two poems from 2004

last week, a trip back to new mexico unearthed many memories, feelings, a person from a lifetime ago, and a journal from my first trip to china. these are two poems written during that summer, which the universe seems to have circled back on now, 14 years later.

‘poem from a nanjing evening’ – 30 july, 2004

feels like lightning
he says
running through my veins
every time i look at you.
but you’re not seen now
away from eyes
out of brain.
your magnificent
disinterest,
the brownness of your skin
in shallow muddy waters,
hardly compare
to the frail moon
frosting monsoon mountains
and walkway lamps
in a rippling reflection here.

i know how i’m not yet beyond you.
not beyond
the melody of your finger whispering
songs along my spine.
but this night is simmering with
the brew of farewell.

 

‘untitled’ – 19 july, 2004

here is rest
and china makes
him matter less
or not at all.
makes his scent
evaporate into
the smallness of my
memory and
bigness of the heat
and water
on the far side of the world.
all the soreness
of shoulders laden
down with anxiety
or hope for the hopeless
is carried away across the
pond
on a breeze that smells
like ginger
and humid haze.

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the bund, shanghai, a july night, 2004.

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poem of two autumns

we got (un)lost
somewhere between a september gone
and now.
i went to the silk road
the tien shan
the himalaya.

tea on kaohsiung sand
with the sun setting auburn
over ships in the taiwan strait.
doors frozen over on the
train to lhasa
like us trying to silence
hearts hell-bent
on happy.

like winter rivers in russia
where my marrow refused to ice
last christmas;
a moscow december couldn’t darken
such starlight love

– we’ll walk these pathways
ticking off the map
while planets whirl past
a patient lesson
to be what we are,
and when it’s done
all that spirits will still
entangle us,

for these lifetimes
those universes
to come.

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some summer

dog day nights
fan blowing rounds over lavender limbs
the rings of saturn lapping along the periphery

remnants of grass, gone to hay in tardy sun,
picnic blankets used on blythe hill fields.
squint and you see a vortex of canary-wharf towers

veiled
in convective undulations.

she is a listless star, settling herself upon shropshire
connemara, the gulf of st lawrence.
jupiter steadfast come night, a lantern over the garden,
southampton, nantes.
a crescent moon and venus in the azure settling
over by bristol, kinsale, prince edward island.

and then there will be
the perseids,
another year gone,
the expanse of august,
longing.

i think i will look back on this riot time

as an eclipse.

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poem from the may stars

god how many tears have i cried
drops in the gaze of arcturus
sad, hot rain in conversation with jupiter
the chill-hard rules you decided on without my consent. you were
suddenly gone
but spica and the moon
in a may’s eve dance
a rotation of centuries that flee while they last.
us in a series of lives.
there’s still time for this to be the one where we
meet eyes in a felt-tipped dream
but if not, i’ll find you

in the next universe.

 

 

 

 

 

poem from the social

you invented a fantasy
invited me in
a world of mysteries
where we’d swirl, just us, away
from the world, just us
two interlopers lost and found –
in the lyrics of a bedsit poet.
were these your lies
my delusions
they’d say maybe they’re right
but on an evening of soft
light
where the melody dances candles
on tables
and the smell of the danube seems
thick
i would believe it all over
again
in every life
if i could live just once
with you.

poem from a high hard sleeper

 

swirls of red dust
grey mountain line
non-descript
and, above,
some black clouds threaten.

an engineering marvel
they always say
utility poles, wires, disrupt dirt
and thousands of li
of green fence.

two ladies in the berth opposite
watching loud chinese soaps
on a mobile
while i drink an imported IPA
bought in xining.

more flat miles pass
trundling ever upward
but this does not feel

like the roof of the world, yet.

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the telemarker

it was your head.
cocked glasses, aquarian smile
bag dropped casual-like on a desk, too old for the skater look
you were affected but smart and god i loved it
the boy with the arab strap comes on now
and instantly i’m there
11pm, 2004, october something. we took apart
and rebuilt
an old VCR on the wood slat floor
of your house on…
, oh,
what was the name of the street
and how funny i can still smell you
feel your mouth on mine
in the pagosa springs
, but was it hazeldine road or linda vista?
where i left you, no you left me.
where you dressed as the crocodile hunter
jumped off your roof on tequila and who knows what.
where you let me sleep over and then bought breakfast
while your girlfriend was in denmark.

you are still a fire in my throat
but i can’t recognise your old house
on street view
anymore.

i wanted to fix you
with skiing and a steve earle soundtrack
we huddled close on a stranger’s couch in
a new-build adobe santa fe house.
a stroll around the plaza, the bull ring
i let you smoke
and the smell of red wine linger next to me
we went to bed separately that night
and i think now i was good at being confusing back then.

you needed space
and you went to taos and this was before smartphones
and texting and the constant on.
it was a three-hour drive.
i was thinking of your crow’s feet all the way up the rio grande gorge
past velarde, embudo station, the turn off to truchas.
we drank barley wine
on high bar stools at eske’s – conveniently
tiny enough for three pints of arm-brush butterflies –
and drunk-drove to the strokes,
windows down
rocky mountain nightwind
swirling us round for one last nite.

years later, an awkward dinner at chama river
you tell me about your new wife
new kid
and i smile and i am happy for you
and we drink beer again, not the same,
and pretend
we were not a thing
back then.