You never expect it, summer on your doorstep.
You become so accustomed to the train
that drives your thoughts from one job
to another, that time begins to conceal the pain.
There are too many things to do in a day,
too many unrun errands: a house that needs
fixing, a life that needs changing. Say
or write down what you mean and it disappears.
You couldn’t fit the forgotten in a hangar:
it’s as big as the summer sky at twilight
and blank as peace. Try to remember the air
and it disappears in a trail of mist.
Birds call to each other in the whispering trees
before their voices get carried away on the breeze.
There. Boys crossed the line and became men.
That pitch of longing swims with lightning grass,
has become a nesting ground for creatures that burrow,
birds that flit. Jaded posts lean into a summer sky
and dream of being touched again by the arc
from a hopeful boot. We hold our breath
and shield our eyes to catch the flight. The moon
hovers forever in the distance. I see red flowers
shake in the sigh of an acre gone to seed, rushing
in the wind that brings back kisses from before
when shivers crossed my spine like a wind chime.
The lines lie hidden, like our hearts, waiting
for the parting grass to show what lay there.
What lies there still in the mind’s occluded warren.
Inches and Miles
Inches the skin wants – the lip over a doorway, in out of the rain;
the rain-dark crest of a dead new build, blocking out the sun.
The sea calls us back like children. We run like the wind, our moon
faces turning towards the tide. An army of distractions blur
while buttercups melt in the heat. The playground rises and falls
with its carousel of screaming. Cherry trees deal with the present
by sending tanned blossoms out in a spiralling jet stream, brushing
aspects of your face. They catch you dreaming on a busy street,
among the sad intentions of drivers, jaywalkers, lollypop women
and junkies. Light informs the heart the way smoke stood
in the doorway that summer the gorse bushes went up. Around
the corner, the sea tries not to complain but keeps on and on
until you must concede to drinking poison by the shore
fifteen years ago, if a day, a meteor shower set in your eyes
like the future, clothes coming off one by one, footprints fading
as you slip inside the freezing velvet, a rebirth of sorts, where
lack of breath leaves you researching all you will never know,
floating backwards, forwards, down through ropes of silver,
splashes of gold, a steady all-consuming hum getting louder,
and the pearl you wanted to find is beating hard, is beating hard.
Elegy for a Friend
What people don’t know is that on the morning you
died a phone call no-one was expecting came through.
This being the result of countless nights lying
awake in the dark, stars receding in your head,
the sickness now operated on, thrown away, your heart
counting out seconds like a ticking time-bomb.
You would have blended in with the snowy white
sheets like a strange ghost-figure bereft of
human flesh and the elementary need for time.
I thought of you in the shower until the water
ran cold; looked at my nails and saw
their half-moons as miracles, little blessings.
I pretended to work until the news came through
that the jeweller had called to let your fiancée know
the ring was sized and ready for collection.
Only then did we know how you had proposed
on your deathbed, a romantic to the end.
I think of that sometimes, when I think of you.
In The Cobblestone
Snugged at the bar, drinking its dank perfume,
the light soft and low and full of nostalgia,
he sits and thinks of how his life has led him here.
A fresh pint makes him think there are things
worth waiting for, and that’s when a girl
puts her lips to the reed of a flute and blows life
into where there was none, the others following –
the violin’s drawn-out sigh of air unsheathing
notes from the chatter, accordion elbowing
in the background, guitar chiming in with
its rhythm, bass chords fixed inside the tune,
someone’s foot tapping the earth the way
the heart unlocks the chest and tells the blood
to go round one last time, and one more after that.