Young life takes leave.
A loved young soul, when loved ones grieve,
Is borne to the Lord
on the wings of their sighs.
Who prays when an old man dies?
Young blood runs cold.
A loved young tale is told & told.
But when a life of time
has frayed love’s ties,
Who tells when an old man dies?
A young life lost.
A loved young pearl is sold at great cost.
But who’s got a copper
for an old man’s eyes?
Who pays when an old man dies?
A young man falls.
Loved young throats fill grand old halls.
I’ll fall to the tune
of a raven’s cries.
Who sings when an old man dies?
Lombardy, June 2020
THE PROPHET & THE GIRL
A bright hot day by a sunburnt sky,
a dust-choked prophet
in a ghost-wracked street
stepped on a soapbox stand & cried:
“The Sun King’s soon to die.”
And as he hollered of the fall of the king,
nobody gathered at his soapbox stand
but the watchmen came
& they clipped his wings
& trussed his beak with a bullring.
They left him bound
in the dust-choked street
muzzled & bound & left to die,
so he scraped in the dust
with his road-wrecked feet:
“It’s the Sun King’s last defeat.”
But the night winds ravaged
the work of his claws
& the dawn dogs hovered
by his death-marked side,
so he sketched his last words
with the last of his force
in the blood that leaked
from his ring-trussed jaws.
The dawn dogs howled
by the blood-soaked ground.
A young girl followed
that ghost-wracked sound
& these are the blood-red words she found:
“The Sun King’s dead, girl
– take his crown.”
So a prophet dies at a watchman’s hand.
The Sun King plummets to the desert sand.
By a sunless sky in a bright hot land,
a young girl takes to the soapbox stand.
Berlin, July 2020
Pain be your daylight
when you walk the sunless valley,
Pain be your mainstay
when your mettle turns to straw,
Pain be your bedrock
when you brave the sands of worry,
Pain be your tailwind
when you sail out from the shore.
Love the pain that chose you
for it knows you like a lover –
Loveless or beloved,
your pain is yours
& yours to keep.
Listen for pain’s whisper,
& the truths it may uncover,
Listen for pain’s cry
& how it echoes in the deep.
Pain be your compass
when there’s rage in all the heavens,
Pain be precious flotsam
in the wake of every storm,
Pain be your beacon
when you delve in lifeless caverns
& find that in the fire long spent
the ashes are still warm.
Berlin, September 2020.
(Translated from Sebastian Bacchus, “Geh’ mit dem Schmerz”)
ALL EYES OTHER
Now all your childhood castles
are with worries overgrown,
and all your childhood heroes
by new villains overthrown,
and all your dreams imprisoned
in a tower made of stone,
and you wish upon the mirror
any image but your own,
Now you’ve let down your defences,
told me tales of skin & bone,
how through all your years of solitude
you were scared to be alone –
Love, your mirror is a trickster
for you never see what’s shown –
Love, your beauty is a beacon
to all eyes other than your own.
Paris, May 2019
THE CORNED-BEEF KEY
The man that checks his weather app
& not whether his window’s wet –
I must confess, through gritted teeth
That I’ve become that man & yet
the child that stole the corned-beef key
& left the meat upon the shelf
& put it in his treasure-tin,
– he lives in me & in rude health,
He tap-dances in my half-drunk skull,
rattling his treasure-tin,
I twist to check if today’ll be cold,
he trampolines on my skeleton.
Go now, child: Write no commands
but songs. Deal in songs, not gold.
Breathe no wind but songs
& take your songs
& soothe the world’s unsouled.
Berlin, November 2020
I hunt between the streetlamps nightly
cries of ghosts in shuttered bars,
& feel my own life as light & unlikely
as in the darkness between two stars
where nothing else remains perhaps
but two bright planets spiralling,
each equal prey to equal traps,
a furious, loving fall & spin,
blind in furious revolutions,
raging as they spin & fall,
blind to all great machinations
like the last couple in the shuttered dancehall.
The more I hunt, the more I find
the more I find, I tread less lightly.
It should suffice the patient mind
to never know but know how likely.
Berlin, December 2020