For Our Wedding DayThis day, lit by a morning sun
Low over rolling clouds,
Is pregnant with the beauty
Of the first day God created.
It enfolds me as if I were the world
And God my circled sun.
Yet I spend each transfigured minute
Resting my thoughts upon her face;
Trapped in the memory of a conversation spun
A week ago.
I fumble to remember her shadowed face,
I hear her softening words re-echo in my mind,
I delve into the sheltered places of my own heart
And find her lurking there:
All this I write for our wedding day
Like the callow youth
For whom each maiden-spied
Is his bride to be:
A man who tries to reach the stars before once orbiting his sun.
Yet this day
I am Adam
And she Eve
And the world is new created,
And God’s love is my love,
And the sun of this new-breaking day
Is her, with its softly stirring rays.
I have known ...I have known women
Beautiful as the sunset on a darkening, stormy isle
Or perfect as the perfect bloom
By glossy brush.
And I have known women
As the black puppy
Appearing from underneath its rug.
I have known women
Who didn’t know how to love,
Or were afraid to,
Or didn’t just now,
Or just didn’t.
I have known women
To whom I was strangely attracted
And simultaneously repulsed.
And those I would have liked to love
And later thanked God I didn’t.
I have known women
Whom I loved,
And continued to love.
I have disappointed women:
But one or two.
There has been lust, infatuation, longing, restless days, tears, anger, bitterness, pain, moments of spontaneous joy
But in the end
They have been
A sun setting
A bloom fading
A feeling passing out of hope.
God made youGod made you
Unknown, in these stony fields of London.
You found some dark, moist patch of earth
And grew in that obscure place:
Your stem thickening,
Your leaves blossoming,
Your greeness growing, strong ... yet, precarious
(like each of us - vulnerable to a toppling stone or grazing beast or hungry lick of flame)
And here I see your flower-soul now slowly opening,
So, slowly turning
Up to God:
And showing forth that
I would never pick you
And admire you
Upon my window sill,
I plant myself beside you;
Not so close as to suffocate your air
Or bind your roots.
But close enough to wait
And see you grow
and drink together springtime rain
and welcome in the bee’s first kiss.
That I should love you:
Caress your flesh
Yet not undress you.
That when I wake
It is you that is present to my mind
Yet the ‘not-you’ that is present to my eyes.
That we who are freed by love
By conventions let ourselves be bound
And wish it so.
What is it then that constrains me?
Fear of sex?
Fear of God?
Fear of babies?
Fear of ‘what other people think’?
But this I know
That I would never wish to crush you,
Never pluck you
Before the flower has flowered
And the seed-head formed
And the fruit is ready
To freely drop into my lap.
And what is it to love?And what is it to love?
Why are fear and love intermingled?
Why does solitude call when I embrace
And love hunger when I am alone?
And why was I made One Part Solitary to One Part Lonely?
Why does love call?
And the wilderness keen when love comes?
Why is freedom loneliness?
And love captivity?
Why are we not beasts made to be either gregarious or singular?
Why are we complex spirits with many parts
and oceans with undercurrents and crosscurrents
and tides waxing and waning.
You, cover me with love like an ocean
And I am marooned in it
I am an island
And your love surrounds me.
Yet embedded I am in the ocean’s floor:
Joined to the sprinkling of many islands in one archipelago
For we small islands are linked
Under the great oceans
And through the vastnesses of chasms and deep waters
To mighty continents and land masses ...
and tectonic plates creak and grind
Bringing together what was separated:
Making of the two
Are we not right to be fearful of such changing -
The tidal waves and the earthquakes and the unknown new creation?
What Is This You Are Birthing In Me?What is this you are birthing in me?
What awesome, awful thing?
That I know not who I am
And feel disrupted in my soul.
Under attack - sustained and of unwavering intensity.
Your wet lips covet mine.
Your hands dig for my flesh.
Your eyes seek me
And you have captured me:
And I thrash like a hook-caught salmon;
Tremble like the wild horse broken;
Nuzzle to you like a mammal to its mum.
But none of these encompass
A man and a woman -
We are elemental,
As when wind sweeps upon the sea
And both are thrown to fury:
The wind unchecked by land,
The sea risen to an awful wrath.
And somewhere here
An awesome thought breaks
(Calm in the midst of ocean raging):
We are god to each other,
Finding something hidden in our flesh
Beyond word -
A discovered likeness birthing in us.
Now, we are midwives to each other
And God, our Sire, is the Father of us all.
Being unable to fully appreciate the ancient doctrine of deificationAh! You have deceived me!
And I am deceived!
You are no human being
But an angel
And your wings cover me with love undreamt of.
InterpretationIt was one of those wet days:
English as damp holidays and humiliations at Lords;
The water sizzled under the tyres
And the way ahead was a wilding gray.
Then, by the roadside in a ditch or gutter
(a pool of black water wreathed in spray -
as if all was an ocean roused to raging),
A black shape slithered like a wet snake.
Stopping, we saw that it was an otter:
Agitated, afraid - and there hiding in the black pool
Its mate: injured, damaged by a brutish car.
We gathered to watch, helpless to give comfort.
The hurt creature wriggled off, bent and broken:
Strong it was yet crippled, weak yet resolute
And his mate was anxious, close - silky black
In her following and dear devotion.
My heart leapt, started and roused me from sleep.
I remembered a dream some years ago
When a white bird - a Silkie - plumed, puffed,
Buffeted by big winds paddled on the edge of the dark ocean.
Then I was alone, unready for the ocean’s raging
- the deep swells and the tide and the ebbing.
Now my close companion covers me
And, when I am healed
We’ll dance together in life’s unsettled sea.
So we must make love new againSo we must make love new again.
That week is past
This day is new
Gone are the swallows
Come are the playful leaves about our feet.
After Building The First BridgeNot for long can I admire the cantilevers of our love
Or contemplate the beauty of this span;
Congestion must be eased by new bridges
And, perhaps, tunnels hacked beneath the river’s rocky bed.
For the compulsion of our cities never rests -
We are no country villages
Content with the ferryman and his dog,
But smog-wreathed towns
Needing to make a conurbation of our love.
So this is loveSo this is love:
an irresistible mixture of
(and this is love:
a practical woman
full of sexuality!)
Practical, in that it is nothing
but living intertwined with each
and living from infatuation
Sexual ... well ...
in that it is
The whole world encompassed in our fire.
And youAnd you love me
Freely without ambivalence.
And you love me
Faithfully without fully knowing all.
And you love me
Fervently without pretence.
And you love me?
And I so full of vague lies, undigested truth and contrary passions
And you love me
And you love me.
PropositionsShe has captured my heart.
In possessing her
I forfeit everything.
When I celebrate our wedding
I must also mourn
For I am also shedding
All other possibilities.
The waitresses enchant me.
At this my birthday supper
Their paprika lips shine in the lamplight
And olive curves fascinate ...
My wife sees my pain
And feels her own.
Mingles with my breath
In alluring aroma
And perfumed paella
For I still see what God has made,
Yet cannot possess.
This is food only for observation.
My wife’s warm body
Succours me at night.
Her breasts feed me ,
Her passion devours me
And when I come to her
I rise with all that has risen in me:
The red lips
The herons flying at sunset
The ache of all lost longings
For are we not one humanity?
ConclusionAnd is love
or a gaining
CommunicationThere is a mystery in communication
And especially in miscommunication,
There is a strangeness in the shades of meaning:
The light and dark
And the puzzle of miscomprehension
One sentence may seem straight
As Cupid’s arrow
But another is bent
As if sent
To deliberately puncture comprehension.
We live in this tension
Understanding is not merely
In the word
But in the accent and the context
And the intonation
And who is saying it
And what’s in it for them
And the whole tenor of their conversation.
You must look
To see if their neck is bent
Or if their eyebrow is raised
Or the frown furrowed
Or the hands clenched in frustration.
It is an education
Sometimes when you talk I have to guess
And have to use my intuition ...
But sometimes I know
And the mystery catches fire
As if it were no longer darkened
But warm and aglow
With the miracle of our holy communion.
For Lucyann on our wedding nightBaby, can I make love to you?
Baby, can I make love with you?
Can I put aside all the pain of this body?
Can I remember,
If only for a while
Only the smell of your flesh
And the convulsions of your body?
Can I forget all the anguish?
Forget all the ones who didn’t love?
Forget all the foolishness -
All that agony
Sweetness can I feast on your sugar-flesh -
Sweet as honey,
Sweet as the cane crushed,
Sweet as the nectar of the flower slowly opening?
Can I partake of the sweet repast of your body
Which God has prepared for me?
Can I taste the savours of your mind?
The heat of your emotions?
The secret spices of your soul unexplored -
Baby, can I make love to you?
Will you feast on the offering of my flesh?
Lying naked with my wife for the first timeWhat do I say now Venus?
What groves describe?
What subtle tricks with words
And fresh conceits now try?
What stories tell
And rhythms artfully conceive?
None. I can use none.
Only tell of your flesh: white, plump and round,
Only write of your warmth and my flesh shivering,
Only remember your thighs and the shape of yourself -
Round and womanly; close on myself and you clinging
And me feeling ... strangely relaxed and mellow and at one and different and free
And you lying there like a Venus by Titian
And the gates flung open wide.
Sleeping togetherBeside me, a woman
Soft, warm, heavy
Sucking the dark air
Down into her sleeping flesh
Sometimes she murmurs
Groans blindly into the night
The breath mumbling out
Over slack lips
But she sleeps light
Like a soldier on night watch
Alert to the inspection
Of an insomniac officer
If I stir and turn
I am restless all night long
A solitary piss
Is quickly trumped
This is our connubial bliss
Two souls in one flesh
Two bodies in one bed
Love dormant and warm
Everything she feels I feelIt was never meant to be this way
It was meant to be more rational
more two people loving freely, in partnership
emotion in harmony with reason
But this is bodies, guts intertwined
Sex had this surprise for us
The penetration is complete
the sharing of fluids total
the ecstasy presaging
An Utter Folly
I never expected it
But now I see
See the compass of her life
and I drawn magnetically
to follow, interweave, mix
with her passage
No book would ever advise this choice
But I chose nothing
I chose what I could not understand
and now understanding
can do nothing but look
and look clearly
A MarriageI came with a bowl of oranges
fruit, splendid and brave
and we agreed
we would plant an orange grove
Trees well spaced
buzzing with life,
but when we tasted
the fruit was bitter
it burnt the mouth
Was it the cold climate?
Was it the lack of skill in husbandry?
Was it the soil?
No, this was the fruit we chose to plant
we wanted a winter fruit
tart and sharp
needing the sweetening of love,
the long boiling in a wide pan
This was the recipe we chose
and we must share it with the world
This Tender ThingThis tender thing is love
this tender thing we seek to grow:
Two things becoming one thing
without ceasing to be two things
and many things, and, perhaps,
in the spaciousness of God, hardly anything at all
For when we forget
when we stop striving
when we simply breathe
then, I have heard it said, we can become everything
this tender thing
of flower and fruit and seed
Let our loveLet our love be free.
Let it run
Like the runner
On the steep fell slope:
Its muscles like iron,
Its strength steady
And its gait graceful as the roll of the hills.
Let our love be free.
Let it sing
Like the songthrush
In unhurried garden:
Its music fluid,
Its wing ready
And its joy boundless as the wind of the air.
Let our love be fruitful.
Let it bud
Like a tree -
Well-rooted and watered:
Its blossoms gentle,
Its fruit sweet
And its harvest abundant in autumn years.