Cover page.


  • Icicles Round A Tree In Dumfriesshire
  • *
  • Falling
  • The Clearing
  • The Eyes
  • White Horse
  • Party-Time
  • The Musicians' Gallery
  • Moorings
  • The Hill
  • Undressing
  • Bed-Time
  • Being Late To Meet You At The Station
  • Spring Windows, Marylebone High Street
  • Echo
  • A Party With Someone Called Sam
  • Sumatran
  • I Cover The Waterfront
  • Misty
  • Heatwave
  • The Touchstone
  • Myths Of The Origin of Fire
  • Waterloo Bridge
  • Scotch
  • Windfalls
  • Pharoah's Cup
  • Clearing Up
  • The Doom-Bar
  • Opening the Curtain
  • Sisters
  • The Contract
  • Don't Fence Me In
  • A Bit of A Welcome
  • Will Ye No Come Back Again?
  • Lost Tune
  • Indian Princess Picks Lover Out From Gods
  • Tinder-Box
  • Still Life With Loaves, Seaweed, And Wren
  • Shadows Aren't Real
  • Easter Candle
  • Man Trying To Unite His Life With A Scratched CD
  • The Horse Whisperer
  • Java
  • The Yaks
  • Deep Blue
  • When the Kissing Had to Stop
  • Forget-Me-Not
  • *
  • Underwater
  • Balkan
  • A Drink in the New Piazza

    We're talking different kinds of vulnerability here.
         These icicles aren't going to last for ever
    Suspended in the ultra violet rays of a Dumfries sun.
         But here they hang, a frozen whirligig of lightning,
    And the famous American sculptor
         Who scrambles the world with his tripod
    For strangeness au naturel, got sunset to fill them.
         It's not comfortable, a double helix of opalescent fire

    Wrapping round you, swishing your bark
         Down cotton you can't see,
    On which a sculptor planned his icicles,
         Working all day for that Mesopotamian magic
    Of last light before the dark
         In a suspended helter-skelter, lit
    By almost horizontal rays:
         Making a mist-carousel from the House of Diamond,

    A spiral of Pepsodent darkening to the shadowfrost
         Of cedars at the Great Gate of Kiev.
    Why it makes me think of opening the door to you
         I can't imagine. No one could be less
    Of an icicle. But there it is -
         Having put me down in felt-tip
    In the mystical appointment book,
         You shoot that quick
Inquiry-glance, head tilted, when I open up,
     Like coming in's another country,
A country you want but have to get used to, hot
     From your bal masqué, making sure
That what you found before's
     Still here: a spiral of touch and go,
Lightning licking a tree
     Imagining itself Aretha Franklin
Singing "You make me feel like a natural woman"
     In basso profondo,
Firing the bark with its otherworld ice
     The way you fire, lifting me
Off my own floor, legs furled
     Round your trunk as that tree goes up
At an angle inside the lightning, roots in
     The orange and silver of Dumfries.
Now I'm the lightning now you, you are,
     As you pour yourself round me
Entirely. No who's doing what and to who,
     Just a tangle of spiral and tree.
You might wonder about sculptors who come all this way
     To make a mad thing that won't last.
You know how it is: you spend a day, a whole life.
     Then the light's gone, you walk away
To the Galloway Paradise Hotel. Pine-logs,
     Cutlery, champagne - OK,
But the important thing was making it.
     Hours, and you don't know how it'll be.
Then something like light
     Arrives last moment, at speed reckoned
Only by horizons: completing, surprising
     With its three hundred thousand
Kilometres per second.
     Still, even lightning has its moments of panic.
You don't get icicles catching the midwinter sun
     In a perfect double helix in Dumfriesshire everyday.
And can they be good for each other,
     Lightning and tree? It'd make anyone,
Wouldn't it, afraid? That rowan would adore
     To sleep and wake up in your arms
But's scared of getting burnt.
     And the lightning might ask, touching wood,
"What do you want of me, now we're in the same
     Atomic chain?" What can the tree say?
"Being the centre of all that you are to yourself -
     That'd be OK. Being my own body's fine
But it needs yours to stay that way."
     No one could live for ever in
A suspended gleam-on-the-edge,
     As if sky might tear any minute.
Or not for ever for long. Those icicles
     Won't be surprise any more.
The little snapped threads
     Blew away. Glamour left that hill in Dumfries.
The sculptor went off with his black equipment.
     Adzes, twine, leather gloves.
What's left is a photo
     Of a completely solitary sight
In a book anyone can open.
     But whether our touch at the door gets forgotten
Or turned into other sights, light, form,
     I hope you'll be truthful
To me. At least as truthful as lightning,
     Skinning a tree.


Thank God we cast
A spot of shadow in our lives,
Said the Mahabharata bride,
Facing five versions of her groom -
Your man himself, plus four male gods,
Four dead-spit images
Self-xeroxed in his shape -
Who recognized
That heartbeat, the man she'd have to part
With, by the shadow at his heel.
Gods don't go round casting shadow.
Things we do and feel
(As a leader in The Independent
Put it afterwards) are incomplete.
Imperfect, therefore real.
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