Poems by Stu Ryder
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE (FOUND ON LOCH NESS)
You're closer than we'd hope for:
The sonars got me.
Before you relied on eyes,
Natural or synthetic,
And eyes don't sift dense mud
Of old egesta, post-land
And dead things.
Look, I know you've seen us -
It's a mutual discovery.
Though some down here refuse
Belief that my reports
Are not mind rushes
From clear air.
(Amazing isn't it? Some think
Us imaginationeering, us who speak
Of other races.)
Just know this:
We are all well -
Enough fish for centuries,
And conversation has
Unbroken history's benefits:
We love our myths of ancient sea lizards.
The Oldest One
Won't have us nationalised.
He suspects you.
Imagine walls as thick as Earth's mantle,
Whitewashed like the corridors linking vast rooms
And like Control Centres One and Two.
Imagine an air of absurd goodwill
As we praised this idea handed down by Rulers
And left to our choice whether to see it.
It was a worldwide referendum.
Maybe we worried, scared to offend them,
Or maybe we hurried like ants to test out random
Control Centre One we never saw into:
The Rulers disappeared down a low-lit tunnel
And never so much as a glimpse
Of the actual political beehive.
Our main gathering-point was immeasurable
Like rocks in space,
Like a galaxy's body-count,
And, master stroke of modern life parallelism,
A French window, one-piece,
Stood mighty before us:
We looked up, looked across
But no corners on this pane,
And a vista of the outworld spread like a banquet:
honey roast roads lined with spritely
Fat of the land, edible flowers, broccoli trees,
Avocado hillsides, carrot chimneys, cartoon mash clouds,
A boundless consomme
Of sea and its crouton creations.
And autumnal wild mushrooms
Completed this weighty platter.
Control Centre Two you could hear science,
Directives, objectives, shouted coordination:
This had to be safe, you see.
It was entertainment en masse for humanity,
So to watch and yet be at risk
We knew the countdown started in there
But all we got was a five-minute clock
Which ticked with the patience of a pack of wolves
Who hunt you slowly when you sleep like kids.
Imagine a pastry rolled in your hands
Of every emotion from violet to red:
Fear, excitement, hope, pleasure,
Nervous biting, regret, smugness, anger,
Those were all spinning as ten seconds came
And each that ticked past made the turbines faster
Till it felt like a superdrill; three down to two,
And I leave the last second up to you.
I don't speak for others, being not in their heads,
But mine was seared in untouchable heat
And I really was on the point of explosion,
Travelling hard through a floodlight's filament,
Skydiving in magnesium flame,
When it all sank back
And we basked in afterglow
Laughing our very bones away
In disbelieving hysteria.
Words like Amazing, Wow and God
Rang across the gathering-point in a blind stumble.
Others may have gazed then at the outworld
To see what remained
Of that beautiful feast
Which just wasn't enough.
I myself was too swept up in mashed rejoicing
To look back.
The form in the letterbox, enveloped in red,
Was opened, and simply said:
"Would you like to take part in a global experiment?
How would you like to watch an atomic bomb
Destroy absolutely everything
From the total safety of a nuke-proof communal
Vote Yes or No, and please return
Within 28 days."
You have not yet acquired a name -
That is better for I may still
Bestow qualities on you
Which you just don't have.
I might have asked you for permission
To make a name up -
I did that once.
Nothing came of it.
Eyes have long since ceased to matter
Or be expressible as jewels
But I will allow myself to say
Your eyes could not hold Chihuahuas at bay
So defenceless, warm
Oceanic are they.
What choice have I
But to swim fathoms down
And let rainbow pools
Soak my skin?
The fullness of a pair of lips,
How smooth the skin,
How broad the hips,
How straight the nose,
How quiet the neck,
How supple fingers,
How sexy a fleck of crimson in the face,
Or in any hidden place
How sweet imagination became
Gave up importance.
But I will allow myself to say
Your lips are as full as an English summer,
Your skin is smoother than oak-held rum,
The breadth of your hips made me quake
That someone should make them for no sake
Other than to fit you
I could draw a line
By your nose
For a dormouse to measure the length of his feet,
And he would not be conned by the measurement
For your nose is so straight, and neat.
Your neck is as quiet as four in the morning
When nature alone is pulsing,
But Saharan sand dusted lightly on you
When your genes were woven,
And your neck is a perfect calm
Like a desert at four in the morning.
I will allow myself to say
That you fingers are more supple than Margot Fonteyn -
A beautiful balance allied to grace
And I watch them far more intently
Twirling a nicotine stick,
I watch them far more intensely
Than even your beautiful face
(Which I will say
Holds the faintest aroma of crimson
Like hills at four in the morning).
And as for my imagination?
Ladlefuls of melting Demerara
Seep through my veins.
There, Nameless, I view you
As if I knew your every fibre.
Such thoughts no longer count
On your account
May I indulge myself?
LOVE OVER WASTELAND
My next door neighbour once was a wasteland,
Broken bricks, barbed wire and stricken sticks:
My vast golden wheatfield of private ambition.
And still I'm the only boy who knows it,
Delighting in adults' vertigo:
"Get down off that rubble!
Or there'll be trouble."
A lank low sky was my multi-ply blanket,
Borderline clover my nectar: drank it.
But the mean men came to my wasteland, and sank it.
Foundations were laid, and bulldozers grunted,
Destroying my wheatfield. Those memories are blunted
By time and the vision of scrap far spread
Through streets robbed of meaning and woods standing dead,
Not visited now by muse or nymphette,
Nor sensibly cordoned by a kind baronet;
Through crusted facades hiding needles and foil;
Over gardens once magic, in poisoned soil;
Through nightclubs of chemicals stained onto stone,
A spiralling dancefloor of joy overblown;
Over bleeding and bruises rising with debt:
As overdrafts grow the air thickens with red,
And I too close up my shutters to block
The screams of our tears, the gasping shock
When all this mad emptiness smacks in our face.
It's a wasteland, and we are the wasted race.
It was probably half past three of four
(Time didn't matter so much anymore -
2000 had passed and we'd made it this far,
Now I felt we're a journeyless, unfuelled car
And where do we go?),
Probably four as I stood in a store
And bought up memories of lifetimes before:
Gobstoppers, wine gums, a small cherry coke.
I thought "You're kidding" and laughed at my joke.
Suddenly life came up sharp, and she spoke:
"It's two for one on the wine gums, y'know?"
Well that was when inside I started to glow,
The solid bones began to flow.
I melted - her smile as she sprang the surprise,
And my human lust became one with her eyes.
Inaudibly mumbling I stuttered "C-cool",
Backing off to the stand where I stood like the fool
Paid in court times to feign trembles and itches.
She watched, like a Queen, completely in stitches.
When I picked up a packet of gums from their tray
The others revolted and just wouldn't stay:
They came twizzling down and bounced round the floor
And I knew there and then that I must leave the store.
I made like a cheetah across to the door
And vanished, then sagged; I saw her no more.
That was months ago now. I'm happy to say
That I shopped there again the very next day,
And Yes I did get my packets of sweets.
I also got unexpected treats.
The details of these are not to be told
In their full, nor ever let them be sold:
They belong between me and my private delights.
But I allow you a peek at our glorious nights,
And I say that we saw most desolate sites,
And we breathed, I think, some sparkles of love
Over wasteland below us and tired stars above.
Anna once had rampant sex with Billy,
Cath is Billy's sister, Anna's friend.
Dennis wants to marry Anna' daughter,
Ellen says she loves me - it's pretend.
Billy's brother Frank's in love with Gareth.
(Gareth's sister Harriet's my niece)
Gareth though is straight, just split from Ellen.
Ellen says she loves me, I'm her squeeze.
Ian drinks with Billy, still sees Anna,
Once screwed Cath and Harriet in the club.
Cath and Billy fought like wasps for Ellen.
Ellen says she loves me, I'm her hub.
Jack and Kev and Larry leer at ladies,
Marybeth and Nina find this sweet.
Nina's brother Oliver's protective.
But Ellen says she loves me, she's complete.
Peter wants to marry Anna's daughter;
Dennis dines with Peter Wednesday night.
Peter fights with Dennis on a Friday.
Ellen says she loves me, her delight.
Quentin, Ellen's brother, fancies Larry.
(Jack once had to threaten him with fist).
Frank and Quentin once had something going.
Ellen says she loves me, when she's pissed.
Robbie's father Steve is Nina's husband,
The difference in their ages 22.
Nina's brother Oliver's protective.
Ellen says she loves me, and it's true.
Anna wants to marry Peter's father,
Terry, who has fondled Ellen's breasts.
Marybeth has started seeing Uri.
Ellen says she loves me (she suggests).
Uri comes from Europe, I don't know him.
Valerie, his former flame, she died.
Winnie knows him, Marybeth's been cautioned.
Ellen said she loved me, but she lied.
Steve saw Ian go outside with Ellen,
Robbie heard them fumbling with their zips,
Cath took polaroids, and I have seen them.
Ellen says "I love you, read my lips."
Xavier and Zero both want Ellen
(I don't know them, Harriet's their friend).
Zero punched up Xavier on Sunday,
And Ellen said she loved me - all pretend.
Biographical sketch: Born 1976, first love 1993, online 2000.
Issues environmental permits for a living and otherwise
Stu Ryder recommends:
Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes
Reason: Anthology of interpretations from Roman Ovid's "Metamorphoses".
No version better captures the vivacity of the original Latin.
Recommendations for writers:
Don't stop to think. The first draft is often the best. Think only
of yourself, otherwise your voice is lost.