[Years ago, when I was reading]

Years ago, when I was reading the philosophical works of Schopenhauer
I heard a sudden eruption of laughter on the street.
I looked up to see what the cause of this laughter was.
Across the road, an old man
extraordinarily obese, was heaving his immense body
along the footpath. He used a cane to help balance himself as he walked
and to relieve the strain on his back
caused by the great bag of fat hanging from his stomach.
It required considerable effort for him to walk only a short distance.
I felt revulsion at the sight of this man.
There were feelings of pity, too.
I knew immediately
there are no counter-motives to humiliation.
We live by climbing over each other
struggle to keep our heads
above despair
and try not to think of harm that’s done.
I lowered the book and listened to the sounds of birds
a howling dog, a small child in the street
asking something of her parents —
every voice repeating the inner nature of the world
and I knew what trouble and pain was
still to come.

Published in Pink Cover Zine, No. 3, November 2018.

Sr Pessoa

Alexander SearchOf course, in times of crisis I do not write
poetry—a consequence of having escaped
pretences about pain and metaphysics.

Last night, though, my head was full
of dreams—most particularly
that my friend (a euphemism)

had decided it was time to leave—
bringing us to the long struggle (an embrace,
perhaps, but it may have been a death-clutch).

And when I woke
everything in my world was ruined
and in fog.

So, it has been impossible to speak
a word that makes sense
and there is no pleasure in a pun.

After all the excitement
I am just another child sleeping
face-down at the edge of the abyss.

Come over some day—
I can offer refuge
in tired abstractions.

I will put on my red dress,
make tea, and then
ignoring Life, we will walk or write.

‘Poetry is a small house’

Joe—who was the chef in the restaurant he owned with my mother—whispers in my ear: “I know something I wish I did not know. A disgraceful thing. Obscene. I think I know who did it.” And he looks at me, continuing to talk this way until he finally pulls a drawing out of his coat and unfolds it to show the image of a ‘crab-woman’, a beautiful woman who happens to have lots of claws coming out of her, like something from a painting by Peter Booth except that this was clearly drawn by a child or an idiot. Joe looks at my reaction and concludes I did not make the image. So he puts his arms around my shoulders as though we were comrades and leads me into a bar or a café, somewhere it always appears to be night and it is difficult to get a table. We navigate our way through the closely set tables trying to find one that is empty. There are few customers down at the rear of this place, where we finally sit down and I order an espresso in my best-sounding Italian. Right down at the end of the room an indigo wall has an unfinished, half-head portrait (lower half) of Samuel Beckett painted on it: the brain, everything above the bridge of the nose, is missing. I notice two poets I used to know, elderly women now both dead, have taken seats at a table not far from us. Someone emerges from a bunch of architect-lecturers to give a slide show presentation now being projected high up on the wall near me. I look up and see the words “alles, was vor dem sex-maschine… alles, was beim sex-maschine… alles, was nach dem sex-maschine” intercut with images, far more disturbing than the childish drawing Joe showed me. I did not understand the message of this presentation, though everyone seemed to find the language entertaining. Among some papers that have been strewn on the table by the presenter there is a newsletter that I made many years ago for a group of writers. The papers are being handed around the group. One of the architects dismisses the design I made. Asked who I am I can only say I am a poet. The dismissive architect asks me if a company with a very exotic and impressive name has published me. I tell him, No. I offer the names of a few places that have published me, and places I have worked, and things I’ve done, and say “… It’s not an opera house, though you can sometimes hear poetry even there. Poetry is a small house, if it is a house at all. It may be just a shelter.”


Published as ‘Four events while sleeping’, incorporating ‘Poetry is a small house’, ‘Religion is the art of belief’, ‘Martial art, sans art’ and ‘The program’, FIVE:2:ONE print edition, August 2017.

The tourists

Who are these people for whom we invent excuses,
Put on a brave front, and beautify our slums?  Signs

In twenty languages clear their path through our confusion,
While we, in our own town, don’t know which way is up.

How could they know us by looking down through dark glass
From their high buses; after cropping out the dirt and poor

From careful snap-shots of our churches and galleries of art?
We give them whiskey duty-free, and fluffy toys, for consolation,

Rooms with views and service, air-conditioned day trips,
And large portions of deference, so that they will not have to see

What they have come here not to see.  (—Are paying not to see.)
And if one should ask, “Where am I?  What does all this mean?”

I have no doubt we would be kind and give correct directions,
Or give as best we could.  They are just like children:

They do not know what is ahead of them.  —And we don’t demur
Because of that. The meaning of travel is to endure.

Originally published in Walking the Dogs: the Pariah Press Anthology, 1993

the dear departed (lovers that have gone)

the dear departed
                 lovers that have gone

angels that once terrified us
                 threatening to bring death

so near as love
                 sometimes return.

these lost loves,
                 whose provenance and history

is harder than a coin
                 passing hand to hand

through all the dull business
                 of the commonwealth,

arrive at our aching arms

the strange gifts of a stranger,
                 a once familiar mind.

thoughts that tasted like water,
                 answering an ancient need.

we may go down to the shore
                 and take a boat to be more

completely under a sky we knew
                 at a happier time,

remember love
                 like one who is newly blind remembers color,

listen to our bodies sing
                 their old pain.

our untasted souls,
                 we hoped would feed another life

to propagate our own,
                 make, at any spot we stop to feel,

the feast of questions
                 loving is.
Originally published in Out of the Box: Contemporary Gay and Lesbian Poets, edited by Michael Farrell and Jill Jones, Puncher & Wattmann Poetry, 2009