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A backward look in reparation.
The train that leaves the evening station.
Lights are dimmed in lengthening carriages.
Lives constrained by awkward marriages.
Destinations part concealed,
Neutered weapons, broken shields.
Birth and death and separation

It's hard this act of conscious diction
Diplomacy, avoiding friction
Dying brothers, sullen daughters
Unmapped shores beyond these waters
For now, the tears the shallow laughter
The second bottle, morning after
A culling of the truth from fiction

The crooked finger writes, entices
Deals the cards and roll the dice
Explains, expunges, makes it better
Credits payments to the debtors
Far beyond the horn is calling
Mist is rising, drizzle falling
The party's over. Life suffices
She'd walked to work at sundown  
When the blue dissolved to evening              
Past the roadside vendors cooking fires,
Not yet bright enough for deepening                
The outline of the factory-house
Where night-time shifts were gathering          
'Round the early evening cooking scents,
Boiled rice, and bread and lentils
Carried on the twilight breezes with  
A light refrain that mentioned
The hunger in her mid-riff
And the mild persistent headache
At the urgent anxious anger that
Her fears and hopes resembled.
And the nagging hopeless worry
That the money wouldn't stretch.

Treading lightly, sandals slapping
In a rhythm never blindly
To be misconstrued as anything
But a walk to work, and quietly.
One hand clutching at her sari,
Coughing mutely through her head-shawl
Barely breathing through the mocking
Of the jeering tuk-tuk drivers
Past the dust cloud covered concrete
With the reek of sun-soaked diesel
And the mouthing finger-thrusting
And humiliating cat-calls
That permeate her modesty
And her sense of self-retrieval
With a fierce determination
That the future must be faced

She'd felt the first forced tremble
In the walls and floors beneath her
And the slowly sliding shifting
Of her sewing, soiled machine
As it cannoned past the T-shirts
Through the carefully folded blouses
And toppled from the table top
To smash against the floorboards
When the building crumpled inwards
And the chaos and the screaming
Chased the panic to the exits
Down the staircase to the ground.
Then the ceiling at the center of the
Wide, high whitened work room
Caved in with crash and cursing
As the lighting dimmed and died

Now, far above she hears the cadence                    
Through the gauze of dimming clarity              
Fire truck sirens moan hysteria
Within the tinnitus of silence                
Tumbled past the dust caked boulders
Of the colorless construction                            
Prostrated down below
In the humid darkened stillness.
Trapped and jammed into the spaces
Where the falling floors had forced her.          
Where the grinding groaning echoes
Of the debris and the torture                        
Close her throat to swells of  panic
For her mother and her daughter              
In the two-roomed cardboard shanty
Miles above and hours away

Barely conscious, breathing lightly
Through the dust and reek of faeces
Thinking of her crowded back-room
Where she'd bathed her infant daughter
In the tin-roofed cardboard shanty
By the stinking standing water
And where her husband’s insobriety
Nightly terminates in snoring
After shouting and the swearing
And occasional forbearance
When her mother’s stifled terror
Terminates in tempers risings
And the all pervading violence
That resolves in resignation
And completes the shaming sequence
By the act of copulation

In the wreckage work continues
Where the rescue teams are scrabbling
In the arms of their dilemma
To keep searching or accepting
That the paradox of seeing and then again
Believing in the hopeless expectations
That some persons can be found
Far below and hours away
The burning thirst has found her
Past the pain of her right shoulder
And the numbness in her legs.
The acrid smoke that holds her  
Transfixed in shallow coughing
While the sari starts to smolder
To the agony of breathing
As she hoarsely tries to scream

In a conference room in London
In the tautly tensioned Aerons
Women smooth their sculpted short skirts
As the slicked-down young supplier
Holds a T-shirt for inspection
To the murmured confirmation
Of the busy buoyant buyers
That the pricing must be right.
Miles above and hours away
Six degree's of separation
Form a loosely joined connection
Out of mind and out of sight.
One by one the vendor cooking fires
Turn to embers and to ashes
While miles below and far away
Comes the dying of the light.
The point of no return was reached
Some years ago, the dividend was earned
And spent without regard
And now at last, the fire burns
So low that smoking unseen odors,
Mask slight glimmers in the hard
Unyielding quarter of his life not lived

Contempt, he comprehends at last
Is only in the gift of the receiver
To endure. And to the giver is awarded
The right of last refusal. The obscure acceptance
Of tithes and times, the phrase that rhymes
Rings hard upon the river stones
And echoes through the empty rooms.

This is the Threshold then; the door ahead
Firm shut against the choices. The lifeless
Voices in his frontal planes, more real in turn
Than all the living may confirm, and in their
Spheres and whispers of coincidence.
There are few options after all
Above the hooded altars in the stars.
He had lost her attention
As the time together bridged
A span of competing but uneven years
And made no mention of their wear and tear,
Of their original contention and intent.
The child that came invited, much loved and as one
Who excited such invention in privilege and  tokens
Said and done. The strings and threads that gently pulled
The girl who grew as people do, from state to altered state
And who when lulled and woken, revised their wry affection
Who promised to return when time was due, from school
Addressing such defection. And then was gone again
To live her life, as people do who grow and move away.
To live as one. Or more than one once more and say
Who knows? Who lives to fight another day.
That they will never see.

But now; the prospect of two adult lives
Rejoined in close convention. From three to two.
And who, when in-junctioned to review the synapses                                                    
And strands of all the memories, near collapses, half failures
Are faced with choices, the acid flavors and such truths that
The voices in their ears and eyes have shown. The tacit doubts
And sanctions. Nothing soothes the self perception
Or inaction of two frightened people, inwardly reviewing
Each to each the dessicated droughts of life alone.
To fill the vacuum. To atone. To shout. To bear again in later-years
The self-respect and mutuality that in the best of times and places
Shored up, sustained the complete totality of a life once shared.
Rediscover, reinvent within the spaces of a glacier so deep
Some magma of original notion that keeps the home fires burning.
And so to bed and the laying on of hands, the swift caress, good night.
Lips brushing hair in mild devotion. As the ocean of their solitude expands.

And in the evenings when the summer nights
Grow shorter; they watch tv and wonder if the silent peals of girlish laughter
In the listening echoes of the rooms just down the hall                                
Sound hollow, if not small. Had their time together then been judiciously spent
Without conditions? Without direction that presumed assent
And her right to leave, or follow her own stars? And when Suzanne                        
Took them down to her place by the river, they could spend the night
Forever, at the altar where it all began, and does she suspect that in the rap
Of their quick footsteps lies affection and assumptions that never,
Ever would they falter? She takes their hands and shows them where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers. The paradox of maps and rhyme
As the caravan of hours slips irrevocably southward in the race against
Their silent blocks of time. These are children in the morning,
They are leaning out for love and they will lean that way forever,
Unseen. The harvest is all in, the seeds are sown. The empty room confirms the errant teen
The final painful portent. And the bird has flown.
*Tip of an old hat to ***. The devil often does have the best rhymes...*
He touched our hands
But unconcernedly this famous man
And would not look us in the eye
For fear of contact or what might be worse, connection
And we could hardly blame him, for after all
He had each day been singled out for close inspection
By ones like us, in awe of his celebrity
Circled in the shade of his perfection
Hoping for the star-dust sprinkle of acuity
Or sparkling eyes, admission to his inner cult and clan

He wore blue jeans
And scuffed sneakers as a badge of proof
Of his coolness and unconcern
While we his audience with concealed attention
Enviously eyed his hairy confidence, unconsciously
Imitating in each phrase that low convention
Made small adjustments to our store-bought suits and ties
And nodded several times in bright pretension
Made small amendments to our smiles and lies
Flicked photo-phones in pursuit of custom and routine

He gave a speech
A flippant interview, this famous creature
A well tossed phrase, a rounded cliche
Poured forth like brandy in a glass, convivial
Or apple cider-ed vinegar in pewter mugs
A sardonically French-accented phrase habitual
Well humored, heavy lidded with testosterone
At interlocutor women with the pens and pads
Delivered in a low and purring monotone
For all the world as lovers, each to each

He stretched a smile
A modulated shift of teeth and beard
"Genius? Not I"  with deprecation
"My shallow intellect, so poor and so ephemeral"
Delivered in a tone that mocked inclusion
While we assumed an elegance, unintentional
A nonchalance that shields the wide charades
Unmoving in our breathless, but conventional
Genuflection to the the notion that pervades                                                      
Our addictive appetite now sated. For a while.                              
He kissed their cheeks
And stroked their arms, with sensuous ambivalence
But absently, as if he cared so little
In his farewell. 'A bientot' he said and 'Au revoir'
And slipped away amongst the moving Milan crowds
Creative and creator, irredeemably a star
With, in his wake the smiling scriveners staring
At his retreating back in Stark excitement
In the middle of the circling and squaring, at
The alpha-wolfic effigy. The Shepherd and his sheep.
I've ever been interested in the relationship between celebrity and ordinariness. How the lamps of the individual appear dimmer in the presence of the luminosity of others, more celebrated. Some weeks ago I was able to see this effect on me when I was in close proximity with a star of the design community (some clues to the individuals identity may appear within the verse, if anyone is interested). I was dismayed to learn that I responded in the same manner as those I had previously observed. This sour-**** little offering is the outcome.
Regrets, they come in waves and break around his feet
And he begins to wonder who he might have been
Had roads diverged in different woods and fields
Not yellow or yet any colour still unseen
But clearer now by day than windless nights
Still nearer than the objects of his dreams

It'd rained late into the evening, and when the lights were shaded
Around the pool outside and with the windows shuttered
He'd thrown on loose clothes, flicked open an umbrella
While high outside the stars the lightning flashes muttered
Pulled open doors that led to the veranda
And moved outside once more with all his thoughts unuttered

The smoke, from fires on Java lies heavy on his senses
An omen of the time of year and of the past condition
He shrugs, ***** in the acidic nighttime odors
Reviving lives not lived but revealing his admission
That time beyond the present that mirrors every movement
Within, without, and yet again, the flicker of suspicion.

The pistol in his pocket, illegal not unloaded
A symbol of his state of mind and by  his sole discretion
He kneels beside the water, deep-set and in the shadows
Lips forming wordlessly around the last confession
Images of where and what and who and why and whether
A portent of that final action, sensing and impression

The smoke from fires on Java lies heavy on the water
The reek of cordite mixing with the smell of burning grasses
Indignant birds protest the crack of one small set expulsion
The echo round the swimming pool reverberates and passes
Nothing more and nothing less and time and space and matter
Slick red upon the treacherous tiles, the shattered bloodied glasses.
To those who asked: in spring, the farmers on the Indonesian islands of Java & Sumatra set fire to their fields to clear them for planting. Illegal but widely done. When the wind is in the right direction, the smoke drifts over the Java sea and covers the island of Singapore in a toxic mist which lasts for days. Suicides in the region increase during these depressing times, whatever the underlying causes...
Ina's pregnant, I am bored
Grace and Eric mute behind me
On the street two floors below us
Standing water, hissing tyres.

Two more hours of this, I'm thankful.
Endless meetings, glassy eyes
Homeward bound on lighted transport
Rain-streaked windows, dark outside.

Weekend coming, confused feelings
Clean the flat and iron the shirts
Talk to no-one, poolside vigil
TV meal and early night.

Is this it? The final curtain
Did I know this at that time?
Regardless of the closing sentence
No repeating, only rhyme.
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