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More Birthday Poems

Tommys 70th Birthday PoemsPosted by Graham Thompson Mon, August 06, 2018 13:46:26

Usambara Time

The cocks crow at 3pm,

they don't crow for anything.

A guest has come

but the host has gone out with his cows.

The guest sits outside waiting

never knowing if the host will come,

and observing the women doubled-up

like caterpillars, hoeing in their fields.

The ragged scissors of banana fronds

rustle and stir in the mountain wind.

Far below the plains seem close,

& above the clouds -

like a quarter-opened book whose binding

is uncertain, but whose pages can mirror

the scattered glyphs of clouds,

dark duplicates that run across

the alien mountain bush.

A child's cry is carried on the wind, the bati* groans

upon the fractured mud of walls,

and everywhere the same dank stink of piss,

human and animal, drenching both homes and earth.

And the blood red soil nurtures less and less

of these people and their religion:

untended ancestral shrines open to the rain, a home

only for rats, not spiritual sacrifice.

No birds sing here now, not even any woman's song.

It's half past three and I'm still waiting

For the host to come.

Note: Usambara Mountains are in north-east Tanzania.

*bati is the corrugated metal roofs on adobe houses.


Twisting angular bony hands

And fingers creating form out of nothing

As if even in moments of self-forgetfulness

Art had still to be fulfilled.

He destroys the human form with the vicious strokes of a pencil

Only to recreate it again in his own spritual image.

Comfort, love, affection - all our killed

By a lust, a meaningless sexuality

Which makes even the hesitant touch

Between one individual and another

An act of sabotage.

And all there is left is a perverse adulation

And constant masturbation both of art

And his own body.

And yet an innocence steals in

To this embrace:

A dream of attachment to one other

Captured forever in a fixture

Beyond corrosion of feelings and sad time:

Even if the woman is elsewhere in her dreams

The man is complete in his taking.


The Voice

I have broken the seal on the manuscript. I am writing across the floor.

The river unwinds its grief in huge meanders. The sky waits to appoint us.

Leaving is a three cornered hat: you me him. A crucifix around my neck. Never stop leaving me.

My bed is surprisingly empty, but my imagination is more than full now you’ve gone. I have spent the night sober, alone, and in my room. I was too happy to get drunk, too full of you to see another, and too, too mad to be allowed out alone. But I’m so glad the only thing I lost was my mind!

And to think that men do all these strange and fierce things all for the sake of that small hole in the wall of femininity.

My need for you can never be quenched by your presence. It’s a need that waters the deserts of your absence. Parts of me were healed by you, other parts torn open revealing many unsolved mysteries and the ulcers of my unfulfilled dreams. You were like an anarchist maid: dusting and cleaning everything, but refusing to replace the furniture in its accustomed place. My bed is now on the floor and no longer in the air. My new clothes have all been sent to the jumble. And my heart has a new pair of socks.

Memories are only as painful as the original was beautiful.

There are some moments in the brief and slim novels of our lives which make us feel more than fictional characters, and only just less than gods.

You are not on the credits, but I swear I hear your voice on the record. How come? Is this some strange kind of doppler effect or are you really singing behind me as I write?

We are all the double agents of the heart. We are never sure at any one time whom we are betraying, and who we are being betrayed by.

I long to be eternally jealous and yet never possess you.

She has gone.

She has stopped leaving me.

Why is it love always transforms me into a poor imitation of the loved one? She is still in my voice, still in my movements. Surely the whole world can see my falsity. Irony walks the corridors of these worn out days. Everyday I wake and pretend again you are reassembling me from the broken pieces.

Is it a smile or a grimace on the lips that wait for my kiss?

Is it laughter or tears that wait behind those envied lids.

A photograph of your voice.

The broker of broken dreams.

I am writing to the ghost of my fiction.

The Hanged Man

Graubolle Man – dug

from the side of the turf covered earth

your twisted arrow body points back

to the depths where you were discovered

in a thousand year old sleep

What is it now that you

are digging up in us?

This need for public history

eats away at your leather thin sides

your body is sucked dry

by the latter day stares

from a future you never agreed to share

To be hung upside down

was once an honour for you

and a sacrifice to your people

To be hung a second time

in the museum of our present fancies

is a slow death for us all

unless the lightning stroke ascends

in our bare modern souls

There is a Song

There is a song below growing old

A master lyric that has not been told

The dread of dying cannot stifle its voice

The love of living its altar place

When this poor body is near massacred

And aches and fevers are all that fascinates

Call to the love that makes it all worthwhile

Summon it close to light the very last smile

And if the good ashes scatter on an offshore wind

Play the tunes then that we always planned

But never quite succeeded to usher in

Play our songs and let the Host this truth confirm:

Though godless men this ball of dirt do own

Finer spirits will cleanse it finally from

The waste of time, the greater waste of love

And silence the tongues that twist my every last line

Fill in only if you are not real

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