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.
You watched me walking down the stairs
and were warned by the crazed desperation in my eyes
that you need to act now,
a second before it was all over,
before I turned myself away
and wrote you off as merely another poem
which neither could nor should have come to anything.
Thus began our love affair.
The way you appeared, just there,
burning as the naked flame.
And I, just like the water,
was consumed by your still‑only‑imagined touch.
The water which can never remain water when it meets the fire
but has to evaporate or be put out.
My passion was awakened.
I was let back into the world where love and lust reside,
where the Boy in me could be embraced by the Man,
becoming whole again, becoming one again
ready to perform the sacred and silly act of union.
I was left whimpering, unbelieving.
And then it began.
The whirl of my fears, now exposed bare by passion,
swirling round and round
volcanoes of flesh, moving too fast,
sucking you in
hurtling you into the eye of the storm
swallowing you whole
asking of you to be the soothing potion
for my inner wound.
Nobody can come back from where I sent you,
where the baby's saliva is mixed with first semen
enshrouded with mother's rustling and strangulating night‑gown,
that swamp of forbidden games and confused wishes
forbidden games and confused,
encapsulated with sadness for having being born
walled in by the anger of never completely being.
And so it ended.
...I must be a real grown‑up now;
I sat all night with a couple of friends
and discussed with animation
the history of the Jews
while my heart was being torn apart
from the effort of keeping silent
of the words of final goodbye
you have lacerated me with this morning...
Who will you have casual sex with tonight?
Will it be someone I know?
Is there a chance you will like them this time
Or is it going to be another link
in the necklace of revenge you are stringing me up with?
I cannot help seeing the smallest detail:
will your shoulders shiver
against the surprised and hesitant embrace?
will your lips crush his?
will you send a mischievous hand to his crutch
only to discover to your dismay he is not yet ready for you?
will you have to hate yourself during and after,
realising the differences,
realising that nothing will bring your lover back
and that every thrust your pelvis dedicate to loveless sex
only belittle your love?
Today is Yum‑Kippur's eve,
day of attonment, of stock‑taking and settling of accounts,
day of forgiving and of asking to be forgiven.
Will you forgive him for having driven you
to abandon your innocence to strangers?
On the altar of your love,
instead of human sacrifice,
all which is offered now in repentance are words,
rivers of words, eloquent and soothing words,
those which have meanings and those which have not,
words words words only words
to grate on your wound and make it bleed again
words words only words
to haunt you.
In the place where you were once dancing the ritual of love
you are now standing bewildered,
frozen by the chasm staring at your feet.
There is no dancing now,
no more defiant twirling,
only silence and fear.
It's not that there is something wrong with the sex :
the sex is fine.
It is what follows which tears me apart.
As my body cools off and recoils with fatigue
then it remembers other times,
the times before,
when sex was a flowering child of our passionate fantasies,
always fine‑tuning our ecstasy
to a notch of screaming joy.
When love‑making was still called "love‑making".
Now we say "sex".
How far are we from saying "just sex"?
Do you want to have those words to demolish
(which time alone will not eradicate)
that our love‑making oozed
like free‑flowing fluid from every pore of our united bodies?
Tonight you will be coming here.
Tonight you will become my lover yet again.
You will be walking along the long fence of my defence
and amongst the thorns a little gate will wink at you:
something is widening up for you,
something will was never completely shut
but simply draped‑over .
Wasn't that a soft cob‑web
weaved benevolently by a sacred spirit?
The night you mothered me in your hands
re‑birthed my child.
He remembers long afternoons of solitary playing in the sand pit,
glancing nervously up to the shadowy corner above his head
wishing for somebody to come and play with him.
He is crouching and slowly piling the sand neatly around him,
trying to make sense of so many little things that slip through his
He knows it will all change again when he plays tomorrow.
He is content to know that there will always be sand for himם
even though the loneliness of the shadowy corner above his head
will always be there too.
Today, he is content just to play.
I left the electric blanket burning on all night
and was haunted by visions of my house on fire.
In the morning it was cool and dry,
but something passed away all the same.
A dry flame,
warming an unwanted bed, burning for no‑one,
and burning in memory of many lonely nights spent apart.
And now, as I eulogise for those nights
and becries the coming nights of togetherness
I know that happiness is neither here nor there
but secretly in the acceptance of the gift I am able to offer myם
the promise that the sand pit will always be his,
shadowy corner and all,
for there lies his freedom to be in the world.
A LOVE SONG
I have been having a secret love affair.
Nobody knows anything about it,
not even my closest friends.
It has been hard,
to keep it so secret.
We have been seeing one another
for quite a while now,
in fact, for as long as I can remember,
meeting at the oddest places,
the most unexpected times,
doing the most outrageous things together,
hoping nobody notices.
I know I have not been the only one for her,
I know she has this tendency with others too,
when it has become more and more difficult to be in love,
but I don't mind, not really,
as long as she keeps seeing me,
I have been having this secret love affair
for some time now
and I feel like blowing the whistle on it, folks,
I have been having a secret love affair
with life itself.
The women whom you marry
beat up and leave,
later blame me for the crimes of masculinity.
I am fed up with having to sweep up
the consequences of your inability to feel.
I no longer see myself
as being part of the same game that you play.
I move over to where you threw me long ago
that day when I tried to hold your soul.
I will now stand there with pride
and watch you grovel
for some compassion.
If sex is all you want
then go fuck yourself.
Because they wanted me to become a Man
I never learnt some useful things women know
how to wrap a towel over my head after I hennaed it.
Wear a pink triangle
break the silence
and if you are a Jew
think of it as a yellow star.
Remember those who died
who were murdered
just because they were
who they were.
Again we love in a time when
you don't have to do anything
to be oppressed
apart from being yourself.
Remember that your silence can lead
and later yours.
Wear a pink triangle
and rejoice in the freedom
that your choice gives you
Wear a pink triangle
and re‑establish yourself
as a practising human being.
Sex is too important an issue
to be left to politicians.
Wear a pink triangle
and make your own choices.
Nobody should care whom you sleep with tonight.
MEDEA AT NIGHT
Medea at night
the night after the deed
the children are slain
and she is not moved
she will not forgive
she stands alone in her place
gazing over the multitudes who want her blood
who are frightened of what she brought upon them
the terrible revenge she has wrought upon them
for depriving them of forgiveness
not forgiving them for rejecting her
she takes them down with her
and you walk the streets of this city
and Medea breathes in you
you hate the vision that you saw in my eyes
and you will not forgive
Who are your slain children
you have two, now growing up
learning lessons of revenge from you
labouring to gain your love
not knowing where or why they have lost it
not knowing why you are angry
are these your slain children
the ones who die to punish a failing lover
or are your slain children
the two trips to a private clinic in Birmingham
where we placed our money on the table
and you placed your body on the bed
and from within you
were pulled out lumps clots streams of flesh and blood
that could have been
that would have been
that you later blamed me for killing
that you now carry in your heart
as a memory of my cruelty
of your unrequited love
are these your slain children
who now come back to haunt me
our children who never came to be
and this you will not forgive
at the centre of the storm
stands a little boy with tears in his
and asks for forgiveness
Medea towers over him
hair flying in the wind
and for a long second
all is lost
the universe is in danger
the Goddess is angry
he is bewildered
now Medea is his lover
now she is his mother
now she is the Goddess
what happened? he wants to know
how can I make you happy?
don't be angry with me
I am only a boy
thirty years on
a thousand years on
the rage goes on
and where is the man
where is the warrior
to claim back his own anger
to say I forgive you not
I was there
I was hurt and I fight on
I stand in the eye of the storm
braving the waves crashing against the rocks
seeing you and your pain
long hair in the wind and all that
seeing the spilt blood
and crying inside
and cursing with arms wide open
letting the wind be born from my chest
swearing that life exists
and that no amount of no-forgiveness and revenge
can quench the thirst
where is the man
where is the warrior
and in this there is a little boy
not knowing why
only knowing it is wrong
that he is wrong
and when he lay to sleep at night
darkness carries the little boy
to that cliff edge
where Medea towers
where drops of the ocean break upon his skin
where he is hanging between life and death
fearful to let a cry escape his tight chest
lest she notices
and consumes him with her anger
and he has to watch
the torture of seeing humanity crumble
and not being able to do a damn thing about it
seeing the end approach
and the scream curdles in his blood
shrinking his lungs
terrifying his eyes
wrinkling his thoughts
and not for a hundred years will he be comforted
does it end ever
Medea with her lost honour
my lover with her hurt pride
wanting little boys and big men
to be perfect to be princes
or at least to show some affection for more then a night
Medea at night
is a lonely figure
feeling cheated and wanting an answer from the crowds
swearing that if she can't have her lover
if she can't have her fill
if she can't have
and she releases the beast of revenge upon us
to be present in every moment
every tender rubbing of lips
every tremble of tongue touching skin
words which pass the midnight hour
the taste of too many kisses and never enough
for us to pay homage to
and to say no to
at least not now
and to forgive
to listen to the waves at night
from the depths of the mainland
and to remember that she stands there still
for ever and
Slow trickle of grains of red soil,
now diluted with water,
colour my sink.
If you are in pain
write about it
let it out.
Find a hill
or a pen,
and let you chin guide you
on the journey home.
Washing my knickers in the sink
pink blue and black
I am thinking of you.
Is it alright then?
The moment of lips meeting.
I can tremble with my heart.
Your smell is coming from deep inside
I breathe you out of you and into me.
We are not one, never will be,
don't want us to be,
but we are together, like this, separate. Okay?
I live in a world of abstracts.
Clouds, like thoughts,
that I've gathered yesterday
come rushing back today
and lap at my feet.
Throw a fit when you are next at Sainsbury's,
it will reassert you sanity.
Break a bottle
when you are between the aisles of corpulence,
it will remind you of who you are.
Let out a scream
or a smile
or a gentle whistle
while you are being jostled in the queue,
it will bring the sense back into your life.
I touch you
and am consumed with fire.
Isn't it all out of date now?
Is it still possible to feel?
And what does happen when I don't touch you?
You left the knife,
oh I am so afraid,
sharp side in, they call it the blade,
in the flesh of the honey jar.
It bleeds sweetly and silently unto your toast.
Now you approach from the kitchen
with the peanut butter.
Which crime shall we witness this time?
Fucking bite into it!
Don't wait to find out whether it's alright.
It is alright, believe me.
I wouldn't do that.
I wouldn't look through you,
as if you weren't there.
How could I?
we mingled juices,
we touched everywhere,
you were inside me
and I was inside you.
How can I forget?
How can you think I ever will?
What you are touching
with your promises
with your enticing smiles
with your withdrawls,
is an edge of a precipice:
If you bend a little
and look over the edge
you will see me hanging there
clutching on to a branch
of an ancient cherry tree.
Moon touches flower:
petals wither in fire;
What is it that I don't know
that makes it so difficult?
It was two years ago today
that you told me that Rita was dead.
I will light a candle and look at her photo.
Now my house is clean
I am washed and shaved
ready for any eventuality.
Her sad gaze never leaves me.
was October's full moon.
I left the curtains drawn open
and while sleep was overtaking me
I watched the silvery pattern over my blanket.
In the morning I woke up with an aching tummy;
what was the moon up to last night?
If ever there was a dark thought
it was born in my mind.
I am the bearer of bad news;
in my sleep I bring you sorrow.
While the moon secretly filled her belly
with delicacies of black matter
I sought to abort the emergence of light into the world.
Curtains left drawn open
the house sleeps with its eyes wide agape
but a watchful heart beats on quietly inside, upstairs
there's something warm, breathing, waiting.
the house sleeps with its eyes wide open
awaiting the guest.
THE SLEEP OF THE OBSCENE
hands tucked into the front of their trousers
they leer and grimace at the dark
grunt as they progress
from one abyss to another
toothless smiles mark and mar.
all boys should have their hands tied.
Maybe I am reaching the end of the sequence
of fantasy that my life has been hitherto;
perhaps now even I will be allowed
to converse and mingle with real people.
THE RESOLVE OF DREAMS
Do I earn it?
Do I deserve it?
Violin Concerto by Sibelius
the old anti-semite
as they emerge and string
their way up into my torment
my confused resolve
to decode the past
that is just a second away
there, on the other side
where I was a minute ago
warm in the embrace of somebody
now in awakening
it is gone
and not even the slightest trace
is left for me to ponder over
as if it didn't happen.
Two of them,
in a space,
taking risks with us
with each other,
folding hands and choosing the territory where they can be,
want to be,
as if impelled by a voice they can only hear,
stretching arms and marking time.
Slowly caressing and appeasing Time,
not to be awaken too quickly,
the beast in the corner,
mane and all,
tail beginning to wiggle,
loving it, wanting more,
walking straight into it,
a sort of a cage.
Two of them,
now in an enclosure
of their own making,
now on both sides of the fence,
discovering the loneliness and comfort of clumsiness
hands clasped to chest
the horror creeps in
the lost child wandering
in and out of the station
and the platform is empty
the leaves have fallen
the ground is cold
we lie and wait
life is dormant
We can no longer wait
it has to be
Two of them,
looking for questions
confusion which breed that spark
that orange‑yellow flame
a little one
climbing now resonating through the roots
erratic and confidant
draining stagnation and settling clouds
now laughing with the wisdom
of thousands of years and millions of lives
having been there
seeing the smile
the first green manifestation of spring
the saying: yes!
the richness of giving, fully
I shall hold it in my hand for a little longer,
cupped, to give it room to beholden by you, to breath,
but I shall not let no-one drink from it.
A little pool where you can see the features of my heart
and take in the vapours that time steals from it.
And I shall be breathless,
The air is escaping me fast,
leaving, emptying, inviting you.
Little love, I shall hold it in my hand,
The love that no-one prays to any longer,
a fruit of pain and patience.
And later, I shall come to you with nothing
soft and giving,
lips pressed against your skin, touching, melting
the coat of many years' waiting,
slowly moving away from the chase, letting the drops
slowly fall down from the cupped hand,
wetting every surface, touching every skin
with the dew after the longest night.
And looking back, the pain was for nothing!
you were here all the time, waiting
and my back was turned.
I shall never wait again for so long.
You are here and always have been.
my tears were not shed,
you were there when I needed you.
There was no pain, only joy that my heart can feel.
Many times I have loved like this
and will again and again
like a tree,
growing a flower,
which decays and fertilizes
another leaf, another love.
The year is drawing to a close. The earth is beginning her long inhalation, calling in all her sounds, all her warmth, letting the darkness settle in every corner. Soon it will be dark, cold and quiet.
It is time to sleep. It is time to dream.
All over Europe, nights are getting longer, the air is getting colder. The sounds of life are gently coming to a rest. A slow autumnal breeze picks up what the summer has left behind, scraps, remains, and tosses them about, across the rivers, over the vallies, only letting them down when the rain washes over. The ground darkens, losing its transparency, drawing over its habitual blanket of unwanted leaves. The tree themselves allow the tiredness to overcome them, bow their tops in submission and begin the process of letting go.
Not many sounds are heard. And yet it is as noisy as hell.
The sound of trains.
If there is a single sound by which Europe would be remembered, then it is the sound of trains. Trains which leave stations in ordinary places such as Warsaw, Berlin, Lom, and arrive on the other side, where nothing is ordinary, Auscwitz, Treblinka. Trains which make journeys which take people to destinations never conceived before, destinations never reached before.
It is the train journey of the night, the longest night. It is a journey which began but which can never end. Those trains travel on and on, defying all logic, all scientific knowledge, all rational thought. We want them to stop but they never do.
And language defies me here. For this, the only possible language is silence.
September 1992. John Cage, the composer who tried to place this silence inside concert halls, dies. Out of the loudest din of this century, a cacophony of human shrieks and Bach Cantatas, only one sound can emerge, audible, sensible. Silence. A silent homage to you.
And yet, there are some who try to describe this silence with words, to place this emptiness within a context which can hold it and give it shape. Silence on its own, ever expanding, is impossible. We circle around it, like we would around a dangerous animal, trying to get as close as we dare, but always maintaining some distance of safety, always on the guard and always staying near enough to see what it is doing. Like the zebras staying near the lions on the African savanna, we should stay near the silence, never lose sight of it, lest it surprises and annihilates us.
The shame of it all.
"Precisely at the same hour in which Mehring or Langner were flayed to death, the overwhelming plurality of human beings, two miles away on the Polish farms, 5,000 miles away in New York, were sleeping or eating or going to a film or making love or worrying about the dentist. This is where my imagination balks. The two orders of simultaneous experience are so different, so irreconcilable to any common norm of human values, their coexistence is so hideous a paradox - Treblinka is both because some men have built it and almost all other men let it be - that I puzzle over time. Are there, as science-fiction and Gnostic speculation imply, different species of time in the same world, 'good times' and enveloping folds of inhumane time, in which men fall into the slow hands of damnation?"
And yet the story must be told. Because it is impossible. From now on, it is always story time, it is the perpetual Passover, with the central tradition and retelling the story of the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from the slavery in Egypt. Our generation must tell a new story, perhaps in addition to that older one. A story of a new liberation from a new kind of slavery.
It has to be told because it has to be remembered. It has to be told because it is not over. It has to be told because it is impossible to tell. It has to be told because we are forgetting, and with the forgetting we are beginning to deny the existence of that place.
It has to be told because my grandmother commanded me to tell it. From the grave, her voice is still carried forward. Look, these are the brothers I have lost, these are the uncles your mother might have had, these are the parents whom I will never see again. This is your family. this is where you come from. from the silence of the dead, from the grave. This my sadness and because all which is mine is also yours, this is your silence, your sadness. Therefore you must speak. Now!
ON SMOKING AGAIN
Slowly I sabotage
the intricate pattern my patience has woven
along the paths of my mindfulness.
With one brisk and searing breath
the heat is intense and leaves no life in its wake
I take more of it in
and pray that the morning will bring renewal.
one morning there will be no renewal,
the promise will have turned sour
and the fruit has waited too long to be eaten.
TO THOM ON HIS 58TH BIRTHDAY
We let each other down
but we take it with grace
after all we do it to each other
out of the deepest understanding
the kind you never talk about
the kind that exists out of liking
the same movies
and getting excited about
the same nonsensical events
and in being too intense
too intensely involved with ourselves
so submerged in IT
that we leave them behind while trying to let them in.
And when you will die
what will you leave behind?
A world that killed your family
in a land they grew nothing on
their graves you will never find
And when you will die
all the smells will be gone
the sharp bacon aroma in the morning
you traitor of your heritage!
And when you will die
no more sucking, licking and touching
all the softness, the hidden places
the juice that oils your breath
and lingers till the morning
when more is milked
And when you will die
the sun will dry up your land
all the traces that your body has left
on the hot sand
the wind that ruffled your hair
on the cliff top
the sea gull that danced in your eyes
And when you die will
I shall dance on your grave
your funny little man
and my tears will entangle my steps
and draw blood from my laughter
and joy from my wound.
YEARS OF HUNGER
I arrive back in the UK
after three weeks in Israel.
By a telephone booth at the airport
after being refused to be picked up by a friend,
I find a ten pounds note.
I put it quickly in my pocket.
Maybe my luck in still good.
The following days are hell:
putting up again with this thin sun
the absence of blood in people's faces
not being able to say a word in the old language
feeling, looking, thinking, seeing, even pissing like a foreigner
and knowing it.
Maybe my luck is beginning to turn.
Yearning for some soft touch
lounging in the bath for hours
lunging to the phone when it rings at uncertain hours.
Unpacking the suitcase
and crying at the discovery of a familiar smell
which survived the hours of the flight
to arrive here and be subjected
to the cruel fate of slow and futile dissipatation
in the cold air.
So much of all that is important to me is missing here.
And when they do mention my little country
I fume and rage and curse
at the inaccuracies, the injustice in their blind vision,
but wish there was more of it
another glimpse of a beloved hill
a bedraggled face
a guttery accent.
Maybe these are the hunger years.
Somehow, without reason or sense
with a sense of shame even,
I begin to get used to it.
And that's the worst of it all.
Getting used to it.
To being here, being away, cut off.
Gradually losing something, without hardly noticing,
liking a tan, so laboriously worn.
These are the hunger years.
Learning to do without
or with cheap substitutes.
Living by proxy. For weeks, returning home in the evening
and playing the same songs on the tape
trying to recapture the kick,
looking for the fix
and all the time feeling like cold turkey.
If you were here,
the proverbial you,
Green and rain
lots of water
blending summer into winter
turning all into rot, into growth
that is never scorched
never dries up,
death by suffocation, by too much of the same thing
neither right nor wrong
simply the same
the kind of evenness, constancy, exactitude
that can only be called grey.