I believe this was written while in Japan several years ago


We flick through the pages
All numbered wrong
Fold and unfold
Your pretty cranes
Tiny droplets
Whisk by on the window
Stream them fleet away
You hurry by
With yellow balloons
Even though it is raining
Sidewalk puddles reflect your face
Or the shadow of every other Monday
Carefully draw letters in each
Too-easy crossword
You are fighting back
Against the wind that screams
Between the skyscrapers
And the tousled cryptic pages
Someone once told you
‘life is not about flowers’
but just for today
you bend at the waist
to peer closer at them
that oil-tinted reflection in the puddle
goes on
in its hand a bunch
of yellow balloons


Sestina #2

‘There are many ways to be blind,’

A mantra that curls in my head, thin trails of incense,

A mandala I trace each day in grey dust

Outside my door, before I run my fingers over the green

Railings and descend into the multi-threaded chaos of the world, raging white water

Every time I draw breath.

Today I have a momentary escape from the breath

Of the city, from the acres of blind

Eyes and stagnant water.

Today I travel ground-up small as incense,

Drifting towards this eclipsing montage of green,

A blinding libretto of nature that grinds plain words to dust.

All this happens in a moment, I am rubbing dust

Between my palms, and now each tautly drawn breath

Carries inside me the humid rush of green

That leaves my other senses blunted and blind,

The mystique of sharp incense,

The circuitous, infinite life of water.

The rain is only gentle feathers of water,

Soft,incipient, pluming liquid dust.

Even after they shake, my hands are yellowed and perfumed by incense

And the Buddha climbs in and out of me with each breath…

Now, once again, I am blind,

But with purpose. I can hold the world in a precious fragment of green.

I let the bodhi leaf slip, green

Masterpiece of reconstructed water;

Suddenly I am no longer blind

Folded, the dampened paper is removed as simply as stray dust,

And something is rushing into me as silent as breath:

Something much more than simple sandalwood incense.

One last twist of incense

Between the fingers and I am gone, out into the sunlight with the green

Leaf still gripped in the mind’s hands, the breath

Moving slowly, turning, the eyes adjusting, gaping like koi on the fine surface of the water.

What I knew before is as pale and ancient as dust,

I could see, but I was boundlessly blind.

I am forced to mix incense with water,

To wash the green and the dust alike from my hands:

The breath of the sestina reminds me of the many ways to be blind.

Ryokan – Part 1

No, not the Japanese inn. This is Taigu Ryokan, the Japanese poet. I cannot remember who first directed me to his work, but I am discovering and enjoying a new poet. Here is one of his poems… more to come most likely. Sadly I don’t have the original Japanese for any of these.


Have You Forgotten Me

have you forgotten me
or lost the path here?
i wait for you
all day, every day
but you do not appear.

Editing poetry: Time moves

Perhaps the further away a memory gets, the more it softens around the edges. Or perhaps things really were better back then. The title of this piece comes from a line in the Martha Wainwright song ‘Don’t Forget’. ‘Miracles and Idolatry’ is the title of a book by Voltaire.

we were
two halves
sliced clean on serrated edge
segments torn apart
sour in our own ways
the light down the hallways
a ghost of a threat
tangled in your hair
cushioned your feet
in plume of powdered rosin
ballet shoes
on institutional floors
we conducted
a symphony of glances
spoke in the movement of air
all rush and dizzying pressure
such silent gesture
ignorance, miracles and idolatry
there was a time
when I would wrap
such words
in cherry leaves
soft flesh
lay in perspective rails
narrow the distance between us
when every word I wrote
was a step towards you
now you are
far off tumble of hot galaxy
dissipated over distance
I see you in
the scrolling pictures
timestamped and flat
a disconnect tone in pixels
that final gift
blooms in water
uncurls a chaotic flower
a supernova
imparts ferric slant
is gone
like a rolling wisp

via Editing poetry: Time moves.

Editing poetry: the pillow book

she is naked
except for a red ribbon
twirled around her wrist
and ink
in circles

around her ankles
Rilke spirals
she arches into the umlaut
l e n g t h e n s and tenses
like the swan’s anxious letting himself down
the brush relaxes against flesh

Carson crosses her uncovered arms
curved calligraphy
soothing the hard lines
she angles her head
to read
the roses were on fire
her dark hair
tied into droplets
splashing against her shoulders

on the stomach’s soft palette
Cohen and Plath
sear black into colour
force out small breaths
she curls her back
the words writhe, contort
need the PLEASURE in my spine

Borges and Neruda
duel for her hips’
pale meander
complete and radiant,
sealed by fire

a dark warmth like opium

filling the gaps between lines
crosses one cheek
he whines like a shutter
the retina is hungry
and her eyes are the darkness of Voronezh
along her spine
tightly lettered
spaced by her motion
He . looks . thro.  ugh .   the .   exqu.    isite .   binoc.  ulars .of

he is tracing the meaning
of the word circuitous
on her flesh
with one finger
like lazy jazz
saving his own words
sparing her thighs any brushstroke
because some words
are simply ribbons

Editing poetry: Pictures on the Wall

This is a piece that is I am quite pleased with, possibly because it addresses some emotional times in my life without being completely awful. It also contains references to a lot of things that I love or have loved. The last line is inspired by a line in Rufus Wainwright’s ‘Dinner at Eight’: ‘Actually in the drifting white snow / You left me’.

I find it strange
To hear your name waver on the lips of others,
The tightly wrapped French consonants
Like these soft cakes in cherry blossom leaves.

I find it strange
When the blind girl talks about the handsome baseball players
In the same breath
And in the same way as Schubert
She talks about watching television as if it really happens
And I think the way her hands move over each other like waves is the same way she hears things.

I find it strange
That at the crest of my guilt
Your picture fell from the wall
And lay gazing up at its twin with hydrochloric eyes
Etching the silence with purpose.

I find it strange
And beautifully tragic
That this café in a foreign place plays Rufus Wainwright
Those lyrics large as breakers
But nobody hears the words,
They only sit and eat small French pastries,
The flakes fall like drifting white snow.

Editing poetry: Pictures on the Wall.

Editing poetry: Doll

Editing poetry: Doll

I suppose we are now in what we could call my ‘Japan period’. Most of what I wrote in this period is inspired by the people and places I saw while I lived in Japan in 2006.

Sad little doll
Painted rainboot purple lips
Down-sloping smile,
Heavy, always waiting to expel a sigh,
You sit in the same seat every day,
Never moving or smiling,
Sad little doll.
Seemingly so brittle,
Sad little doll,
Your eyes crowded
With eyeliner
That shines like black lacquer,
Each day I imagine your hand
Will wipe it off and leave you
Clean and young,
And you will smile like frost vanishing under hot breath,
Sad little doll.
Sad little doll,
As my days are whittled down
To the shape of a viola
I shall not see you again.
But then,
The way your eyeliner
Is thick calligraphy
Makes the eyes between
Seem like dull empty glass.

via Editing poetry: Doll.