At this tail-end that might unwind a longer tale
than I would care to tell, how vividly I see,
under the microscope’s unfocused lens, the child
I was and, viewed through sharper eyes, I still may be,
wriggling on the slippery slide on which I’m caught,
none the wiser in this, than that, lost century.
Born with, though not quite silver, nonetheless a spoon
to overfeed my avid mouth – that I now find
myself your specimen is no catastrophe
perhaps, but I do feel a victim, and I mind
my length of life, assiduously extended
by right attitudes, has got me in this bind.
You find yourself impatient with my sentences
which start out one way, turn around and start again
most often in the middle; then, just when you think
there’s no hope of an ending, suddenly do end –
but some place in the middle, yet again. A dash
will do, as in ‘I must’ – and dash I would, my friend,
if only… Slowly do I rise and slowly sit,
and those who face a working day each morning sigh
when offering their hard-won seats on buses to the
likes of me. Embarrassed, I’d rather stand, but try
as I might with smiles and all five feet of solid
inner pride, it’s the outer me I can’t deny.
As if I am an actor made to play the part,
and nature applied the putty and the grease-paint,
I walk out on the stage, an extra in the scene,
to no applause. Indeed, I feel I am a faint
shadow in the backdrop, something that the artist
tried unsuccessfully to hide, something too quaint
for the production that the playwright had in mind.
And so is this alexandrine, a rhythm slow
yet jogging quite irregularly, like the walk
of one unsure of how or where she’s meant to go.
Wherever, however, it’s not the way I’d choose.
Odds on, I bet my life that I will get there, though.
If it were only so
(tygers in all the forests
a song to every meter
the whittling of words
outside the general store)
if only it were so!
poets are radioactive, they breathe
fire to ignite your eyes; even
in a proletarian age
they die elite
of their own burning truths.
(along the highway river and traffic
throb the driver’s tale and
in the woods there is
an ominous ticking)
for my father
Now you’re preparing for that longest of journeys,
deciding how best to take your leave;
choosing the clothes that you’ll wear on departure,
your spirit clinging to the air you still breathe.
For you, death seems almost a sporting thing,
though desire wanes with your body’s decline.
Holding on to the light that’s fast retreating,
you rescue last thoughts from a drowning mind.
Having kept a tight vigil, your path’s become clear,
though dreams fade away into wandering.
A longing for life only briefly returns
as you ready yourself for eternity,
but wisdom, holding itself in reserve,
courageously helps you subdue your cries.
You seem to extend your hand to the darkness,
a sweet resignation lighting your eyes.
You’re preparing now for that longest of journeys.
Its vision draws you away too soon.
Sadly we see, as you’re dressing to leave,
your eyes have the look of one already gone.
A canopy of vines – hope,
‘Here’s a goblet that’s an ivory elephant… and, look, vice versa, a circus spectacle, ha…!’ and he
inhales the sweaty trapeze artist’s
scent, his restless hands
(in case you’d refer to him
as a ‘gentleman’)…
in Autumn, at 7a.m., people’s moods are
calm, every face cosmetically aglow to mask
I put some stylish background music on…
the bosom of your dress
glistens with dew drops…
Now I’m a magician ready to anoint you,
to poison the candles kept in boxes
by those who are bored
at a tea party where couples sit on edge
each other, exasperated … the way an angry person
stares out the window when it rains
and taps his leg, tam tee tam…