Cicadas singing in the fire of the sun. We used to think they lived so briefly and it was too easy for the mynahs to catch them in their yellow beaks, hold them for a moment, still singing; no wild struggle or hardly a change in pitch. After we learnt they lived for years underground, it wasn’t so bad. Now, listening to the cicadas in the crystal space of early summer, the hill, always there, cut-silhouette on the horizon, we’re happy enough in our grand mediocrity.
We can’t get it right like Newton—we search for patterns to lay it down in best durable forms [laughter]: watch the sea deal with rocks, feel the sand between your toes. Does it matter that Antares can consume 663 trillion Earths? Monstrous weight, that can, if you like, be lifted by the work of bees: a miracle none foretold. Let’s say of art that it thinks differently about the shape of mushrooms we picked together on Saturday—we don’t know anything about them, except two hours of fun in paddocks: the biosphere and adventure ours. No one’s going nowhere but the infinity of our own creative purpose, arriving at a place unknown.
When Apollo says he knows whether all the grains of sand in the world add up to odd or even, and that he knows too the measure of the oceans, and the number of insects that crawl the earth, and the days of cities and empires, or how many waves are curling now about to break, or that he sees each butterfly flapping its wings and knows where every ripple goes, he is saying we do not know and that we should revere the knowing which is forever beyond us, meditate on it daily, pour water on the backs of goats if we must, to remind ourselves what we do not know, and never can. That is the function of the gods I still keep on a shelve in my shed.
Seventeen years, mostly ignored. Finally, we learnt to press the olives from our tree into oil, a process which widens out into a world of infinite connections: the universe of stars and dust. Such that I hardly know how to say what we did. Perhaps, like Homer, we’ll discover in writing something smarter than ourselves. First, we blitzed the olives in a food processor, which bounced on the bench, rattling and shrill-screaming, as it spun the hard stones and oily flesh into a khaki mash that smelt divine, like the dark loamy earth between the thighs of Papatuanuku. Each batch we scooped into a large pot and heated, until this indelicate mixture began sparkling like morning dew on a pile of dung. You can thank the sun for sending water to the mountains, and for it to fall back into our laps, though it took men like my grandfather wielding the levers to build the dams with steel cracked from red earth, combined with gravel and cement squeezed from soft grey clay; the hill at Portland almost gone. And all this flows to the turning of the press made from ageless aluminium, everywhere and nowhere in the Earth’s crust, journeying now into space… and held tight in our hands, to wrench the oily liquid from its fibrous body, as alumina is wrenched from bauxite using the holding power of alpine lakes. Oil rises to the top, best left overnight in a jar that you can dip a ladle into and funnel through muslin cloth. What’s left behind is an acerbic liquid any gardener will deploy with pleasure to cut off those obstreperous weeds in mid-growth. In a ceramic jug the oil will stay peppery to taste; a wealth stored, to be drizzled on the familial bread, and spilling over onto the plate bounded by its raised rim. With the last pieces of bread, we soaked up the thin pools of golden oil and licked our glistening fingers— like shining Gods we are, for a moment.
These sighs, lengthening loud; split world, cold glare, chances gone in a touch of time. * Pains and pleasures still bind a common hope. * A seamless sky behind the weight of Cherry Blossom. A petal turns into a butterfly’s wing.
Your oh-so-distaste for Tribunes who incite the popular crowd, what are you protecting Cicero? Your ballsy support for the latest drone deployment in Thrace, what are you protecting Cicero? Your polite way with handlers and a word for the homeless, what are you protecting Cicero? Your dream of heroic iambs on the steps of the Capitol, what are you protecting Cicero? Your lavish hosting of dinner parties for the argentarii, what are you protecting Cicero? Your blood-clean sacrifices in the race for everlasting life, what are you protecting Cicero? Your corpse in a vault with a tag on your toe―too late, what were you protecting Cicero?
our dog is like Frank O’Hara
aaaaaaalover of gregarious freedom!
we don’t want to train him—he’s untrainable
half wild, like a Coltrane solo
he takes free rein, takes it where it will go
he barks at everyone he sees with no malice
he just wants to say hello
and tell everyone he loves them
he can jump up in the air in crazy yelping pirouettes
he’s a bit of a show-off
he’s too quick footed for the big slow dogs
who can’t pin him down there’s no easy walk
trotting along beside in regular rhythm
it’s all full tilt, nose down, tail up, pulling forward
choking against the collar—sudden stops
deviations instant enthusiasms
abandoned for the next delicious scent tiring
and exhilarating, like keeping up with Peter
when his brain’s exploding
T.S.Eliot mixed with obscenities
he sleeps close to us on the bed
any noise, 2am, 5am, and he’ll leap off
and run around barking in circles it’s idiotic
and pisses us off
he wants to lick your ears in the morning
loves it when you scratch his head
he hardly eats, but likes to clean your plate
flies annoy him (he’s mostly content)
he escapes often, being small and agile
always finding a new way to get out
we’re lucky he hasn’t been hit by a car
we would miss him a lot
aaaaaabecause he’s full of the genius of life
a destroyer of shallow boredom
like Frank O’Hara.
Low wet night,
dripping gutter path,
to the socked and buttoned,
curtained their day off early,
to sit with the flix, who must
only throw a chewy ball
over the couch repeatedly
to the dog who thinks
everyone’s gathered here
facing the same way
to play fetch.
and so the sun
beats the dullard
the door-stopped bricks
on the collared neck
in its intense weight
from mannered fashions
I wish I was in Greenwich Village
reading Macbeth, legs crossed, a glass of wine at my ear.
Or in the Sistine Chapel
seeing Adam raise his dandy arm to bearded God.
Or in front of Socrates proclaiming
the revolution of reason, reaching for his cup.
Or in a Parisian café drinking absinthe
with poets, painters and philosopher junkies
in wrinkled collar shirts.
Or eating fruit with Manet and his companions by a lake.
Or crossing a bridge over the Sumida River in the rain.
Or shopping at Macy’s and seeing Adrian Piper
with WET PAINT on her top.
Or driving a bulldozer for the first time
through the Nevada Desert.
Or side-by-side with children flying their kites
through a hole in the prison wall.