Memory and Other Cages

I press the past like poppies
between the pages of old books.
I should feed crumbs of memory
to lively ducks in busy ponds,
but the heart is a prisoner:
that’s why she lives
in a cage of bones.

Axiom of the Artist

Stagnant between
etiquette and song
only aphorism sprouts
and I cannot be artist,
only queen
in the machinery of night.

The Life Cycle of a Bee

First, only the gold:
only fluid, damp warmth,
only calm filling the personal prism.

Time here is oceanic, embryonic,
it passes slow, slow, slow
like honey, like liquid hematite.

It is Nature’s Law 
that the peaceful humdrum must end.
Wings must be spread, the sweet nectar
imbibed, gobbled, consumed.
She is bred and fed, imbued with purpose,
exiled to the tall pine tree woods.
Melody-born, she touches the precious,
watches it falter to dust.

Once crowned, she settles.
A home like a factory,
efficient but cold,
an empty hive filled with life.
She still dreams: abstract
moon-cratered dreams
heavy with longing
for something that never was.

Ah, to plunge only once
into the opening trumpet
of obscenely perfumed
hyacinth blossoms, to emerge
thick, yellow-dusted, pollen-laden
not crimson like mourning violins
playing the tune of Fate.

Now, freedom is distant.
Now, only a daughter,
yet adream in the sugary yolk,
to be nurtured and ushered
so the wheel can turn
once again,

once again.

Empty Cities

Unreal city,
meandering arid rivers,
pearl divers in conventional quicksand,
precessions of light, one after another
faltering, dominoes on the outstretched hands
of bronze candelabras.

The writers are gone, the thinkers are gone,
the philosophers, dancers, and painters are gone.
Dumb and lost in the night we seek neon signs
as pockmarked stars inhabit the tent of heaven
like wet coal or sweltering cigarette burns –

Modern city, there is no meaning, no substance,
only empty houses erected along
vacuous, skeleton-fingered boulevards.
The Numina’s gone, her nebulous shoe
still stuck in modernity’s muddy asphalt.
She snuck out the window, climbed
down the frankincense trellis
so now the redemptive cathedral is empty,
her kaleidoscope glimmers extinct,
her spacious womb no longer filled to the brim
with praying, multifoliate murmurs
but only the blue, voiceless silence
of sleeping madonnas.

Sunday Lunches and Other Tragedies

It is all spread out, carefully arranged
like a dead man’s waxen limbs:
roses beheaded in ivory bowls,
polished silverware in the periphery
of plates on which filleted pink fish
poses neatly with parsley and a lemon slice.

Outside, the sun scatters on vibrant cherry trees.
Inside, my hair is braided so tight
it pulls back the corners of my mouth.

The human face has 43 muscles.
26 of them are used for a smile.
The zygomatic major and minor
transform the facial expression.
They do their job when forced or reminded,
disregarding the light behind the closed curtains
or the absence thereof.

The anatomy knows nothing
of fields of sorrel, sage, daisies and celandine,
or the wild riverbeds where the salmon dance
before they rest on fine Sunday porcelain plates.
The muscles care not what the soul can remember:
sunlight that tastes like saffron and salt,
or the cosmos humming stories at night.
The face freezes and forgets
all the small, natural things: the ants, the mosquitos,
the bees, the crickets and cocooned butterflies who,
only when ready, open their wings
like different gossamer curtains,
like lips parting when nobody watches,
forming that unattended smile,
that tender pronouncement
of silent and uncivilised joy.


Silence and Yearning

I wrap cold starlight
around the naked form.


The dark hands of the alarm clock
twitch, tremble and move on.


Outside, your absence blooms
on moonlit apple trees.

Ah, I remember last summer:
the rough bark against my back,
white fabric blossoms at our feet
as we lost ourselves in each other.

It was a time before I became a lighthouse,
a dormant longing,
sleepily trying to illuminate
your way back to me.

Upon Watching Notre Dame Burn

But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
(Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress”)


The liminal crumbles, the curtain falls.
Sic transit gloria mundi, in ictu oculi:
Paris is burning,
ancient wood’s ablaze,
agnostics are praying for the nave.

The gargoyles’ timeless, watchful gaze,
their sneer, and teeth, their cold command,
their claws
are swiftly, without reason, without pause
defeated by Time’s ferocious, all-consuming maws.

The Church now crumbles.
Ashes, fire, dust: nothing beside remains.
Hell is where two Towers tumble.
Heaven, I hear Blake’s distant mumbles,
is found in the simplest, Wildest Flower,
and if we look, eternity
in an instant, in an hour.

Seeking solace, we curl in each other’s hand:
as long as we can yearn, and love, and learn, and stand
we can rebuild all works and Worlds
from but the tiniest Grain of Sand.

Lavender and Other Shrubs

My grandmother’s speckled hands
twist sprigs of lavender, bend them
the way grown-ups bend the world,
cage wild bloom
in cabinets and closets,
in embroidered satin sachets
placed in the underwear drawer.

The smell keeps the moths away.

Lavender, too, grows at the alma mater.
Her summery splendour always reminds me
of life before domestication.
It is a violet scent, the scent
of fingers digging into wet earth
like roots, like a shy seedling
ready to grow.