urge to check I’m still
there strikes in public spaces.
When no-one’s looking I dip into my bag
for my compact mirror, green mother of pearl carved
with a dragon fly. Smooth, cool, it opens languidly
like a mermaid’s eye. I keep myself at arm’s
length to get the best view, either the top
or the bottom of my face. They don’t
make those mirrors big enough.
I can never see the
whole of me.
smoke and alabaster the purity of revelation
baby powder and snow east and west, dawn and evening
honey dew and mint cream the illusion of perfection
ivory and seashell surrender and treachery
old lace and linen the white knight
lavender blush and ghost dead-white faces
floral white and corn silk cowardice and cold
parchment and pointing the second stage of the Great Work
champagne and vanilla virgin sacrifice
cosmic latte and glitter mercury poisoning
magnolia and pearl the boredom of waiting
flax, eggshell and bone death rides a pale horse
The last time I saw you, corroded
man of metal, manoeuvring your mortal
shell over tarmac, cyber sun sparked body
-work so blinding you didn’t see me
at the window sipping Irn Bru. Your brittle head
shadowed by your Panama, dipped dead-pan,
you looked like an Italian film
director shooting the scandalous
biopic of an unknown Nazi. My father,
forged by Stalin’s Holodomor,
man of steel with the ability
to change shape, become uniform,
less liable to crack
the annealing boy with a sword.
Such handsome cheek-bones.
They burned villages on the Western
Steppes belching black smoke
on the day paramilitary death squads
took photographs. I dreamed of you
behind the wheel of a red
Volkswagen Beetle your shame
-ful love of German engineering,
your welded lips breaking down,
reforming internal shapes under
pressure like Swarfiga green
jelly in a tub. You held out one
giant hand scarred by hundreds
of burns, carved deep,
never given a chance to heal
working fourteen hour shifts
at the foundry. Get on board, you said.
Words stuck in your throat
when they took your rotten teeth
out. You coughed blood and lies
into a white handkerchief,
pretended to hang yourself with a jump.
Freedom is a gift not for Everyman.
You were someone else in 1947,
metal pushed through a die.
Tackle it when thrust through the window.
Look difficult when leaving the control area,
keeping right. Drive gentle up the road.
There may be more than you.
It will contain the time and distance you.
Get to the first junction as somebody else
and set off again. Beware of blindly following.
He may know where he is going or he may not.
Keep trying to make the fit and keep an eye on.
You may end up lost off route, being baffled
on route! Alternative. Pull up, obstruct and try
the hand better than clutter. With practise
you will plot the move keeping at least two.
If you are baffled it may be your opinion
-miracles do happen and he may see. Do it
or provide the clue. As a last resort guess.
Don’t stumble on a code. Use a magnifier.
Don’t discard handouts, keep them safe.
Engineer the maps in alphabetical
to easily locate you in the night.
Note:- Plot and Bash is a navigation technique used within British Road Rallies during the 1980s.
We drift in the wind, nomadic, elusive,
mercurial as scraps of tinsel, we hunt
human gatherings, crossing forests, seas
and cities, passing from home to home
we reap your memories, your secrets
that doze like fish in a torpid pool.
Small, almost invisible, you mistake
us for sunbeams, for insects floating
in the sultry night, for snow melting
on your child’s face or candle light
glinting in your lover’s eyes. We are
constant as the air you breathe, entering
your nasal passages, your mouth, seeping
into your skin and every private cavity.
We grub deep into the coils of grey
where you hide. Without you we are empty
as a church without the presence of God.
We can’t love. We can’t hate. We can’t sing.
So when you reach the top of the stairs
and forget why you are there, when you fail
to recall your mother’s voice or the taste
of beer, when you forget the meal you ate
ten minutes before and your own name,
please don’t mind too much.