My English friend and your father,
All have red blood.
Middlesbrough, please don’t paint my door with it.
Nader Al Hussein
Have I done enough to love you?
I have turned this entire body into a tear to fall for you.
I have nothing in this heart but a home for you.
I have a pool of wine in these kidneys,
I have the Mediterranean in this liver.
I have you sail across it daily.
I have closed every poetic line with a syllable that looks like you.
I have opened another with your eyelash.
I have loved you like the sun has loved the earth since creation,
Not a day passes when they do not see each other.
I have pens in these bones to write your name as I walk.
I have managed to fit you with all the roses of the world in sole heart.
I have rewritten the entire history of love for you.
I have even loved those who hate you, just because they think of you.
I have left a pen near my gravestone,
So write and tell me if I have done enough to love you.
No Man’s Land
His face was a foreign country
and his tongue was a concealed gun.
His laugh was an air raid siren
and his mouth a deep tunnel dug in Palestinian earth,
a shallow grave on the edge of town.
His beard was the barbed-wire fence that surrounded the camp
and his skin, a hand-written map sewn into his shirt,
a deserted field at midnight.
His eyes were abandoned soft buried landmines
and his voice radio static caught between stations.
His ribs were the gripped bars of a Guantanamo Bay cage
and his smile the careful line at Customs,
the border between territories.
And he walked like a school child lost in the rubble of her home
and he spoke like a low-flying plane looking to land.
Welcome to England.
But Immigration Central was a love letter written in another language
and when he smiled
his teeth were the New York skyline.
They turn away now from the site of the fiery heart
that drew them here in the sea frets of autumn,
the shades of the workless suicides composing
silent symphonies by the salt marsh ponds.
Salamander's dead and the sky’s gone out.
When the slag heap by South Gare stops smouldering
they’ll roll out with the next mist, lost to cold tides.
Confession of love – beautiful like a proclamation of independence. After many years spent in opposition, we moved into a romantic company flat – in rags, i.e., naked – and for years did not venture outside. And moustachioed queens recognized us de facto.
Today it’s the national holiday again, fireworks, glasses sparkle like medals, kisses in place of hors d’oeuvres. Ergo bibamus, my prince, we stole an entire country like one empty heart.
(for those who drown between Africa & Europe)
I love this land
Never thought of owning it
Till you came
And fenced it all
Stamped your name upon it
Pushed me to the edge
I should have killed you then
I wass slowly starving
So I crossed to where you came from
But you had set up borders
So here I am
Drowing in the oceans in between
Tanlged in the nets you set
Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze
We hold each other’s small bones,
stroke each other’s sun starved skin
in a council estate bedroom.
in letting go.
Even if not to be loved;
to be held,
to be touched,
speaks of the Keeper of the King’s Zoo
He is not like other men.
He prefers me unperfumed,
likes to watch me
remove hair flowers,
undo the rasana
around my waist.
In the morning I am porcupine,
at night, Dhole,
He tells me secrets
of the Nilgai, its fondness
how the Chinkara leaps
the palace walls
and back again.
A Recipe for a Snow Bunting’s Nest
To have a chance of making this and source the key ingredients you need to be in the Arctic tundra or the Cairngorms.
1. Make a cup from rhaconistium mosses
2. Take a fist full of red deer hair and wind it around a hollow, in a scree
3. Pluck, and arrange, five hundred plus ptarmigan breast feathers, of cock and hen
4. Strip and fit a single golden eagle’s feather
5. Add a little wild goat’s wool
6. Make a lining of mountain hare’s softest fur
7. Decorate with a dotterel’s iridescent back feathers
8. Tie it altogether with wavy hair and bent grass
9. Finish with scraps of blueberry, liverwort and lichen.
10. Then, if you dare, steal the polka dot finery from a snowy owl’s nest
11. A tuft or two of arctic fox fur
12. A snippet of guard hair, from a polar bear.
Low-slung sun over Middlehaven
Heaven could look like this,
ecliptic and derelict with
a painted metallic halo slipped
below a natural sun-set a lot like
that day, I pickled it for prosperity,
when we reached a blind summit
of something-else and I could see
with the fresh eyes of an immigrant
in the aftermath of a famine centuries
ago, could stand on a foundation laid with
every intention of a saint by a plaque, here,
the site of an altar by the east window,
in a soundless cityscape with a ticker-
tape parade from a reposing ghost ship
in the dock, could see how geese fly from
Fall to Autumn in perfect synergy and I cried.
Did I tell you how much I love this? I love this.
Looking Glass Street
The rooms were lofty & across the street our songs drifted
as if by coincidence into the realm of Number 6.
We weren’t short of breath in 1916 safe in Zurich,
we were soldiers of the absurd ¬¬– Dadaists, refuseniks –
chanting timeless choruses of “etc ad infinitum”
slowly and solemnly in the cathedral of our cabaret.
Across the street at No 6 close by, the Bolsheviks
deepened their plans & Lenin at his desk was at work,
accompanied by our siren songs, the purposeless
fundamental world of laughter, beauty and atoms.
We burnt our boats in a bonfire of the vanities, no rules
allowed. Our ridiculous hats, our Quixotic gestures,
lived on the same street, on the Spiegelgasse.
We opened a gallery & Lenin moved under cover
in his closed train to St Petersburg, the revolution
bursting the banks of the Neva; he was never so free,
nothing was accomplished and nothing marred,
our songs were in his back pocket like bombs.
Mr Duncan-Smith Dreaming in the Sun
A man is knocking down a high brick wall
only to rebuild it further from the swollen river,
each brick re-finding its original neighbour,
the wall somehow more massive than before.
Torrential rain from a bright sky,
though the ground is bone.
Days of rain upon the man and the wall in minutes
make him pace back and forth and change tack.
Now he is smashing the bricks, bagging the bits,
piling the bags in a line, then a stack, then, well, a wall.
The water laps against the bags, soaks them dull.
The earth is a footprint set hard and sharp.
There are children up on roofs, arms out,
shadowing helicopters and planes,
smudge-faced children down in the dirt
scratching for tools of make believe.
There are parents looking for their children,
good parents looking for naughty and nice alike.
The motives of others, says the voiceover,
the unfathomable motives of others.
Four Notes after Felicia Glowacka
They lean towards each other as if
life had bent them out of true.
Is it love? It is the very fog they breathe
and stumble through.
Weighed down by their own
lack of gravity. It’s late.
It’s there in the twisted bone.
Night’s unutterable weight.
There are people one bows to. To others
one bows lower still, averting eyes.
Few of us are born to be brothers.
One is of a moderate size.
emerge from a stray
thought into frozen air
then bawl and sway
and vanish into day.
He was seated top table with Sir Alex Ferguson,
embodying the Führerprinzip. Black tie,
paisley cummerbund and Atlas Shrugged armband.
James Dyson schmoozed him. ‘Dickie’ Branson
shook his hand. Admirers stood in line:
Joan Collins, Prince William, Baldur von Schirach;
MBAs and barrow-boys led managers in applause.
He accepted acclaim and consultancy fees.
There was a price: cooked books of pupil progress,
children immolated to the CBI,
the fifth-form machine-gunned in the fall of Berlin.
Drilled, disciplined and punished, flogged like Boxer —
my horse, my horse, my Kingdom, my high horse:
The deorc flod glocgs, flupbs, scleps
gainst the slyppan timbers of the hyd.
Tar beo plopp here an’ tar as a fisc breaccs
the watter’s scinn. i wacce the hefig moon
sliden in’t lyft, two nihts til fylness, swillan
the cloodweorc wid sylfur incs, bryhter
efen tan tose nieded bie the scrifters
in wor mynster as thie graft on streccd vellum
te recraft the Godspells o’ the holy saints.
Sum incs we macian wor sen wid lichen, sawyrt, fisc,
an’ fram blostm an’ meos weaxan in’t gardens,
oders are brort fram the farrelands, sum fram hwar
God’s Bearn was born, sum fram heah beorgas in the East
hwar elyphonts trod; peacs so heah, thie say, yeh can
hleap fram crags te climb on’t moon as she gans bie.
Aefore lang the moon’s suncen twinn cyums oot,
swimman, aglimmer up te the wyllspring,
as radmice flit ’twixt treos o’er watter,
fedan on nihtbutterfleos, hwo, gelic me, are gegalen
bie the sweostor moons’ tagian afensong.
An hwit eye abuf the woruld an’ an underneodan.
De thie specan the derne tunges o’ leoht
o’ ealle thie haf seon on thor trec -
the manig dads o’ nieddearf, o’ loffe, o’ spyt
ofer ealle feowra quartus o’ Middengeard?
First we have felt, leather, hemp clothes,
but Them come with jewels, gold, silk.
First we have plain cheese, plain meat, open fire, chatting all night long,
but Them come with their gourmet, wine, strange fruits, electric stove.
First we have much walking, riding, skiing, nights in woods,
but Them come with scooters, cars, aircraft, motels and camping wagons.
We spend our life outside fishing, hunting, working,
but Them stay most of their time inside sitting in front of electricity.
We take a woman for a live,
but Them take a woman for a week.
We have sauna and Indian hemp and mushrooms,
but Them have brothel and cocaine and whiskey.
We have our old myths and tales told by the Elders,
but Them come to tell a story of Sin and Cross.
We die under the open sky, in the forest, by the lake and well,
but Them die in a small white box worth 920 e.
We go to meet our Fathers,
but Them go up to Their Heaven.