The café of small victories

Midsummer
fickle and restless
in an area café of note
I sit upon a beercrate made fashionable by mediocre means,
a frothy beverage floats to my upper lip, tilts with fine agreement, twisting velvet steam.
A baby buggy beats a rightuous path beside my quarter
and strikes, colliding glass and concrete
milky shower, everything
sticky.
Vapid stares, enough
to fill an undiscovered vinyl store
halt their one-lined arguments, smoke ironically and regard my dilemma.
The baby too looks down from his fetid chariot, dropping his passionless diversions it sees
how his mother, tall and graceful, holds an effortless smile, hands me some paper and sits with me among the hipsters.

Learning German

In the German it is true that by some oversight of the inventor of the language, a woman is a female…
Mark Twain

A venerable man stands tall at the corner.
Promising worlds of knowledge,
he coaxes me across a corrugated street and
while I dodge the rush-hour Dudens,
he finds my conflict with verb endings fatuous,
laughs as I stumble into subjunctive crevices
and berates me as I reach the edge.

He holds four fingers high,
triumphant, still quivering under the sober weight of perfection:
I, me, to me, of mine.
I falter, my arms full of abstractions of ideas, wasted jokes and tortuous anecdotes,
and now the light has changed to red.
“Rules are rules are rules!” he cries and invents for me a new insult.
But marshalling all the hours and pens and pages
releasing all the sheets and tables
I push them into a single word:
Green!
and made it so.

Still the man is there but shrunken and enveloped,
settled deeper into the heartlands,
where he taunts the ones who dare cross his street,
who dare challenge the authority with which we all are born.

The king’s courage

When clement breeze blew in the court
he teased his counsel, tore and fought,
the eastern slaves were made to sing
‘A gallant land where boy is king!’

He gave his brothers chains to wear
and found a toy in church and prayer
made others lords by drawing lots
in silver chairs from chamber pots.

But shoulders silked were saddled down
with duty’s weight and golden crown
the knights of flag had lost the field
and took the sword before they kneeled.

The boy inside cried not for those
who made him great in paint and prose,
he found a thief to steal him pride
and soldiers young of face and hide.

He testified of lions and shield
and promises of Gods revealed
the chosen few to save the flock
from northern wars and iron stock.

But foreign spears rained over stone
and took the hearts that held the throne
and as the conquerer’s blade did swing
the boy at last became a king.

At a bustop in Berlin

From this accusatory stance she mimes
a script that’s read innumerous:
Eyes screwed hard on a rush-hour slew
headphones in, a pirate playlist
(warms the surface of her eardrum)
thoughtful not of ancient mew
but yellow capsules caught and missed
she hums the tune through chewing gum
and with it sings the city’s rhymes. Continue reading “At a bustop in Berlin”

Garden salad

You crispy foe! You offend me
with your voluminous proportions
and leaves that cast no shadow.

Mouthfuls of suspect origin,
wrought in a factory somewhere outside Modena.
Are you gentle siblings showered by a single hose?
Or refugees brought once together?
So tired and limp of disposition,
cracked and broken, designless and destined
to satisfy the nutritional prescriptions of another lunchtime bistro in a leafy suburb.

As you salt and slide around the plate, I wonder:
what would you have told the worm had you lived in his earth?

The red bucket

8:22am
Away from podiums where sand and fist and bottle mix,
as morning throws its fire on this eastern shore,
the sinner’s footprints set a northern path to where,
confessed once on that promontory,
he begins anew his craggy penance
over splintered rocks
on whipping paths of pandanas
past the mouths and shoulders of the land crawling out into the pacific.

Away from racketeers and white hats
who race their dogs and lean on crusts of concrete spires,
who program machines for maximum absolution,
who fail to hear the drum that beats from ocean floor and sky,
nor the whispers of the land’s intentions,
the sinner clasps the red bucket as a chalice,
holding steady in the wind –
a constant stream bearing witness to his condition.

8:34am
Between chortling gutters he turns both weed and rock
in pores of the pacific empire,
between folds of silken foaming sheets,
through shells, through cracks and snails
the drums beat louder, the swell retreats
anemones wave banners from crevices heralding the ephemeral tide.

A crab taps grim rhythms with a pincer made of bone,
still she taps as when she had two.
Her defiant tempo fills the red bucket
its brittle casing, the souls of fish and all which it contains:
a temperate blade,
a brine-stained singlet entwined with wire and lead,
the final memory of a dying flathead as it chopped and churned in hopeless breaths,
now overflows once more with songs of endless ocean trenches
ruled by beasts with fins and their deities harking hollowed in the ground.

8:55am
Across the anglers’ pole
stabbed in passing beyond the range of the frothing cyan styx,
the sinner takes a barb of splinters to his cheek (an offering as such)
scrambles up the jagged tabernacle,
thankful for the salty spit upon his neck,
then rests both hands and bucket against the crumbling mortar –
a bed for the dead lighthouse man.

Today he marvels at his own technique
while even gulls, irreverent as they are
squall in concert with the drums
and invite him forward to share their kingdom.

The tree on the hill

Have you seen from this fair hill, the coiling streets of Rome?
Walked the narrow lanes of rock and wondered at the dome?
Left a lover in the Paris rain,
found a penny in Trafalgar Square
or kept the girls in waiting ’til your journey took you home?

I reckon not it matters, chasing stories over shore
you who’ve paused for measured lifetimes, for twenty, maybe more!
Like light from distant stars
the rains betray their tales
and tell your grappling roots of famine, wealth and peace and war.

To be your branch, at one with land enduring through and through
I’ll carve my name into your skin and quietly join the queue.
What I’ve seen is with me
yet remains in constant motion,
let me rest a while with you and live it all once more anew.