Poetry

If you find poetic expression adds meaning, this page may interest you. If you would like to see more of this from a number of writers, look into Dhamma Moon.

*****

 

Reunion

 

Light is not kind, but it’s a given.

 

Music too, inner music;

not the constructed but the felt:

 

when there is meeting in presence

and ‘not me not you’ is sounding

the resonances that blood and nerve were born for.

 

No retake, no da capo, no refrain.

This is not about a woman with lovely eyes.

 

And when my dwindling tribe gather,

we smile and squeeze, but, like grafted fingers,

we don’t snap out a beat.

Our theme is in the slow nods,

and in a voice going throaty as it stumbles

at the place where heart lost its flight.

 

Lived-in skies are not clear blue.

 

And the cloudy mottle is no less true

than the brassy summer

we camped under trees and talked with the stars;

or the gusts of our lifetime

with its crescendoes and encores

sucking us in, and blowing us out.

 

Now we share echoes; with their listening

and lull.

And the need for deep night.

 

This darkness too is a given;

it is the colour of the private life.

The colour beneath a folding wing.

 

Dance-master to the days,

it keeps them trim,

gives us tempo,

cues ‘hold your breath’ swoops —

 

then throws its cloak over the tracks.

 

 

 

 

*****

 

 

Passage

 

I’m not seeking a thing among things.

The journey East, my fiftieth year,

the tide’s tremble and turn towards sunrise

 

opens – into the mandala of light.

My passage is like a flung stone’s skimming –

out of my hand, across wave after wave,

 

snatching ripples from the sea’s lips.

Galaxies sparkle in the water’s parting;

the wake’s merge nods a recognition.

 

No advice; just a weightless reminder

that every shore I’ve left, and what I say I am,

are rainbows – on fire with light’s falling.

 

 

*******

 

 

After the words moved on

 

 

They recognised their failure

crept away amid murmurs of respect

 

the fluid spaces open

trailing warm moments through my skin

 

a cluster of dislocated ampersands pause

look up and settle into a parenthesis

 

that frames the heads of tall grasses

nodding in the August meadow

 

a ragwort exclaims in its yellow

Earth’s ineluctable call

 

to descend into the broad field of sanity

where soul is a shared journey

 

dream it in the windy leaf-dance

cry it in buzzard be a listening circle

 

keep walking through my foggy aloneness

I am human

 

climb through my snotty opinions

o selfing world

 

if this body is not deafened

and this voice now unbidden

 

it’s because I’ve come to the edge

of how I can grow on this Earth

 

where all that has been given

is moving beyond me

 

and I am just a questioning mark

after which there is one deep indent

 

in beauty, this passing

in beauty, this passing

 

and a line break

 

******

 

 

Blind Men’s Story

 

We began with a look

We built up a picture, we knocked out some space

We built in dimensions and a place for nothing

We built a truth in the nothing, it was stark, it was lonely

We built another, they fought

We built another and another and another

We built so many they made a world in the nothing, going this way and that

So we built an it for the coming and going to play with

We built a name for it, with a mast, rudder and sail, it sank

We built it a hand, we asked for a loan, it clenched

We built it an eye, it looked at us

 

It screamed

 

We built it a reason to be

It grew an appetite and horns

We built on previous knowledge

It grew dark, it grew twisted and yawned

We built it a telescope, a laser, a cyclotron

It grew like the sun and swallowed its traces

We built a word to sum it up

It grew a doubt with a body like a snake, it wriggled through

We built a sigh to soothe it

It grew five feet and danced

We built an ideology to lift it off the ground

It grew inside-out, pulled out its entrails, plucked a tune and

roared its battle cry

It grew like the rumour that nothing was wrong

It grew out of the nothing with feelers of joy

We built a brick to hold it all down

It grew like the dawn in the docks when the fishing boats return

We built it all that we knew

We built it as best as we could

It grew a voice that’s murmuring under our ribs

It grew an ear like the night

It grows very close, closer by the hour

 

We have to keep running and running

 

******

The Whiteness of Buddha

 

The no-point where momentum stops

that’s his

in the time

when our tides run into white

 

not snow-blanket white

but the white

that colours fall back from

searing reds sobbing blues

 

the way the sea falls back

eventually

the shore gets drier

in earshot of water

 

dry knowing of tide-lunge and suck

dry hearing

the gnash hiss

and sea-mumbled mantras

 

no fog no rolling on

the air is so clear

it draws me upright

to walk in the promise

 

and I could fashion the moonrise smile

the arms that frame

the world-meeting chest

thumb-tips in touch palms opening

 

as love ought to

does sometimes for a moment

in its moment

we could talk about that

 

it’s this white

that can’t be proclaimed

not the white of pigment

supremacy and flaming crosses

 

the white

of no-white

 

could as well be black

or the half-open gate

or your face rightly seen

released

 

stop

just stop.

 

We live at the prism’s edge

where light breaks into a language

of glowing forms

and futures

that belong to yesterday

 

********

Behind the Thunder

 

 

Hot and grumbling, the sky had to crack;

empty its belly into the cool.

Here nothing waits and nothing hurries.

 

Behind the weather it’s always blue.

 

I keep planning a journey that I know won’t happen.

Dates and places: lines in raw space,

along with what I ought to be:

 

smoke from the mind’s slow fire.

 

I could try to hold ground, but nothing does that.

May’s mouth spills flowers straight out of Botticelli,

dogwood blossoms offer up their cream –

 

their rise can roll on into fall.

 

And love and loss swing, slam and gape again;

even death’s threshold won’t lock.

This is our season. The one we can’t manage.

 

Storm tells a story, sunburst another.

 

And no one trusts the blue

that peers through our eyes and cups each breath,

that thread of rich flame.

 

It opens wherever I fade.

 

But the heat works us up while it lasts —

talking fast, spinning time –

to get blown into shape, like bowls of glass

 

that sing in the slippery air.

 

*****

Homeward Journey

 

 

Travelling, the location gets smaller:

a lodge, a room, a train, a car.

At the airport, it had come down

to my worn immediacy and zip-up bag –

and that lighter and less important now

with the‘return’label dangling down

like a notification of terminal disease.

And how much, then, does anything weigh?

Half my world goes down the belt…

 

…and in exchange, a right to passage,

a gate and seat are granted.And so it’s time

to cram with fellow dislocated cells

inside the hull…get comforted…get made secure…

The ground withdraws – and our lives suspend

like verbs become nouns, abstract, common:

inflexions sealed under a pressure

through which remote stewards flitter

bearing consolations wrapped in plastic.

 

I turn down the lot; let senses float

and pivot around a centring pulse

that, under the glass of my name and number,

resounds: this homeless tribe; this stretched-out,

unloved night; this journeying on,

strapped down in space, onwards, nowhere…

And I am dropping open – six miles up,

above the skin of restless nations.

Destination: the shared lost planet.

 

Shine on, our planet, under a pilgrim star.

Homewards is the farthest journey;

orbiting, off track, letting go;

the lurch, then the lift, snug into vastness.

 

 

******

South Island Refuge

 

 

Back groans to the wall;

bashed feet crawl out of my boots –

hut in the mountains,

north of Starvation Ridge.

 

Beanstew steams out clouds

warming my hands on the bowl.

One day’s supply burns:

I melt around its glowing.

 

White light sluicing down

through beech bearded with lichen.

Then the rain returns:

the soft rain, the wild rain.

 

Here past the storm’s gates

this cloud-world is unshaping

all green within green.

 

Joy goes no further than this.

 

 

*******

 

Falling like a Mountain

 

The moon-eye opens.

Mount Cook, splintered and sharp,

summons cosmos to witness.

The sky-bell is ringing.

 

I’m alone on the ridge.

From a distant hut, voices.

Crumbling, an avalanche roars.

Dies. Then slowly – another.

 

In the tense hold of mountains

my body goes foetal:

pink blob in a down bag,

under the stars’stare.

 

Out-breath…Then in-breath…

while a mind like a glacier

carves through purpose and being

as it grinds towards melt-down.

 

And a silence pregnant with falling.

 

 

******

 

Tree

 

At night, it’s a wild thing,

a raw shivering thing.

It wind-rants the revelation

beneath which my cottage recoils,

stiff and closed up tight,

roof numb to an engulfing cosmos

of vulnerable canopies:

shifting leaves, knowledge…space…

 

I know nothing fits this world

more truly. Nothing else

meets the wrestling and coupling

of earth and sky, squirming

and gnarled in their gristly grip;

twisting as they are twisted;

wholly burning in green;

opened, perfectly: tree.

 

A heartwood with no resignation.

Tree: rooted, utterly.

Downfaring the path of the fallen

through its own dead matter and seeds;

fed on human breakage, and animal remains.

The earth-quest, the descending;

the fine rootlets that probe past defeat.

 

Nothing delves into the underlife spring

so purely, and draws up its radiance.

There is no testament so crowned by April.

A sap-swollen joy! Every fibre,

work-hardened, defends the resurgence:

a summer spread out, leafing and easy.

 

Winter’s witness, limbs an accusation;

stripped bare, gale-kicked and shattered.

Curse, song or prayer can’t reach this far.

Nothing has worn out so much language

yet still holds its own ground:

upright, hammering and weeping.

 

 

*****

 

His Monster’s Voice

 

Take your needle out of my heart.

Your eye might grow pleased and dull.

Shadows don’t need fixing.

 

You’re a man of some substance –

an actor in and out of work

and no audience stays as loyal as me,

 

content to mutter from the basement

above which you stir from endangered dreams,

find a body, dress up and feed,

 

get into function, inhale the news,

reach for an upright with half-formed hands…

You try; you frown through the smoke

 

at the leather girls and the granite judge,

and cheer all your gold-foil heroes –

but you never cleaned your mirror.

 

Now you can’t find your own face.

 

But I’ll be there to sing for you

in the tides that pull you apart.

We’ve been through this so many times:

 

my need for a body, and to be seen;

your absences and cockeyed facts.

Maybe we could get a life.

 

Because a few have met me without alibis.

I was the tree that they dwelt under;

and they grew steady and serene

 

as all their knowing stopped.

Now their visions fade.

And nothing shines as bright through you

 

as the shadow you’ve made of me.

 

 

*****

 

Tracking the Centre

 

For a traveller

hanging off the railcar of the year,

arrival means thankfulness.

 

And an emptying out.

 

A fistful of dishonesties

let go

into the unglazed bowl of evening.

 

One tall black pine

bars the horizon.

A star holds the future’s vanishing-point.

 

Geese on the wing sound

and resound

skies where beingness softens,

 

skies of endless release.

 

I follow a blue that turns –

and returns each brittle heart-beat

to a dark like the wild deer’s eye.

 

 

*****

 

Spring in the Timeless City

 

When spring can arise in this tall-walled city,

the winds blow through it a scattering:

ashes from the heartlands, music from the ocean;

and names that flutter like tiny birds.

 

Then the people without faces wait,

perched on their balconies. Maybe a breeze

will form a nose from their dust…

or, if they hold out a socket, an eye-seed will land…

 

Meanwhile, those who can run many faces

are parading the streets to display them.

Faces are everywhere, laid out on the pavements

or hung up on walls for passers-by to admire –

 

or perhaps to make an acquisition:

a strong nose, a slender arched brow,

a set of full lips, a dimple, a smile…

Some take a whole face – or two, or three:

 

one for work, one for wearing at home,

and something special, for weekends away.

They soon wear out. Then it’s time for another.

An artist can make half a dozen a week

 

before they dry up. It’s tough work:

promises, small lies, obligations and will;

attempts to meet, or just to be seen –

all interwoven and tinted. Until the skull dies.

 

Those with only one face, the migrants,

are camped the other side of the river.

They came out of winter; it was all they had.

They fled the ice with just this loose bag of skin

 

with past, future and dreams stuffed inside it.

The stories! One gave his fine set of ears

to a grandmother; another, her mole

to an orphaned child. These people know who they are.

 

And no wonder they hold that one face so tight,

even as furies whisper down each nerve’s thread:

This is your father’s. This is your mother’s.

This was the accident. This, the disease.

 

So they fear any witness. As if from my perch

I could form, deform or destroy.

But I can’t wear that. I’m just a reporter –

and like you, a fool’s wind blew me here.

 

Where it rests, I sprout ears. They’re listening

like hounds that eagerly snuffle the evening air;

and in the hour of compassion, they’ll find my face –

nestling in a backwater amongst the reeds.

 

 

****

 

Summer Night

 

The warm night gives all the time

to speak quarter-truths and quarter-lies

about things that are not here.

 

Daubenton’s bats flick the lake’s full moon

with sudden dark kisses.

Most of us is madness.

 

****

 

 Wintering in the Forest

 

It must have been the restless stars

shuddering in their nests a thousand years up

that crowed and cast me loose from sleep.

 

Sandals stuck to the frozen step.

Mind’s sprawl spins under a glaring moon

as the warm dream shatters in the absolute jaws

 

of winter. Cold, black, it bites off choice –

a wild sense explodes, hacks the cursed logs –

fumbles numb matches – the yes! miracle spurts

 

…onto girls, last year’s war and sport…

Old newspaper sails, billowing with flame,

bring me back home. The smoky world.

 

The stove croons, guts full of wood.

I suck a skinned knuckle, chew a handful of thoughts,

letting things melt with the rippling hours.

 

I must have gone soft wintering here.

A gaunt man dives through me, scouring the depths

for pearls to remind him of a distant sun.

 

****

 

The Island

 

There’s a mountain that stands for everything.

There’s a valley that empties everything.

There’s a sky that blesses everything.

There’s an earth that gives back everything.

 

There’s a muttering over the maps and charts

that runs calling across the hopeful world;

and ransacks, howling, the jewelled cosmos.

The abyss sucks it whimpering back.

 

Then where could that focus surrender …?

But there’s the near side of nowhere –

intimate, dangerous, untrodden.

The abundant.

Yours. Mine. Everything’s.

 

 

****

 

Waterfall

 

a long nerve leaping out of its sheath

 

not around or about anything

but held within

the free-fall logic of chaos

 

the life-blood’s explosion

 

not just in each flung absolute droplet

but in the fall

infolding its ragged scattering

 

plunging through the clutch of shape

 

plummeting through the sphincters

lustily resonant

it births at the brink

 

into the abyss of itself

 

before flow before rock

boiling into vortices

into the blown-out spray where dragons laugh

 

as if there’s a thread of freedom

 

and it’s pouring through an abandonment

that becomes full-bellied

like a round-bottomed pitcher

 

filling bearing emptying

 

but mine is the work within the burning dust

to sense that completeness

for a cold clear axis

 

where the stand is true

 

without hope

 

or hunger

 

****