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;
dwindling and forgetting
to believe and losing
the sharpness of a heart
once fuelled with passion.
it is as though
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.
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.