Chinese Whispers (1997)
The morning lights my room as dreams disperse.
I climb into my clothes in awkward haste
To chase the morning bus I've often chased.
But from forgotten dreams strange spirits hang
Like half-remembered lines from an old verse
And fill the world with an elusive tang.
Where do dreams come from? What mysterious zone
Cut off within the dark side of the brain?
And why do these vague vestiges remain?
No answer-- so I shove the questions down.
But as I move my thoughts don't seem my own.
They frolic as the bus moves into town.
And suddenly the streets become a dream;
Their concrete blocks and Georgian facades
Seem unconnected thoughts some dreamer adds
Together in a surrealistic brew.
I feel life come unstitched at every seam
And everything I see, I see anew.
And as I disembark into the crowd
I think of how old times, long since played out,
Live on in noises made in every mouth.
All history becomes one ancient day;
I look around the streets, absurdly proud
Of man, as though I watched from worlds away.
These streets, these channels of a common mind,
What were they raised from? Wilderness and waste.
There is no province man has not embraced
His thumbprint lies on everything I see.
Where did we come from? Nowhere we can find;
The footprints fade into antiquity.
And let them fade; my head begins to swim,
This many-coloured morning wracks my brain.
Let life's exquisite mysteries remain
Leave unrevealed the roots from which we clamber!
What is a dream but life, confused and dim?
Where is the past but locked in living amber?
Christmas Aftermath (1997/1998)
(This is probably the most religious poem I wrote in my youth, apart from the words to a hymn that I wrote as part of a short story. I remember, even as I wrote it, wondering if it lacked authenticity, since I was more of an agnostic than a believer. Sometimes I leaned towards religious belief, but never in any consistent or serious way.)
Now all the fuss is over, on the twenty-seventh day,
What was the meaning of the season that has passed us by?
No point at all, the misery and boor and cynic say,
But tinsel-trimmings in the shops keep selling us the lie.
And are they right? The counters click. No frankincense or myrrh
Will satisfy the vampires. They can only live on gold.
They beckon at our decorated windows every year
And every year we let them in. And so the lie is sold.
And yet-- amongst the melancholy glitter of the street,
Some glimmering of sentiment is fanned by all the fuss;
The nebulous idea grows, as friends and neighbours meet,
That this is something not for you, or me, but all of us;
And just as in this money-frenzied winter holocaust
One ember of sincerity shines out its little beams
So two millennia ago the world was nearly lost
Save for one little stable scene. Whose tender light redeems.
Christmas Eve (2004)
(Rather funny that, as I type this out, I am the very age of the fictional woman within it. I squirm now when I read the many poems I wrote from a female perspective. It seems impertinent. I suppose I did it to escape from the purely confessional and autobiographical.)
I never want to leave this room.
The lights on the Christmas Tree slowly blink
Like the pulse of a sleeping child
And I rest my gaze, too happy to think,
Where the presents are neatly piled.
The tinsel glitters like real gold
In the glow of the coloured light.
Is thirty-seven years too old
To feel such a child's delight?
While Adrian sleeps on the other chair
And the children sleep overhead
I think of the sadder years that were
When the future was tinged with dread;
And the cold rooms that seem so far away
As I sit by the fire tonight
In this haven where I would always stay
This biscuit tin delight.
The wind beats at our wall in vain
The fire pays it no heed.
And the dark blue square of the window pane
Is all the world I need.
I could sit here and dream till the break of day
As a shepherdess guards her flock
While those passionless bailiffs are kept at bay,
The calendar and the clock.
But upstairs, Rachel and Grace must dream
That the long-for day is here
And soon they will follow the golden gleam
Of freedom, escape, career
And all of this evening's magic charms
Will not keep them eight and nine.
How long before they will leave these arms
For kisses that are not mine?
What else would I wish for? Time never stays
My girls feel it beckoning.
To rip off the wrapping from future days
And see what the years will bring.
And their delight will be my delight
Though their destiny is my doom.
I cannot capture them in this night
Like a baby inside the womb.
But I never want to leave this room.