Covid-19

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Covid-19

In bed, you turn your back to me,
pushing me away, even in sleep.
I only seek warmth and comfort.

Blankets don’t touch the cold I feel,
deep in my body. I reach out to you,
but you’re locked in your dreams.

A grunt or two, a muffled snore, a half-
-whistling sound, sometimes, a cry.
Last night you shouted “Help!” out loud.

I hauled you back from some black pit
where sharp-clawed devils clutched you
and tried to snatch you away from me.

Today, it’s my turn to call for help.
I face a horizon filled with darkening clouds.
They refuse to go away and weigh me down.

Fear of the Fence

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Fear of the Fence

Our conversation this morning:
a sun-dried Roman aqueduct
no longer capable of carrying water.

I envision brown sacking
winter-lagged around leaking pipes,
and me a little Dutch boy stemming
the damage, a finger in life’s dyke.

Each sentence is a wasted
movement of lips, tongue, teeth.
Our words are motionless kites,
earthbound, too heavy to rise.

Dead soldiers, gone over the top,
my thoughts hang like washing
pegged out on the Siegfried Line
on a windless day in WWI.

I have grown afraid of this barbed-wire
fence growing daily between us.

Comment: The penultimate verse is from a WWI song that my grandfather taught me in the kitchen, back home in Wales, when I was a child. “I’m going to hang out my washing on the Siegfried Line. Have you any dirty washing, mother dear.” The words of such songs have stayed with me and recur in my poems from time to time.

Beaver Pond

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The Beaver Pond
Last October

Leaves walked tip-toe footprints,
delicate, on dark water.
Wrinkled brown tongues lapped
towards dry land. Everywhere
low light fell bright on stripped
white branches.

Open were the pond’s shiny spaces,
dry and withered were its reeds.
Clouds floated in the tarn’s spotted mirror.
Islets of seeded grass marked spots
where underwater logs rotted back to life.

We gazed on emptiness, empty nests,
and a burnt, tanned earth that waited
for what strange second coming?
The wind’s chill arm wrapped us
in the silent thought of oncoming winter.

Charles Baudelaire

A butterfly perches on Les Fleurs du Mal.

Charles Baudelaire

He walks past the Jesuit Church
where the shoe-shine boys store
polish, brushes, and chairs overnight.
He walks past the wrought-iron bench
where the gay guys sit, caressing,
asking the unsuspecting to join them.

Nobody asks Charles for a match,
for a drink, for charity, for a walk
down the alley to a cheap hotel.

The witch doctor is the one who stops
the hands on all the clocks at midnight.
He’s the one who leaves this place,
and returns to this place, all places being one.
The witch doctor sees little things
that other men don’t see. He reaches out
and flicks a fly from Charles’s nose.
“I too have lost my way,” it sighs.

Charles thinks he knows who he is,
but sometimes he wonders when he shaves,
rasping the razor across his chin’s dry husks.
The witch doctor, his lookalike, his twin,
stares back at him from the bathroom mirror.
Three witches dance on the waning soap dish.
One spins the yarn, one measures the cloth,
one wields the knife, that will one day sever
the thread of all poor creatures born to die.

Oh hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère.

Northern Lights

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Northern Lights

Old man looks out of his window.
Falling leaves twist like they did in his childhood.
They spread bronzed carpets across the lawn.
His granddaughter stands by the flowerbed,
squeezing fall’s last blossoms,
turning them into perfume.

Dandelions clutter Old Man’s lawn.
Last summer he lost the strength and will
to stoop down and root them out.
In dreams, Old Man’s spirit tries to escape
and wander through celestial pastures.
For a moment, stars shine brighter
as a new spark adorns the sky.

Walking through the Aurora Borealis,
he understands the way to weave rainbows
from ribbons of color and floating light.
Old Man knows he must share this knowledge.
One day he will share his secret with this child.

Man from Merthyr

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Man from Merthyr

 Memory loss punched holes in your head
and let in the dark, instead of the light.
Constellations faded from your sight,
erased by the arch-angel’s coal-dust wing.

 “I’m shrinking,” you said, the last time I saw you,
you, who had been taller, were now smaller than me.

 Tonight, when the harvest moon shines bright
and drowns the stars in its sea of light,
I will sit by my window and watch for your soul
as it rockets its way to eternity.

My eyes will be dry. I do not want pink runnels
running down this coal-miner’s unwashed face.
I’ll sing you this lullaby, to help you sleep.

“When the coal comes from the Rhondda
down the Merthyr-Taff Vale line,
when the coal comes from the Rhondda
I’ll be there,” with you, shoulder to shoulder.
Farewell, my friend, sleep safe, sleep deep.

Time

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Time
A Theory of the Absurd

I wonder what I’m doing here, so far from home, sitting
at the bar, with my beer before me, my face distorted
in half a dozen fairground mirrors, surrounded by
people half my age, or less, all smoking, cursing, using
foreign forms of meta-language, gestures I no longer recall:
the single finger on the nose, two fingers on the forehead,
the back of the hand rammed against the chin with a sort
of snort of disapproval. It’s way beyond my bedtime, yet
I am held here, captured, body and soul, by foreign rhythms,
unreal expectations of a daily ritual that runs on unbroken
cycles of time: morning brandy, pre-lunch wine and tapas,
home for the mid-day meal, a brief siesta, back to the café
for a post-prandial raising of spirits, more blanco, then back
to work at four and struggle on until seven or eight when
the bar routine begins again with pre-supper tapas and tinto.
Time, comprehended in this new life-cycle, lacks meaning.
Time, in a cycle I have long abandoned, is absurd as well.

Fun in Fundy

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Fundy

Salt on the sea wind sifts raucous gulls in packs,
breeze beneath wings, searching for something
to scavenge. Seaweed. The tidemark filled with
longing. A grey sea crests and rises. Staring eyes:
stark simplicity of that seal’s head filling the bay.
Next day, his body stretched dead on the beach.

The river runs rocky beneath the covered bridge.
Campers have created first nation’s rock people,
heaping stone upon stone. At low tide, on the dried
river bed, there is no easy way to say no. White foam

horses stamp and foam in the sea farrier’s forge. Cold
winds blow at Cape Enrage. Wolfe Point sees late
gales transform the beach: the sandbar carved:
a Thanksgiving turkey, stripped to bare rib bone.

Dead birds sacrificed so I can walk here in comfort,
my anorak stuffed with their plundered plumage.

Memory

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Memory

Marigolds, Oaxacan flowers
grown to guide the dead,
leave so many memories at my door.

Milk bottles placed on the concrete step:
every morning, sparrows peck holes
in the silver tops to drink the cream.

Memory:
its once open door
now slowly closes.

Keys no longer turn in the lock.
Sleep gathers in forgotten rooms,
falling like dust on silken flowers.

Shadows double themselves in the mirror:
recycled shades carve the shower’s glass.

Wary of shade and flame I bathe beneath
a dust-laden beam of sunlight.

Motes in my mind:
flesh and blood chessmen
playing their game
on checkered boards of day and night.

Fate Accompli

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Fate Accompli

Life begins with the glow-worm of a match.
Luciérniga, Lucifer, the bringers of light.
Sun-flames flicker on the weaver’s fingers,
lighting day’s candle, bringing an end to night.

The shuttle clatters away, plotting our fate.
Tiny, we await our doom on the maker’s loom.
Wooden teeth braid each of the threads
the mid-wife will tie when she cuts the knot.

Three witches stand beside the newborn’s cradle.
One spins the yarn, one measures the thread,
the third one wields the journey-ending knife.

Infants, we walk, unwitting, our planks of fire.
We cast star-crossed shadows on cave walls.
Three witches smile as false omens forge our fate.