Pub on a Saturday Night, Cricklewood, London, 1972
They came: the one on his own
the lonely one, and the one who didn't belong anywhere
wild men, bruised men
men of good cheer, men fit to be tied
the digger of ditches and thieving ganger
dirty old men and innocent young fellows.
came from mean inhospitable lodgings
and desolate joyless rooms,
they came in their Sunday best and in tatters
they came newly combed and washed, they came in filth
handsome they came and ugly
they came for some peace in the refuge of the alehouse.
came with the melancholy of being caught between two countries,
they came with the torment of cities
to get stark raving drunk they came, to numb their sadness
they came with treachery brewing in the mind, looking for revenge
they came to defend their good name and to strike a blow
they came to lose their desolation in the throng
they came to lodge their tribulations in self-pity.
They came to flee life.
on his Deathbed
challenged the mob
that dismissed poetry
as a feckless hobby
spoke of things
forbidden to be told
in this time of infamy
czar of horror,
drew my blood
for exposing his twisted ways
from my death wounds
words will flow in a spate of truth
to damn him for all eternity.
I challenged the tyrant
suppressed my writings.
My songs will be sung when he lies dumb in the earth.
for Adil Aouji
usual, Walt, here I am reading your litany of joy as the grass
makes an appearance in Mín 'a Leá.
A shower of rain spurting growth, your words bring the hues
and urgency of spring flowing through my imagination.
I can hear your gentle laughter behind the words as I utter
your love poems.
You need but beckon: what I wouldn't give to be in your arms.
I'm not saying we are blood relations, but we are linked by
craft and by leanings.
Brother, give me your hand, tramp of the road, and we will take
words on a walk, with an agile leap of the mind, let's take
the air, you take the high road and I'll take the low road and
the poem between us.
Brother give me your hand. We'll roam over the vast range of
and cross the mighty flood of your thought.
Out there in the sunny booley of your hope, we'll stretch our
limbs awhile in comfort.
Let's take the luscious juices from the sun.
Out there in the purple evening of the hills, dear one, we'll
discover the America of our desires.
of vision, poet of prophecy, green omniscient poet, your camp-
fire illumines eternity.
Poetry for you had no boundaries. You were drawn to immensity.
You beheld the spirit's playful spume in oceans, the spill of
seed on starstruck autumn nights.
Beloved god that needed no theology.
Poet of homage. Poet of streaming expansiveness.
You honoured the great-hearted order of the cosmos.
You could feel the living pulse that nurtured the blade of grass,
that conducted the cycle of the spheres.
Nothing was too big or too small for your canticle of creation.
You were at home in each limb of the dancing universe.
Your imagination took a seven-league leap from one world to
next. Your poem made safe the path to the abyss.
Your book is as humble as ditch grass, as ambitious as the swell
of the sea.
It is my scripture of delight, gospel of joy, full-throated
choir, book of wisdom.
company lifts my heart, Walt, as I run the gauntlet, as blows
The mills of life grind rough and smooth.
Nor was your own life a bed of roses. You had your detractors
in their hundreds.
And like myself, the love of young men brought you down.
They bad-mouthed you, the evil-hearted ones, proclaiming that
your poems - your poems exuding grace -
were nothing but line after line of vice and temptation.
But you never betrayed your own word. You, the kind-hearted
one who couldn't harm a midge,
you gave it to them well and good in words of poetry.
The wild scream that challenged them in hymns of love.
The love that could not speak its name uttered itself in fountains
Poet all-powerful, caress me now in the sacred bosom of your
Protect me from evil detractors, the pigeon-hearted and the
righteous, the scary whited sepulchres.
Protect me, Walt, from the gang that tried to take your name
away from you.
They and their kin are still creating mischief.
Free me from the daughters of treachery and the sons of trickery
whose perverted ways have coated my tongue with their scum so
that it is hard for me now to raise my voice in the bardic company
where I belong.
Give me your gift, Walt, to give every word its true weight,
and may every verb strike home so that the barkings of malefactors
are rammed back down their throats.
am reading your litany of delight as grass peeps out in Mín
'a Leá and you, brother, buried in Camden.
But your poem is hale and hearty, voice of spring rising in
the green leaves of your humanity.
The world is full of exasperation and malice, and warring factions
fill the earth and skies.
Factions of faith, tribes of terror!
You saw more than enough of battle gore, Walt, as you nursed
soldiers in their final throes,
in the bloody years of civil war.
You were reminded, more than ever, as you carried out the corporal
works of mercy, that our lot was useless unless we showed what
it is to be good neighbours with everyone from Brooklyn to Ballybuddy.
A world of exasperation and malice, Walt, but inspired by your
poem I look to the peeping grass;
tender grass of brotherhood; rough grass of prophecy; ditch
grass of integrity; fragrant grass of truth.
I read your litany of delight, a bad moon on the rise, the bones
of the old world have become stale,
a new age of misery about to be born.
And yet, Walt, lovable brother, you forged a fire that brightens
my life tonight.
Even now, its glow is palpable.
Your book is the green sod on which I stand alone.
Berry Hollow of Lag na Sméar
in seductive clusters
in heavy tresses
soaked in the earth's blood
and fired by the sun
produce of tangled briars;
soft juice of autumnal days
full of lure blushing purple -
a generous spread
passions are aroused
and prick me as they like
I must have them!
a matter of life and death
each juicy mouthful
cannot overcome their charms !
every year I plunge my fangs
into their pulsing veins
sweet soft bloodiness.
To pass them by
without tasting them
Would send me into paroxysms
Delicious, swollen, lascivious
in the palm of my hand.
Demon of Gluttony am I
that licks their pulchritude
with blood-smeared tongue
how miserable I am
when their sheen is gone
when old age disfigures them
November drags on
the fairy people do their business
and the bushes stink to the high heavens
in Mín a Leá
Sunday in Gaza
in Mín a Leá
in the garden
my counterpart in Gaza
running out of breath
the next missile attack
the fallout of explosions.
soft slow sleepy Sunday
in Mín a Leá
night will fall into silence
a moon will rise
relaxing in the air
but in Gaza
the sky will ignite
in burning flames
houses will crumble
this quiet Sunday
in Mín a Leá
how easy it is
to mourn Gaza
as I sit in the garden
enjoying the scent
of newly cut grass
not a care in the world
but the making of a poem.
Not a care in the world
but the making of a poem ?
of slaughter, horror.
They plunder us, sunder us.
Let the facts of the world
Keep their distance and be still, beloved,
As your tongue explores me
With abundant pleasure.
My treasure, seize the hour. I bow before you,
Willow-wand in the breeze.
time to come and sooner than you know
We both will be nothing but names on a headstone,
Numbers in an office file.
Brightness of my life, in time neither of us will breathe
Or think of the other,
And the slaughter will continue,
As it was from the beginning.
like ourselves, other lovers
Will experience delirium
On the tip of their tongue,
Headlines of slaughter, horror
Plundering them, sundering them,
As they gleefully seize the hour
Bow to one another, sally rods in the wind
Until nothing is left of them
Numbers in office files.