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.

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.

To know, yes or no?

I’m so tired of hearing
‘I didn’t know’.

I grew up
surrounded
by people who
didn’t know
didn’t want to know
couldn’t know
hadn’t the will to know
didn’t know they could know.

How many gyres
must fall
apart
before we learn
that not knowing
is not enough
is never enough
never will be enough
can never be enough if
we want to go on
with this
life?

And what a life
it could be
the not-knowing known
and in such bliss
walking forth
hands outstretched
fingertips trembling
though they may be.

Wet Windows

A quivering web of jewels,
my window lights up
as the earth rises
after a rainstorm,
spinning sunlit tendrils
that shimmer and slide,
finding and blinding
by looking too long
into the light.

The drops become
splotches on the page,
a dance of make-believe
burnt onto my eyes,
strange patterns in
all the parts I
do not look at.

Every time I read
it seems a different play,
different gems swish,
teardrop fish in
changing light
until its not words,
but sight
which makes the poem,
refracted by wet windows
and a passing, wistful wish.

“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.

“Beat My Heart”

A black bird flies in grey
skies streaked by blue
above an English garden
where an old lady
and her daughter stroll
as a train passes to
the metallic music
of railway lines.

Beat my heart!
Pulse with the passing
life of strangers and
other shapes in a
world we cannot know.
Beat for the moment,
beat for time lost,
memories gained
in other lands
far from home.

Fly with the birds
through quiet skies,
float with the clouds
in a great cycle of
wet colour and life.
Flow with the stream,
always moving,
ever the same.

Beat my heart!
Pump life through me
to the melodies
of moving moments,
passing people,
pulsing trains,
flowing streams
and floating birds.

Beat my heart!
Beat and beat again
so that I may know
the bird in me,
see my face in
the moving waters
and feel my life
in passing things.

Beat until I remember
how to fly and the
beauty of flowing life.
Beat until I am ready
to join the stream again,
flow into blinding sunsets
breaking through clouds
in quiet places where
time no longer passes.

“South Africa”

This is not a political poem.
I am tired of politics,
it makes me sick.

This is not a poem about race
or sex or gender
or feminism, sexism
or any other ism
that over-aware modern minds
care to coin:
they drain the life from me.

This is a poem for the township boy
who will never leave
and the black businesswoman
who has built an empire,
speaking truth to power,
and the tenderpreneur who
enriches himself and no-one else.

This is a poem for he
who calls himself white,
male, heterosexual,
fully abled and English
and for the person who
doesn’t know why
privilege matters at all.

All are welcome here,
there is place for all
and a word for each;
the grandmother cooking samp
in a dark and damp shack
and the orphan boy who
must care for his siblings
after AIDS stole his parents
and the Cape Town model
who knows nothing of the
grandmother or the orphan.

This is not a poem for reconciliation,
mediation, arbitration or meditation.
This is not a poem about power
or those who perpetuate it,
perpetrating crimes and
perfecting poverty.
There is place for them too,
and a word each.

All are welcome in this poem,
though they need not come in,
for it is just a poem and
a whole world is out there
full of people who are
sometimes good,
sometimes evil,
sometimes understanding,
sometimes ignorant,
sometimes reasonable,
sometimes defensive,
yet always people.

Like the dog who will die
on a dusty road in a township
not far from here,
this poem just is.
It matters not that it will
be gone by Sunday,
for through the cruelty
and senseless chaos,
there is still life.
There is still hope.

This is a poem for
those who know it
and yet go on out the yard,
stumbling on mangey legs,
stuttering through brief life,
if only to experience love
for just a moment
before they are gone,
lost and forgotten
in a world of
far too many words.

“Greenpop Raindrops”

An old log lies rotting in
damp green glades which
invade the fallen sentinel,
breaking through her bark.

But this is no sad story,
as the wet wood gets
smashed by spades and
splintered mulch feeds
thousands of new trees planted
by hippies and treehuggers
trying to rebuild forests
lost to blind greed and
the Age of Plastic Things.

The Eastern Cape Monarch,
ancient ruler of this realm,
slowly turns to watch
while waterfalls whisper
misty encouragement;
the Madonna and Child
brought to life in
falling sheets of light,
dancing rainbows which
play in the cool forest,
turning raindrops green
as they shock the skin,
pinpricks of nature
sent to remind us
of our heritage as
trees begin to grow
and the fallen log
disintegrates further.

Life cycles forever on
and we must play each part;
planted tree and fallen log,
dancing in the darkness
while stormclouds gather
and the Earth begins to breathe.

“Land of Longing”

“There were always those two paths open before me,
those two forces tugging at my traitor’s heart” — Rian Malan

The sun melts like butter, spread
across the valley as it sinks into
the silent folds of the old Ciskei,
leaving a glow which flows across
the hazy horizon and into my heart,
boundaries between long blurred
by a yearning to know that sunset
as the last lines of African light fade
and night comes creeping in,
slipping out of the headlight’s reach
while a lonely steenbok stands aside
transfixed by the unnatural bulbs.

From the darkness that rushes in
behind my speeding bubble,
the widow’s voice rings out:
to know how to live anywhere,
you must know how to live in Africa,
for love is worth nothing
until tested by its own defeat.
The only thing you can do is love,
because it is the only thing
which leaves light inside you,
instead of total, obliterating
darkness.

And so I, a shipwrecked soul
on strange and stormy seas
I cannot navigate, let alone live in,
long for some redemption,
for the Africa of Neil Alcock
which defeats both love and life,
but finally comes dancing back
to draw his tired and dusty spirit
into an ancient Zulu stick while
the people gather in his kraal
in preparation for the next battle
and the ugly business of survival.

Still, the butter-melted sun sets
leaving the world awash
with the taste of Africa and
the lonely steenbok stands
watching in the night, waiting
for the flood of white headlights
set to bright, as if the cold night
can forever be kept at bay.