A life ago, my father said, ‘I saw
your plane pass overhead; stood alone in
wind and rain and watched you go.’ I shrugged and
went upon my way; ‘choose the way you waste
your day. I've hay to make and seed to sow.’
Then, amid the hours of feeding pets and
tending flowers, I saw the vapour-trail
bisect the sky; a tear spilt by the bluest
eye, as you went out to set-about a
world I'd left undone – to sing the songs I
couldn't hum; and all my love was on the
wing, in tender, wistful thoughts of you that
day. My father must have felt this too, but
couldn't say; and I, the one with life to
find, wouldn't pause to read his mind. I know
it's much the same for you, just doing what
you have to do; but if we never say
or show, how can the other ever know?
The one is always unaware, as at
the other's heart they tear. My sorrow as
you speed away, is full of what we did-
not say. Maybe, one-day you'll feel this yearning
too – in the mirror-world of me and you.
"State the fact," he tells the board, "announce mid-
morning without warning, too late then to
retaliate; say, 'Times change, so on-your-
way. Redundancy accompanies age.'"
Walks easy through his fortress-grounds of trip-
alarms and snarling hounds. Youthful bride is
safely sealed from vengeful pawn and bitter
foe, and waits, consoled by views of vale and
river's flow, gleaned through rail and safety-gates.
Mower idle on the lawn; barrow still
beside a wall; jobbing-boy holds toil in
scorn. ''We'll propel the youth to manhood with
a jolt; he'll learn the bitter-truth of how
to cope without a job, or hope; collect
his due, then face his fate as men must do.''
Holding high the diamond-ring, gift for the
girl with everything – to rent her love and
smile awhile; into the room where hi-fi
croons her favourite tunes then … "Christ!" Mind won't
focus with the eyes; wife on table, lips
apart, hair a-splay, radiant as her
wedding day; boy, a man between her thighs.
She descends from en-suite and the balcony-shops;
sways down the stairway, leather-mini concealing,
sometimes revealing, lace stocking-tops;
carries her bruises where nobody sees.
In the hub of the foyer the faces are probing,
sharp as the glare of the night-patrol's lamps,
as she sprinkles a vapour of perfume around them.
Where has she been? what has she seen?
edge ever nearer; want her but fear her.
From the shelters and hides of their devalued lives
the other girls know what she carries inside;
science-degree; career that tumbled
when the foundations supporting the Motherland crumbled.
The Westerner sits and weighs up the scene,
wealthy vibrations of pleasure and ease.
''Are you looking for fun?'' almost a prayer,
crouching before him, hands on his knees;
smouldering eyes hide the pleading inside;
bleak deserts of poverty stretching before her,
murk of the tenement, queuing and crying,
pauper-line selling, pauper-line buying.
''How much?'' he demands. Heart skips a beat;
will he be the one to be swept off his feet?
Will he whisk her away?
New York maybe? Somewhere … D.C …?
''Two-hundred,'' she blurts, ''American-bills ...''
She suddenly chills. Pitiless tips of cruel icebergs
drift-in from the Muscovite mist
to rip-off the fees she must squeeze
from the floating unfaithful who crawl through her knees.
''Too dear,'' he waves her away.
It's me! She's crying inside.
It's me; every-man's bride.
"What am I worth?" she wonders aloud.
"Seventy-five," he replies, "one of the crowd."
She rises before him, standing head bowed,
defeated, not cowed.
The girls turn away, back to their chat.
At the bar, double Scotch-on-the-rocks
is served to a rat.
At the collapse of the Communist Empire
Sonnet – with my compliments to the ladies
She said ...
“I dance to the beat of the pulse of life.
An urge, I leap and romp and jump and climb.
Not pretty and coy, an embryo wife,
I'm a child that's wild and craving playtime.
I'll skip along as free as my brother;
no fettered, skivvy-the-maid, who will toy
with your boring chores – some trainee mother.
That woman-role is to let man stay boy.
Don't make us demure before we mature.
Don't shackle your daughter if not your son.
Rules that enchain us will never endure.
It's soul, not body, that makes the person.
Not shape, but humanity makes us tick.
Spirit's a flame in the mind – not the dick.”
Orang Ulu ( pron. Uloo) = collective name for the up-river tribes of Sarawak.
loping through mottle-green light of the jungle-track,
lighter than dawn-mist and nimble as wild-cat.
Hunt-hounds around-him are bounding and
wailing a death-hymn, or baying for
deer-spoor or fat-ox or wild-boar.
Ulu-agape at the edge of a clearing,
proud ebony, ironwood crashing before him;
din of tree-felling and sawing and logging,
plundering into the land-of-the-lair,
filling the air-of-the-woods with despair.
Animals fleeing; no way of escape.
Earth-mother, naked and bruised by the rape,
bleeds yellow-puss in the pure-running-river
where bones of the forest now rattle down rapids ...
Change; flooding the valley;
drowning the nestling, the gibbon and python;
feeding their life-force into the pylon ...
Rain; kissing the forest her final goodbyes.
Lonely in grief, tears in his eyes,
Ulu burying dogs in the shade of bamboo.
"Sleeping in nature," the sandalwood sighs,
"dreaming forever of hunting with you."
We’ll settle by the bar and watch
the women dance, then split a likely
pair, when we think we stand a chance.
I’ve one eye on the bridesmaid, with
the skirt that’s riding high – showing
off the daisies, tattooed upon
The groom is still hung-over;
can’t find the pregnant bride. She dodged
into the box-room, best-man by
Mothers-in-law are screaming,
‘war,’ handbags all-aflail. Uncle
Jack is on his back. George is green
So we’ll linger here and
guzzle beer, till the barman calls
the time. Then make a play for a
pair who sway, join the pantomime ...
Hope you like the big one, with the
bird’s nest in her hair. Because I’m
heading for the bridesmaid, with the
skirt that’s riding high, showing off
the daisies, tattooed on her thigh.
Killorglin, Co Kerry, Ireland
Where in August, on The Gathering day, the 12-year-old Puck Queen crowns a wild mountain goat, ‘King Puck.’ Then, as the Gaelic-tongued travelling people move into town with a thousand horses for the sales, the king is hauled to his pedestal above the town-square.
For three days now the streets are filled with music and dancers, entertainers and tumblers; bars open till three in the morning; air full of the wistfully beguiling lilt of the fiddle and
pit-of-the-tummy-pulping beating of the bodhran.
Through it all, King Puck reigns over his subjects from a luxurious cage at the top of the 30-foot tower as, on day two, the horse sales give way to the cattle sales – and day three, The Scattering day, he is dethroned and the people depart. And this is:
The Goat's Tale
‘There's magic in the Coolroe-stream, or pucks
weave herb into the browse to make me dream ...
In Killorglin-town I bowed before a
virgin-queen, who gave a crown to make me
king with vision over everything. Our
match remained unconsummate, for I was
hailed on-high, engaged, though caged, in things of
state. There, phantoms clad in cap and boot, waved
crooked-sticks and mumbled-strange in ancient-
tongue – then bought and sold the living-soul of
sullen-ox and horse and colt. While, at my
feet, the men danced women down the street, like
spectres borne on haunting-notes of lonely
songs that sang of sorrows in the years – how
wanton-maids, with torment-eyes, as wild and
green as Lough Lean's isles, and ringlets wrought in
purest gold, like wavelets caught in sunset's
mould, were, by their beauty, thus condemned to
birthing-pain and living-drudge. While boys, like
bumble-bees, beguiled by nectar spilled by
girls, were led along a lane of toil and
Now I wake-up in the glen, running
free of 'Orglin-men, to gambol up the
giddy-scree into the cloud where Mother
Earth becomes the sky; and sense a life set
out for me, of butting he and tupping
she. Then see the visions of my dream; hear
the laughing of the stream; and wonder – why?’