China Bay Blues - Poems 1998

China Bay Blues

I can speak of the earth , the moon,
and the stars
as if they were all part of my own house

rooms inside

perfect trees bend
against the streaming bats
crickets chirp in the

while I write , lamp casting
a pool of light
onto the words that pour
from my pen

Tonight I am a child
of endless dreams,

Tonight I am the
laughing Buddha

Tonight I am the
smiling vampire

While my family sleeps
I try on different masks
casting them off
with the delight of the

flirting with lies
embracing deception
seeking redemption
while the mercury moon flies

scudding amongst paleface clouds

I can speak of the earth , the moon,
and the stars
as if they were mine

and mine alone

 - 'Nightsong '

A boy walking in a tuxedo
down the heat of the road
against the jade green of paddy

Forever the trees, shading the road

An old woman who turns
and grins madly , toothless
A village saint in exile

Forever the trees, shading the road

The elephant , feet burning on the tar
Walking, patiently, waiting
For the day when it can
sink into the waters of the river again

Forever the trees, shading the road

A funeral, white sheet unwinding
endlessly, a carpet on which
to ascend to heaven

Forever the trees, shading the road

Breaks in time,
gates into the backbeyond
these things will remain forever
while I search for them elsewhere

- 'Forever the Trees'

Weeks go by , months pass
I begin to believe my heart is made of glass
love slips and slides away
no anchor shall attach
then you come into sight

safecracker, tumble and twist
you find the combination and
suddenly you are within my defences
in the fortress of  my head

will you let me down
will we ever fight
these are questions which do not arise
sift through the sand
there are no stones

steal me away into the dark
I shall be safe in your embrace
only your eyes to guide me
only your touch to taste

I will not protest , into this
gentle silence I will go
Losing everything of myself
and gaining so much more.

 -  "Safecracker"

I will sin for you
the taste of sacrilege in my mouth
Your laughing eyes goading me
as I throw myself under the chariot

It is all a stage act, magic
for the dispossesed
Eager to seize a goddess
for the new day, an idol

You can lie
You can cheat
You can promise the moon
You can cut
You can hurt
No fight I have for your words

Sin for you , I will
Heaven will not ask for me, no
dark rose you are

 - "fire/devil"

There's a place I go to
a room in my head
a palace of words and paper
windows warmed by the sun

I can sit and flip the pages in leisure
Studying the phrases,
measuring the measure
No sharp tongues , trailing tangled words
No eager mouths telling me what they have heard

I will escape , run free
in this jungle of leather and papyrii
mask my human face, with the mirrors
of other times , other winds

Sit and wait, while the anxious world goes by
muttering and shaking it's head
I can be silent and carry dreams
until it is time to return

 - "My Secret Room"

I dream of you in rocking carriages, trains
flying softly on rails of steel
I dream of you in sleeping airplanes
night light winks off five seats ahead

I dream of you in river hotels
sleeping while I lie awake
I dream of you in churches and fields
camera raised to your eye
capturing the world

I dream of you in the middle of the day
a caf‚, a book, a glass of iced tea
I dream of how you tastesmellfeel everything
Your endless curiosity

I dream of you in narrow streets
in languages I have not learnt
I dream of you in crowds and sun
waiting for that perfect moment

When it comes you know it
A gift I do not have
Treading water until the time comes
Means that you sometimes miss it completely

And then it is gone
like sand disappearing in an hourglass
A mistake I do not want to make

 - "Perfect Moment"

Someone asks me, casual dinner party jest
as the crab claws are cleared away
"So will you die for your country"
Surprised, I counter
"Surely it is better to live for it?"

Flippant, my glib mouth fires back
But later, the drive home I think
of patriots, priests, and politicians

Would I be the first to the front
With my finger on the trigger
Or would I move to another land
and nurse the memory with my

television dinner,
the channels flickering
while I think of the beaches and winds
I left behind ?

love is sacrifice
but which comes first
which comes fierce
my country or me ?

 -"Patriot "

I realise now
that I have been looking
for your face in crowds
for the past three days

my eyes not knowing
what they were searching for

the line of your neck

the curve of your cheek

the movement of your hair
in sunlight

it comes to me now
as I stare at the hands of the clock
in the small hours of the morning
waiting for my day to start

wishing you were dreaming
next to me
so I could watch you

- Untitled

It's hot today, I will melt
and only my clothes will remain
a memory of the space I occupied

I will evaporate , the flesh no longer real
Replaced by a sigh that escapes steam
too hot, too hot, what to do

I can feel the weight of the sun
if I step from the shade
pressing on my head, trying to make me
stand not so tall

I will blister , I will peel
the mouth of my roof dry
however many glasses of water
I shall  drink

the skinsweat trickles down my spine
It goes faster than a meteor
tracks to the sun

 - "Skinsweat"

Will you walk these streets with me ?
Take my hand and explore
the hidden spaces ?

At night will you lie in my arms
and listen to the river sounds
that rise like birds
circling the heart of the city

Cobbled streets are more than
mere roadways
each a labour of love, jigsaw
of care, set under our soles

We'll wander through the streets
peering at restaurant menus
until we find the perfect
monkfish and scallops

We'll sit in sunlit cafes
and watch the people outside
walk by, cocooned in
their own lives

Every night we move like spoons
easily flipping back and forth
me cradling you like you were
always part of me anyway

- 'Dublin'

Under pressure
the saxman starts to blow
willing the notes from his mind
to his fingers and then to the air

Remembering the cocky changes
the showmanship of scales, from
the piano player, now beaming at him
from the corner of the stage

Your turn now , brother. Sing it now.

Harder and harder, he blows
a dizzying run up and down the
length of the brass
fingers squeezing, fluttering
coaxing the sweet run of black

hemidemisemiquavers, fifths of a blues scale
racing around the world in
eighty bars, over and over
carnatic rhythm throwing the vibe
into the smoke and noise of the room

Like a bird beginning to fly
first he imitates his predecessor
And then , confidently, finding his space
he flinches in pleasure as the
stream turns into a flood

Swinging like Mohammed Ali now
sweet like a butterfly
the sticks of the drummer brushing
the crash, riding the ride

The bass player, lean and tall
watches his fingers carefully
plucking the heartstrings of the double bass
ripping the low notes from the wood

blue note heaven, baby

I'm gonna blow the roof
off this sucker , now
hold onto your hats fellers
it's big bang time

let there be light
let there be sound

The stage lights are hot,
sweat making his fingers slip
Time to call it a night
Don't want to anger the jazzgods
by flaunting their gift

A final flourish, then back to the chorus
A sprinkle of applause
Don't care , amen, hallelujah
Seen the blue note heaven  , baby
At least one time tonight
I can sleep like a man

"Charlie Parker Knows"
May 1997

Stick on the old 45's
And wind up the record player
tonight we will dance in the moonlight
to the sounds of the big band

The kids will hunt for earthworms
by the light of flickering candles
And you, you fool, you will dance
with me, like we did before
we were old and thoughtful

When the cornet player stands up to
do his lazy solo
we will swing by the light of the stars
as if they were the chandeliers of the rich

And the band will play
Our secret song
Over and over.

 - "Back Garden Boogie"

 I wear my tattoo ,  ink on skin
memories of the woman I shared heat with
for a few moments
in someone's  bed in cold Toronto

Reading Anais Nin as she fed me
chocolate and sips of coffee
the sheet wrapped around her shoulders
while the wind howled in the carpark

Counting shadows on the ceiling
as I wandered through the chapters
of horses and virgins and men who took
without asking

perfect blue buildings
in the magazines scattered on the floor
azure horizons and tanned buildings of Morocco
a hundred skies away

On her shoulderblade , the memory of
her beliefs, her ideas, what she wanted
inscribed on her skin , perfect

While on my thigh, fresh healed the sign
of the sky, a symbol of my birth
the claws curled around my leg

downtown the artist packs away his tools
switches off the light ,
closes up the doors , and rides home
 on the bus

 - 'Tattoo'

 When the party's over
and we've said a dozen goodbyes
you will sleep and I will drive
looking at you out of the corner of my eye

in the glow of the dashboard
your sleeping face is gentle
no more furrowed brow
no more worried wrinkle

these are the times when my heart is content
these are the moments when all is well
these are the times when I enjoy you deliciously
the moment when trust is absolute

when I am driving you home
and you sleep
in the passenger seat.

"Passenger seat"

I hate this ash grey town
crumbling around me
yellow halogen lights sickly
casting their glow on the street

where I stand waiting for a bus
to take me to my centrally heated
hermits cell where I sit and look
at the postcard  tucked into the mirror
above the sink where I brush my teeth

every morning , looking at the buildings
bathed in tropical sun, skies that
reign a kingdom bounded only by horizons

where I am someone,  not a  nobody
where I am more than just
another brown face breathing cold
air , wreathing around my mouth

this is not my home

I cannot retreat to the heat
cannot plunge into my Indian Ocean
and float in it's embrace

I will wake up to the sound of a bell
and the light will be washed out
and the red of the walls will remind me
that I have changed islands
and assumed my new secret identity

my mouth twisting into different shapes
as I feel for the light switch that will
flicker this morning into being .

"Secret Identity"

At the top of the spiral staircase
will be our secret room
where we can hide from the world
and watch the sky run free

through the blue stained glass
Venus she rises in the western clouds
as the record player spins Satie
vinyl notes round and round

piannissimo, mezzo mezzo

in our secret room , we share the pleasures of
the heart, the head, the flesh
sanctuary from the heat and the dust
haze shimmering through the mesh

and the wind whispers to
the embracing trees outside

ti amero per sempre

(I will love you forever)

ti amero per sempre....

- "Spiral staircase"

Long distance love affair
(sounds like an old Motown song)
love down a line
breathing in an envelope

a scrawled postcard, with a stamp two weeks old
thoughts stalled in jet lag , ideas turned cold

feelings that jump at the ring of a phone
the sight of new letters on the dining table
nights with hurried conversations echoed across the seas
seconds the delay but an eternity in the distance

- 'Long Distance Love'

today I saw a blind man
kneeling in the street
while around him a city walked by
without missing a beat

today I saw a child of six
asking me for a coin
tomorrow there will be two
and then another, another will join

today I saw in traffic
a man with only one arm
around his neck he clutched an amulet
a failed good luck charm

today I saw a mad woman
a mirror in her hand
sitting in the middle of rush hour
trying to make us understand

today I saw a messenger
with a telegram of grief
Could you have been that blind man
make haste because life is brief.....

- "Messengers"

That devil dance smile
is still in your eyes
the autumn leaf of your skin
teeth cat white against your lips

I think I hated you
with a passion that knew no words
no memories, just the enemy
I cannot remember the nights
sleeping on the floor of your room
while moonlit illuminated
our intertwined forms

The demons seem to have
left you whole, unfettered
now you do not seem burdened
by the confusion of the
time when I knew you

But there is something about
the way you wander over the grass
that tells me you have not
lost your travelling urge
restless you pace by the waters edge

What do I do, me
who carried this wariness around
for years and months?
Do I throw it in the lake
hear it splash

What do I do , me
Who finds myself laughing with
the one who left me stranded ?
the one who left me branded ?

What do I do , me
who finds himself remembering
what hex, what voodoo, what spell
you weaved over me ?

Powerless yet this time sure
I allow myself to be drawn
back into your careless orbit
carefully, but , carefully
I get pulled by your forces

 -"Careless Orbit "

 My baby and me
we play a game
in the early hours
of a winter morning

We lie in bed
and close our eyes
and outside
we dream up Arizona

On the edge of a desert
dawn sun rising
iguanas scuttle between rocks
seeking the retreating shade

We are in a small hotel
Fly-shutter doors and
pay-per-view TV
But the sheets are clean
and the coffees good

Outside we hear someone
drag a trunk
across the car park
and the thunk of a closing lid

Two doors down
someone switches on a
radio, old jazz
comes floating through
the paper thin walls

A single sheet over
our naked bodies
 lazy fan spinning  overhead

Soon we will rise
Soon we will wake
Soon our tumbleweed dreams will end

But for now , we lie still
in calm half-sleep
Safe in the arms
Safe in the heart
of the desert

 - 'Dreaming Arizona'

I discovered a new breeze today
blowing through my room
excited I pull open another
window and another
until the crosswinds stir easily

I place a drum against a door
Prop a book against another
And feel the hairs on my head
brush with the fingers of air

>From Egypt , India and the east
They come and gather to talk
a melange , flirting invisibly
in the four corners of my room

It is the palace of winds
it is the storytellers cradle
the place where myths learn to fly
where wings sprout on words
where rumours scatter and die

They congregate and whisper
old ladies at a dance
while below I sleep the sleep
of the innocent ,
unknowing of what is being said
in my ears, around my head

And then, just as quickly they go
vanishing out the window, across the sea
to fill the waiting vacuums
That wait for their return
Leaving my room still again
but for a moment??


I see your lips twisted
into a sullen pout
as you stare insolently
at those who cross your path

Sometimes I see you wilful
petulant and unwilling
to bend to the dictates
of the world around you

But I like you most
when you are laughing,
running through the sun
clean limbed and full of grace

free from the burdens
of your past, the weight
of history off your shoulders

so that you can be the
one who dances naked
in the moonlight
in the hours before dawn

so you can be the one
who swims fearlessly
through the dark waters
not afraid of the shadows

there will always be
a tempest in your heart

but for now I like you
when you inhabit
the eye of the storm

and have learned what it means
to be still.

 - 'Storm'

I can no longer trust my body
to do what my brain tells me to do
it is treacherous, deceiving
it lies to me out of the corner of my mouth

it spins me in circles , telling me yes
telling me no, but never telling me
the proper way to go

I try to concentrate , focus my eyes on the
far corner of the room , willing it to stay in one place
instead of moving in front of my mesmerised eyes

But in the small animal part of my head
I am thankful for the small mercies
I would rather lose my vision for a few moments
than lie throwing off the devil in my sleep
as my mother watches anxiously
dabbing the foam from my lips

keeping her midnight vigil
waiting for the demons to leave
her son alone.

- 'Grand Mal/Petit Mal'

Straining at the leash, a thoroughbred that's what you are
high and tense, long legs moving through the world
unsure of what your place is in it

that mischief in your eyes as you dance in front of me
the line of your neck as you slip and slide
your  lips smoking a cigarette
while you stare at the screen waiting
for the words to appear

walking into the room with you
is like seeing the wind ripple through the forest
heads turning, eyes watching as you
do your graceful goddess thing

if I turn and kiss you,  will you kiss me back ?
the ignorance is an arousing  thing
but you are still not someone I know
Perhaps someone I will never know

For now it is enough to watch and wonder
how you will make your way through your life
how strong and confident you will face it
and how you will still make heads turn
like leaves in the wind

one day I will sweep you off your feet
and build you castles in the air
one day I will do things properly
and the night we will share.....


Two boys lying
on fishing nets at noon
one asleep,
caught in the web of his dreams
while the other
forms a telescope with
his fingers , looking at
the sky outside the house

One dreaming of the sea
the other of defying gravity
the end is the same

water and air will be
the accomplices to flight
Away from reality
into the mind's twilight

when Prospero strides in
nets draped around his
aged shoulders, barefoot
looking for his Ariel

who will rise to the lure ?

  - "Prospero and Ariel"
(After Kevin Clogstouns photographs)

I wish I could take
this velvet night
and wrap it around you
like a cloak

I wish I could take
these distant stars
and place them like diamonds
at the base of your throat

I wish I could take
the moon ripples in the sea
and weave them into a dress
that dazzles the sun

But all I can do
is sing silently to you
in the hours before dawn
when I lie propped on one arm

watching you dream
your ocean dreams.

 - 'Surf song'

I will make the leap
find the faith as I fly
unsure of where I land
sure of the reason why

It takes a certain insanity
to surrender to the unknown
to get dragged by the tide
to fall free like a stone

It is not an easy thing , this
hard to say what bone will break
against the grain,I opt for pain
I chose the loneliness, the ache

At the end of the time
no guarantee , nothing sure
but perhaps a little wiser then
perhaps a little more pure

 - "Leap of faith"

It was the first time I had seen the moon
in this fast flickering life of mine
It fell out of the sky into the lake
And sat there, reminding me of something
I forgot

A moment from my past
when I was a boy, not so
wrapped up in this drive
for moneylovepower me me me

when to live was to run free
without thinking of tomorrow
to think was to imagine and dream
without the  wrinkle of the brow

When I saw the moon again
something came loose inside of me
and swung free in the wind
it felt good to have it back

- "It was the first time I had seen the moon"

The cheating of the lips
this, does it reveal
a weakness of the head
the hearts empty promise ?

The concealing eyes, they
evade the truth by
shading, ducking diving
do they not ?

The silent mouth lies
louder than if it was open
A moment's madness
now swells into a facade

covering the skeleton of
the truth inside; outside
blankness. Sin is written
all over the face.

Embrace. Replace. Taste.

- "The Silent mouth"

Neruda dreamt
of roses in the arbour
temple flowers alight on
the white verandah

while elephants roamed the city at night
while the geckoes hung from sweating ceiling
while the chirp of crickets was a steady hum
the machinery of the forest outside
while bats soared through weeping trees
Neruda dreamt

Neruda dreams
of palaces and poets, star people
who travelled to distant lands
in times the sands have forgotten

Neruda dreams
of the taste of cinnamon, passion
deep and hot in the mouth

He dreams of dark secrets
inked on darker flesh
waiting to be uncovered
by the hand of a rhymer

A caress.... less.

While Neruda dreams
Strange lands come to life
Stick figures with the faces of monkeys
ride through the sky
carrying half a mountain

carefully.... carefully

When Neruda dreams
the spirits flee the house of his sleep
muttering about the sun
staring at the retreating moon
wandering if exile is the only option

When Neruda dreams
(quand il dort)
the garden shall grow noiselessly
lush in the tropical heat
fertile brown earth clasping
green shoots deep in it's heart

When Neruda dreams
the fish fly to the moon
and sing "Claire de lune"
in their best singing voices

Neruda's dreams , contain
mermaids, scholars, slaves, armies
mountains, lakes, rivers , roses
crossed in an instant of dreamtime

When Neruda dreams
words flow from the pen of his mind
onto the blank page
ending it's emptiness
beginning the dance.....

-"When Neruda Dreams"

I remember a girl
silhouetted against
a field of fireflies
eyes laughing in the darkness

I remember a girl
alone on  a rock
meditating in moonlight
Amidst an ocean of green

 I remember a girl
wishing she had wings
so she could fly
unafraid in clear blue skies

I remember a girl
wishing she had lungs of water
so she could swim
the fathomless depths with no fear

saltwater kisses taste so sweet

I remember a girl
eyes filled with sleep
nestled in my arms

silent dawn, safe from harm

Clinging to me like ivy
around an old oak tree
comfort in a storm

curled catlike, breath sweet and warm

A kiss , like a benediction
in the early hours of light
slow breath, grace at rest

the sleep of the truly blessed

All these memories
holed up in my head
memories for a winters day

when the past is another country
these dreams will stay with me

(he makes love
in straight lines

she makes love
in curves)

-'Straight Line/Curves'

Sweet soulful song
from shiny brass horn
fingers moving like hydra
as the notes sound high up
to the heavens

like butterflies hovering
around the wings of a sail
curved in the breeze

pursed lips, brow furrowed
in concentration , as
cheeks puff in prayer

air turns to gold
and the wind sings along
the memory of home
the echo of jazz
when Miles plays....

- "Miles Away"

Crossing the line between
black and white,
 day and night,
 into the land  of your heart,

Lost but for you I walk into
your ocean, surrender to
your waves, you are the
queen of my castle, the

keeper of the key, the
one who knows the secrets
of the boy inside, open
wide, touch my lips

in your eyes lie the
future of my hands, stroking
your face, as you and
I become one, the same

.....lit by moonlight , I
am no longer an island.

- "Crossing the line"

There is great sadness
in this July night
the crash of sea surf
the echo of the late train

wisps of cumulus nimbus
a Muslim moon in the east
under the roofs of houses
the innocent sleep tensely
sweltering in the humid heat
waiting for the dawn

when another day comes
when more hate is spawned
then the fear shall spring
then the hate will rise
the light of intolerance
comes to once smiling eyes

then the mobs shall run
then the fires will burn
the innocent will stand helpless
nowhere to turn

I will look for my mother
in a hustling crowd
and she will call my name
in a voice scared but firm

 I will be driven through
the dry burning streets
watching through the rear window while
a policeman beats a looter ,
who writhes on his knees
sick with the pain

The sirens will wail
long into the night
while I listen to their sounds
wide-eyed and awake
watching the fan thrash overhead

And  neighbours will run
under cover of dark
to hide in friends houses
clutching their lives in their hands

faded photos in silver frames,
passports and money
children asleep in their arms
too sleepy to understand

The phones will ring
flat voices will  threaten
and the children will sleep
uneasy in their beds
harsh voices in their ears
flames in their heads

Years later, I will remember these things
on a hot July night
hearing fragments of voices
wondering when the spark will
ignite again.

 - "1983"

Shall I tell you about desire?

Desire is the tingling of the teeth
when you look at the lips
of the one you want to kiss

Desire is the stroking of the hand
flesh on warm flesh, the
calm before the storm, when
passion lies smouldering

I'll tell you about desire

Desire is when the walls
are eggshell thin, paper
barriers against the

Desire is dangerous and sweet
a moments succumbing
a lifetimes atonement

Desire is cold and calculating
bringing the spy of lust
into your voyeur heart

Desire is the moment
when water touches fire
and gives birth to steam

I haven't finished

Desire is when you want
 to lick your tongue
down her spine


Desire is when she will
touch your chest to feel
your heart pulsing slow
quick quick


Desire is when the mouth is dry
the tongue like a desert snake
waiting for the oasis

sandstorm dreams

Desire is when you want to
kiss the neck, stroke
the line of her back


But you wait , while
the animal grows
restless , flickering


Desire is when you cannot
see their eyes without
seeing the flame inside

deep 	slow	soft	sweet

When you see the bruised
lips , bee stung into swollen
need, now , kiss , me

that's desire

when you want to delve
to explore, velvet darkness
the taste deep and hot

that's desire

when you want to dance
the dance of sin and shame
long and proud

that's desire

When you want to own
to melt, to liberate, to
conquer and be free

that's desire

(so bad you can taste it)

 - "Desire"

 Goddamn I love you
and I'm gonna hit you
like an avalanche ,
 like a tonne of bricks,

When I see you next ,
 I will hold you tighter than
 my deepest secret

and whirl and waltz you
around the room

Damn you're beautiful
like a cool drink on
a hot day

like a


in the month of May

Don't want nights
Don't want days
Just want years where
I can lock you away

just	for	my	self

Not share you with the static
Not give you up to the noise
tune in loud and clear
like an old radio on a summer night



	-"Radio Song"

 I hate funerals, the
shovelled earth hitting
the wooden lid
bitter sky overcast with rain
or fierce afternoon heat
as the sweat clings to my
one good shirt

While pious men praise you to
the skies with their honest lies
As I gaze at the rest of your
friends on this tired earth

The cliches we murmur as we
approach the ones you left behind
the dry palms we shake
as the hollow words we make

Why can't we celebrate your life not your death ?
Why can't we remember
the way you  smiled, you laughed
the way you loved

Faded flowers on fresh earth
as the soil folds you in
it's cold embrace

It's not even a proper goodbye
this one way street, things
left unspoken, confidences unbroken

In your grave , as the earthworms
start their perpetual dance
do you too mourn our loss ?
-"Earthworm Tango"


				skiddle skidaddle

whee whee whee

			badu badu


			oobie oobie ooooooh

eebie eebie eeeeeeehh

			a tisket
			a tiskat

I've lost my little basket

		diduna didunda

badu			badu

	badu			badu