It's never easy to second-guess poetry editors, fathom why they choose one poem rather than another. Best just to concentrate on writing. The poems below are from sequences which, perhaps because of their length, are sometimes more difficult to get published in full:
Smoke drifts on the wind.
I see my father working,
forking the bonfire.
So many years ago now
since we were last together.
From a safe distance, because our nervous
guide doesn't want to risk going closer,
we stare towards the beach through razor wire.
They use inner tubes or home-made oil-drum
rafts and this is where the current drives them.
If they're lucky and don't choose a moonless
night to cross, a patrol boat might find them
before the sharks. Some survive, but flotsam
and jetsam here are the stuff of nightmare.
Those who make it in one piece are sent back.
Amputees follow when they can travel.
Freedom gets more expensive every day.
from Other Places
On the beach, the midday heat is overwhelming,
ferocious enough to scald the surface of the sea,
so however much you'd like something to happen,
nothing's going to. Even the lady boys
in silver hot pants who trade fake sapphires
and themselves are sitting it out among the mangroves,
smoking, sharp-eyed, as if they know a secret,
waiting for the afternoon to start strutting its stuff.
But the moment conjures its own seductive fictions,
a lazy, slow-time reverie of myth and dream:
two women in thongs slip tee-shirts over their heads,
shake back long hair and shimmer as they move,
while alone in the shade, a hungry massage-girl
spoons noodles and red-hot chilis from a bowl,
keeps her mind on the more important things in life.
Devil Among The Pigeons
Deep, sunken eyes he cut me, full of shadows,
devilish, not buggy like his own. Finished
the day he slipped on a greasy plank and showed
the pigeons a couple of new routines
before he hit the ground. Too many beers
with his dinner, should've been more careful.
The rest of my ugly phiz, the boozer's
strawberry nose and flappy ears, was his.
I snatched it before he landed, simple
enough trick, no magic involved,
so only my horns, hoofs and wings are chips
off the old block. Left in limbo like that,
while my maker was busy dying,
what tickled my fancy, appealed to my sense
of self-image, was his tongue, the way
it stuck out, as if he was cocking
a final snook at God on the way down,
being quarrelsome to the bitter end
as always. That must be where my grin comes from.
from Staying Power
They're the air we breathe. We cut our teeth
on them, stories of opium fortunes
lost in fires, the gold, the gambling dens,
young girls shipped over in boatloads
to work the brothels, misers half-starved
in their own homes, surrounded by wealth
they daren't spend. My wife who died.
The blind hawker kids rob, market-traders
forever slaving to fill the rice bowl.
That's the kind of stuff people want to hear.
At funerals, we burn the universe, giant
Heaven and Earth joss sticks that last.
Stiltwalkers leap through fire, do acrobatics,
make sure our spirits live to tell their tales.
At The Bottom Of The World
from Trouble In Mind
Sat against a wall, hand out, but ignoring
us, she might as well have been invisible.
She looked old, dead drunk and filthy, too.
Not a pretty sight, you can imagine.
So, minds fixed selfishly on pleasure, dinner,
wine, nobody bothered looking at her twice.
After all, a friend said, it's a choice she made,
so there must be some kind of living in it.
It was on our way back much later, market
closed, street quiet, the town gone home to bed,
that we heard her voice, a mix of Marianne
and Janis, raw, stripped-down, alone, singing
to the stars, though not for her supper: Trouble
in mind, I'm blue, but I won't be blue always ...