Otherwise (Another Phantom Memory)

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I met her once.
We hardly spoke two words together.
She “kept house” for her brother,
the brilliant inventor of an artificial crystal
with industrial applications —
the sample on the coffee table
was like a brute chunk of unstained glass.
Silence was her relentless trademark.
She loved, once.
Was jilted, once.
Her heart in that sense was broken for good —
what more could she possibly want from the world?
Her needs were small —
Bedroom. Bathroom. Kitchen. —
and were largely invisible to anyone not herself.
This was her bitter better discovery:
a vast grave universe we can’t/don’t want,
and she, in her other wisdom, a chip of quartz
catching —
not keeping —
the light.
Now all I know is
that her mute declaration of complete independence
comes (if we’re lucky) to the rest of us anyway
after all.
Then the question becomes:
Can we learn in the time we have left on this Earth
what to do for ourselves with her heartending prize?


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Some time after recondite midnight,
naked in the backyard,
I confront the brilliant broad band of the whole Milky Way
with the narrow scope and fibre
of my nerves.
Mosquitoes that feast
on fingers and toes
enjoy nothing of this star-time underneath the Southern Cross
the way I do. For instants
I come keenly to life across a tingling bodybreathscape
in a silken Summer breeze
that works from without
physique’s long-dormant field
and wakes up overcast skin to its intergalactic whorl.
My blood-cells spinning in orbit
from fingerprint to thumbprint,
I am all the laws of physics in one place —

hospitable Vital Bible of the spark.

Simone de Beauvoir Writes

She sits in the Dôme, the Coupole
writing letters to Soldat Sartre:

. . . pourquoi la conscience humaine
. . . why would the human conscience

contruisait un monde
construct a world

avec des données et des distances et des masses
with givens and distances and masses

qui ne soit pas à la mésure de l’homme?
which are not based on the human scale?

Things are big in all the wrong ways, demeaning us.

Riding on her bicycle through a Paris grey as Occupation
she asks herself:

Qu’est-ce que c’est qu’une guerre?
But what is war?

Compassion, fashion: she neglects neither.
She describes the new turban she has bought,
in love with love and the tender language of description.
She professes herself content with

cette chance merveilleuse
this marvellous good luck

d’être dans le même monde
to be in the same world

as this man she loves.

Lungs Full of the Hard Smoke of Hong Kong


A storm-warning here gives weather
sudden celebrity: like the old days
the elements become something to reckon with
once more, briefly. Concrete covers most of the earth,
and half the indoor plants are forged
from plastic. Beneath umbrellas,
beneath artful perspex walkways,
beneath a film that shrink-wraps each thought,
we manage mostly to avoid all touch
of the rain, but can’t quite help breathing it into
deserted cells.

Captive of Capitalism

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Crows dive odd angles into morning —
they add oblique hints
and signs to a clueless suburb-sky.
As a backdrop, the tall metallic smoke-stack
cigarettes oxygen-fresh air with its thin, industrious taint.
Absent-minded in the rhythm of her schemes,
a jogger running late
through Sunday’s quieter park
double-takes at what she sees loom largely overhead:
a giant shark
hangs ravenous in mid-air, eyeing its prey — twenty pink squid
which dance in a line to the sun.
Streaming with light, a lithe-benign mermaid —
breasts discreetly capped with matching scallop shells —
glides gently down to soothe her baffled state:
Hello — we are kites. Today,
with the wind, we have borrowed you blue
for the sea. On behalf of us all,
I invite you to quit this element you strand in
for ours
. . . Standing on tiptoe,
the jogger stares up widely at the depths
trying, for a change,
this novel exercise: she’s simply
SWIMMING her mind with wonder.


Snail by Maigheach-gheal is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

You don’t say — you make silver
your curious glide and then follow by heart
a creaturely-instinct’s road.
blades of grass you bend bridge-wise deeply in two
with the weight of your cargo-shell
till you find yourself back
where you once went wrong
to start over again with a marginally altered slant.
Rain is your birthday.
If the whole world were rain,
you would waste not a moment of your life
“indoors” but instead
go daylightly on —
always the minimal animal —
feasting outstretched stalk-eyes on Earth’s succulent Vegetable Realms.

I Don’t Know Why I’m Telling You All This

They climb the white hill, four Buddhist monks
bare in mind.
The distinct crunch of snow
beneath thick Winter boots
an understated poem of patient ascent over Disquiet Earth.
Up ahead is the temple
simple in its clearing ringed with firs:
it declared itself at the outset,
right from the very first step
and was present,
both ex- and implicit,
at every point in the vista —
and the intervista
the whole way.
But you know this already, don’t you?
being one of the passionate pilgrims yourself!

The Final Next Thought

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The freckles flecking Terry Weston’s face?
Or the mood of a cloud as it grazed the back fence
before drifting down bluestone lanes? —
I’m not sure.
The stub of a white Derwent pencil
used to colour in Captain America
that vanished below a cobwebbed
bedroom window?
The unique planetary grow kindled by sun
in the heart of a green glass marble?
I don’t know.
The unspeakable perfume of a purple butterfly-bush
tortured by poor soil?
Or the sweet stink of chewing-gum
thick on a stack of football cards?
The smell of turpentine?
Orange fungus on carpet samples?
Mona Lisa and the Blue Boy? Scared birds in a classroom? Dust in a church’s stained-glass windows?
The bell of a fuchsia, dumb
by the broad side of a house?
The Temptation of Saint Anthony mapped
in a black book on witchcraft?
The bee-sting agony concealed inside humble clover?
A gnarled leaf cradling a leaf-curling spider?
An ankylosaurus grazing idyllic pages,
quarantined from inevitable carnivores?
The look of our lifetime distilled in her eyes?
What will it be, that impossible thing,
the thing that I think of last?