The Animals I Am

 

 

animal shadows

 

I hope that you have played the game of figuring out which animal you are. It’s not the same thing as saying what your favourite animal is, or what animal you would like to transform into if you had the power. This is a question of saying, based on your personality, your spirit, what have you: what animal are you? 

 

After the eighth hour, the rainy conservatory

With our conversation pushed back and forth between us

Like a chore for which neither of us would quite

Accept responsibility,

We scrapped that. We unscrewed a screw-top

Bottle of anonymous wine and wheeled out

The old game: If I were an animal,

What would I be?

 

You were curled on the sofa as a comma,

Waiting, a held moment,

Preened exquisitely. You smoked, and

Were smoke itself: you played the ocelot.

I knew it would be feline: and nothing at all

Domestic would do.

 

The rest joined in, a menagerie

Of barking laughter from the rowdier boys;

Sly, slithering accusations

From reptiles; an awful lot

Of monkeying around. But also

There were those who confessed to be

Creatures they could not possibly be.

Around us I saw lions

Considering whether they were in fact some foul

Burrowing lizard, for lack of identity,

Genuine heroes too modest to roar:

And conversely there were shrews

Proclaiming themselves fierce, magnificent

Eagle owls. People who

Have never once paddled in the sea

Are suddenly dolphins.

 

You shot me a cat-glance. This was all

Well and good. You wished I were also

A prowling, silk-like hunting cat.

Whereas I, in honesty, am

Some curious ape: dextrous, not

Overly powerful, but cunning.

Chimpanzees have been observed to torture,

After all, simply for fun.

I examine all sorts of things between my witchy fingers,

Push the conversation back and forth like a

Responsibility, again. I idle in consideration, an

An observing force;

Social in some respects, obtuse, demanding;

If I were an animal, I would be some

Ingenious, malicious primate: I fear I would be

Terribly human.

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Death’s Flowers

 

 

asphodel

 

 

Some flowers are better said than seen,

More pleasant to speak than remember: asphodel,

The cyclamen; the mourning lily, white.

 

Regardless symbol, the gesture each may mean,

They call the distant call of a sombre bell,

Death’s flowers, arranged so artful, delicate.

 

 

“But When”

 

For Blair. Inspired by and based on the two protagonists in Only Lovers Left Alive, played beautifully by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. After decades of living, loving and enjoying life, supported by their supernatural longevity, the couple start to realise that their eternal life demands upon much, much more than a mortal life requires. It requires a capacity to suffer lethargy, grief and infuriating powerlessness in the face of change. Although, I suppose the same applies to loves even between such as you and I. 

 

 

Our lives survive the seconds, hours, and days,

Outliving these. But we cannot face the years.

The longevity of ours by far repays

Our fatal fears,

 

And youth, like all young things, will soon betray us

And run to fairer friends. At last, alone,

We’ll age in grace, or comforts, in the layers

Of wants unknown

 

And we are given what we wish: what we have beckoned

Creeps upon us. But when must midnight chime?

Unveil the hour when we shall share that second:

Reveal the time.

 

 

Ballad of Our Dead Seasons

 

 

We died in the summer, when dragonflies danced

And blue was the sky and the touch of the stream.

We wandered through autumn, and struggling chanced

On an orchard of fruits that were gold as a dream.

We clung to the winter like whiteness to grass,

And kissed with a frostbite that clung to the pain.

By spring we were nothing, and let the green pass,

Both longing for summer to kill us, again.

 

 

I decided to write a ballad for the one I love. But it could never be a “Roses are red,” sincere, unconditional piece. It needed a little flavour, a pinch of morbidness. It combines a cyclical theme and structure, in its own way quite typical of seasonal ballads, with a nicely morose twist, which suits us quite well, I hope.

Love you Blair. I hope that we share many more seasons together.

 

Breach the Keep

 

We all make fortresses. Whether formed in stone

Or actions, we build ourselves to fortify.

To keep our keeps. To leave ourselves alone.

To occupy.

 

But now, besieged by touch insensible,

I fall to you. The plans that I have laid,

The castles of my mind defensible,

Are all unmade.

 

 

For Blair. 

The end of the chase

 

All good things, it is said, must go to their end:

As every road is plagued by destination

And every friendship pained for a loving friend,

So all things capable of lapsing, lapse.

We might cure illness, true: but then, perhaps

For life itself there is no medication.

The wave falls back on itself: a ball half-thrown

Faltering at the wrist, a failed last shot.

We take the fist of earth, last thing we own,

Thrown on the oak: we cling to a clod of earth,

Hold tight to clay, for all that clay is worth,

Chain ourselves to shadows we forgot.

But shadows feel no iron, and they grow:

The light draws lower, casting on the crest

Of every wave the coolness that we know

Of every darkening evening. And at last,

Turning to the failed waves of the past,

We break on them, and fall down cold, to rest.

 

 

Admittedly, not the happiest poem I have ever written. 

Coil

 

 

Talk over or ignore it at your peril,

This coil. It can only release once

Heightened to its tension. Only once

Strung to the epitome can it be

Fiercely unsprung. Curled up as tight

As a cryptid, hidden itself from truth,

Cave-dweller kept from discovery; its

Coiled tongue, rolled, rolled on itself,

Half fit to speak.

 

Talk over or ignore it at your peril,

This iron-tasting coil in my mouth:

For soon, I shall speak it out.