Gorky Spat

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” Dostoyevsky

Under my suburban childhood –
then my laesie apprenticeships –
and away at my vacant universities
I openly embraced an older man –
Maxim Gorky – that Soviet rouser –
within a series of bent secondhand
Penguin Modern Classics – they said –
not knowing – not then – how Alexei’s
rabid hatred of all homosexuality
reduced him to another party fool –
whining of despair (re: Dostoyevsky)
He lived a rich man’s lie in old books

Into Candles and Soap

Inhale those odours within
la Ville Lumière – of corpse wax

found among her exhumed
Draw on le cimetière des Innocents

An old miasma off rotting flesh
lingers in time’s stillness

above French Empires of Death
atop her levelling grounds

Citizens sought
salubrious solutions

as well as judicial balance
by opening wide old books

by breaking cracking spines
glued by their learned dead writers

Thinkers took routes dug through
others – now equal – as bones

Inert citizens will never stop
troubling the living of Paris

War Poets

Paul Verlaine’s Chanson d’automne
was coded – still popular poetry –
to give notice –

his long sobs of French-sung violins
declared an Allied invasion
to those listening

Whilst she never understood speeches
of love – and our common
mistakes –

I would rarely read to her – she rarely read
my mutterings – my weight-pared
compositions

She never understood what was being said
She found poetry too difficult
Her own résistance

 

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Smoke Over Paris

Their Lady of Paris burnt
in one online afternoon
Her re-imagined spire
tipped to robes of smoke

like a bloodied lance
in surrender – once more –
to politics and holy battles
in a kindless fog of war

Her heated metals ran
as dark beaded sweats
from her swealing heights
to leave cooled scabs

of Saint Thomas – and others –
spattered across worn stones
under her collapsed transept
Those slabs will be saved

with high relics – rescued
from clouds above la quatrième
No puzzle of scattered ashes –
France has her couronne d’épines

Old Devices

We’d race to get the telephone –
stating our number as rote taught –
our mother in her poshest voice
but rough for sister talk

Relative news transmissions –
but not intended to be heard –
I knew nothing of kindred facts
’til I stole truth from her words

We were ignorant between acts –
maybe flattening an irksome book –
we’d stare through the yellowed nets
whilst half-tuned to loosened talk

We tugged at the reluctant drawers
where our history was lost and found –
there tucked between old table mats –
sepia smiles were loosely bound

News bulletins marked the hours
or were shoved through the letterbox –
that narrow window on the world –
ink fears of the Eastern bloc

Ignorance was a short-lived bliss
in those disconnected times –
no algorithms on our wrists
to redress the truths and lies