Geckos and other poems
Whenever I hear that cry
coming from behind a piece of furniture
or a picture-frame, I pause and look around.
These little lizards
have become familiar presences
in my house, their sticky-footed scampers
across the walls aren’t bothersome any more.
People say a home without geckos is an unhappy
place and I agree, having killed one once,
behaving like a very new broom,
I’m more mindful now. After all, they’re a lot
like me, living in occupied territory,
vulnerable to the unexpected,
surviving as best they can.
In a small room, Tibetan Buddhist
monks create a sand mandala, its lotus
heart enthroning the Lord Chenrezig
Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Bright rainbow-tapestries of marble
dust breathe life into the images of peace
and harmony which fill their prayers.
When the ceremonies are complete
the enlightened one within the mandala’s
ring of fire will be asked respectfully
to leave. The mandala will become
sand again which the monks will sweep
away, disperse in running water:
prayerfulness flowing through the world.
Working Slowly Through Time
On the flyleaf of a battered paperback edition of Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith rediscovered during a house-move, I came across a name and date that hadn’t troubled me for years: Have a great trip! With love, Jean. Paris, June, 1969.
The summer she took her life. In August. Less than two months after she wrote those words on the blank page of a thriller she gave me to read while I lazed in the sun. Alone in her apartment under the eaves, the city sultry, sweltering, empty of friends, all of us on holiday, nobody at the other end of the ‘phone to offer help and talk away despair.
As a child, I remember, the women in our street would draw their curtains closed and keep us in if they knew a funeral hearse was going to pass. A mark of respect, our mothers taught. It costs nothing. At the time, I thought it did, an entire sunny day sometimes, if no one knew exactly when. Death moved slowly, right in front of our eyes, its presence lingering like silence after a bombing raid.
The book, its cover an image of the way paperbacks used to look, a photographic still-life of bullets, live rounds, spent cases, dead leaves scattered over a crumpled, part-burned, blue-sky postcard view of Venice, is a desperate story of hatred among the dark alleyways and bleak piazzas of a wintry city as unglamorous as the characters, seedy, moneyed, detestable mostly, who people Highsmith’s violent little tale.
I thought again of Jean’s spartan flat, the old table near the casement so that she could see down into the square as she typed, the stack of neat manuscript under its stone paperweight gold-painted with her name, her solitary writer’s life expunged by her own will more than thirty years ago, brought back to me in that instant by a book. Pages sepia-stained with age, spine cracked, well and truly foxed, yet speaking to me still of how life was then, of how much I live by remembering.
Ken Head’s poems have been published in a number of e-zines, including Palabras Press, Static Movement, Snakeskin, Autographs Magazine, The Indite Circle and The Hiss Quarterly. In print, his work appeared in iota and SAW during 2006 and this year will appear in editions of Scifaikuest, Purple Patch, Pulsar and Obsessed With Pipework. He lives in Cambridge, England and is working towards a first collection.
Photo "Spirit Trees" by Bella Dante.
Poems Copyright © 2007 Ken Head. All rights reserved.
Photo Copyright © 2007 Bella Dante. All rights reserved.