Here are some poems that I’ve had published recently. (‘I’ve had published recently’ – how cool does that sound?) Most of them were written for the online poetry group 52, which continues to be utterly brilliant – see the earlier post ‘Out of the Comfort Zone’. I hope you’ll take the time to check out the publications they appear in – there’s lots of brilliant poetry in all of them.
Before you came what we knew were olive trees,
mules scuffling through dust, sweet smoke
of cooking and tobacco, old men polishing
memories generations long. The church bell clanged
the regularity of our life; the language of our land
had not been wrested from us.
You were the refugees, returning to the home
you mourned each year with brine and bitter herbs,
digging through stones, watering your new life
as it grew into our soil. At the beginning it almost seemed
we could have lived together. Semite was not a word
you applied only to yourselves.
Our land became your right. We gagged on smoke
from burning fields, watched our olives fall
ungathered from the trees as our compliant mules
bore us away from the houses you had stolen.
Church bells hung mute; the old men’s stories
were uprooted from the land. The language we heard
was like ours but not ours.
Now you have caged us in like animals, denying us
even the right to anger. Only you claim persecution,
the gaping crater of wrongs too terrible to imagine
always in your vision, blinding you to the sight
of your own cruelties. All that you’ve taken from us
you wear for your own adornment, thinking we can’t see
the stains of blood and ashes.
Published in The Stare’s Nest, www.thestaresnest.com
I think of you always dressed in black
your darkened hair at odds
with your pale blue eyes.
Now I don’t know what your colours are
only that once I saw you
wearing a red scarf
looking more real than the winter
that misted around you,
not looking at me.
Published in Nutshells and Nuggets, www.nutshellsandnuggets.tumblr.com
I remember how my daughter learnt to sew; the way the seams
got twisted out of true or a bias-cut inset wouldn’t lie at ease;
how she’d bring home a goldfinch captured in a cage, keep it there
beating against its house arrest until I let it free.
Nature is all my work. When I found out the earth is made
to travel round the sun, I had to say it. That was my nature.
The truth I knew hung straight in my body as a plumb-line.
It did not compromise the God I know, who is never a liar.
Unlike me. They made me swear their truth, a sad affair
of fusty books and hand-me-down ideas, was what was true.
Their God, small enough to fit inside their lists of calumny,
knows only what they know. No-one is outside their power.
They let me have my work. Confined here I am no more unhappy
than my daughter in her convent. My clipped wings do not reach
even to the bars of my cage. Nature has not been forbidden me,
only the one truth I have sold to them in return for nothing.
One day it will not be hidden. Their God, no longer bent out of shape,
will let us reveal all that we dare to know. For now I do what I can,
an old man whose crooked back can never straighten again.
Silenced though I have been I still repeat: eppur si muove.
Published in Snakeskin, www.snakeskinpoetry.wordpress.com
I never liked pink –
roses and marshmallow
and bows for girls’ hair.
I always liked yellow –
sun and lemons
and the number seven.
If I’d lived back then
I might have been given
a pink triangle and a yellow star.
Published in Nutshells and Nuggets, nutshellsandnuggets.tumblr.com/
That first moment
your face was the only one alive
in a room of muted people.
When we sang
your voice was a bright thread
in the muddle-coloured mass.
When you stood near
I felt your body without touch
knew you inside me like myself.
Then came the wanting
the torturous yes, no, perhaps,
the audacity of imagination
till finally I saw
imagination was all it was.
I took away your kindness
and wrapped it round the hurt.
Published in the Agenda online supplement, www.agendapoetry.co.uk
What men do
He had a beard, a fat one. I don’t remember his name,
only his Arab accent seeping through French like oil.
He talked a lot, took my hand, seemed to have charm.
He led me from lighted streets down to the river.
On the bank: heaps of rubbish, unsavoury smells,
perhaps a rat, a flat patch of grass and earth.
He held my hand; I was all right. Then came
the slippery invasion of a kiss. I pushed him back,
he heaved towards me, shoved my shoulders
till I was lying on dirty grass. What happened
then was not happening to me. It hardly hurt: a doll
doesn’t know how to feel. Quite soon he stopped.
I shouldn’t have let him do what they said all men
were waiting to do. All women should have ways
of stopping them. Smeared with mud and shame
I put the fragments of my body back together,
smelt night, rank water; saw him wipe his beard,
turn away to re-imprison himself inside his fly.
Published in Prole, www.prolebooks.co.uk