from another ocean 

tales were told at table

that night
and when it came to my turn

I said
why is it always my turn

and the answer came back
you’re the only one

here
so I recounted the days of my

youth
which I missed grievously

and told
of sorrows and lost loves

and worse things
wearing my heart wide open

recalling
the story of the whale mother

singing
to her stolen calf unceasingly

even
from another ocean

spring lambs

this morning everything seems

flat
my food like something
painted on a plate

I’m told today is holy
I suppose I should be patient

but like spring lambs kicking

in a field
I would Christ easter in me

and each day ever after

be nascent

[after “Let him easter in us”, Gerard Manley Hopkins, ‘The Wreck of the Deutschland’, st.35]

sea breeze

my spirit
which I have never seen
and that I love above all

things
and is insubstantial
and indestructible
that animated me as

a child
blows through these lines
like a sea breeze
on the night I first saw you
and felt like a man both

invincible
and riven through

breath 

blank like the stars are blank
and the leaf
and all the leaves
and the carpet
and the ceiling
nothing brings relief
when not even love has meaning

only breath
only breathing

obtained by digging

experience flashes over us
like the morning shower

the more intense it is
the more difficult to grasp

for one whole second
let alone an hour

if I could only hold a moment
from that wellspring of joyous giving

but all I have are these
dull memories

like casts and molds
no longer living

so long ago it seems
intangible as dream

but for these cold fossil forms
obtained by digging

no book

I imagine the room will be small
with pale blue walls
and a neat bed
with a thin coverlet
perhaps a curtained window
overlooking a communal garden
like the one we had
at the flats you never came to

there will be a bedside table
but no books
except for the one you leave behind
after your visit
with the black covers
alongside that copy of The Racing Post
the cleaner was reading

I’d send it back to you
if you hadn’t gone on ahead
I only back certainties now
want no book at all

the sanatorium

and if I visited the sanatorium and met you there
as a visitor
a paying guest
I might say that I had come to take the air
and was not sick at all
just not feeling quite at my best
but the truth is I am riven through
and while each one of you
might shortly pack your bags and leave
I must stay on indefinitely

but this is only supposition
there is no one to meet
and no sanatorium
just the window and the city street

but my stay
it seems
remains indefinite

parchment 

the sky is orange
the mountain pale yellow 
I wrote on parchment 
words of great sorrow
words of great tenderness
left for tomorrow
love lies in pieces
nothing to follow

starfish

take me to the village store
they may have found a cure by now
for love
and other things

and if they don’t have what I need
I’ll wander down some lonely street
and when I feel quite out of reach
sit upon the shore
and look for starfish

somewhere on the ocean bed
a sea star makes its own repair
silently regenerates
the starfish

not even love

you said you’d show me a good time
but now it’s past time
and I’m uncertain of the days

my mother’s people came from Italy
but the limestone Auden praised
means not a thing to me

nor all the masters at top table
I’d like to name them
when I’ve had a few

they mutter sonnets in their soup again
they should be locked away
for what they did to me

we have no culture but the one we made
a gaudy hit parade
tinsel and after-shave

what is a good time anyway
you never did quite say
before you went

oh how the masters would lament
not even love is heaven sent