Professor in the City

Smudged conspiratorial church spires needled the sky
all through the cold brackish spring I walked beneath
the colossal shadow of the Washington monument;
bricks rung my shadow my face was sown to at dawn,
unlike Poe who swung in the dilated winter bells were hoarse
from too much execution; but what bloomed in my head
down Bolton Hill was the serial killer line in Chaucer:
‘the smylere with the knyf under the cloke,’ a perfect epitaph
for this city Frederick Douglass’s beard braced the slight
tourist crowd milling at the harbour under the bloodshot
sign of the Domino Sugar building, burning across the grey
bay, red even when off, directing at this industrial curve
the smoke columns signalling ghettoes beyond this point;
a current pulled me there to thaw the medieval foundry
I spent morning beating out the fretted equanimity nested
on my tender crops, who winced and sang in the trough
of the tales, and I, triste-tropique-man, ice-pick raconteur,
oracular, earnest at the furnace, feared a knife adjuncted
my heart, chipped over an imaginary moat an anachronistic
river sighed below the asphalt, and heard a man yelled in his cell,
“Get the fucking money, Pete”; I became holy and lowered
my head and felt a chill mortared my bones; daylight diminished,
a pale horse plumed towards me, I laughed, it halted: “O my chevalier!”


When the Low and Heavy Sky Weighs like a Lid

Wait. From May until December
Is that all that you remember?
Yes, I really went there:
It was hanging in the poem's air
Where oriole and raven roof
A city tried by wire’s truth,
The stomping ground of Ishion
Before he moved to Ithaca
And said “what bloomed in my head” down
Gorge and creek and bebe’s lake. How
Round Midnight of me, listening to
Midnite. How being Being’s fool.


All Cézanne’s apples I would give away. 
—-WH Auden, ‘Letter to Lord Byron’
Down into the cold hell
of my office below our new house, 
shaded from natural light,
an electric bulb helps me to see
at the edge of the yard,
the stunted apple tree.
All its apples I would give
away, but not for a Goya or Daumier;
only so the evening deer,
who come to eat the fruits 
fallen corrosive in the grass,
bring with them certain truths.
I watch in the unnatural 
light the magic of deer
each evening since our arrival,
unassailed, shade-forged,
absorbed in their silence,
their silhouette changed
suddenly to fire, darting 
to the neighbours’ as night
clusters the tree; now it is time
I creak up the stairs, only tonight, 
branched at the dark window,  
ignited by another sight:
Betelgeuse. Bellatrix.


Apollo: Season Two

Go. Go before I change my mind,
Is all He would have thought, and said,
If not for the great glee He heard
In how Marsyas gripped and played
The thin, twig-tied pipes for the Lord
Of Light, Prince of Gods Apollo,
The Core Verse incarnate, Father
And Avenger of Triolus.
Bonheur blared from the spit-soaked wood
As his left hind leg and hoof stomped
Out one impossible measure
After another as, unsure
Of what we were hearing, we hid
And half-watched, half-blinded by His
Half-presence, from a safe distance.
How happy do you have to be
Before the gods come to stoke and
Then smother it? Poor Marsyas.
Thirty-seven summers ago, when
This bower itself was still young
And on trial, He descended down,
Sun-luxed, blessed and blessing with Dawn.
He cooed into the kid’s flared ear.
That was all it took, and was. Air.
Air from the Harbinger of Song.
A gift. A gift until he wronged
Great Apollo, boasting, “I can play
Almost as well as Great Apollo.”
But he couldn’t. And he didn’t.
And Great Apollo took his prize.
He toyed Marsyas to tinsel,
Then hung his stripped skin from a tree,
And said, I am Apollo: the Power
And the Glory and First Song. Burn this bower.
Burn it all down. Then, scribe, write well of me.



Considering the end of our conversion,
this taut kora chords we have drawn,
drawn into violet-roaned mornings

cinched over the cliffs and hills I glanced,
risen, as a boy, the white slit of gulls
and the cooling ictus of the moon
through the veranda’s burnt fretwork;
I, goat-child, my nerves and skin
given back to me after the harp-boning,
concedes apology to Hot Man Lux, Jr
for my little burlesque in the bower;
‘Respect your elders,’ my mother whipped me,
repeatedly, until, illumed, self-illuminated
and nacre-dark, I have learnt to listen.


A Sequel to Cities and Towns

And then the goat said to the God,
Deliver me my skin. And He
Did. And then the goat said to the God,
Anoint me in my skin again.
And He did. And then the goat said
To the God, Seal me in my skin.
And He did. And He salved the seams.
And He subtled him. And Himself.
Call it unrecognizable
Weather: boiling snow sidling
Gilt cloudbanks; a beetle-back sky;
Nacre-gnarled écorchés of ought
And nought-air; all caught in the thought
That we were the God and the goat,
Once strangers, now just strange, and bound
By the songs of Heaven and wound
That wing out from our one shared throat.