cave drawings

this morning I sharpened my pencil
in expectation of words

little boats came instead
while antelope gathered
upon a white hill
to stare

cave drawings
from I don’t know where

I would rather have had words

say a little prayer

perhaps I should genuflect
light a candle
mumble something holy

but when the night terrors come
to this private vault
we call consciousness
only my dog can hear me

be near me

comfort this old skin

so I say a little prayer for him
and whisper I’m ok

howl

dog on the bed
like a polar landmass in the spring
I would give anything
to be like you

yours is an empire of the skin
mine the meandering way within

an island off the compass of the world

go howl your howl
let it be heard

Three Sea Tales

1. The Death of Gulls

Like hail they fell,
in numbers uncountable,
leaving no one left to wail but me,
Godless upon an iron sea.

After the storm I was cut adrift,
me a mid-shipman,
ten days out to sea,
and never a sight of land for me,
nor woman’s touch,
but her dark eyes
swam before me all the way
to the whirlpool at the end of days
where under a glowering sky,
still beardless,
I died the death of gulls.

This sea-tale I recount,
by way of settlement
to the God that has deserted me
this seventeenth day of May,
Seventeen hundred and fifty three.

Now the Devil take me.

2. The Last Island

The storm levelled the house
and I raised sail;
made for the last island of all.

Seven days have now passed,
my boat lies broken on the beach
and I lay dying of love.

In my own blood I write this scrawl
and face my God alone:
my maker,
and my unmaker,

Lord of the Last Island.

3. The Voyage Out

On the voyage out, we were becalmed
for seven days and nights,
one for each decade of an old soak’s life.
Untouched by either current or breeze,
by degrees, I grew mad
so that when the wind did whisper to me,
it was in sea dreams I could not read;
strange alphabet, strange tongue,
not known to me, or anyone,
hieroglyphs on the pavements of a seaside town,
out of season all year round.

And there I was delayed,
incanting, have remained,
casting back these stones into the sea,
words formed in extremity,
holding back the one thing I could read:
“Oh why hast Thou forsaken me?”

the valley

sitting on the bed
notebook raised to the rough angle
of the ridge opposite
where the orange cubes of a new estate
have sprung up against the skyline
I recall another time
I sketched houses in distraction
as one parent raged against the other
in the summer vacation
before they parted

I shouldn’t have started
the light diminishes – evening comes early

evening comes early to all of us
who dwell in the valley

default lines

the day defaults
upon the dark trudge home
I turn my collar to the night
find no message on my phone
think of Robert Frost
as the last street light is passed
weigh good against indifferent
and find the case is lost

the day defaults
to nothing very clear
beyond a bowl of peanuts
and a glass or two of beer
but when I think back
put some distance to my sight
I find that in the darkness
came a different kind of light

[first posted 26 March 2015]