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To T.L.

I see the night coming silent as moonbeams,
not across the face of the sea,
nor along the haggard brows of mountains
but closely,
found in my thoughts of you.

I see the star pausing at it's height,
not above the birth of a saviour,
nor pulsing, nor flowering at night time
but starkly,
among our withering faces.

And I feel your heart friend, dearly,
not in the memory of madnesses,
nor quickly, not fleeting in fancy
but fiercely,
found in a furnace of dreams.
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The Telescope

All his shifts being mornings and afternoons,
with no nights included on the roster,
winter was the only time he saw
night sky at Swanwick station. The summers were
daylight blazing even at half past five
after his ride directly from the south.
Not that direction matters more
than the season but the repetition
of his attending work mirrored the way
the seasons turned, and as for direction,
it could be said in truth, that he had none.

None that is in any conventional sense.
Ambition, career, hope were as strangers,
but not the night sky, where direction
had one clear purpose: to point towards the end
of the universe and imagine our place within it,
this blue ball bobbing like a buoy
in an ocean of space.
                     
He'd heard of a US farmer
who'd burnt down his farm to harvest the insurance
and had spent the cash on a telescope.
The farmer got a job at a country railroad station
to spend his nights scanning and splitting the stars.
So out he went and bought a telescope too
to see if Orion's upright stance was more
poetic than it's Midwest posture, recumbent at dawn.

He climbed the bridge to be closer to the stars
and holding his scope like a broom he swept
the sky clear of the litter in his mind,
seeking not an answer to what life is
but to gain a feeble grasp on what it means
to sit like this on a tiny speck of dust
spinning silently and alone.

One night he thought for a moment that he'd seen
further than he ever knew you could.
It may have been a trick of light, a platform
lamp's rays caught in the current of his sight
but, for a second, split like a star in a lens,
he thought he spied right to the edge of time.
For there, legs astride as his, head huddled
over a glass, stood an apparition
like himself, staring back, searching through space.
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17 Licks

 Small fish swim down stream
from deep pools where they were hatched
      spawned a million times

                              
              This small dish of rain
            shines like a plate of bright sun
                  caught in flagrante

    
   Coal fires flame inside
the belly of an engine
       rising to full steam


               Rails glint in moonlight
             frost covers up the edges
                   of a cold platform


    Where the blackbird sings
slow dawn slithers up to see
       who has breakfast first


                Foxes scream at night
             fearing us and attracting 
                    friends for company


     When you sleep my love
 dark night coils around your form
        keeping safe your heart


                 In a tree house topped
             by green leaved branches bending
                     in the wind   you sit


      Full of praise for fun
the small comedian laughed as
         he died of stage fright


                  Pigeons sit above
             the heads of travellers splat
                       by white spots of shit


       Where contention reigns
 sanity is not intact
         conflict batters peace


                   Shoes that do not fit
               pinch the toes  the insteps swell
                        the feet start aching


       Drinking in a pub
  though costly and frowned upon
          socialises you


                    A morning of rain
               before the grass can be cut
                        an afternoon's rest


       That black dress you wore
  we were drinking in that bar
          your legs smooth and brown


                     The sun on hot sand
               burned onto your feet as you
                        ran into the sea


        The garden you dig
   deeper than the depth of soil
           grows from inside you
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When his hair was long

When his hair was long
and his waist was slim,
when the booze had not yet
crackled his skin;

when his eyes were clear,
ideals still intact
and trite cynicism
was not yet a fact,

she loved him.
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Incomprehension

It was never assumed we'd understand
the bewildering things our young hearts dreamed of,
the obscure and fabulous,tales
told like secrets on a star starved night.

Yet eventual clarity, we assumed,
would arrive like children, a mortgage,
the pattern of empty afternoons and death.
We promised ourselves and waited for light.

Remember when you spoke of ecstasy
and pummelled my cheeks to show how urgent it feels,
how meaning subverts itself in speech, the map
of my purpling flesh showing the way?

Well, still the taunts of the not understood tantalise;
a seagull taking flight, the moon obscured
by your shadow falling above me, our children's cries,
the space between words where silence roars.
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Cider

That summer's harvest bellowed apples
bringing the trees almost to their knees,
nearly felled by the pounding weight.

We picked less than one-tenth the crop,
fielding fallers too, their bruised flesh
fizzing with self fermentation.

We quartered the fruit with a crisp slash
and they fell in the bucket like waning moons
falling from an orange harvest sky.

Sharp edged blades and water made the mash
running through our fingers like a fresh spunk,
pouring like cold lava to the press,

oozing green under the screws caress,
ejaculating the last liquid drops,
leaving a stink of dehydrated flesh

we threw in the compost as a slow
boiling began it's self controlling buzz.
Five days after sealing the lid

it began bulging with the weight of gas,
lifting with small sighs of apple breath.
We saw the soft scum, spawn mould,

apple brown, spewling and yeasty.
Siphoning into jars intensified
the ochre muck full of it's own sap.

For weeks it stood quaking in the kitchen
till a late, low sun clarified through it.
By Christmas we would be quaffing it.

And under the buoyant trees, fruit still pounded
with fermentation's pulse, making a cider
soil boozed worms crawled through.
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Enquiries at Swanwick Station

"You've been here some years now.
I remember your hair dark,
how you were a younger man."

"I've become rooted I suppose,
manured in by a steady wage,
that and just a mile from home,
handy to see the children grow,
plant and water shoots
blossomed now away
mulching makeshift gardens of their own.
And you've changed too no doubt,
although I cannot place,
among the many passing here, your face".

"Well, I only travel
twice a year and sometimes
less than that, according
to the flow of things,
how much I need to get away
and other small dependencies.
So what time do I get to Milton Keynes"?

"When the stars fall and more
grey dust is scattered here
among the platform-edge high ferns."
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Black Rocks in Oriental Bay, Wellington

Could stillness be converted into rhyme
and age become a rhythmical address,
with weight a simple synonym for time,
darkness for that lacking emptiness,

I could then do no more than wish my days
encompassed by this eloquent repose,
enabling me to contemplate the ways
I might have chosen, and the way I chose.
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When you have slept

When you have slept and I see you wake,
your limp and lovely body lying there,
my senses girdle up to undertake
the prospect of your lemon scented hair.
The picture of you dressing stirs me so
that all my skin is somehow set alight;
I see visions of the urgent to and fro
partaken in the crevices of night.
For there, in shadows, I could feel the heat
the friction of our flesh materialised,
with you above me reaching the complete
abandonment of all we've rationalised.
   Then I, myself, awoke and daylight shone
   upon the empty truth, that you were gone.
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Retired

I've been attending work for fifty years.
I started slightly damp behind the ears.
I've hardly changed from first to second gears.
I've never been ambitious.

I've seen the climbers jumping through the rings.
I've never liked the bosses panderings.
I've kept my counsel for the peace it brings.
I've never been ambitious.

I've spent my life not wanting to be seen.
I've seen the signals change from red to green
And back to red to stop what might have been.
I've never been ambitious.

The bosses come and go, pass through my sight.
They've ranged from fearsome to the merely trite.
To see the backs of them is my delight.
I've never been ambitious.

Ambition, I have seen, eats up the soul.
Invisibility has been my goal.
I aim to congregate where tapeworms shoal.
I've never been.