In A Bathysphere Under the Sea.
We went where the Saracens could not follow,
where the streets ended abruptly
like famine roads,
tarmac decaying into paths,
leylines left by the bloodlines of fellow strays,
past lives, now just piss and bones.
So beneath the law
we went unnoticed,
not even a blip on the sonar,
eyeless in the ocean depths.
The light does not find us
and for that
and that alone, we are thankful.
Below the radium street-lights and the traffic,
sheltered by the vast stone echo-arc of the bridge,
and the sick, huddled apostle-rocks of the bay.
The lights of the buoys on the Foyle
blinking morse code to the cosmos,
they are blinking still,
mocking you and me,
in a language we will never know.
Down where the last U-boats surrendered
the place they call ‘the narrows’,
down with the ballroom ghosts
waltzing around the ruins of Boom Hall,
down where my grandparents drowned
iron waves dredging their secrets to the shore.
Out of our minds on smuggled drink and
diabolical psychotropic pills,
obtained back then
from the friend of a friend of a friend,
‘til so fucked you feel the earth’s
rotation beneath your feet,
lying clinging to fistfuls of grass
like you’re on the deck of a sinking ship.
the devil will come for what’s his.
we’ll burn up on re-entry.
Come morning, you reach the dread hour alone
companions fled or half-dead,
sleeping where they landed,
obtuse angles on the floor and stairs,
a swastika on the kitchen floor,
asleep with one eye open,
and the furies in the corners of the room,
the corners of the eyes,
in the chill faust-silver of the bathroom mirror,
all colour drained from the iris,
like that Prague morning,
when Gregor awoke
struggling to recognise himself.
There is no more lonesome moment than
a strangers bathroom
at 6 in the morning
and the night turning more blue,
with every motorik heartbeat,
through the frosted glass.
Thought is a broken radio,
lost love, neurosis, slights,
a decade too late come through.
The heart an infernal machine,
a tinderbox rigged to ignite.
You realise at these times
your own mind
on your side
In the wretched piss-light
of early dawn,
every clockwork bird outside
is in the employment of the state.
Trudging through town
in leaden dead-man’s boots,
stone gargoyles gone golem
whisper about you
prowling the rooftops.
A single inane thought
replays on a moebius loop in the mind,
footage of a plane taking off,
a jingle for washing-up powder
twenty years defunct,
a damning sentence said to you
a decade ago by a girl you used to know,
the memory of a teacher swaying
and stinking of whiskey,
addressing his class of 12 year olds,
“Which one of ye’s is man enough to fight me?”
The white merciless roar of a new day stole upon you
like you’re prey singled out from the pack.
Drinking anti-fog on winter nights
seems like memories of Eden.
What was it the poet once said?
Jacques Cousteau could never get this low.
You’re amongst the denizens of the bar,
the deep sea creatures, the wretched,
cast your ego into the depths
for you’re one of them,
through their gills you breathe,
through their eyes you see.
How to kill the next 12 hours,
until they pack up the day
like some worn-out cabaret
and move on to the next town
and this feeling lifts,
and your conspirators awake and begin
the art of forgetting again.
Until you can slouch
in a darkened corner of the bar,
a wooden snug sarcophagus
the corners blushed by a guttering candle,
your dark doppelgänger in the glass
of the framed poster
of a long-dead railway line opposite,
a storm-tossed cabin
as the oceans seize
the earth outside.
Clinging to a double Powers on the rocks,
last refuge of the scoundrel,
to the bottom of the night.