After they had not made love
she pulled the sheet up over her eyes
until he was buttoning his shirt:
not shyness for their bodies – those
they had willingly displayed – but a frail
endeavour to apologise.
Later, though, drawn together by
a distaste for such ‘untidy ends’
they agreed to meet again; whereuponthey giggled, reminisced, held hands
as though what they had made was love –
and not that happier outcome, friends.
Having No Mind for the Same Poem
Not for the same conversation again and again.
But the power of meditation to cure an allergy,
that I will discuss
cross-legged on the lawn at evening
midges flittering, a tree beside us
none of us can name;
and rocks, a scent of syringa;
certain Japanese questions; the journey…
Not for parody.
Nor, if we come to it, for the same letter:
‘hard to believe…I remember best his laugh…
such a vigorous man…please tell…’
and running, almost running to stuff coins
into the box for cancer research.
Nor for the same hopeless prayer.
All my scars are yours. We talk of pledges,
and holding out my hand I show
the faint burn on the palm and the hair-thin
razor-marks at wrist and elbow:
self-inflicted, yes; but your tokens—
made as distraction from a more
inaccessible pain than could have been
caused by cigarette or razor—
and these my slightest marks. In all our meetings
you were the man with the long knives,
piercing the living hopes, cutting connections,
carving and dissecting motives,
and with an expert eye for dagger-throwing:
a showman’s aim. Oh, I could dance
and dodge, as often as not, the whistling blades,
turning on a brave performance
to empty stands. I leaned upon a hope
that this might prove to have been less
a gladiatorial show, contrived for murder,
than a formal test of fitness
(initiation rites are always painful)
to bring me ultimately to your
regard. Well, in a sense it was; for now
I have found some kind of favour:
you have learnt softness; I, by your example,
am well-schooled in contempt; and while
you speak of truce I laugh, and to your pleading
turn a cool and guarded profile.
I have now, you might say, the upper hand:
these knives that bristle in my flesh
increase my armoury and lessen yours.
I can pull out, whet and polish
your weapons, and return to the attack,
well-armed. It is a pretty trick,
but one that offers little consolation.
such a victory would be Pyrrhic,
occurring when my strength is almost spent.
No: I would make an end of fighting
and, bleeding as I am from old wounds,
die like the bee upon a sting.
Instructions to Vampires
I would not have you drain
with your sodden lips the flesh that has fed mine,
and leech his bubbling blood to a decline:
not that pain;
nor visit on his mind
that other desiccation, where the wit
shrivels: so to be humbled in not fit
for his kind.
But use acid or flame,
secretly, to brand or cauterise;
and on the soft globes of his mortal eyes
etch my name.
There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.
There are worse things than these miniature betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things
than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse and worse.