Never written a poem for yourself
have you, you daft old bugger? Well
Dignified or messy deaths
come closer every time. Lament for the makars?
The living ones are being archived now
and the thought is chilling. Who reads us
anyway? A small scattered band of aficionados?
Callow students? Readers for the Scottish
Certificate of Education Examination Board?
Well-heeled professors of literature?
Burns would have laughed his head off.
It did come off when they disinterred him
for a more elegant burial.
Newspapers and TV are full
of former acquaintances and new names
presenting a melange somewhat similar
to that I touted too sincerely at their ages.
Each day the news is less new, more predictable,
just a habit.
And yet, and yet…
a spirited child, a calm intelligent friend,
uproarious and surrealistic situations, fools,
shysters, hustlers, the gamey lights of the demi-monde,
iridescent butterflies shimmering above the machair,
the panache with which our children live their lives,
a song, a poem, a breaking of the heart –
life-force or what have you, I’m in love with you.
And an arsenal of nuclear hardware
stashed half-a-mile away.
Children keep being born and growing up
and leaving. Life in its wild Heraclitan flux
moves faster, cash-in-hand for spending.
Booze, tobacco, entertainment, sex
and sometimes even eating lose their frisson,
become nearly inconveniences. Is this my climacteric?
More wakefulness. More solitude. More laughter.
More tolerance. Fewer extremes.
Less physical strength. Less time.
I monitor my changes like a hawk.
Family crises blow up in mushroom clouds
of ferocity and passion – and now I hesitate
before steaming in to shed my little light
on grief, and fear’s catharsis.
It often seems that I have known and experienced
too much – houses, cars, careers, countries,
battles, lovers, the tidal waves of marriages
and divorces, journeys through the night,
separations, hatreds, many self-deceptions,
a million bars and conversations, ideas,
political nonsenses, theories about this and that,
thousands of books and projects, religions,
philosophies, mysticisms, hallucinations, sleep,
dreams and tears and that hypnagogic state
where creativity stirs; breakdowns, self-witnessing
and the stopped mind; gradual changes
and sudden self-developments; complete
about-turns in other people’s lives and in my own;
the absolute exigencies of sheer
survival – and yet I know nothing at all
– who does?
The build-up of existential paradoxes
and mysterious synchronicities accelerates
until I pay less and less attention
they are all so self-pervading.
Manure, the Buddhists call all that,
in which one plants the seeds
of an anonymous simpler life
and a new way of being.
After the storm which shook my house
a dozen swans
crying among themselves.
I am entranced!
Where yesterday the grey and white Atlantic
crashed in huge breakers along the familiar shore
today three minute violet-starred jellyfish
bob gently inside a gentle wave
– how did they stick together through that carnage?
An otter, laughing, swims on his back.
Two eagles circle in the stark blue sky.
We drag down
our little boat and cross the sea-loch
through snorting porpoises and the oily slick
which means herring below. The land recedes.
Halfway across, the wind suddenly veers and rises.
Flurries of snow come thicker.
We steer into waves much higher than the boat.
On the other shore, laughing at my own jokes,
I slip on icy seaweed, break my wrist,
and instantly am a child again.
The roads are impassable. Happy birthday!