Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mike Absalom Poems 2012. Introduction.



Introduction

I pause from the slow and rather alchemical task of distilling poetry.
Since I have already grubbed the disparate ingredients for my latest verse out of some dark pantry on the inside of me and laid them out in a line like an unsolved jigsaw puzzle, I take a little time to do something safe; perhaps brew a pot of coffee or peel a bucket of potatoes or point the cats in the direction of the latest murine intruder. Rats seem attracted to me. It makes me feel that perhaps I am not yet a sinking ship, although I am probably not a Saint Francis either.
Now a deep breath is called for and removing the creative alembic for a moment from the burner I ask myself: ‘But after all, what is a poem?’
It is one of the simple questions, like ‘What is God?’ or ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Am I God?’

But before I can begin to answer my first question others spill out like sausages from a sausage machine and pile up in a wriggling pink stack before me demanding equal consideration or at least a quick end in a red hot frying pan.
‘What is a poem?’ And then ‘Where does a poem come from?’ And ‘What makes a piece of writing a poem rather than a piece of prose?’ And ‘Will I make any money out of this book of poetry?’ And ‘Can you explain Quantum String Theory to me in one simple paragraph?

This kind of random enquiry causes a disengagement and re-engagement of gears in the small part of my mind that deals with logic. The grinding is awkwardly uncomfortableto the point of pain. For the first time I understand the feelings of a sack of wheat which has learned that it is to be ground down into a loaf of bread. I feel a kind of right angled and unnatural change in the typical latitudinal direction of my thought. I am reminded of the juddering sound of a snipe in the evening sky over my bogland cottage, like finger-nails on the dark blackboard of the sky.

“What is a poem?’

I don’t know. In the same way that a postman does nothing except deliver a letter, I do nothing but deliver a poem. I write it down, certainly. But how it comes to me and what it is and from where is a mystery. Well, no! Not entirely. It comes from Beyont!

As I sit and ponder over my pile of freshly peeled potatoes and my mug of steaming
coffee and whatever other occupational placebo I have used to dislocate myself
from my rented accommodation in the collective unconscious (‘your place of work’ as the taxman would have it); as I relax into my unpretentious Irish kitchen, this solid place in a solidly objective world of draughts and burning turf, of cooking smells, of rain and smoke and cats, it is very clear to me that poems come from somewhere else, from a place I shall call beyont.
And where within the ringing harp strings of the universe is Beyont? It is a place I have often visited so I should have no difficulty in providing a description. And once upon a time I tried to pinpoint the location while discussing how I painted. I had written:

“In front of the canvas I stand. I move my arms. I
flex my fingers. I stare. Time, that terrible and incomprehensible enigma, fades
to irrelevance and leaks away slowly, vanishing under the studio door.
Paint flows and moves, the clouds of charcoal rise, fall, coalesce.
The void is before me. Darkness covers the face of the earth.
Out of that darkness figures emerge, blinking, arranging themselves randomly here and there on the picture plane, at first without intent or passion, composing themselves like anonymous crowds moving through the Metro. They appear in the paint from elsewhere and jostle for
meaning. If there were a Me I would say they come from beyond Me. I have not invited them. They introduce themselves, borrowing my name with an abrupt lack of etiquette, and having taken up their stations on the canvas they invite me to recognise them.
They invite you too, viewer.”


I think one can say the same things in relation to the inspiration that arrives with the gift of a poem. It comes from elsewhere. If I still lived on the West Coast of the North American Continent I would probably say it was channelled. But I do not. I live among rainbows and tempests on the West Coast of Ireland and here there are other more ancient ways of describing this kind of revelation.

As you see I have not even attempted to describe what a poem is. But perhaps it might be useful to find out where in my case poetry comes from. With painting I wanted to explain the source of the picture which time and again arrived complete on the canvas in front of me without any mind activity on my part at all and which I felt scarcely merited my signature. All I was asked to do was to use my judgement and admit the painting into the world. Or simply reject it and smother
it at birth.

What was clear was that a picture and in the same way a line of poetry did not appear to come from my conscious mind which is why I use the analogy of a postal delivery. It was delivered from Beyont. And when it was not, when I struggled and twisted and turned and focussed mind and logic to bring the task somehow to a printable conclusion it was rarely successful. The painting might just as well have been an ad for a new detergent and the poem a thank-you letter for an unwanted Christmas present.

But the poems which made me rejoice did not come from nowhere.

Beyont is not a nowhere land. I have been there. If I relax properly and breath deeply I am indeed living mostly Beyont. I should explain. Beyont is that place where nothing is done which cannot be done one-handed and thinking of something else. It is the place for writing and painting and on a good day the place where in secret and shady places poetry might unexpectedly be found as are found in the woods wild and edible mushrooms. Some say it is a good place to convalesce and perhaps that is why I spend a good deal of time there, like a patient in a deck chair listening to the ocean.

Beyont can be the tunnel between worlds and that can be heavy weather indeed. Today I shall get up and still walking on dry land I shall cross the threshold of my cottage and step into Beyont. Dry land? Well scarcely! In this part of the West of Ireland the ocean has wings and is often airborne and active all around me. But the rain and the winds carry the deep meditation of the ocean with them over the bog and into the ash grove and around my house and around me like a magic cloak so that even before I cross the threshold I am well into Beyont.

Now the rain comes down. I eat my sodden toast in the doorway. The donkeys are propitiated with washed potato and the rain flies into the garden like a swarm of buzzing bees among the plants and the day rustles alive and I walking wake.

I remain in the scullery doorway looking out through the falling shower. Beyont, on the green hill of my neighbour’s pasture cream cows stand motionless like tired workers in a shower cubicle douched in the downpour, impassively letting the water flow over them. There is no breeze for a moment, as if work has stopped in the bellows department and all stand by watching the line of black counterpanes flapping above the horizon with sheets of white cloud beneath and wall hangings of grey and white and great tears of blue in the wetscape. Beyont is always a perfect landscape tatty with discordant currents, silenced by a lack of decision or purpose, weather-balanced, undecided whether to weep or chuckle or just collapse with the consternation of decision making. I watch and am slowly absorbed. I am an insect swimming about in a flesh eating calyx. My mind is an empty pool. I welcome the sun. I welcome the rain. Anything to keep me spinning. I am in perfect equilibrium. Am I happy? Am I miserable? There seems to be no difference from where I wait poised in the Beyont.

The rain stops. Another stealthy entrance by the sunshine, as if it will willy-nilly inseminate the fields with further vigour. The day could be pregnant with anything. Monsters or angels crouch in the wings, waiting to emerge. The leaves drip. The tree trunks steam. The donkeys emerge from their barn and the tin roofs hiss and crack and smoke like a steaming family wedding where hate and feud and horrible dysfunction bubble beneath the surface, the brooding generations of quarto father’s sins and their mothers’ hag-ridden resentment, and are put aside just for the day in Olympian resignation.

Language is a network disease, an active fungus of association. There is a synaptic connection of allusions that has that sweet element of creative anonymity built into its structure. Beyont is no-name. Do you name what a poem is or how it tastes? Well, do you name how a pear tastes? No. Just eat it right off the page.

The Mazes that Amaze; the doorways to Beyont.

Poems come from Beyont. Why they come is another question. Why does the sun rise for one individual and fail to make an appearance for another? Such a heavy topic! I shall not even try to lift it.Still, it is always useful to start with questions. They are like underpants.They reduce things that are hard to grasp to manageable dimensions.

Never mind what poems are.They can be anything you like.

For me today they are the sound of my movement through a maze; a maze perhaps chosen from among the many different mazes where I find my life wobbling along like a spinning top; a place where I keep moving, for there is no standing still in a maze. That is no problem for humans for one of the less alarming traits we share with our brother sharks is the need to keep moving forwards in order to breathe. And as for mazes, well they are nothing new at all at all, for either inside a maze or even on the straightest of straight avenues, even though we have to keep moving, none of us have any real idea where we are moving to. Some of us might prefer to be a flower rather than a shark. I understand that. But roots can come later, when it is time to put us into the ground.

There are lots of mazes. I have a head-cupboard full. Simple mazes like the night time maze in my cottage which allows me to move in the black small hours when the moon fails and I need to wriggle through the no-mans-land of night to the lavatory without opening my eyes or lightening my darkness with a Lucifer. I know the position of each obstacle, each stick of furniture, each tank-trap of a harp or exploding ceramic vessel of geraniums. This maze leads me from the beyont of dreams and back again without my having to unplug my head. And it is in itself an other-consciousness, lit with minute and delightful flashes of awareness.

I do indeed have an abundance of mazes. There are mazes which are alive and writhe beneath me and penetrate the outside world like tentacles, even reaching out into the black holes of space.

There is the concrete path I have laid out through my meadow and which in the morning leads me along through the hushed whispers of growing things and animals and weather and pushes me deep into the Beyont of daylight hours, a Beyont less terror ridden than the place of dreams but still mysterious, dangerous, unfathomable, a womb of verse.

And then there is the bóithrín! This is a milky way of a billion and one dreads and delights and hidden discoveries, a maze incarnate among the mossy Mayo stones. Poetry hangs here like a cloud butterflies in a tropical forest, elusive but so close you can touch it. When I am alone the Goddess Brighid walks on all fours around me and sniffs like a cat at the back of my neck. Hers is a kingdom loaded down with poetry and apprehension.

There are also all the mazes of the past that have so often led me to a dark and fruitful place I had never imagined existed. To travel there is to be a schoolboy again scrumping apples from the Garden of Eden.

The poems which follow are the result of my recent forays into Beyont.
I will say no more now, for I think it is time for them to explain themselves and I feel they do this admirably without further interference from me.

Mike Absalom
February 4th 2012.
Curryane, Swinford, County Mayo, Ireland.

“An Irish Boulevardier Begins to Pencil in his
Living Will” (Part 1.)
© Mike Absalom January 9th 2012

My generation wore red platform shoes,
and they are still dancing clickety clack
like a pair of wind-up dentures
all along the length of Matt Molloy’s bar.

I am not a godless man.
The Peacock Eyes of God want
to see everything for themselves
and I’ll be damned if I
didn’t oblige Him
with a pair of sly peepers.

I was raised a Goody
Two-shoes,
bursting with celibacy like
an overfilled bladder,
but I know God found the
feedback dull,
wall to wall prayers and the
eyes tight shut.
I know, because very soon He
sent me
Sex and Drugs and Rock and
Roll.

Now I’m a One-eyed Jack
and although I’m going deaf
I am still able to hear the
quacking of the doctors in the hospital pen
wondering why I’m not dead
yet.

So for today
I think I’ll glug a bottle of
brännvin
and drop my pants and dance
bare as a scarecrow,
still flickering like an old candle but not out,
in front of your welcome fire of birch logs.
And as a newt pixilated,
I’ll burrow under the feathers and tell you
about 1965
and how I have preserved it to this day in a
small glass bottle.

“Anaconda” © Mike Absalom January 7th
2012

On the other side,
in the deadness of night,
the darktime stories always
begin
with the discovery of a
corpse.

I open my eyes and discover my
own corpse
lying on a red sheet,
and yellow sunlight is spilling
down the wall like breakfast.
Must I always be late for the
day?

Too much bottle!
It is hard to go to bed
sometimes
and so I was up till the grey
part of the morning trying to make it softer,
but with only moderate
success,
unless you count visions as a
soft option.

I am accompanied late at
night by old versions of me,
lonely old wraiths looking
for satisfaction,
and it seems any satisfaction
will do.
What do they want satisfied?
I am not yet prepared to ask.

I walked the house and felt
the velvet curtain of night
touch my unclothed body like
an impertinent cat.
Shadows brushed me and tried
to enter,
but I am not unskilled in
making myself impermeable.

These others are after all just
the spent echoes of earlier ones
but in my darkness they jostle
to take solid shape
and occupy space that is
rightfully mine.

However, thanks to your
tutelage
I am not without compassion.
I reach into the darkness,
hoping something soft to stroke is there,
and not a blackberry bush or
a stoat
or an anaconda.

“Ask the Fuchsias” © Mike Absalom January 6th
2012

Out of the ruined houses
nettles leap barking like
wolves,
defensive and territorial,
full of contained aggression.

The ash trees sigh and
whisper quietly;
new comers they,
a green roof rising from the
roofless parlour.

People lived here and left
the year I was born.
They took their livestock and
their roof with them.

The ash trees are too young
to remember.
They know nothing of Death
yet.
They could ask the fuchsias:
they know.

“Bridget” © Mike Absalom January 5th 2012

Out of the gravid road
butterflies erupt
like small rainbows whose
water has burst.
Four eyed but with only two
of them firmly attached
a peacock winks at me archly,
beginning to signal
cryptically in red semaphore to the admiral.

From the bridge, colour drunk
and with torn and jagged
edges,
Saint Bridget,
once famous for the fecund
production of her infinite womb,
staggers forth, pixilated to
the gills on cyber zone overdose
and shouting without
encryption on an open line reveals
all her arcane secrets
as brazenly as a streaker at
a First Communion.

You have to kiss a lizard!

That is as it may be.

But where in earth will I
find a lizard to kiss
on Facebook at this time of the
afternoon?

“Carnival of the Animal” © Mike Absalom 28 December 2011

After the breakup of our
Carnival of the Animal
my plans lay for a while
gathering dust
at the bottom of the press
like good time memories in a
bunch of silk flowers.

Have you noticed how the gravity
of lust
when rubbed up the wrong way
bends time and space in
quarky modes?

When I was green and lovelorn
a straight line was the
shortest distance between two pints.
In my sad and grizzled
anecdotage
it registers only as a flat
line on my heart monitor.

“Chipa” © Mike Absalom January 3rd 2012

The scent of wet wood hand
sawn on a January morning
returns to me again the
sunless sweetness of solitude.
I have cut this cottonwood
many times before
but always,
in a sleight of hand
impossible to follow,
leaves gush like leaking sap
from its dead branches.
I have even seen flowers
burst with the speed of comets
from out of the blotchy bark.
They scatter as turf ash does
into the wind-blown skies,
and sometimes I scatter with
them,
for they are able to whirl me
in a dervish dance
deep into my own silence.

A blue dragon fly,
another lotus beast
risen from the mud of the
pond
to put a diadem into the sunless
day,
floated towards me this
morning
riding on a stream,
like the Virgin of Ca’acupé,
sparkling with a halo of tiny
starlets,
each carrying a plate of
freshly baked chipa.
Bread of Heaven, it seems,
although today I would have
preferred wine.
Another person
might have seen them as
midges.
But then
another person
might not know how to get
drunk
on bread.

These flashbacks come more
often now.
I suppose it is Age,
that batty old projectionist,
starting to rewind the
celluloid.
Or a perhaps a closer
proximity
to the Black Hole of Death
has started to stretch those
parts of me
that alcohol was never able
to reach.

“Corsets” © Mike Absalom December 30th 2011

The accordion squeezes back
and forth
Like a woman taking off her
corsets.
Ah!? You don’t know about
corsets!?
That alone tells me I am too
old to be your lover,
even though this old
instrument
drips sweetness like a
honeycomb.

“Crab-apple Juice” ©
Mike Absalom December
31st 2011.

There’s still enough juice in the old
crab-apple
for a gullop or two of scrumpy,
but who to drink it with now?
Since parts of me began to drop off
I have been careful to abandon
the careless abandon of my springtime
when we hitched up Motorways out of our
minds
and drank ourselves into the unknown,
silly on thin air and laughter.

Your news came to me,
triple filtered and sour
years later.
You must have been old
when you died.
I only remember you young.

Now you are stretched out for ever
on the faded candlewick of a cheap motel
holding me as a mummy holds on to life
And we listen uncomprehending
to the alarum of sparrows
that has broken our day.

The years have shrivelled away like old fruit
and now they scatter further
like dry leaves in the wind.
Just like us, dear.
Still, there’s enough juice in this old
crab-apple
For a mug or two of scrumpy with somebody.
Surely?

“Croissants and Language on the Tongue” © Mike Absalom January 14th
2012.

I am sat in the Troubadour
garden beneath rusty lilacs.
After the death and
resurrection of the dandelions
a first autumn breeze came
nosing in and swept the seeds away into another dimension.
This breeze now lingers and
eavesdrops on the café conversation.
I can hardly blame it, for
there are poets-a-plenty here,
seeding the space left by the
departing piss-a-beds
and replacing the
vacuum-pack chatter of the long gone
swallows
with their own Morse code,
both literary and pheremonal.
The coffee smells good here
too! And it is!
The breeze is in no hurry,
for every zephyr needs a little cash-and-carry gossip to trade with the African
birds.

That breeze had slipped
through the lilacs on uneasy reconnaissance,
and now, beneath the buzz of
café conversation I can hear it probing the dead leaves under the bushes, scrabbling
about like an old man’s hands round a young woman’s waist.
An hourglass, in whatever
incarnation, always incites different kinds of desperation.
Around the marble tabletops and
beneath the rustic decorations
of superannuated farm
implements and broken bits of iron we sit
like a funeral committee discussing
the preparations for a spectacular burial.
That of language, most
probably.

With a mouthful of buttered
croissant my neighbour starts to speak to me.
Smiling a smile of arch
obscurity and spitting small flakes of pastry like a tropical plant disgorging
seeds he says: “the bulimic day creeps
full bellied over the horizon and vomits out of sight!”
I think his management of both
tongue and vocabulary in the same mouth is masterly!
Not to be outdone I reply:
“within this limpet pool called time, clinging to the
present moment,
I drink my coffee, going nowhere.”
Across the table his wife tries
to smile as she slowly withers
like a plum alone in a fruit
bowl when the family has gone on holiday.

Aah! 1968 was a good year for
me!

“Dandelion Clock” ©
Mike Absalom 13th January 2012

It’s only a game!
Your daughter takes a deep
breath
and tinkling with mischief
blows the dandelion clock
into a thousand dangling
parachutes.
The seeds drift upwards,
marking time,
waiting weightless
wondering who will catch up.

While we all giggle together
at the deadly threat posed
by the inevitability of
numbers,
and while we drink iced tea
under a green umbrella,
your daughter tallies time already
lost
and we plunge deeper into the
spent afternoon by default.
It’s only a kid’s game after
all!

A teatime shadow creeps across
the lawn
reaching us from your tame
birch tree,
and before we have time to
notice,
and as inexorably as the final
words of a judge,
the lawn is turned into a quivering
sundial.

Dandelion down falls now like
living snow
and I am blown away by the
beauty of it.
It’s only a kid’s game!
But still I am blown away!

Your daughter takes a deep
breath
and tinkling with mischief
blows the dandelion clock
into a million springtime dandelions.
I am blown away.

And in the end, so are we
all.

“Death Come Quickly” © Mike Absalom January 22nd 2012

Passing my neighbour’s fallow field I hear a footfall on the
wind,
and out of the unkempt nettle beds
comes the sound of hoarse breathing, stertorous, like the wheezing of a damaged
lung,
ostensibly concealed, but meant
for my ears,
drifting like pollen over the
banks of wild geraniums.

It is throaty with the tubercular
rasp of the buachalán buí.
And there follows it a purple
whispering
that leaks out and pitter-patterns
through the thistles
as if to let me know in
significant numbers that I am not alone
as I walk away to my final years
down this green bóithrín,
wedged between banks of wild
geraniums.

I see two black cows wallowing in
the windy weeds,
rising like blue rocks among the
flowers,
as if they had been dumped without
thought
by some vandalous glacier on its
way to the seaside
and accidentally given life by a
randy goddess
romping among the wild geraniums.
Slow moving erratics with horns,
they move with the pace of centuries,
resting their eyes upon me, in no
hurry, but deeply tragic,
like the fat lady who has yet to
sing
waiting in the wings among the
wild geraniums.

Round the bend at the road’s elbow
the rust red corrugated tin on a cow cottage roof
glows in the sun like red hot iron in a forge
as this old homestead crumbles away
and follows the people who called it home before the cows
did.
Soon it will lie quietly in pieces without making any
trouble,
forgetting it had ever lived or smelt the smell of the wild
geraniums.

On the crumbling chimney top two
grey crows,
already well-dressed blow-ins from
another garden,
croak noisily at the passing
clouds like cheap Chinese weather vanes.
They already know which way the
wind is blowing.
The sloes in the hedge are firm and hard too,
getting ready for a bitter winter, but not yet.
White butterflies still tend the wild flowers at the side of
the road,
the creeping cranes bill
and the herb Robert, all the wild geraniums.
Did you know their old name was ‘Death Come Quickly’?
Well, we all pray for that! But not yet please.
The leaves are falling, but summer is still lingering.
And so are we, among the wild geraniums.

“Elderberry Wine” © Mike Absalom January 8th
2012

Women want a life out of me,
said Schwantz,
but all I have to spare is a
couple of afternoons.

He drained his glass and looked
into it as fiercely as a condemned philosopher having second thoughts.
I thought the glass was now a
telescope.
Wary of missing out I looked
into mine, but there was nothing new there.
Only a copla thoughts
repeated so often they looked like tattoos.

Oh! I mused, here I am on the Black Bog and you orbiting beyont in
cyberspace,
throughout the planes of all possibility, in the thick fruit-ridden gardens
of earthly delight,
masked and as got up as the unknown woman I will never meet at the Carnival
of Venice.

It is true! said Schwantz, sipping the life out
of his empty glass.
Give me a woman with soft hands and a spare
afternoon now and then,
I will not bother her with moanings and bills,
or even ask her to oil the rusty meccano of my
youthful indiscretion.
I will arrive like the elderflower as gentle as a
scent on the breeze
and leave heavy as the ripe elderberry, smelling
of toddycat and the musky bouquet of country
wine.

The women of our generation are all into New
Age, I said,
but sadly all that is available is Old Age.

A dream catcher, said Schwantz, is no substitute
for liposuction.
Pour me another glass of elderberry wine.

“Even the Grass has a Hangover”
© Mike Absalom January 17th 2012

A drear damp misty morning.
Even the grass has a
hangover!
Mine is from peering hours at
a knife blade
with the aching eye of a
gold-and-silver smith,
waiting for you to stir in
your abominable sleeping.

And before that
I too had swallowed milk from
the black cow’s udder
until I could not stand and
my eye glowed purple
like a false amethyst in the
dark!
Ah! But you’re an awful
woman!
Still, even before your head
had hit the bowlster
I was long gone for the milk!

I would not want you to pay
no attention
to the scrabbling hands of
winter.
But the sound outside is
nothing more than a rattle of words
scraped together by dead
sycamore leaves.
It’s not a rhythm you will
ever use, or a rhyme!

Wake up now and catch the
quicksilver of your dream
before it evaporates into
another desert of unbaptised days.
Ah! But you’re an awful
woman!

Can’t you hear the young lambs
beyont,
down at the bottom of the
rushy field,
bleating the day white like woolly
vampires?
And the atramentous crows
tumbling like stoned shamans
above your cobwebby attic,
cawing out black spells and
inky nigromancy?

Cup your mind!
Go out and gather poetry from
the earth.
The mud loves you and will
claim you one day as its bride!
It has lain all winter
thinking of you
under the big cedar,
cooking up the summer smells
with green fire and potions
of winter lightning!
Ah! But you’re an awful
woman!
Wake up!!

Now there is a white shadow
along my back
marking the warm place where
your soul snoozed this morning
before it sighed and said
“No! and No again!” to the start of another day.
Ah! Wake up! But you’re an
awful woman!

It’s a drear damp misty
morning.
Even the grass has a
hangover.
But it is indeed another day!

“Except for the oranges” © Mike
Absalom January 8th 2012

You read my words and text me
afterwards from that far off Eden
where the early sunlight,
already incandescent with fragrance,
trails an impudent finger across jacaranda and tamarisk
and makes the morning air shudder
with repressed delight.
I can smell fresh bread
baking
and taste the morning coffee
on your lips.
And yet, you say you would
like to come here.

In an ancient town
where the stones are hewn
into cathedrals
and brash mausoleums loudly trumpet
the gaudy history of your race
you comment on my green
wetland of pre-history.
And still you say you would
like to come here?

It is still pre-history here you
know, for nothing moves about but cattle
and the stealthy land raids
of herdsmen who plot in their outhouses
how to filch another inch of
land from their neighbour.
And the slow abrasive
grindstone of the weather and inherited thought
glaciate the landscape down to
uneventful grass and bog
and small farmer’s gossip.
Yet, you would like to come
here?

Away from that exuberant land of Gaudi
and from the pillared Toledo halls?
From that Alhambra which echoed with the bright wisdom
of long-banished philosophers
and the cries of thinkers
beaten to death with a blunt
crucifix and burned alive
amidst the incense of orange blossom and jasmine and olive,
and all things moving and
alive, and terrible and delightful,
your hot-blooded paradoxical land of Goya, land of Velasquez,
land of Franco
and the Inquisition, Torquemada and oranges!
You would like to come here?

The swallows visit you there
each year.
I have seen them go,
chattering on the high wire
like drunken tourists in a Costa Brava bar.
Why do they return to scrag bog
and reedbeds?
And all for a throne of mud
in the barn and a mouthful of midges?
Well, I suppose they know
that we have had everything that you have had.
Except for the oranges!

“I am Depression - Give me a Drink!” © Mike Absalom January 18th
2012

The dried up geranium in a
terra cotta pot on the windowsill
mutters when I come into the
room late at night.
I suspect it is some kind of
curse.
Perhaps because I have given
it no water for a month.
I didn’t sing to it either.
I am away often, occupying
myself with matters crucial to my sanity.
I do not expect a geranium to
understand this.
This one has many
incarnations to go
before it can even think of
being a rose,
let alone an evolved and sentient plant. I think.
Although I am not too au fait with karmic hierarchies.

As I watch I see it grows a
little.
I am sure that that slight movement
could have been growth!
Although it might have been a
quiet sigh.
It is hard to tell with a plant
so over-cultivated it has never known seed.
This poor dear was raised
from a cutting.
As a shoot it was certainly
underprivileged in the root department!
But it should have got over that
by now.
I notice that it has started
to move like a crab,
sidling sideways towards the
floral curtain. That is not a good sign.

Still I know there is very
little satisfaction around for geraniums these days, particularly not for pink
ones.
And certainly not for brown
dried up wizened ones
that look like a jar full of
fortune teller’s old yarrow stalks.

I bend down and tell it-Forget
the floral curtain! It is an illusion!
And there is no reason for
depression!
It is something that has
soaked in from elsewhere,
perhaps from the old stones
the house is made of,
or maybe it was mixed into
the wet plaster centuries ago
and it has leaked out into
you.
Or from strangers, sidling
up, taking you by osmosis, seeping into you,
rotting you with other
people’s misery. This is not yours. It’s just vrittis!
Stand up and shake it off!
Look through it!
It is mud splattered by
passers by! Or even your own family perhaps!
You only own it by
association, this unease.
I’m sure that made it feel
better.
I fetched a bottle of
schnapps and emptied it into the pot.
That should sort it!
I feel good now!

“I am No Longer a Friend of Graves” © Mike Absalom January 17th 2012

On the road to your house,
between the stout hedges of
pollarded ash trees
that line the dandelion verge,
I see a brand new tombstone
growing,
granite grey and sleek,
like a strange overnight
toadstool.
It looks a little out of place amongst the
darling blackberries.

If I were to stop my car and
get out
I would be able to read the
name on the stone
and ponder the quality of the
marble and the fine execution of the date.
I might be curious about the
person who died here too.

But I am no longer a friend
of tombstones.
When I was young I would
spend hours among them,
eating the blackberries and
slowly spelling out the names of the dead.
Now I am old nothing has
changed.
There are just more names and
I can spell better.
The blackberries, though,
still taste eternally out of this world!

Someone has planted roses
beside the stone.
They won’t last long, for
they will be smothered at the end of summer,
once the dandelion clocks
start ticking,
just like Scheherazade, if
she had finished her story,
and all us humans too for
that matter.
But at least there are no
plastic flowers!
It is a cruel joke to
suggest, as they do,
that immortality means
eternal non-biodegradability.

If I were to stop my car and
get out
I would most likely be killed
too,
for this is the Curve of
Death
and I would only be one of
many who have signed off here,
scrawling their final
signature illegibly across the macadam.

So I slow down to Pensioner
Pace,
ignoring the homicidal
honking of a crazed flasher behind me
who, although having as
legitimate a claim on immortality as I do,
does not realise that most of
it can be spent
on the other side of the
grave.

“I am Sorry for your Trouble” © Mike Absalom January 6th
2012

I have heard of your late
death.
Let me think bout it,
for this is not news to be
entertained quickly.
It is too near the knuckle.
It is too far from the cold
head.
There will be a removal soon
and a burial hard upon it.
I will come to them when you
do.

I shall walk the long maze
now
and take my afternoon
constitutional
along the magic bóithrín where I have walked for seven
years.
I shall meditate, mostly on
myself,
for Death makes Siamese Twins
of everyone.

This maze is a place of ivy
and rowan
and there are also other
plants
that transgress the fixed
boundaries of logic,
flowering here with
enchantment,
but rooting deep down on the
other side.
They are channels of draíocht and sorcery.

Once there were oaks here.
Those sacred groves were cut
down long ago
and sent in chains to hold up
the roofs of foreign churches.
It is said that our ancestors
belonged to both sides.

I have heard of your late
death.
Today, in the company of
these green messengers,
I shall think about it.
A late death or an early
death,
they bare thinking about.
In the end, Death makes
Siamese Twins of us all.

“Ickle
Christmas” © Mike Absalom January 6th 2012.

I wear my masks carelessly on
purpose.
You can always see behind
them if you walk backwards.

Walking backwards she
collapses slowly
like a deck of badly shuffled
Christmas cards.

A ziggurat in the Mesopotamian
desert
could have done it more
gracefully,
and given time and a
competent therapist
I am sure she could have marked
the end of this year’s festive deadline
as lightly as any other feather
duster fairy
seconded from the kitchen by
the Pot Gods
to blow the Christmas cobwebs
away.

In other years I have watched
her
handle herself with the icy
composure of a veiled debutante
as she counted out the season
as delightfully,
as a child with a dandelion
clock.

But this year
Big Christmas had made her droop
like a suet sandwich.
Did I say she went down as gracefully
as a deck of cards?
Whoops!
I meant to say that she hit
the deck like a shot hippopotamus.

I know I should have gone to
help her
but there were three men in
turbans at the door
wreathed in sad smiles.

Thank God it’s already a different
year.

“If you had been here tonight” © Mike
Absalom January 19th 2012

If you had been here tonight
I would have said
-Sit by the fire with me!
Listen to the burning turf weaving
poetry
out of the dry stalks of the
long lost bog!
And we could take a swig or
two of the water of life,
Jameson’s perhaps or
Bushmill’s or Paddy’s,
and watch prehistory turning
to ashes
right before our eyes.

But you are not here tonight
and it is unwise to step
outside
on the sharp January night that’s
in it.
There is no saying whom you might
meet.
Here the souls of the dead
are everywhere.
They had sooner leave their own
shadows
than leave their own stories
behind.
The gary-gowlan is out there in
his jack-a-lantern boots,
standing guard with his
pitchfork at their graves.

If you had been here tonight
I would have said
-Sit by the fire with me!
Listen to the hissing turf coals
keening those old lost stories,
We can watch prehistory
turning to ash before our eyes.

But that night you were not
here.

Up where the forestry has
levelled walls
and jacked out the keystones
of old cottages
and thrown them about as if
at a stoning
there is a darkness that even
the moon can’t reach.

The night you were not here I
stepped outside
and looked up into my own
darkness.
The unimaginable past fell
around me as starlight.

“In Our Adventuresome Days” © Mike Absalom
11th January 2012

In our adventuresome days
this was a place we both knew
well,
a small tumbled garden,
choked by the forestry
flattened beneath the heavy
tramp of implanted trees.
There was a brooding energy here,
almost vindictive in its
insistence
not to be crushed.

The first time we undressed
a wild briar caught my sock
and scratched me like an
angry cat.
I bled red for a long time
beneath the apricot larches,
my fingers sticky as
fiddler’s rosin,
and in the fallen stones I
could hear
the echo of a silent
instrument.
Was that the voice of old
memories
soaked into the walls,
tuned up and biding their
time?

This garden was as silent as
our secret.
The forest had the fragrance
of an abandoned church
and yet, heavy with incense
and devotion,
it was still the perfect site
for a sacrament,
although for us, of a
different persuasion.
In our adventuresome days
this was the place and we
both knew it well.

When we left, smelling of
civet and musk,
we walked our separate ways
to other places.
In our adventuresome days
this was the path and we both
knew it well.

Pine though, and larch
needles accompanied us always then,
muttering inside our
underwear and promising to introduce
others
to the smell of Devil’s Turpentine
as evidence of certain damnation.
In our adventuresome days
certain damnation was a place
we already knew well.

But at least we had the
garden then.

“In the Troubadour Coffee House” © Mike
Absalom January 12th 2012

In the Troubadour coffee
house
lady artists
sufficiently decayed to pass
as antiques
discuss opportunities
which they will miss
procrastinating
for safety’s sake
on the water margins
of unwritten books.

Every fifteen minutes
the tables are cleaned and
cleared and polished
so that they may reflect
faces
which are somewhere else,
because it’s too dangerous to
be here.

As for me,
I found myself in tomorrow
today.
It’s easy to lose thirty or
forty years in small change.
It’s only small change after
all is said and done.
Until the bill arrives. After
all is said and done.

“Is Éireannach mise!” © Mike Absalom January 16th
2012

Silently imputing crimes of
an unspecified nature to my accent,
a man in spectacles spoke to
me at the bar.
-So ye are not of these
parts?
There was a dark and hooded
manner on him.
He stood stiff at his drink,
balaclava black,
shielding his eyes behind his
glass.
Although he spoke, it was
clear he was closed to me
and as uninviting in his
welcome as a pub window
seen from the street of a
strange town.
I hesitate to use my hippy
word negativity,
but in his case the ayes did
not have it.
His eyes had something quite
else.
Although vitreous, they were
still able to convey an icy cold
bundled in smouldering
aggression.

Not a gunman, I could see
that at once.
Not a professional. Just a
loose provincial cannon.
A sráid bhaile dreamer.
He seemed to be a man who had
stepped out of darkness
and found only darkness.
He had tasted history at
tenth hand
and it left a bitter and
unsatisfied smack in his mouth.
I knew him well. He had been loitering
here with intent for generations

Much has been said of the
passage of time,
but there are still people
for whom time does not pass.
It stagnates only and when it
stagnates it breeds strange monsters, who do not pass.
They lurk in the back passages,
biding their time,
waiting, for what, they do
not know,
until they think this might
be it.
I think the man thought I
might be it.

I looked him up and down. He
was not one of them.
This place was too far from
the border. And anyway,
the discipline was lacking.
As long as you are not a total
eejit it’s not hard to recognise another eejit.
In him I saw myself bundled
up in a thick suit of army surplus Kevlar.

Perhaps he was not a total
eejit.
Perhaps his need for
satisfaction was too great to be ignored.
Perhaps in his family the
anti-christs of slaughter were worshipped
from the earliest childhood with
incense and red smoke and candles,
as indeed they had been in
mine.

I myself have always considered
that I am a gentleman.
It is a foolish conceit but more
protective than Kevlar.
I was raised far away over ever-changing
oceans.
Nobody can finger my accent
and I do not warm to finger
pointers anyway.
Certainly not without a
proper introduction.
Yet my appearance and Anglo
elocution belie me.
In the eyes of some I appear to
be a gentleman.
But I have recently come to
the conclusion that,
in spite of an earlier
squeaky clean self image,
I am not one at heart. And I was
never a gentle man.

At the age of twelve I
carried a brass knuckleduster
tucked beneath the silk
handkerchief
in the top pocket of my
tailored hand-me-down hunting jacket
and when it became utterly fashionable to do so
I considered sewing razor
blades into my lapel linings
and would have discharged my
anger then and there
and put an end to it
had not my teenage years been
spiced with sanctioned violence
in the CCF and the OTC and other official acronyms for genocide
where I found the smell of
cordite
and the handling of brens and
stens and two-inch mortars
both satisfyingly homicidal
and enticingly legal.

I looked at the man beside me
at the bar.
-You are mistook, I said
quietly,
-Is Éireannach mise,
and I broke his glasses.

“Ragweed” © Mike
Absalom January 7th 2012.

A white
butterfly trimmed with black fur
sips nectar
from a knapweed crown,
and so
got up you’d think
she’d
dropped into the wrong neighbourhood.
Like a
stray thought,
blown far
from its point of origin,
she
drinks left-handed.

I shall
follow her example.
A visit to the hedge alchemist
and the tide of an old fever
recedes with a slurp,
leaving me wrinkled and happy
as untrodden sand.
Now my eyes will praise the
golden bouquet of the ragweed,
even though the elderberry
tells me
yon buachalán buí is a hag’s poison
and in the wrong mouth
more corrosive than a traveller’s
curse.

Well in the wrong mouth so is
the Bible,
and all the other sacred parchments,
blown in from parched and desert places.
And yet their undulating syllabubs,
whirling like dervishes
and accidentally swallowed in
childhood
have written me to pages more
quickening to my flagging heart
than the shock of the electric
foxglove
or the venom of that small
brown mushroom
that humbly follows the trail
of wild horses
trumpeting through the meadow.

Perhaps
they are all stray thoughts,
blown far
from their point of origin,
dropping
into the wrong neighbourhoods
like
dandelion seeds
to
delight us with their savage beauty.

“New Year’s Eve” © Mike
Absalom

Isn’t it enough
that I’ve spent the last
twelve months
dealing with death threats
from doctors?

When we went to bed last
night it was boiling for rain.
I spent the night in
fruitless knocking
on the Berlin wall of your cervix
and all I could remember of
two thousand and eleven
was that fat man hanging
hemp-strangled in his barn
waiting for Christmas morning
to be unwrapped.

A pink geranium in the
bathroom flower pot
crept up stealthily under the
sink last night
and stretched its neck
horribly,
looking for a drop, of water,
I mean.
But although nothing fell
beneath your own rattling tiles
the flower stayed put,
peering at me for hours
with the one-pointedness of a
clairvoyant vegetable.

Outside the storm drummed on
the dormers
like music at an execution,
announcing, allegorically of course,
the arrival of my body bag.

Isn’t it enough
that I’ve spent the last
twelve months
dealing with death threats
from doctors
without you dying on me?

“Old Fart” © Mike Absalom
January 21st 2012

I went outside and away from
the warmth of the turf fire.
Between the thunder and the
rainbows
there was a cold west wind I
hadn’t noticed this morning.
I saw dead white snakes
crawling over the earth
like bones from a desecrated
grave.
I knew almost at once that
they were only the unmarked corpses
of last summer’s nasturtiums.
But it took me a moment!
I am slow catching up since
you left.

I still see bright green
nasturtium leaves
clapping along to the July
sunshine,
and a thousand cabbagey
caterpillars
on their ravingnous commute to
a better class of gastronomy.
The golden red flowers still
whisper –‘eat me!’
‘Eat me before it is too
late!’
However this is just a
retinal hiccup.
The dry white wreaths look
nasty now, and full of venom.
I do not know if I want to
catch up.

A crow in a grey tuxedo said:
-‘All your little dolly birds
are over sixty now!
They seek you out because
they remember your behaviour
when you were young and
beautiful and cruel,
for you were a mirror then to
their immaculate pre-marital perfection,
and of course they wanted to
exercise its removal
in your hairy hippy arms.
‘In those days you wouldn’t
be suppressed.
You were free as a fart! I
know you still refuse to be suppressed,
but the motor bike changes
nothing!
You are still free as a fart
but now you are an old fart!’

I thought: -‘Are grey backed
crows wise birds,
or, like doves, just the
latest agricultural vermin?’
As with all the belief
systems into which I have been baptised,
I can never remember the
politically correct sutra.
But I do miss the dolly
birds!
We were the Baby Boomers then,
and we were the majority!
We had the votes! We could do
what we liked!
We are still the majority
now! Never mind the polling booth!
On a pension you can still do
anything you like!
If you can do anything at all.

“Old Loves” © Mike Absalom January 4th
2012.

I have never met a living
person who is dead.

Today I saw the daughter of
the gravedigger again
walking towards me through a
field of black horses.
I would have spoken, for I
have things to share,
but old loves, like cold lava
in the street,
clog up the chambers of our hearts
and make us into whimpering archaeology.

I am sure I saw the daughter
of the gravedigger,
walking towards me through a
field of black horses.
They swayed like black tulips
in the wind
and from time to time she
disappeared among them
as a boat into a purple sea.

From an old bouquet, dead and
tumbled roses
litter the bedroom window
sill and are as wrinkled and cold
as the sheets of a love bed where
by now
only the most minute traces of
your DNA
could possibly remain as
evidence.

I saw the daughter of the
gravedigger walking towards me,
wading through a field of
black horses.
At first I had banked on some
grim scenario,
but now I see that she had
only come
to mock the number of years
in my deposit account.
She swung a whip in her hand,
and wore a high ridiculous hat
crowned with black ostrich
feathers.
Her eyes were very sharp
today, like broken glass.

She did carry a whip in her
hand, of that I am sure,
but when she got closer I saw
it was a spade.

Still, one of the more
comforting aspects of Death
is that it only happens to
other people.
I have never spoken to a
living soul who was dead, have you?

Apart, of course, from the gravedigger’s daughter.

“On Learning the Accordion” © Mike Absalom January 22nd
2012

I’m a guitarist but I’m
learning the accordion
so that I can go to a sesiún
and listen to myself.
You can’t hear faic on a guitar at a sesiún.
Unless, that is, you arrive
with a van load of amplifiers
and the intention to be
important.

I’m too old for importance.
If I wanted to be important
I’d join a gym.
Or go on a demonstration.
Or go on a demonstration and
write a letter to somebody.
You have to be careful with
letters though.
The difference between importance and impotence
is only a copla letters.

You have to be careful with
accordions too.
The difference between
guitars and accordions is that
it takes much longer to smash
an accordion.

I’m an accordionist but I’m
thinking of learning the machine gun.

“On the Drip” © Mike Absalom January 21st 2012.

I have noticed these days
that things are not here for long.
The accountancy of wind and
water scrapes away at everything,
grinding the sand into
seconds,
rounding off the rocks to the
nearest ready month,
breaking up the years into
blocks that can be painted in black or red
like a lighthouse, and decimated for ready reckoning
and the tentative summations
of the innumerate.
Time is like a stalactite.
Everything is on the drip.

And ever since his salary was
cut,
(although I know it is the
last thing on your mind)
this once salty dog is no
longer worth his salt.
Like all celestial bodies his
is aging as it spins.
Soon he will be making love
to you in instalments
and wondering if he has enough reserves in the bank
to continue in the morning,
with the help of a nurse and
a saline transfusion.
He too is on the drip.

There is a ration-book for
passion
and every item in it is in
the red
and will have to be paid for
later.
I had thought the interest
would diminishes over time,
but that is not the case.
In times of rationing
interest increases exponentially
like a distress rocket trying
to outshine a lighthouse.

When you love someone
hire purchase is not really
an attractive option.

“Procrastination.” © Mike Absalom January 12th
2012.

She procrastinated, she said.
But not because she was
putting anything off.
She procrastinated, she said
because she liked the word.
PROCRASTINATION.
It felt good rolled around
the mouth, she said,
like a long lasting
gob-stopper.
It’s use conferred education.
Literacy.
Wisdom almost.
If she stopped
procrastinating, she said,
she would diminish herself by
a good word.
In the bleak dentist’s
waiting room she smiled at me.
Her mouth looked like a Connemara reef at low tide.
A bit off-putting, I thought.

“Rain in Curryane” © Mike Absalom December 31st
2011.

Except in Atlantis,
could there be so much water
anywhere?

The air I used to breathe
has distilled overnight into
a silver mist
that leaves me the painful
choice:
I must grow gills or drown
where I stand.

Watery figures,
still shaped like men but
carrying axes,
bob up and down along the
sodden limits of the forestry
feigning work.
I ask one his name.
Gillicuddy he replies,
naïvely giving himself away.
Now I know these gill-ridden
leppercorns are axolotls.

Since yesterday the rain has
fallen from the sky
only to flow sideways above
the horizon
in a shabby imitation of a
monsoon.

Midges have fled the
turbaries
and water boatmen swarm in
the liquid air
where once the sun burned.

Even the embalmed sunlight
from the turf shed
steams up the grate
and hisses like an eel on the
firelighters
as it struggles to reconvert
into flame.

Earth flows as mud over the
land.
and Noah struggles to start
his SUV.

Except in Atlantis,
could there be so much water anywhere?

I think I shall just get into
my bed
And imitate the drinking
habits of a newt.

“Schwantz by Moonlight” © Mike Absalom January 1st
2012

Under the butter yellow moon
Schwantz flies with the grace
of a slug looking for his acorn.
The fleshed arrow of a snipe
judders to a halt above him in the night,
but in his dreams he is one
pointed.
He knows only his eternal
quest.
Poor sad rumbling rampart of
sorrow!
Acorns grow up to the sky,
Schwantz, but until they are planted
look for them first on the
ground!
Take a lesson from your
relative the pig,
a sausage meat and grocery
product beloved of your whole family!

Under the butter yellow moon
a thin winter wind sidles
about in the rushes,
cold and indifferent as a
snake,
counting the dead lambs
like an insomniac willing
oblivion.

Does that remind you of
anyone?
I went from adolescence to
old age,
he said, without a single
year of psycho-therapy.
It cost too much.
Yes, but you end up paying.

See how the sheep move
under the butter yellow moon,
damp shadows, going nowhere,
lacking the cruel purpose of
the wind.

I’ll wet his tea, said Mam,
but when she came back with Da’s
mug
he had gone to the factory
without a single year of
psycho-therapy.

As for me, I went from
adolescence to senility
without a single intervening
year of adultery.

Under the butter yellow moon
Schwantz flies with the grace
of a slug looking for his acorn.

“Shaky Paddy” © Mike Absalom January 1st 2012.

On New Year’s Day in the
morning
when Jumbo jets come tumbling
over Knock
scribbling their graffiti on
the thin clean air,
and the brass harp knocker
raps in the wind
like an unexpected guest at
my door,
I am afraid.
I am afraid of Shaky Paddy

On New Year’s Day in the
afternoon
I am afraid,
as I take my walk beneath a
sky now scrubbed blue.
I can see sloes peering from
the bushes
like black eyes after a party
and pieces of rainbow, caught
on thorns,
dangle limply pretending to
be litter.
Perhaps they are litter.
Shaky Paddy has been here.

On New Year’s Day in the
evening
I am afraid.
Last night I could hear those
green rumours
that infest your dreams like
aphids
feeding on your sap in the
darkness.
Now you feel dried up to
dust,
and that sharp thing that
lies between us
like a broken wine glass in
the bed
will not let me sleep.
I am afraid
Shaky Paddy has come to stay.

“Slippage” © Mike Absalom January 20th
2012

In another seven years I
shall be the same age
as you were yesterday, my late
friend.
The year is shrinking.
The hawthorn berries are
already reddening.
They look like the bowls of
small polished briar pipes set among thorns. Summer slides in imperceptible
slippage towards the fall
and the year is smouldering
away.

A large brown dragonfly stops
before me treading air.
Does it know I’m here?
The Ryanair jet, the one with
the everlasting prow,
rides proudly overhead like a
warship bound for Troy.
Heaven’s trumpets resound in
the clear air.
It is a vast blue canopy now,
not just enough to make a
sailor a pair of trousers!
It has become suddenly big
enough to be a complete sail;
enough to pull this whole island
off to somewhere else.
To Troy perhaps, or Atlantis.
That would suit us.
We are all sinking.

“The Grave Digger’s Daughter” © Mike Absalom 28 December 2011

Since you left me
I have been consorting with
the daughter of the grave digger.

She trains the midnight horses that will pull my black hearse
in such grave and funebrial majesty
that I shall relish the next bed
you have chosen for me,
even though it comes with a
mouthful of earth.

So soon after your departure you
may think me promiscuous
to place a bed and a
gravedigger’s daughter
in such close proximity to
myself
within the same thought.

But do you remember those words
of love spoken,
lying beneath the pines on
the dark loam of the forest
so long ago in our
unsanctified days?
Even poetry turns to dust as
time turns black,
and love dries into a very hard
ash.
All these things arrive on a sweet
rustling breeze
but each leaves in a mouthful
of earth.

Since you left me
I have been consorting with
the grave digger’s daughter.

“The Meaningless Poetry of
Rain” © Mike Absalom January 15th
2012.

That was a faraway
place, off there, fifty years ago,
at Bobby’s Bar on
Franco’s Costa
Brava,
squeezed between Barcelona
and the bare and
tragic hills that overlooked the ocean.

The valleys were
full of paths and the paths full of dust,
untrodden, and old
abandoned houses.
The trees stood
always motionless, like old people at a funeral.
They moved me
often enough
as I walked
through the scattered ruins they observed,
never knowing why
I felt so sad
or what might once
have happened there.

So very far away,
on the sharp edge of youth,
with childish
things put behind me by default
and the rest of
life, like a dark impenetrable thicket barring my path.
It is clear now
that I had defaulted somewhere along the way
and had not picked
up all the essential equipment I was to need
to finish my
journey in a satisfactory manner.
Unless, that is,
it was the journey that mattered,
and not even the
Devil cared where I ended up afterwards.

I learned my first
trade there,
practicing my
guitar by the terracotta fountain under the tangerine tree and beside what
turned out to be,
when it burst one
day into amazing Martian Invader Technicolor bloom,
a pomegranate
bush,
cruel, thorned and
beautiful.

This was a place I
had no need to know again,
although the
memories linger
like Saturday
night perfume during Sunday morning prayers.
I retained for
later use the pomegranate bush’s safe isolation of being, penetrated only by a
consciousness of lizards and locusts
and the
meaningless poetry of rain.

“The Musk of the Rugosa” © Mike Absalom January 23rd 2012

There were houses in there
once.
Ivy trees and gone-wild roses
too
and musk-rich rugosas,
and thick hedges of weeping
fuchsia that pointed out the site.
An old man I met once on the sunken
bóithrín told me.
In there where the forestry
tide has risen,
flowing like black lava over
the village.
Dark shapes and memories
wedged in the darker places,
creepy as nightshade.

I cut my way in there,
in through the brambles once,
with a rose pruner,
and sat by a drain, my hands
bleeding,
and conversed with a robin.

There was another memory too.
A younger one.
I hang on to it, like an old
photo
folded tight in my wallet
underneath the money.
Folded and fading in the
billfold like the snapshot of my first lover.

And others.
But they were painted in
watercolour,
and the years have bleached
them off the page.
But the musk of the rugosa
never fades.
Does it, dear?

“Touch Me” © Mike
Absalom January 3rd 2012

After a night of terrible
storm
a bright windy morning
flutters and flaps around the chimney pots
like a murder of crows
celebrating some furtive vendetta.
How urgently the kettle sings
in the kitchen,
as if racing to a fire.
I am untouched.

In the western sky a winter
dawn rises out of the night,
pale-faced and unblushing,
slowly shredding the morning
clouds like old love letters.
There is a purposeful
indifference about her
as I watch them thrown coldly
into the face of the
unwritten day.
How urgently the kettle sings
in the kitchen,
as if racing to a fire.
I am untouched.

Like a smoker collapsing
under the craving
I inhale the turf smoke that
curls around the house.
Give me at least a lung-full
of dead sunshine.
Give me at least a lung-full
of yesterday.
How urgently the kettle sings
in the kitchen,
as if racing to a fire.
I am untouched.

Who discovered first that the
earth will burn if you set it alight?
I have walked upon the
burning earth and it is no great trick.
I was untouched.
I am untouched.

But touch me now.
Please touch me!

“Unused Prescription” © Mike Absalom January 7th
2012.

There were love letters in
your desk,
fly-blown sheets of endearment
carelessly stacked.

It must have been an
exasperating vigil,
waiting so long for fulfilment,
and then to find the words
as useless as a prescription left
behind in the medicine cabinet
after the patient has died.

Or recovered.
In love I suppose that is the
same thing.

I burned them.
I do not need another
prescription for misery.

Cremation is satisfyingly
final,
like burial at sea.

“Welcome to the Family Farm!” © Mike Absalom January 23rd
2012

-Welcome to the family farm!
said Schwantz,
licking the rim of his shot
glass with the relish of a randy bull licking salt from a heifer.
-The bleating of sheep and
the cawing of crows
and the cold wet meadow that
nobody mows!
Schwantz’s pig eyes glowed
dull in the firelight,
two turf-fed red beads like a
bad Polaroid of the Devil.

-Welcome to the family farm! He
cackled organically,
drawing on all his organs at
once for verisimilitude.
-It is a certified farm and
we grow stones.
You’ll be happy here if you
intend to build walls
or stone women to death.
-Although that depends, he
went on, refilling his glass
from a grubby bottle
misleadingly labelled “Liberty Rum”,
-that depends on which of the
toxic post Babylonian religions
you happen to subscribe to.
I myself subscribe to none.
Nothing good ever came out of
the Middle East
except falafel and Turkish delight.
And, perhaps, he added after
a pause,
the ferry to Italy.

-But welcome to the family
farm!
It’s a funny farm, so join me
in a glass of poitín.
I myself prefer brännvin, but where on earth in Mayo
would you ever get the drop
on a bottle of the Swedish Elixir!
-I admit, he sighed without
conviction,
-I don’t have a provenance
for this shady bottle in my hand,
-so it is a toss up whether
you end up in Tír na nÓg kissing a fairy’s bum
or whether you go screaming
blind and have an epileptic fit.
But that is no different for
us
than for any true believer in
any religion whatsoever!
As we say in the Church of
the Summer of Love:
Whatever your credo, you
don’t have to do
what we do! We are as
tolerant as rocks. So here’s to the Family Farm!
The mooing and moaning of
subsidised cattle
And terrible skellingtons in
cupboards that rattle!
Schwantz’s pig eyes glowed
dull in the firelight,
two turf-red points like a faulty
traffic light
or a bad Polaroid of the
Devil.

“Wet the Tea!” © Mike Absalom January 14th 2012

How is my outside today?
In a pink dressing gown I
step out.
The sun snaps shut like a
Venetian blind!
The first drops of rain
whistle past me like grape shot!
Who have I offended today?
I curse the garden nymphs.
Who are these activist women?
Wet the tea!!

The thunder claps twice,
applauding ominously.
Rumbles of discontent run
through the bean rows,
and a flicker of red gnome
caps bolting.
Who have I offended today?
White light flickers behind
the black forestry horizon.
Broom sticks rattle in the
pottery.
Wet the tea!

I laugh out loud, feeling the
wind in my face.
My dressing gown blows up with
a cackle
and I flash
forked lightning for the
neighbours.
I’m bright as Bacchus today,
prancing down the slabs
breathing life from an oxygen
bottle.

On the compost heap green
umbrella leaves
creep like caterpillars over
the steaming mound
and the nasturtium flowers
they engender
grin at me with orange faces
like painted bridesmaids at a
traveller wedding.
Wet the tea!
Who shall I offend today?
I’m ready!

“Words of Love” © Mike Absalom
. December
30th 2011

A scrap of poetry motionless
in the hedge,
camouflaged,
I thought it was a leaf,
until it rose into the air
and began to sing
and I recognised your voice,
emerging sweetly from the
pile of gibbles
you call your sauntering
outfit.

Since you took me to your bed
I have learned words I never
heard before.
Your mood,
so infinitely dark,
glitters with a sharp grief
far blacker than the midnight caoróg’s shell.

I’ll add in your aspiration,
hopeless as the toy sword
on the arse end of a gary-gowlan.

And from the dusty kippins
as you light a malm of turf
mole,
a rising cloud of bees
transmutes into a hundred
clumsy blue bottles,
good not for honey
but for the maggoty tidying
up of corpses.

And now you want to die?
What kind of a response is
that
from a beloved dictionary?

“Words” © Mike Absalom 2011

He’s still breathing. That’s too much pain.
Let him silky slide like a black shadow
whitening through the cracks in the marble slabs
and on into the claymore earth
to feed nematodes and worms.

The long legged spiders in the corners of him
were only spindly syllabubs,
slipping away, and scuttle-climbing under the thatch,
hanging in the eaves, gathering dust above him in their
spins.

Words,
crinkled leaves, falling brown, to the ground,
and then into the earth,
lying breathless it seems,
to feed nematodes and worms
and tomorrow’s deadlines.

“Your White Shadow” © Mike Absalom January 15th
2012

Last night under a huge sky
I stepped outside and peering
upwards
saw you float silently past,
in the white and silent shape
of an owl,
eyes glittering with moon
dust,
seeing me, and not seeing me.

You are a seeded sphere of
life tumbling on the moon’s breath,
a silent incantation as you
pass me by
casting your white shadow
against my black darkness.

I am entranced by the beauty
of your form.

Your dandelion clock counts
imaginary hours
but each one is registered in
a living breath
as if there is some sense in
that childish tally.
And always I am entranced by
the beauty of the form.

Last night under a huge sky I
stepped outside
and peering upwards saw you sail
silently past
in the white and threatening
shape of an owl,
eyes glittering with moon
dust,
seeing me, and seeing me too
well.

This morning you are gone
like fingerprints on a river.
It is hard to gather you as
evidence.
I have looked for moon dust
but all I find is empty
bottles.
You will say they are mine.

Last night under a huge sky
I stepped outside and peered
upwards
You floated silently past,
in the white and silent shape
of an owl,
eyes glittering with moon
dust,
seeing me, and not seeing me
at all.

“Applause”

The first night I
made love to an audience
I walked back to
my lodgings through the sleeping Athenian streets
and cold stiletto
footsteps clapped me
all the way home.

Above the
Acropolis
the moon icily
applauded,
dropping chill white
flowers
where my feet
would fall.

Since my victorious
first night
I have bought your
red silk concupiscence
as easily as a
late night souvlaki.

If you dare, walk
the streets by my side.
Applause is a
whore’s embrace,
but it grips me
tighter than anything your thin arms could offer.

In the streets of
the Plaka
the crushed
magnolia lie like dead snakes on the morning flagstones.
I am envenomed
now,
for they have
bruised my heel.

© Mike Absalom July 20 2008

“Asylum”

Who is that black man moving
like an acquired target.
in the heart of Ballyhaunis?
A noonday shadow
standing up
to make itself invisible.

That is a man whose sacred
groves are burnt.
He eats sand,
Fleeing a poisoned well.

Mark him passer-by.
Others have marked him before
you.

Beyond this place
is the road to
Ballaghadereen.
There is no sacrificing now
in the oak cathedral.
The trees are cut
and hold up foreign churches.

See that hooded scarecrow
Blown in from treeless deserts?
Recognise the Ethiope
And know him.

© Mike Absalom 20 July 2008 Curryaun