There is nothing else to do
but kiss.
It is night. It is always night, yet
there are no stars, no moon.
Torches have not been invented.
Once you have chosen your partner
you are thick with his embrace.
There is no other action
but this kiss.
Sex has not been invented, in fact,
we are the only two people alive.
We are white, we are cold,
but we kiss.
This embrace does not move us,
we are still to it. Clothes have not
been invented. We are frozen
to each other. Some might call this
eternity. I can breathe through my nose,
so can he. My jaw no longer aches.
We do not use our tongues.
We have nothing to say to each other,
so we kiss.



Pond Cleaning

Here there is everything to do.
Spring, coming late, writes hurried lists
its ‘to do’s’ italicised in slanting shoots
leaning out towards returning light.
The heron has come back, a shrugged shadow
over the netted pond. The fish are replete with winter sleep.
Heavy-still with darkness, they tremble briefly.
We draw back the net, push the urgent yellows of king cups
back through, straighten buckled iris swords. Prepare to clean.
Then we see the frogs. The periscope eyes, a slow surfacing
into enemy lines, then the first low volley of lust’s beat.
They swell into a timpani. One note suffices.
In abstracted silence they stare golden-eyed, ‘in flagrante’,
but already beyond the cold heat
that dragged their moist bodies across roads, across gravel
to this embrace.
I feel their cold upon my lips: an absence of princes
the indifference of frogs.


The Narcissist and the Frog

I twist to admire the print of my new boots
on the path. It is now that I notice the yoga
stretch of frogs, their long, cold, fatal embrace
of mud. They stare ever upwards, their goggle
eyes spawned. I bend from the hip like a dancer,
choosing the frog that is best preserved, peel
a dry caress of leather from the tarmac. I parade
to the ponds, lift a leaf of marsh marigold, slide
the perfect body clean into the water, its zig
zags weave under a headstone of hawthorn.
My lovely face ripples to the edge of the bank.


Self Portrait with Straw Hat, Arles, 1887

My mirror brims, each morning it promises light.
Each morning it dulls, its eye a blank stare.
Or is it my stare that is the mirror?
Here the lunacy of grey creeps like dust at the crossroads,
denying fresh green, making drudges of wayside poppies.
I wipe and wipe the small square of my bedroom window.
In the garden the other inmates walk, shabby men
whose feet drag one beat behind each step.
They stop, forget that they are men, and sob.
Today I do not walk. They will bring me
my easel and paints. I shall scrape the sharp
yellow sunlight into the straw of my hat.
My shirt I will imprint with the sky – not the
worn blue of old men’s eyes – but a blue that burns
liquid yellow into cornfields, ignites flames in the stars.
I turn the mirror to the wall, but as I paint
he stares, red-eyed, hollow-cheeked
in Gethsemane’s walled despair.
I crown him with a hat of straw.



Finally, I see the colour consultant,
she tells me about the spectrum, decides
on midnight blue. The stars come out
during the day on this jacket. Her friends,
in jeans or worn corduroy, are lower down
the spectrum in pale blues or browns, yet
they are gentle as they strap between my legs,
pull tight across my chest. I fold my arms
to keep the lines clean. Once, at art college,
I saw a man wriggle clear of his; it was buckled
incorrectly. Mine is comfy, except when I think
wrong thoughts; then the stars ignite and fizz,
needle my blood. I’m told my imagination
leads me into temptation. I’m to relax.
A man takes me to dinner, spoons the soup,
smiles and wipes my chin. I ask if the jacket
matches my eyes. He asks if I’d like a shave.
He is in love, so are the rest. Even the consultant
glimpses something special in me, she gazes
through the glass, invites her corduroyed friends,
their eyes, their ears follow my every movement.
I grunt through my psalms, the valley of darkness.
My palms start to itch. Yea, I shall think only
good thoughts, good thoughts, good thoughts…



Our job is to watch them. We are deliberately bland.
Our training gives us tolerance and the slow smile of compassion.
Off-site we practise the techniques: a hand on the shoulder,
a verbal deflection, some small banter about lives
we have created for ourselves out of fantasies
that we know to be theirs.
They are grey and still in the jackets we provide.
They think our jackets become them, consider
the tightening laces as evidence of future beauty.
Colour obsesses them. We dare not plant flowers
outside the windows, only geometrics in khaki
decorate their rooms. A rainbow is a disaster.

We feed them with restraint and patience, watching
their small mouths open and close.
It could not be said that we love them
although every one of our actions
mimics that strange attachment.
We know how to quieten their needs.

Our strategies fool their escape.
They think contentment while under the jackets
their bodies rebel, weave fantastic parachutes
packed against the cords
concoct terrible reds and blues and yellows.

Here we must always keep the windows closed.