The life I shed upon the ground
looks up at me, looks up at me
and in its scarlet lake I see
my face of yesterday lying drowned
and smiling as in sleep it seems
cradled among rocks and dreams
of what will never be.
Early in the dawns of May
under the Medusa tree
I shall stand and you will see
my transfigured head of day
hanging in a bleeding dream
as the serpents hiss and scream
and eat eternity away.
The memories of other mornings
rise and flash within the mind
until its glass and cloudy houses
crowd with what was left behind.
I see the child dance under water
with dead flowers in its hand
and, once again a ragamuffin
the bones that lie upon the sand.
Charley, are you there still, Charley?
Who’s banging on the backyard door?
I hear the dogs of childhood whining
to scramble at my heel once more:
and in the parks the sleeping sisters
lying in their crumpled frocks
rise from the grave and shake the death like
leaves out of their tangled locks.
What, my heart, is the wind crying?
I cannot see the morning sky.
Across the night I hear replying
the sheeted hobnobbers on high:
they hide and, homeless in the darkness,
howl like dogs that cannot go
back to the cloudy houses where we
lived and died so long ago.
To George Barker
Among the poets
revolving in the battery
grabbing frantic pecks of
food as they passed the hoppers
was one particularly battered specimen
that had managed not only to rub off most of its feathers
but somehow to half skin itself as well,
and it drooped as it stood there on matchstick legs
and round and round and round,
and round and round,
its raw little elbow wings a joke –
you could tell by the look in its eye.
And on the rack in front of it lay
a large brown poem.
They only kept it out of sentiment of course:
all the others produced well-written eggs.
To all appearances the life serene:
tea in the afternoon with two old ladies; talk
of this and that, and who and who have been
seen arm in arm on a Sunday walk;
how well the new tomato plant; what who said
when the old cow died; why the milk was sour.
He sat and chatted with them by the hour
until the time came to go in to bed.
The floorboards of the ballroom open up.
The flames. The pillar of. Who are you. Blood.
Something is burning somewhere. Waltz of Death.
The fire. I am I am. The flesh. The cup.
He would start screaming if only he could.
I feel the fangs and smell the stinking breath.