Throwing peanuts to the monkeys in the zoo
human and ape behaviour. Squeals abate,
subdue, as the big ‘un strolls across:
significant other. He insists on his rights.
Heads down, eyes up, the monkeys yammer,
foreheads crinkled. They bob subservient,
choppers on parade.
“Oh, look, Dad, they’re laughing.”
Fool brat. Didn’t you feel the scorch
as anger was cremated?
Those teeth are tombstones.
she is caged
in a moment of curious suspense,
trapped and caught between
the dry oppression of the intellect
and mushroom fury.
Catatonic, Berenice sulks her way
into the family vault, just because
that big stiff wouldn’t screw her.
He was a mammy’s boy all right,
weaned on blood and hectic murmurs.
You had nothing going for you, girlie,
until he laid you in the tomb
But you didn’t have to take it on his terms:
You should have told him:
“Go wank in the slaughter-house
where the frozen-pig loins
are split and gaping.”
You made yourself a byword,
a regular bitch on heat,
rolling over to die for a lover
He gloats as he counts his souvenirs,
thirty-two of ‘em, your pearly-whites
You’re coming back now
with the corpse-rags floating,
but your teeth are drawn.
What you going to do
- suck him to death?
Madam, this man accuses you of transmitting
a subtle, ambiguous message
Please clarify. Are you laughing at him,
or does your look invite complicity?
Perhaps you’re in business
on your own account?
Appease him, explain.
give him a smile.
Punch upstages Judy
with a ferocious grin,
disappears with a curse
(but Toby’s on guard, and
she’s left holding the baby.)
She’s not been trained to deal
with his monopoly,
the empty spaces
Up he pops,
impatient of her clamour.
He says nothing,
and she’s too dumb to question.
If he’s silent, he must be angry.
How to confirm?
She has strategies for anger
Judy kicks Punch.
Punch wallops Judy.
Rivers push on,
and make no fine distinctions between
the daisy-fields that stretch to left,
the rocky banks to right
He was content for her to be
either the water running over
or the stones rolled underneath.
But silence is not assertion,
to understand the sense
of what is meant
She makes no concessions,
and he’s too fond of reason
And something beats a tattoo on her bones
and his intrusions
The warring blood forbids
the neutral zones.
a man alone
They say it’s only water
in the pipes and not the night that wakes me
They say I’ve lived too many years alone;
too much removed from what their norms demand;
too shabby and too strange
Widows and spinsters look askance at me,
and married women use me as a gauge..
To husbands, I’m a mock, a menace;
on pavements in the town,
safe from reproach as now
when tucked within
these walls that hold my mother’s memories,
shut up our history from common sight
My other house, which was her sister’s pride,
stands open to cold sun and colder wind:
needles of rain
quilting up massive conifers that guard
a shocked and gaping door
To children, I’m a Guy Fawkes shambling back,
burned out by some interior explosion,
dry-boned and witless.
To them and dogs I preach neutrality
I let go daily over many years,
let go of stress and strain,
short-circuited my brain, gave up
doomed argument with love and death
Since I can’t hide disgust
I cry it everywhere. I’m blot
and taint, known and invisible,
worn scrape and flutter
They say I’ve lost the world. Oh no.
The world lost me
with things once tried
and set aside, set down
They say, they say ....
They do not are admit
how much I represent a hidden self,
how much I am their morbid expectation
of failed hope and despair
What do I care how their day runs its course?
What do I care how others value world?
‘Nox est perpetua una dormienda’
(you see I’ve stored away
some rags and tags of learning)
Stray word won’t break or crumble this long fast.
They say. What do they say? Oh, let them say.
Nothing is real. Not all I taught at school
keeps me from knowing nothingness at last.
Images of Confrontation
“Norms are the hedge of sanity
although they cost in liberty”
I have entered the years of discretion
and sit at home
twiddling my thumbs,
allowing you to make
the occasional obscene suggestion,
sometimes dancing in the doorway
when the ghosts get too insistent
They have tamed all the tigers
and put their spears away;
it was lonely chasing the unicorn alone
The proud Masai have left their dry blue meadows
their footsteps emptied, though I ran fast to find them
tracing no echoes
on new grass or on old.
You and I let fall too many words
the balance was undone
I dreamed in silence of a time when you
would plait my moon-aged hair
into neat bandings
Only words, you said
written on a single page:
but in good hands a word
can flower to folio.
Now that the cannibals have packed their knives and forks
after the last missionary supper
I shall grow thin; look! my bones are fluting.
No strength to whistle up hot air and bring
old lost ships to port.
They must ride in on someone else’s thunder
I will play the goat no longer,
staked out for your consuming
I shut my ears to roaring;
the moon shuts up one eye.
I chew my beard in pity like the sage
at the antics of the young
It wasn’t regrets I buried
under dusty floorboards.
You said, “My word’s my bond”,
and drew me after you
through golden circles
Steel hoops band wood
until the bubbles burst.
The air was meant to be
Within the circle is huge emptiness:
but I can turn
a circle inside out
and use the space for building.
Old sorry tales survive
as memoirs reconciled
immaculate in form
but bare and word
of all essential meaning
A leaf in acid plunged
the outline of its greening
Grown careless, then,
of tragedy’s first keening,
idly we mouth our acts.
The audience exits, screaming.
I burned my poems in the late of day.
They flared up bravely
searing deadwood roots
Tomorrow I can write another poem
in the bright aftermath of flaming.
No more of this, the Kalahari sunsets,
and no more crocodile drownings
I have found an English river, serpentine;
I am made happy by its rippled pebbles
This will do for day:
only misers sleep on gold.