Stillness

The air's warm thickness
Always catches me by surprise - 
An enveloping tropical blanket 
That I breathe in and feel settling,
As I lace up running shoes 
To the sweep of a broom 
Outside my gate

I’m coaxed up off the perch of my
Front door step 
By the prospect of adventure -
In autopilot I saunter up the driveway,
My muscles purring at the 
Inevitability of the kilometres ahead

Dawn is still an hour away -
The overwhelming morning rays
That slow-cook the city
Will follow soon after,
Baking the uneven pavements
And simmering between layers of long-sleeved
Crowds, astride their spluttering scooters,
As they inch forward in morning traffic,
Past sugar cane juice vendors and the 
Waft of street-food

Until the chaos and jostle of life here unfolds
I have these streets to myself -
With each new stride the pulse of blood and adrenalin 
Propel me, 
Numbing the aches and pains that
Escorted my lumbering frame down the stairs
Moments earlier

Allowing a freedom of feeling,  
An openness and calm,
Anchors the rest of me in a
Temporary vacuum,
Sealed off from the humdrum of the day ahead - 
Egos and speculations,
Emails and negotiations – 
A freedom of feeling connected to oneself

Threading through the darkly lit hems and alleyways -
An urban avatar of sorts -
I choose my path,
Control my outcomes, 
Primordial, raging instincts pull me faster forward until 
The stillness is complete

Exhausted and gasping, 
I stare at the giant orange orb 
Cresting over Saigon bridge.

Hoan Kiem in springtime

Delicate white wings flutter
Lakeside
Swimming through tall fronds
That sway in the cool breeze.
Shards of sunbeam parse through
The canopy of tree branches,
Softened by park chatter
And the symphony of scooter horns.

Across the cafe tables a lone singer
Warbles,
As traffic inches on
And policeman gossip.
Above them the red and yellow flags
Of a country
Once on its knees –
Now making strides
Against all odds, and
In spite of others’ preconceptions.

How little Hanoi changes
And yet
How significant that continues to be
In a world of flux,
Simulation and pain.

This Morning’s Dawn

dawn2

This morning’s dawn on our bed-sheet
Glows as it did yesterday.
Summoning into consciousness
A mundane familiar –
Jumbled thoughts,
Whispered finger-tipped
Touches, stretched out limbs.
Nothing here lies
In deference to a higher code,
Nor to a haunting pandemonium.

Through our window yellow sunbeams taunt
And pierce translucent bowing fronds,
Blinking time into place.
In steeped Earl Grey,
A soothing balm – a Blessed relief! –
Nothing here pretends
Any difference need unfold,
Nor mask that which matters most
In each wondrous, sentimental stroke
Of this morning’s dawn.

Endoman

man on hill
Luang Prabang hills, December 2019

Endoman

Blown by the wind I lean in
To each next flailing stride,
Eyes creep up,
Take in the green ‘scape
Running on,
Breathing faster
Chest tightening
Bones cursing
A rhythmic shudder of coarse
Foot planting,
Legs, knees
Stretching up
Lifting higher,
Every sinew clenched,
Fighting for oxygen
With teeth grinding left and right,
Another 100 yards,
– A kilometer even –
Holding on, and holding
Just on,
Around the corner
Forest breeze surfs through my hair
And then, assured, then –
A gear change,
A release between
Then and now and why and how
Becoming stronger,
Fluid, perfectly fluid,
The strokes as if through water,
Over air,
Beyond pain and forward,
Forward, forward.

Midnight Calm

Treading softly
Turning the latch
An icy shaft blows in.
Outside, a crunch underfoot,
Peering into the silent blizzard
Effortlessly cascading
Beneath amber street-lamps,
A scene from a story of make believe form,
I pull my coat tighter,
Blinking into the snowflake tips
That prick my face,
And edge down the street.

A static coat of arms,
Frosted windows,
Tudor beams,
Parked cars entombed in snow –
Calm rings out as black clouds shift above.
If I listen hard enough I can hear the calm elsewhere –
The fluorescent entrance lights of the hospital
Behind me
Hiding the sleepy wards of old and young,
Lost in their dreams of tomorrow,
Silently walking with me
Feeling the life in their fingertips.
The nourishment of movement!

In the eerie quiet of this moment others
Lie ready
To ease out of life.
The brush of pillow on their cheek,
A final revelatory sensation
Diminishing ebb
Of pulse and current,
Minutes become seconds become darkness.
Inhabiting this new paradigm
I feel for my keys,
Their serrated edges temporarily
Escape me back to the confines of
My familiar.
I click the kettle switch and
Read each word of the last holiday postcard,
Holding onto the fridge corner to steady myself.

Pulse

img_6730

Dawn in Lumphini Park, Bangkok.

Pulse

This man sleeps in five-star
rooms
high above and
looking down
on that man
squatted behind
a pyramid of limes,
waiting for a customer.

This woman feels forever
late
and ill prepared
to teach the class,
outside
that woman
sleeps under a tree
quietly breathing
whilst traffic stuck,
shuttling him and her and them
onward to a new
moment of playing at
who they are.

We are all in sales,
scouring time
to feed the
pulse and curiosity
of where each
investment might take us too next –
a better paid job
a clearer conscience
a meal.

The Sun House

The Sun House

A dark pink ginger petal
Curls round my wine glass stem,
It bends
As if to listen,
And I breathe in.

Frangipani trees watch,
As incense wisps through shuttered doorways,
Extinguishing inside on the
Scorched spines that stand in line,
Their perforations couching simpler times –

Joyce and Milton,
Sophocles and Ovid –
Mankind’s canon rests
Underneath these high ceilings,
And their enduring brocade.

A flickering breeze through palm leaf
Stirs,
At once a soothing balm and a fantasized being –
As I breathe out,
And place my glass on the table.

The Commute

bkk
Bangkok skyline

The Commute

A young girl stands weeping,
Waiting in line to board the plane.
Behind her a family of four
Shuffle forward their assortment of
Bags and purchases.
Teenagers splayed out on the floor,
Entangled phone chargers and
Preoccupied chatter.
Tannoy announcements ripple in the distance,
White noise to all.

Outside, convoys of suitcases
Zig-zag across the concrete apron –
The sky painted grey and about to strike.
This motley queue of human cattle
Inches forward,
Marking territory, clenching fists.
Talk of putting “a man on Mars” seems over-stretched,
As the minutes tick by and I wonder why
Putting one hundred people
On an airplane appears so much of a test.

We are airborne as my eyes open
And wince through the glare of the clouds,
Broken up and disappearing.
Many thousands of feet below and Monday morning
Crankily tilts on its axis.
The ennui of emails, the promise of lunch.
As tail winds pick up, the urban fringes of Saigon blur,
Our metallic tube arcs over Cambodian borders,
Paddy-fields and water buffalo,
Agrarian pastures – a daily grind of different stock.

Through glimpses of rubber smoke we land,
Suvarnabhumi airport, again.
Ten years of touching down here,
Too familiar a pilgrimage,
On auto-pilot
My toes twitch as I wait once more.
The young girl has long stopped her tears and stands nearby,
Nodding politely at the customs official –
Breathing in new beginnings,
Or the tingle of something left behind?