Poetry from Art and Beyond

Poems

Tabula Rasa

 

Like a horse I trained you to race

filled your bowl with grain every morning

groomed your coat into silk, then trusted

the leather of your muzzle into reigns.

Your nostrils flared with breath

as we stampeded towards borrowed time

your stallion heart jolting between the smooth

arc of my legs, you were never brave or noble

but how you shone in the molasses of moonlight.

Then there came a time when you could no longer

carry me across terrains, limbs and love had lost

their strength, your mane became matted

and a gangrenous stench rose from your hooves.

The weight of you would splinter bone

to puncture skin, so I searched the inaudible vestibule

of sleepless nights for a valley to abandon you in,

a place where the balsamic sunset would sooth

you into recovery so you could gallop once again

with another who would tame your strutting maturity

to suit her speed, and where I once kept you

the snail-trails of light will beg the sun for their silver trims.

 

 

Valentina Tereshkova

(A Soviet cosmonaut and the first female to be flown into space in 1963)

 

My only pet was a canary named after you; her cage was struck by lightning.

A bird above its wings, as vengeful as a prisoner parachuting to freedom;

Your call-sign code-name was Chaika {Sea Gull} embroidered on your space suit

A lunar crater and a minor planet take your birth title under their cracked mantles.

                                                                                                                               

A bird inside its wings, as vengeful as a female pilot parachuting to fame;

After three days in space, weightless and nauseous, taking photos of the horizon

A lunar crater and a minor planet take your birth title in to their cracked signature smiles

From launch pad to unoccupied orbit, smug in your own utter solitude, empty of song.

 

Seventy hours in space, weightless and nauseous, taking photos of the horizon

Higher than the entire world, comets and asteroids spreading a fever of galactic lanterns

That rocketed into orbit smug in their utter solitude, empty of medals and monuments

Erected from smooth capsule, bruised, famished, but gifted with a belly of wired butterflies.

 

Higher than the entire world, comets and asteroids spread a fever of galactic lanterns

You toss unable to sleep through the cravings to speed past those rogue clouds again

Counting your ejection from the smooth capsule on repeat like fence-hopping sheep

Downstairs, a bar full of vodka, Soviet documents, snaps of a cold wedding in Moscow.

 

You toss, unable to keep hold of the cravings to speed past those rogue clouds again

When your double-barrelled daughter dreams under her cot mobile of the solar system,

Vodka, Soviet documents, snaps of a cold wedding in Moscow her inheritance

The roof of the house decorated with a sea gull weather-vane keeping watch for storms.

 

When your double-barrelled daughter dreams under her cot mobile of the solar system

A lunar crater and a minor planet take her birth title under their cracked mantles.

In the end you wanted to journey to Mars, a sacrifice-suicide for one last view of space

That’s why my only pet was a canary named after you; and her cage was struck by lightning.

 

 

Cinnabar City

 

Undulating autumn colours shift

career driven women carry their ovaries

in baskets through the barren squalor

of supermarkets, pock-marked to the core

like lonely planets, heavy in the hemisphere

of their surrogate dreams.

 

I feed my bad poems into the mouths

of parking meters in Inverleith

scraps of fools gold

folded into slots that offer

adhesive borrowed time

where mother-daughter ensembles

sit at high windows dipping crust less toast

into the finest nuclear-yellow egg yolks

baptizing their throats with the scold of caffeine

and nondescript remarks about the days prospects.

 

I hammer invisible planks into place

let out my last discordant cries

board out the cinnabar light

build a nest in the shadows

and circle the stiff roses in my dreams

until blue forgets it’s a colour

and nitrate rains from photographs.

 

I have come to realise that the hidden

harmony of the world is internalised

that the properties of the city

will be my paracetamol playlist on repeat

and that love is messy,

 

like a rainbow with its throat slit.

 

 

 

 The Procuress (After Johannes Vermeer)

 

The first frightening light of morning has long faded

night slips in to its trochaic drone and the bleached

 

bone faces of a brothel scene perform

their covetous narrative.  Mulberry and spice

 

decants in sated stomachs, lips stained jugular red

where devils have bled the prostitute’s cheeks

 

almost molten.  She sits in her white lace head dress

an unpicked magnolia drunk on its own scent.

 

The swelter of the soldiers fingers press

in to the massicot fabric, her bodice

 

opening like a mouth releasing a breath

a flowers first bloom, the splitting of clouds.

 

This yellow is the fields she left for the city

she is wheat germ, granary, acres of cornflower.

 

But this carnival of colour does not blot

the shadow of cruel cantatas, liver spots

 

and a cauldron of grime.  Imposters lurk

in the corner leering in possessive delight,

 

inauspicious in their masks, stepping out of dark

gutters like incubi waiting for couples to close

 

their eyes.  The procuress forging orthodox guises

to promote some sort of sanctuary, her eyes

 

as inky and viscous as caviar, she is all cranium

clenched gums and dressed up cavities

 

with hidden knuckles of tempered brass

eager for the clink of glinting edged coins, the tension

 

of the transaction; gold piping to palm,

palm to pocket, pocket to pilgrimage, pilgrimage to profit. 

 

She is fixed like a perched raven in the rain,

her friend raises a toast slackens the strings of the cittern

 

as he grips its neck, this is the night music,

God’s merry glissando censoring the familiar cries

 

of pleasure, the brothels tuneless ostinato.

This scene will replay itself for centuries;

 

the plumed hats of strange men, the Oriental rugs

airing over the invisible balustrades, the sinister

 

fraudsters veiled in onyx, the throats full of goats

milk disgorged in to the kraal of quick nights,

 

the fanning out of hair on pillows like a splayed hand

of cards where women play the Queen in their dreams.

 

Darkness will always pull itself under blankets,

swallows will race across supposed citadels

 

and the sober naked phosphorescence

of morning will streak across a blank canvas.

 

 

 

Love and Many Notebooks

 

In the apocryphal illicit side streets of Leith

tenements slacken into cardinal squalor

 

everyone has eyes like stones

and no one opens their windows.

 

But this is where you drink, unravel,

and I have been watching you

 

as voyeuristic as a cloud always in the background

of strobe-lit designated smoking areas

 

where genies spin from lamps

laughing at the current fare for freedom.

 

All froth and fizz like a spilt glass of champagne

anecdotes bubble to the surface, strike applause

 

from the shadow-crowd jagged at the edges

like centre aligned text until you buckle them into circle

 

like the black-plumed horses or hearses in my dreams

who stampede beaming like an astrological clock

 

the audience sharpening its blades against the night

if only I were made of steel, then I could move closer.

 

Instead I am vine-twisted over the length of you-

an unsent message, a pencilled invention smudged over time

 

even on the worlds flipside there is no landscape

with roads which I can unscramble, no glitch in the sky

 

I can penetrate to stand and gloat at where the future breaks in

like a shamrock separating on Guinness foam, a three piece suit

 

dismantled in transit, all palpitations instigated across

the body’s meridian, sadness rises, a thousand dripping taps

 

tears on the retina swell the world to blur

the temporal mirage of love all the more beautiful for its momentary fleet

 

they all came as ritualistic as prayer

the asylum years braiding hair, the vinyl sunsets, and winters last bluebell.

 

 

Sonatas of Snow


I stare out at the snow with eyes as dark as omega plums

the wind rolls out clouds the way a woman unravels

her treasured Persian rug on the empty floors

of her new home in a vast city,

a flick of the wrist, a magic trick,

signing space in the dust as clock towers chime in the distance.


The white brackish hills hug the skyline, a blister of air furrows

under woven light, snow falls, hail follows, it tails down

the chimney to tap at porcelain propped up

in the fireplace, drops glaze

the unlit candle in the hearth

where every movement is in minuet, each step repeats shadows.


Only footprints mark existence outside but snow keeps falling

and footsteps are erased, the streets evacuate

as no one wants to be wiped out that easily.

Colonies cluster behind cauldrons

of gun metal light and the infrared

glow of ice-tipped windows- anything left outside is forgotten.


Shovels erect like abstract crucifixes marking graves

looping at the foot of the streets like musical staves starved

of any song. I take shelter from Highland swept blizzards,

move furniture, burrow behind walls and thumb

shoals of dust away from my stacked books

- the smell of old libraries as discrete as a geisha’s dagger.

 


 

Butterfly Net


We stand close without touching, leaning

against the wall where the world had stopped

for us, our smells met in the air like lovers

from a past life connecting but not sure why

under the gauze-thin sash of sky offered

to us from the nearest rain-stained window.


I ignore the blue avenues, the aeon sun,

the odd red October leaf that waves

past in a whirlwind of flight and fury

to focus on her outline spilling over edges

like the frantic pulse of an inapproachable dream.


I web her breath in a butterfly net

as she mussitates the letters to write

her spidery name, holding the pen

by its wings the way a surgeon sketches

on the body marking a place of incision

with skilled precision she showed me

where the arrow would reach my heart.



 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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