“If we saw things in infra-red
Instead of light
(As Martians might)
I’d shake dark trees, to watch the birds
Explode like fire into flight,”
My lover said.
“If Martians had no use for words
And spoke in touch,
There would be much
For us to say – like this, or this,”
She said, and finished with a kiss.
Now I see things in black and white:
The pros and cons
The noughts and ones
That would (to Martian eyes) present
No brighter than commercial bronze –
But that’s all right.
What all those kisses said, I meant.
Sometimes it fits
Attract, and by that force are led
To Mars (and then to home – and bed).
Monday night, at five to ten,
I scrutinise myself again,
Rejecting, as I do, the whole
Outlandish concept of the soul.
What purpose, then, my former schemes?
I find some peace in drink, and dreams.
A weather system oscillates
Between a dozen different states
Until it rains, or doesn’t rain,
And thus it is inside my brain.
I do not choose – a choice is made,
Disruptive like a hand-grenade
Thrown in by chance, or by my genes,
To blow free will to smithereens,
Till every choice I ponder seems
Like other captains picking teams.
I turn my back on life’s extremes
And put my faith in drink, and dreams.
I heard a clever scholar say
That other people, when they pray,
Are drowners treading water who
Have grabbed a rope that no one threw.
The other end is in the drink
As much as them. In faith, I think
They feel some magic coming through,
And even I, in weakness, knew
Those crazy moments when it seems
That God forgives, or Christ redeems –
But spare me those exhausted themes!
I only care for drink, and dreams.
I recognise, in living life,
I must become
An older man
And see my love become a wife
And then a mum
And then a gran
We find we’re drawn to simple stuff
Inclined to choose
The quiet street
Now that we’ve loved and lost enough
For both to lose
Their former heat
But all the same it’s slightly sad
For me because
I look at you
And can’t forget what fire we had
What sound there was -
What fury, too!
Funny how, when lying here,
My love was near and not-so-near.
I’ll tell you where she often lay:
In my arms, and miles away.
Funny how, now love has gone,
The memory still rumbles on.
Where did she go, now we’re apart?
Miles away, and in my heart.
Space and time are quite bizarre.
“Far” is often not so far.
“Near” can still be miles removed –
That is what my love has proved.
Today I’ve lived ten thousand days,
Nine hundred days and fifty more.
That’s thirty years inside this maze
So tell me what the cake is for.
Thirty little candles burn:
Tell me what I’m meant to learn.
The day draws on. The air turns cold.
The night comes in. The song is sung.
In fifty years, when I am old,
Remind me how I once was young.
If all these candles come to nowt,
Remind me how I blew ‘em out.
Long hot day with nowt to do
Time well spent in knowing you
On the hill I nuzzle you
Mixed aroma coming through
Musk and mint and rose shampoo
Makes the world seem strangely new
Every blade of grass is true
Birdsong feels authentic too
Lift my eyes to all that blue
See the darkness coming through
Even when I’m here with you
Still that darkness coming through
Born on ship, we die on ship
No point nor purpose to the trip
And those who yearn to walk on land
Imagine more than understand
What land is like – since none aboard
Have witnessed (let alone explored!)
A coast, a cliff, a beach, a bay
Such stuff as dreams are made of, eh?
The captain is a pious chap
With one fat finger on the map
He swears by Davy Jones’s ghost
That ship and crew are bound for coast
“Tomorrow, lads! Tomorrow when
The sun is high, we’ll see it then!”
But twenty years I’ve heard him swear
Tomorrow comes: there’s nothing there
From time to time, I study sea
To learn its stark geometry
A flat green circle all around
No sudden cliffs or shattered ground
No jagged coast where angles fly
Thrust up like fire into the sky
The only sight revealed to me
Is yet more sky and yet more sea
So twenty years and twenty more:
Does all this sea not lead to shore?
While some accept there’s only sea
The others cling to mystery
And those who do will often swear
There’s land, and that we’re headed there
But while I wish, and want, and grieve
What hope has died, I don’t believe
“Who else can read the captain’s chart?!”
The captain died last night: his heart
A drum beat hard until it burst
(“But better that than dead of thirst
Or drowned, or eaten by a shark,”
The bo’sun mused while sky grew dark)
And no one met the dead man’s stare
Which seemed to see a beach somewhere
So goodbye captain! Goodbye maps!
They’re wasted on us rustic chaps
We’ll say goodbye to charts at last
But keep your star above our mast
We’ll raise a glass of grog for you
The albatross will follow you
The second mate will drink for you
The blood-red sun will sink for you
It’s many years since captain died
And many years of ocean wide
And yet I pray for many more
Since sea does not require a shore
To give the journey meaning now
That dolphins leap before the bow
At last my eyes reveal to me
The solemn beauty of the sea
So born on ship, we die on ship
No point nor purpose to the trip
Our deck (unless the sea is rough)
Is solid ground, or close enough
Since sailors’ legs no longer feel
The gentle rocking of the keel
For such an existential crew
A life at sea will have to do