Archive for February 11th, 2011

Oft Rejected Poems

These are poems I have no intention of shopping further to lit mags. I agree with those who rejected them that they are flawed, though let’s face it, there’s some pretty second-rate poetry out there which does get published. They do display a tendency towards a baroque melancholy and a somewhat self-indulgent, at times too exclamatory, melodramatic self-abnegation and analysis, but there you go. Sometimes you just have to hold forth in such a fashion. Oh, and yes, I really did see the Sistine Chapel on ecstasy…


To the Sistine Chapel on ecstasy with Beethoven


Joy, fair light of the Gods,

daughter of Elysium,

drunk on your fire, goddess,

we enter your shrine!

– Schiller, recitative, Beethoven’ s Symphony # 9 in D minor, Op. 125.


Three of us had come to see,

though two of us had taken E

and popped a second pill in case

the miracles were hard to trace.

I wondered if they knew the look,

yet who would ever think we’d dare

to reach such heights in Christ’s own lair?

Nervously, we shuffled into bliss.


I thought I had seen everything

in those museums; treasures

of Etruria, Egypt, Persia;

Rameses’ throne, the Lacoön,

a room of beasts in creamy stone,

a gallery of emperors struck

with frozen, clement gestures.

Helmets, tridents, golden spears,

torsos pecked by savage years,

such rooms, such rooms, so on it went

and all but an aperitif.


Through passages adorned with maps

of harbour, hill and river towns

from both sides of the Apennines,

we came upon a hundred yards

of tapestries to cheer us through

a high, overhanging loggia.


An allegory now caught my eyes

a ceiling, stark and glaring with

the aspect of an ancient chamber

(mosaic floor and marble bold)

where, on an anvil plinth, a strident cross

replaced the shattered breast

of ancient pride in bodies blest,

then Justin pressed a hand to mine

and said, “therein’s the paradigm.”


Before the Milvian Bridge I sat

upon a hard, historic bench

to drink the frescoed slaughter spiked

with hot and bloody battle’s sweep

with surging, stabbing man and beast

and in my kettle stomach felt

anew the rush of singing blood

leaping in all streams from out

my thumping summer heart.


My mouth was dry, my eyes were wide,

my pupils wider still!

my feet swam in my socks below

my groin’s delighted thrill!

We pressed ahead with gaping jaws;

geared for love and geared for war.

About us people thronged and gasped

and, as my comrades hands I clasped,

they pitched us down the corridor

straight through the Sistine Chapel’s door.


At first I saw the crowd alone,

not looking yet above my brows,

but then I turned behind to see

the Judgement that had made popes weep.

There, swollen in the cobalt blue,

the Eschaton before me grew

from instant recognition’s spark

into a rampant, blazing thing.


Christ loomed, well-muscled,

no more at the reckoning

was he the pain-wracked, horrid corpse hanging.

Enthroned, emboldened, granted

all the power of his sacrifice

he dished out fate with one hand raised,

and sent me down below.


Yuki squeezed my trembling hand

and Justin, seeing I was scared,

gave me music of a kind

to set my mood anew at once.

So, steering me away from Christ,

(Christ, that oh-so muscly Christ!)

they pointed to the heights and said

“Now this is what we came here for.”


Only then did I look to the ceiling above

to run like a fountain with waters of love:

first Cosmos, Creation, then Eden, then Adam,

then woman, then wisdom, then exile encumbered

with guilt that would taint all the centuries thereafter

– how pithy these myths and how bright were the colours!


I followed the panels, then reversed the order,

and went back and forth through the Testament hoping

to lend my belief to the love flushing through me,

to see something truthful beyond Michelangelo.

Beethoven urged me to fall deep within this,

to swim in the gaudiness blooming above me,

to drown in the firmament, give myself wholly,

as song sent me on into joy everlasting.


Freude, schöner Götterfunken,

Tochter aus Elysium

wir betreten feuertrunken

himmlische, dein Heiligthum!

And yet, still fearful of the Judge,

my eyes locked to the first idea,

through tears that sluiced my cheeks and blurred

creation spread pristine above,

I, but a seed that floated on

an ocean lapping shores untrod,

the current flooded me away

and, safe upon its gentle lull,

it beached me with a heart that sang

upon the birth of the world.





Since the accident I’ve not

been able to stay

on the one thing for long,

let alone two things, nor any

of the things that I did so well:

those lists of daily tasks

and chores and even now

I’m slipping into distraction.

Here, writing, first time

for days and not committed;

sloping somehow,

dwindling and forgetting

to believe and losing

the sharpness of a heart

once fuelled with passion.

So, rather,

it is as though

it is

as though that rogue, Fischerle,

false friend of a hunchback

were selling all my books.



Brothers of bluff


It was almost time for me to leave.

We flicked through channels

like letters of resignation; poised, defensive

with looks of expectation.

My brother, as always, with faraway precision

stocking supplies for divisions

drawn up against nurture.

By nature, the stoic one; he was dour tonight;

raised on as many squabbles as love,

shouting inside to be only the warmth,

fighting to shake off the need

of bravado and distance,

while being, with eyes ever elsewhere

halfway to the moon.


A storm would

have sorted us out that night,

yet we had instead to discharge the friction

ourselves in hardy love;

brothers of bluff, men unwilling

to admit to their obvious sadness.

I could not stay, did not want to stay,

but I did not want to go

unless to a limbo spread either side

of this present. I burned

for a once when my brother and I

lived in the same house, free to kill

time without remorse

for the steel press of adult life.

We drove to get some pizza and hire

a film we did not watch,

and I did not talk about Europe

because I was going and he was not.



The obsolescence of things


All things find their place within an age

and lend themselves into another soon;

so swiftly goes the passage of its use,

an object’s fellows dwindle out of view

until once common things are reckoned rare

and seen as quaint for tasks no longer there.


In photographs the “modern” distant grows;

the buildings, vehicles, businesses and clothes.

Where are those artefacts once starkly new?

Interred beneath the futures we accrue.

These worlds whose innovation caused a fuss

now seem just far-off habitats of dust.



The lake


Night portents

have silenced this sunset lake;

set loose the threads of lapping,

unfurled in the chiming moon.



Be with me…


Be with me now when you can,

you songs, you singers;

be with me now as I push

up this hill that won’t shy

in the glut of despair.

Be with me now, you words

you springs, you heroes;

be with me now as I fuel this journey

on which I’m ashamed again

to be lost.

Be with me now, you scourge,

you nine-tails, be with me now

as I face what dawns I have left,

one eye on the ones that I missed,

on those nights when my failure was urgent.

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