Michael Paul Hogan
Atlantic-facing, Eastern seaboard,
the white-framed houses are splashed and flattened
before the wind. Their galvanised metal windows
have a snow-coming brightness,
a lathered razor’s edge,
open and angled
like a Cubist painting.
Along the waterfront
the men wear thick white sweaters and woollen caps
that contrast strangely with their still-suntanned faces.
Their thigh-high rubber boots are blistered with fish scales
and they practise an economy of language,
staccato and functional,
an index of first lines.
The sunlight is pale, the color
of whiskey with too much water…
This is the transitory gap
between fall and winter. The oilskin-yellow and orange leaves
caulk the New England gravestones, clustered
like oyster shells above the town, and even the sails
of the Atlantic fishing fleet
have a chiseled edge, white
as the whalebone, tall as the harpoon.
I / The Garden of Allah
The evening has smoothed itself out
like cellophane. The girl across the court
talks on the telephone in her underwear;
talks from room to room, disappearing
and reappearing, as though performing
in two plays at once: now angry, now
pleading. An actress with two leading roles
and an audience of two: one listening, the
other watching… I light a cigarette and,
strangely, she does the same. We smoke together
across the silence of the courtyard and
it’s listening she’s doing now, half-sitting
on the back of a canework chair, half naked,
twisting the telephone cord around her hand
as though reeling her lover in.
II / Valldemossa
Typewriting at two a.m.
I listen to the spatter of the rain
against the leaves. The air slips cool
and eel-like through the open windows,
leaving a film of moisture on the keys.
Three a.m. Four… I think of Chopin
composing his preludes at Valldemossa,
can almost smell the wet orange trees,
and find myself playing the Corona
in time to the sound of raindrops on the leaves.
There is something unreal about morning
when the night has been seen through towards it.
I smoke a cigarette and watch
the world develop like a photograph,
rippling into focus through the rain.
III / Manhattan
The dress she wore shone like a movie screen
before the movie. Like parachute silk.
Or the label on a bottle of vodka.
A collapsed star
She was alone, that much was obvious
from the wary looks the other women gave her,
but her detachment was something deeper,
the loneliness of the vampire,
of Dracula’s daughter.
I watched her across the room,
holding but not drinking a pale blue cocktail
and staring intently at a (genuine) Mondrian
as though recognizing
her own abstraction.
This is a high-wire act.
The hawk on the wind’s invisible trapeze
scorns a safety net of heather,
prefers to perform over rock
or risk the juggling harvester,
will not be hurried, but waits
for the perfect moment
in silent freefall, grips
his struggling partner
and swings back up, triumphant,
to the tent’s blue apex.
The act is done.
Michael Paul Hogan is a poet, journalist and literary essayist whose work has featured extensively in the USA, UK, India and China. His poetry has appeared in over thirty literary magazines and in five collections, the most recent of which, Chinese Bolero, illustrated by the great contemporary Chinese painter Li Bin, was published in 2015. He currently lives in England and is working on a new collection of poems. Email: michaelpaulhogan[at]yahoo.co.uk