Old Poems




I for one, can see very bigbut only write very small.I want you to know that I am here, writing words upon words upon words that I cry over and laugh at.  I too am fumbling, edgy in the darkAnother shit dayWish I could see around the cornerWhat it would save in wasted energyBarricading my life with safeguardsThe just-in-case,  the always-off-target.It’s not poetrybut my more mysterious senses feel that this febrile page-filling is setting every word I know on edge.

I was so engrossed, I completely forgot about the subtitles.  Fighting dogs; one carcass dragged out of the chamberin a bloody slime. Guts, entrails and a slumbersome indifferenceof the watchers.  The winner fondled his dog’s sweaty, crimson coat, his pockets bulged with the money to have a few beersand pay off some debts.  Are there no more metaphors?  Or is this as close as can be got to representing a truth?I forgot they were speaking a different language,but then again, maybe they weren’t 




For the majority madness is simply not being regular or standard sizeA tamed beast, deformed by conformity – this is my idea of madness.I am mad on two separate and contradictory counts. 

Some call this mad – poring overthe pared-down, bare bones of my lifeMaking observationsnever conclusions.  To live without safeguardsI learn from my body’s every flinch and twitch, its every hum.  To live without safeguardsI animalize the dozing beast in me.



We love because its what we’re here to do We expect to have a good time (even with kids) We laugh at our neuroses We know that our parents fucked us up, but that they had very little choice. (I love you mum and dad) We choose pleasure over pain because we’re an open-minded mutant What we like about cinema is both the dark and the light We’re starting to create about the whole experience. “No, You don’t know the way, None of your theories fit, None of your kindly suggestions worked None of your violence killed us despite the deaths of many.” 

and because we are equals, I know you will listen

Brazil, 2001/2 ish 






well, for a start, they haven’t transferred well to the blog. Line breaks have gone all weird (except for some on the 2nd page – if you get that far) Mail me openbracket@riseup.net for a pdf of them if you want to read them as they look on the page.

Secondly, old because most of them were written in Brazil, lyrical, before I started writing with found language to allow other vocabularies and voices into my writing. Still, I like these poems – they remind me of a time of great adventure and humility and honesty and openness. 

Whirlwind in my hand,

sepia stains fingersblurred slightly by the activity inside the walls.  Like bread dough – full of space.  Rising, sometimes blossominglike a late starter; lion-coloured,it can even smell of honeysuckle to some.Nosediving, I follow the snails-trails to the solar eclipse at the bottom of the glass. 

(Rio de Janeiro,  March 2001)

A car drags its tyres up cobbled stones.  Pencilstap-dance on my desk as the bus steams past.Pushing his bike with rattling wheels, the baker honks,head down, building up a sweat, climbing the steep slope. 

The dogs of the hill bark, bark.  Children say whatever bounces in their heads; a boy, a girl, another girl, the first, the second, the boy again.There is a plunk and skid of a ball.  And now  

from a different direction, a whistle, a cackle of disbelief.Upstairs, the strange, awkward man plays Mahler to the neighbourhood, noone complains.  My window of sound, my window of colour.  

Wasteland, where the bougainvillea lives,festive for months, not just once a year.Tatiana, the neighbour’s girl isn’t here yet I remember How she entrances me when she grabs her dog to dance.  

Memories catch up with me; the night’s warmth begins to ooze in. I smell again the perfume of cigarettes Goia has smoked as I’ve lain looking at him, looking at what’s beyond.   

The tram is climbing the hill; a clanking, wood and tin theatre,  jumping and jerking,bursting with passengers.  I climb onand become a character in someone else’s song. 

We splashed out on a fish restaurantthe other backpackers didn’t frequent.Run ragged by the mountains, the jaggededges of our spirits were making largegashes in our blind and handsome love. 

The light inside was yellow;the colour of golden sizzled fish, of crisp, fruity wine, of a candle’s beam;it fed us, this yellowuntil the bread and wine arrived. 

I had my back to the accordion playerbut heard the shuffles and murmurs of his wife,dealing out nudges in quiet measures.She wasn’t over-helpfulthen softly she left. 

I was slooshing the wine around the glasswhen he started to speak, ‘I’d like to welcome backa long-time fan –
Arequipa born and bred,
now resident of the
United States’.
I twisted to see.Resembling a Latin dictator,big moustache, slicked-back hair,he looked embarrassed,nonplussed by the touch of the accordionistwho addressed the air the whole, darkening yellow airas a fisherman casts a net into the sea. 

The silent, fluent wave of the dooralive with people, ushered them in to places behind my back.The moon’s large yellow lightilluminated the steps of those outside walking the white city.The restaurant was now noisy and full. 

He was in his sixties, although on the poster outside, billing him as
Peru’s first accordion player,
he is still a pert young man,already with dark glasses and the same straight face.He fanned the notes and chords of
Italy and
Spanning centuries; a declaration of love,a solitary city lament, an ode to the sea.The instrument sang of what it is to rest after a day’s work in the fields;of a picnic, a romp through the umber evening lightending up straw-haired and giggling in a haystack,after the day has been singed by the sun. 

Two young boys slid out of their seatsfour beady eyes plucking the spell out of the airin one fell swoop.They played a pretend flute, a stick-and-balloon guitar.I start to plan my words for the Accordian Player. 

Fingers tapped notes, arms squeezed sound, folds opened like a smile then puckered away  until the lung became silent. 

The moon is a hammock tonightA southern hemisphere smile in the sky.I have miles of minutes left to goall flattened out in a grey tarmac line.A night in the company of strangers, a day of my life, twenty four hours of not doing, just feelingthe percussion of the tyres of the bus.The road has straitjacketed me. The road 

is an art gallery, a tube of green and blue,a flickering installation I’m plugged into. 

I’ll wake up stiff at dawn and gaze beyond my glass reflection at the awesome mountain greens the gallery is tunnelling through.

I ask you for a tape – you send me five.I can picture you busy with buttons, with tapes at night.I’ve been continents away for five years, strangely more your daughter now than before.I feel I’ve grown into you, decided I liked you. Now I have forty tapes (you are excessive, passionate) rows and rows of them, breeding uncontrollablyin the cupboard and in my blood. 

I travel the world on the wings of these notes;
Japan, a Nepalese brass band
Music even rises in the silence between sound.

I’ve grown from knee, shoulder, to kite high,

finally airborne and free. 

You complain you’ve lost a daughter,

but here I am learning to fly. 

It’s just that you can’t see me.


I listen to my tapes again and again,each song is a poem I will write one day.I unfurl in the sadness and joy from faraway countries; going further, still furthercharmed by the singing world, down a dark inner tunnel of obstacles and bendsto find a lamp burning by a stereo and you at the other end.

You are disarmingly charming,in your ripe plum bald parts.I touch you; warming stone.You return a gravelly greeting.The sun has only fleeting power over you, great and ancient egg,cold as burrows at night.Your handshake is downright hostileand scrapes, and grates and peelsmy common vegetable skin.You are unruled, unruffleable, cousin of time itself.Mighty stone – you won’t clump under my grip,You won’t provide my toes with a solid ledge.My legs knock around like a puppet’s,neither up nor down, splayed like a dead insect.My species has never evolved wings,so if the earth moves a touch, I fall. I freeze 

Fast, like fungi, puffing spores of storiesinto the crevices of my mind –of unfortunate climbers and their eggshell bones – Memory and imagination for all their sophistication

send venom, send venom through my human veins.

Pedra da Gavea (((

This cool land whose cold hand

rubs my cheeks to a morello shine.This is where trees tessellate darklyand chins of hills jut and taper,bristling with the swish of pines.Here and there, the sun leaves scribbles. 

Here.  Like a laden basket; bending,buckling with its own weight,a riotous crowd of flecked limes,strangely orange and exploding in circles. 

The blade of time slices fruitfrom tree, as if hands were dropping sunsto rot in a damp and muddy terrain –a bruising jump from the wind’s feisty kiss.  

Weighing the heaviness in my bare, cold hands.Judging the speckled skin and plumpness of each,I choose five to drink.  They puncture me with raysjostling into the dark space inside me,whispering of the circles they have lived in and known. 

From dad’s jazz records in the corner,notes launch into new air …Pepper and Parker, John ColtraneI reverberate quietly in this pound of music like a cleanly-thumped drum.Saxophones chase me even into sleep; their keen raucous calls preclude wordsyet are my lullaby song. 

I understand nothing of this anarchy of sound,a net cast over me – fine, like spray, like rainand organized chaotically, like this life I am virgin to.The full-boat of bass warmly marks the beat.Low piano notes lap up, lap downand music soars supremely, playingtag with its own melody, looping around itself in glee. 

Many years later, something I can’t seetugs me to a show.I push in for returns like a stone thrownI just have to go.There again is my piano, my sculpture of drumsmy bird-like sax, perching on its stand.Washed, no, hauled onto shores of freedoms;in a dark theatre, my inheritance leaves me stunned.

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