a smear of blood

a section of fine lace dendrites

cut crosswise

a leaf caught under a turning wheel

a chair without arms

a single palm leaf folded

to make a cross

you are no longer

these things

lie down upon your bed and fold your arms

to make a cross





once you were

tormented in 3D


now you’re called

saved from everything


eyes washed clean

as the sky after rain


they say there’s

love in the afterlife


beautiful garments

a blue glazed heaven


your tears in a jar

pickled and precious


a long long table

with seats for everyone


the rings of saturn

are jasper and onyx


the wings of mercury

grow from your shoulders


the Pleiades sit

beside you and chatter


your name’s on the poster

you are the guest here


you may even be

the bride at the wedding






a lamb with a great white head

and seven black stars for eyes

comes to the table

opens wide his mouth

inside are beasts with many horns

the lamb lies down upon the table

waves his legs in the air

as if he were dancing

just as we’re about to

plunge the knife in







the tree trunks bleed when you touch them

in the underbrush small mammals scurry for cover

each bears the face of someone you loved once

this is my mother

this my brother, my sister

the branches reach for you

the birds are crying but you

don’t know why

you have forgotten your name

and why you have come here

hopping on one leg

(the other is broken)

is that your hand lying alone

among the crumpled leaves

is that your head

speaking from inside the badger

a polluted stream thick with

the blood of corpses

now try to cross it

from stone to stone is just a step

you slip and the forest vanishes

falling towards a lake of fire





into an airport lounge

an invisible gamelan orchestra plays

the dance of the foolish virgins

skycaps in purple livery

bring rice cakes perfumed oranges

lotus seeds in cellophane doré

massage your feet with spikenard

draw concentric circles into

the palms of your hands

blue-winged songbirds scavenge crumbs

twittering softly their incantations

klauhi Zis…

Thautouri andirahho…

soon they will call your flight

prepare for take off





dots begin to appear

tiny light-encrusted bits

saw-toothed seven times

it is the dots that connect the lines:

this is a werewolf, this a mermaid

this a lady’s beautiful hair

an artist should be seen

as well as heard

space is  what happens

between the stars






at the graveside the ghosts are gathering

they set out your favourite meals

your photograph in red ribbons

your missing teeth your childhood doll

a rose coloured parasol a wad of cash

then set fire to it all

feeding the flames with rum

your brother swigs from the bottle

stumbles laughing over your grave

your little sister is crying

your children no longer grown but

small once again look on in silence

wondering where has mommy gone

they are about to cry so you sing to them

hush a bye my baby don’t you cry

your voice rises from the fire

they are comforted and pile more

fine bright things on the flames

your portrait in pastels drawn when

you were only ten

the shoes you wore to your first dance

the ones with the chrysoprase heels

your journal from the winter of starvation

and then whole bags of paper money

toys and animals

a house with swimming pool

and armed guards even a Porsche

everything burns

everything is consumed utterly

everybody’s drunk and everybody’s crying

what a send off

good-bye good bye good bye

see you in the afterlife

see you soon






this is the key to the city                                       

a large smooth golden key

like those in old flemish paintings

it opens the gate where the bright things

go in and out

this is the street where you live now

it’s paved with jasper and chrysoprase

most of the inhabitants appear to be dead

most appear to be happy

(but nobody speaks to you)

jewel bright salamanders cling to the

boughs of the trees (these too are of gold)

their ruby tongues go in and out

in and out their red eyes wink at you

the sky too is glass or gold

it hurts to look at it

you’d like to go home

but you are home now there is

no place but this one

time has been rolled up

into a great scroll kept in a secret library

you don’t have the key to that one

they said there would be love

they promised you love

so you wander the golden streets

distraught and confused in search of it

this is familiar perhaps

you are where you started

in the beginning was the word

the romance of Jesus

and the space between the stars

twelve gates to the city

some day he’ll find you






dark shapes spill on a field of milk

slowly the serpent’s head emerges

slowly the moon and sun

celestial bodies seven times pointed

your mother is standing in the air

under her feet a moon

the colour of blood

the serpent has bitten her heel

wounded her

see how her head droops to one side

she’s crying now

a dark cloud is under her feet

a white cloud is over her

she says your name softly

and her breath is a cloud

on which you are written

and all your deeds

and all your empty promises





break open the burial urn

glass shards blue glazed

ice flowers

seven-pointed stars


somewhere the leaf is trapped

beneath the wheel

all this has been a distraction

you are not that


break open

the urn

a flurry of light

opus 133


the sky is falling

the stars are falling

the heart is breaking open

this is the music


slip on your dancing shoes

the ones with the chrysoprase heels

it’s time for the dance

the world is over


nobody’s crying

nobody’s missing

everyone’s singing

and everyone’s dancing


and the Angel of Death says, Come

and the Lamb that was slain says, Come

and the Burning Bush says, Come

the Lord of the Dance says, Come




 Now listen to this: OPUS 133

These poems first appeared in the Merida Review.

Original artwork by Jane Gilday, 'Crucifixion of Kathleen' [detail]