The Lichen’s Lyrics

sunset

He sits before the sunset and wonders
at the slow language of the planet
that slips by us in words longer than lifetimes
sung to the lyrics of the lichen longing
for translation as the fading light falls
through the cave at just the right angle
to engulf the tapestry with fire.

And he stares into the golden night, wondering
what whispered secrets the clouds keep,
like how to fade into blue, dissolve into nothing
and then return
to dance with air and floating seas,
the river of the sky singing a duet
with the slow language of sunset
in a melody it takes a life to hear.

And like the clouds, so long the keepers
of our secrets, we get to dance with floating water,
we get to be the wildness and the wet
every time we fall, every time we are drawn back
up into the blue until the only dream that’s left
is to sing slow words with lichen
and wait
for one day each spring when the sun sets
at just the right angle to light it all up.

Yakhal’inkomo

There is an old song where I come from
and it bellows through the people, singing
the songs of slaughterhouse marches
and what we have lost.

Mankunku’s horn massages the memory of massacres
the pointlessness of martyrs and mothers who remember,
like overhearing Gabriel’s whisper as the child is kissed
and dropped to begin again
in stilted yet quietly stunning music
filled with the kind of silence which proceeds
that first cry of bafflement.

I know this music in my bones,
it crawls over my flesh like a dung beetle,
a blistering desert of fading memories
and a never-ending dune, etched in waves
which the beetle-beat must ascend
in stumbling steps as the edifice slips and slides
beneath him – an eternity of falling heavens.

We are rainbows, my friend
(you must be a friend)
and once I dreamed of happiness,
of a thrush and a garden and still point.

It came true too, at sunset as jet streams
became the golden locks of god over an ancient port
where the footsteps echo,
where the footsteps sound like that old song from home,
and I a ferryman to bear this happiness
from one shore back here.

And, sweet irony, is the task a happy one?
Not always.

But I wondered through the garden of the stars,
I met my becoming and was still.

We are forever ecstatic.

 

WordPress won’t let me add videos – go here to see the title song. This post is dedicated to Yahia Lababidi, a new inspiration of mine.

 

Ruby

We swam your ashes out into the blue
way beyond the break where I knew,
like a child standing in a bucket
connected to the marvelous,
that we are born of water
and all we did was help you back
as the rain swept in and wrote it’s secrets
into the open sand.

Later, a pod of dolphins swam by
and I swear there was some fishy being
glittering just below the surface
so that when I want to see you
I need just ask
the wind and waves where you are.

Not that you’re with them, there on the beach,
no; you are them and I need just ask,
just knock on the sky and listen for the colour,
walk right in and ask

if this is water as it really is,
the swirling memory of everyone you loved,
everyone you hated, everyone you never knew,
and what it’s like to just keep swimming.

Seven Castles

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A delectable death, the butterfly whispered,
newly emerged in the rising light, moving
toward the restaurant at one end of a universe,
a hub where spoken words create worlds
of gateless doors and doorless gateways
discovering, disclosing the circle
in a broad and unfinished stroke
embracing one, returning to many,
brought together and transformed
in a laboratory of personal experience,
a loving ground, snow-swept the stage,
my self engaged in quiet communion,
thunderous silence;
the alchemical anarchy of a free human
set to a big bang microwave background of being
where I waits to be found in It,
not tranquilised by the trivial
nor trivialised by the tranquil.

It’s all nonsense, of course,
before conversation with a common heart,
that most simple song of our soul:

The crickets chirp,
the butterfly takes flight.
A new day has begun,
the same as any other.

Dancing Signs

“I wanted the proof of a living spirit and I got it.
Don’t ask me at what price” — C. G. Jung

What am I but a signpost
left here at the crossing of many paths
to point all ways, for always and no ways,
every way the same,
full of nothing which men divide
by knowing they wish to go
this way or that, preferring up or down
after missing the emerald tablet
at the entrance:
below and above the same thing,
no thing at all.

And so I stand, rooted to this earth,
having travelled far enough to measure
the distance from here to there
and back again,
each sign carefully painted,
pointing at this tree, that apple,
this cup of tea, those mountains:
meant for climbing, eating,
drinking, seeing,
no more, know less:

all of life a lesson
in how to listen
and, having heard,
the signpost sways,
remembering what it
feels like to dance again.

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LBJ

A line of trees
dances in the distance,
swaying drunkenly
before the slate-roofed
houses boxing forward
like some gray beast
set to blow apart this
summer day.

But in the foreground,
a wide green field
and a single LBJ –
little brown jobbie –
bird of my childhood
singing softly of
something unimportant,
but a song nonetheless…

And to the left
a broken shadecloth
flaps lazily back
and forth so that
I can see
the shape of wind,
feel it rustling
in the eaves,
a whole world
acting as the
backup choir for
a little brown bird:

Nondescript,
nonchalant,
an eternity in itself.

John Cage and the Lecture on Nothing

I am here and there is nothing to say. If among you are those who wish to get somewhere, let them leave at any moment […]

I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry as I need it. This space of time is organized. We need not fear these silences – we may love them.

It is not irritating to be where one is. It is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else.

Our poetry now is the realization that we possess nothing. Anything therefore is a delight (since we do not possess it) and thus need not fear its loss […]

More and more I have the feeling that we are getting nowhere. Slowly, as the talk goes on, we are getting nowhere and that is a pleasure.

If anybody is sleepy, let him go sleep […]

Everybody has a song which is no song at all: it is a process of singing, and when you sing, you are where you are. All I know about method is that when I am not working, it is quite clear that I know nothing.

Chintsa Cycles

How quickly we forget
the wind when it is
behind us,
how still the air feels
flowing forward in
my saddle,
having turned for home
finished fighting
to find some other place,
knowing, simply knowing,
there is nowhere but
here.

And there is no time,
not even now,
it is as still as
the space cycling
before me,
unfurling between
ruffled sea and
wavy dune,
an endless emptiness
between
nothing and existence,
this middle path
that uncovered me.

For so long I have looked
for stories to share,
stumbling over the
greatest one of all
on a ship called serendip
floating across a meadow
where I walked the plank
in search of strange music
playing through a spring night,
a symphony sprung
from the movement of our cells
and those ancient echo
chambers of your heart…

So break, my love,
break open from
this saddle, seated
at the centre of
our universe
full with emptiness,
dancing in the dark
because that is all
that ever mattered
and no-one ever was,
not then,
not now,
not there.

Always here.

What Kind of Idea Are You

What is this compulsion to write? It gnaws, crawls up from behind at the most inopportune moments with words and phrases he barely understands. Short sentences. Long sentences with the flowery addition of adjectives that I cringe at and cut away until only little bits of him remain. Mountains of my own mind to be cut down to pebbles and tossed into the current of seven billion lives. Boats ceaselessly borne into the past. Or born ceaselessly, I can’t quite remember now. And into the future from whence ten billion, and more beside, are bound to come. But never the present. Never can a word capture right now, the first moment of its inception. That silent unfurling, the single spark between a million billion connections in the galaxy inside my head. My own mini cosmos. At once the most superficial and deepest part of me.

I am overrun by dreams.

It rushes out, in too-personal groans, then stops. Like right then. Nothing. And then I dives back somewhere into the keyboard, pressing letters without my permission, parts of a self he does not know. Isn’t it fascinating what we can do with pronouns? Who’s there? Can you hear us? It’s me-not-I speaking. What do you call a deer with no eyes? And would said deer suffer from the same headlight affliction as her fellows? And would the fellows still feast on her should one of their number pass on? ‘Far too many questions there dear,’ my editor complains. I agree. It’s all so uncertain. Apart from passing, that is. On a long enough timeline everyone fails. Or something like that.

Sotimemes it gets all garbled, like just now, and I have to hit ‘backspace’, unwrite the musings of the puppet master seated behind my eyes. Jolly fellow, always up to some mischief. But sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I think what if it’s the language of a god?, or some equally vain banality; what if that’s what he meant to write and I just haven’t learnt how to understand it yet? Or she? The puppet master hides identity from me, that prankster. ‘Why did you call him a jolly fellow then?’ my editor asks. Oh that. A turn of phrase, nothing more. A left-over from history, my personal haunted house, built on the horror and humour of our humanity. Horrible humour is most important, you know. Keep the spirits up and all that. Death and glory. Once more unto the breach. In nomine patri.

I write to remember. Or I wrote to remember how I forget. Or was that ‘write to remember how I forgot’? Tense has always bothered me. Irritable vowel syndrome, doctors conclude. The past, the present and the future walk into a bar… Then? I’ve forgotten I’m afraid, left behind by the tap-tap of fingers across food-stained keys. I have to remember not to eat in bed. Mother would be less than impressed.

Somewhere a guitar plays while the wind blows and words breeze past me. A few fall into my lap, others moan and scream through narrow corridors and banging doors, refusing to let me capture them, imprison them here on this blank page of my devotion. The night is long and dark, this the only light I have, held too close to my eyes as I squint, trying to see between the lines to what I really want to say. What do I want to say? What do you want me to say? ‘You’re deflecting again’ my editor moans. Bullshit. I’ll say it, whatever it is. Anything to be loved, even for a moment, right? We’re all like that, aren’t we? I would do anything for love… Yes, even that. My heart has a skyline – ask the ECG.

I write because of her. The girl I see in half-remembered dreams. ‘Remembering is a more psychotic act than forgetting,’ my editor tells me. Right on again. I write to glimpse her on full-moon frosty nights, the bike path iced over with moonlight. Burn, burn with me love, to hell with decay! Scared of slipping into the world beneath the reflection, diving headfirst along the road and down the rabbit hole where foxes sniff at the light and then paw softly away and mad-hatters and cheshire cats and armoured battle-badgers accost me, wandering figments of reality in this strange world I have constructed from someone else’s imagination where nothing fits together. Things fall apart. Entropy is a gyrating goddess. Strange how fate can be described so succinctly. That in such neat symbols lies the truth toward which all must tend, cold-hearted mistress of chaos hidden in the logs and slippery S of the icy bike path. Logs, rhythm and Logos – surprising what words seem to slide together, if only you stretch your mind far enough. To live is to live, and while alive, to die anyway.

Then there is the gun barrel to explain away. To rationalise and understand. To place in memory, carefully framed with the help of someone trained in soothing words. Still oddly black-and-white though. Can we ever escape the prison of our skin? Overcome our meatbag bias, he heard someone say. What a thought hey? Guns and meatbags going hand-in-hand down the street of just another suburb, on just another afternoon. Nothing out of place except urine-soaked school shorts and the falling syringa berries. Syringes of his memory, neatly bottled up. And the car crash, lest he forgets, and more gun barrels, bottled in green dustbins this time, and an enraged rhinoceros and a supposedly tame lion. ‘What are you’ my incredulous editor asks, ‘a circus clown?’ Almost unbelievable how often she is right…

What kind of idea are you?

I write because we live in a world surrounded, surveilled by too many eyes. All recording exactly what happens. Isn’t it sad? How we only see what is really there, carefully watched by closed-circuit cameras, completely insulated from the worlds upon which they gaze. Playing Orpheus. I write because someone needs to tell the story as it didn’t happen, to reveal all the parts which could have been might have been will have been, once we disappear and the cameras are left to watch themselves. What of self-consciousness then? All that watching has to bring some pretence of understanding. Right?

The puppet master decides that he prefers the story as it did not happen, tells me that it’s far more revealing; that the camera focussed on reality misses her shy glance, the scent of a fox slipping by, his Lordship The Fly, the sound ducks make diving into freezing water to escape the running figure as I flee this insane place of a hundred thousand literal eyes-in-the-sky.

But mostly I write for happiness. I write because the world has always been fucked up, because suffering is the only universal and so someone has to remember how we forgot or forget about happiness. In between all the theory, all the learnéd, distant talk of others, the Other, otherness, otherism, whatever, the puppet master works his magic and gets me to remember happiness. No matter how wrong I could be, no matter that there are poets out there who write about life and pain in heart-rending words and haunting ways which I could never achieve, no matter that we have to think about all those we exclude and silence and do violence to when we tell our stories, no matter that what I write will never change this strange, suffering place, no matter that infantile celebrations of life were hollowed out by sentimental folk and that happy endings were exterminated in gas-chambers by bloody-minded men, the puppet master commands that I write of the happiness within.

No matter that those marauding men, maulers of history and happy endings, live in me, haunting echoes of jolly fellows who feast on no-eye-deer, inbred over generations of captivity in a place called Magdalen Park. Pronounced like death, that is. Maud-len, mort-den, place of lies and long-dead tradition. Poisoned by the ivory tower, no different to the glass-and-steel skyscrapers, or the fake-lit studios, or the virtual chat groups, or the security rooms where snide men sneak-peek preview the terrorism, barbarism, dare-I-say-it cannibalism of silent black-and-white films in the interests of a failing state. A state change, perhaps that’s what we need? ‘Treason!’ my editor cries. She’s of the blindly patriotic type. Pity the fool. Never mind, the only people for me are the mad ones. Don’t worry, censorious editor, I meant a transformation. Of depth and surface. A turning of ice into water, water into vapour. We are the vaporous men, swirling together, eyes full of virtual reality.

I write to confess. I know those prying men, often play them myself in interrogation cells, muffled yells, Ben’s ringing bells, leaden circles and old motels, men everywhere in chains, no brains or brawn, just torn hearts and hope and the dream of healing, someday. Inventors of the themselves trying to fly high enough to feel a little warmth in the grey sun of a land with no borders where day is as cold as night, darkness the same as light, where wrong is write and magic myths of dancing men and women, some crying, some laughing, some twirling to their heart’s own beatbeat a rhythm in my overwhelmed imagination until grammar buckles under all the pressure of good and evil master and slave wrong and right leftwrite leftwrite marching across a wretched earth doomba baboom doom heartspace and the danger of beauty as the unknown calls and i follows blindly devout to the constructions of himself she long ago gave up believing full stop

I write because of the enduring feeling that, no matter what life does to us, the fact of being alive makes up for it. I write because, in moments of delirium, I see all in me, me in all, I in we, you and me. I write to do away with false pronouns and tense bar-fights which give the illusion that time can be controlled, neatly portioned and packaged into the correct parts of a sentence and then sent off into the world where it ends up having done strange things, curling back on itself, sped up and slowing down, mixed with space so that light itself became relative. Time and light, as intimately linked as logs, rhythm and Logos, an angel-demon pair ruling over life’s ticks and tocks, all the clocks of the city beginning to chime: you cannot conquer time.

And yet, the puppet master – who once proved how stars bend into a cone in front of you as you approach lightspeed (a space where time does not exist), presumably on chariots of fire, yelling Death and Glory in a maths exam without numbers – still returns to happiness. I sing the body electric the jolly fool demands, not caring that it’s been done before. It must be done again, over and over through each age if we are to make it out of this mess with our souls intact. Ha, that may be the funniest joke yet, don’t you think?

Life’s altogether too short to be taken so seriously. And no-one gets out alive anyway. Not the best, not the worst – although they sometimes seem to get closer – and certainly not the middle-masses marching in step with downturned faces in crowded places pretending that this, right now, ‘the eternal present’ as some mystics like to mumble, isn’t the strangest, most absurd thing they’ve ever encountered. Acting as if all of this is normal, as if this brief moment were something to be, at best, shouldered as a burden, at worst, left in the corner of an unloved childhood as all the adults go about their business. Forgotten, for the most part. Seen but not heard for the rest.

What kind of idea are you?

The one of a thousand masks. Although I’ll let you in on a secret – this is my confession after all – the one he most likes wearing is Peter Pan. The boy who never grew up. Bravely battling Captain Hook with childish glee, even facing that bloody big crocodile – Steve Irwin style – with the feared-and-hated clock hung about its ancient neck. Last survivor of the dinosaurs who, if we’re honest, at least managed to go out with a bang. Unlike the crocodile hunter, poor bloke. Death is always so… unexpected.

Tick-tock Tinkerbell. Our time is nearly up. I just hope that someone believes in you enough to keep you real, stop you from fading into a dream-world of fictional characters. Fear not, beloved, for I must follow you soon, a pied-piper leading all the merry dancers down memory lane, yellow-bricked and ice-covered, reflecting on the dreams to which we awake.

I don’t want to get to an end
and miss being.
I want to be, have been and bent
against the headwinds,
have sent a hundred love letters
with no reply,
have vented the agonies of my soul
on lonely shores
(for who else loves like me?)
have forged in ancient smithies
one small stone,
neither grand nor ornate,
no fate or fortune found
carved and bound within.

Just a simple stone
added to the mound,
cut by my lover I,
soul sufferer of life
singing satan’s songs
of unrequited love
and unreturned longing,
wonderer of the ages
ready for an end,
seeing and having seen,
being and having been,
a final act of love:
I lets go and
submits to death again.