poem on UFOs over galisteo

 

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it’s the instants.

melting butter in a pan
a swirl of soy sauce
stirring chopsticks –
that lift grief to my throat.

i was fine just now,
but then

once more, i’ll tell a stranger
how we saw UFOs that night
darting like summer flies
over the Ortizes.

another Dos Equis
desert vespers
thick ice clunking
in mason jars of well water.

you’re everywhere now.
above the Sandias
the pho joints of south London
feathers on trails i walk.

your instructions always were:

…see the world
don’t come back…

and you meant that.

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poem from a hurricane

november and our star
sinking pink along the edges
of an island.
east of the desert
this tumbledown town
minds my heart.

i will live out some existence
looking for sunsets
that glow corners
where you dallied
in record stores
digging for comics.
you’re a nocturn
trying to poach day
without light.

we wandered a lane, lost in the mystic
years ago
i showed my face, you your quietest places of heat
and hysterics
we huddled for awhile, fingering this found treasure

carpet store’s aflame
the street’s blushed
lamps come on
and you – somewhere north
– tucking our wealth into a jewel box.

still, the world en rose
lavender
a royal hurricane.

poem about the perseids

supposed to be writing about stargazing. instead, a poem, written a time ago, on the same subject.

a shiver
and wait, neck craned, for a spark
of some comet’s con trail
to blaze far-offly through an upward gaze.
pour another drop of wine
brain firing on syntax backwards
like everything to do with us.
the heart is a vicious machine,
at least in the verse and melody
of the school of spies.
and in this crisp weather,
when autumn feels imminent,
the love of a great name
gives such pause to
those who must scare each other –
deep down –
with the things never said aloud
but felt.

poem from the summer solstice, 2017

the hottest day this year
the longest day this year
sun glinting white-simmer off a blue peugeot
sweaty cyclists and women in too-big sunglasses
passing picture windows.
me, wood-surrounded in the dispensary, hide from the warm
resist the sweat, zest, passion, pure swelter
outside reeks wet and heavy, like beijing
or LAX in late spring
when the 747s are all idling at accordion jetwalks
and the tarmac, baking, sends up shimmering hotwaves.

they say the stars have lost siblings
are they theirs and where do they meet
in the rites of afternoon
is it in feet splashing through lido waters
or walking up chalk escarpments
where do they meet
in this verisimilitude

glimmer, twinkle, glimmer, blink
the sunset has its way
houses, chimneys, bricks, grease-worn cafes shutter
glimmer, twinkle, glimmer, blink

the hottest day this year
the longest day this year
rays pinken the streets and their doors
couples swig their pints and get louder
arguing on barstools.
did anyone speak, do we ever? when the sun hits blinds,
resist the pull, zest, passion, pure kismet.
inside, a hi-fi drums some kind way to suffer
or, like rabbits in early summer
whose promises tomorrow are rings of fire
and time seems to be running out, and back in.

ivinghoe beacon


the top of ivinghoe beacon. all of england is in view, it feels like. a chill wind bristles from the south somewhere. maybe it passed cornwall or the north downs before causing a wave of horripilation under my pink-shell jacket.

i climbed a chalky escarpment. boot in front of boot, carefully. then, a directional stone offers some idea of which way is which.

north: a lone hawthorne steady against the gusts. beyond – miles of patchworked farmland. a man nearby tells his companion that the faraway spire, so small from here, is the church in their village.

south: a country road, here and there streaked with red and blue cyclists, winds into a copse of trees and away.

east and west: hills, forever.

a windswept jack russell and a westie waggle at a group of daytrippers playing tricks with the wind. if you lean into it, it will hold you up, a dad tells his child. maybe no one is thinking how iron age man came, too, for these views. not to admire them, but use them to keep hold of these lands.

overhead, a 737 – maybe wizz air by the juice-purple stripes on its tail fin – lowers into luton. i pull out a tesco ham and cheese and imagine the time of hill forts. life was short, uncomplicated and dirty. full of stars on frigid nights, and kinds of chafing we cannot imagine now.

if you lean into the wind, it will hold you up.

poem from march 27

and at once, a wave hits.
you are not here, forever.
the tears are bees in my eyes
and then i’m battling down
borough high street.

a chugger mimes at me
“earphones out?”
i weep in his direction.
and for the fifth time this hour
emily and amy tell me deliverance has already
been sent.

if you were here, now, we’d be shooting the shit
cracking beers down the phone
what the neighbours are up to
dogs doing laps
in the background.

we’d dream of a cottage in connemara
and after an hour
or two
i’d read you in on my deepest secrets
and you’d say
“whatever it is,
do what makes you happy.”

caedmon’s call and the start of 2017

14.35pm
new year’s day 2017
south of york station, virgin east coast service to london’s king’s cross
not listening to caedmon’s call, but felt’s ‘forever breathes the lonely word’

i didn’t go to whitby in search of caedmon. in fact, i had no idea there was a connection between the little english north sea-side town and the band that i followed super-religiously throughout my most formative years. a quickly-planned twixtmas trip to york somehow escalated to the inclusion of whitby – not exactly nearby, but also not that far away – on the itinerary for reasons i genuinely cannot remember or even fathom now. this detail passed me by but became relevant.

caedmon’s call was a band for and of christian people but they weren’t a christian band. or they were, and by that i mean they wrote songs that dived into christian philosophy in a way that my church high school would’ve called heretical. maybe not that extreme, but they made me ask questions and they created wonder where previously i only felt judgement and the push to conform.

after some time, me and the band became ‘friends’ because i went to far too many concerts – sometimes driving upwards of 14 hours across moonbeam-strewn texas plains to catch them in just one more bible-belt town’s church sanctuary or college auditorium. i pushed up the gumption on a snowy night around 1995 in wondrously named glorieta, new mexico and exchanged addresses with derek webb after the show. we wrote letters and chatted on IRC at musicians’ hours and i went to more shows. later i would even cover one of their songs on a long-lost fanclub rarity album (yes i just linked that there and it is from a bygone age and that’s all i have to say).


this is not really meant to be a post about all that, but it is about that, because the sun was setting over whitby a couple of days ago when i realised there was a trajectory of my life that had just come full-circle.

it was a big, yellowish orangish pinkish orb and it was shattering the blue winter sky into a million fragments of pastel when we walked up the 199 steps to whitby’s anglo-saxon hillside retreat where the very oddly shaped church of st mary and, behind it, the foreboding crumbles of benedictine whitby abbey, live, windbattered and muddy. the churchyard has a very atmospheric graveyard where the headstones look out over the north sea in a bleak and perfect fashion. they are all small and old worn stone, like you expect headstones in a graveyard like that to be, but then there’s this one 20ft-high spire of a cross at the very corner of the cemetery.

i credit bill, who looked more closely at it and spotted the name ‘caedmon’ on it, and i knew immediately it was not a coincidence, for how many caedmons were there, ever? at the bottom of the cross, inscribed:

“To the glory of God, and in memory of Caedmon, Father of English sacred song. Fell asleep hard by AD 680.”

caedmon was basically a stable boy at whitby abbey in the 600s. but hilda – at that time abbess of the then-mixed abbey – saw something in him and his verse and voice and encouraged him to keep singing and writing, and caedmon wrote what are possibly some of the very first songs and poems in the english language (a northumbrian dialect of old english), though he is all but forgotten today.


it called me to wonder about caedmon and hilda’s friendship. what did the powerful abbess see in a stable boy? he must have had a very special aura around him, and perhaps she was lonely despite the many monks and nuns around her. if being a career woman in the 21st century is hard, i can only imagine running a sizeable abbey in such a time must have been a gargantuan task with few real friends to call upon. it is said kings came to hilda for advice. who did she go to, i wonder?

sometimes friends arrive in guises that are inexplicable and not really that sensical – inconvenient or troublesome even – and we just have to go with it. i like to think about caedmon and hilda’s secret friendship, hanging out in the stables at odd hours maybe, the puffing of horses in torchlight while they exchanged music and verse in damp, hay-heavy air. hilda probably worried with each footfall she might be discovered in such a tryst, and caedmon just wondering what he did to attract such an important woman’s attention.


2016 was a hard year for many and a year of loss and passing away and foreboding the end of many things. i was sort of hoping that this full-circle life-loop-closing would have some symmetry to it, but actually i first heard caedmon’s call in 1994 and that marks a hardly-round 22-year anniversary. still, much happened in 2016 that felt like the poetic end to some things and the mysterious beginning to others, and i can’t help but feel this strange meeting of caedmon in his final resting place, just a few thousand minutes before the end of 2016, and so many thousands of miles and lives lived since i first heard his story, simply cannot be chance.

When I’m cold and alone all I want
Is my freedom, a sudden gust of gravity
I stop wailing and kicking just to let
This water cover me, cover me

some old photos:

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with derek and my mate becky at trees in dallas (appx 1998?)
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with garrett buell (caedmon’s call percussionist) at the guild 2 weekend (1999)
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myself and my dad, john egenes on mandolin, performing ‘too tender’ at guild 1 weekend (1998) – surely the worst best kept digitised photo of all time
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art lawry, myself and i can’t remember the guy on the right, guild 3 weekend in columbus, ga (2001)