Sunday, November 14, 2004


ghosts and shadows

the shadows of the beetroot tree

part one – walking around the space

shadows still – then shadows reach much higher
our eyes stretch to the roof - touch into air
beams cut across its guts like steel wire
they’re tight as heartstrings – full of fools’ desire

our eyes stretch to the roof - touch into air
but graven ghosts just laugh and push us back
these walls are white as iced albino fur
our eyes let run - slip down towards the slack

beams cut across its guts like steel wire
the past that’s seeped on in keeps soaking still
foundations down below with past like fire
of circuses and coffins - closed down mill

they’re tight as heartstrings – full of fools’ desire
the deeds and memories tease us with their call
though barn sits wordless like a sullen mire
the smoke of history breathes a heavy pall

but graven ghosts just laugh and push us back
they know they’re in control and feel the power
they guard the secrets well in plastered cracks
they talk of centuries that fleet like hours

these walls are white as iced albino fur
each holds a picture tight into their chests
like pony driven carts and coffin walkers
the history draws us in like darksome quest

our eyes let run - slip down towards the slack
to check what cogs are loose and what’s about
see what offers this quiet space gives back
to follow lead-lines landlines and the doubts

the past that’s seeped on in keeps soaking still
its mysteries are myths within themselves
cast shadows then and let us all fulfill
enjoyment of this space – its nooks and delves

foundations down below with past like fire
above the ground - the future’s drenched in heat
the gatherings of artists full inspire
the stairwell feels each stamping pair of feet

of circuses and coffins - closed down mill
we’ve traveled into books now out grey past
now coloured glass and beauty are such pills
we swallow this new medicine– make it last

we’ve traveled into books - now out grey past
found out about the coffin walks and boats
now think of one boy caught in this morass
and strung in dreams and held there by the throat

bright coloured glass and beauty are such pills
we rise - and how we fall depends upon
the lightness of our tread - we are heaven’s ills
voices here and there have been and gone

we swallow this new medicine– make it last
boy’s tale follows onwards – warts and all
a saga pumping darkness - fierce and fast
boy’s from present world – ghosts are history’s call

two – the awakening

from circuses and coffins - closed down mill
out come the shadows – two by two
par ump - par ump - par ump

(when bodies died - the souls smoothed out - and hid into the crevices until...)

out drip the shadows – two by two

and if you're one to capture voices from the earth
(like blacksmith tools that once made noises through this air)
you'd hear them whispering too

who stole our bodies - took our hearts?
we'll find them out and suffocate the life from them
beware the promises they make
they’re phantoms of their word

out push the shadows – fire-sparked and kicking up the truth like autumn’s tender leaves

and lying here one boy in bed has found the lamp light glow within his palms
then made it jump - moved his hands around and twisted fingers through
so called out shapes which scratched upon the roof

here's rabbit and hare - chief indian squaw - here's boat on a river
butterfly on a wing - here's this shape and that shape and birds flying hard
soon into yawning sleep he drops – the sleep feeds down into the earth
then out of cages - shadows jump like the blood-rushed rage of a howling scream

hello - says boy (all white as innocence) his lips apart but hardly tasting what he says

the horse-backed faces robed in cowls weave round like wringing scraps of cloth
they stretch their tongues into a quagmire of unwelcome sunday words)

then shadows neigh and offer up their backs
pyjama'd boy leaps up onto the darkest one
(the bed goes cold like tired jack frost – at once the timber cracks)

boy knows not what he does - he's half a-peep with watery lids
he thinks it's only sleep he deals with now
(how wrong he is – the crossing he’s about to face is landed with him strong)

then out these windows shadows jump
the many hoofing clatters hammer like dread hailstones
on a sharp tin roof
the boy’s like ice - he holds onto the horse’s mane that rucks like stinking fear
each gasp of boy holds tight within itself
and fears the place they're rushing to
each smells the dank - tastes its own short word
(breath sees no future for itself but six foot down)

the faced-out shadows laugh
ha - like booming trance of horoscopes
ha - like death-knells working out their sweat
ha - like barrels swilling out a zillion sunken rats
ha ha ha ha they fleet across the rotting stench of animals…

elephants screaming from a circus call - horses
ponies dogs from farmyards (when farmyards lived around)

out leap the shadows - hooves and brick and wood and barking into distance gone
and throughout skies and down ‘round clouds across the umpteen furrowed mists
above beyond canal-side ways

the lightning whispers out of fear – (the thunder follows on - its tail between its legs)
the boy’s as if a daze attaches him to shadow's sunken back

up jump the shadows – gathering pace
the smell does not affect him now
it might as well be sweet as buttermilk

part three – the parents’ bewilderment

and there behind - the boy has left an imprint thus upon his bed

to imagine parents
finding child not there is bad enough
but to see his gasp that's burnt upon the sheets
brings creepings to the bones

and delicate so delicate - the imprint lifted off his bed
in cellophane - it's guarded up and gathered round with tender care

wonder how and where their boy has gone
the linen - burnt by shadow of his breath is took away
and folded like a sullen prayer of hope

the police step in and give cold comfort there
but comfort’s not enough from strangers' hands

how can this happen?
where has our boy gone?
out soared the shadows – calling loud

by the window – the parents squinting out
a cloud burst like a seam and from that scar -
a whisper of a boy on horseback
dandling there

it must be daydreams playing tricks on us
they say it twice
(convince themselves
the truth is there
within this uttered phrase)

four – the crossing and the arrival

and there the boy spoils skywards ever still
(his companionship as dull as dried out bread)
and passing down below
the straggling fields of corn
then barley fields and ever on
across a river–ford
a chain link boat cuts swathes of water like an ever slowing knife
(for sale signs flagged on up and then to let)

a wooden church burns down
a factory still half built suffers by the
same damned fate

these spirits with the banshee moan and wail
enter in a barn all goggle eyed and fuming teeth

this barn’s the beetroot tree
they mock
a central hub into the town

so where’s the history of this place?
they snarl like wanton vagabonds
where is it kept?
show us or we’ll twist the boy
until he’s treading hell
where do we fit?
they glance around for answers straight as die

the ghosts bewildered –
march like soldiers
into battle-blank

(the boy’s trussed up with fear
- he’s silent like a feather-drop)

through the door – all hush from them
then in this search - their bones rattling round like
hard shell peas start softening up
their feelings changed
each takes a turn to rub their shoulders
against the walls
dance the floorboards in a jerky jig

then like pirates here and there
they fall about themselves in splendour of its beating heart
they are in awe

how tall the building is! one says
how white the walls!
what’s all this stuff that glimmers like a thousandth glass
of brandy caught on fire?
this babel tower of speaking- ups – creative mouths and hands
all fired in its heart - they’ve made it work
– they chorus out
the spectres look each other into their rolling eyes
and so we drink to it! - they shout

the ghosts find sadness still
they cannot bear to walk away

this is not our place they sulk
we try to hold onto the
home of someone else
the floor we dance is theirs not ours
they gather round for meetings and the like

part five – the ghosts make decisions

meanwhile boy walks clear as if in daze
there is a small half smile upon his face

the horse that took him there makes tracks
then simply fades away

decisions made -
the ghosts
(like softest water drops)
allow themselves
to soak into
the skin of brick

each one is sewn
like patchwork
towards a view that’s
full of wonderment -

and to this day
the eyes keep
watching still

(but at least they’re quiet
-restful now)

part six – after thought

morning blue and morning mist
strokes boy into a kind of tenderness
it seems as if he’s shivered on for miles

what matters most
his parents
see their son alive

hush child
all is well again
they say

hush child
all is well

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