Poetry Life & Times October 2001 Continued:

Poetry By Liam Guilar

Liam Guilar

See Main Page for biography.

Index of poems:

1) Liam
2) Indonesia.
3) Second Movement
4) Our hero tries to write his great erotic poem
5) Lucy
6) Bala 1978
7) The Truth, at Seventeen?
8) Moonbathing

From: DEATHS (10):

© Liam Guilar

So old friend, I see you made the papers.
Someone noticed long enough to write five lines.
Death in a burning caravan...police investigating,
Accident or Suicide?

Am I the only one who knows your journey
and wonders if at any stage along the way
you could have altered course?

This park is very much the same.
Two boys throw sticks to bring the conkers down
though there's no warden now to chase them off.
The trees we used for clumsy Sunday games are here
the sand pit and the flowerbeds have gone.

My mum met your mum at the doctors over there
before we both could talk.
Same first names, same initials,
Went to the same schools,
fought with the same fools,
shared the same doomed lust for Mrs Mullins' daughters.
We got our first jobs pulling pints
While I was marking time
and it was killing you.

Like a camera left on slow exposure
this place preserves the pictures of our growing:
I too preserve the memory
of endless lazy orbits of this park
before I reached escape velocity.

Two tall boys, (one fat, the other awkward
As a damaged crow), come striding home
to watch Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.

The night after the sixth form disco
we walked the park's perimeter
you told me how you'd failed to find your mother
then tried and failed to kill yourself.

Like a failed astronaut in a crippled lunar module
you stayed in orbit round our dying city
where unskilled jobs got hard to find
where crime and violence and the pub mentality
were harder to avoid.
No jobs for long, no friends for long.

When I'd return,
you'd be the silent stranger in my father's house,
familiar as the house itself,
who told me, walking round the park
the night I got back from America,
about some girl you'd met who'd kissed you
"She's beautiful, I don't know why she bothers".
An alien travelling from another star
not someone living two miles up the road

What makes us what we are?
What shapes our journey to such different ends
from such a similar beginning?
Was it the fact they put you in the special class
to read you Narnia on Friday afternoons?
Was it the endless bitter jokes at your expense?
The slow erosion of both faith and dignity?
Or was it some obscure and obscene gravity
that dragged you through a string of subtle loss
and spun you to your fiery end?

© Liam Guilar

Old man, net fishing on the Alas river.

Cast, gather, walk.
He doesn't slip or pause.
His movements are the rhythm
of sunrise, morning, river
rising smoke.

Cast, gather, walk

There's no fish in the net
He pulls against the river's loud impatience.
(Alas river 1998)

Waiting for the tourists to return

Dusk gathers at the highly polished tables.
Like actors caught between rehearsals
The staff, outnumbered only by the shadows, watch.
No footsteps dirty well swept corridors
No happy lovers soil the starched white sheets
The cook is just a fat unhappy man,
With no excuse to throw his pans around.
The listless guides and prostitutes read papers
Smoke, drink far too much, try to recall
The meaning of their names.

(Rantepao, Sulawesi, 2000)

© Liam Guilar

She undresses in the stillness of an unfamiliar room
pale in sunlight filtered through the fading blinds.
This is the second movement of their story;
after the hesitant dance, staccato conversations,
blushes and laughter, dinner and films.

This is the second movement:
after the sudden death of banality;
after the music stopped and silence,
like the sound of nothing being torn,
swamped them at the moment of
that first kiss.

This is the second movement:
after the idle speculation;
after the casual glance across the room;
after the strange feeling the curve of her leg on a stool
engenders in the stomach's pit.
A glimpse of skin, the way her legs,
were the best legs he'd ever seen,
the way her skirt suggests the lines of hip and thigh...

This is the second movement:
after the imagination's own pornography;
this is the moment when all dreams die
and the taste of skin and the feel of skin
take over.
This is when reality is all there is
when the sharp intake of breath signals union
when bodies come as close as bodies can.

And afterward
In the third movement
They discover they are strangers.

Our hero tries to write his great erotic poem

Selecting music that might set the mood,
he conjures up the body that he loved,
finds only a collage of flesh and bone
scattered across the page, a list of parts
from a wreckers yard. His car needs a new door
and when the thing is done, he'll ring around to find a price.
Marshaling thoughts and words, he tries again.
But all the nouns and verbs and adjectives:
The soft, smooth, velvet, giving, damp
(and so on, through the whole stale catalogue)
don't capture how he felt when she was naked
or the way his hands still ache remembering that moment
between the certainty that she was going to undress
and his clumsy fumbling with her bra
which he can't fix in any sort of line
without it sounding crude, or coy or clinical.
He needs to find a word that accurately describes
skin traced along the subtle, hard geometry of thigh
to the tense elastic line across her hip.
He tries for "silk" but silk, he knows, is clichéd and, what's worse,
is really not that smooth, and "thigh" sounds too much like
a piece of chicken. Besides, silk makes him think of cigarettes
not the one that she was smoking afterwards,
but a bill board near the city
that's so postmodern that it's meaningless. (He stops to wonder
who made it, why and where he was when first he saw it.
Was that before or after the collision wrecked his near-side door?)
The poem stutters to a halt. One day he'll find the words
to catch the perfect sense of shock: like being struck
by another car: the way the day unfolded
as all days did, following their familiar rhythm
until, the naked and intrusive sound of failing brakes
looking up, the skidding car, the shock of impact:
dull thud, glass flying, lurching sideways movement
followed by the sudden slowing of the world.
Then scars, blurred memories, and an inability to say
exactly how it feels to know you're going to be hit.

© Liam Guilar

I wish you were here tonight
Here with me watching this oncoming storm
And Lucy
I wish you were near tonight
Laughing and loving and naked and smiling and warm

You smile like the lightening
Scattering darkness, keeping the shadows at bay
And Lucy
You laugh like the thunder
Smashing the silence, echoing on through the day

And Lucy
Wherever you are tonight
I hope your God's watching you, keeping you safe from all harm
And Lucy
Whoever you love tonight
I hope you are happy, lying asleep in his arms.

Bala 1978
© Liam Guilar

A slack shroud flogging on a shaking mast
Sounds like the sunlight being scattered
on the chopped up surface of the lake

Hot and clumsy, lugging water bottles,
we walked between the lines of coloured tents
Awkward in our strangerhood. Me
preposterous in adolescent poses.
You, sinking through a silence
I would forever circle,
Stepping eagerly around the shoreline,
Waiting for the boat that never came
To take me to that distant place
where you were hiding: a voluntary Rapunzel
listening to the prince, with no intention
of ever letting down your hair.

The conversation stuttered like a luffing sail
And stalled.
The tap, heaved, retched,
spewed water, retched again,
You bent towards it,
turned to smile at something that I'd said
and the whole world stilled
then lurched towards epiphany.
Faded jeans, the gentle parabolic curve
of bending back and outstretched arm
the plumb line of your falling hair
the sudden blushing smile
And the steady splutter of forgotten tap

If lives have hinges
This was mine.

The Truth, at Seventeen?
© Liam Guilar

Don't make me laugh.
A poem was the movement
of my hand along her leg.
Bob Dylan singing "Love is all there is,
it makes the world go round."
and me too green
to understand he lied.

The head said, she is gentle, she is lovely,
she makes this world a better place to be.
The body said, look cut the crap kid. Mate!
She'd say "Don't go too far", and I'd be wondering
How far is far enough? Made me think of cliffs,
the Black Despairing Cliffs of No.
What other sailor leaves the shelter of the port,
knowing that the journey ends in shipwreck?
With every current sweeping us towards
that loss of grace, sick sense of wanting
something she thought shamed us both,
with neither patience sense, nor humour
to step aside before I hit those cliffs
and crashed.

© Liam Guilar

1) Traditional Ballad

Gentle as starlight,
Bright as the moon
You're as soft as the sound of its rise
And your smile is that radiant
The night stops to bathe
In the light that shines from your eyes.

Your clothes lie around you
The light loves your skin
The breeze rustles, jealously by
Trees tremble in awe
As I willingly drown
In the light that shines from your eyes.
(The Lute player, chapter six)

2) Prayer by moonlight

Forgive me Lord,
for wanting
the one thing I can't have.
Not the bodies of the people
walking past.
Not the books
I'll never have the time to read.
Not the one song
the world will stop its bickering to hear.

No Lord,
forgive me
for wanting
that silence
which lurks behind the words
like the full moon seen through the trees
always the echo of one footstep
further than I can go.

3) Lady Moonlight

Lady moonlight
Come the sunlight
You and I may cease to be
So until our histories claims us
Let me hold you

You're the moonlight
on the water
light as night breeze on the sea
delicate as winter starlight
let me hold me hold you close

When the day comes
I must leave you
There are people we must be
But until the dawn comes fumbling
Let me hold you close to me.

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