Reflections on Crowe



Reflections on Crowe


The title of each poem in this sequence is the title of a painting by Victoria Crowe, who lost her only son, Ben, to oral cancer when he was 22.


1. Venetian Mirror and Remembered Landscape


A cough of iridescence, signals / we are moving into

another time or place.

I am taking hold of your cold hand,

the pigeons in the Piazza San Marco

never saw trees like this. Is that blue

water? Memory?


Because everything is backwards here

you are not dead and night is not a thing

of which to be frightened.


Not a thing at all.


We are sliding as if on ice, but no skates

encase our cold feet. When we reach out

we move sideways, I am always with you.


On either side of what my eyes can see

bars of light mark out the territory of our dreams.


But this is no dream. This is the landscape

in which you were conceived,

the icy interior of my womb,

the cold North. This is where we go

to speak of love.



2.  Blue Snow, Fiery Trees


Each time we drive past the reservoir,

my heart cramps. Those trees once grew in air.


When a valley is flooded, who concerns themselves

with fire?


Never to leaf again, these bones of angels

spear what’s left of sky.


And as the sun nears its next land,

it is these wooden bones that burn.



3. Stephanotis Ascending


When I look at a flower dying, I see immensity.


On the other hand, the sea,

moonlight – atmosphere,

they occupy tiny boxes inside of me.


Around the edge of life is a sound.


Today that sound is the colour of veils.


Glassblowers, stone carvers, are they as knowing

as a gardener is of form?


Not that which comes from inside of me,

but that which grows.


Even as I create you, I know it is not my song

but my ability to listen to yours

that makes you possible.


Where is that tendril reaching, beyond blue

into the unbearable? Where I can no longer


hear you.



4.  Interior with Many Reflections


When you were inside me, what I often saw

was a blue space traversed by cats, eagles,

creatures gods might inhabit on earth.


Space, that’s what I saw and your face,

as in a dream one sees a face that is familiar

but on waking slips, shadowed, away.


I paint that face now, I paint it.

I paint your face. It looks like my face

but somehow, sheathed in gold,

fleshed in the terra cotta of Italian

palazzi, is also the face of putti,

of monks, of one long dead.


I paint your face and each time

it looks the same but it is neither your face,

nor my face, nor the face from that dream

before you were born.


It is a face picked out from the multitude of faces

cast in a room of mirrors, light-curved,

infinitely distant though close

as your heart was when beating

just inches from mine.


I paint your face, and a peony

and a hand, and an cherub and a feather

and a city skyline in the distance

beyond the blue of my womb

where you may be still.



5. Reflection on Gold


From between these panes of gold, my prison,

I watch the glassblowers at work.


The heavy canal waters,

the heavy slugs of molten glass

alive with the bonfire of sunset.


One breath beyond the soul of the vessel

and all is lost.


A globe becomes a pool of what could have been.


One tap too many, the water too cool,

a moment’s distraction (was that a lily,

a baby, a hand, a lover’s face)

and all is lost.


I sip my ruby wine from a goblet

of iridescence.


The church bells ghost.


Sparks of the glassblowers’ flames

enshrine the night.


This is no dream.


This is where I come

to speak of love.





There is no greater rift in nature

than that between two terrestrial minds. 


Here the rictus, it's me that screams,

shows my teeth the way baboons do.


Is it for making friends or scaring

enemies away? I think it's friends they see


but looks to us like screaming. What if

it isn't a rift but a single universe,


one each, and from your own you can explore

but never inhabit the others… when the love


is a love that sucks the air from the room

and your lips pull back and your teeth show?


Here the rictus, the gawp bird that makes no sound

because there is no air here to resound.


A room of deaf children playing drums –

this our hearts, we feel that we're in time.


How far would you crawl on broken legs,

braver soul than ever was in our generation,


not to die alone? Teeth showing in a grimace

preserved by snow, will it be joy or pain? The eagles


gape. Here the rictus, making not a sound when it thaws

or weeps. Men gurn and women plot. It's true,


things never seem like just one or the other.  But I'm not

sitting on a fence. I've got a knack for seeing stars


from each dimension. The glass museum you took me to was full of art

that we could look at barefoot. Here the rictus, your thumb


pushing my lips apart to show my teeth, your claiming

of this trembling which is my life. A precious glimpse indeed.





 Beyond the age I am, I’m in;

I try to realise my whole life. Your whole life.

Over and over.

To make it less of a shock.
To come to some understanding of the last extravagance
in which this will all have been.

And beyond that, this.

But beyond that, also,
I am sure there are stars.

A room of stars, and limbs of stars.

Our limbs

of stars.



           Dedalus on Speed


I know this place is


he rhymed like this


we could have laughed but the long black bending legs

kept taking me drugged and unawares

to the jungle of sensation

misword him standing at the station:

but he never tied the speed freak to the tracks

trying to crack this pulsing chest and let out the wings

I cannot breathe

with this internal

everything possible becomes graspable

light stained griffins


pieces are falling in green light

pieces of green light rain drops

tasting music on my skin

these old songs

go unscathed by the bony hand of the laughing clock


I lift my head

I dance for the lack of tense,

of time – the freedom from stillness and meaning


my own elegant torture – that ravaged grace made

the animal exception honourable for the first time, I, but a virgin

to such respect as you had to offer my own sleep


this is no deception



my tidal bastion of sanctity

I give up for the men who could play wooden guitars

and never sing louder than bees

sweet cliché of mead and of contagious ambiguity of


worth more than admitting to lies you have not,

I have not known you before;

makes sense out of context


(you’ve heard all this before

and don’t apologise for your lack of concentration

he promised me

we could be fascinating


let me write then long thick bending legs

upon the hungry mouths

of our body)




of the alphabet that bleaches to unintelligible dust

on these ill-strangling petrol head fumed

fear driving you (her) to the window

a dyslexic moth

looking to drown not burn

for fear of sound of its own wings

being torn to ghostly films of vanishing


it is so hard to write now but cannot sleep


the retina is coloured

oil slicked on spilt water

(would salt make a difference to your perceptive of my

cherished crusader’s tooth-shaped crooks of wounds?)

the retina floats in the gelled amorphous womb

of the deep sea eye

that is just a pre-recollection

of what becomes

more interesting, memory’s artistic flexibility


that in the deep sea whose atmosphere is laced with eyes eyelashes


the emerald and indigo stained glass

of the gaunt hero’s portal denying chamber

with walls of adamantine

(hells or heaven’s estates are going bankrupt, vendesi)

hissed the stone head of the Italian terza starred sky

dressed in a Faberge filigree of sea mouths

iridescent shell-mounted speakers with

sea conveyors of the unspeakable

whispered beneath coral fans that stir no circular wind


like the cat-faced ladies in his boudoir closet

speaking with corseted tongues that tell

lies only, the trembling courage of vengeful

but unconscious power seesaw bullying the falling

(sing lark spurs the cowboy you lack accent, flavour)

(like the tea ‘s’ this the before it

so hard and confused \ ah those

bored reservedly)


they are elegant they are graceful

they play footsy under the table


jump higher, jump higher

to get a dirty view

of eyes made silver to corrupt the curves of you




divorce proceedings from gravity’s

sick and kneescraped marriage to any

icarus who ever broke his father’s back

of an old man’s courtesy,

creator’s pipesmoking protectivity

of the grudgingly dutiful

figure carved in air, of air,

of a figure of space,

a figure of subtraction,

a figure chiseled from the frescoed, iris glazed

by time’s saliva moist exhale

and inhale and exhale and inhale

and exhale and so on of cataractorial

melodramatic funhouse mirror crow’s eye’s thrice focal prophetic peepshow snake show

charming flesh of temptuous tempestuous goddess

of the jealous noose rolling hunchback

who in his hatred of his Neolithic hemispheric girdling

of cante spined nerve-traffic

fertilizer bombed on humiliated and reality-isolated

2 legged two armed too faced



limp ego for a roller coaster’s tantric thrill

shot by the men being modeled by the man

on the representational horse into fragments

of a dragonflyer’s fractalled orbs


the mirror ball in 1882, turkey

each rhombus skeleton, skinless

diamond pancaked slightly by the ground


by greed’s forward-thinking hand of god

(all the body parts

are for him the birds of a telepathic flock,

the copper loaded allegory of waking to be inciting)


I nicked jonah’s souvenir

whalebone splinter,

colour of the

whore of the



a manage á infinity of fish

one mind divided between

many pin-salted skull dishes

pulsating with the pressure of overblown

(or could have carved it had we the tool

you could not afford to not






air that was drugged with a syrup of




scope selling the headlines and

head fights, lights beaming

to resuscitate asphyxiated ships in immortal waste

to ships and lights beaming

to illuminate wells of


(these tinkling bells of speeding pulse exhausting race inciting

cartwheels rolling away as the Jewish princess requested)


mad is our traditional starving of the body’s sleep

God wills us with emaciated dreams

that in waking insanely wealthy

the soul hungers

not for a lifting of the retina’s veil –


the removed and

enameled with Bristol blue

glass found in

the child’s inability to pretend

to be polite

to never be on a wrong path

when each step reveals

in the footprint of an x

of crucifixion’s rejuvenating proof


spa of the apostolic

steel lung and organs caught from to

iced steel as in an instrumental

irrational respiration for air to clear the

clouded pain (grant me / this)

(digression of cohesive babelling)

beware the speller’s mock satirical

grin – she speaks only with her ink on the skin

of raven riddled sister’s cum-sticky breasts

and lips, that cache micro

fishlet of strong-minded, single willed

barcode of life’s economically demoralizing similitude

and multiplicity

and caterpillar showcase-laced wafer of rarity

that in its eternal reincarnation of star-shaped


writing their names

with their blade-edged

fingernails into the tender

patiently tortured by the immortality that armours

in heat the steamroller lung crushing claustrophobic

porridge whitewashed by the pronounced imbalance

of acid to blood in the bitter splashed vamp intoxicate

of a bird’s secret chest of air


(the saws they used to chop down

their own oak awkward and chestnuts

on the east coast infected

and declared infertile, what

will Rockafeller sy do: in

the muffling rabbit fur flung slip of snow

when the ice skaters tune to


with Christ-sized doubloons

of beaten human skin shed through

by practiced slicing


like a gambler’s cheatflipped snap majik

slap beloved, beloved

face upon face of the pirate narcissus, beautifully aged

as if his exposure to the nuclear

faith-splitting gasp

as the ami the orphan

spherical scrim Lolita

of scantily clad nocturnal emissions

of the adolescent drag queen’s and

hushed by the plump, waggling, twiddle dee dumbing

proboscis of wine-expressing fathers

of the god whose only permissible mistress

for his chalices of unburdened sun, his voyeuristic

blindfolded bug’s clipped bedroom lampshades

to be switched on at will when

“an audience is required”


the peeping st thomas’, the ordained Samaritan

weightlifters of the unbearable need to change,

and their backs under the smut-scented land until the or

white moon’s

rise to worship


cast by the last of the people

who had no mouths, who breathed thru skin


who had no fear, and thus no god

who were unjudged

who never told a lie, or a truth

dis-co-writing silence


a nuclear gasp of soft shorn light bubble xploding

shredding the fallacy of light


he could live forever could i accept the lies

just the lies

the galleon of fames


and singed like a leaf suspended, dry


he was gone, leaving only a hole in the smoke


the figure of my son



         A Lesson in Light Economics


lie still lie quiet lit up

Jane Goldman


what was understood was the lie of the uncle

uncle this is not russia it’s new jersey

stop stealing all of grandpa’s computers

the factory succeeds to the highest power


beyond the waves lie boats filled with bodies

of pigs and octopi intelligent creatures

more guilty you confess about eating the pigs

but at night there are dreams of tentacles


climbing into bed the waves

are a lover unlike any hand or machine

this lie unhooks desire from the body

and plants new economies in Senegal


still you lie glowing in the pre-dawn

huff of birdwing truck run boat sweep

still as the octopus still as the gangsters

waiting in the dock’s salt shadow


still as quiet as momma said

still as holy still as lit as the first cigarette

still imagining the biplane drifting



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