Bamboo Church

Selected Poems

Two Wings

She would drift into the kitchen
trailing fragments of a hymn that spoke of God,
a river, the pair of golden wings
that would be hers on Judgement Day
and were you to look at her then
you might well decide your best bet
for a meal would be to eat out:

she was blind and appeared a little lost
in her tile and linoleum kingdom.
But she vaguely addressed the garlic,
the onion, the tomato and between her hands
rubbed a sprig of rosemary over olive oil.
A fragrance then arose and you decided
you had best sit down. And you did.

Did you fall asleep? Did you dream?
You awoke to the smart snap of sails:
the billowing of a tablecloth.
She returned and a generous bowl
was placed in front of you.
Then she crossed her arms and waited:
her prayer done, your eating was its Amen.


Watch it gain substance
as the sun
burns brain fog away.

Here is the brown field,
here under the shade
of the olive tree, the mule.

More than gravity, gravitas
holds this mule earthbound.
Ages ago it said goodbye

to illusions. Today it dreams
of stones, sunshine, hay.
A no-nonsense clopper

with slow, socratic eyes
too wise for foolishness
too gentle for spurs,

it insists this easy gait
and a stubborn patience
will take us far.

We have barely begun
and, reader, already
you fidget in the saddle.

But who is to blame?
You were forewarned
and have no right

to ask this mule
to be what it is not.
This is no poem for you.

Close the book, then,
roll over and go to sleep.
Fashion out of dreams

why not a bicycle
then peddle quickly
all the way to hell.
Paulito's Birds

In dozens of plain cages
each with its mirror and bell
my great uncle raised birds
but the steepled bamboo church
with a nest in its hollow pulpit
he, the fierce atheist,
kept for the mating pair.

At his whim, admonished
not to speak, I followed,
acolyte with a burlap bag
from which he doled out
ceremonious, almost sacramental,
feed to the fluttering tribe.

Half his thumb was gone:
a loss he would ascribe
--in a sequence meant to mirror
my own small failings--
first, to sucking his thumb,
next, to teasing the parrot
and later, to being careless
around the carpentry tools.

Perhaps it was his demeanour
--dry stick of a man-- or the way
the door to the birds was locked
and he alone held the key;

perhaps it was that stump of a thumb
grudgingly displayed when we sat
at the table and the stubborn
afternoon refused to move,

that brings him back today
as wizard, magus, bruxo,
who, against ransom not received,
holds locked in this spell
of feathers and birdseed,
the children of his kingdom.



Consider the quark: its existence
is posited by scientists entranced
by a nothing which is there:
a particle that does not share
the known properties of materiality;
there but not there: a ghost entity.

Cyril of Thessalonika argued this case:
God withdrew and thus freed space
for the expanding univese. Absence
was his gift which makes his presence
this oxymoron worthy of contemplation:
the Zero at the core of all creation.

Plateia Kyriakou

Blessings upon the crone
who every afternoon
feeds the cats of Molivos
for they are many
and they are all hungry.

Bowlegged and in black,
whiskers on her own face,
with a slow, laboured gait
she crosses the square
and where she sits, they congregate.

A spoonful for each cat.
(Is this food or sacrament?)
And once she's done she bangs
the empty tins like cymbals
and the cats are gone.

Levering herself against a knee
she struggles to stand up
then soothing a rheumatic hip,
she keeps to the leafy shade,
when it's her turn to leave the square.


Quarter to four on a Sunday
as the snow began to fall,
she entered the room and whispered
I wish for once and for all,

you'd tell me how much you love me
and how long that love will last
for doubt has crept into my heart
and passion is fading fast.

My love is a little machine
that's always set to GO
it runs off a battery of kisses
but the battery is getting low.

My love is a little machine
but it's running cold today.
Join me in bed and let me
stroke all your doubts away.

Oh not so fast my darling.
I'm not easily assuaged;
when I saw your wandering eye
it drove me to such rage

that I chewed seven boxes of pencils
and painted my toe-nails black
then mixed a toxic cocktail
and prepared to bivouac

outside the gates of Melancholy
in the country of Despair
in the house whose name is Grief
and end my suffering there.

If my wandering eye offends
then I'll pluck it out in haste
but I swear to you my darling
your suspicions are misplaced.

A steadier heart has no man
who ever loved or wrote
and if I seem distracted
and at times appear remote

it's the law of love and business
it's as Adam Smith commands:
I've restricted the supply
in the face of low demand.
Garden Primer
Carrots, said my grandfather,
are nails 
which keep the field
from flying.
Then sunflowers,
said my grandmother,
are daughters 
to the sun:
they stare and follow
their bright star father
then shed these hard
dark tears.
Moscow Circus
By now pronounced, these wings
do not disturb me much
except when a strong wind blows
or strangers ask to touch.
Still, there are advantages:
I’m able on cold nights
to wrap my girl in comfort
while, she in turn, delights
in the erotica of feathers.
Old friends avoid us now
put off by all the fuss.
Engaged by the Moscow
Circus, I stunned those atheists
when under The Arc of Light,
wings extended, I suddenly appeared
between Dwarf and The Lady With a Beard.
%d bloggers like this: