Salt & Sea

Hands to face,
hold the boy,
lest he fall away,
like all my sons have,
they found their escape,
bedrooms to the outside -
the world kills all men,
the world destroys all things.

We dug up bones along the shore,
carrying them in buckets back home,
memories of the sea.
Built a treehouse in the sycamore,
four walls painted blue,
and in winter we stayed close for warmth.

Downstairs the world spins on,
the girls in their dresses,
and I will dance with them,
with a pocket full of the sea,
she whispers, “I will grow up to be an empire,
and I’ll let you conquer me . . . but only if you want to?”

Singsong

Breathing ribs,
wrestling childhood foes.
We played superheroes,
one crushing the other.

We watched from the forest’s edge,
the Iroquois, setting fire to it all,
their bodies were half man / half king.

No need for rifles
with speed like their’s,
but with knives you can stab Caesar,
because if you erase a god
you can create one of your own -
or so we were told.

When the embers settled,
we wiped the blades clean against our jeans,
hid the body next to his sons,
under burnt offerings of branches and leaves.

Kith & Kin

I’m running,
fingers brushing through the field,
shotguns after me,
dogs chasing,
deeper,
to where the sky was born.

When they catch up,
they tear and bite,
gnawing down to the marrow,
until there’s only a ghost,
each bone haunting the other.

Sleeping underneath children’s beds,
until I find my son’s,
his mother singing a lullaby,
and I whisper along,
until he falls asleep,
and then I join him in the dream -
we build forts out of bearskin,
I show him the river, I show him the trees,
I teach him the name of all things,
I show him my scars made by dogs,
where faith meets sternum,
deeper,
to where the sky was born.

The Wake

When the trees shake,
like the fingers of a hand,
we’ll fall and roll,
into the muddy trenches.

We play warfare like experts;
one smothering the other,
one swallowing up another.

Pressing down, harder, faster,
drying out the heartbeat,
bringing down the leaves
and the dead branches.

They’ll sing eulogies at our wake,
and ask for Jesus to carry us back,
the rest they’ll bury,
using the trees as markers.

As children, they’ll be able to tell our graves apart,
but as adults, it’ll look just like any other forest;
great oaks fanning out,
great trees coming down.

The Black Flag

She conquers me with her legs,
we sink, under the waves of Agami.
I’ll drown now, under the black flags,
if it means I can watch her.

When we reach the bottom, we find old things,
memories,
a merry-go round,
its two horses rotting,
she wipes away a layer of barnacles,
the way she wipes away homesickness.

And it’s there that I find her,
riding, she’s leading or I’m following,
spinning in circles,
slapping the horses’ backsides – ‘faster and faster!’ -
into a steady blur.

Trams

Mama said:
‘if you slit the rabbit’s ears,
it’ll come back to you when you call it.’

We hid where the trams sleep,
underneath the wet machines,
killing ants with our fingertips.

With ray guns we played hide and seek;
catch the femur, pull the elbow,
black helmet for the villain,
white helmet for the hero.