A Poem Sequence by David Erdos (12th-15th June 2018)
I: ON A DELAYED AND SLEEPLESS FLIGHT TO
If sleep soothes, then tonight
The thinnest bandage moves freely,
Admitting the wounds of the tired
After claiming their way close
To the stars. With clouds underfoot,
One at the very least yearns for softness,
Only to be met by the fury
Of the body as it sets out its own
Chance breaks the craft, necessitating
Another. The long wait between branches
And a sistering bird moving nests,
Leads to those on the ground
Watching the skies ever hopeful,
Forsaking satisfaction to place their
Descending hopes on the next.
Inside the head, the brain shakes;
Migraine’s yolk in a skull shell,
As distress and thoughts scramble,
Or evaporate in heat’s noise.
Bound by fate and cracked air
And the passenger polyphony
As it gathers, the aeroplane
Seeks salvation for the preening chicks,
Fat with glamour and sat beside them
The objectionable bastard/boys.
Hours now without sleep, and before
This crow of industry hovers,
Time in the sky sliced and sending
A signal mix beneath us. The vast plane
As a bird, with the sky as nest, fit for splitting,
And we, the sad hatchlings,
Expecting ascent, dead from trust.
II: THE (WE) CLOUD BOTHERERS
Turbulance in the cloud:
The sky disapproves of our trespass.
The boat rocks, without anchor
As clipped wings shrug before death.
Or before the chance of death;
The sunset’s eye glowers,
As we proceed, steel defending
Yet daring the sucking sky to steal breath.
III: AT 2am
Arriving late, drained of day, I set out to work in dark hours.
An expensive hotel, all provided, is a comfort for now unenjoyed.
But before me, light’s prayer from this high Hotel window
Of a seemingly dazzling city, with Arabic calls across midnight
And an uncertain dawn, I’ll employ.
The bathroom looks like a house.
The bathrobe is a book of soft knowledge.
The water, warm. The air, heavy, as I breathe with the room
Unspent rain. For this a slow storm made from light,
And the potential of light, as it gathers,
With the approaching heat, an invasion
In which the inhabitants live with pain.
You can practically hear the heat here.
It comes with the shrieking cars of the city.
There are the birds and dawn chorus
As I lay and shut my eyes for a while.
A song from Beirut; and a route to a new chain
Of being as a once broken city replenishes quickly
By creating new shapes from the wild.
I day dream on the bed as Beirut comes
Into focus. What life I know I’m not scared of
As I set out upon this new sacred mile.
IV: THE BEIRUT BIDET
Wash clean the stains
Of incarcerated flight and of
The soft kiss
Of new water
To bestow at one’s base
V: THE BEIRUT BREAKFAST
Sujuk: thickly scrambled eggs and spiced sausage.
A plate of smooth cheeses, another of round pitta breads.
A bowl of creamed dip like cheese and another of tangy humous,
Dark coffee’s clasp on refreshment, fruit juice that preens
In the glass. In a Four Seasons Hotel, a year of fruit, too,
Seduces, as I gaze at the parched land and the harbour,
While filling my frame, my mouth gasps.
This is not how the underprivileged live,
So this of course is exception. It will not last.
So I linger; and with each moment of taste;
Yes, I bask.
From my Hotel window:
Here then, are the vistas as verse;
Lines formed by the angel grazed buildings before me;
The city’s sentences aiming their celebrations
Of self towards God.
Sat on a balcony raised at a vertigo level,
The slightest stumble, though fatal
Could prove to be an ecstatic return for the lost.
See how the senses now reel
When taking in the panorama presented;
A glorious and voluptuous centre
From which the ancient ascents are renewed.
This is the Lebanon sung, its founding words
Caught by mirrors, reflecting back
That first daylight, while scratching
The sky to seek truth.
VII: AS BEFORE, A WAITRESS
Through another window, once more,
The wanting heart stumbles,
As moving through between stations,
The answer to love graces by.
As I touch the middle east from the north
Of English limitation, I see her pass in fast beauty
The next in a series of momentary wives
Shaping time. There was the woman I loved
In Iraq and now another before me,
Unaware of my offer, while breaching
The still shattering love of the first.
I would try to win her with words
But am here for a day without language,
The small life I’d gift her will succumb
To the force of this heat on dry earth.
There is just the empty frame where she walked
And the wanting man looking through it.
When waiting in vain for a waitress
That infinite return makes time stall.
Fingers claw at the sun, as if dragging it
From the harbour, heeding without hope
The far water and the boats in the bay
To love’s call.
VIII: ON GOD’S TEARS
The sea here is for God.
None born near may touch it;
The good or bad Lord’s birthing water
Into which the sadness at man
Can be wept.
Here, creation’s ruin is soothed
By sacrosanct limitation,
While the so called soiled sail
Across it, scorched by the sun;
IX: ICE SKATING IN BEIRUT
On seeing this sign, I write the words;
‘Talk about baked Alaska..’
Possibly as a prompt for this poem,
Or a means to describe intense heat.
Do the skaters circle this cool
As the moths at bulbs do in Uxbridge,
Avoiding the burn, yet still powered
By the power and pulse at their feet?
It seems impossible. What?
A faintly ludicrous notion.
But they deserve their ice skating
As people in Norway would steak.
Or curry. They arc, as skaters do,
Leaving flurry; steam and air rising
From a war torn land
X: FRESH FORMS OF WORSHIP
Passing a temple that stands next to a car-park’s
Congregation, those knelt in prayer
And those breaking are each in desperate need of a clutch.
Beirut is now a branded building site framed by a walled Riviera.
As the incessant cars question is the room to breathe and believe
Quite enough? The religious outline drawn on is filled by HUGO BOSS
And his brothers; Gaudy colours bedecking
The expensive facade around faith.
And yet in walking past and around,
One sees that God can’t deny them;
He/She/It’s in The Yacht Club,
Drink, task and towel all in place.
Steps, minarets and vehicles that wasp,
Test the sacred. A thick sun burns.
The heat’s leaning while its maker reclines,
XI: AT THE BEIRUT YACHT CLUB
The Muezzin call to prayer
Scores all dreaming.
Yet walking through the day,
Its piped muzak,
With plastic and the Gods on guitar.
After a war comes the ease
Of western intervention,
‘You’re so Vain.’ Carly Simon
And as golden bodies
Thus, they are.
The former torture seems far,
The Hockney swimming pool almost singing.
Perhaps the gun runners
And the designers of bombs wear sun masks.
And so, before me the spread of Hotels
God could stay in. Los Angeles and Miami,
And Hawaii too, light this dark.
After suffering, sense allows for fantasy, always.
Troubles at home now seem cloudy.
Reclaiming all this: that’s the task.
XII: SUCK AND SEARCH (or FISH AND CHIC)
Fish in the marina suck sea
While an unblown man dreams desire,
Here, a woman’s touch and clear water
And the movement of a mouth
Crowns each kiss.
You certainly can’t get this at home,
Not with the rising mountain range
In the distance, the line of the peaks
Meet sky cover, making the souring air
The sweet this.
Meanwhile the fish make a patchwork
Of themselves there beneath me;
Thankful for their surround
Or just hungry, they are blessing the blue
And life’s twist.
But the fish are still crossing.
Fast and desperate cars in the distance,
Each element here,
XIII: THE BEIRUT BURGER
Their take on a classic; hell, yes,,
Something to breach the known spaces
Between a sleepless heat and an airport
Set to send the soul underground.
A Beirut beer’s brief repose,
Before it too turns to bathwater,
The fronting kick of it humbled
By an occupying force free from cloud.
A wall ahead barrs the sea,
As if every soothing force were prevented,
Inducing everyone’s face, through ingestion,
To the illusions of home in sweat shrouds.
It is almost too hot to eat
And yet one goes through the motions,
Forcing the place in and drinking
The sight’s heaviness, the slow sound
Of everything in the bay kept at bay
By a post war time now of plenty
In which prayers to the flesh
Somehow honour those lost to their God
And those found. An evening is therefore spent
Watching the yacht owners and soldiers,
Linger discreetly beside the pleasures
They fought for, that, seen from this angle
Make a standard meal its own banquet
And in this new site of leisure
A source of a pride and a treasure
Of the slowly gathering crowd.
XIV: TEARS TO STEAM
Nothing can stay cold here;
Before my Miranda bath
Drags it under.
Meanwhile, God watches closely,
Scouring water’s weakening stone
Crying at the first taste,
I am soon a man in the desert,
Imagining sharp renewal
As the mirage in this meal
This lack of duration
Saddens; it is as brief
As my stay and its fading,
My fight for pleasure
In a once war torn place,
May confuse. But the shadow of
The umbrella above is a frame
Within which I can honour
This moment. Sip by sip
I will savour.
As the white day
I can’t lose.
XV: SOLIDIERE BUILDING, BEIRUT
The seeming riddle of this building, ransacked,
Removed from all visitation. The site of a notorious rape,
Or a people, sheltering here, since dispensed?
The building stands now in the bay,
With the Millionaires’ gaze soft before it. And yet
Its paneless eyes are the windows glaring
At the cool of the night’s recompense.
Who suffered here? The waiter doesn’t know.
The Solidiere sign is giant. A face on the stone
Fit for shouting, while its arabic script makes
No sense. Who were the women raped here?
The persons unknown, forced in cupboards,
If this was a Hotel then which guests fell subject
To a devilish Maitre D? Did Chambermaid paedophiles
Twist strangling sheets in locked closets?
Did sunlight and sperm stain the curtains,
That being stronger than walls blocked release?
A pink facade and grey rails. Perhaps this was the place
They paraded; the debauched and the decadent, shining,
Along the darkest of halls with death’s taint.
Or is this another ruin, long bombed, where the just dressed
For dinner. A politically (un) safe house where make-up
Required blood in the rouge and war paint?
The building is a remnant of course, from the war.
An HQ perhaps, or a prison. A conference hall lost to conference,
Has become a cathedral of air and stopped speech.
Amidst all of this plenty, it squats, staring blind
Through wrecked portals, daring those who walk past it
To remember the days war defiled. It would have served biscuits of blood,
With small cubes of flesh in the tea cups. Handkerchiefs that in wiping
Broadened the stain to leave scars. The present preens on.
But this place is an advert from the past for the future.
As the ice in my orange juice bites me, I feel the crunch of those
Vanquished and the sting from old fires
As the smoke smears and blackens
Each separate hope to see stars.
XVI: AT THIS LEVEL
I am reasonably complete in a plane
But cannot look at tall buildings;
Vertigo stains me and can be practically heard
In my legs. Back in the Hotel for the last,
With the magnificent view spread before me,
I still clutch at the curtains, fearing the balcony’s
Powder keg. It could explode within me, at once,
That sense that at eighteen floors,
There’s compulsion, to cast yourself over
With no desire at all to seek death.
This is the world’s most comfortable bed
But I will derive no sleep from it, being up at 4,
The Four Seasons is all you might want
And expect from charmed breath.
And yet I cannot quite embrace,
Scared of the kiss it will give me,
As I strain and stumble
With the cough in my skin at this height.
I turn the TV on but still admire
The city painting before me.
I must allow it all now to ease me
And let these last few hours
Make each reason please me,
A tiny marriage of moment
In which each season combines.
Night as wife.
XVII: AT THE AIRPORT (1)
The security guard’s manner appals.
As if yours was a favour he’d granted.
The brusqueness of word and persmission.
The granting of hand, stare and look.
I could so easily shout and exchange
The answers of home for a prison.
And yet this beast at the gates allows open
The writing of this and all books.
XVIII: AT THE AIRPORT (2)
At least I make the beauty at the check-in gate laugh,
As she tries to summon her supervisor;
An issue to do with my hard drive,
Due to my so called Government’s stringency.
She cannot summon him. So I project his name
Through the lobby.
Her embarrassed laugh is delightful,
Cupping her mouth, childishly.
At a possible moment of tension I crown
My usual intolerance wisely,
Engaging the day now with pleasure,
As that day removes me from seeing her again.
Real life’s fear.
XIX: THE WOMEN THERE, THE MAN HERE
Each remains beautiful, these raven haired women;
Princesses of the Middle East, their prized glory
Spills from the palaces to the streets.
The smooth thickness of the eyebrows,
Pert nose, the smiling eyes, the kept kisses
Each aspect wishes you to them, granting
Your english discontent sweet release.
Their unique grace is contained, moving as they do
With slow rhythm, a result of the heat and their aura,,
As their religion and style hold them in.
Once given back to the world, their perfect design
Clearly flowers. In white shirt and slacks today’s wonder
Shows in brief moments how the promise of love can begin.
She reminds me of you, who will never answer this poem
And of a life I’d intended and wanted to seek
Or design. The woman here’s beautiful.
I watch her now with her daughters, no ring proffers freedom,
But there is a sadness of course before speech.
No ring means no thing. And how long anyway,
Will she be here? Looking at her I still see you
And through no fault of my own, I fall deep.
But only for now. An 8am flight to London.
The passing sight of this woman reminds me at once
Of before. In a modern age there’s no time
Despite the seeming distance of travel.
So as I leave I return here, perhaps walking with flight
Through love’s door, to rediscover the girl
For whom I wrote another book.
I’m day dreaming. The Middle East takes me over,
As the sky becomes my new floor.
XX: ON LEAVING HOME
Travel broadens the waist as the thoughts
It entertains are enraptured by light’s slick sensation
And a more refined kind of heat.
In a new place you will gorge on this fresh
Presentation, as the food and drink charm the body,
So even the soul gets to eat.
It feeds on the land and the shadows curled
Like dark butter. It takes a scent from the landscape
And the growing romance of the place.
Dreams of it nourish sleep in the self same way
That they colour. So on returning home
I’m still with you, drawing all I can from your face.
I can taste the sea and the sand
As that part of the world is now my world.
It is only in leaving that I can at last understand
That having once what felt real, I am a part of the sky
Now forever, uniting all seasons between
The undiscovered girl and lost man.