An Alien Spaceship, Landed.
In memory of John and Jaki
It draws the warm night in
Like a faultless musical phrase
A walking moment
Scent of hay
Silent crowd blocking the road
A globe of light
A village bar in the south of France.
You said on the phone:
Bring your horn”…..
And it draws the warm sounds in
Like an alien spaceship, landed,
A walking moment
A golden voice, closer, singing,
A brilliant interior, white light,
The spellbound earthlings crowding up….
And she’s the Oracle of Soul, no less,
Singing for all uncorrupted dreamers
Sitting on a low stool
Hunched over the mic
Hair covering her face
And she’s soaring….
Like a moth to the flame, I,
Over the heads of the crowd?
Levitated to the stage?
The sax on my shoulder
The ship’s drive notching up
My hands on the controls now
And you’re beaming at me, John,
Behind that synth-command-console,
Shining out of the light,
Like we’re sharing some ineffable secret
As I turn towards the mic
And the ship lifts off…..
“That was perfect!”
Twenty five years ago
On the solstice,
And you knew because you made it so.
And now you’re both gone;
Only the memory of a love beamed down,
Maybe a mysterious scorching of the grass?
Overhead…. the welcoming stars.
The Lacadaemonians at Delphi
Here at Delphi we saw just another Archon,
Sprightly, leaning on a staff,
Accompanied by the usual guard,
(Chosen, of course, for their beauty as much as anything)
Carrying finely-worked bronze spears
And silent, watchful,
Lacadaemonians from the south,
An intractable race, it was said,
Bearing an impeccable gold statue of Apollo for the sanctuary
And another senseless question to the Pythia,
Concerning dominion and honour…….
She sent them on some fool’s errand,
Something about laying ancient bones to rest,
A hint, to be sure,
Echoing the unsleeping horror of Atreus’ matricide,
A crime that has been laid at our door,
As they always are,
Pinned on us from time out of mind,
Who simply teach asking the right questions…..
Well, set that aside,
We heard they rummaged the length and breadth of the Peloponnese
Having the excuse, you see,
But spies more like,
Those modest Lacadaemonians,
Until, as always,
Back they came with more expensive gifts,
Bronze tripods, cauldrons,
Looted from who knows where,
Cluttering up the place,
Seeking more information
To furnish their simple, upright minds.
This time she surpassed herself
Our noble kinswoman
Uttering faultless dactyls worthy of Homer herself
Describing a modern forge
‘Where two winds roar
And blow is met by counter blow
Grief piled on grief’…..
Evoking the never-ending calamity of war.
Eventually one of them thought he saw through it
Standing one day in an iron-worker’s smithy
In a town in Arcadia
Marvelling at the size of the bellows
At the intensity of the heat
At the properties of the strange new metal:
Do not the lords of men always wonder
At the artisan’s skill?
Of course he asked for bones,
And lo! bones had been found nearby:
Where is the earth not filled
With the bones of the victims of war?
So they carted them all back to Sparta
After doing a deal with the smith,
Without a second thought for the forge.
They missed the point entirely, you see,
And, to be sure, they did very well for themselves for a while,
Even here against us (although they respected the Oracle).
Yes, the ascendancy of the Lacadaemonians
Can be traced to the moment they seized those bones;
Without a doubt, they missed the point entirely.”
I walked up the dry river bed at Mycenae
Like a criminal, out of sight of the road,
Through a landscape the colour of a lion’s pelt;
Drowsed in the shade of a rock,
Drank brackish water from an army water-bottle
Dreaming lion paws in the dust……
Inarkhos, river of dust,
Dried up by Poseidon’s hatred of Argos,
Swallowed by the sea.
Even then…..on the outside,
Waiting like a fox for the visitors to leave
For the attendants to shut the great beehive
Tomb of Agamemnon and leave;
Waiting for the silence.
The cistern in the citadel was dry
The flight of steps into darkness
That terrified Henry Miller
Ends in organic rock
As if the wound had healed over.
O black night, you who nurse the golden stars!
Dog-like I lay in the dust
Of the house of Atreus,
The night occluded,
The roaring of the stones silenced,
No snake whispering in the dead grass,
Dead water to drink
And the red glow of a cigarette
Seferis and Kerouac
Signed up for their bourgeois regrets,
In the visitors’ book
Of Hotel Belle Helene de Menelas
The furies whistling.
I brought no furies with me.
The stones were dumb mouths,
The stars turned away their faces.
The dust slept as well as I.
Nostalgia for the Present
A dark, momentary summer
Ten or fifteen years ago,
Listening to the piano music of Ravel
In the garden
In days of sudden heat….
Miroirs, a reverie,
Awakening a drowsy nostalgia
For the eternal hour
While the bees stumbled in the lavender
The blackbird’s song
Dreamed time away
The swifts tilted about the sky;
A nostalgia for Summer
As if that present moment
Were somehow also
Deep in the past…..
And now, so soon,
It’s a long time ago,