That thing I’d been meaning to say just now
before you suspended hostilities with a cynical frown,
got up and neatly knotted your hair,
collected your bags with a hurried air,
sighed and hoisted the strap of your vest,
paid half the bill and pointed out a stain on my breast,
called off your troops, their armour pristine,
and slipped past me like an ice-cold breeze,
leaving me there distraught, a hamlet turned to dust,
you sighed again and gave me a look of disgust,
raised an eyebrow, tutted and walked away,
it wasn’t ‘I love you.’ I’d said that anyway.
A singing head will float down the Hebrus,
fat eels will come slithering out of its ears,
they say if you won’t feel, you will have to hear,
I heard what it was singing, of women’s hands
that shimmer like visions of gentle torture and
tear the skin and clothes from a pallid corpse
like groupies plucking madness from the stars.
It’s a simple enough song of shattered words,
always that same triplet of exploding chords,
belief and hope and love. Always those three,
spoken identically. If you put out to tender
your own existence, you invent another being.
And all those who exist, seek a cure for existing.
So you create a lover to mirror your conceit,
you make sure she resembles it. You pay
respect to the terrestrial world, and you pray
because it’s prayer that counts. And they call this
happiness. A projection of your deficiencies
onto somebody else, who remains somebody else.
The animals have been listening with bated breath.
The raucous birds are still glued to the screen.
The monkey has his nose pressed to the glass.
None of the lions yawns. The giraffe stoops to
watch the stones swirl around the circus tent.
I tap the mike, ‘Do you folks have a moment?’
I clear my throat. ‘There’s a song that goes like this:
he who loses his heart loses the freedom that was his.
I’m grateful to the minstrel for teaching me that.
I am still myself even when I am not.’
Not a wing begins to flap. No claws are on show.
When the animals hush, there’s something afloat,
the scent of blond prey descends like dusk,
my antlers itch and the air fills with musk.
If you’re looking for me look under the mistletoe where
I’ll be counting all the blond wrists I’ve broken there
until mad green nightmares come over me
of bloodhounds growling behind white trees.
Because what I wanted to say with real hope –
before you beat the ash from my dirty coat,
shook your head and called me oh so romantic,
located your bike keys in your bag after all,
a bag pre-packed with accusations, with a smile,
with rotting fish, justifications and the facts, when
you looked at me again with that withering look,
rose onto ten pink-painted toes and took off –
was ‘sorry’. I fell short of your image of me.
You don’t want me. You want someone more like me.
The rivers thunder. You invented me all wrong.
Salmon leap upstream towards blinding suns,
they cast themselves into the nets of lazy fishermen
with rolling tobacco faces and crepe-paper skin,
the kind of men who kick their daughters, and
will soon set out to sea through dark green mists
where a strangely singing head will be fished.