Watch Tower 14

If you died building the wall, they say,
You were buried within it. Upright, maybe,
So you could still see the enemy coming
And stand your ground. Or, if you lay,
Your hands folded, perhaps, you could count
The soles of hurrying feet. Windows and
Arches open the sky in shapes of fear that
Slide along the walls of Watch Tower 14.
Hills of blue and square skies threaten to fall
On the reclining or upright dead, like enemy
Feet, with truncheons and knives. A wall
Is such a fragile bridge between living
Deaths and dying lives.


Dearly Beloved

We are gathered here in spirit and in

Spirit only. The body of death eludes us

Now as it promises to do after the 

Holding close denied the heart. This

Holding apart of love and death, this

Mourning denied the touch of breath,

This burying of presence, this closing

Of the eyes howsoever brief, this 

Standing before the burning pyres

Of the cleaved body of grief is gathered

Here, in our empty hands, dearly beloved,

Gathered here. Our empty hands. 

Please state the nature of the medical emergency

I am afraid I will die.
Really? Here in your lovely
Voluntary exile, hibernating with
Your plants and your music and your
Elegant lounging style?
I am afraid to die. Aren’t
We all this is hardly
An emergency. I am afraid to live.
When everyone has died. Seriously
Too many bad movies is hardly cause
To summon the emergency medical
Hologram please state the
I am afraid to live as if everyone is dead.
There was that so hard? Why not just
Say so? Instead we have all this
Bleating about dolphins returning and
The new blue of the skies – true, some
Of it, but mostly photoshop and lies
I’m also afraid – oh there’s more? Where
Does it hurt I’m sure there’s a cure – that
I’m relieved to not be able you see there
Is news of thousands walking beaten
Stuffed into boxes and starving and I
Unable my hands are tied I’m self
Isolated you see couldn’t help if I
Tried but my fear is not a symptom it’s
Really my relief I’m afraid to have to
Add conviction to belief. There. Lie down.
What you’re experiencing is grief. For all
That has died around you and all
You will kill there’s not much
I can do but I will
Say this: as much as you may say that
You want this to end, get back to your
Work, meet a real friend – grief will always
Urge you to pretend that
You got this you can do this everything’s
On the mend. This shall pass too.
So lie down. Things will
Die down. As death tends to do.

Rocks Seen From the Edges of Cliffs

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Last night I dreamt my body was in revolt again
That I had never learnt to be afraid of spiders
And they were attacking me again. That the fear
Of hissing noises and hanging from cliffs
Had never rewired my brain and now I was
Falling, reaching for slithering vines with
Venom in their teeth. And I think how billions
Of deaths have not taught us what to do
With grief. So many, I had not thought death
Had not taught us so many truths and ways to
Go on living. No phobias, no thicker skins,
No recoil from the hiss and bite of grief. How has
Evolution passed us by, I think. Maybe, as usual,
I have the wrong end of this writhing mess. Maybe
It is grief that keeps us human in the face
Of so much ugliness.


Is sometimes the rushing
Of a green river, carving
Stone pillars in the crumbling canyons
Of my Heart. Driven apart.
The riven highlands offer the years
A pebble at a time. A rock here
And there standing when
All about broke into dust eons
Ago. Today is a bridge under
Which the rushing waters sound
The deep, a thing to stand on
When all else seems tumbling
Past. To not have to leap. This
Bridge will not be
The last.

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The sea, like grey silk

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The sea like grey silk
Clothes its depths in
Shimmering sadness. And
Grief is not a cliff that
Demands that you leap, but
Every shipwreck knows that
There is a limit to
How long it can keep its
Secrets in the deep before
The sea strips all veneer, and
They rise, cliff like, to crash
On unclothed shores.

Sing me no songs of consolation


Slivers of sky string
Their silver blue through
Green and rock, stones
Strewn in their path like
Little clouds, as if to sing
To me their broken tones
Of consolation. But
Who will bravely bring
The riverbed forth. The gravel
And sand of dry grief. Who
Will raise pebbles smooth as bone
Unwritten, unscratched. What thief?
Who dare to build that dyke
That will dam the waters and read
On them their smooth, unwritten
If there is such a one,
To that sturdy soul I say,
Show me the pebble, worn
As my heart, one among millions
And wring from that single stone
The river that runs from me, one
Among millions. Build me that
Single dam that will make
Of that river a lake
One, among millions,
Where I may stop, and leaning,
See no face but my own, broken
As only mine is, as a river
Washes through me, a mirror
For no grief but my own.
Until then, Sing me no songs
Of consolation, no hallelujahs
Of pain sung before. I take
No comfort in the lake
Of another’s tears.
Raise me that stone, dam me that lake,
Name the face that weeps into those waters.
There are fathers enough, I know,
And no dearth of daughters,
Yet I take no solace from the songs
Of bereavement that they make.
Like a primordial flood the
Massed choirs sing of loss and losing
And drown each daughter’s voice
Added without her choosing.
And I, who have no other choice,
Silent as I hold this dam against
The breaking of that deluge, I,
Who reach into the deep only
To throw back stones I cannot
Keep. I, who float,
Face up, like the dead, and reach
For clouds that lie like stones
That lie, that sing, that preach
But have nothing to teach
Me, nothing to place
In my palms, facing upward.
I slip silently under boats that
Skim the waters, their keels
Humming, and think – you,
Who are on the boats, you
Whose shirts do not fill
With waters that run through
You; you, whose fingers strain
The river as you glide through pain
You liars, deceivers, dealers in
Consolation. I want
No part of you. I hear
Your songs but they are not
Mine. Your tears
Fall on my face but they
Are not mine. I cannot
Fashion a lyre from my breath
Unless it bespeak
This death.

For MS – To Fall Now

To fall now would be something.
To plummet into the sky like an eagle
In the glories of the hunt; it’s wing
A crescent under the sun. To fall
Now would be a marvel, like death
Screaming out of the blue, awaiting
The tiny shards of life flying apart.
To fall now would be a homecoming
An April shower on trees both alien
And alike: where fear is the falling
And love is the spike.