the odyssey

by Milner Place









the fleece
the pub he used to use
he took up with a life of flight
is now converted
to a discount store
an allegory perhaps
for the full circle of a rootless quest

was it barred doors
of horizons
was it lightning
in the south of the sky
of necromancers
of familiarity
maybe a mess
of all of these
he just took off

she’d hair like a wind
topaz eyes laughter
to break your heart
but then the lyre birds called

the sea
he pictured as a motorway
rivers as twisting lanes
aeroplanes complacent birds
lifting the carrion
land to distant land

was his footsteps in the dust
the beating of a sea
wind’s bending of a scrawny pine
light of evening
with the scent of flowers
but of great power
sweep of stars
cry of a desolate bird
of wine poured in the glass
the company of other fools

sea grass full of grazing conchs
he hooked them with a long pole
two curved prongs lashed to one end
they lay in heaps on the pine deck
wheezing and squirting

always ahead
a bank of mist
stretched by a wind
that for an instance parts
to show some specious dream
then drops the eyelids
smothers the future
obfuscates the hopes

she’d a moonlight smile
walked shaking free her hair
wiped the cobwebs
from the heart
where is she now

the crooked men
made crooked streets
he ventured every one
tasted their ripeness
moved on

bones of a ship
in a sea of mud
bones of a tree
in the sand
shriek of the wind
through an empty house
shrieks as bullets
socked into flesh

mountains faced him
drew him
but their heights
distressed and frightened so
he liked to drink in bars
secure in placid land and
contemplate the peaks
from far enough away

a siren took him
by the hand to hold him
where the date palms sighed
inconstant winds were prevalent
the sun so fierce the thirst
so un-denied
she left him when the hours
grew longer than they should

on on and on
islands sometimes leafed
others bare as bones
wave after wave
slid by the hull
that greened with slime
limpets crusted on the skin
barnacles took hold

she asked for no promises

but there were dancers
in the harbour bars
laughter in the dunes
where dawns
fell onto heavy eyes
after the song of love

blue music in a cellar bar
golden breath of horns
throb of a bass
song of a drum
gravel in the throat

river with a blue mist veil
dawn orange on tops of handsome trees
from which blue golden crimson macaws
started with a chattering flight
while monkeys screeched obscenities
caymans grunted
cruising the silent stream

soil under fingernails
sand in the hair
sweat on the forehead
salt in the beard

in the mine all was moist
as if men’s sweat had taken flight
as if when scratching for their lives
the juices and the blood were conjured
into air and only skeletons
fleshed in pallid skin entered
the cages reaching for the sky

eyes drawn by mountains rising
some from forests deserts seas
and in their presences such dreams
such fears that swim in mineral oceans
in rivers of wind lakes of solitude
defying barbicans of stone
pales of ice cauldrons of magma
pillars of oblivion

lands bristling with war
their blood spilled
bodies torn
while fat men
in their easy chairs
puffed on fat cigars

a dark inheritance
shot with outrageous light
innumerable generations
of flea-bitten dogs
to watch his passing
sniff out his lying ways
but he could smile
carried a bag of words
to scatter on his spoor
summon them to heel

sea and sky all empty
but for two frigate birds
black pirates of the air
wheeling and soaring high
that meant the fish ran deep
and those two buccaneers
the only company in all this world
of water
even the wind had gone asleep

her face grown dim
the eyes still smiled

so many times
the ship ground on the rocks
so many times
he warped it clear
fashioned new timbers
scarfed in new planks
caulked and payed it
with hot pitch
patched the torn sails
whistled for a wind

a wind answered
with a roar
to drive him willy-nilly
to another shore another
reef to test his art
at patching up
a drunken craft

a gale is a fart
from an elephant’s arse
a storm a lion’s roar
a breeze is the rustle
of new leaves
the swishing of a skirt
a calm is a curse
for a home-bound ship
fog drives the devil’s hearse

under a banyan tree
he dozed
neglected by the sun
there with a bottle
of mickey mouse rum
the wide of the world
spoke many tongues
dreams could smell
of an offshore breeze
and night fell
with a roll of drums

her name the opening
of a flower

in the name of god
said the one-eyed man
you dream beneath a tree
because the good lord
fashioned you
to mortify his name

cold of dawn
on an ugly sea
fear in the guts
hands on the wheel

the river sleep-walked
to the sea
but it was born
where condors sky
alpacas paw the snow
wolf-winds howl
through a banshee’s throat
if it could talk
it would sing the song
that quetzals chant at dawn
their feathers the colour
of paradise
if you can think of one

does the eagle know what is in the pit
or wilt thou ask the mole
can wisdom be put in a silver rod
or love in a golden bowl

the seeking
was for things unsought
not gold not peace
not star
he fell from a cloud
on a frozen rock
and rolled towards the sea

sea ate the sun
stars pricked the sky
a breeze as cold
as age
the boat drove in
on the flood of a tide
the keel ground
on the shore
in dark of hills
winked dancing lights
that drew
the vagrant home

the fleece
the pub he used to use


Category: Poetry