Yellow Roses


For Christmas, I got her
roses. They sit on the dining table,
in their blue vase, lighting up the room.
Yellow, her favourite. A few days earlier, we
had fought. As usual, I was mean, unkind;
she was resolute but not unkind,
never unkind. She spoke first, afterwards,
asking me what I would like for lunch,
and then cooking it. Sadness made her
slow, all day, courteous and gentle but
gone to that deep country of the drawn-in
self. I could not
follow.

They never tell us about all this: how finding each
other, falling in love, is just the beginning. That love
must be made over and over again, like
our strewn bed, every morning. That there will be times
we will look at each other and wonder what
the hell we are doing here, why the hell
we have wasted so much time when this
is obviously wrong for us. All those wasted
years! And they don’t tell you
about how you will feel when you see the
pain blooming like the world’s most
glorious rose in her eyes because of something
you said, so cruel, something you
could not help saying, something neither of
you will forget.

Or how, seeing her curled on her side,
asleep, her face drawn and older
than you remember, your heart will suddenly clench with
the fear of losing her. This will be a loss that will
nail you forever to grief; a pain like a metal
rod running through
you to the roots of this world. Then you will
hold her tight and love will be
there, amidst all the memories
of all she has been to you
all through the years. And this is

what love is, though they don’t tell you: a fashioning, a forging, a
tempering, a choosing again and again to tell the
hard and shameful truth rather
than the seductive lie. A wandering into
the white lands seeking a peace
and a glory we can only find together. No one has
been there before. In your eyes I see all of
you shining out at me
. We must find our
own way home. Through you I forget and
through you remember
. We may not make it
through. I knew you before the forgetting. The way lies
through our selves
and through
ourselves.

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In A Silver Moment

In a silver moment

you are with me. Nothing needs

to be said. In our hearts,

a deep joy. I fall away.

I fall away from myself; I fall

through you to find myself

in me. In your eyes, your

answering soul. Around us,

eternity.

The Art

 It is the music that I listen

for. The subtle pulsing

through the words. It is the music

that leads the way.

 

It is the stillness that I seek

That teems beyond all meaning and all

sense. I take it in me, wild

and deep.

 

I am not dreaming as much as being

dreamt. Who dreams through me? I cannot

say. Mind, overreaching itself, falls back,

away.

 

All things are one. All senses flare

and merge. A dark thing sings,

a dying thought rests against my skin,

a host of brightnesses drink at a lake.

 

The art’s in not resisting. In breaking

where I have to break. A witnessing

is sometimes called for. I pick up the pieces

as best I can.

 

I must span the depths to know

who I am. The knowing moves me

deep and clear. It is the purity that endures.

I am lived by this. This is what I am for.

 

 

 

To A Friend

When I said goodbye to you I did

not mean you had ceased to

delight me. I only knew the time

had come when I had to take

my love for you out

wandering. Across the plains,

across the sea. It gets like that, you know,

sometimes, this love I have for you –

hungry, roaming, chafing to breathe

in wilderness, needing to stand in

a field of circling gold and frozen moon. Still, I know

at any given time where you are. When you move

to your window, I feel the way you rest

your gaze so lightly upon the air. I will walk across acres

and acres of grief and still find my way back

to you. See now, I am

coming.

 

All the Beloveds

You, dear friend, back home for a while,

are about to leave again for your life

abroad. This is our farewell lunch. We sit

by the window, where the light pours in.

 

How the silences fall like

rays across your face. As usual our conversation

has that quality of having no beginning

and no ending. Years and continents

apart and it’s as if

you’ve just left the room and in a minute will

step back, through the waiting door. I

 

think of all the cafés, in all the cities – Melbourne,

London, Durham, Geneva, Singapore on and on – and

all the conversations with friends,

lovers, teachers, students, ex-lovers, my selves,

all the beloveds. Somehow

they all seem to end up

 

in goodbye. I’m sick of goodbyes, I say, pushing

away my cup. Fed up of leaving and being

left.

 

You, being wise, say nothing. We watch the rain

that’s started, slanting and slight, drifting

against the window pane. Then

 

it’s time to go. We step outside. You

kiss me goodbye. I hold you forever. Driving

home, I hold myself

 

fragile around the hollowness that has blossomed

in me. Ah, my friend. And doesn’t the rain

have such loving, leaving eyes?

 

 

Yellow Roses

For Christmas, I got her
roses. They sit on the dining table,
in their blue vase, lighting up the room.
Yellow, her favourite. A few days earlier, we
had fought. As usual, I was mean, unkind;
she was resolute but not unkind,
never unkind. She spoke first, afterwards,
asking me what I would like for lunch,
and then cooking it. Sadness made her
slow, all day, courteous and gentle but
gone to that deep country of the drawn-in
self. I could not
follow.

They never tell us about all this: how finding each
other, falling in love, is just the beginning. That love
must be made over and over again, like
our strewn bed, every morning. That there will be times
we will look at each other and wonder what
the hell we are doing here, why the hell
we have wasted so much time when this
is obviously wrong for us. All those wasted
years! And they don’t tell you
about how you will feel when you see the
pain blooming like the world’s most
glorious rose in her eyes because of something
you said, so cruel, something you
could not help saying, something neither of
you will forget.

Or how, seeing her curled on her side,
asleep, her face drawn and older
than you remember, your heart will suddenly clench with
the fear of losing her. This will be a loss that will
nail you forever to grief; a pain like a metal
rod running through
you to the roots of this world. Then you will
hold her tight and love will be
there, amidst all the memories
of all she has been to you
all through the years. And this is

what love is, though they don’t tell you: a fashioning, a forging, a
tempering, a choosing again and again to tell the
hard and shameful truth rather
than the seductive lie. A wandering into
the white lands seeking a peace
and a glory we can only find together. No one has
been there before. In your eyes I see all of
you shining out at me
. We must find our
own way home. Through you I forget and
through you remember
. We may not make it
through. I knew you before the forgetting. The way lies
through our selves
and through
ourselves.

Left-Overs

for Beano

 

You were here and suddenly you

were gone. We moved around

the house, collecting your things

and putting them away: your

yellow cups, in which we always

mixed your milk, your little

milk-bottle, the t-shirts we

wrapped your hot-water bottle

in so it wouldn’t be too hot

for you. We put them neatly in

a cupboard. The kettle, which had

sounded so much from all the filling

of hot-water bottles and the

making of milk all the days we

had you, sits suddenly whitely

unused on the kitchen counter. We

move on, we move on. Sometimes

we still find your things – the

cap of your nursing bottle among

the cutlery; a scrap of cloth for

cleaning you. We put them away

with the other things, neatly,

dutifully. We can do this now without

weeping. And we can mention your name

now, even manage one or

two sentences about you without

losing it altogether. Some days, we can

think of you with tenderness, and

without tears. We can look at the

sun streaming in through the kitchen

windows with lightness again. We

move on, we are moving on. But what

do we do with all the left-over love that

runs and streaks and stains us all

over; and the ache, like that of a mother

whose breasts are always

turgid with milk?

 

 

Mother

 

I see you walking in the evening

amongst your reaching trees. And see

how you are the garden’s desiring

and its peace. We are not there

with you. No one is there. Only

the sharp scent of grass

lifting up into the wind;

and the old house that welcomes you

back upon the dark.

 

Children come, and then they go;

footsteps die away upon the stair

Rage and laughter; voices ringing;

and then such silence pinned into the air

I am not there with you. I am not there.

 

But mother, stand and feel how much you are

the answer to my overarching prayer

How you are, have always been, my heart’s

perpetual pilgrimage. And know that for

all the fractures of the turning years; whatever

was broken, unloved, ungraced, untold –

From this distant place, this offshoot life

I see that there have never been any shadows in your soul

Only flowers in moonlight; and music,

the songs you loved to sing of old;

the burn of benediction

and windows that open out to paradise.

Silences

(for Jane)

 

A year after I wrote

to her, saying

How have you been all

these years? I’ve

missed you

I got a letter from her

I had not really   expected

to hear from her again.   So much silence

had passed. I stood there

in a winged    stillness looking at

my name on the front of the   envelope

her name on the back.   The English stamps.

Her   handwriting

so much hers;     circling back   now to me

after all   these years,    brushing

against some vast

unremembered pain.

 

The letter. Not long; written at

different times, in different coloured ink

I got your letter, she said (do   miracles happen

after all? that some wild impulse of love

should find and bring you back to me?)

I’m sorry this has taken so long. I’ve

not been well

 

In London once   she took me

to a cemetery to look at

the inscriptions; the   carved stone

figures; the great brooding angels. Weak

sunlight filtering through the leaves; the

cold fierce in our fingers.    Against gray

stone and sky, her crimson scarf; her dark

hair falling, the bloom

of her cheeks.

 

I’ve been sick for about a year now. Most

of the time I lie in bed, listening to music. On good

days I can sit up for half-an- hour.

 

In Geneva, hikes in the woods; long

walks around the lake. Gloriously careless

of the easy flow of life in our limbs; the rapture

of   long strides, physicality,

lips and skin that would burn and yearn

at the slightest touch.

 

I can only

write to you

a few lines at a time. But write to me.

Write to

me.

 

So I write. I send letters; floating

monologues into

the blue. I lean out into the

silence and try to show her who

I have become. To   feel her.

I ask – How are you now? Are

you better? Perhaps in a year I

will get a reply.

 

At night, sometimes I think about

how some silences can presume too much. Then,

all I am is a question

straining through all that

come between us – countries and

continents;  atmospheric

tension, storms

of   angels – : Are you

 

                                 still there?

 

           

Diver

 

Diver, I call you, you who have gone so deep

To where shards of light gleam from the ocean floor.

Diver, you have blazed through the tangled fronds,

Braved the salt pool to where

I a shaman, naked in my deep, dark cave

Waited.

 

Where there is no sight you have come

Diver

An arrow, an arc of flesh

A flash of sun dancing on the blade’s cold edge

Silver streaking through the rocky waves to where

Rings of silence form, from your impact

And I felt the sea bed’s rocking from where

Lulled to a defenceless peace

I waited.

 

Where there is no thought you have come,

Diver

Where for an eternity I sat and watched

Others break and bleed to set me free

(Not distressed, merely unimpressed) –

And then I looked up and you were there

Diver –

Your hair flaring like autumn leaves

Your small hands straining, inexorable

But strangely gentle, a whisper of wings

Fluttering in the dark against my face –

Diver, you have come to where for so long

I, in a wilderness of yearning

Waited.