The Gift Of Bees
After Osip Mandelstam
I see the moon with the whites of my eyes.
Night’s way of falling takes one unawares.
Sleep comes before you hear the creak of the world’s axis.
I offer you a rosary bead of dead bees,
that flitted from flower to flower in the forest,
turning honey into sunshine. Kiss, and you’re stung forever.
A Life Of His Own
Pepe comes into the bar when it’s closing
to see if he can be useful cleaning up.
He drinks off the dregs as an advance payment,
and disappears out the back to sort the bins.
It’s understood that he can keep the empties.
He always dresses as for an occasion,
not a big one, but deserving of respect.
The peaked cap is uplifted like a joke salute,
bodyfitting black pantaloons, red singlet,
fragrant from weekly trips to the launderette.
On Sundays he’s off duty, drinks canned beer,
shuffling through the streets, contemptuous of dogs
and gendarmes. Even more alone than usual.
I want to talk to him, but he’s closed down for repairs.
There’s too much traffic on the road to nowhere,
a route I’d like to share in brotherly love
with him, who seems not burdened with life’s cares
anymore than your average scavenger
in the leavings of others. He’s got enough
to get along. The butt from the gutter flares.
What Remains To Be Said
After Rimbaud’s ‘Le Dormeur du Val’
I’ve fallen for the idea
the unknown soldier is me.
The mountain stream has dried up.
So there is no reflection.
I pick up the evidence.
And it could be an old goat
who chewed his beard until all
that remains is the chin-bone.
I talk to it like Hamlet.
Speak for yourself, it snaps back.
After Rimbaud. Before Verlaine
It’s time to let myself surf on a wave that doesn’t know
whether it’s coming in or out. I must stop reading the papers,
and wrap them around a bottle. I could do with a drink
for the road inland to the mountain which will shelter me.
I can walk on air when the going gets rough, and arrive
nowhere in particular, to lay my head under the stars
on a bed of green and silver as moonlight falls like sleep.
I pick up the smell of watercress once I clear my nose
in this valley of tears. Whether of joy or pain, who cares?
I hear the grass grow in the stream that runs under me.
It clouded like absinthe in my dream, and now bubbles
over with light as the day comes up. My eyes open
to a world I have almost forgotten, and I see
the mist rising on a state of mind that is at peace.
Mounting The Descent
The black ragged cloud circling the moon
augurs ill. But you’ve gone too far to go back.
The path narrows and perishes into snow.
Around you always higher mountains to assume.
Behind a whispering tells you where to go.
It’s time to catch up. You’re ahead of yourself.
Fresh footprints take shape to mark out the attack.
They fade like snail-trails returning to their shells.
The sky has fallen into the lower depths.
The moon withdrawns into a bottomless lake,
whose lack of echo tells you it’s going nowhere.
Stand still and freeze to death. You retrace your steps.
Craters encrust the tracks left in your wake.
If you miss your footing you would walk on air.
A Public Place
After Rimbaud’s ‘Royauté’
The mignonne, always on her own
in the streets of Bras de Venus,
walks with a wobble. This poem
will be the first words between us.
She doesn’t talk. I’ve watched her grow
from a small child with an orphan air,
and frizzy curls, as white as snow,
to a gothic ado: black hair
straight from hell. But the smile has changed.
The fixed look of suspended joy
with puce eyelines is more deranged.
Although it remains a trompe-l’oeil.
Her darkening guise can’t conceal
the shyness of a sweet little face
refusing the world that I feel
familiar with. Still there is grace
in her pale lassitude, a soft
stain left by a stolen picture,
which carbon-dates a real Van Gogh
sunflower. Bypassers are unsure
if she is the queen of the fair
or a dirty biker on the loose.
As she makes her way to nowhere
that we know, it’s for her to choose.
The Comfort Zone
Warmth has been my friend.
Now she is leaving me.
Cooling off in the end
is normal entropy.
So let your grieving be.
She’d stand in her warm coat
lingering for a while
to say goodbye. I note
the warmth of her smile,
and of what is not me.
I know I am wished well,
but it’s more the pity:
if she left in a hell
of a fury, tant pis,
I’d say, and would feel free
to freeze to death, a state
that nature intended
for all, the common fate
when the lifeline’s ended.
I’d leave behind the hate.
Instead I must regret
the pleasure of waking
up beside her in bed
when a new day’s breaking
with all our life ahead.
Making A Mark
I may not have kept on my feet in life’s rolling maul,
but I was always calm under the high dropping ball.
Waiting For The Widow Bols
If the Widow Bols
doesn’t finish her dinner
she feeds it to the cats.
Every night on the steps
of her house,
they wait in hope.
I’m waiting for mine,
more in faith than charity.
If I don’t clean my plate,
I won’t get a pudding.
A glass of water is clear
A glass of water is not clear
A glass of not clear water is clear
A glass of not clear clear water is not
Clear water is not in a glass
You have to swim out