My Writing Space
The Last Refuge
Burial at Sea
Every day Paul Valéry must see the sea to assure himself life
will go on with, or without, him (Heraclitus’s struggle and strife
is organised by Poseidon to sustain itself with an ebb
and flow till the cosmos ceases).
Tom Moore saw it as a self-renewing egg
fertilised by the pull of the moon that hatches tides that drain and swell,
the white flies in the wind as spume, the yolk basculates in its shell.
Byron laughed. ‘Poetical Tom! But letting your sad metaphor ride
the Mediterranean is too hardboiled. It doesn’t have a tide.’
Shelley won’t have any, full fantom five, haunting the marine bed
near Leghorn. ‘This ocean’s gaining its influence from bodies long dead,
burnt out suns lingering in the light they died in.’ So I measure
the watermark and find it changes when the sun’s low on the shore
in the winter solstice.
The shift of the sandline hardly troubles
the beached boats, or horses galloping along. I trace in the bubbles
left behind on withdrawal, the lip of a solar meniscus.
And hear in the movement of pebbles its miniscule slush slush.
The Golden Mile
The golden days of my youth
were a wash out. All that rain,
and dead leaves clog up the shute.
The overflow made a drain
of the streets on which floated
the swans of the Mercy nuns,
and the second-hand bookshop,
and grain the ships unloaded.
All into the river runs.
Jeez, when will it ever stop?
Just as well I learned to swim
in the city baths, which stank
of Palmer Lyons’ toilet in
The Mall. Past the Savings Bank,
Harbowlings, and the Band Stand
by the Pylon, the boat club
pavilions which look grand
on a sunny Sunday. Grub
eels catch salmon bass when pinned
on gut. Down the Marina
where elegant elms, more sinned
against than sinning, lean a
last sigh. At the estuary’s mouth
at Blackrock Castle always stand
herons on one leg. Swept out
by Little Island to Lakelands
where the currents at full tide
take you where you want to go
on a porpoise’s back. A ride
all the way to Eldorado.
What’s Doing Up There
After a disappointing evening at the philosopher’s stone
I go out to clear my mind, and the ground I stand on tells me,
‘In not mastering the mystery of things you’re not alone.
But know the soul’s gold resides in the lungs. You must breathe easily’.
So I stamp on the dead leaves, and the air smells of grass growing.
The cold calculation of the night sky stares down. I’m a known.
A voice brings me back to brass-tacks. ‘What star were you born under?’
It’s my rival thinker, the sixties drop-out from Nowhere.
‘Ah, Welsh’, I say. ‘All heavenly bodies get an equal share.
What the First Cause puts together cannot be pulled asunder.
‘I feel sad looking at what I don’t understand. It’s beautiful,
but what is it for?’ My mystic friend reads my thoughts. ‘I’m a chancer
with ideas like everybody else, and suit the facts so I can be cool
about my flickering life.’ I recant. ‘By the way, it’s Cancer.’
The Body of the Work
A hair rather than the hair.
A grain of sand, not a pinch.
My bits and pieces inch
towards oblivion where
poetry for me is dust.
But what matters lingers
in the cracks. It’s still in hand.
I pleat the hair, sift the sand,
and let it pass through my fingers,
and in longevity trust.
A Happy Job
The happy should have a poet
to put in words what they feel.
He’d have a life by remote.
And the happy wouldn’t just squeal.
I’ll offer my services to
some cheerful chap whose bonheur
should be enough for two.
It will be a poetry share.
The first one that I buttonholed
handed me over his joy.
And I worked on it to mould
it into mine. My new toy.
So I spent a happy hour
exulting on his behalf.
Then I gave him back his flower.
A daffodil that was daft.
It was withered, like his smile,
and looked sad on his lapel.
My conceptual flower, meanwhile,
blooms eternally. Smell.
A Word with My Guardian Agent
I was never abused as a child.
So there isn’t a novel in me.
What’s called destiny has neither smiled,
nor given me cause for self-pity.
So drama’s out. No tragi-comedy.
I found I’d life on my hands, and spit
to mould into shape as best I could.
That I made a right sausage of it
goes without saying (read my obit).
So my poetry couldn’t be any good.
Exile has taught me the odd home truth.
But where’s home anymore? In the wild
the stray imagination takes root
nowhere in particular. By repute
I’m a ghost writer. My own one. Filed
in a nameless vault. Who cares a hoot?