i wrote this in december 2016. it’s still my hands-down favourite of my own poems although there’s probably quite a lot wrong with it.
Now he’s a myth. A half-seen figure
alive in the heart of a green bonfire.
Spangled in glory, silver thread at his seams
edged from behind in the neon of dreams.
Handing out stars like boiled sweets
and the cosmos that tangle like hair at his feet.
He lay down with a spine-bird in a bed of rushes
killed milky-eyed monsters and leather-winged wonders
kissed gods in the snow beneath a bright old lantern
stole a pearl from the devil’s pantry.
Carved faith from seaglass, collected dead flies
and walked on the ocean with flames in his eyes.
And beneath all this, this gorgeous skin
this djinn-dream, this envelope of ancient yarns
he’s thin, curly-haired, with gentle-veined wrists
barely more than a child, barely been kissed
a mole like a moth on the pale of his throat
exquisitely threadbare in that awful coat.
Rode a sheep into a dusty courtroom
wore his flesh like a dancer’s costume
cracked his knuckles, bit his nails
never learned his piano scales
tied his shoelaces all wrong
quietly humming sad old songs.
And his lover explored with whalebone hands
the fantastic clockwork of his lungs.
And now there’s no-one left to remember
how his ink-bloomed fingers used to tremble
lighting a cigarette, or wrapped round a razor
or how he bought violets day after day, but
only to scatter the petals to sea
and stare down a pale horse before taking his leave.
He’s joined the halls of the old ones now
stories without eyes or noses or mouths
last week they lost Gilgamesh’s deathwatch howl
tomorrow Blodeuwedd won’t be flowers or owls.
Details restlessly real as heartbeats
in the unlivable knowledge that our gods are meat.
Perhaps this is how it could end
left with a pit of stripped skeletons
and poking through myth-guts with rowan sticks
and smashing through legends with crumbling bricks.
Perhaps they had mothers. Perhaps they had lovers
and perhaps they had fathers and sisters and brothers
and perhaps sainthood sang in their bones
and perhaps they listened to their sky-ships groan
and gazed into booming and heavenly dark
and shivered with feeling, and shivered with feeling
and peeled down and naked they all look the same
and we’re left with the gorgeously dead and their names
and the cry of the stars and the roar of the moon
and their beautiful faces with their beautiful wounds.