Highgate (a prose poem)

Published online at Spillwords 

https://spillwords.com/highgate/

 

December air, smudged with cold and clouds, lies heavily on the street, weighing loss with leaded weights at our lives and their thin scurry between work and night. An orchestra might sing weather like this as a descending, single note drawn out long from a saxophone or hide it amongst a fluster of pigeons. Highgate cemetery is in business with theatres of death like this, its wrought iron railings and fester of ivy a risen curtain hoisted with grief's strings.

Once, August was loose here and teenagers would push between the fence gaps, heady with sun and searching, they’d wander the shaded greenness, murmuring, drinking and then tasting silence’s stuff at reason; laze on the mound of daisy patterned grass and feel young against the rot, lithe against the cold immobile stones. The fence is thick now with technology’s spy, youths lurk at the edges, leaving cans to rust amid the docks and nettles.

It isn’t all angels though; a slender needle shoots to the sky bearing Mary-Ann Evans’ name in balance with her nom-de-plume, George Elliot, Death, if not Victorian editors treating them eternally as equals. ‘The Mill on the Floss’ still spinning water beneath the ink she eloped her days through to us.

Graffiti rages like rain on some headstones and is removed, running fumy chemicals to straggle with weeds and clumps of lost words – Carl Marx’s head has borne its blisters – the spray of anger flumed across grey stones in the deadened stillness of misunderstanding. Unquiet ideas wielding rage at stones. Unrest an eternal wage watermarked with philosophy, entombed within the turn of limey, chalky soil, tongues still full of argument.

And ash. Cremation was new to Victorians, Greek urns cavorting with gods and grapes were suddenly purposeful and filled with remains – the flames last ownership of flesh is still contained on cold Highgate shelves, written with copperplate inscriptions, standing in the hollows of walls built with stony flowers, kissing at damp air.

George Michael would have sung it carelessly, a smoky whisper scented with patchouli incense and the drift of a car flooding towards the final barrier in a blaze of metallic, tabloid headlines, a piano elsewhere and tuned with the smoothest dusk intoning the chords of unplanned endings. Christmas an unseen hiatus hovering in radio airwaves, a charcoal mark drawn at the back of a guitar strum blurring the man and the public machinations of life. A small cross marks his place and real flowers angel their faith into perfume sweet as lyrics.

It was the Romans who would feed their dead, stealing this coin from Greek mouths and their customs; naming and abandoning London to a grief, as Christina Rosetti wrote and writes now in the earth, here with these others, echoes still singing, flowing through her remembered hands.

Getting On

Some days spring
is gentled in paint
my blood muffled
to water-colour
rhythms pulsing
with  circadian
hum and the blinking
wider of everything.

Or else, rain pummels
the house while I work
through paper and code
details to feed emails'
tap and scurried bleat

time a bungee cord
plunging from the rocks
to slake ennui
in flowers' lip-stick -
bright new any-things
fizzing in the glass
I watch you push
to your mouth full
as lengthening hours
bidding you drink
before they are gone.

The Dive

 

Surging,

folding and falling,

line upon line

catching the light less

the camera sinks lower,

as the saline dark

 gathers and sucks

away the source

of skies,

to the murk

of drawing tides.

 

The lens locks,

focuses on

a Jig-saw of spines

and filmy eyes

peeling with vacancy.

Fins spasm and swim -

apostrophes shaped

to the jellied

bloat of a predator -

glowering

in a hush and sway

of cells.

 

Teeth protrude,

 their drilled line

an opening picket,

as tentacles of flesh

give succour

In loomed gulps, its identity

no longer certain

and eroded

as the bitten land

above.

Quarantined

(published in Writer's Egg Magazine issue 7)

The sun is all spring sequins today,

flecking with the babble

of minutes gangling longer

and lusher with a flamenco

dash of daylight

the drapery of winter

almost tucked away

with our thick coats and thermal gloves.

 

Yet our lives lay in lethargy

and our limbs are pent,

our movements curtailed,

crammed within our homes

as we gaze at television news,

its stream a-pattering and awash

with this sickest of springs.

And outside people place themselves

to metres - stretching queues

to the strangeness of spaces that lie

between sparsity and suspicion.