A Possible Introduction To My Poems

20 years ago, when I was living in Budapest, this was what I was thinking about current issues in poetry, as I prepared to bring out my first collection, Budavox. I was 33 then.

A Possible Introduction To My Poems

I recently had the opportunity to talk with a well-known British poet, critic and lecturer, who knew almost everything about British and Irish poetry (including who was likely to succeed Ted Hughes as Poet Laureate), some things about American poetry, and almost nothing about poetry in Canada; I have had similar discussions with American poets who are clearly established in their contemporary field, but can draw only blanks when asked to name more than a handful of their peers in England, or Ireland, or even their neighbour to the North; alas, it is also rare to meet Canadian poets who are cognizant of the very latest trends in poetry in Australia, let alone, say, New York or Miami. And one can only presume the case is the same for those poets from Italy or France, or New Zeal…


Christmas Prelude

Embrangling snow is forecast for Scotland
so it will come tomorrow, love:
verecund snow will bedizen
when asked out.  Even now — look —
whiteness like the old walls of Hydra
(recall our honeymoon) descends.
This snow — trochal as a clock face
whose oval is an egg between the hands —
avoids time’s embracery, to move.
No need to miss colder Canada tonight:
new snow falls light as levin,
grows ever more candent.  It drapes lace
across each feme sole's bed —
upon each winter bride a profluent dress.


The Ailment

What got there, got there
then it stayed. Like glue
a doctor implied. Like prayer
argued another clad like a father
black as grease. It stung
and stuck inside. A thorn

she cried; a hornet having died
the priest complained – unsin
thy side! It was presented
in a finding so I had to decide:
pull out the fervid pin or wasp
away to little else besides lather

on a shaved boy’s chin. Its clasp
was like wax on a ski or an LP’s skin.
It slid about, it grooved, it played
the length and lines of me, a musicness
unto breath. A tiny ceaseless death
the dentist opined then wanted cash.

It felt like wine-slosh in my brainpan.
All night I travelled in my bed, a train.
Each carriage disgorged an ailment
but this main thing only grew in size.
It happened finally to emit a claim
on my own name. It wanted out

but as me. I feigned indifference
to my external self, retained some
dignity. Soon though, unguents came
and took the resourceful fluid for a stroll.
It shook off the air and walked upright, so
everyone who saw it n…


For the Boy in the Choir with Tourette’s

He slaps his face as others take communion,

A joyful disunion lurking in a devil’s abandon

That plays jerky havoc with his composure;

A boy of maybe ten or eleven, corpulent

With brown curls and a wide open stare,

Struck into the choir like a daring nail, who

Takes the music into him and jabs it out

Every third bar by an angelic shout;

I feel comforted he is up there, exposed

For all to ignore or mock. In a sea of doubt

And conceit and sin, his two-faced

Demon that winks about his eyes and mouth

Every so often with a punch to the head

Is all the compulsion I need to recognise

For all the love of Jesus a rich seam of lies

Resides within the idea of heavenly skin

Or a bag of cats roils just beneath us all

And in this sweet off-kilter boy is beautiful:

His stop-go body a rock to save stiller ones,

Says every twitching thing that crawls can sing.



In the late summer I saw my future.

Not gaudy, hardly mine,

Brought to me by a blunt test.

The trees were alert to the wind.

Parents threw their dismal joy

And busy disorder about

The streets. The park strained

At its collar, barked with playing;

The hours in my head abruptly

Stuck. Now I was sterile.

All my weird kids blinked out

UFOS off the radar –

In a moment that stayed around

Like an invasion long planned,

That held its breath, that froze

My bones to my mouth –

I tasted the invisible loss

Of hopes going out. Maudlin,

So private, but pain occurs

Even when the reason’s sentimental.

I attempted profound respect

For nature. Nodded sagely

At my secret body’s amazing failure.

Considered new identities –

A renewed gender. Freed

From the requirement to breed,

I momentarily thrilled at time,

Now heaped, big, before me –

No Daddy-wasting anymore –

I’d learn Chinese, particle physics –

Hard to be ordinary when rare –

Free from expecting anything –

I gave my wife the gift of nothing –

I planted autumn in our gar…



No children;
Cold uncoils in the blood;
Science, true, not good
For you. So old,
Suddenly, or so young.
Lyric inside not to be sung.
Plug pulled, screen gone.
Sun out; mind
Bountiful, playing pain.
These are my children
In my head. Unbegotten.
This is to self-forget,
To have the future
Born forgotten.


When All My Disappointments Came at Once

I greeted them as guests,
brought them in and settled their burdens
with footstools, olives and cool white wine.

This was a delicate stage –
they’d never met in one room before –
had circled warily in the past, strangers

to themselves if not to me (for I
had often expected, if not them,
others with equal claim on my time).

Now, none of my hospitality paid off
for they began to quarrel
over who would take my will to go on

first – each wanted to be the foremost cause
of my early failure to maintain a living.
Frames came off nails; books spilled; lights

fell like building blocks; stains spread.
During their intensity of competition
I took off over the garden wall, refreshed.