in the colonnade of his bones a dog barks
to be put to sleep. They dance in each other’s eyes,
ten boys with the gestures of one, a curtain
straining to be closed.
If anyone answers he is lost,
beginning to die for the others.
In a palmful of water his velvet cries
are expanding always
expanding into muscle.
The weight of his sinews is covered in fur,
hysterical and white as a fountain.
A snowman. Kissing its scandalous mouth
he is gifted with the gift of words
to cord his thighs, to make lifting a bird
in the lightning, to silence the clouds,
to tell him what he wants to hear,
the numeracy of the bone structure,
the bees in the throat chamber making music,
dresses that heal the sadly distended armies,
the dream that occurs as a junction box
to re-route the seasons into his mouth.
Blue smoke that bears no repetition,
that stutters its cloud-like past
within the bell, the clamour of its wanting
waking the man. He is a statue
under the watery feet of Goths,
he is a heart of legendary blackness,
he is a vein
that runs from that heart
towards a singing and vacant history
of the self among roses and storks
tattooed on a chest, he is a dragon
mounting a girl, he is a girl, he is a clock
dismembered by horses in Paris in the rain,
he is a table made of flesh
in an empty house by a lake,
his filth and compromise
the breaking of love against a coast
suddenly there, its whiteness
and the fluted numbers.
Thus he’s divided
into cards and their numerous arrangements for death
around a central point, where he is perfect
as the decorative art of his veins shall become.