Scottish Poetry Library; Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust; Carry a Poem.
He's in his element, finding his stride
for every two of hers, beating the boot-worn
path to England's roof. She gave her word
to go along this once, to climb her mountain,
but hardly warms to the "hard pulse of walking",
the pace with which they poach their bird's eye view.
Surely this unexpected tarn will win
the town girl round, this startled blink of blue
from sleeping green. Surely she'll love heath.
But she's short sighted, short legged, short of breath
and when at dusk they round the clouded peak
his heart drops. Her empty gaze brings back
that reason she once gave for falling for
and still obliging him. Because he's there.
Crouching in my arms against this old army shirt,
breathing the tin taste of my day's sweat, she
says nothing and concerns herself with her pre-
carious balance, the tightwire she walks from
fleshcage to fleshcage.
This is her scene, and it is quite right among the
bongos sounding through the wall,
John the Lush pounding bad riffs on a borrowed drum,
splintered, frenetic, out on the slippery edge of
And up the airshaft sounding the toilet-edge vomit
of a nameless drunk, Gallo tokay, you can puke all
day, tired past dismay.
This is her scene, this quiet crouch within bad sounds,
surrounded by her ten cent shoes and her yesterday's
pants and her just-in-case jar of peanut butter, this
crouch against my shirt with her nose in my sweat.
She is nervous on three bennies and has tentative soft
fantasies about spooks and she will stay a little
while if I don't hold her too tightly.
I have lived like a priest in this bare room three
months and to have her here, a sad tired robin,
well, I feel honored and a little incredulous.
Orange lipstick on my pillowcase and the smell of her
in my beard are enough to make me hum in private, a
luxury of long ago.
And if the poem fails it is not because her smile is
not beautiful to touch.
It is said there lived a man whose name was (* *). This happens a long long time ago, when the cedar, the fir, and the pine still had needles that stayed green all winter, in a land where the river cuts the town in half.
Many of the dwellers in that country-side knew him only by the name of (* *), for this was the only name that the common people gave him. And in truth his beard was blue, but it was blue only because it was black, and it was because it was so black that it was blue. (* *) must not be imagined as having the monstrous aspect of (****), laughing in his triple indigo-blue beard. We shall get much nearer the reality by comparing the profile to those actors or priests whose freshly shaven cheeks have a bluish gloss.
The bloody cabinet of (* *) was only bloody because it was redwood, and the sap running despite the lacquer is normative in high end cabinetry. His beard was only blue because it was black, and it was because it was so black that it was blue, and his beard was only a beard because it was on his face, and it was because it was so dense that it was a beard and not someone else’s pubes half-chewed. You’d know beards and blueness if you were part of his portraits or one of the dogs playing poker, but you’re not, and you agreed to a pint in a cool craft beer bar at the stomach of that river that cuts the town in half.
(* *) is not that bad really - he’s had a few crazy exes, but they’re not in the picture anymore, and he’s funny! Honestly! He makes you laugh! Ha! Ha!
(* *) was at the cool craft beer bar when you arrived. You’d walked for many days and were thirsty. He had already bought you a drink. It was dark and frothy like his beard, but it wasn’t blue, it was black, he told you so. He beseeched you to try it; you’d like it; you reminded him of someone cool he knew and she was really cool about cool craft beer and cool craft beer bars.
You marveled at his request, and said yes. You hesitated and didn’t know why. Your permission is very easy to take, but difficult to give away.
And so you all returned to his palace, and spent the rest of your day, as formerly, in peace and happiness. You rested, and awoke, and was his wife.
You remained in his palace, and I have come here to you to tell your story.
(* *) loves you, really - his exes left a few furniture pieces in his palace that you didn’t love. He was curiously into a stuffed fox with blue eyes, but the eyes were only so blue because they were black, and it was only because they were black that they were blue. When you left the palace to go to his concrete roof, he’d remark on the black sky above you both, brimming with stars. To you they were planes with people in, who you hadn’t seen in a while, but you weren’t sure how to bring it up. He is sensitive, and you are cool. When he reached into the redwood lacquered cabinet by the bed he is so sensitive, so sensitive to keep anything plasticine in there or your pills. You kept them in the mouth of the fox instead, brushing its teeth with your fingers on the sharp piano keys. He loved that fox; it was wild, and its coarse fur matches his own and his beard. He spent hours in the bathroom, and wouldn’t pee in front of you. Once you farted, and he went pale white, and his beard even… blacker, and he left the room. You were in the palace for days before he talked to you again.
He brought you more cool craft beer and beseeched you to drink in bed. You are cool and he is cool and the drink was black and the sky was black and you’d wake with him on you because he loves you so much and he handfed you because you are delicate and it was always blackberries and he once used the juice on you and you turned your head and you looked at the cabinet and thought: maybe it’s blackberrywood and the lacquer is just juice. You started thinking of your bleeding as blackberries, when the clots started coming thick and fast and he popped them and screwed up his face. He was cool. Once you saw him talking to the fox and stroking its teeth and for a moment its molars looked like …
In his profile there was a woman with russet hair smiling really wide in a picture. Nevermind. You must be mistaken.
You lose time. You, lost thing. When you cry in his bed you cry in (* *). It’s good, so good, so - so much, it’s too much, (* *), (* *) and you break for beer.
He likes to bite and your hickies are not blue or blackberry juice they’re black and you squirmed away once twice and then you had small fingerprints in blackberry because he loves you.
You went up to his roof when he left you. He had given you a key with his fingerprints on it. You stare at the sky. It is blackberry. You feel blackberry, no, black, wait - bl-.
When you left him it felt like he’d taken something and you can’t recall what. You walked from the palace and back towards the stomach of the river where you can follow the smell home underground. You try to ride the Victoria line but end up on the Northern line instead.
Unable to stop it, you reach a point where the clapping stops. And you say his name, and you say his name.
And you go back.
(* *) had a beard which was only blue because it was black, and it was because it was so black that it was blue, and he loves you. And in truth he hurts you, but he hurts you only because he loves you, and it is because he hurts you that he loves you.
And so you all returned to his palace, and spent the rest of your days, as formerly, in * and *.