Old Friend on a Web Page

The longer the internet goes on, the more it comes to resemble a kind of living, constant time capsule, the artefacts not deliberately buried but more lost in the constant avalanche of new pages. We might expect one day to find our own image, long removed, cached in some archive we’ve never even heard of, and one day the Internet may well be littered with references to our names long after the virtual pages survive us.

A few weeks ago I decided to trawl the net for a few names from my old University days. There was one particular person who was a very good friend of mine, fellow poet, drinker, smoker, and traveller through time. We did readings together, drank together, and after I left Swansea we stayed in touch for quite a while – but as my life took over we lost touch. It’s funny how in our memories we expect things to stay the same – when I found a reference to him, he had moved to an entirely different city and was doing the last thing I would have imagined he would be doing for a living (well maybe not the last thing, but the drabness of it seemed to reflect my own situation, where my poetic life had slowly drifted away from me through the chains of full-time work…)

Anyway, here’s the poem that came out of the feelings and memories that came out of seeing his photo and brief bio on a web page. I read this last night at my literary group, and my audience like this poem a lot – they say my new voice has a maturity my earlier poems lack. What do you think? 🙂

Old Friend on a Web Page

His picture opened the wormhole
Between the me of now and the me
Of yesterday, dna freezeframed,
Stirring up forgotten photons.

Like it always is the difference
Came from changes in myself
And the entropy of experience;
He was not the same of course

But I recognized the configuration
Of his face, leaner now perhaps,
The hair shorter and the eyes haunted,
A parallel version of himself.

These were intersected seconds
Between now and the years
That simply didn’t happen
In the same continuum as mine,

As if we fell through cracks in time
Or split like particles with different
Properties as we sped to our own
Alternatives and imperatives.

It is easy to believe in ghosts
When the living haunt us
And faces drift like stars from view
As lives like galaxies expand.

Are you only swirling electrons now,
Image of an absent friend projected
From a distant point in time
To ask your questions of me now?

If only the living could speak
As loud as the dead through history,
His living voice might beckon,
Tune in from the static of memory.

Morning Bus Ride

The French poet Paul Valery said that a poem is never finished, only abandonded, and this is something I’ve certainly come to agree with over the years. Poetry is all about playing with words, playing with language, and play done properly is a process, not an end in itself. All the great poems in all the great languages could have been just a little different had the poet decided to just spend another few hours or minutes and change few things. Yet at some stage we need to abandon and move on, so here’s a poem I think I can justly abandon, as I have others to work on, and need to keep getting them up here to afford myself some means of motivation 🙂

So this one came into my head while I was sitting on a bus (going to work for the last time as it happens, I have now left that job and am engrossed in creative projects!), looking at a woman frantically applying her makeup in a mirror as the bus jerked and rumbled, and these lines came to mind

Morning Bus Ride

Beauty, its question marks
Curled by the mirror, too full of sun
And memories of once forever desire.

A statue with broken eyes, she
Pouts and pores over her image,
And puzzled will makes dark analysis

As deep as zero and dark as depth;
Until the bell rings and we pause and
Her hair scatters atoms through light.

All universes die on the commute
Through morning choked
By the tendrils of enterprise.

Destinations reached we file off
One by one, to different feelings,
To unfathomable mysteries of pain.