Updated: Nov 5, 2020
ON REACHING THIRTY
Getting into the car this morning
orange Mini, the best of British industry,
pulling out the choke handle
leaving a useless gadget in my hand
and a machine which is idiosyncratic enough
to expect nothing less but an immediate repair.
I can do that. I did.
On the same day, twice, both within an hour
seeing an old lover in two different parts of the city
letting the pinch of regret leave some mark
acknowledge the pain and allow its fluid
to seep through and rest on the bed rock
of my resolution, my awareness
and then, only then,
to liberate a little smile onto my face
no malice, merely recognition
even beyond forgiveness and any such superior crap
simply accepting that this is how it is.
I can do that now. I do.
On the A52 to Nottingham
returning from the north,
several miles before the end of a 500 miles journey
stopping the car
and letting through the tears
for a dead pilot friend
eight years in a grave which was never found
somewhere in the dunes of Sinai,
and remembering that that last flight was his first night flight
and remembering that he was afraid of the dark.
Loving him so
and feeling angry with him so
for not letting on to his fear
and dying for it.
Loving him because of the anger.
I do this now. I must.
My birthday party.
A room full of people
initially all they share is acknowledge of me.
(I have made love with 5 of them
in the last 8 years.)
Each carries something of me with them.
Most of them have not met before
now they mingle, perhaps make mental comparisons
try and work out the reasons why.
Later I sit up in bed and make lists.
Who of these people will I want to see again?
I make such choices now. Living with a man
living in his house
writing this in the room where his daughter used to sleep
whom is no longer here
whom he will see in a day or two after months of separation
who will sit across the room from him
lowered eyes and mouth full of accusations
hating him so for loving him so
and he, this man
must find a way to live with that
to survive every moment of rejection
and still maintain his love for her
his belief in her love for him
never to hate or reject her
and at the same time
not to learn how to love the pain
remember that he is a man
loved and loving
and that he deserves more
so much more.
I love this man. I can now.
Having made a choice
having re-dreamt my home
and began my journey towards it
in backwards steps
at a pace that seems so minute
as not to exist but in my imagination,
and still being in exile
choosing to remain in limbo for a little longer
learning to love it
to take pride in such a choice
no longer the refugee, cowering in the corner of the room
but the explorer
straight back and fierce eyes
I do this now. I can.
I could have been so many people
I have been
I made films
I wrote novels
I built backgammon boards
I made falafels and sold them
I worked in a radical bookshop collective
I made a living out of photography
now I care for people and get paid for that
it all adds up
and there is more to come.
I am this man.
with the wild flowers which will cover the desert
for a brief day after a winter of much rain,
carpets of colour and thin petals,
my sister, with garlands around her neck
marrying a man
finally leaving home
starting another branch of the clan
another line for later mythology
our childhood play slowly becoming contained in memories
her laughter lifting me up
on a sofa many years ago
wrapped in blankets
holding microphones and singing to the world
wanting to be beautiful and famous.
We are now.
I want to wake up for many mornings
on a side of a hill
and rub my hands in the soil before breakfast
feeling the early sun warm my back
the fresh air filling my lungs
traces of the sea wafting through
knowing that this soil has been fought over
and that we all lost someone here
and still not understand why
still feel choked up with anger and waste
but accept the old blessing
'in their death they have given us life.'
I no longer have a choice. This is how it is.
My grandmother in a picture on my bedroom wall
guiding me from beyond the grave
with wise sayings, now uttered by her daughter, my mother
and later I will too learn the same words
to continue a tradition which has survived
more then any historian can ever research.
I recognise and love my place in this.
Learning how to ask for what I want from friends.
asking Thom to share my bed on the night of my birthday
and falling asleep almost immediately
no longer afraid of my own fantasies
being able to offer and accept warmth
knowing I have it to give
and deserve it to receive
no longer wasting mine and others' time
with arguments of what is right and what is wrong.
I am working on this one. Working hard.
Talking to my father on the phone
once a fortnight for more the eight years now.
Seeing him maybe once a year.
We could have bought a little plane with all that money. The changes in the tone
he, less demanding, listening more,
me, more giving, clutching the outstretched hand
occasionally stumbling and falling over:
sometimes he still doesn't realise he is asking fro my love
and is surprised when he gets it.
I can be a son now. A father in the making.
Thinking of my mother
with a heart that widens and a soul which laughs
her love warm and nourishing
seeing how she has learnt to live with her pain
and perhaps even accepted it
no longer expecting me to make it better
doing it for herself now
leaving me room to love her and learn.
early fears of old age hover.
Will that be hard?
Will I be repelled?
Will I care out of duty and not love?
It cannot be perfect.
The conclusion is somewhat vague
the intention has to be read between the lines.
Working from the belly
intuition, the informed heart
using prayer and any other form of available light
to skip from one moment of inspiration to another
and enjoy the lulls in between just as much.
And loving it all more and more. And more.
Autumns with no lover
to dedicate these moments to
are sad, very sad.
BETRAYAL ON THE EDGE OF THE FIELD
I have betrayed one or two people who love me.
Often I let you down.
Often I can not give.
I write this and pain swells my veins.
I sit on the edge of the field
I listen to the loud din of the city rising above the
hill. Above me grows an autumn tree,
its branches bare and thin.
I look further afield and watch
the indifferent moon, on the wane.
The wind is gently beckoning to me:
grow, grow, grow.
So, I have betrayed four or five people.
To what does it all amount?
Has the tree stopped growing?
Will the skies stop moving?
Have we seen the last of the sun?
I AM NO BETTER
You disappoint me
why else do you think
my life is strewn
with an assortment of figures
why else would I have a need
for them if it wasn't
for your inability
to forgive me for who I am
and support me to become me
rather then continuously
for being me
and for ever disappointing you
in not being better than you.
You know what?
Maybe it doesn't really matter
that you don't approve of who I am
maybe it isn't important
that I shall never have your understanding.
You tell me
that I have too much pain
but when I try to tell you
how I came by it
you shield off and disappear
behind your nervous fear
and I'm out in the cold again
It is not that it is your fault
it is not your fault
no one person can be that important
in anyone's life
and I don't expect you to do anything
apart from being a witness
to my emergence
Here, we both have a second chance.
When she appears
naked and glowing
I can stretch my toes
thinking of selfishness and the flight of birds
but when she is covered
with thick damp rubbery
layers of eternal fat
I feel sharp and low
and even the birds hold their breath.
A year ago,
my first thought upon waking up would be of her,
Now I wake up and wonder
whether I have enough time to do
a load of white washing in the washing machine
before going to work.
The television needs repairing, again,
and I only bought it last week.
still, some things don't change.
I still rub myself to sleep,
and sometimes to wakefulness.
THE METAPHORIC CRADLE
You had an open invitation
you came when you wanted
often it was on meal times
I shared out what I only cooked for myself
and didn't ask
for how long
just smiled when you came
and hugged when you left
and that was okay.
you felt comfortable
you basked in the metaphoric cradle I offered you
you enjoyed finding out about my differences
you felt safe within my calm
a place you could come into from the storm
which your life had been
I feel itchy with this cradle
my arms are beginning to twitch
I want the metaphoric to become physical
and the cradle to become a bed
suddenly you discover
that you don't want to give to me
you withdraw with fear
you had an open invitation
and for a while
my house stands empty of you
and I in its midst
aching another loss
and everything else
and the poison seeps deep
and all is red with anguish and regret
in the morning
like the flower
uncurl my petals again
you had an open invitation...
FINDING GOD AND NEARLY LOSING TWO LOVERS IN CUMBRIA
I really thought I lost you
somewhere along the path.
Just a moment before
I sat and watched the water fall
the white of the fuming drops
as they descended with their languid rage upon the rocks
not angry in particular at anyone
not trying to prove a point
but gushing all the same.
The god of my childhood comes forth again before me
telling me I am not really alone
never will be
it was always a question of waiting a little longer
all this in the water fall
while I was sitting with my back to you
with my back to the path
being sure of your presence
who began the journey back
the journey home
being so sure of it
like the child who knows mother is there
by that chair
or in that room
and will come if he calls
learning to play alone
knowing he is not alone
so was I
letting myself go
in those turbulent drops that brought calm and stillness
liking it like this
but with your presence firmly behind
slowly moving towards home
towards the same place I knew I will be heading too
in a minute
letting the tears and the joy build up
but not needing the release of crying or laughing
knowing that I could hold it in like this
let something stronger blossom
later in the warmth
registering every little movement
each line leaving its black mark
drawing with a certain hand a picture
a gem, a seed, a plan.
And then, moments later
recalling your smell suddenly
carried by a rash wisp of a wind
turning my head and wanting to find you there
and not finding you there
ready to go home
and beginning the journey
turning corner after corner
thinking, it will be the next one
and still not finding you there
and still feeling good, oh so good.
And the god of my childhood is with me
the one that appeared sometimes in the morning of 1967
before the war
but not much
as I was sitting on the doorstep of the kindergarten
waiting for them to come
for all the kids to come
my dad has just gone to work
and it has been going like this for months now
every morning he leaves me here
on his way to work
he works so
and doesn't realise that the child he leaves behind
on the doorstep
is stifling a tear
again fearing the long wait
an hour before they all arrive
all the other children
whose fathers do not drop them at the doorstep
an hour early because he has to go to work
he works so
and he loves me so and if he only knew
just what his 5 year old son
has to do to survive that cursed hour
surely his heart would break
but his little boy
and dreams away and prays and prays
till something is heard
something opens and he is not alone the god of story telling ascends
and it begins
and by the time the playgroup leader arrives
a respectable lady by all counts
what she sees is a little five year old
face bathed with tears
but glowing eyes that are somewhere far away
in a land of their own
where all is the same
And by the time I reach the car
and you are not there
you who were ahead of me along the trail.
The same god reappears and nods with a smile
we have been here before boy
just tell me another story
I can only hear the answers
if I ask the questions.
The policewoman was reassuring with her professionalism
their age, where they live
do they know the area
was it a difficult terrain.
Was she smiling to herself
when I told her they were guided by a blind dog?
And where are you from, sir?
The glacial man behind the bar in the Red Lion
answering questions with nods and grunts
absorbing my anxiety with his indifference
coating my fear with cold sweat
It is now two hours since I last saw you
it is now dark and I can see stars
can you read the map of the celestial?
Is this a guide
or dead matter looking back at you
from the bottom of the universe?
Fear comes uncertain
so I postulate
If you are dead, this will be the longest night
nothing can be that total
and yet, it does happen
but not to me, not here, not now
And what I am so hard trying to hold back
floods through me
hours later when we are returning home
several miles away from home
I stop the car and have to tell you
about a lost friend, a dead friend
and you sit and absorb my tears
and hear my openness and offer me yourself
in the most perfect way
Your two figures
appearing in the dark
with the blind dog tugging at his leash
screaming at me
red with rage and weak with fear
touching and holding
not knowing what to do first
at the centre of it
numbness and disbelief
people don't come back from the dead
or do they
Keith Jarrett letting go in a corner of my room
in Luisane, 1973.
A letter to Yael
in Jerusalem 1988.
The prospects of showing my red knickers to my lover
in Mapperley Park, tonight.
Soya dessert that protects the world.
How much can an evening contain
or how little do I require
to make me happy
just happy in a small inexplicable way?
THOUGHTS OF A VOLUNTARY EXILE
Being in exile means:
Not being able to have steaming Falafel
made by the sweaty and hairy hands of the Romanian immigrant,
Class of '47 with the numbers on his arms,
each bite spiced with the buses' fumes
as they emerge, howling,
from the central bus station in Tel Aviv,
delivering ecstatic children
to all corners of the Promised Land.
I was five years old when Jerusalem
became again a subject of a changing status.
The city that had championed many
and washed in the blood of even more,
once again is claiming a bitter price
for her liberation by one army
from the occupation of another.
As a five year old it didn't make a great deal of sense.
Days of turbulence that linger into months of dislocation.
Like the buried bud during the long cold winter
I too know that the time of thawing will come,
that the natural rhythm of life will not pass me by.
But a darkness of suspicion never lifts
dreading that out of the slumbers of now
only rot and decay will evolve,
mocking the long months spent in long patience.
Here, the cities of the West sprawl out into green.
There, cities merely sprawl
abruptly reaching an invisible line
that me, and the like of me,
are forbidden to cross by our conscience and fear.
Over there, the "countryside"
is where the Palestinians grow our tomatoes.
Every time an Israeli bites into the juicy fleshy vegetable
he must think of the hand the buried the seed in the soil
the same hand that would be holding a stone on the followingí
The same hand that could be lying dead, rubber bullet and all.
"Biting the hand that feeds"
acquires a new meaning in the Moledet.
It means, the Country of Birth,
or more loosely,
But I was born here, in the West,
In the not so green Stoke Newington.
So where is my Moledet?
Perhaps in Lom by the Blue Danobe, where my dad spent his firstí
Or in the spacious house in Salonica, where my baby Mum gazedí
onto the humid street?
Or is it in the dusty army camp on an arid hill
somewhere near Jerusalem,
where I spent the bitterest Yum Kippur,
truly atoning the sins that made me a soldier?
The Orthodox Synagogue in Nottingham
didn't believe my Jewish authenticity
one grey Yum Kippur,
As I stood outside, wrapped up,
seeking warmth amongst my ancient "brethren".
I didn't have a ticket...
The recital of Shema Isreal
that I had no intention of blowing the place up
so I didn't get arrested by the bemused policeman
who was looking forward to a bit of action
on that dull day.
But admission I did not gain.
I spent the rest of the day trying to explain to a Gentile lover
why I still felt a part of the Jewish people.
And still I know it is true:
There is a dream I share
with some multitudes
here and everywhere.
A dream, a memory, a hope,
that it hasn't all been in vain,
the screams of the victim,
the songs of the pioneer,
the whispered prayer of the devout,
the spoken anguish of the intellectual,
that one day the Moledet for some
shall not be an exile for others.
I have delayed this moment
when I need to begin to talk to you
You walked up the stairs then
and your face is still the same, now
Into my eyes you looked
for recognition, for confirmation
you couldn't see that I was looking for the same
Above us stood Mother, who sometimes gave us both the same
often she was in love with me, with you, she could never tell
which one of us occupied the vacuum of her bursting heart.
The air is hot
my skin sweats secretly
an aching back becries
the long restless nights
and the befrazzled posturing of the day
now, a moment before
the moment which is really not that important
I sigh with relief
and sit back to contemplate
am I still
on the wrong path?
am I still?
Leaves of gold from a note-book of someone who knows. How long has it been that I have been stranded here, with the blood frozen in my veins? "The longer you linger/the more silent you'll become." It is not possible to be more silent than dead, not now, in this age where we are still looking for replacements for the idols we have smashed in our youthful zest to be free, free of what and what for we ask now, the collective we, the Voice that I carry within me which is not just mine, which is not just madness, not just megalomania poetically conveyed. Ten years, the
Voice at the North Pole finds its strength to respond, Aphrodite- the promise that many mornings shelled in their light and then swallowed up whole.
Leaves of gold from a note-book from one who knows, poems of eternity from the bottom of hell - I don't criticise anyone for the way they earn a living, it's all legit nowadays, the sorrow and the joy, all commodities, the house where Tolstoy once confessed and faced death is now a brothel, where you can get a good blow job and a copy of War and Peace for under twenty dollars, American of course, what else is there.
Leaves of rust from one who forgets, who doesn't even ring, who makes promises to leave now for more then four years, and who now is sitting still, very still, awaiting the horror.
ON THE UNIFICATION OF GERMANY
God, is it going to happen again?
In Germany they are talking about unification,
about the destruction of Hitler's Germany.
Again Hitler alone is left to carry the cross
for the crimes committed by thousands.
The silence of the millions that stood by and watched
the whispers of the millions who paid with their lives
for dreams of grandeur.
Again they are thinking big,
and the world looks on confused,
again letting events take their own 'natural' course
let the natural courses make decisions that some of us
will have to pay with our lives for later.
And I can already see myself as an old man,
reading the ghastly reports from war‑torn Europe
urging younger ones to do something
choking with tears of rage at the memory of my
fearing the lives of my grandchildren
again feeling helpless against the lack of sense in it.
Nothing adds up.
Soon you'll be here
The nights will become closer
with less moves, the bed will smell of more than sleep
The things I dream about
come back to haunt me when I am awake
it's like finding you in a tub full of blood
crying for my lost innocence
even during your last moments you dared to think of our love
while I looked into the bottom of a drinking glass
All this can only make sense if we allow ourselves
to consider such things
as the stars and the back of your neck while yawning
I love you as it is
and it makes it all the worst for you
Gin never wrote good poetry
There is a song in the universe
and it goes like this...
a leaf is picked up by the wind
on an autumnal afternoon
the light is slowly turning in
and the wind slumbers
some frost-bitten spiders
are lifting their airy legs
and get down to work
to create their delicate pattern
that tomorrow will be frozen into eternity
or for a day or so
whichever comes first.
THE HUNGRY SELF
It is too late to suck.
the breast is empty but I am still hungry
it will never be enough
forever I will go on and search
for the nipple which will quell the hunger of those days.
Oh Mama, why only for six months were the meals free and
Now it is about going to the market
choosing the fruit
counting the change
cooking the food
and chewing and chewing
always chewing but the hunger remains.
everywhere I look,
my passion coats with beauty.
I no longer think of you or you as pretty,
it is I who feels the beauty which I extend onto you.
So be it, I have enough of this beauty for all to share.
Unlike the breast, my flow will never rest.
Oh Mama, why can't it be you I sleep with tonight?
From each a memory is left:
The way cetain colours mix on a palate,
I assemble you all to be my companions.
the wild look just before the climax
the crumbled skin of many tears
an old drawing still looking at me
the smell of the sheets after a night of so much love
the taste of cheese pastry
clunching my hand as if you were falling
waiting for the phone to ring
too much love and not enough time.
I would forget it all for just one more night with you.
Oh Mama, why did it have to be so sweet?
It's just another rainy day,
they told me:
One day you will understand.
and now I do
now I understand
and I stand on the verge of the abyss of my understanding
and try to speak the words of IT
but they don't want to hear about my understanding, now
it is not what they meant
they didn't mean me to go so deep
they didn't realise what it would mean
for me to grow up, learn their rules
but refuse to play the game,
an enemy amongst them.
The haven wherein I live;
the flowers I plant;
the clear morning air and its blessed serenity;
my splendid isolation
for which I battled, wounded, won and lost;
I shall give it all up
for one quick breath of salty air
waves of heat, shattering all resolutions,
the stench of sweet fermenting decay;
being at home.
10th June, 1991
A CYCLE OF UNEVEN RHYMES FOR A NEARLY‑LOST‑LOVE
What is the truth about this?
"Don't believe truth" says Peter Falk in Husbands.
But I must have something.
After a long time it gave way.