Downtown’s littered with the demands
of yesterday’s demonstrations,
sundry fountains, coffee cups, pastry shop
wrappers and photo-stated sheets
passed by the jaundiced masks of life’s wearied worn
creased by the years of dictatorship’s heels dug deep
overseeing the overcrowded tin trams
charity hand-outs from a neutral state
fleeting from white nights to black days
dimly seen through two stroked haze.
bodies disabled by a state, contorted
and restructured in lifelong plans
a long tatooed Pierrot tiers of sad cafes
supping gritty coffee and censored thoughts.
and I’ve spent too long here
searching for the heart of the city
for sparks of colour in the flotsam and jetsam
but I dream in revenge of exotic land agents
beaches, fruit and string bikinis
pyramids and ports, the hubbub of pipe gardens
the brouhaha of bazaars where a loved one
bobs up and down in the crowds
suffused with silk road perfumes
but always waking as the ticket agent opens.
Instead I go to a gallery
exhibiting an oil church
sinking into orange sand,
a poster for Virginia Woolf
canvasses burning holes in walls
in rooms suffocating in high summer
I skirt around burning bronzes
twisting in a bombed out church
paying the fame for assassination
curious students swing around like
drunk moons in orbit
Dante dancing in kelp.
This half way borrowed no-man’s land
of an attic suite
feeling so high, so bitter
in our correspondence
between truths in
this compromise facility,
filled with rags, pets,
and uneaten takeaway foil.
Was it Indian or Italian love we made last night?
I only remember later my jealousy of your dreams
watching your eyelids flicker a future
my own sleepless self
smoked on the balcony of this diced up lighthouse
above the Medusa wrangle of addictive tracks
running like bowels during the night
held by timetable glue.
We all have our departure dates to think hard on
in our temporary tarot house
built with shards of light from
reminders of the latest fight
slamming doors and pirouetting paper
strewn round the rugs like childrens’ drawings
in a Samson blinding day planning our exits
for a day, for a life, still somehow egging
for the child who’ll decorate
your own flat’s doors and fridge
contrary or perhaps aware
of our listened to Walls and Bridges.
THE LAST THOUGHTS OF HENRY O’LEARY
Rocked to calm by the old ship’s clock in the library
Grown a little green, a little dank, with disuse.
A dusty schooner sails in a bottle on the desk,
Almanacs and Wisdens under a side-burned Victorian face,
Oil lamps, stuffed owls and an old, carved rack of pipes,
Decanters once filled with sage, distilled advice
And the thinner ticking of a wristwatch left on an armchair
Sporting horsehair – like a gigolo’s arms
By a chess-set left midgame, armies impotent in the gloom
The blacks are carved as Persian so the whites must be Greeks.
Around the theatre of curtains, heavy as rainforests;
Last drawn after a storm years before
A scattering of papers, scores scratched with ink
The last penned thoughts of Henry O’Leary, smeared with his very last drink.
“I am waiting,” wrote O’Leary “with the board soldiers, waiting
On the anaemic web of fingers and the dawn;
The green, sick sight of sun when my senses crack like kindling,
Cogs ill-fitting the gears of light: toothing rusks
Of a pendulous moon-time machine, for last night I dreamt, no dream
Last night I slept and woke. Ah, last night torn to shreds by the captain
Keel hauled through the exacting dark
Clawed back with ribboned hands, around
And around, cut stitched and cut, but
Day breeds an absence of a pregnant night
That disappears into a place it’s never been
With the rattle of bugs and fans of moths, night pilots
In drunken love with the come hither globes
Flick through a memory of something missing now, and there’s
Nothing so pressing as nothing; a migraine glimpse and it’s away
Night shift over, leaves just the ghost of a scent for day.
“Look for clues,” says the detective in the ghost of a dream,
“Look round the room,” he mutters, tapping his pipe, breathless,
“Look for clues to the struggle; something stained,
Fingerprints on a glass. Listen for the echo of the night.”
Lying back he remembers the ship’s cabin rocking
Enough to swing a rusting lamp over the captain.
“The same one that drowned you over the years,”
Ponders the mouth pulling on the churchwarden –
The mate who’s worked every ship on the sea
Led sailors to sirens or planks with a pull rank smirk and smile
Sent to the lockers the great untapped,
Watched riptides send their last globes of breath
Where they dome, gleam, surface and burst
As they head to where no man hears his own verse.
The captain and first mate travelled the seas for the breath of the victims they’d drowned
Peer down into the deep from the slug of a hull – a fresh black clot in the sea.
Steering a path between the two darks, the dead and powerless worlds
That harbour between the first and last rites,
Search for the judas shine in the sea-rock swallowed slipping channel,
The spume and froth of another wrecked passage.
And they trawl up the catch, shaking bodies in nets
Notes of a wayward symphony, dissonant chords in their cleft
From the bed of genius lamps, lying with spirits
Of galleons, corsairs, frigates and smacks
The conspiracy of bracketing rocks, plotting sisters astride
The guiding lamps in the hidden plots needing dark as sound needs air
The stolen spark that everywhere tips its hat at the eternal light
Highlights the hackled giant seeking noon in his unhappy night.
The bells outside O’Leary’s toll six in the village square
And a flock of black laced women step onto
The cold grey flagstones of Our Lady Under the Water
Muttering over beads for the loss of their husbands and sons
Their Mariners and Fishermen, Icareans and corsairs
Ingenues or worldly wise, armed to the wings or heels
Racing to the dog-star, kiting in high precept’s face
Listening to the fading sweep of wings, falling
Feathered swipes into the deep where,
Here – racked between the two lights we call dark
The trawlers hunt to snuff the spark that altarboys count out
Padding, guiding passions from bushel bodies, poker hard
In the chapel where boats burn in memory of the crews that ran aground.
Burning iotas of candles neck in the heat for bodies that may never be found.
In the screamed in, faithless moments when shipwrecks
Send curls of smoke that sting the eyes, send tickling fingers to the throat
The memory of a mission fades, grows flat in pictures
A dreadnought’s oil smells of paint, not sea or iron
We prowl deserted streets with lanterns for our manic transports
Dull inmates submitting to the walled in hex
The city and the prison knocked up by the twins
With vigilant guards and their dig in claws and kisses
Till the asylum falls in the lantern’s spread
The light pool of freedom seeps from a shattered head.
Ah! The delirious bullying game, parties turned to tears
A world marshalled by the brute sticks and stones,
The class patsy tied to a tree, the first knife stabs the despised.
Sticks and stones will break his bones and needles stick in his eyes.
And the sailor squints at the totems and taboos through his one good Judas eye
In the condemning cell where he divides his leaking truth
And sorts the coloured rags of childhood and the dressings he wears now.
And in the gangrene of his spirit, watching the sick light of day
Retch in through the portholes in the steady pitch and yaw
He sips from the eye filled glass, reflecting on the bend
Watching the time lapse film of his dance and shivering end.
And the detective broods over his mosaic of clues, tapping his pipe:
Thinking in time with the swing of the lamp
With a flapjack mind flipping thought after thought
Resolving all into an endgame as bishops and knights
Coral at synapses, discuss regicide and compromising queens
Arbiter in the civil war of images bred in the sweat of a night
Switched into a heresy by the uniform scales of day.
This is our practice room for a concert that will or may never be played
Pretenders to the baton beating out a count and in the rock and sway of the boat,
Where the swinging hearts of the pendulum clocks, and the semaphore hands in the watch,
Wave at coils that grind and quake with betrayal of sentries marking time,
And the sailor’s pulse quickens, stops, is no more. And that was his great untapped.
Drowned over the years in the domed sea sucked by the clot of his boat
Railing in the drink that drowned a whole world out.
In the wake the detective draws back the drapes to infinities
And daylight drops in on the captain’s stiff corpse
Nods sagely at the sailor killed by the frame that’s tailored far too well
And diving too deep last night he burst
Not controlling the eternal in his cups but, mindful of his moves
He dived too deep for the genius lamps that dot the bed with the wrecks
Near the cave where the mad conductor beats tattoos on the rocks
Racks up a score with a flock of notes that hang like crows on barbed wire.
Around this field the cruciform Sally excuses the whole race away
It is teatime, always teatime when Gods choose to die
In gardens slowed by gin and the drone of bumbling bees
Oil slick legs, pollen headed notes carrying tunes through the air.
As the twins tease dialectics from the totem-tabooing cross
Wracking the father’s brick of a heart in a day still hungover with loss.
And with the twins about their task in the garden,
We sink to kill our lights and foil the glass ship by denial, not stealth
Then wonder why the night fishermen hunt in their whalers
Barbing eyes and hearts and with crooked fingers
Reel us keenly to the boat bobbing madly in the drink
Tearing the body like bait over shells in the snark hunt for the whole.
Haul up the chaotic scores in steel meshed nets
Cutting into flesh and the clusters of notes rallying into a theme
Calloused hands knocking out a beat as the crew
Sort through the catch, knock into frame, play to an end
Busily into form and birth – and the night springs a link or a leak
Tossing out tunes from the jelly blessed by dark and clues
As pale light pours in through the crack in the drapes
And things resume their other selves in other shapes.
The aphasic morning, dull as in a new country – excluded by dress, skin and speech
Deafening light knocks sense and teamed laser surgeons, midwives to the day
Cut up what had been whole, hooligans unthreading the net into the drink,
Pouring a symphony down the drain with swift, clean cuts at the staves
Clogging the plug hole with black-eyed beans of notes
The bracketing darks are dismissed with the sun
And our own dark is dressed up in a shift
But still ticks the caged eye of the clock
A recollection of a threatening hull
A lantern burning in the deep.
Here the pen snakes off
Body of red wine,
Small ink head
I HATE YOU, DON’T LEAVE ME…
…cos I’m borderline
and some times you ring me at the wrong time.
Live and love with me
get your own place but not too close to here.
I’m foreign I need to know
come to bed with me
like my ex who managed it every night
why can’t you be as loving as him?
He went to the gym
caress me eat me like you used to
‘Please please me oh yeah like I please you’
I’ve got a migraine. Why can’t you feel the pain?
The rain falls against the window
you promised to mend
like an end to my own flawed cunt can’t
send me complete away from you.
I’m tired of you and your games
come play with me again
I’ll be your goddess Godiva
strip myself down before you
but hold your horses
I’m not ready for that in this flat
I call a bogus home
‘Love me two times I’m going away’
from your plastic ideals
go with that bitch you ogled the another night
that prolongs my fight
night after night with you accomplice
give me what I want and need
beyond the taste of your salty seed
I’m all at sea
fuck me sweet but hard.
Don’t leave me with this barbed wire strife
strafing guns even when I go over the top
be bop jazz me don’t let me alone
why do you stay silent while I grieve
believe me it’s a bee hive inside my art
that isn’t pullulating with my core
I want to be free of you angelheart
but touch me three times before I go
before you go with that lazy tale
away to a bitch that takes your shit
cos I’m no more going to be your bit
on the sidewalk of your dreaming desire
to be something higher than my stupid soul on fire
take your books and gifts you gave
whenever you decided to misbehave
or gave me in charity moments
to secure my praise.
I hate you but just don’t leave me alone
because without you by me
I’m cold as marble though tough as a rock
I don’t need the shock of your goodbye
and I’ll hunt you down however far you
I’ll bang on your door after
you’ve followed me to the station
just to be sure I’ve gone
when you know I’ll be just a little smile the next day
and we’ll make love like in the early days –
your Jewish looks your pretty curls
I’ll be again your little girl
I’ll come with you in unison
have you ever thought what might become
in a year or many
with a child snug inside my belly
so I have a replica of you.
I hate you, don’t leave me and forget your black dogs
I flush them down toilets with my menstrual blood
if you don’t believe me just listen to what I say
I ain’t never ever going to go away
go have a drink I see your empty glass
a small reminder of our past
I translate names for you my exiled lonely boy
cos I know you think of me as a boy or toy
but how many times have I told you
I’m the only real woman you will ever meet
all the others may seem sweet but you’ll fuck them
wearing my face as a mask. If only we could make it last
now go back to your books and think of romantic loves
never the blocked kitchen sink
I may not be whole but here I am
ready to stand beside my man I think.
I love you but stay away from this temptress
so far away with a litany of failed affairs
I wouldn’t mind if you didn’t care
perhaps as you say I’m cracked inside
but that’s something I never tried to hide
my outbursts and throwing statues at you
were nothing but my imagined infidelities
so let me in ‘cause I forgot my keys
I will bang all night till you give relief
I am what I am and those are double.
Don’t hate me for loving you,
you’re one of a kind
blinker my eyes or leave me blind.
I hate you don’t leave me
but don’t let me be
I’m one of our couple
so constant in trouble
I’m a model, don’t you see that?
and soon I’ll grow old
just don’t leave me out in the cold.
I hate you don’t leave me
I’ll take therapy
there’s still a chant within me
I’ll rain inside until you’re hard
and then I’ll leave
make you pleasure yourself
till you believe
I’m the only one
and when that happens
pleasure and hell have something shared
and your spit and semen
well fuck me until it happens
leave love on our dirty laundry
but I’ll get you in the end
so fend off your desire, for now.
There are people some friends some not
who see our stupid Gordian knot
so do your Alexander thing
and cut me through without a blink
I don’t think that you’ll cut me through
that easy though
as I’ve grown up with more knots inside
I have you like a twin brother
not so hard to reconcile.
I’ve watched you in mirrors and naked
we are les enfants terrribles
it can never work
without a smirk on both our faces
I want a divorce and you inside me
penning your bloody signature with my own
I know I don’t own you
and sure as hell you don’t me
just come over for one more unprotected swing
I love you don’t hate me for saying these things.
Philip O’Neil, born in the UK worked as a journalist and editor for a number of newspapers and magazines for 20 years. He has worked in the UK, Belgium, Czech Republic, The Balkans and the US and also has had his photographs published in over a dozen publications. Meanwhile he published two collections of poetry ‘Riera’ and French polishing (Alexander Press) He currently lives in Prague writing a follow up to his novel “Mental Shrapnel’.