Douglas Livingstone | Poems

Douglas Livingstone | Poems

In Corridors and Labyrinths My Mind
by Douglas Livingstone

The Genius of Earth:
In corridors and labyrinths my mind
Wends damply haunted to a misted deep
Where lurks mad-ego pacing without sleep
On wet and echoing streets thin-walled and vined
With veins, a stagnant tombstone yet unsigned.
Down here my vestige soul has built its keep
To fortify from forms that subtly creep
Well-hidden from the fearful glance behind.
I feel and hear a deep evoking Call.
Now phantoms chase me from my tunnelled pit:
Bats scream and snakes with avid moilings crawl
Upon their quarry. Hopeless, lost, I flit
To slump exhausted near my skull’s last wall
While demons rush through, over, out of it.

Gentling a wildcat
by Douglas Livingstone

Not much wild life, roared Mine leonine Host
from the fringe of a forest of crackles
round an old dome-headed steam radio,
between hotel and river – a mile of bush –
except for the wildcats and jackals.

And he, of these parts for years, was right.
That evening I ventured with no trepidations
and a torch, towed by the faculty
I cannot understand, that has got me
into too many situations.

Under a tree, in filtered moonlight,
a ragged heap of dusty leaves stopped moving.
A cat lay there, open from chin to loins;
lower viscera missing; truncated tubes
and bitten-off things protruding.

Little blood there was, but a mess of
damaged lungs; straining to hold its breath
for quiet; claws fixed curved and jutting,
jammed open in a stench of jackal meat;
it tried to raise its head hating the mystery, death.

The big spade-skull with its lynx-fat cheeks
aggressive still, raging eyes hooked in me, game;
nostrils pulling at a tight mask of anger
and fear; then I remembered hearing
they are quite impossible to tame.

Closely, in a bowl of unmoving roots,
an untouched carcass, unlicked, swaddled and wrapped
in trappings of birth, the first of a litter stretched.
Rooted out in mid-confinement: a time
when jackals have courage enough for a wildcat.

In some things too, I am a coward,
and could not here punch down with braced thumb,
lift the nullifying stone or stiff-edged hand
to axe with mercy the nape of her spine.
Besides, I convinced myself, she was numb.

And oppressively, something felt wrong:
not her approaching melting with earth,
but in lifetimes of claws, kaleidoscopes:
moon-claws, sun-claws, teeth after death,
certainly both at mating and birth.

So I sat and gentled her with my hand,
not moving much but saying things, using my voice;
and she became gentle, affording herself
the influent luxury of breathing –
untrammelled, bubbly, safe in its noise.

Later, calmed, despite her tides of pain,
she let me ease her claws, the ends of the battle,
pulling off the trapped and rancid flesh.
Her miniature limbs of iron relaxed.
She died with hardly a rattle.

I placed her peaceful ungrinning corpse
and that of her firstborn in the topgallants
of a young tree, out of ground reach, to grow: restart
a cycle of maybe something more pastoral,
commencing with beetles, then maggots, then ants.

A Darwinian Preface
by Douglas Livingstone

The crab, the clot, the muzzle or the knife:
patiently, the nocturnal terrorisms
stalk. Even the brave know hardly of rest,
aware a body’s little but a glove
stretched from metatarsals to neocortex
on a stiffening frame. A hand as strange
clenches on coiled lengths of fear: that old vortex
steeled by the usual mundane heroisms.
Your heart wins armour from confronting life,
yet stays unlatched, anticipating love.
Each dawn claims thanks and welcome, and gets blessed.
Perhaps the sea indeed did suckle you
Through all its prisms, its diurnal range.
There is not help for it. Best buckle to.

As I walk with effrontery, alone
by Douglas Livingstone

As I walk with effrontery, alone,
by night, by day, through mists or lights or rain,
in parks and over fields, beneath the sky,
through traffic or in corridors of brick
I carry the scent of your body always
upon me and wear the same shirt until
I find it now stinks of me and has lost
its delicate swan-necked flagon of you.

As I walk with effrontery, alone,
among jostling labyrinths of grey hustlers
perhaps intent, who knows? Who knows! upon
their own happy fornications, although
one could never guess it with certainty
from their glum stifled faces, I recall
our gay expertise and indecorum
on floors, on grass, on beds, the moonlit beach.

As I walk with effrontery, alone,
and suddenly delighted at an apt
quick witticism of yours bursting like
the sun above a thunderous cliff of cloud,
wondering its mocking disrespectful rays
don’t playfully illuminate a few
of the very sober pates about me,
I must quench an abrupt laugh with a cough.

As I walk with effrontery, alone,
I contemplate your murder to assuage
the carcinoma of my jealousy
thinking how next time I sprawl beside you,
a hot afternoon breeze probing the curtains,
my teeth against your honey coloured throat,
an instant’s clench will salve it, slake it all –
the love, the fear, the channels of your life.

As I walk with effrontery, alone,
I know that I am lost and should be kept
incarcerated somewhere, peacefully
quiet and padded to recover from
this succubus that now inhabits me,
or whom I inhabit. And pray the gods
spare me that exorcism, electro-
convulsive or other fell therapy.

by Douglas Livingstone

Red dawn; the clang of hammer suns; winged night.
The ruby freshness furnaced. Then the kite
of evening swarms the air to cool the hush.
The night’s huge mouth split-stretches for the bite

that gulps the land, swift-spitting stars like crumbs.
Again, the dawn spreads eager blood-stained thumbs
to start the avalanching anvil-rush
of gongs. The sun erupts and, stunning, numbs

the drawn pale eyelid. Frail-legged herons walk:
black, white and brown; fitful or swift, they stalk
their daily crust on farm and mine; while plush
executive newts telephone and talk.

A sanguine Earth bowls languid through the lakes
of Einstein’s fields of linear mistakes,
and Africa spreads sideways to the crush.
Upon an ant-heap, parched, a buck awakes.


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