Down By The River
Remembering the blue rose and white poppy.
Remembering what it is to forget,
then coming back to my senses on a flight over the pole,
coming back to myself after the long division,
memory’s little fists pounding on an iron door
like a little boy looking up at an impossible wall
of an improbable castle.
Remembering all the weeks and words in a journey,
going from book to bed and home again.
Aided by memory’s wingmen, recollection and recall.
Abetted by the flash cards of photographs and letters.
It’s all coming back to me now,
everything I’ve ever misplaced, given away or had stolen.
The dead pets. The lost worlds. The rainy evenings.
Then another memory, its coat slung over a chair’s back,
a cascade of fizzling ganglia and snappy synapses
firing rapidly at random and creating
an interior picture-show for the old-at-heart,
memory’s lodestone attractive and filing towards
a false north of the mind –
so what really happened didn’t really happen, or it did,
but more like that and less like this,
and next time we’d do it differently, we’d do it better,
or, hell, not attempt it at all.
Remembering twilight’s shrine and tony wilderness.
Remembering the tiny Buddha at the heart of the bell.
Remembering dog-howl in the all-day gloaming.
The racket of pigeons over London’s rickety roofs.
The slant snow and ice-riddled forests.
To a point you can’t remember
all that you can or can’t remember,
the mind’s theatre determined to play itself out,
its setting every place you’ve ever considered or been,
the cast familiar, you’ve seen them before,
sharing a bus ride or in an advertisement –
so memory is like a circle then,
it begins where it ends,
a little house in the past, a ghost-written ghost story,
good things and stuff jumbled up with the bad.
Storms before dusk, then wondrous nightfall.
This Poem Is Banned
For saying what needed to be said
when nobody wanted to hear it.
For telling stories out of school,
naming the names, pointing the fingers.
This poem has been banned because
powerful people were made to feel uncomfortable.
Banned for eschewing protocol.
Because someone powerful insisted.
While reading this poem
you might conclude it’s right
that you act and think for yourself.
Having this poem in your house
suggests you may be harbouring certain leanings
others would consider unacceptable.
You don’t want soldiers kicking in your door
over a silly poem. Do you?
You don’t need a veil of threats
or your mouth smashed in with a rifle butt.
Because this poem is strictly forbidden,
like counterfeit currency or certain truths.
It might instigate a rebellion
or a national debate. There may be
peaceful protests, which could lead to
(very possibly) rioting.
Reading this poem is strictly prohibited,
every other word blacked out,
its author lying low while on the lam.
Shadowy figures from shadowy agencies
are standing over you, declaring:
“This poem is taboo.”
Little outlaw, this poem is contraband.
I didn’t write it. But whoever wrote it,
I wrote it for you.