You echo the smooth skin of rock and sea
in curves of shoulder, willing nakedness;
a silhouette still secret in undress,
moon-flecked with blue like lichen on a tree.
Logos and sea between your spread thighs spread,
as you stand flinging syllables of stone
as if you’d lose all meaning but our own
new knowledge—or old, newly interpreted.
I lap you, smooth you and your warm flesh-grain,
while lightning fans the long Ionian sky;
breast, belly and that tiny beard where thigh
meets thigh and where we ache to meet again;
a midnight harvest of my body, grown
too safe in love, too fond of words unsaid,
safe now in you again. I turn a head
to where my cold, tall alphabets are thrown
lifetime by lifetime in the mythic sea.
Your soft prow falls on me and falls on me.
They are building, this March, between
Eaves and rafters, somewhere in the hot dark;
Haunting the bedroom with feathered sounds.
At morning they are wingbeats in the copper beech,
Wet runes by the water bowl or shadows quietly
Bending to the business of cool gardens.
We cannot name them. Loose in the sun they sing,
But come silently, invisibly, home to roost,
To fidget like stars all night, or soft rain on stones.
Reading in bed, we listen for them now,
As for the door scrape of a daughter safely home;
They peck along the roots of our noisy dreams
In whose half-light we follow ourselves back
Along the uncertain ways of love again,
Through a frost-creak stir of silence, the tiny
Spider’s footfall of an egg ticking.
The stealthy quotidian, the sift of our history
That was frail and unrehearsed; that is adequate.
Cold shadows, too far flung. A sense of light
Blows like litter through the window, falls
In uninviting plainness on plain rooms
We’ve grown accustomed to. Unsheltered walls
Rugged with ice like candlewax, blackhearted,
Tick, purr and splatter. That grave-goose,
The water-table, shrugs beneath the land,
Hardens its arteries. The year hangs loose
To winds that creak, lament, in vocalises
For angels that announce the end of time,
Or score a thin pavane for ghosts shrugged out
Of anecdotal pasts. A game, a crime,
Who knows? Not won or solved, but reinvented
To be the homework of each generation,
Trespassers on their own lands which the dead
Still occupy with nightly perturbation.
We are perplexed inheritors whose bad dreams
Founder on good ones; the tune we want to find
Is hidden in counterpoint; even furniture
Is serious stuff and histories hide behind
It, obscurely - needing footnotes which
Are not provided. Stars dribble down the slates
And spider on the greenhouse glass. A code
Again, but repetition makes it rich
In aggregates of meaning. And that’s just
What’s missing from our cupboards that spill out
Their skeletons of tinsel, glass or bone
In mysterious geometries. We set about
Our temporary expedients once again,
As if what is unknown were unfulfilled;
As if the story so far were forgotten:
We trap some darkness every time we build.
The endless navigations of the day,
Simple as salt. On cucumber-cold tiles
The child kneels, his head in his mother’s hands.
An attitude of blessing, or farewell?
A prayer? A nightmare banishment? All this;
Besides the weekly search for lice. There is
A door, a window, always; something beyond.
Though never, we guess, Renaissance allegory:
No Mars and Venus, no St. Anthony,
No Milky Way straightlacing from Hera’s curves;
An absence of dragons. Truth, in fine, is proved
Where universals shrink and are behaviour -
The unemphatic tilting of a jug,
The curl of an apple paring; where the plain
Maidservant, or the woman of the house,
Is carefully performing something humble.
She fills a glass or turns a page of music,
Smooths bed-linen; as if eternity
Were loaded with unsafe minutes, where regret
And love have to be harboured in the grace
And daily, patient gravity of doing.
Dark mirrors gloss the harmony of rooms
And cheat perspective’s cheat with a dimension
Beyond the logic of interiors.
Through glass, or through a door and then a door,
A tiny world is theatred in sunlight;
The world of errands, visitors and morning
On warm Delft bricks, and sweet-faced dogs, and weeds
In perfect paving. This will pass. The balance
Is here in poised reflection, timber-grain
Worn smooth, and latticed glass, and space enough
To sigh and sleep and fold and peel and know,
In work well-ordered, the sure counterpoint
Of wholesome lives, the almost unremarked
Ache of what goes on and on and on.
all poems featured on this site remains with the