Tree

The sky won’t come to you,
Running upwards, extended at the speed of sap
Webby against the shell blue curve,
A life in vertical danced on by birds
Held by squirrels and the foxes’ shelter.
You breathe in slowest motion,
My bones will be your nourishment.
Eat.

 

Crow.

The crows are sitting on the roof, black scraps of torn silk meshed
In the filigree of the tree’s shadow - their eyes are pinpoints of glitter:
The crows move in a ratchet minuet click-clack, their claws on slate,
A tiny scratching magnified by the dozen, crows come in a murder,
Judgement Day in a flap of frayed wing and liverish tongue.

You’re not listening to me, are you?
Don’t say you are because you started to a second ago.
Don’t say you are, because the sound of my voice is as
Worn out as the crow’s pin feathers, old crow, bad crow,
You aren’t listening.

My mother pressed linen on a Sunday with the radio on,
Hot iron on the sheets making the incense of home
Steam layering perm curls on her flushed forehead
My father loved her to the point of unearthly obsession
His face an icon of adoration.

They didn’t listen to me either,
I thrashed like a fly trapped in a jam-jar, hot and scared,
But all he saw was her famous blue eyes and the vacancy of
Her embracing insecurity bound by her beauty into
A ju-ju powerful as pride.

The crows are observing me as I work in the garden,
Just like my father did, nails edged in dirt, rose-thorn scratches,
The smell of my self warm as baking bread and sandalwood;
The crows skitter sideways, they know the storm is coming,
Heavy air presses their narrow little skulls, lightening forking.

Heavy air and the crows’ black fever,
The storm is coming but you aren’t listening.

 

 

Lazarus

Come into the light Lazarus old man, let's get a look at you,
See now, you spend too long in the webby dark, mumbling,
Whitened eyes don't like the sharp of sudden sunlight,
I can hear your beads clicking round and round like pinballs,
Spiralling torn prayers into the vaulted dark of heaven
While demons pick at you, twitchy and broken nailed.

What did God say to you Lazarus, on that short trip?
Was he everything you wanted Him to be, all you expected?
Did He speak? If He did, could you understand Him?
Or was it unbearable booming in the gilded tongue of Angels,
Vibrating in your battered ears in tidal waves of power,
While Cherubims tittered and giddified the deceased
With their endless pink skittery dashing and adoring.
What was it like, to be dead, to be no longer with us?

What was it like, Lazarus, that natural end, that grace?
To be free of this meaty carcase bubbling with gas
And stitched through with the red thread of pain?
Did you fly, Lazarus, was it the bright light and Granny
Holding out her soft old hand to you as you rose out of life
Into the savage bliss of otherness and the balm of freedom?
Jesus, stop crying, oh, stop crying Lazarus, you'll go back,
In time, at some point, when your flesh is grass again,
It wasn't your fault, you didn't ask for it, no volunteer you,
No giggling test subject clambering on the stage for
The professional hypnotist, the Poundshop Svengali.You got the real thing, God help you, not that He did.

It was a done deal. The boy did good and crowds loved it.
And wasn't it what you wanted, what anyone would want?
Don't we all want more life, more of all of this forever and ever?
Amen to that, eh, Lazarus the Amazing Undead Dude.

Well, whatever. That's showbiz,  after all.
Go back then Lazarus, into the mouldy dark and pray
For an unresurrection, an undoing, another death
And this time, I hope it works.

 

 

She Waits

She turns and turns, always to the left;
Turning widdershins against the wall
her head first, tilting, leading the blank pits
of her empty eyes, dark spots in the jelly
of her translucent face - tadpole eyes,
foetus eyes budded inwards, bulging
backwards, she turns and turns above 
the bed in a slow vortex of glassy blue,
sky blue, the blue of the Virgin's cloak 
shot through with the whitish striations of 
her bones -  ivory tracers in the ceaseless 
whirlpool of her endless silent movement. 

That she is dead is no surprise - we all die.
We leave on a journey of a thousand days
Dwindling into the universe, expanding 
Into stardust and the last blissful embrace;
It's those behind us on the road that suffer
And tether us to them with cords of weeping,
With the agony of loss, the songs of blood,
So turning, turning always to the left, she 
waits to go, scattering shards of luminosity
that no one human can see and no one human
Would believe, the coruscating moonlight,
The refractions of her bound spirit glittering.

Mama, her silent mouth pleads, mama,
Let me go, let me go, let me go.
And turning, turning always to the left
She moves in the bonds of love
Waiting to be free.

 

 

Fable

Once upon a time in a far distant land there lived a king. He was called the
Crow King and his lands extended far and wide. He was a noble king, fair and
just, but threaded through and through with a melancholy that never left him.
He sought a wife to end his loneliness but none satisfied his ideal. Finally, as
old age stared at the Crow King and his black locks were silvered with time's
frosty touch, he prayed in the Forbidden Chamber to the Dark Gods who
sadly for him, listened in their empty halls and laughed, a sound like ribcages
breaking.

In their cauldrons made of blood metal the Gods cooked and cooked. They
took the Crow King's oldest memories - his long lost Mama and his child's
broken heart, his years away as the foster son of another king where he'd
been beaten and hurt by loneliness and shame and they sprinkled the roiling
mess with nameless herbs and the dried souls of a thousand broken-hearted
dead. And they waited.

As the darkness split bloody into dawn a woman rose out of the filth. She
wasn't a beauty. She wasn't young. Her dark hair was matte and thick with
shadows and her heart beat emptily because her veins ran cold. But she was
everything the Crow King had wished for. She was his lost Mama and the pain
of love. She was shame and pleasure, bondage and dissolution. Her name
was Oblivion. And the Gods sent her to the Crow King who fell to his knees
and worshipped her, kissing her dirty feet.

Time passed and the Crow King's Kingdom fell into ruin. There was nothing in
the Crow King left except his Queen and he hadn't enough hours in the day to
love her and rule his lands too. Everything fell apart. The people fled to save
themselves from famine and disease. The courtiers left for other courts where
lights burned to chase away the gloom and laughter sounded happy.
Eventually there was no one in the Crow King's hall except himself and his
Dark Queen.

Seated on their great thrones the Crow King and Queen ruled over their
empty castle and their empty lands. The castle crumbled and the courtyard
filled with dead trees and withered roses. A sere wind blew constantly and in
time, the Crow King died. No one buried him, he stayed a corpse on his iron
throne forever alone. No one but the Gods knew what happened to the Queen
and they laughed, clatter clatter, as they held that secret to themselves.

So be careful what you wish for. The Gods might be listening.

 

If

 

If I'd had a daughter I would have
Named her Lily for sweetness and
Strength for the tall bolt-straight child
Like a column wound in sunlight

I would have taught her myself so
She read and tangled in the skeins
Of words spun by poets and dreamers
Spangled with brightness and the sea

I would have trained her myself as
A warrior armoured her in grace and
Shown her the duties of a fighter
The humility of contest and survival

I would have told her every day as
She woke that she was beautiful and
That she was the best beloved daughter
The shining apple, the bright dancer

If I'd had a daughter which I have not
And now never could she would have
Gone into the world with every gift
I could magic from the dark and light

She is my ghost child my only regret
She was my never-let- to-be my lost one
My Lily flower blooming in the night
When no amount of tears will make her real.

 

Sky

Your bellycurve in the great Above
Bends willow-wise
Cloaking, blue, embroidered with
The darts of hope glittering.

We lie in you, die under you,
Breathe you in, drink your tears;

Dying I dissolve into you

Embracing.

 

Angel: Part 2

The angel, having left the city moving in a fold of time
Through the iron blast of air that hurtles blue-black as a bruise
Descends and sockets itself in the seething desert sands,
Folds itself inwards spiralling tight like a dusty ammonite
Wings trussing it into a weathered nub in the emptiness.

It has done its work and now it rests, but it doesn't sleep,
It isn't human, it's not divine, it is a messenger of the
Vast unknown and it dreams its alien dreams laced
With the bloody amniotic scrabble of unborn souls
Twisting in the sac of heaven, tethered by cords of fate.

Without messages the angel is inert and ticks, ticks in
The indigo night calibrating and repairing itself
In case it should be required again in this life or
In the myriad uncounted lives of fragile humanity,
Appearing phenomenally, and unbelieved, to the faithless.

If it thought in any way we could understand at all
It would ponder on the gabbling hysterics of the
Species it was designed to serve, the red handed savagery,
The vain popinjay trumpeting of the facile and the ignorant
Who it's send to save from their mad illogic destructions.

But it sleeps, it sleeps now embedded in the vast unknowable
Deeps of a universe that hides its patterns in chaos,
And the sands blow round it duning it into invisibility;
And in the city, on the phones and the tablets, are written
The commandment no one will even think of obeying.

 

Aleppo

We wake, stretching with the light spring sun yellow-fretted
Through the ruffling curtains, abstract shadows dancing peacefully;
Everything is so ordered here in the lucky, pretty, golden West.
On the way to work we drop a few grubby conscience coins in 
The droning junkie's paper cup, then buy a coffee ourselves
From the carefully designer cafe where we're served by a smiling girl
Whose face is an open page written on only by mascara:
The coffee is rich and bitter, summited with clouds of manna white cream
And laced with sugar dense caramel that coats our straight teeth,
And we shake out our liberties as we do our nicely styled hair.

She wakes in the East with start, gasping in the cement dust fog,
Hidden in her broken nest amongst collapsing buildings once as familiar 
As her mother's bread, now a maze of hazy dark grey pitfalls
That offer the promise of unimaginable agony and the copper stink
Of old dark blood that spatters the walls calligraphically shouting
Silently the true price of slogans devised by men gone mad
With power and the awful unresisted passion of violence:
She runs her rough little hands up her thin, dirt-tattooed arms to see
If she's still alive and feels the battalions of lice crawling on her
Scalp under her last remaining scarf and she yawns reflexively.

Chafing and whining at work in the air conditioned building
We complain about the annoying tedium of our lives,
Counting our money by the hour, thinking ourselves very poor,
Lunch bought from the nearby shop crammed with imported food,
A world's choice, bursting harvest, the fruit mechanically perfect:
Later we slump on our fat embracing sofas complaining of fatigue,
Eating again in front of the huge opalescent screen that suckles us daily
And we sleep in our beds, swathed in clean, washed sheets, and 
Dream of holidays on long white beaches perfect in the glittering sea 
And we snore like contented animals in a perfect model byre.

The guns' incessant ratchet batters at her ruined ringing ears while
She runs barefoot through the crushed houses to beg for water 
And a food parcel sent from places she cannot even imagine exist;
She runs to join a filthy tidal crowd of other women and girls just like her
Who wait in their bright ruined dresses trying not to cry like children
From hunger, fear and the certain knowledge they're forgotten
And powerless in this place of hysterical cruelty and endless war;
She runs, fleet and light with terror, through the harrowed
Canyons of her city while tracer fire embroiders the black dusty air,
And she dies, shot in the head by a bullet not meant for her at all.

 

Winter Triolgy

Dark trees ink blotted on
the wet grey sky,
knuckles cold as iron
blueing in a crow wind,
one light lit makes your heart an ember,
Family.

The crack crude glare
of Christmas electric angels,
he is the devil they all
blind themselves to,
nodding in the doorway
dog twitching, numb.

The city is a stone maze
secrets in the alley labyrinth, the crowd in the bar blister the holy night

tonight he sleeps in a stairwell,
monkey back.

 

 

Narcotika

I watch the whores walk up and down, hobbled by necessity to a rat run
Their rubbery reddened faces clotted with make up, narcotised, absent,
Their glaborous, graceless bodies tottering greenish like primrose stems,
The god inside them buried in rotten nacre far, far away down in the dark,
A pearl with no price, an absentee landlord, the prince of nothing at all.
But I'm not supposed to talk about this,
I'm not supposed to notice.

The men dawdle in their cars looking through vaporous glass at the
Wavering parade perfumed with body spray and exhaust fumes and
Their brains spasm with an itch like a fishhook tugging at a sponge sodden with
Dirty water, and all the things they searched for in the unreal world onscreen
Float bloated and pallid in their minds, pasted on the whores walking outside.

But I'm not supposed to talk about this,
I'm not supposed to notice.

The whores' colours are the batik stains of washed out headache mornings,
Tints of bleach and lidocaine, the red pain and fraught irritating rub of unwanted sex,
The saffron bubble of fever that simmers wet as fear, the black lesions on their
Hopeless, trustless, fibrous spirits and their bruised little feet canted in stilettos;
The women see the men watching from the cars, and the men see a hole.

I'm not supposed to notice.

And the men are, of course, husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, greedy and
Simple, monstrous in their blank normality as they cruise the tender twilight
While the whores push out their aching, trussed breasts and staple smiles on putty
Mouths and the men in this town, hearing all the stories of cocaine pound-a-minute
Brothels and superior girls from Manchester feel vaguely cheated and get angry.
But I'm not supposed to talk about this,
I'm not supposed to notice.

You know, they say I don't write poetry, no, that I'm not a poet and the things I write
Are ugly and untrue, I am unsuitable, I am in some way twisted out of kilter because
Poetry is not the illuminous crow-black night flowers, the smell of Listerine and semen
Washed breath and the whores' god in a ruined girl, the sacrifice, the paschal lamb
Going unknowing to the knife while the stars manifest in the indigo summer sky.

But I'm not supposed to talk about this,
I'm not supposed to notice.

But we're not supposed to talk about this,
We're not supposed to notice,

The whores and the men, god and the night.

 

Joolz is now a Patron of the charity IDAS - a practical, grassroots organisation helping anyone who is a victim of sexual violence in the North of England. www.idas.org.uk

Copyright © 2018 Joolz Denby. All Rights Reserved.

get in touch by email: