There are no maps for poets in this country.
The compass finger, mindless on its post
will not direct us on this dangerous journey.
An unfamiliar landscape tells us we are lost.
Above the bramble and the rambling wood
the technicoloured dragons wheel for bones
of luckless travellers who have misconstrued
the alien symbols on the milestones.
We have nowhere to go but where we are,
our options closed, the exit double locked.
We may not take direction from a star.
The stars are out and all the roads are blocked.
How can we dare this nightmare territory?
the shifting contours of the hills and coasts.
the gibberish signposts and the season's enmity.
What hand our touchstone in this land of ghosts?
The Shadow Knows
(im Adrian Mitchell)
You didn’t bat an eyelid
when I told you my son had fought in Iraq.
It took some courage to tell you -
knowing where you stood and why you had come.
You smiled, being you, and said nothing -
no judgement or rebuke.
I tried to unpick the conundrum
of the gung-ho soldier with a pacifist mum,
how nothing I felt or believed in fitted,
as if the gun had been in my hands,
or placed in his by something I had omitted
to do, or say, or understand
and in the face of it all,
I could do nothing but love.
Now your Shadow grows huge and kind
down my long table
telling me ‘yes’
that is enough.
Chrys Salt © 2019
What can a poem do at times like these?
Does it say, look at you, this is what you are
you did this you bastard
this is your rotten cock-up your responsibility
Take a look at this guys, look at these
big-eyed children with their pumpkin bellies
that haven’t seen a square meal since god knows when
dig deep into that fat purse of empathy,
I’m gonna make you feeeel
does it say what’s the point I have no rhyme
or reason the daffodils are here
I’m for the spring
make us see the world in a grain of sand
poetry has a fine focus friends, it’s your tea-leaves
in the cup, not the destiny of the whole
fucking universe so keep it real
is it for standing still and doing nothing to
for shouting out loud at the obscenity,
the obscenity of certain well…obscenities
for jumping into someone else’s skin
and running off with it
for laughing at us behind our backs
with snide chimes taking the piss
out of the human condition from which the poet
is miraculously exempt.
simply for making cut-outs in the sky
to peer at gods through so
this smell of food rotting in a broken freezer
this timpani of empty buckets and the brains of
this mechanic on the wall above the petrol cans
and this father scraping sand off the face of his
buried son in the hospital garden and the filthy
hypodermics and the wards awash with blood
and diarrhoea and the black wafers of ancient scrolls
scuttering across the market selling a few last shrivelled figs
is a distraction from counting the stars or lifting the gold hair
trapped on your lovers lip ?
Turn it on its head no money will come out of it
put it in a drawer and it will lie silent forever
speak it aloud and it will fly from the mouth like bee swarms
or keep coming back to you
like an annoying tune in the bath or on the bus
planting its echoing mantras for good or for ill or for dancing
or for making love to deep deep in the skull
and sometimes it will dance on the tongue of the universe
to be sung over and over again and again and again
world without end, world without end.
Chrys Salt © 2019