Saturday, 31 May 2008

It Begins to Be

The following is a rewording / reworking of a poem with the same name by Fernando Pessoa, the great Portuguese poet of the first half of the twentieth century. I sometimes like to take the theme and original structure of another work and allow its culture and form to shape something new.

It begins to be going to be day -
the red sky is pregnant
in a still black night
greying with delight
to feel its chill twist
there, where fear and hate is thinning

A void that is crimson-hoping
expansive, somehow, gliding
from where zen masters sleep
their selfless sleep, free of form
and a wireless mantra watches,
poised, barely conceived

And yet, I who have hardly
sung, don't feel space or time
or, though it's giving birth, dawn's now
from the empty silence.
The indefinite of the moment,
It's stillness, all I feel.

In vain the day is yawning
to one who can't breathe, always
was made to rise up straight
here in the non-heart;
who, without living, is not dying
and, when he loves, does not know it.

In vain? No, no, ask the sky
lip red kissing through to scarlet lust
darkening. What
is it this soul sky feels? Not
me, nor you, not even life,
in this dying night, soon to be unseen.


I bow before the God I don't believe in

I bow before the God I don't believe in
I say my prayers faithfully
knowing there's no one to hear them
I prostrate in front of empty statues of the Buddha
and I meditate on the lack of self in what's called me

I smile and sing though this world suffers

Friday, 30 May 2008

I love the wind and the rain

I love the wind and the rain
When they come blasting in together
In the Scottish late autumn
That threatens to batter straight into winter

But to watch it from the warm indoors
That’s the way to sense its rampant power
Its soaking weight
And its irreverent priestly status amongst all
Our varied forms of weather

It‘s this combination of hurtling wind and thick rain
Which more than any other source
Has scoured and carved our precious landscape.


When they're tired people watch tv

When they’re tired people watch tv
I watch my mind and let it slow down, stop

When they’re tired people take a bath
I take a bath in my flow of thoughts
And let the choppy waves fall still

When they’re tired people get grumpy
I watch my grumpy mind
And let the grumpiness dissolve

People try to squeeze everything into their lives
And in doing so wear themselves out
I stop awhile when I feel frenzy arising
And I repair the damage done

People try to achieve, win, leave a legacy
And in doing so throw away the moments of their lives
I keep stopping, seek nothing, want anonymity
And this fills my life with meaning and fulfilment

The gentle hero

The gentle hero sits in the shadows
Behind the lights of the candles
And the hard nose office furniture
His eyes are drawn modestly
And his face is at peace, a little shy
Yet he dominates the scene
Like the air that dominates our life


The Captive Mind

There’s something sticky on the floor
Maybe it’s me
My slipper’s reluctant to lift
Makes me wonder who’s in charge

Forgotten what I’d gone to get
Head’s not so reliable these days
Something sticky in my brain
Maybe it’s me

The lack of serious programmes on tv
Concerns me
Admit it in your poems
Admit it, you’re all poets for god’s sake

Stop clinging to the rocks
You’ll perish there
Let go and experience the panic
Of being swept away

There’s a blindfolded man
With a book tied to the side of his face
It isn’t me, I’m not the worried
Maybe it’s you, yes you, the reader

The disinterred search for truth
Disinterested, can truth ever be?
One of history’s ironic jokes
Truth, disinterred, Katyn, grandma and grandpa

The lack of serious tv, the sweep of the gnawing dead
The price you’ll pay is the past you’ve lived

Introduce strangeness to your life
You’ll find it is your future, and endurable too


Don't misunderstand me

Don’t misunderstand me
I dance to the tunes you know
But seek a different waltz altogether
A dance propelled by spirit not music

Don’t get me wrong
Although I engage in your activities and pleasures
I reject the lot even as I assist
I live in a space where few have ventured

Don’t think I’m with you on this journey
I dip in like a flicker of light
But my wave flows in invisible planes
And I am not of this world
And wish not to be part of it


She said she'd phone back

She said she’d phone back
But will she?

Before I got through to her
I was dealing with an automated call service

Such service.

Who was the automaton
Me or it?
I did as I was told
Waited when told to wait
Punched in the buttons
On request


And waited

Finally got through
To someone real

Hard voice
But practical enough

Couldn’t find the info she needed
To progress my query

I’ll need to call you back
She said
But will she?

It’s been nearly twenty years now.

Infringements Welcome

Infringements welcome
A bird’s voice late in the night
A blue cage to hold the restless

Beastlike under the moon
Rings in space, startling
Skirting sea-bleached timber

Small angels, snug, by the fire


Thursday, 29 May 2008

Karen Carpenter singing

Karen Carpenter singing ‘loneliness
is such a sad affair’
in that pure magical voice

on the radio
after I drop my son off at his mate’s house
in Larkhall

we were listening to Horace Andy
sing on a Massive Attack CD
so cool
so pure
with all the dub and r‘n’b tracking
behind him

but back home
typing this on my laptop
it’s karen’s sweet tone
that rings inside me
and I feel so sad
that she died young

‘and I can hardly wait to be with you again’

The Carpenters
so innocent an image
they had to change the word ‘sleep’ to ‘be’
and yet I wouldn’t have wanted her
to sing of sleeping with her lover

only wanting to be loved

of course it’s unreal, imagery
but all the more truthful for that
and I will remember Karen Carpenter
all my life
aware of the grief her brother lives with
all his life

Business cards lie like trophies

Business cards lie like trophies on my desk
But what’s the legacy
Very little as I scan the names
Minor officials in the court of Scottish business life
Or government bureaucracy

And for this I have spent my precious days
Years, life

To hob nob with the mediocracy
To get some tiny agreement
On a matter of irrelevance to existence

And thus we wither on blether
And decline on mundane chat
Pretending all the while it matters

When really it’s just using up the working day
To prove that we deserve our pay

So many talented – or maybe not so talented –
But high up positioned people
In academia, government, banking
Business support and journalism

Spending eons plugging leaks in the system
Adding minute additions to the colossal work-in-progress
Called society, the system.
Why only yesterday I was so pointedly reminded it is
The system under which we all march
And bowing our heads, adore and obey


When you have loved well

When you have loved well
And trusted, as an innocent must,
And love gets broken
Whether through betrayal,
Or the sweeping waves of history’s random evil

It is impossible to regain
That full trust
Required to find love again

Instead we build armour
To protect our vulnerable flesh
And round the heart especially
We create layer upon layer of steel

Thus we live weighed down
By barriers
Unable to rise to see the sun shine at dawn
But rather stay hunkered in the bunkers
Protected from pain
Avoiding dangerous beauty


The Funeral

I take off my hat and gloves
As I come in from the pouring January rain
Hands still red with the cold
And the church seems to have no heating.

I give my tiny hand gestures of recognition
To the many folk I know
Find a seat near enough the back
Not to feel I’m imposing on the grieving family members
In the front rows

But far enough forward
To give the signal
“I’m meant to be here
Not just a member of the local congregation
In to pray for a stranger’s soul
Out of the goodness of my Christian heart”

And then I see the coffin.
Bigger than I would have imagined
Had I tried to do so.
He never seemed tall
But I guess old men are commonly stooped
Their once grand stature
Buckled by the might of gravity.

My mind turns to dad, and mum
And hope they have years with me yet
And then, as always now, to Janina
And Wladyslaw
And their pointless, awful early deaths.
I pray, in the Catholic style –
I’d use Polish if I had the tongue –
Out of ingrained habit.

“Hail Mary, full of grace…”
Full of grace
What a majestic image
And wish I was like that,
But I’m not, I’m sullied
By life’s forty eight years reality
My once grand stature of childhood innocence
Buckled by the might of emotional gravity

To know grace before I die
No God, no Heaven, but yes to grace.
That old man, my dear friend’s father
Lying in a wooden box, he didn’t have grace
He had a kind of grumpy non-acceptance
Of life’s bumps and friction
Though he was pleasant enough
But pleasant enough is not enough to do justice to being alive.

The priest gives the cotton wool
Version of his life, with all the hollow humour
Only men of the cloth can deliver.
Then my friend gets up to say some words
Face drawn, like a drained caricature, or a ghoul
He recites a poem I don’t get
And finishes with “goodbye dad”
And I dread the day when I have to say that.

Out in the rain, after the funeral
My hat and gloves protect me from the elements
Though something in me wants to be soaked and chilled to the bones.
I give my accustomed wave to my friend
And he smiles, wanly, as if his face would crack if he stretched it any further.
I decide to go to the burial
If only to feel the sleet whip my face red
And the wind shake my mortal body back to life.


I try to read her books

I try to read her books
But like walking on water
I find it’s not possible for me

She is great no doubt
Profound, so many say
But for me the greatest block is there
Preventing me from knowing her dreamland

And yet she is the one
I’d ask to share my most poignant history with
To soak up my universal pain
And turn it into words
That others – not me tho – others would read
And gasp at
For she can be profound
And what I want to share
Is so deep it has no end

What it is that stops me turning her pure pages
I don’t know
Perhaps my path is only to deliver
To unleash
To provide
Not to receive, to accept
I don’t know


His vioice took the sword out of my hands

His voice took the sword out of my hands
Took the fever from my heart
And the agony from my bones

Peace came over me
Like the sun rising after the dead of night

His words took away my pain
And replaced it with unending acceptance


a cloud goes by so sweetly

A cloud goes by so sweetly, slowly
With a holograph brand image
Of the world’s best selling soft drink
Emblazoned by futuristic technology
Over it’s entire length


Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Interrupted by a freak storm

Interrupted by a freak storm
Concentration blown
Mind adrift again

I find it easy to be distracted
Hard to flow in a single path
Like atoms lined up by magnets

I yearn for…
No, not yearn
That was before, long time ago
The mind’s primitive programme
Still says the word ‘yearn’
But I see the programme and I sense the rise of the yearn
And in seeing and sensing
I debug the pointless urge to yearn

So I still get interrupted
And the mind goes off course
But I accept my delicate compass
Even as I seek to strengthen its resolve

So no yearning for me
Just a clear understanding of the problem
And awareness of the benefits of a perfect mind in tune
With all existence


Five Haiku - Spring, summer, yellow

5 Haiku

Spring spoke to my hopes
Summer led me to believe
Autumn leaves yellow

I sought you in spring
But summer passed without you
Now yellowed leaves fall

Spring followed winter
Summer. Still I did not write.
The moon shines yellow.

Spring into life now.
The summer moon is shining
Yellow and sensual.

“Where has spring gone?”
Asked the summer lovers when
Yellow corn grew ripe.

daytime tv

daytime tv
an epitaph for our times
murder she wrote
seventies hairstyles
wide lapelled jackets
checked in autumn colours

gardening programmes
cookery shows
abuse of abusive maladroits
in riotous chats
hourly news griefs
reciting youth murders
and house prices

in honour of our profound times

for those whose lives require not living
and those too infirm to struggle any more

soma for the home bound
lsd halucinations
for the cautious generation

alternative life
plastic substitutes
for the already mourning

Monday, 26 May 2008

unfinished business

there's unfinished business
cats in the crematorium
little fingers stretching weakly for grain
time for a soothing bath
no-one at home

there's unfinished business
fresh air on a Monday morning
memories of crossing the burn in summer
hope for redemption
Marley's early death and no swan song

there's unfinished business
final i love yous
an end to dredged up pain
bitter grudges kept on top shelves
and the tidying of old mementoes

there's unfinished business
the stroke of a young face
kittens squealing on your lap for milk
the insufferable itch
the lasting calm
an end to all business

Sunday, 25 May 2008

A sizeable sadness

There’s a sizeable sadness in the corridor
Long as the hallway
Dark as the lift shaft

Lasting as long as the time
It takes for the big bang
To reach the death of this universe

Which of course is the start of the next.

There’s a pattern of distress that sits in the psyche
Doesn’t need to be swallowed
Inhaled, digested

Lasting as long as the milky way
It can still be star distant
Bright and brilliant
Only a ray from long ago

Which of course is the magic of the next moment

Friday, 16 May 2008

everyone is reading

everyone is reading texting sleeping
because they cannot face raw being
it's why i'm writing this too
life without distractions asks too hard a question
poses an unbearable silence


nobody here

nobody here. all alone. where has everyone gone?
so many seats, no occupants. only me and solitude
the empty train driverless journeys on


spring green leaves

spring green leaves emerge from a dark tunnel
the clouds untainted reveal the blue sky
i am in the place of my birth


Monday, 12 May 2008

train time stirling time

train time stirling time
announcements in a sweet scots accent
the coolness of fresh air as the doors open

stirling time towards aberdeen
the hills will meet the coast
there is no time, no space between these two places

towards aberdeen a day of service
the woman beside me has beautiful lips
i watch the sky through silhouetted spring trees

a day of service, the man asks for a coffee
puts his laptop on the shelf
her bottom lip is so sensual

she orders a coffee
i drink infinity
glug water from a plastic bottle


thank you milosz

my generation is lost too czeslaw
our cities grand, nations united
still lost. right now. profoundly.
but the swallow performs its instant ritual
loving life its only duty
the boy, lost, craves for the beauty
he knows is elsewhere.
lost, the delusion of elsewhere.
the cities grand, lost, Europe too.
my generation, lost, Czeslaw
the swallow perfoms its blind duty
and we are lost to its ritual play.
the ultimate moment, its fragrant fragment
your world perfect at last
sweet milosz thank you


on the radio

on the radio the Who's 'My Generation'
drawn into the power, passion
good to feel that strength
but better to know it's just a song
here today, gone already, that's fine.
like an emotion, like a lover, like a mountain
impermanent and subject to skewed interpretation
like my work, my words, these words
they arise like myriad songs on the radio
and fade out, disappear, replaced by the new
till the body dies and the radio is switched off