The Afterlife of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
i Bonhoeffer imprisoned
Nothing to do but smoke and study
the emptiness of time, wait with my books
for the guards to arrive
swearing like knives, stamping out the cold.
Cruelty settles only on my skin, like ink
until the pen's bled dry. Who
is Christ for us today?
A sharpening of tools in the antechamber.
The mansion of their father has many
rooms lined with metal teeth.
We learned too late; it is not the thought
but readiness to take responsibility.
What use the edifice, the structure, if
in building it we throttle and dismember?
ii A survivor remembers the road to extinction
A long road in April
under American mortar
but he was calm, so calm,
as if prison
had eaten nothing of him.
The guards wept sweat and blood,
jittered like kittens
on the approach to Flossenbürg.
If they were praying, no one heard but Bonhoeffer
or, if there's such a creature, God.
Asked for a Sunday service
before the rope, he read Isiah in the mud.
With his wounds we are healed.
So many wounded gods out there.
Which one to choose?
42nd Dream of You
This time, you lead me
along a rain-bruised lane
ripe with the aniseed scent
of crushed cow parsley.
An ever-unreachable yard ahead,
your smile is bound tight as ivy
as you dance past blood spots
of campion, beckoning,
calling, laughing; your voice seductive
as the slow chant of tree branches
that bend to an imagined breeze.
Come, you whisper. I keep on coming,
incautious, stumble on loose stones,
on the invisible track the badgers make
nightly across tarmac, as they snarl
territorial love songs to the cloud-locked moon.
Through a shifting map of hedgerows
I watch you become birdsong, a smile
of light at the open window,
an invitation to enter into day.
To be Read Looking Upward Over Water
Travelled home with the taste of you
soft in my mouth. Spent the journey laughing
easy as stream water over last scraps of ice,
breath crazed on the carriage window,
its patterns condensing
into a ghosted close-up of your face
whilst a vulgar winter sun crooned
hangover songs from the sea’s stomach.
I pressed deeper in. The train’s glass membrane
planted a cool kiss on my illuminated eyelids
as sky blurred, slid sideways, became
fathomable (again, at last), the clouds
pulsing from grey to silver, outwards
into a white semaphore, a new lexicon
born from the breaking of long winter silences
to be read looking upward over water
punctuated by black dots
of wading birds, wide expanses of sand
and mudflats that are as skin
ecstatic under the tongue of the tide.
Collision Impact Debris
Including two lines borrowed from ‘The Imperfect Knight’ by John Fairfax
Because I am everyone bewitched by the mirror
I see the sky fall open like tired leather,
like a jeweller’s drawstring bag. The doors croak
wide enough for autumn’s last unrotted leaves.
I smell the invisible stain of hope
hung in mildew clusters at the edge of sight,
some shy spore of Death
caught letting corruption swing into reverse.
No, it will never be enough to know
that we are loved. In the shallow silver
of the ecstatic glass that binds me, my eyes
are space, empty as they seek you out
unwary of what blurring you might find
should you meet them fully (as if by chance)
in the blue light of longing and distraction
that flickers through our many selves
as we pour through screens and fracture
into further blazing multitudes,
as the collision impact debris of desire and loss
litters our atmospheres with endless signs
that do not lead, however we may wish it,
to any kind of grail.