- Vol. 10
- Chapter 04
Imagine descending from a cerulean sky onto a desolate landscape.
You lie down - skin to soil. Your limbs sprout roots. Like tentacles they push through metamorphic rocks.
Imagine you shift in time with the tectonic plates, reaching beyond Earth’s mantle to cradle its core.
Imagine your hair runs river-like through canyons, sculpting the land’s parched terrains.
Then imagine your breath – a healing entwined with hope that the silenced birds will sing again.
breathe through my roots
nights of waking amid coal-smoked absence
of air gasping dark horror mother’s
voice guiding me back to surface where
corals of plastic lungs grow
on the desks of pulmonologists
afternoons spent before metal
dragons that spit healing vapours or
in a body plethysmography diving
bell connected by mic to the outside of
effortless intake of nitrogen oxygen
carbon dioxide a thing of course unless
dad tears up when he leaves me
in the Alps for expert strangers to reset
my faulty pulmonary system
close to the Eagle’s Nest where Hitler owned
the mountain skies while Special
Children’s Wards dealt those considered weak
sedatives depressing respiration or
let them starve a slow deliberate death
meant to appear natural when in
the 1960s German physicians still opposed
ventilating neonates & the GDR
let wee preemies suffocate or drown –
at which point in this poem the girl
in my womb kicks hard & hesitates to
Bones and all
Filthy spat-on window and past it the world filthier still
Bones and all, I parcel into plastic and glass
imagine grass under feet, rash and prickling with life
imagine air in lungs, not coating, not sticking
the lungs of the earth still
talking through touch of mushroom,
fungal flutter filing reports of drought, disease, human tread;
crowns overhead, dignified and never touching
Not much room for full lungs under
all this plastic and glass
Shallow shallow graves,
dig up dust with my toe nails
little by little
hard soles of feet wear
down the stones
unknot abandoned vessels of those lost lungs
Cooler, deeper, down
fidget dust through fingers
air through lungs
hopes through filthy spat-on window.
When rain comes I will not drown.
You Can Take One Memory into the Next Life
Sun glint on spinning wheel was the last thing she saw. The last thing she heard was his last word exhaled in shattered-glass breath.
Kickstand down, helmet off. Rachael dismounts. A downdraft from the overpass catches her breath and jumpstarts her heart.
The doorman waves her in past the queuing Harley hipsters. Heat slaps as she pushes through the crowd, shedding her leather and tossing it to Marty behind the bar. The room smells of motorbike grease, char-broiled burgers, good smoke and cheap beer. Tight black dress reckless as a bomb about to explode, she catches the eye of the DJ in his crow’s nest perch. Climbs onto the knife-pocked bar and dances for someone she can’t remember and the emptiness she wants to forget.
Spotlights cobweb the floor and there, on the edge of it all, the glint of metal. Rachael looks away before she can’t. Crouches. Downs a pint in one pull. Shouts over the sing-along roar, “Who’s the guy in the chair?”
Marty heaves the glass rack from the dishwasher and waves the steam away. “That’s Jake. Poor bastard.”
“What happened?” she asks, though in this place there’s only one answer.
“Too fast on a bend in the Hills. Hit a slick. No helmet. Miracle he’s alive.”
“Never seen him before.”Read more >
When the Music Stops
I don’t bother to surface much, anymore. I’d rather not spoil the rats.
I take them for granted, sometimes. They are an ugly congregation. They pick apart the great remains, scalding their little feet on the searing sands. They love me, but they adore my shadow. When I emerge from the earth – ash and sand cascading down my shoulders – they flock from every direction, fighting for a spot in my shade. Every so often I imagine one of them tilting its empty eyes skyward, their soul pierced to see themselves reflected in my visor. Yet to me, they are the ones who reflect. They fill up my shadow, animating my umbral after-image. A perfect companion; a river of rats. I shudder in my great rubber body-suit. But at least they are familiar. They’re social, but not in the same way the ants and the cockroaches are. They have that mammalian appeal – a scarce commodity nowadays.
I can’t imagine life without them.
Sometimes I think about moving forward. Abandoning my tunnels and blowing the silt from my scuba-flute. Taking my chances in the ash-blown plains. Oh, but how I would hate to be just another one of the skulls. Filthy remains, rooted to the spot, picked apart by once loyal followers.
It’s when I get too complacent that I remember:
Zealots in hard times are fickle, when the music stops.
Rats can always find another ship.
Where he was now was not where he had
been, but he had done what he had done
and now found himself far from where
born. He sometimes felt as if
he was swimming. He remembered when
he had planted bulbs below the window
for his mom after his dad died,
blooms to bloom after he was gone,
too, and digging out the red roots,
digging out the rusty twisted wires,
an old connection that he worried was still
live still thrumming with what’d happened.
It was never gone, what he had done,
what he had done to them. He carried it,
he wore it like a skin, breathed it in,
What he had done back then was him.
He usually wore a mask now, avoided
people’s eyes, certain that they could see
Read more >
Do I seem confused?
Maybe it’s because your face is like sunshine,
the scar on the side of your chin,
the width of your smile,
the gap in your teeth,
the way you chuckle under your breath
when you find something really funny.
I like the feeling of doing nothing with you.
I want to keep doing everything with you.
Being next to you feels like meditation and fireworks.
Kissing you feels like home.
Should I keep my coat on?
Should we dive in?
Today you want me to stay,
but we’ll see about tomorrow.
I’ll keep my phone on, just in case.
I cannot unsee you, you are everywhere.
The noose around your neck,
The last gasp you never made,
Still echoing around the spaces you inhabited
And others you didn’t, inside my head.
Strutting the catwalk, hair unkempt.
Face barely visible, is there even make-up on?
Coat unbuttoned, rubber flashing,
A flash of rubber or leather maybe?
Revealing blubber, pink blubber,
High fashion, not for the masses.
What small fragments will they take
To unleash on us all?
Some decide to laugh.
Others try not to cry.
There’s two-way embarrassment.
They’ve gone too far this time
Or maybe not far enough.
The masks are slipping. I see you.
Art gallery – an empty wall with only a figure.
Is it a model or is it living?
Turn on the jets,
Let the canaries sing.
That root reminds me of a walk along the riverbank,
Where the children played with kingly staffs
Of giant hogweed, cut and dried – unknowing.
Which will be more deadly?
If You Happen Upon Her
as upon yourself. If you find your own face there reflected back to you. If distorted. If weary. If from deep inside her wide-windowed gaze. If you haven't the right armor. If you haven't her clear-breathing green. If where she lives there is trouble & toil. If it has always been this way. (It has always been this way.) If her mouth cannot tell you. If silence. No matter. Suit up, let your hair down, use whatever you have at hand.
I couldn’t find you in our island,
so I dove. Beneath the stones I
saw your face, between the mud
your arms reached wide. I kissed
the twigs, held the fish, I stroked
the splinters in shipwreck wood.
Inside this river, you can never be
gone. Under the surface, your skin
is green and your eyes the juniper
growing slowly in our old garden
spot. The air eludes me, I borrow
time, maybe I’ll forget to breathe.
Yet hours pass, and I swim deeper,
as if the darkness shows you more,
each second past. I gulp in the tide,
swallow the stream. But here at last,
in this current, I will meet you. Your
roots now grow forever in my lungs.
My mask fills,
tainting my view
as rustic sweets
discovered in antique tins.
hold a TV-shaped mask;
bracken pieces lace eyes
as a iron-ore rose
reaching high… skyward,
reluctant to submerge
in shunning depths of murk
where consciousness clouds
as misty windows
from boiling kettles.
Dive, floral bound…
Pick the blooms.
Trace the petals.
Open your mind.
floral flighted -
the stems whisper your name.
I first learned to swim at a day camp for kids whose parents either didn’t know what to do with them when there wasn’t school or didn’t like any of the options. Each morning I’d sit on a mustard yellow school bus, the kind with torn faux-leather seat cushions and windows with no locks, and travel to parts both unknown and unwanted. My Hello Kitty backpack both advertised my shame and held a change of clothes and a Ziplock. Mold and mildew were not permitted at home. At first, my legs would dangle in too-cold waters as I sat on too-rough concrete ledges. My undersized bathing suit bottoms had developed an oversized case of acne as the once-smooth Lycra turned into a teen’s worst nightmare. I chose the deep end mainly so that I’d have to look at nobody (and where nobody could see me). I mastered the butterfly, the backstroke, and the breaststroke. Freestyle my literal coming of age. I overcame my fear of water the same summer I realized my parents weren’t what I (or they) had bargained for. I climbed underwater ladders and earned a crimson polo. The embroidered logo read Lifeguard in Training.
Though the water became more friend than foe, I never could make heads or tails of who or whom I trained and what or what for. Tense was often as relative as the temperature. Shade and shaded were often more than several degrees apart. To tread water had always meant something different than treading. To want has never been isolated to the human condition. Land and water lifeforms have always wished for more. Goggles were coveted; Google was still unknown. I learned to allay young campers’ tears and to collect allies – all at once. I taught my fair share of sidestroke. I added swim caps and other paraphernalia to my backpack. The lifeguard stand became my platform. “You can do this” my mantra. The phrase “Do not run” a close tie. Yet, as I trained limbs and senses (both mine and others) for land and waters, temperature-controlled and highlight regulated, news (and ocean waves) continued to break.Read more >
The Opposite of Drowning
Breeze blows into the compartment
through the wide open train door
and I am floating in liminal space—
immaterial and unhinged.
My feet lose their friction and so does
my mind. I see the green grass
and garbage and my body is moving
towards it all like a feather floating
through space without a care to where
it will land.
Hold me! I whisper, to no one
and anyone: I'm falling out!
I clutch an arm and make it to the next
station. The body expels what it needs to
A woman in cotton sari is crouching
with her bags. She comes to me
and splashes me with her water.
Like a Mother,
like a God.
I hardly see me anymore
I hardly see me anymore
I’m far too busy filtering out
The everything that lurks beyond
The things which mean to do me harm
The air my lungs can’t do without
But I am half afraid to breath
The light I need for me to see
But eyes can hardly tolerate
The sounds stampeding through my head
But impossible to filter for their sense
The surfaces await my careful hands
But I won’t reach them out to feel
I’m so geared up to isolate
I hardly see me anymore
Uniform for staying alive
I need a mask for the dive to stay alive
I need buttons to hide my Lady Godiva
I need obstacles stuffed in my air-pipe to empathize
I need guts for what comes my way – and yours
A mask for the dive to stay alive even though
I need an obstacle stuffed in my air-pipe to empathize
If I unbutton my guts you’ll soon discover
I need buttons and a coat for my guts
My guts self-destruct on impact with water –
So do yours
You need buttons for the coat for your guts
As you’ll soon discover if you uncover your coat
You need a mask for the dive to stay alive even though
You need an obstacle stuffed in your air-pipe to empathize
They say it takes guts and it does
If you unbutton your guts you won’t self-destruct
There’s nothing to fear but fear of public unbuttoning
Predators Always Sit at the Top of the Food Chain
I was almost ready to take off my mask to breathe in this surreal world
of verdant green skies pregnant with hope
My skin was almost ready to get smeared
by the life-giving soil on this planet
far-far away from the Earth
Years and years have passed and I was sent on this intergalactic journey
swirling through the dazzling lights
of myriad constellations and stars
whose lights travel a thousand lights years
to die at the back of my eyelids
I still hold tight to that elusive hope
Like the last sliver of pure air
tightly trapped in my oxygen cylinder
Hope is an elegy to acceptance, they say
And I stand where under the clear verdant sky
that's welcoming me with its blue kindness
To an uninvited stranger – from the past or maybe from the future
To unlock the mysteries
in the strange minds of those
who calls this place “Home”
Waiting with their gaped mouths and gazing eyes
I stood atop the highest point
donned in my skin-tight leather jacket
almost ready to blurt out the truth
Bella and the Flake
Bella blew past the surface splash of
announcing her new job to her parents.
“It’s going to be great,” she gurgled as
she took the last sip of a lukewarm latte.
“I get to ride a motorcycle and breathe in
the wide-open spaces!”
Her father’s eyes glassed over.
They’d all been here before.
Her mother crossed her arms.
Bella belted it out. “It’s like the old pony
express! Jake says it pays great and
we’ll split it 50-50! Live on the open road!”
“You’ll eat tumble weed for breakfast,” her
“Jake is a flake,” her mother stated.
“It’s called ‘Prairie Schooner News,’ and
it’s old school. We’ll be off-line. Kewl, huh?!”
“You’re a sucker,” ...Dad’s assessment.
“Jake is a snake,” ...her Mom’s.
“...but...but...this is different. Jake
couldn’t have known that leather was
pleather when he sold it to the cop.”
Her dad rolled his eyes.
Her mom did, too.
Sunset in the DesertSunrise in the desert and you’re here again. A shaman in dusty trainers, your soles held on with Sellotape. You told us, many times, this is how we die: longing for the flood. How many times we laughed. How many times you didn’t. To be polite, this time I offer you a mattress on the floor, a chair by the window, a cup of tea but you let these grow cold claiming you cannot stop. Claiming you must keep moving like a shark that would drown if it stopped swimming. I don’t see a shark when I look at you, I see a tumbleweed drifting over the dry riverbed. Night falls and you step into the dreaming. You claim to be drowning in our town like a fish in a dry Tupperware box. I do not know if we’ll see you again, but if we do and your tune is the same our ears will be deaf to it but for the children whose words, unformed, cannot support you. When you fade into the horizon for the last time like a mirage, the only water will be in your canteen, your blood, your vital fluids and my tears as I recognise this for what it is. But tears are undrinkable and I am a shark that has stopped swimming.
I am Kate Bush on the Mountain
Into the balmy blue of a spring wind. Premature and devouring. Earth air grows green in the midday lens. Some kind of humbug illusion. I came dressed for adventure. Where were you? I waited. Watched for south winds that would lay waste my garden if unprepared. Oh, but I’m prepared. Goggles, snorkel, antennae, poems. My pockets are full. Of wouldn't-you-like-to-know. I even brushed my hair. Wore that sweet two-piece you said you'd like, though you can’t tell under my layers. Aquamarine. Flimsy as the sky. For your eyes only. What say you, lover man? You promised me a good time. Where the bloody hell are you?
Fasten the mask tightly
over your nose and mouth.
Take a deep dive.
The water is murky.
Does the water still cleanse,
contaminated though it be?
Salt crystals cling to skin,
settle your hair into waves.
Red heads have an increased risk
of melanoma and other cancers
of the epidermal layer.
Soon, we will need help
to breathe, even on land.
Our lungs gulp in oxygen
released by trees,
a study in symmetry,
their branches above and
roots below twin tangled webs,
exclamations, explosions, clusters
of neurons sending messages,
making connections, helping us
learn, cementing new knowledge.
This really isn’t helping.
At all. They said to wear
a mask while travelling.
Thought pandemic was over.
Decided to be creative.
Turns out it’s not a joke.
Can’t breathe outside anymore.
There is something growing
in my windpipe. Brittle roots
descending this snorkel
commingle with my flesh.
Am I becoming more, or less?
Mutations aren’t always bad.
Ninja Turtles, those perpetual teens,
provide hope during coughing fits.
Aliens on Mars
we’ll be the odd fish
red-soaked & stumping
like heaving moons
among obscured eyes
fish with no water
& snorkelled air
& the way we’ll float
heavy as bobbing pumpkins
lungs are foreign on Mars
we’ll carry them outside ourselves
viscous & wheezy
on hum-along pipes
cosy as headless raincoats
will people the desert
but we’ll dress in green
just to see some
just to know
that green is still there
waiting for our eyes
Not swimming, drowning
An early memory, the municipal swimming baths.
Grandma said, everyone can swim,
so I ran, raced, leaped into the smooth,
silky softness of the deep water.
I remember silver ripple-lights on the surface,
silver not blue, the smack,
and I felt the water wrap its arms
around me, pulling me down, feet threshing,
legs not mine threshing,
bubbles, a mass of chiming bubbles
and the gag of chlorine.
An older girl pulled me out,
left a child-fish gasping on the side,
mouth gaping, spewing water,
and the silver ripples winked innocently.
She has no face in my memory, just a shape,
lithe, a dark costume but I remember
the water’s eyes, unrepentant.
They had death in them, callous
as black leather trenchcoats
with winking ripples at the lapels,
and I have never forgotten.
They Said It Was A Panic Attack
Ate salmon that night.
Put me off water for a long time after.
Sitting there in my comfy chair, and there's this tightness like I can’t breathe, so pull myself upright, inhale, but panic is having its way with me.
It's like a voice telling you
three tales at once, but without your consent.
It’s the season of water. I sweat. Breath won’t find my lungs, it’s unbraided my throat and died. Flights of birds flutter in my chest and the hum of bees in my ears.
Fingers curling into
claws like the corners of damp paper.
The floor spins drunk, and I'm abandoned by my childhood nest. I call out to my father, who's long dead, gone into his sky with my ragged poems.
Me. Compressed as the backside
of paper, and drowning in my own chaos.
Doc said it was a panic attack.
A pale dark sea of deathless prose —
perusal isn’t kind; instead
it feels as if the words are lead.
A trawler full of soggy junk.
A folder burst with story funk.
So maybe it’s not quite despair —
and maybe there’s a passage here
a song that could elicit cheer
a fragile line might seem to sing.
Frail hope enjoys another fling.
The diver still pursues the quest.
Poetics take an eager turn:
the search to salve the savage burn.
But unrequited love despairs
a silent tree falls drowning there.
This too shall pass, goes the refrain —
a writing task anew calls you,
but will the exercise imbue
a tiny morsel of delight
a twinkling star in sea’s black night?
You know it can, it has before.
A falter now is just a stick
its only use to beat you with.
It’s up to you to play the game —
keep going, going, all the same.
I took a hard look at the new day
the shortness of life brimming over
the way I walked to the end of the dock and back
to complete the tasks like I had the day before
and the day before that.
I held my breath, took a leap
and sank deep without knowing how to swim
in the ordinary.
I opened my eyes underwater
swallowed reverence for what floated in front of me
breathed in the synchronicities
came up gasping with a bucket splashing over
mud in my toes, sand in my clothes
weeds in my hair, shells in my pockets
blue in my mouth, waves in my ears.
I had made plans. Hadn’t we all? None of us knew what would happen next. So we all prepared, according to our resources.
I knew it was time when I saw the dogs gathering on the meadows, down by the river. There was a gaggle of people watching all those the dogs. Greyhounds, whippets, terriers, black and grey and brindled, running and jumping and tumbling. I kept well clear of them. Such foolish people, trusting those animals, not realising what they will do.
Heavy clouds were rolling in from the west, the sunset reflected on their undersides, shades of copper and purple.
On the shore a night heron was waiting for fish. He saw me and snapped his beak. A warning, I realised. I crouched down at a respectful distance. He continued to watch the river. We watched together, for a while.
The sky darkened and I shivered. The heron turned his head, as if concerned. Or perhaps it was simply because my coat rustled. I chose it for practicality, the colour ‘medium rare’. A silly name probably chosen by a millennial oblivious to how it might offend some people, but it appealed to me because it’s how I like my steak, or rather used to. I enjoy the memory. As I enjoy my memories of warm summer evenings, sitting on the balcony of our house in the city sipping Chardonnay, a walking couple strolling through the park, bare-armed, their laughter drifting up through the trees. Sunsets were kinder then. As was life.
Enough. I am prepared for the rising water. That day, when I saw the dogs and the heron, turned out to be a rehearsal. The heron clearly knew. He rose without a sound, flew in a big arc into the sunset. I watched him. The mask distorts, but not so much that I can’t see. Not so much that I won’t know what’s happening. Not so much that I won’t see it all as I go.
You call yourself an invertebrate, but I know
you’ve been hardened: by the laving of the years,
by the pinnate ache of opportunity―
vanes of joy or of new loneliness
I hope you find what you’re looking for
but not in that far off way, not like
watching the ocean, its spread hands paling at your feet
and its feet too far away to get to
This love isn’t just mine; it is yours.
Leave your fears and failures on the shore.
time is a wave that breaks over me.
I am weighted by grief, longing
is the anchor that holds me still
for now, a pause
while I’ll breathe. In, out, till the oxygen
Or I resurface. Tread water in choppy seas
till the lifeboat comes—
imagination is a powerful force, isn’t it?
My mother lives in a rabbit hole inside my head.
She summons up the words I want to hear.
My father lives in a rabbit hole
forcing on me days I want to forget.
I can't escape the warren of recall.
Small boat, big seas, I must live now in this small
safe world yearning small quotidians.
Gershwin smelt burning rubber in his hour of need.
I smell a neglected Bellini but still I lust for latex
oozing from a wounded tree bark.
The comfort of the baby's teat, the swing of the giving set
feeding me life's blood, milk the tubes...clot ye not...
Seal me in and I will suck the silicone.
A thief of dreams, phoning
in the night he wakes me
two or three times, rings off
You should read the letters –
swollen with accusations and lies
Don't know what he's spinning
that lawyer Mine says ignore it,
keep steady in the swirling tide
I wish I'd wading boots
We're slip-streaming the rapids
getting used to the peace, the calm
– no rages, shouting, doors slamming
My neighbours must be pleased
Their walls no longer tremble
with his anger, our fear
He's a shark trying to swim
in our goldfish bowl but we've
cast off, come up for air
Snorkeling for a Mermaid’s Purse of Pearls
The high tideline is a place where ordinary people are now barred, and those in charge will instead be seen grubbing there in the sand, searching for riches beyond entitlement. The iniquity is worse beneath the water: a diving mask is rose-tinted for the empowered, and as greedy dreamers, none would settle for fins rather than fur when the search for a mermaid’s treasure is this kind of snorkeler’s fantasy. Here are different depths to secretly plunder, and emerging with a seaweed-stuffed tube is like being caught-out by their own ineptitude. The mantra dive deep for true love does not chant beneath the surface, and it is past being trite innuendo.
Lean close—my eyes are not following you
but slide off to where the sun sets
up the empty beach beyond the high dunes
and beyond the dunes the shape of pines
where there’s still a little shade to be had
where once we spread a blue tablecloth
and sat to eat and drink and watch the ocean
the waters of which were possible then
the sun’s skin-scorching no more than that
squalls of gulls over the fecund waves
and I still have a picture somewhere
of my parents in which they’re no older
than I am now showing much more pink
and white than skimpy bathing costume
and he has turned closer to her as she lies
with her toes and knees together—happy
you can tell—oh so happy—and beside them
sits an old-style tartan duffle bag
and I’ve come down for their anniversary
thinking I’d risk the open air
for the advisory thirty minutes and no more
my own flesh wrapped in an oilskin mac
On the days when the stories feel more true than ever
I run around between hollow concrete walls, I look outside
the tainted azure feels murky through my eyes.
Dust settles between the strands of my hair, I
look down and find the curse of the land enter through my pores
eyes unreal glare at me. I cover myself to hide.
Enveloping myself in the dust of the city’s afternoon sighs
a throbbing ache in my temples tell me to move forward.
eyes pore ahead
murky, dusty visions of the day give way to one final sigh.
The tainted azure goes away, the dirt remains.
There’s a breath I have been holding for too long, I try and let it go.
Killer Whales Are A Problem
It is the coat, you see, black, slick, shiny
making me easily mistaken for a seal
even one with red hair
and a giant cyclopean eye
There is no point in trying to outswim predators
all that splashing
would just get their attention
Emit vibrations leading back to me
No, I will be still
Float, bob, at the mercy of the currents
Not flinch away from
sleek forms with inquisitive eyes
I can hold my breath for a long time
which is just as well
given the air I suck past
the little sapling pushed into my snorkel
Both of us are searching for a new home
beyond the shimmering horizon
where our roots can take hold
I’ll know it when I get there
Dressed in waterproof leathers, Miranda’s sea salt
encrusted hair hung off shoulders in auburn clumps
held in place by a scuba mask, her heart shaped mouth
gasping for oxygen through a circus clown’s snorkel,
Bonzi tree trunk extending roots down the round airhole;
Miranda, sought Caliban’s protection under azure skies
draped across her body like a cobalt comforter,
providing brute warmth, bewilder beastly security,
safeguarding her freedom to marvel at new worlds
collecting insignificant—yet incomparable—treasures.
tides ebbing, flowing
shimmering beauty shrouded
As moody as a ship’s cat, Miranda wandered coastlines
metal detector in one hand, burlap sack in the other
combing beaches at dawn, seeking thunder eggs among shells;
come twilight she spread oilcloth on redwood barbecue tables;
seagulls perched on outstretched arms, watching, resting,
eyeing colored glass shards worn smooth by sand,
a silver cornucopia of lost corns, pristine periwinkle shells,
& hollow spheres—rocks concealing sparkling crystals
hidden inside their coarse, igneous exterior—
volcanic ash layers reminiscent of her feral servant.
dissolved in backshore waters
magical spells cast
It wasn’t the
that kept me from
– the Green Comet
26 million miles
away from the Earth
The closest it’s been
in 50,000 years,
Since the Palaeolithic era,
the stone age
Did the Neanderthals
see the emerald falling star?
Did they wonder?
Did they sing songs about the cosmos?
Visible with the naked eye
enhanced with binoculars,
better still with a telescope
Burning hot with a green tail
Like the blurry fish underwater
visible with naked eyes
burning with salt
The multi-colored wrasse comes in focus
Enhanced with a mask and snorkel
Better still with a camera
No, it wasn’t the moon.
I was awake, restless
Peered through blinds
To the knotted, naked trees
When We Drove Up to the Lake Home Dad Just Bought
I saw a dirty-white bungalow poised
at the edge of a swamp
dotted with sword-like reeds
rising out of the stagnant water.
The roar in my head drowned out
my mother’s protests at his decision.
Beyond the liminal passage lay the lake
bounded by docks and moored motorboats.
But on our side, brownish-green sludge
and the occasional pin oak and cottonwood
trees dissolving into the slurry.
Each summer I spent there, sulky,
away from my friends and civilization.
Each summer Dad delighted in the chaos.
I scowled at tadpoles and turtles, frogs
on the lily pads, tail-dragging muskrats.
A family of ducks lived nearby, and warblers
and dragonflies flitted and flew by.
Silent snakes slithered just under
the murky surface. Although I was just
out of grade school that first year, Dad
put me to work raking the swamp, hauling
out rocks and decomposing seaweed.
When I complained, he yelled or worse.
I learned to protect myself from
the seething teeming brown water.
Taught myself to breathe and how
to see through all that decay.
So Here Am I…
So here am I…
fifty thousand fathoms down swimming,
well, strolling really, across the ground
So here am I…
dressed for the weather,
water proofed and masked,
my eyes, distorted, feel safe behind toughened glass
So here am I…
ready and willing,
to take on the world,
gum shield in place, I grimace my face
So here am I…
down here only clean filtered air,
reaches me, reassured, my breathing is steady, deep and secure
So here am I…
below, deep-down, exploring by sound,
using echo location to find my way around
So I here am I…
exploring my new world, submerged,
I’ve adapted to live where change abounds
So here am I, a survivor…
of hubris, of ignorance,
of warnings ignored despite every insistence
So here am I…
looking for treasure that cannot be denied,
a cure for overweening self-confidence and pride
So here am I…
We often find things when we aren't really looking for them, isn't it? In places we don't expect to find them. In people, people we never hoped for them from. You get what I mean, don't you?
I mean, a few years back, I remember being part of conversations where music was a hot topic. And even as I rattled off the names of the oldies goldies, and nodded along to "approved" Billboard Hot 100 songs (with performative fervour, mind you), it all seemed quite academic to me. But then, in 2015, bored at an airport, waiting to board a flight to nowhere special, I downloaded this app off the Playstore. Finger dancing over guitar strings to songs I'd never heard (or, heard and forgotten, you know how it is), I found musicality in my life.
And this isn't a one-off either. In 2016, on a hike I was dragged to by my then-partner (quite unwillingly, really, and yet with the hope of finding something special, you know?), I found art in sunsets. Not the kind decorating my "home" laptop (you know, because "work" prefers it when their logo looms on your screen—and life—instead). The kind that are real, the ones I can almost touch; only if I look up from the screen once in a while (but, well, you know how it is).
I've found so much in these chance encounters. Shy and uncomfortable in my skin—a feeling that's growing by the minute—I found a way to lose my inhibitions by getting lost in the crowds at dancing bars. This one's a funny story, actually. Two girlfriends (are you really friends, though, if you never talk about life?) and I had hit a bar after work. 2018, I think. A few spins on the dance floor later, they went to grab drinks and...didn't return (oh yeah, they apologised the next morning, something about one of them "feeling" ill. We're still friends, of course). Alone, I felt some of my facade melt away. Some momentary peace, you can call it.Read more >
Our green world is disintegrating
Huge machines move like large lawnmowers all over the globe
Eating up the lifeline of trees
That will no longer provide
Cleaner air for its occupants
The economy is taking over in all continents
It’s the first thought for those in power
Denying us the voice
For a cleaner, greener world
In which our descendants can continue to live
Where is the help to come from?
How can populations survive?
To pass from this world
Knowing you have tried
Must be a personal answer
It’s going to be a slow death
Animals gradually leaving us
No pollination, less food, toxic air and water
Hearts and lungs breaking down
Earth keeps telling us
We are hurting Her
We keep toiling
Scratching Her skin
It is our itch
This historical restlessness.
How we trim
Try to tame
Of an ancient realm
Which we claim
For temporary gains
This age-old method
To our madness.
Here's a token
As the wind blows
Its unsuppressed rage
Be the fish
Water cleanses, doesn’t it?
(I thought) I hate water.
The thing with water is,
you should always check
it with intimate care.
What I took to be a shadow
turned out to be a fish.
This hovering presence
circled around me
could dismember me.
It filled the space between me
and the shingle of sand
(where the footprints go out
but they don’t come back)
being destroyed by the tides.
Should I surrender my life
and disappear all at once
and become unremarkable
as this green sky, teaching
me to soften my heart?
At the hands of this shadowy
underneath thief, I picture
my body beyond the wounds,
pools of blood sprawled out
as the storm rolls through.
I remember my life
piled pots of sand drip, at each gasping mouths pass
strangled dry roots scrabble, as winds scourge past
dead blown sky's burn, hard shadows colour-fast
gagging swallowed moisture, from air radio-cast
spatial winds roil, summoning pressed corded clouds
moisture spirals down, is this years last
kicking dust around, for an anomalous sultry root
but no life threads tangle, the torn corners of your boot
sweat lines tease, moist memories from a past
glittering lakes, loch ends, meres and rivers fast
handfuls, remembrance, cold pools liquid-gold-panned
now every drip treasure, coveted gently in your hand
6179 A.F. [bucky]
oily sea sculptures made of socotran myrrh
margārīta — iridescent in crystal formation
a murmuring maid — stood in frozen thought
no more jaw jaw for the khaki bahari navy
aquatic asthmatic sucking copper sky
extraction — breath work over 32 pearls
jacqueline cousteau in fish skin leather
stomach full of rocks in olive green foam
pastel pistachio black rubber trees — home
a soft planet of swum malocclusions crowned
in drowned misalignments — post first contact
sea clouds rose to break the aragonite night
salt from the sky crashed into sunbeams
sapped eyes summon across unbrushed air
maxed out masked up over tubular teeth
native metal lounging across watery galaxies
When We Open the Next Door (For William Norcross)
We were swimming underwater,
the film from seaweed already
when we heard the news
that you were gone.
Your once strong, beating heart
We were looking in the rearview mirror,
ignoring the horizon.
You quietly slipped away,
inside time’s envelope.
Our rushed flurry through life
The lights now seem dimmer
with you gone.
We are swimming in
even murkier waters.
Our once asleep selves
This is what happens
in the dawn of grief.
Our pulse quickens,
then slows to molasses.
Our eyes burn
from the brightness of loss,
the sharp pang
out of depth
it is so very shivery through the mask
the breeze sets tall greenery asway
tidal bamboo ebbs & flows tom-cat
crabs crawl in tentacular weather
stare into deepest green rainbow newts
schools of stratus-minnows webbed feet
paddle through the cirrus silhouetted
fish-gulls glide on fin-wings you surf
the zephyrs dive in alto cumulus hear
thunder-kraken smell the lightning flash
catch raindabs while airmaids tantalise
be zen murmur with the starlightfish
No One Knows
An old woman says to me: 'You are unhappy'. She then precariously holds the handle of a cup of tea between her thumb and forefinger, sticks out her chin. A young woman smoking beside her turns around and says over my shoulder: 'You are unhappy'. Her unbrushed hair is bunched on top of her head and some bits of biscuit are spilled from the edges of her mouth onto the breast of her T-shirt.
Under a wonderfully sunny sun. Wonderfully cheerful accordion band playing. At a pavement café in the early morning, a street sweeper is relaxing in a daze with a cup of coffee. An ant is swimming peacefully in a drop of spilt milk on the table. The street sweeper in overalls brushes off an olive that has fallen on his lap, takes a book out of the bag at his feet and begins to read it intently. The book has a familiar title on its cover.
It was a book I had written. For a long time I was alone at the bottom of the deep sea. The dim moonlight passed through the water and illuminated tenderly my writing pad. Every morning, a swarm of sardines formed a dense cylindrical formation and became a pneumatic tube system, express delivering postcards of ports from straits all over the world. Every afternoon, my small fantasies with compressed air were delivered to the publishers through the tube. Before long, I ran out of paper and pen ink, but the story I wrote became a bestseller.
People walk down the street with books in their arms, no one knows it is my story. No one knows that the old woman comes to the café with her meagre pension hidden in her hat, no one knows that the accordion band is missing one of its members, much less that the smoking woman has changed her brand of cigarettes. I have no way of knowing whether the book that the road sweeper shoved into his overalls pocket will be takenRead more >
The Book of Realisations
The sun came up over the horizon. Obediently, she turned towards it. Her breathing goggles wouldn’t get hot until midday, at which point she'd look for shade. The air was poison to her; not to the tree that had implanted itself in her breathing tube. It sucked down the poison greedily, like a spoiled child, and it excreted oxygen. That’s all she could breathe here: plant farts. In exchange, she kept herself fed and watered. She gave the plant nutrients through the medium of her blood. Its roots embedded themselves into the skin around her ear, and then crept inside her ear canal. The image of the spoiled child came back to her, except now the child wore a black cape and had long piercing fangs. The day the tree’s roots penetrated her eardrum was the most painful of her life. During the day she could feel them gently wriggling. At night they still moved, even though the plant was meant to be dormant at that time. Maybe the tree wasn’t aware it was doing it, the way people thrashed around in bed as their brains lived out a nightmare. Does the tree have a subconscious mind? And how much longer would it be before its roots groped their way to her subconsciousness?
Already the goggles were becoming uncomfortable in the morning sun. The tree spewed out more oxygen.
When it finally mined too deep inside her head, when its roots broke through the wall and into her psyche, what would it think? What would it feel? She hoped – oh how did she hope! – that it would feel EVERYTHING. The horror of having arms, legs, feet, hands, hair, teeth, a tongue, genitals, a burst eardrum, hunger, thirst, anger, pain, arousal, despair, loneliness. That hope is what kept her from just ripping off her breathing goggles and killing them both right now. The shock of it all would give the tree the most comprehensive mental breakdown ever experienced by a sentient creature. In its brief conscious paroxysm, before they both died together, she wanted the tree to feel, to know, to
Driving on Acid
I am dreaming that I’m tripping on acid and taking a road trip.
I slide into the driver’s seat with heightened cognitive focus and somatic grace. My bottom sinks slowly and sensually into doughy, quick-sandy leather that adheres to every curve of my body. The door coughs shut with crisp economical resonance. I turn the ignition. A quasar bursts forth from the dashboard and sprays the front of my shirt with viridescent luminance. I pull away from the curb and the sudden thrust of velocity causes my shoulders to press deeper into the back of my seat. I marvel at the law of science that impels my body backward, while inside the car I accelerate forward. There is something profoundly metaphorical about this.
The road to revelation is interrupted by the actual road. It turns into a gelatinous streamer that undulates upward and downward. I navigate by focusing on the white double line in the center of the street that remains invariable. I stop at a traffic light next to a brick building with a giant abstract mural. It is red, blue, and yellow, but the colors heave with radioactive vibrancy, and throb with such preternatural pulsing, that my synapses decree they deserve new nomenclature. So not red, rabbleraz. Not blue, blazenberry! Not yellow, yowelspurt!
I am startled by a loud rhythmic plunking sound. I see the branch of a towering palm tree crouching over the hood of the car. A leaf drips prodigious drops of dew on the window. They have a silvery glint like globules of mercury. They hit the glass and splatter into tens of tot-drops that sprout tiny legs and arms that they hold up high as they slide down the windshield shouting “Wee!”
I hear an otherworldly hum of four harmonic tones. An electronic humming quartet inside the traffic light, crooning to me. My voice joins in with a fifth harmony until we are all cut off by a click. Green light.
I turn the corner and start down a gravel road with no streetlights. The rolling tires sound like creatures munching on rock candy. It’s raining hard Read more >
The trussing and the binding and the strapping and
the disappearing under
the plunging down
the hard down pushing through the pressure.
Travel through that place, your yes for company. Weightless, you tread lightly.
Silvered flashes, brittle branches. Sharp teeth bared, tails flicked and left wanting. Electric. Ecstatic.
Sand melts to glass, reflecting. Swallow glossed air, gulping.
The horizon shifts its curve. Breathe deep. Start walking.
coming up for air tastes different this way
the ash of autumn sticking to a throat
clogged with auburning leaves, with
pinecones and pinneedles / wondering
if this is the last scrap of orange before
the white / wondering if this is the last
of the oxygen before the tank runs
the annual drip feed / we line our
lungs with artificial sunlight / the
smell of rotting leaves / the ocean,
sea-salt slick easing the sting / we
crave that which hurts us most,
that which burns going down / too
many flowers grow their thorns
i grow from my roots down /
planted firmly in the earth, feet
shoulder width apart / i practice
tree pose / wondering if i fix
my balance / wondering if i fix
my posture / will it be enough
for the soil to claim me as its
My Girlfriend Hates Bathing Suits and Pajamas, But I Just Want to Kiss Her Face
She wears a leather jacket to beach day and work boots laced up tight to bed at night. Since we started dating, I've only touched the thin skin of her naked jawline. Her naked elbows and the soft backs of her knees call to me beneath her clothes. Please, take off your scuba mask, I plead, but she insists she must be ready for anything. She is an explorer, and adventure could strike at any moment. Like, if an earthquake shook us awake at three a.m., her boots are strapped on. She is set to run, prepared for the ceiling to fall on our heads. Or, if swimming in the ocean, a great white nudged its nose to my girlfriend's navel in aquatic affection or sudden attack, that silly jacket would shield her from shark teeth. But with all that defensive gear, my love misses the flotsam and jetsam gathering behind her, algae and kelp trailing from her mask, the heavy rubble she tracks to bed in the cracks of her boot soles. What use is gear or swimwear that wears her down? You would snorkel better without that coat, I say. And you would sleep soundly in pjs. She scoffs, I've always lived this way. But I want to touch her. I'm no shark. I'm no disaster. I just love her. We could be an adventure. Please, will you take off that damn mask? But she buttons up her leather and paddles out to sea, as I sit on the shore, watching my lonely voyager collect more and more debris.
What Survives After Exposure?
a deserted house, boarded up,
a living tree sprouts in a chimney.
branches reach the azure sky –
stretch for nourishment & life.
seeds trickle across the sky &
fall into another ghost house,
breathe the purified air –
masks removed –
nature rejuvenates &
flora and fauna return …
Bad Hair Day
The traffic woke her up.
Not the alarm tone on her phone.
She was late.
She had been jobless for some time.
Today was her first interview in months.
Ironed, clean outfit on,
While coffee brewing,
Drenched from head to best shoes.
What to wear?
Jacket left by brother.
Lift not working,
Clatter down the stairs,
Dash into windy street,
No buses or taxis.
Arrive at glossy office,
Windswept hair looks like a cross between toilet brush,
and a beach debris encrusted snorkel tube.
Late. Very late.
Tick, tock goes the clock,
Internal silence is the only space
I allow for my magic to flourish—
I keep it well hidden from prying eyes,
those that refuse to recognize its light—
I allow for my magic to flourish
in a parallel version of what I expose—
when I say me the meaning is veiled—
I keep it well hidden from prying eyes,
from facts that contradict my essence,
from measurements and categories,
those that refuse to recognize its light—
the liquid sun reflecting the intersection
of gills with shining oceans of air
I wore my mac to keep me dry
It’s waterproof you see
And a snorkel with just enough
air to get my bearings.
In this green world below the sea
dance and dart and dash in freedom
Lit by shards of sunlight
She said ‘your mum has fuzzy thoughts’
Her day is night, night day.
But throwing balls for unicorns
At midnight was such fun!
Don’t tell them our Private Secrets
Making snow sandcastles
Whirling round and round and round then
Laughing in dizzy heaps
I will float on the seven seas
Visit north and south poles
Scale the Arctic and Antarctic
Speak Octopus and Shark.
We will have seaweed sandwiches
And share our adventures.
As soon as I’m back home again.
With kit kats and cheese strings
I smell the smoke
Tangy, heavy with the scent of black cherry honey.
I feel the clay
Baked earth shattered over with sunshine.
I taste the salt
Pigmented with saffron and sprinkled over with wine.
I hear the wind
The naked rustle of the trees.
I create the memory
Between frayed lines kissed over with time
Nostalgia seeds and blossoms.
Born From Water
What am I breathing? Am I breathing?
Is this air? How can there be air here? Another breath when the pain leaves. Another pain when the breath leaves.
And another, and another, and another. For a few minutes? A few hours?
There is no time. There is not enough.
Too long under water?
Too long without breath?
Deep inhale. Push. Repeat.
No space for other thoughts.
Pressure becomes burning. Stretching. There is a limit. It’s crossed.
And then there you are.
Born from water. Pushed out of it.
Suddenly, all the weight of the world on you.
Motionless. Squished blue.
Taking a first shaky breath.
This is air.
And you fill your lungs with it for your very first cry.
All That I Need Is the Air that I Breathe
Endless amounts of trash
packages in, garbage out
the world filling
mountains of refuse
Mondays and Fridays
are designated as
Pack up the unusable
And throw it in a bin
The earth floats in
this infinite soup
of the no longer
But deep down, towards
the center swims a spark of hope
clad in vinyl (recycled) for
protection from the hazardous
elements all around
an ingenious adaptation of
a snorkel fused with a tree
provides oxygen to the diver
while she collects the
I could write you a poem;
about an Emerald sky
about sunsets and nights rising
and the glints of light forming disco ball distortions in Winter air.
And I'm aware the metaphors read like an infant school play
so young, so idealistic
as reflections of the moon
of months passed
dance in the peripheral
and you're basking under it
bathing in it
the realisation that
yeah, you've got it kind of good.
As you watch the world burn beneath a mask
as fumes dance with fire, inhaled and infiltrated,
an audience consumed by the shock –
and then the horror.
But I won't.
Read more >
We stand and we wait,
overlooking the stirrings of an abyss,
Like Stevie’s young man,
I was too far out
much too far out
and not waving
I didn’t want the attention
that waving would draw
to my foolishness
or my stubbornness
when I’d gone too far,
wouldn’t want to be judged
on my waywardness.
But I wasn’t drowning.
I had my mask
even a wet suit
of a homemade kind
so I just floundered
I found I could float,
and go with the flow
for a while
and then kick off
against the current
in my own direction. Read more >
My Father’s Goggles
Through the glass
smudged by my father’s fingers,
I view the blurry world.
on roads not taken.
I tighten the strap,
from the glass,
button his heavy, green jacket.
I breathe air he has exhaled.
I will not
the same mistakes.
A fear of water will not deter me from swimming,
I just choose to swim in different media.
I swim in words, or music, or sunshine.
I swim enthusiastically indoors or out.
Today I choose to swim in air,
Coastal air more specifically.
Of course, I’m prepared for the cold
And wear my protective black leather.
I wear goggles to prevent the salty air from stinging my eyes.
A snorkel is optional, but a bold statement;
I decide to accessorise mine with driftwood.
People that pass are like little fish,
Wide eyed with curiosity, while keeping a safe distance.
My strokes are a stroll, a strut, or a dance,
Until I stop to rest by a promenade bench,
Floating in the low evening sun,
Feeling invigorated, and smug in my dryness.
The weight of water
‘New start, new challenges,’ I tell myself as I yank on the wetsuit. The rubber clings to my calves, refuses to stretch up to my thighs, as reluctant as a pair of tights after swimming. The instructor passes me the facemask. I’ve always hated the idea of assisted breathing. The thought of being reliant on a canister terrifies me. The seal around the mask makes a sucking sound against my cheeks and the air inside the mask tightens. Are my eyes bulging out?
His mouthpiece is already inserted; he checks my mask then sticks his thumbs up. He’s less attractive with the diving gear on. From prince to frog in five minutes. He passes me a pair of flippers and indicates towards the sea. The sound of breaking waves calms me, reminding me of the fountain in the gardens near my flat. Mothers park their babies up for a nap; there must be something womb-like in the tinkling noise of waterdrops as they dance against the pond’s surface. I eat my sandwich and listen to them complaining about sleepless nights and sore breasts, husbands that return too late for bath time, mothers-in-law who criticise them in subtle ways. I envy them their long days and heavy loads.
I sit down next to him at the water’s edge. We insert our sandy pink feet into blue, floppy replicas. There’s still time to change my mind. I try to distract myself by focusing on his rubber-hugged buttocks until they disappear beneath the waves, then I try to recall the colour of his eyes behind the mask. He gives the signal, and stupidly, I inhale a lungful of the saline air as if I’m planning to survive on one breath. He laughs and points to my mouthpiece. It already tastes of brine.Read more >
When the dry wave flipped the rim
of our threshold, I didn't notice at first. The particulate
grind of toenails was a reclamation. To dust,
a hiss and a voice I knew but didn't recognise. Done
with pearls, it would soon take our skin. Lapping,
the other voices went to ground soon enough
though perhaps in some rose cavern they found the dripping
that consumed us. Light shaved to bone I lay shifting
in thought, twig hair sprung to mineral. Only my head
turns now, heavier than before. It alone is alive
in the sifting, final twine resisting. The seed
was the last thing that came my way to rest, to root,
extract. I tell time in quarters: I am three-quartered,
my pile of dust grows a peak. Nothing can even sigh,
sough, tall grasses in the wind. There is only the still. But
the air takes on flavour of what is nearby, which is
nothing. Beyond mineral, there is no scent. There is
nothing to move the only passengers of time, the
witness that can record and know things.
The existence will be self-telling and dry.
We swam together in the early days, twisting through kelp forests and weaving between rocks, basking in the dancing light from a sun that shone almost every day. As the seasons passed, we moved into deeper waters where the warmth was harder to find. You enjoyed the company of the larger creatures below while I preferred to spend my time studying patterns on the surface above. When you started going on expeditions to the seabed a few miles further out, something changed. Something I felt as a difference in the pressure of the water; in colours that lost their intensity and absorbed the grey of the depths instead.
We swam further apart now, the invisible thread that had always bound us gone slack. I idled on my back and looked for the light rippling above, but my vision had become clouded, or the water less clear than it once was. You seemed intent on pushing further into the cold, persuaded perhaps by the new friends you had made in the deep. You learned their language, tried to teach me, but I found no rhyme or reason I could latch onto in the sounds they made.
I let myself rise and sink through the days, listless and cold. What would it take to break that thread forever? A silent ship passing overhead, slicing through it before we had time to get out of the way? Would it eventually dissolve, eroded by salt and the passing of time?
It was another creature in the end, though she didn’t know – she was dead, poor thing, though perhaps only a day. I found her caught under a ledge of rock, dragged out here by something bigger than us. Her long hair fanned out from her face and her eyes stared wide into my own, and I was struck by how young she was, her torn diving suit revealing smooth firm skin. I’d seen many of her kind before, back in the shallows. They lived above the surface, they only ever came down wearing masks and cylinders and never for very long. They would be looking for her, I knew.Read more >
As the first woman to walk upon the new Earth,
she feels it duty to feel each drop of dew
between the skin of her toes.
The new sun, twice as swollen as the old
(as if to warn her about the equilibrium
of this borrowed warmth), makes liquid rise
above the titanic shoulders
of the horizon and diffuses sulphur yellow
into the green canvas-sky.
She slowly inhales oxygen from with
the breathing leaves of the trees.
The new atmosphere tastes
a bittersweet: promise
with the pessimism of history.
Glomes fall devoicing—
sparse roots exposed
this winter dawn
have no place to hasp
Launched into motion
from lack begetting lack
Folds wrenched apart
lock My sole help
lateral leers Still
The old life
creeps Bars block
the strale Iron on lime
alight the doom stone
from they who mock
but never steal
Breathe a root
Root out the rot below
Above is below
Belayed out to the beloved
Green and red and auburn
Breathe the air into the stomach
Turn to the tangle to sort out
What is obscure
Mist on visor to elucidate
Untangle what is blind
Is it within the tangle?
Is it without the bind?
Rot is the reverse
Out in the air, green and gold
Bound and revert
Inspired the air
Inspire the beloved
Above the aspirate,
Belayed to the beloved
The sky is higher
I love the fragrance of wild flowers
Honeysuckle, lavender, columbine
But with my filter of copper and wood
I endure but no scent can I discern
I love the sight across the valley
The gentle slope, the glimmering lake
But my left eye shot, right just going
I can rejoice in the view no more
I love the harmony and music of birds
The blackbird’s baritone, the sparrow’s cheep
But with each day that passes
Silence is my inexorable fate
I love the caress of cutting-edge clothes
Soft cashmere, cool cotton, shimmering silk
Now all I have is a faux leather great coat
It keeps me warm and is quite easy clean
I love the taste of so many things
A gourmet through and through
Now it’s all insipid, boring, bland
But it nourishes, keeping me alive
Every day is just like the other
I keep going, but why do I bother
I am the last tree, standing,
my roots upended.
I cannot distinguish between
the earth and the sky.
Is it the collapse of firmament
or loss of gravity?
Is this what you always talked about?
You, breathing with your snorkel mask,
taking air out of my lungs.
Are you also the last human floating
in this mess, you made?
Are we so entwined now
only having each other to hug
and talk to,
and keep this oxygen
and keep this life
and keep this planet
as long as it lasts.
And just like that
Time is finished
It spins away
Like a spiral of breath
Ploughing us into the air
To be lost.
Just like that
We find ourselves surprised
By how slowly it
Jolted upon us,
The end of things,
The final throes,
The death wish,
The wishing well,
The well wishers.
Spindle of thread
Climbing down from the rafters
To land on one's shoulder, like
The universe climbing into
The ocean as the night climbs up, like
The last bubble rising from the depths,
Meeting the surface, which opens up
And then is gone.
Aqualung running club
Oh my alveoli, oh alveoli,
am I sucking you down
or blowing you out into
a glistening, gradient sky?
Maybe I could run faster
if I took the golden aqualung
off my back and put it into
my brain; red oxygen sun
as the original superfood,
pattern breathing as the real
mental discipline. If I close
my eyes at the finish line
it’s only because it prevents
Neptune’s tears, for a moment.
he says, scrutinizing me
like I’m the toaster
that burned his morning bagel.
He screwdrivers his pen
into the pad of scripts,
slides the top slip
Cover your eyes.
Grow a thicker skin.
Already up and away,
he fingertip waves
and closes the door.
Crossed wires are contagious.
The fish are asleep
roosting in the trees, their fry
folded under their wings,
tucked into nests of seaweed
and me, breathing
nothing, as usual, a small tree
blocking my air. I
can see you, you know,
the money you stole
from your mother’s wallet
how you cheat on your wife,
how you ate the last of the sweet
plums. I am the woman
in metallic puce looking
into your window, watching
the fish settle down
among the petunias
in your garden.
She said she was a sea baby
born on land, given to her father to mother
until her gills formed,
and she was strong enough
to live in the sea and return to her mother.
I smiled, took it with a pinch of sea water
until she showed me her neck,
the flaps flat to her skin,
then she took my hand,
and led me to the dunes
by the light of the moon.
She returned some months later
a tiny squirming form in her arms,
mother her, she said, until she is ready.
I am the lookout below,
with my face-masking facemask
and MacMackerel mac
and my longstraggle hair
I forgot to tie back,
and I’m feeling the pressure
this deep in the green
from the weight of a world
that cannot now be seen.
But I’m here for a reason
and that is the glow
that’s filtering upwards
from way down below.
It comes from a party
like you’ve never seen,
a great gathering of fishes
deep down in the green.
They party together
and party all night,
and because it’s so dark here
they make their own light.
There are glowfish aplenty,
electric blue eels,
an iridescent octopus
kicking up her heels.
The dancing is intricate,
A LUDDITE POEM
My avatar, auburn hair created by my son
wanders lost in the matrix of the VR world,
not of brick and mortar but pixelated.
0 and 1 scorched blood in its veins
(Pronoun do they hold there)
creating and minting digital wallets.
Does it long to leap off the fibreglass?
For it feels trapped in the man-made mandrake.
This artificial universe is somewhere in space or on earth,
I do not know. But we have begun to invade all.
I juggle multi universes at my age. A metaverse
on the earthly land and several minis in my body.
It breathes and exhales carbon footprints;
my son tells me so.
How do I bridge the gap between the real and tech
not for me to dwell? I am nearing my earthly cycle.
Today I am looking for the recycle bin.
The nontech savvy needs help.
My son's vacations are over.
I remove the Google Glass and logout of the system.
I long to sit by a stream and inhale the Angsana flowers.
My poem may paint an incorrect picture of the AI world
Is it me or ChatGpt who has written?
Sea Voyagers Searching for Dry Land
To see land again, green sky,
raincoat, snorkeling memorabilia
enough of that –
I recognize mother’s face,
Enclosed, in palpations of a mask,
a life she was promised. Example –
hallucinating can-can dancers,
dragging river’s eyelid for glaucoma gelatin,
One word –
Nightclubs. Portals for employment of
wire-cutting, brass knuckle technicians,
celebrate the New Age, a quercetin Rubicon, forest bees
Overcome by hives of loneliness.
Never a solid child, nor stolid,
standing up to remarkable parentage,
Mother protested Father Justice, his ideology
Prisoners three-deep to a bed off the coast of
frangipani. Yellow star-shaped curlicues
emboldened by orange, a fetish to sea.
Blue jays, red cardinals, their
sculpted wings fluttering, eco memorial
to the do-not-cross zones, melted cheese
cathedrals of worship,
glacial, screaming, cake icing, generative celestial.
How we live now –
The Survival of Venus
The horizon seems farther than yesterday, yet we keep on looking at it anyway.
Today, the setting sun burns into an orange blaze: the tempered glass of your snorkeling mask competes with the windows of the grandiose church you once sang in.
Right now, you stand. Like a mythological deity against the background of a gradient deep sea green sky. You ask: Why?
And you know how the answer presents itself in silence.
The heavens and the ground embrace you like how you learned to hold them in your arms.
Your coarse hair knows the value of growth and hears the song of your beating heart.
Your breathing echoes and expands.
Like the roots of an uprooted tree – still thriving, even after an impossible storm.
Elements in competition for destruction.
jacket of who knows who
huge, hot, sweating, over-heating,
stiff for water-drowning
assisted by snorkel
weed trapping, fish catching, lung blasting.
and also for land-drowning
emitting bubbles air to air.
dual purpose visor
for auto-asphyxiation in either element,
hair tangling, eye probing.
Hobson’s choice, leathery drowning in water,
suffocation in air
or, if all else fails
Air Is Not Our Friend
It waits for us,
feeding on our trust,
waiting for that moment’s
Inattention. There is a blank
space between expiration and
inspiration that is our moment of vulnerability.
We wrap it round us, embrace it
As it waits for the hairline crack
in our processing, the flaw in our design. The flaw
in every design since primordial fishfrogs
sprawled out of the sea,
gasping for breath through the holes they used for eating.
The air around us feels,
feels so benign, waiting to trap us into
indiscretions, waiting for the inadvertent
gasp that will end
with coughing our lungs up.
The air is the Adversary’s message to remind us
That God the Creator does not exist.
No-one intelligent would have designed us
With such a major design fault missed.
Ingrid Coker Finds a Friend
Ingrid Coker was the type of woman who felt, very strongly, that latex clothes were strictly taboo. “Latex only looks good on film. Never in real life,” she’d say. “It looks idiotic in person, and even more absurd in daylight. I would never wear something so shiny and crass.”
She said this most especially when frequenting the local goth bar.
It was one of her little quirks, a funny thing Ingrid liked to do. She would go to the goth bar wearing beige, typically something in a soft and all-natural weave, and white clogs. It was her distinct way of being contrary amongst those who were themselves contrary.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly, Ingrid didn’t have many friends. In fact, she did have a very close friend once, when she was a little girl.
Ingrid’s best childhood friend was Bianca. They were so young at the time, Ingrid had no idea what Bianca’s last name might be. Bianca X was a very special and very freckled little girl, but horribly, quite unexpectedly, her parents moved and took Bianca with them. Ingrid never recovered. She felt outcast, abandoned; left behind.
She chose to be contrary, intentionally.
“Lady, you need a better hobby,” said the bartender, smirking at Ingrid’s cashmere cardigan. “I know what you’re doing, but you’ll never be Other enough. Not in this place.”
Ingrid nodded and sighed and sipped her cocktail, the bartender’s invention: Recycled Trash. It tasted stronger than usual. “This is good,” she winced, then smiled. This got a chuckle from its inventor.
“Glad you like it,” he said, and checked his coal eyeliner in the mirror. Then he made another Recycled Trash. It was quite the popular item.
“I’ve never had one of those before,” said a woman. She strolled up to Ingrid’s right side, tapping on the bar a light rhythm.
She’s a drummer, thought Ingrid. Read more >
We were looking for seals
the guide book told us we’d find them here
and we’d seen them in the spring…
guarding their pups, staring us out
with baleful looks and cautious frowns;
we hadn’t expected to see the walrus
who’s been stopping off all round the
coast: Wally, what an unimaginative name
I’d have named him Russell much more droll.
We’d never expected to see a mermaid
or a selkie on the shore, but we knew her
when we saw her, knew her by her hair
gold like the sunset, radiating mystery;
we watched her search the flotsam
strewn across the beach, around her feet
searching for her skin, for her seal form.
When she leant to take it up, we knew;
she shed the ugly Mac, kicked off her boots,
transformed before our unbelieving eyes,
seal woman, paddling to the waves,
lifted with the swell of the tide and gone…
The town had turned out to watch
Pru suit up for her dive, masked
and snorkelled with her customary
egg-whisk to filter persistent solids
that might otherwise get sucked in,
gulped down into stomach and gut.
Someone muttered that a helmet
should be mandated, to minimise
close encounters of the turd kind
but 'Divers must be permitted to
make their own Health and Safety
provisions', quoted Prudence.
An effluent operative mocked her,
saying a khaki shirt should suffice.
He scoffed that a mac, especially
a shiny vinyl one in cowpat green,
was going over the top and would
turn her from a diver into a floater.
Prudence dismissed his remarks
as a snide way of saying she was
just showing off. Then, calling out
'Nice chain of office,' Mr Mayor,
she dived right in, creating spatter,
ending the chatter.
I went deep-sea diving with you one summer
to see if we could handle the pressure
of disappearing from the world. We found
fish decorating shipwrecks with their souls,
dolphins checking everyone was OK,
an octopus spinning broken plates.
A couple of whales reminded us both
how small we were. What an existence.
The salt found a home in our pores. No-one
followed us. They missed out on wet lightening
and the jaws of a shark filled with teeth as sharp
as every mistake we want to drown us.
A Mysterious Maple
A tiny, tiny green maple sapling
I was; powers so cumbersome,
the naive comfort of the king,
Only if I knew what had to come.
I laughed and danced and sang,
blooming maple flowers of hope
Sunned with eternal joy,
Rolling down the wood aslope.
Bad days didn't exist
for I did not get glum,
Soaring through cloud nine
Only if I knew what had to come.
But then, it all rained down on me
It thundered down from the cloud
As tragic as one could be
I was no longer proud.
The wrath flamed inside me.
Walking painfully on the dry white snow.
That unmatchable spree of fury.
I wouldn't give up in the winds of woe.
I had to pick myself up, didn't let it show,
faced those hindrances as I groped;
I knew I had to go;
that eternal perseverant hope.
That is when It dawned on me
I contemplated those ups and downs-
“Mom” is never great when it’s more than a syllable long
and even less so when there are infinite ways in which
two offspring can get into trouble in a bathroom.
As I teeter on the brink of exhaustion,
I find them splashing joyfully in the tub,
but the toilet drain is now blocked.
It’s impossible to feel anger at these innocents,
as the older child tells me with impeccable logic,
that a favorite stuffed toy was flushed down the toilet,
in a fit of pique, but remorse and kindness
caused a fresh diaper to follow so that
said toy would have adequate pee-poop protection.
I shut off the water, get my children dried off,
and dressed and tuck them in for the night
before I don my most capable avatar, Plumber Mom.
Rain slicker, diving goggles, snorkel, gloves, plunger
and waders complete my superhero uniform
as I bravely wade into this latest challenge.
It’s late in the evening, there’s no plumber
who won’t charge time and a half, those tools
don’t get me very far, I still have so many chores
before I can think of sleep, so I use a drain auger
to do the job, and devise an excuse for the toy’s demise
as toilet bowl water drips from my hair.
As I leave the bathroom, mission accomplished,
envisioning a future of endless such nights,
I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror.
Therapy Session 1: Family Trauma
“You know, your primary relationships you had when you were a child repeat when you’re an adult. You seek out the same relationships, same patterns, same roles. Even if you don’t want to. Even if you think you’ve chosen a partner that’s nothing like your dad or your mom, you actually have.
“You seek the familiar, even if you don’t like it. So, you end up surrounding yourself with the same types of people, so you can play the same role. Even if you didn’t like that role as a child. Even if you sit here now and say, ‘but I know I don’t like that role.’
“You’ve chosen it again.
“Do you see that?
“Do you see how you’re repeating the same patterns?
“And I don’t mean you just you, I mean a collective you. We all do it. All of us. So, I’m not being critical. I’m just being honest.
"And once you realize this then you can identify the pattern and try to break it and try to see why you’ve picked people who on some level are just like the people you grew up with, who formed your identity.
“We all think we’ve gotten so far from our roots, from our upbringing, but it’s always there with us.
"And you can get out of the patterns, you can. When you realize they’re there at first it may feel suffocating. But knowing them, seeing them, that’s where the work starts. Then you can start to breathe free and see clearly.”
You told me to look up
Just to peek when I could
With all the earth above
I should breathe the sky
The weight of bones a blanket
Giving comfort as I hide
A band of orange performs the song that plays out the night
I squeeze up through the soil
With daisies in my side
I breathe in all the earth above me
And spread roots across the sky
Public Health Warning
Please do not breath the air around you unless you are over six feet tall.
From the ground to that height they have pumped in poison, slow but lethal.
It is a conspiracy to make you sick, to make you require medication, to make them rich.
Do not be fooled.
We must track them, find them, shut them down.
This is war.
Protect yourself. The air is pure above you.
There are many ways to foil their plot, the mask and snorkel is one.
Stilts, shoes with springs, a pogo stick. With the last two methods, synchronise your in-breath, when at the top of the jump.
Live and work at least one floor above ground level.
You may need to squat in a high rise.
Stay in your nest.
Everything can be ordered online delivery these days.
Walk through this ochre sun plain
Of wild rice sands
And the water will find you.
From cyan cloud
it beads crystal on your woollens
and rises from meridian roots.
It is in lost blood-bark and primordial shells.
Run through with bittersweet,
An equator nectar,
A salve for the hinterland.
I Am Amphibious
I am amphibious—
in water and at sea.
I need both to survive,
both realms to live a full life.
One refreshes, and the other ages.
One is toxic, while the other replenishes.
I keep looking for a place where both exist,
where I live on sea and land
and I don't have to wear a mask
And I don't have to believe in a savior.
Saviors won't bless me with a new body,
a pure and spiffy spirit
if freedom is lost.
But dreams heal the soul—
not faith and religion.
Cover me with Van Gogh fields,
and the music of the Beatles.
Fill me with love,
and breathe into me a hopeful breath.
You said, no one goes to the beach in a leather coat, yet you did, because it was February, the sky a light minty green, cool air stuck to your copper hair, and you said, I'm freakin' bored, and here's what we're going to do, because always you were the one moving, rushing forward while I followed, you said, watch this, and I watched you like always I was the one watching you, you picked up nests of driftwood, a snorkel and a strange goggle someone left behind, and you said, turn around, don't look, and I turned around looking not at you but the horizon, the waves crashing on my soggy shoes, pebbles smoothed by the ocean, and you said, don't look are you looking, and I shook my head, and heard you giggling, heard you shredding, breaking and cracking wood and even a joke, and you said, now turn around, and there you were, all goggled up, pieces of driftwood sprouting from the tube, your eyes glazed, and you said, what if none of this were real, what if you and I don't exist, what if our memories were implanted, and then you said, what are you doing, when I laughed at your silly thoughts and snapped a photo of you looking pensive behind the funky diving mask, and you said, why d'you do that, I hate when you do that, not asking, and you said nothing more, stomped away, and I knew then the honeymoon was over.
It hadn’t been like this before. When I’d gone there in my younger years. Then I was free. Bare of skin as if freshly emerged from the mother. Mouth unblocked for the first time and free from the passage of my own salts and urine passing through me and into her, ever onwards. Within and without.
Going back equipped me with a key that would be tied to my ankle. Shorts that remained knotted for the five years I owned them and a single rubber sock giving me the protection of a second skin. The mouth roared from one end of the water and the cries of others bounced from a glass roof cloaked in dried leaves. Fear caused me to grip my toes around the tiled edges.
We were all to plunge in. A rush of bubbles and bodiless limbs pushed towards and pulled away. All direction removed. Every bit of this seeking to join within me, to the part you helped to create. I am without your protection in this moment. I am exposed and long to be clothed. To be safe and dry amidst the rows of paper, my strings of words.
And then alone. No longer able to discern the faces in the distance. The shy glint of metal across the water. Movement ceased, barring the continued interruption of dipping below and rushing once more to the top. A reach to grasp. At nothing. Solidity dissolved and the fragile molecular structure of my surroundings forever changed. Water grown dark.
Now I am to block the outside, so as not to be intruded.
We are losing the light and yet my breath is retained. I am preparing to enter the darkness once more but not the kind comfort and soft warmth of her but something altogether colder. The roaring mouth across the water has been swapped for an endless.
Catastrophe of spirit
weary from the fight
for freedom and human rights
global warming and earth's desecration.
Catastrophe of mind
dramatic social changes cause
misinterpreted fashion statements
rages against purity and comfort.
Catastrophe of community
annihilation of tribe and family
distribution of homemade goods
to foreign lands citing economics.
Catastrophe of communication
lack of sustainable infrastructure
telephones and smart phones
abduct and pervert entire cultures.
Catastrophe of culpability
inability to accept responsibility
shifting all blame to others
stalling reparation and revision.
Catastrophe of self
lost in mindless fantasies
of computer generated imagery
lack of humanity massive catastrophe.
I dive into the crystal blue,
With a renewed sense of rejuvenation.
With new goggles fastened,
And the return of endless dreams,
I feel free,
I feel the feeling of passion returning to me.
I don’t know where I’m going,
But I know I can get there.
Knowing everything flows to me.
With the love in my heart,
I’ll find my own.
I’ll have my own.
My golden hour.
Here she comes again,
like a homing pigeon
looking for a home
that exists no longer,
that never really was,
that ever only was
a longing for a place
to belong, to have roots,
to be nourished, that ever
only was imagined – a mirage
that can lure a lost soul to wade
neck deep into dreams turned
to excrement, where oxygen
is displaced by methane,
where you can drown
on dry land.
Are you sold on your dreams
of finding your way home?
Buyer beware! Tracing your
roots can be risky business.
Healthy roots can nourish,
yield life and growth.
Poison roots can
choke you to death.
My Rugged Individualist
Breathing is over-rated, she tells me,
or so I pretend she tells me.
Because in reality she’s a bit stand-offish,
a tad reluctant to acknowledge
my over eager presence, my boyish excitement.
Me, a mere mortal, while she is a goddess,
a haughty visitor from a neighboring star system,
capable of most anything, lovably unique.
I try to reason with her about the impracticality
of pairing leather coat with scuba diving,
but she just scoffs in that adorable way,
denying my very existence. I take solace
in the hope that one day, when sinking
like a Sisyphean boulder to some
deadly Mariana Trench, she might recall
my kind and caring advice, my two-cent
investment in that treasure chest of a heart.
Show me the classic art comprising your view,
the spun silk of your orange hair that frames
the hidden beauty of your maritime face,
no doubt wearing an expression Poseidon
could only hope to someday muster.
Your hatred of me cannot hurt me,
it’s just new misinformation, more shells
left in large capital letters spelling out
the innermost feelings of my shipwreck
of a heart. Someday we might venture
a quick hang alongside Davy Jones’ locker,
and I’ll savor that look that tells me sweetly
how your divine indifference
simply does not care at all.