like all self-made men
I carry the hallmark
of earlier experiments.
cavernous days, ghosts
rattling their chains in my pocket,
the haunted smile of a man caught rifling through bins.
as you may have noticed
the frown of the autodidact
hovers somewhere between
a tattoo and a scar,
a strange bird
sat on its gilded perch
promising any moment to break into song.
They keep me here
that was my going rate then,
a warm hand on my cheek,
a musky promise and our backs turned to the world.
I was easily encouraged
which is why I so often faltered.
actions seemed to carve great letters in the pavement,
the one time my years were analogous to the fashion.
words came later,
like a delayed reaction to some vague betrayal.
perhaps why my eye is so often
drawn to an unmade bed,
as though truth slept there.
always sceptical of patterns,
I fumbled my first three loves,
acquiring tenderness in hindsight as a kind of occlusion.
Tram 96 – for Ariel
in the poems I write you
there is always an element of waiting.
a symptom, perhaps
of the years between us,
of a world that has not
yet conceived of you,
like a taut sky
awaiting the gift of a bird.
many are the dreads
of the birdless sky, the childless man
tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
each night with its own signature,
its own cradle of echoes and whispers.
you have walked through me, friend.
but this is not a love poem,
it is a song of ghosts,
elemental as the hiss of traffic on rainy Spencer Street,
the clang of the bell that will herald you home.
These poems are from Justin Lowe’s latest collection, Nightswim. You can purchase it, and his previous collections, at The Bluepepper Bookstore.