Friday, April 22, 2011

NaPo 11: 20-22 April - Good Friday poems

... I'm running a little behind, so 3 poems today to bring me back up to speed.

Good Friday Poem #1

Two hot spring weeks and already
the Earth cracks. Haze
hovers above the uncut grass,
sway-less eye dance -

a trick of the heat: bees bob
between pincushion
dandelions; fresh nectar
for the first eggs.

Good Friday Poem #2

They fish in silence - the man,
the heron. When one casts its beak
through the mirror course the other
whip-ducks his fly. Slow the ripples
travel, armadas cruising the canal;
where the waves cross a stickleback
giants and dwarfs, nestweed in mouth.

Good Friday Poem #3

For my first burlesque of the season
I seek an audience of crows; there is much
for me to expose and, when done, they caw
an appreciation. I lumber onto my back
and let Aten's fingers massage me:
"you've fattened well," the lost god
whispers; "I accept your singe of a gift."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

NaPo 11: 19 April - Dollpuss

(the obligatory NaPo cat pome, innit)


A patch of sunshine moves: stripes stretch;
ripples of muscle in hot fur. Each toe tip
is planned, back-to-front, reach and bend;
hoist tail ... You play me like a vole, tiger -
when you mewl, I hunt your treats. Good boy!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

NaPo 11: 18 April - Regent's Canal

... So I'm running a day late. Be happy I'm not yet reduced to fukyu sequences ...

Regent's Canal

Dogs walking their owners
bow legs and bristles
tattooed and snouted
calf-exposed, sweat-nosed
barking at mates
by cell-phone.

Office work strewn over lawns
barefoot meetings, diary
confirmations applied
like cream over strawberry
burns - the first tanline
of the season filed.

Inside the sitework cages
move cranes - they spell runes
across a hot blue sky;
men in yellow hats clad
skeleton structures
in bricks and planks.

Midstream a swan ducks
and scrapes bubbled fronds
from the mud, green scraps
staining orange keratin
and I keep on walking
though my toes bleed.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

NaPo 11: 17 April - Snowdrop 6.8: Black Hound

Snowdrop 6.8: Black Hound

Having herded a huddle of ghosts
to the hidden shore, the Shuck unwinds.
She pads in circles, smoothing rushes
and matting grasses to make a nest

... and settles down, a slumber of shadows
above the knaps of abandoned flints
- elfshot arrowheads, adze and scraper.
She gnaws at her claws; nibble and preen.

A spur of frost stabs at her memory:
a chill-full fox with a filligree pelt,
his tail a bloom of tinkling icicles
to stake a wraith to the solid earth.

Frets of spittle spiral from incisors
as she hikes her snout to the star-clad heavens
to snuffle at swirls in the silent night
- her purpose is primeval: protect the dead.

A yelp, a sneeze; a scream. Yammers
hammer across the curve of the hill.
She spots a limb slapping at mist:
the motion sparks her to spring and charge.

She levers her legs, each lunge bringing her
closer to the threat, clattering rocks
and gouts of chalk as she gathers speed,
powering to pounce at the perilous couple.

Ahead is the fox, ephemeral spawn,
its ices cloaking a creature in pain:
a woman snared in a witter of spirits
hurtfully summoned by the seething mists.

And now she sprints, a spine of black
retributions bounding towards
the tattering fogs: she tenses and leaps ...

"Principium cuius hinc nobis exordia sumet,
nullam rem e nihilo gigni divinitus umquam."

... and her being unbinds - a bludgeon of words
streams through her ears to echo her skull ...

"Quippe ita formido mortalis continet omnis,
quod multa in terris fieri caeloque tuentur,
quorum operum causas nulla ratione videre
possunt ac fieri divino numine rentur."

... she howls! She keens like a hoard of suns
spun to the ledge of the starless abyss
and ripped of their fires. She renders the cliff
beneath her feet to fragments as she scrabbles
to escape the chains of the chanted lines ...

"Quas ob res ubi viderimus nil posse creari
de nihilo, tum quod sequimur iam rectius inde
perspiciemus, et unde queat res quaeque creari
et quo quaeque modo fiant opera sine divom."

... she cannot fight! Her final bay
echoes against the girth of the moon
as she buckles, breaks and dissolves.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

NaPo 11: 16 April - Snowdrop 6.6: Cold Jack

Snowdrop 6.6: Cold Jack

A flash in the fog; the flare of an eye
so light in hue it leaches ice,
a pair of points piercing the night ...

Jack is on the hunt for hints of food.
His snout ferrets through frosting grass
for beetles, worms, the wine of a berry
lost in the roots. The rigorous search
succeeds when Jack snags a nut husk:

he claws the seed cleanly from the sod
and chases it across the chalk, stops it
with his berg snout, snatches his teeth
on the chipped prize, chews and swallows.

And then Jack sits, his tail askirt
to cover his paws in its plume of fur.
He cocks his head to catch any sound,
noses at the air for echoes of tuck.

An apron of frost infuses the ground;
surrounds the form of the fox in white.

A hic of a moan hinges Jack's ears -
a novel sound: he scans around
hillocks and tufts to detect the source,
pins it within a patch of deep murk.

He stands and shakes, the snow in his pelt
spraying the tussocks. He takes a careful
pawstep closer to the curling smoke
alert for dangers, for dogs and men.

A human, collapsed - the huffs of its creels
are muffled in limbs. He moves closer,
eager to sniff it for snatches of grub ...

it jerks its head up just as he inches
too near to escape! Their stares married,
he yelps a crystal cloud in its face.

Goodreads 1, Rik 0

... so I'm trying to set myself up on Goodreads. It's proving to be a bit of a bugger because the two books the site already had in its database for me were not (exactly) the books I wanted listing: one was my first ever poetry book, now retired and put out to pasture, while the other was the smashwords version of The Gods in the Jungle. So none of my other hardcopy poetry chapbooks and books, no hardcopy version of GiJ, and no mention of kindle versions anywhere!

That's me, that is!

Obviously there's still some work to do, and then I've got to figure out all the groups and social interactive stuff. Advice from Goodreads regulars would be most helpful.

Also, should I offer people free copies of GiJ? The promotion I did on this blog last year resulted in 1 (one) copy being downloaded. Cursed, my name is: cursed!

Friday, April 15, 2011

NaPo 11: 15 April - Snowdrop 6.4: Ghost

This isn't a revision; rather it's an entirely new section which replaces a badly conceived and executed crown of sonnets which was physically depressing me. This might be a rough first draft, but it solves so many more problems than it creates ... look! I'm doing a happy dance!

Snowdrop 6.4: Ghost

"Is that my baby's voice I hear?
I cannot tell - I cannot find my ears;
my hands are mist, I think, their grip
has gone. Who calls me up from my grave?
I cannot see - shout out your name
whoever you are, or leave me in peace.

"She screams! My baby screams; no peace
shall ever come to a Mum who hears
such noise! I think I know your name
- hush, sweetness; unplug your ears
for you're in danger: I see a grave
and you, tumbled, caught in its grip!

"Enough of this nonsense, child. Get a grip!
You need some wits in your head to piece
together a plan to dodge this grave.
For he has chosen you, you hear,
just like he sliced my poor throat ere
my rightful time had come. His name

"is long forgotten; he gathers names
and tallies necks for the offering - rip
his eyes from their sockets, his ears
from his head and still he'll live: no peace
is he permitted, not even here,
for God has hidden away his grave ...

"Oh, sweetness, love: don't look so grave!
Your Dad gave you a powerful name;
even as he was leading me here
he kept his word, your Dad. Now grip
your mind to that idea: this peace
must end, and you must end it. For here's

"the thing, my love: you have his ears,
his father's face, their blood. No grave
can claim your flesh, their flesh, and peace
is your gift - if you discover his name
and the names of the powers kept in the grip
of his copper cauldron, yes? Now hear

"hear hear me child, hear me with heart and ears
and thought: unslip his grip on your grave,
carve his name on a tomb - offer him your peace."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

NaPo 11 bonus - Snowdrop 9.2: The Chant of Entrapment

Snowdrop 9.2: The Chant of Entrapment

"I sit and wait, I guard this hidden realm;
we keep the world's best in our hidden realm.

"A place beyond corrupted Eden, here;
a home for the disposessed in my hidden realm.

"A wizened hook, a secret key, a bean;
go forth, find fresh guests for our hidden realm.

"This prize you bring to me - a jewel, a rose;
her presence here has blessed the hidden realm.

"Too many years have passed - so few remain;
the birth of suns divests the hidden realm.

"The sun shall die tonight, and be reborn;
such are the trials and tests for the hidden realm.

"My hands have tallied too many bright hearts;
your last breath: a bequest to my hidden realm."

NaPo 11: 14 April - Snowdrop 6.3: The Chant of Summoning

Snowdrop 6.3: The Chant of Summoning

"Each step I take moves me from night to day;
I know that I must learn of night and day.

"This hill imprisons me - my heart has fled;
I see only ice: it churns night and day.

"What greater gift can these cold mists give me?
Knowledge of how to burn this night to day.

"I never found my love, though I touched his shape;
mistrust has been my friend: spurn night for day.

"An old sheep's skull, some ribbons, beads and nails;
this unloved garbage returns night to day?

"My name is Snowdrop, born from love now lost;
I beg of you: adjourn this night, make day!"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NaPo 11 bonus - Snowdrop 6.2: The Oracle

Snowdrop 6.2: The Oracle

From the church the soldier chooses a track
that leads them down, they dip between
strands of briar-cane suturing the cliffs.

"Now most who come don't care to think
of this as real: it scares them, see?
So when the magic comes to them
they panic, scream and run away
before their telling's done and then
the telling's damaged, yes? They spin
and break their necks, or otherwise
go stark mad like our corporal did."

No animals call; the coiling mists
dampen all sounds and dapple outlines
in spackle moonshine, smothering shapes.

"It's dangerous, this oracle;
you have to treat it with respect
and take a mind to learn from what
it sets before your eyes and ears.
Now walk ahead and go to where
the mists are thickest, wound around
the fortune post - step bravely, child:
you'll know when you've discovered it."

At last the path levels to a ridge
of ancient cliff, its crumble smoothed
by egg-round hillocks of hard-edged grasses.

"Don't lie to it: the oracle
will know; it gives no mercy - fibs
will help it rip your mind away,
just like our lad lost his! You'll know
the rhymes to chant the magic, see,
it lays them in your head. Except
your name: that comes from you, and must
be true - for names have power, yes!"

NaPo 11: 13 April - Snowdrop 6.1: Caught in the Hug of Madness

Snowdrop 6.1: Caught in the Hug of Madness

"How can you know the truth? Does your belief
in wooden dolls give you some influence?
It's stupid - nonsense - nothing here makes sense!
This nightmare's only gift to me is grief
and pain; I'm a raver caught inside my head:
there's singers and dancers, folks who hunt and fuck
and pray in churches built from mist! I'm stuck
between the lines of a joke, too sick to shred
this dream. I need advice! I need a sign
to tell me what to do to end this hell -
a list of rules, a tourist guide, a map
of stones and trees that cannot move. A line
of arrows to point me home. I can't repel
my fear ... please! Help me spring this trap."

NaPo 11: 12 April - Snowdrop 5.7: The Power of Names

Snowdrop 5.7: The Power of Names

Javelins of frost jemmy between
the flints and chalks that form the soil
of the harrowed field. Hammering at clods
with his battered ladle the lad harvests
a treasury of roots - a turnip, a carrot.

"You have a name, my girl? We've not
had time to greet you properly -
the boy here has no manners, see,
and it ain't right to treat a guest
with disrespect. The lowest whore
will have a name (though not her own
most likely, truth be told). So who
are you? Your folks? It's good to know
these details now, before we eat."

The older soldier stands beside her;
he picks a twist of peas from their vine.
His eyes are open, an itch of a smile
twitching the lines that track past scabs
and under the sideburns scraped to his jaw.

"They're strange things, names. A name can make
or break a man without a care
to character or service, see?
Some names are good: they carry weight
and open doors, they sniff out chance.
But other names, they bring bad luck -
unclean, unfit for friendship, yes?
Tell us your name, and maybe we
can praise it to God and make it hale!"

She shakes her head and shivers. She has
a name, she knows it, but now she comes
to say it - no sound escapes her mouth.
Instead her hand squeezes a husk:
a grizzled bean bounces to the ground.

Monday, April 11, 2011

NaPo 11: 11 April - Attic

A change from Snowdrop revisions is in line for today - something utterly new and, in the best traditions of NaPo, knocked out in (less than) half an hour:


It takes more than a step
ladder to reach the coccoon
stretched above us. 'Careful!'

She panics too much. We are
not here to steal history, rather
we pack it in bags and haul it
through heaven's door - the case
that brought her to England;
the suit she married; coats
still in their wrap, bought
on a payday whim. 'He knows,'

she tells us: 'he doesn't like
The guard he left behind,
to keep her, watches us haul
the last vacuum-sucked sack
out of sight. 'Grrr,' I throat
and she smacks the floor
with her cable-thick tail.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

NaPo 11: 10 April - Snowdrop 5.5: At the Foot of the Cross

Snowdrop 5.5: At the Foot of the Cross

Wiping the spit from the side of his mouth,
the faith-full soldier stares at a fire
crackling in the apse of the empty hall.

Remnants of a uniform yoke his shoulders,
its pigments masked by a mantle of dirt;
a chevron tatters from a shoddy sleeve.

"It's time to eat; you have to eat.
You cannot sing His praises whilst
you starve. The moon is in the east!"
Some wooden pews pile in the corner,
their simple carvings a source of tinder
for heat and light. A ligament of smoke

caresses a body broken on a cross.
Curls of old paint peel from the Christ
to reveal its grains and varicose knots.

"The moon is in the east. We need
to eat. We have to harvest roots,
collect the seed and rake the soil."
The other soldier stands a shoulder
taller than the first, his tatter as thin
as his limb joints. She jolts at his words:

his sudden appearance unexpected like
a skull in the gloom - yet his grin is real,
a supportive smile that signals trust.

"No time for Jesus, he can wait
a few more hours. We need to work -
The Lord will forgive those who toil!"

Saturday, April 09, 2011

NaPo 11: 9 April - Snowdrop 5.1: Life on the Hill

Snowdrop 5.1: Life on the Hill

"Wake up! Wake up! We 'as to move
before the dogs do 'unt -
they'll take us down like rats out 'ere
an' rip us limb from joint!"
There's snow on the hill: sprinkles of chill
trapped by the blades of tufted grass
which knobble the chalk. A numbness blankets
the child-woman's limbs: her lungs gulp at
the rising miasma; ribbons of spittle
spool from the side of her salty lips
to frost on the earth. Her eyes are solid -
she cannot see. Her sight refuses
to start its magic, its meagre attempt
to sort some points of purposeless light
into an image, an instance of landscape,
burns a poker of pain through her head.

"Wake up! Wake up! You 'as to move!
We 'as to go to church!
The hunt won't follow us in there
within its stony arch."
Something touches: a tremor of fire
levels a path along her nerves,
plucking her skin with pinscrapes, echoes
of heart pulses pulling her joints
towards movement. A tightness in her bladder
cajoles her towards disjointed coherence.
A form is before her - the face of a boy
fresh to the stubble that stipples his chin.

"Wake up! Wake up! We 'as to go
before the light do fail!
The church is just across this ground -
no more than 'alf a mile."
Slowly she rouses, stretches her legs
and works her hip away from the hill.
A thirst from the crypt catches her throat.
On her knees, she spots a splint of ice:
she lowers her head level with the soil
and licks at the frosts that fruit on the leaves.

NaPo 11: 8 April - Snowdrop 4.4: False Dawn

(A day late ... so sue me!)

Snowdrop 4.4: False Dawn

She runs like the dogs, digging her hands
deep within tussocks as she tugs herself forward.

"I am not mad, and this is not a dream.
The world's not right tonight, no doubt of that,
but I cannot - will not - accept the facts
my eyes report: lies! Lies and schemes
to make me think I've gone insane. Stop, words!"
She runs like the stag, each step a bound
surging her up to the summit line.

"I know these chalks and flints, my soils - they must
hug the Marshlands, my home is there ... so trust
what you know, not what you've seen, or felt, or heard."
She runs like a woman wounded, exhausted,
the limp of her limbs lurching her higher.

"I am not mad, and this is not a dream.
Look! Just a few more steps and then I'll hit
the top; I'll see the marsh, the sun half-sliced
by the sea and Dungeness and this will seem -"
She runs ... and then she runs no more.
A shaft of light shatters on her face

"- a nightmare terror, soon forgotten. Grit
your teeth and push, push, push for your life!"
the coronal hues of a christmas dawn
and she falls, fractures, fissions, dissolves

and sinks into the soil - a silhouette, a shadow,
a space, a moment, a memory ... gone.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Rik's 5-step plan for becoming a poet.

Following on from the inane advice offered by Maria Shriver on how to become a poet, and served up here in addition to the much more vital and pertinent advice on the same supplied by Jim Behrle, please find below Rik's patented, guaranteed five step program on how to become a poet.
  1. Learn to listen. Honestly, this rule isn't just the first step towards becoming a poet. It is in fact one of those basic, fundamental rules of life, like teaching yourself to like people (however self-centred and mean they might be) and making an effort to give people hugs - even when they smell like they've peed their knickers and forgotten to change them for five straight days. And it's not just about what people say: it's how they say it, and why they say it, that's important. Equally important is learning to listen to the silences between the talky bits. It's language, see, and without language you ain't got no poetry ... because poetry's more than just a bunch of words.
  2. (This rule is the most important rule of all. Read it many times before going on to the next rule, 'kay?) Learn to enjoy reading poems. Because, when it comes down to it, if you don't enjoy reading poems, then why the fuck would you want to write one?
  3. Learn to enjoy writing poems. This is the bit where you get to join in with other people and have a go at writing stuff, sharing stuff, tearing the shit out of each other's stuff, taking the time to learn - together - what works as poetry, and how to get your words to work as a poem. It's also the time to learn (on your own, without the influence of friends, mentors and peers) what sort of poetry doesn't work for you. Learning that you don't need to enjoy every poem ever written, and you don't have to like the same poems as your friends and heroes, is a really, really important lesson to learn.
  4. Learn to walk away from poetry. There will come a day when you wake up and sit down to write something in your notepaddy journal thingy and ... no words appear. The thought of writing a verse or two fills you with - annoyance, displeasure; hatred. And you may look out of the window and see that it's raining heavily outside, with added gales, and the idea of going for a long walk seems a lot more fun than squeezing out your daily wordcount. Do it! Put your coat on, and your boots, and walk out of the door. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE take your notepad with you. Leave it. Bin it! Enjoy the release from the drudgery of writing ... and do not feel any shame, for this is not failure. It is success: you've taken the first step on a journey that ends in doing fun stuff that you enjoy doing. Poetry can wait; it will wait. You are the master of your muse, you are the owner of your voice. And you can dictate when it is time to write a poem, and when it is time to do something else.
  5. Success. Acclaim. The warm respect of your mentors and peers. Prizes. Chapbooks with your name on the front cover. The clapping audience. The rapt attention of ranked students. Yeah, right. Learn to be honest to yourself. If you crave any of the above, then write a novel; become a journalist. Heck, join a garage band or your local Glee club or (whisper it) the Scientologists. Because until you come to accept poetry as its own reward, you ain't never gonna be a poet. Innit!

This service announcement has been brought to your screens by Rik Roots. Who is a poet.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

NaPo 11: 7 April - Snowdrop 4.3: The Glamour in the Depths

(I know this must be boring the shit out of folks, but 'Snowdrop' has been hanging around my neck, albatross-wide, for a decade now and I want rid of it. And the only way to be rid of it is to finish the bastard thing.)

Snowdrop 4.3: The Glamour in the Depths

Look at the mist: it curls around
a steepled church, its fingers pick
at mortars, at stones - its aim to break down,
dismember, detach and disolve each brick.
Look at the mist as it slowly slicks
the chapel in beadings and moistures unwound
from its essence, its echo heart: it drowns
the lands around in brine so quick
that even to stare is to perish. See
the magical mist, so thick.

Look at the soldiers, tattered and torn,
hidden in a space that will soon disappear.
They scratch at the earth to harvest corn
and some beans in their pods, seeds of the seer.
Look at the soldiers: so thin and folorn,
lost between time, their loss so severe
it drives them past fear to madness - hear
them pray to a god all dressed in thorns
and soot and the peels of paint. See
the soldiers, their tatters unshorn.

Look at the woman: she kneels on a bench.
Her mustard hair sweeps down in locks,
her golden eyes stare up to entrench
the stars in her mind, unwinding clock.
Look at the woman catch at her frock -
her fingers whiten: her head is wrenched
back to expose her neck. Then shock
as blood cascades from veins to drench
her spotless cotton dress. See
the woman collapse from the block.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

NaPo 11: 6 April - Magpies

... to celebrate the 20% mark, a rest from Snowdrop. I do love freeverse:


It's the way they eye you,
those two-tone bloods
perched in their manor
tree, or dance-formation
spread across the field.

You have it, and they
want it, know, head
cocked, jet-eye wide
and unblinked - and what
they want, they get.

You can't nursery rhyme
these feathers; the asbo
can only handle seven
- secrets never told -
I count eight, ten, twelve.

'We like the cut of you,
and your suit.'
They caw
some chuckles as you cross
the road: 'we'll check
your window later, mate!'

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

NaPo 11: 5 April - Snowdrop 4.2: The Peggy

Snowdrop 4.2: The Peggy

A sash of moss musters around
a cobble of rock. Cables of ivy
and briers clamber about the chalk,
hounding the stream to its hidden source.
Hazels and beeches branch overhead
where a harvest of ribbons and ripened shoes
hang, silently siphoning dampness
from the air. She sits and stares at the pool.
She regards nothing while noticing shapes
between the leaves layering the base
of the pond: a brooch; a pin - a bone?
The halfshapes of offerings hidden in the ooze.

The water slumbers in a slump in the hill:
Old Peggy's Pool. Paintstrokes of salmon
cirrus announce the night's farewell,
arousing the Peggy, who rattles its fingers
across the reeds. It captures a grub
with a snap of its tongue. Something touches
its viscous roof; the red of an eye
appears in its welkin. The Peggy startles,
starts dancing a defence: a dart past the rock;
some arcs in the muds; an etch of patterns
that eddy and whirl. As the waters foul
its form disappears ... the Peggy is gone.

Monday, April 04, 2011

NaPo 11: 4 April - Snowdrop 3.6: Cold Rage

Snowdrop 3.6: Cold Rage

The stone that strikes the spiteful child
is sharp, a flint that flies from her hand
to cut his crown. From the crease of the wound
a bead of sap swells and congeals
then ruptures its sphere; rivulets gel
across his forehead. His cry is harsh
and sudden: a splinter, a snap of bough
trapped and twisted and torn from its stock.

The wealth of wails weakens her fear.
She turns her back on the baffling tableau:
ignore the man and his mock philosophies;
ignore the boy with his bloodless cuts.
Her steps move her from the spitting meats,
the foggy broths in their ferrous cauldrons.
She limps towards the line of the wood,
to the hug of brackens that hide her from bedlam.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

NaPo 11: 3 April - Snowdrop 3.4: Below the Meadow

Snowdrop 3.4: Below the Meadow

Her shoulders sag as she shambles behind
the besuited man, her step as heavy
as her dazed thoughts - a thicket of words
and clauses chained into a chant for her loss.

He leads her across the cup of the glade
and down towards a denser patch
of gorse and bracken gathered between
a swatch of leafless silhouette trees.

"I once believed that after death we must
return to God: slough off our skins and lift
our souls to bask in love - and all was good,
just like the diver rising up to breach
the waves, to twist apart his copper head
and dump the weights that hold his feet and chest
to breathe the air of Heaven! He is saved!
Was that your plan, my child, to go back home?"
What was once white now withers on the spit,
his bushy antlers broken by the flames -
a spatchcocked king spun on his bar
by weasel-bodied dogs in their wheel.

A brace of cauldrons as big as a feast,
their bases buried in a bank of embers;
the steams from the pots purl together
like a tablecloth hung from the highest twigs.

"This is our prison, child, for we are trapped
within the mists of this foul hill, where time
has stopped. There is no day, just night and chill,
where trees will stretch their limbs but cannot bud.
No flowers come to bloom in these cold lawns,
and all that ever lights our path is that
repulsive moon! It stalks our star-tacked sky -
its circle never wanes, or dims, or fails."
Some children scream as they charge through ferns
and come to a halt at the hem of the pit.
In the skittering light their skins seem painted
in a camouflage swirl: one smiles at her

... and from somewhere inside her she discovers a ghost
of a grin: a movement of muscles across
the slack of her cheek; a charm of hope
that arrives unannounced, nervous and fresh.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

NaPo 11: 2 April - Snowdrop 3.3: The Tall Gentleman

Snowdrop 3.3: The Tall Gentleman

"If I may say, you have the look of one
who's newly come to our accurséd realm.
Is this not what you prayed for? No, it seems
you've found confusions, madness - horrors spun
beyond uncharted hells: it will not stop!"

"I cannot breathe, and yet as seconds pass me by
my chest expands and air moves into me
- and out again - my lungs are devotees
of habit: in and out they go, but why?"
"What do you know of ghosts? Your disbelief
is noted, child, and yet that's what we are!
Some say that death is final, we collapse
oblivious at that last lunge for air,
and once we breathe no more there is no more:
a sleep so deep that none can wake again,
an oubliette of bones and rotting flesh
is all that marks our time upon this world -

"if only it were true: such happiness
is not for us unfortunates to know."

"I'm dead. I must be dead: my breath is ice;
I sit on muddied ice and ice encrusts
each stalk of grass ... are you dead too? I trust
nothing. Not ears or nose or fingers. Eyes?"
"How did I die? I choked upon a bean -
a stupid end for one as great as me!
And yes, I know we breathe: the mists exhaled
are part of where we are, and hunger too."

"They lie to me. They tell me I'm outside
barefoot and dressed for bed and yet I know
I'm dead - or knocked out cold by robbers, theives -"
"I've not yet told you where we are! Not Hell,
my child, for devils do not dance around
our roast pit fires with tridents in their hands.
And though I know some folk with tails, they are
not forked, and both their feet have heels and toes -"

"- perhaps I'm mad, not dead. I'm still inside
the house, hallucinating nightmares. So ...
what must I do to break apart these reves?"

Friday, April 01, 2011

NaPo 11: 1 April - Snowdrop 3.2: Buda Tiger

Snowdrop 3.2: Buda Tiger

She sprawls on a paddock of spangle grass
enclosed by a wicker of wind-sculpted trees
that stencil against a grim, pearlescent
spelter of clouds sponging the light
from the chill curve of an enchanted moon.

"Tonight is a time for a story or two,
a song and a dance and a drink - or a few!
There's many a legend that I could relate:
of wreckers and pirates; of lovers and fools
of Owlers and Excisemen keen to debate
the rights and the wrongs of a tax on our wool;
- but rather I'm minded to sing an old yarn
of Buda, the Tiger at Dawn.
A thicket of shanks and thighs surrounds her:
a collision of people in lines and knots
snatching at gossip and snagging glances
as they parade the field. A puddle moats
the dolmen slab where the smuggler chants.

"From chaos she pounced like a stripe of despair,
the pet of Lord Shiva Destroyer I swear.
Her paddock was jungle and mountain and plain;
her jaws were the jangle and rattle of hurt -
for when she went hunting none could restrain
the beast from her progress and none could divert
her claws from their throat: upon tides of slick gore
came Buda, great Tiger of War."
She cannot cry, or call for help:
her throat is as dry as the thistle heads
anchored to their stalks by ice and time
and the loss of light; she lets her tongue
poke at her lip, peeling coldsores.

The story is nonsense to her numbed ears:
she remembers a room dismembered by the roots
and buds and saps and sighs and chants
of an impossible woman woven from bark;
she remembers dogs dragging at her flesh.

"'A saviour we need,' cried the people, 'a leader
of courage and skill beyond measure to speed her
demise. For the Lord has deserted our side:
he rides on her back, a destroyer of life
and love and all hope and desire. We hide
and still she uncovers our havens - this strife
must stop! Will not one of us stand up and kill
old Buda, dire Tiger of ills?'"
A long shape blocks the blur of her sight:
He stands so tall, this summit of a man,
with clothes that talk of class and money
and learning hewn from the halls and greens
of a distant city with dreamy spires.