Like a body the river breathes,
mirrors the cold spread of sky;
this whole revealing loneliness
arching back on itself
and un-scrolling from the dark.
And sometimes it comes over me
like the gleam of an eye –
the look that kills,
that shatters like a nosebleed,
like piano keys, splintered and out of tune.
And I know what fear is, its metallic taste,
its shift of words –
the dark silk folding in.
But what type of language disintegrates?
smashing against the window
like a broken bird.
The chill fog blinds, sweeps down
cleaving to its fissures in cruel tones.
I see water
pooling like the deepest mirror,
the little egret
motionless at the edge,
waiting for the fatal darting
but what I did
only increased the tightness
of the wire, moved the speed
of the guillotine, the blade
a swishing fall and rise.
Could not call this a gift. Not yet.
Not with your fingers
pressed so tight to my throat,
your tongue a relentless probing
for that wordless place of give –
a seeking for stigmata, hot
breath on my face, a crippling,
wolf-eyed dizziness –
now watch the slide
to the burn of surrender, the chaos
that looked me in the eyes
and kissed my lips.
Skull clamped into a tiger’s mouth.
So far gone the blood spills,
the wound ripped open, un-healed.
No matter these trees closing in,
this helpless plunge
into darkness, the first snow falling, falling …
I still seek the depths of this river, its coiling
loops and swells. But who is this
trying to speak?
No one here. No one comes.
Pulled into a vortex of emptiness,
brazen violence in the long starless night.
Thoughts scattered, black
merging into black.
Thoughts idling on in a mind containing no-one.
And I am comprised of your fictions,
your words, your lies, these stories
that start to bend and fracture,
unravel to the scrape of steel on iron.
Leaves a line of stitches to a head wound,
the residue of acid in the gut.
A hatchling falls from its nest,
lies exposed on the ground.
If it rains, if the thunder breaks
what becomes of it? Left
there at the centre of its own sound,
its tiny bones, its tiny heart still beating
to a rain-washed landscape,
the blackbird singing from the oak tree,
the bed of grass, acorns, roots, shell.
I pick it up and place it gently in my hand.
It didn’t look much at first,
encased in a bloom of amniotic fluid.
But each flawed wing would grow in time,
shaped by wind, by blackening cloud –
a strange kind of falling into life.
Somewhere a leaf swells. A child calls out in the night.
Both echo something
that should have been but never was.
Things come back –
like finding a language for breathlessness,
the bang of blood through the brain,
the music playing as it always had
the way the river sings it, a tune
of discord and rhythm in one single clear note,
writhing like burning rain.
And somewhere in these waters,
lake-dark and restless
I once slept and dreamt of this,
this swimming inward to that presence
I can feel, into that drift of weightless silence.
Now I die to it in every moment,
nostalgic for the kiss,
the pupil widened, darkened.
Despite the dark nature of this poem, written three years ago when I was going through a difficult time, there is hope. Healing isn’t always comforting and can often be very destructive, destroying dysfunctional belief systems and patterns of being. And yet, despite all that, there is truth and beauty at the end of it, a blessing in disguise that transcends all human suffering in its immensity. It’s worth all the pain to discover it and I’d do it all again.