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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Drummer Boy

I know it now,
or I knew it then,
rounding the bend
into a field of sunshine:
what kind of life it could be.

Not one
of speaking truth to power.
I am born of powerful
and dangerous men,
cocksure and confident.

No, I am here
to sway power
with visions of a
small child, running
through sacred spaces

leaping giddyingly
on a shaft of light
and giggling as it
runs through her mind
like melting butter,

chasing it around
the men in solemn prayer,
women waiting in shadow,
her vision disturbing quiet
as it dances in the stillness

of an ordinary day,
all afresh and new,
alive with possibility if
sunlight is how you dream,
dance, your way of life.

History’s Roads

I returned to the buddha tree today,
set ablaze by the white snow of
late spring sprung with daffodils
turning in long sunsets like some
endlessly infinite, recurring movie
played out over port meadow.

All but a few of the blooms are
already gone
passed
blown away by the bitter winds
we had last week after she left.
Just sturdy green buds remain.

It’s achingly temporary,
all of it,
the beautiful suffering lot
of bodhisattva sat under
his spring tree singing
the perfect blossom.

I found a field next to the lake,
and sat like a statue watching
the still water, small eddies
tickling the surface with each
breath of wind as I made faces
and tempted the fates.

A tree’s branches whispered
‘let the past go’.
Not erase, forget, repress,
just ‘let it go’. Why fight
for sticks and stones and
the words of long dead men?

It is my history, too,
but don’t you see?
The shit on his shoulder
is part of the monument,
a momentary release meant
crudely to memorialise

the fight for freedom
long vacant, vanquished
by whitepink men equal
before only our own laws.
Let the statues go.
I, too, need less reminders.

History has brought me here,
far away to the centre where
spring is singing, ringing, winging
through pinkwhite trees while
the heady scent of happiness
hangs light in the hazy air.

History does not live in stones
or stanzas, but in your mind
as the world’s pulsing rhythm,
so let the statues go.
Build anew a beating heart
to the blossoming birdsong,
based on humanity, humility;
on the belief that we
can be better than the
men and women
we remember once being,
in long-ago ages when
the darkness was unbroken.

Dream Dolpins

He slides through the sea,
slip of a boy,
stroking his natural element
chlorine and salt sticking
in gyms and oceans,
flippers and dolphins
of his dream-world,
sand and tiles swirling,
stirring up memory:
the child he was.

The child he is,
Peter Pan of the pool
pulling pirates and
tick-tock crocs from
a wild imagination
where waves and wind,
coaches and competition,
come together chasing
his never-never land
of love and long summers.

What is to dream?
To be who we once were
way back when we won,
riding waves with
singing swimmers
on wild coastlines with
strong currents sweeping
the dreamer out to sea,
sweet surrender of a
small child’s soul.

Sing, my youth,
found in seas again,
for what are dreams
but reminders of how
to grow old with grace?
How to glimpse
who we were,
who we are:
single swimmers surfing
wild waves filled with life.

“Wild World”

‘He was unheeded, happy,
and near to the wild heart of life’
— James Joyce

It seems so silly,
this business of living
doll-like, dull lives
soft skulls of language
with strange alliterations
building boundaries, binaries
to bind the blind masses
cheerfully chanting
their stilted slogans,
stripped and shipped
by a haunted history.

Yet wild hearts exist!
with madness enough
to let it be.
Who would rather spend
a lifetime answering
the question of
her laughter,
or measuring the
half-life of love
(forever)
than getting lost

in loose alliteration,
trying in vain
to capture life:

There is only love and loss.
The rest, they tell me,
is just rust and stardust.

“Faith”

Rock concerts are
our religion,
transcendent festivals
high on sound,
drugged by the beat
we search for meaning,
arms raised
to the moment,
voices joined
we praise as gods
men on stage.

Look for the sadness
in their faces,
those actors
who know that
simple ecstasy
cannot last;
who know that
to sing a song
of the masses
is to be tormented
by the transitory.

But look again,
see the spark
of something more,
see the rapture
of a whole life lived
in a single moment,
complete and present
in one note,
one triumphant sound
carried by a
hundred thousand humans.

Drink deep from the
passing stream
and live,
live for beauty
and for truth
and for love,
whatever they mean.
Live for the rhythm,
the sound,
the heartbeat of
this harmony.

Grab my hand
and jump up
as the guitar
illuminates night,
look up,
listen,
live,
fall in love
with the mess
of a meaningless life
lived with purpose.

“The Ballad of Strange Lovers”

A voice speaks
from silences beyond,
clear unconscious,
clarity of dreams,
fully-formed it sings
from the void beneath
it rings.

The ballad of strange lovers
who left their home
for feeling
in a European night,
with lyrics by a band,
a beat and
a motley crew of fans.

The clamour of life
so great and various
it drowns out sound,
luxury of silence,
yet it peels
from mouths of babes
on dusty fields.

I know it well,
make it myself
in triumphant moments,
surrendered joys,
and I hear it now
great peeling bell!
instrument of awe!

I see before me
people I have known,
pushed by memory to
a place beyond,
yet alive right now,
their voices mixed to
form my muse’s howl:

We are one!
It is done!
All that is left is to
love it…

“The Data Age”

Does it not strike you as absurd
that we have generated more data
in the last decade than ever before,
this new Human Recording Project
where the privileged document life
in a supposedly global village so that
we can all express an opinion about
Gaza or the Ukraine or MH370 or
whatever captures our limited attention
with images graphic enough to demand
a status update or even a whole blog post
if we feel, like, strongly about human rights
and how they’re violated every day by some
other band of baddies beyond our borders.

A few think they can make a difference
with their words and armchair activism
while others think they can prove that
their world is already different through
#100happydays and filtered photos of
postcard places that they’ve travelled to
where the sea is always more blue and
the unfamiliar food tastes so much better.
I want neither. I cannot change the world;
less than a third understand my words
and they make little difference anyway
in a world saturated with too much truth
and a growing dump of useless data about
lunch and cats and America’s next top model.

And though I’ve travelled to many places
where the sea was definitely more blue,
I learnt just two things: do more, expect less.
I met many people far more lost than me
and realised that we all either go to war
or destroy ourselves with other battles
raged in lonely places far from the shiny
walls of facebook with all the photos of
a life not quite realised, not quite real.
We’re buried alive beneath the virtual
rubbish of a generation always online,
plugged in only so we can tune out,
connected only so we can forget
what it’s like to have a real conversation.

And I know it’s fashionable to dismiss
the move to a technologised future
even though it’s really inevitable and
that we have to make it work rather
than criticising the fake constructions,
but I want you to know this future means
the recording of suffering on a grand scale,
that inescapable truth of existence in a
world where life must feed on life just to
slow the unstoppable march of death.
We are doomed to observe a hundred
more Gaza’s before the next age dawns
bringing with it its own forms of suffering
and its own small, surprising joys.

The secret, revealed to all who ask,
is in those surprising moments of joy,
like watching a groom meet his beautiful
bride-to-be in the airport last night with
flowers and ululations and a camera crew.
Even though the cellphones annoy me,
the welcome kiss and calls of happiness
are what make life a little less absurd,
if only for a moment, as I wait between
the arrival and departure terminals
of a tiny airport where men in suits
mix with dirty farmers in khaki shorts,
waiting for the automatic doors to open
so that life can come streaming out.

“Homeless”

Like a moth to flame she burns
for open spaces, unwritten hope
of a journey on the open road.
Night after night she returns,
wind rushing through her hair
so that she wakes unkempt
from an other imagined world,
stretching into grim reality
as a grey day dawns
and the street returns to life.

People look at her as they pass,
windswept dreamer
in an old and tattered coat,
but they do not see her
do not know she seeks the waking life,
gazing into the flickering fire
in the hope of glimpsing eternity
as the flame flutters and falters
before rearing its golden head
in a last, defiant roar.

Battered and broken
by endless fire-dives
finally she gives up,
lets go,
while all the people pass
silently clinging in terror
to their certain lives.
But not the dreamer,
stretched across a park bench
on a cold winter’s morning:
she lets the flame in,
fuses with the light and
is lost forever to
simple air and heat,
an empty space and point of light
in a dark and barren room.

The dreamer’s dream
of love and life
fuels the flame once more
and on it burns
and on she burns
both forever bright.