Saturday 10 February 2024

A selection of pieces from 'A Book of Prayers'

 

A hostel in Cairns

 

Stepping in and hitching on

the wheels of savings,

now in a hostel in Cairns.

 

I’m 35 this year. 35.

That mean something?

It sounds like it should

in a hostel in Cairns.

 

Over dinner,

beneath gazebos,

beside dorms,

I wanna tell this couple

not to do it.

Perhaps return to Scotland, kids.

Get some land in a sleepy town.

Give us stacks of babies

and feel the warmth of it all:

the dog at your feet,

the child in your arms,

the love in your bed.

Return.

You really wanna break each other down?

Think of the honey,

the toast,

the morning porch

you built with your mates.

Don’t be charmed by the road

—the first temptation of many.

Go back.

 

Do I even believe that, though?

Do I?

 

Too late anyhow.

We’re here.

Adults of the adolescence.

Was it worth it in the end?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Too late anyhow.

 

I’m 35 in a hostel in Cairns.

Life’s canyon has roared

with torrents,

cascades,

so much song,

so much noise,

coming up to 15 years.

For now, it’s emptied out.

Trickles down escarpments

here and there.

Thunder far away.

A hostel in Cairns.

 

I stare at the ceiling before the lights go out,

and I think of the Scottish couple,

and I hope they make it.

 

 

----- ----- -----

 

The crow

 

The emperor has no clothes out here,

just wings,

and barely bothers making way

as you power down the bitumen,

and it powers through the flesh of the battered roo.

But whatevs. It’s the crow I love the most.

 

Besides the eagle, other nobles too:

the hawk, the kookaburra

—all a little regal, a little proud.

But I love the clown the most.

Its ludicrous sunrise moan-squawk;

its black coat keeping the night alive.

 

The crow is the troll of the animal world.

Perched on its jester seat,

it twists the peace

into knots

of caws,

getting the nobles back

though they can’t quite tell.

 

As the eagles and hawks and others

prepare themselves to be brilliant,

the little nutcase groans with laughter:

 

“That’s it,” it cackles,

“get up you stupid bastards.

Salute to the orders of the day.

Live your life as if it’s yours.

Just how much have you won

that you now must rush around?”

 

The crow:

the clown that trolls the morning in

with anti-beauty,

the subtle genius

reminding us

—as light reveals the stage for the day—

that we’re all

in fact

clowns.

 

 

----- ----- -----

 

So much life

 

The chicken fence allowed the chickens

a castle

away from the dog

that lived for the hunt

and our love

for its wild heart.

 

The frame of a door was chewed upon

one night

by a busy rat

—a tiny goer at 1am,

a high-vis spirit

pounding away,

tearing down the house and

blowing up the night

with its tiny teeth.

 

We set the dog on the job,

and the little chippy

didn’t last the night.

The chickens none the wiser,

sleeping through the hunt.

Life.

So much life: two homes side by side

and seven housemates

and rats,

chickens,

dogs.

And the huntsman upon my arrival

—a watchman inspecting a tenant moving in,

a lightning flash on the ceiling,

spiraling down the wall

and falling in panic.

 

I try not to kill the smaller things these days.

Two years on,

I drove a mouse I’d trapped to the other side of town

and set free its little soul.

You just get older, I suppose,

and feel less sorry for yourself

but more for who you used to be

and more for mice

and spiders

and even the dog with the rat in its mouth

—it’s complicated, I guess.

 

So much life.

Many houses

and many miles between.

 

That chicken fence: is it there to this day?

I heard the place got pretty messy once we left.

What remains?

There’s always something,

and when you return you say

“Look, that shovel hasn’t moved”

or “Shit, no-one’s touched the tarp”.

 

Maybe the trees you planted

shot up,

and the ghosts of the huntsman and rat,

plus arrays of the living,

gather there

under protection of things that remained,

by the place where the chickens had little lives

and a little fence

for their little castle.

 

 

----- ----- -----

 

Everything

 

There was Jordan at first

—the original game of chess,

the template,

the moves made.

 

Oh Jordan…

Were you lifetimes ago?

We rendezvoused at family homes.

We talked of having kids.

We were the kids

—on backyard trampolines

somewhere overseas.

Forever young

somewhere still.

 

And then

there was Mel.

My gorgeous Mel.

We crossed the Rubicon to adulthood,

and I to sin.

Mel of the Garden,

I of the fruit.

If God could not forgive,

I know that you would still forgive,

Mel: the one who saw a prince in the eyes of a toad.

Mel: with whom I ate at home

and was at peace.

 

And then

 

Diana.

My mountaintop.

My lightning.

My pain and grace.

My Magdalene.

Diana, Diana…

All in the name if all could know

what we once knew.

What now, queen? What now?

The line crossed.

The ribbon snapped.

The medals stored.

The crowd went home, sweet angel.

So did we

—without each other.

The churches, the flesh,

the us against the lie.

The glory.

The aftermath.

To rejoice or despair, sweet queen?

 

The stage is set.

We play our part.

I rise from a mattress on the floor

and draw the curtains.

 

 

----- ----- -----

 

I was you

 

I was you,

and you were me,

and that’s the way we wrapped ourselves in love

 

—our silken case

 

that hatched a memory

flying back to me from time to time.

 

Though love did not survive,

it didn’t die

but grew the wings of

something else I need not understand,

 

that flies to me from time to time

 

to reassure, to let me know it never died,

 

then sails away,

thanking me, I’m sure, for having let it go.

 

 

----- ----- -----

 

A mystery

 

The women mourned

at the base of the cross,

tending the wounds.

The nails removed, the earth prepared,

they sang the body home.

The formless forgave the form.

 

The men roared

and hit the wild sands,

laying the concrete down,

rolling the stones away and

clearing the tombs.

The blood boiled. The path was forged.

 

They come together when Spirit makes it so

—the woman and man,

the body and blood—

to birth again the Christ,

to glorify the infinite.

 

Forgive me, Almighty.

I know not what I do.

My words are weak and impotent

and hardly start

to grasp

the mystery.






Wednesday 31 January 2024

Harvey

 

Young blood arrived on our lawn.

Harvey:

the latest lad to Scott Street.

 

Harvey:

all of 21;

me an ancient 36.

 

Harvey, I envy you, my bro.

You don’t know

 

the rides to come.

You couldn’t understand.

We’re not supposed to understand.

 

Indeed, who ever truly understands?

We just get old and try to cling to something left

and call this ‘understanding’

and wonder why the ride

is running slow.

I’m jealous, bro.

 

Partly of the girls to come,

the parties, musings

and new best mates.

Etc. etc.

 

But even more than these,

I’m jealous of memories you’ll store

that speak of what went down

but keep it light on heavy shit

then top you up with mental polaroids.

Keep the memories safe, my bro.

They tend to fade away

the more we ‘understand’.

Don’t understand too much.

Let those memories simmer

 

as you rest

on a faded futon,

 

knowing I’ll be dragging out

the memory of you

for as long as I am able to.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 25 November 2023

For Tink II

 

May the leeches leave you be, sweet girl.

When I’m granted the chance to spare some blood,

I’ll give you all I can.

The Devil is cruel, can take so much,

but not the love we have for you.

 

There’s a path, there’s always a path,

on which His sandals echo, still,

and His hands extend.  

 

May Christ forgive your crucifiers, I guess,

and keep you safe

and pardon my rage.

We recall that long before the world could hate on us,

it hated Him.