Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Selected Poetry of Barry Van-Asten

Selected Poems from the collection 'Ghost Blooms':

Wych Elms

Beneath the stones, shallow hearts press
The hours into their starry margins,
And the irregular tide of time turns
The years that are passing away.

The shadows in the swept gardens shake and cease,
Winding a heart in as it repeats.
And beyond the boughs, those remembered things,
Where childhood's ghost is interposing

Its secret world: bones of Roman loneliness
Root with slow life and remain;
Signposts in the green hush, where magnolia's
Lose their language and waste away

In dumb reserve... storm's electric menace,
Winding along the lanes again,
Under the cross-hum of pylons
As the steel-ribbed sun is setting.

Wrists of ancestors make a wilderness
Under the pale beam where we wander,
And in the dark woods something dreadful sleeps,
As love careers into view and slips away.

[also from 'Body and Soul'. United Press. 2005]

Against Us

What strange apostle of wisdom comes
From the hermitage, filled with fear?
He of old pagan enchantment, drawn,
To wear the wild ways beneath his skin;
With history hidden in fingertips:
A seasoned man, forever touching
Love's last seduction...brain-stepping...

And what appalling strength is this
Glut of desire upon us bringing?
The blood-air about us ringed: we kissed
To the cycle of ceremonial sighing!

Yet there was a time once, when song
Was glad in our souls...we listened;
We heard love's language linger long,
As we mouthed the words, not comprehending
The sorrow in the songs we sung.

And beneath the West wind, the end was falling;
We sipped at moon poison and passed into nothing.
My deeds, still dark with worshipping:
I knew, in those degrees of intimacy,
With my blood-lips on your scented skin;
The death-flowers of your craft, in me,
Shall remain, monstrous and stupidly human!

[also from 'Ten of the Best'. United Press. 2013]

Blue Interlude

Frail, iridescent star
In the cosmic green of man:
She has fled our bournes and brooks now,
Too cruel to understand.

But imagine a time of not knowing;
Of seasons measured in fingernails,
Where a theatre of mistakes, unwinding,
Still dowses after death, and fails.

Where someone keeps the hours, someone
Still listens for womanhood's corrosive call,
Into a silence that leaves its listener cold,
Longing for birth tracks, and that is all.

But here, the glass tower's dreaming
Under time's hooded flow,
Where the innocense of love falls, is falling
Into a world we do not want to know.

And there, waiting at the gates of the lodge
According to her habit,
A woman wept to see us still
Defying time and not changed by it.

For my heart reflects your sadness,
And changeless - sings, but sees
No love of life, nor love for us,
Nor love of mortal things.

Yet something animal in its nature;
Something cold and magical
Is born in us, and programmed to lure
The tide of man's sorrow to worship still.

But will time beat out this tragedy
Between our souls that sigh?
Two unshaken blossoms, that
Each side of a woodland lie.

Frail, iridescent star
In the cosmic green of man:
She has fled our bournes and brooks now,
Too cruel to understand.

Dracula's Cousin

Dracula's cousin
Lives in a suburb of Birmingham,
Lisping after the severity of flesh:
His only weakness and his sole outlet.

A bachelor of modest needs
With divination roots that thread
The immemorial sleep of day
Like dancing sea-shore feet,

As faces collapse like dropped buds
Between the sunrise and the dead.
His fingers black with printer's ink
Leaves yesterday's headlines on drained necks.

But no stranger to enchantment, no,
He courses as some satellite,
Steering his blue-shadowed skin that shakes
And sinks into beauty without regret.

And in his most brilliant of moments, one finds
No hesitation, no awkward talk, none,
Just spontaneous in thought and outspoken
On things he's not seen and not done.

But it matters to him, this world of nothing,
This 'creating symbolic magic' by hand.
Yet he was nothing but dead apologies
For a world he could not understand.

[also from 'Ten of the Best'. United Press. 2013]

Something Will Be Done

I live by the power of the amulet;
Of stones and consecrated objects.
Kept in an iron place, I no longer hear
The oracle of sickness: love's undoing.

Between elbows - signs of conjuration
Performed in my anatomy.
A talisman holds you in my sphere;
A goddess in flames: love's ruin.

Let me breathe in your existence
And define the perimeters of love;
To feel the workings of your skin
And the softness of its touch.

But the plague of youthful adoration
Drifts like ribbons on the sea,
Fearful of the ocean guardian
Between the ceremonial waves again.

And I destroy myself by constellations
Where memory's a museum of my love.
We are guided by astronomical phantoms
To intermingle, blood with blood.

But my body is an almanac
Bruised by the morning sun,
And for all these crafted calculations
Something will be done.

[also from 'Ten of the Best'. United Press. 2013]

Finding Orpheus

Under love's not sleeping,
We turned our backs upon the wind
And made a picture book of symbols
From dry leaves and feathers and things that
We'd found.

And we whispered softly into bird madness
Which gave less dread of volume.

Herded like cattle over ley lines;
All night we sang sorrow's tempest is done,
Spun of the fairest years, now flown;
Flung back to a braver and radient realm
To give the death's-head force of nature form.

But a memory of love persisted
Where meanings in broader mysteries cling,
Through this simplicity, drawn
Like a dark veil over everything:

A watery voice; an echo of time's arrows
That murmurs softly from afar,
Blowing its visceral night ballads that roll
Through easeless age and what we are.

But now, a Macbeth in the heart
And a Caesar in the brain
Have given meanings to symbols, and thoughts
Are the beginnings of speech - silent again...

With the spirit's core, we erode our past
And find its obscure language dead;
As dead as the Latin word that seems
A thumping Caliban of things once said.

Still with eyes closed, we feared to look
Upon the eve of another day
Where evolution leaves us sick again.

[also from 'Ten of the Best'. United Press. 2013]

Lost Hearts

But for a shared moment, long ago...
Your voice is painful to me now;
There has been too much said and done between us
And I have shrunk from the world I used to know.

And there are no simple words, just stupid
Things that we said in the past;
Now an impossible cosmos of hurt feelings
Where two hearts had won and lost.

But it's awful how we dream, somehow,
Of sorrow's wickedness in the heart,
For I made a Pompeii of my love
And buried the whole damn lot.

And you will pass as in some dream
Where echoes of those far off days
Shall murmur, winter-thick and constantly:
Love and us remain always.

But my mammoth love was cooled by Severn
Since long before your birth, I said.
Yet still the soft voice whispered near:
Give our unbroken love delight.

And I am obsessed with dead time
And other things shall follow soon.
I do not know of love or its ways
Because of unnatural reserve, nothing evolves.

But like ancient stones we'll stand,
Labouring under some misplaced spell
That will tick us to the end of time,
Into its blue-lipped oblivion.

Something Supernatural

At twilight, I imagine her as before,
Assembled from posted fragments, gathered
Into an alphabet of her ways and more,
Until the female form is covered -

Girlhood's expanse, recurring somehow...
But her eyes only show the reach of dreams
Cutting through the hallway's glow,
Concealed by something more than she seems.

And yes, it's terrible, how she will never say
Those words I need to hear the most.
And when the feminine part inside falls away
To the flood of grim September's ghost,

I won't leave the room, instead I'll wait;
Time won't tell but time will pass,
With my lens fixed to the iron gate
To see its shadow fall across the grass.

For something supernatural keeps her near,
Where desire, dying under dream's wing
Is something sealed that our hearts' won't hear:
Too involved in ourselves to love, and ending.

Telescope Dreaming

This eye-glass on Byzantine worlds
Of our own mythological fate,
Locked upon some distant star
Like Gullivers' gulping on dead space.
A penetrating lens that strays
Beyond those satellites that sing,
To pause on the past and make
A flash in the sky our everything.
As if looking on the microscopic
Where seasons are big things unknown
To single-cell abominations
Content to let big things alone.
A distant supernova detector
Viewed by voyeurs of light years,
Where we are but an eyelash in the soup
Straining at things too far away.
But our little world of telescopes dreaming
Of space...infinite space,
Can't tell us that we're not alone
In a universe of illusion that remains
Content to let big things unknown.

[also from 'Ten of the Best'. United Press. 2013]

Spoon Bending

The house is empty and seems so cold;
Rooms are dying, winding down, all through,
Where childhood thumbled long ago.

And in seclusion, I dummy death,
With fingers touching, still content
To draw stars and circles in the air.

Here, lion-crouching or war dancing;
Test-monkey sitting and laboratory squatting,
Waiting, expectantly, as if you would come in.

Round and round, without touching
Floors and walls or appliances:
These interiors have become your Himalaya's, you said.

And in my hunchbacked morality - I hypnotise...
Corners are head-shaped and I fit in.
Both as giant and insect, table-drowning,

Wanting to hear your voice, but then
Electric socket dreaming and spoon bending
Have taken you from me once again.

There's Something There

I'm an elegant sod, a chemical savant:
We're killers in flared jeans.
We are beautiful
When we're cutting worlds in half.

We pissed through glass canons
At the moon that night.
Love was cremated in the hollows -
We're never safe to be around.

Drowning our Northern sorrows,
Stalking through the bars...
Below the surface we are far
From thinking kind things. We laugh,

And together we shuffle through our thoughts -
What has suddenly come between us?
Why this change in you and me?
But speechless, we sat and smoked in sequence.

Now, our dreams have come to nothing,
And my strategy, in its flawed process
Has collapsed by the stone steps
Where we are beautiful, once again.

Selected Poems from the collection 'Night Flowers':


It is in my mind to be
Rested, in this dark urgency...

Gnarled god of infinite beauty,
With ancient tongue, the hills awake
To nature's call and the season's duty;
To the magic and menace that you make!

And in these things we love the most,
Great beasts of boughs are lost to us.
They wear the darkness like some ghost
That rattles around the rooms of a house.

With their bulged limbs of lump and grot
Deep-twisted through the roll of land;
Green-skirted in your rooted rot:
Horror and history, grooved and grand!

Gorged on darkness, this heart finds
A terrific sadness, deep, that clings...
Death strikes where the river winds
Through a changed landscape that sings

Of experience and gnosis, of hedgerows lost;
Of pathways and barrows and Saxon slain...
To wake the sleeping sylvan ghost
And thunder over mound and hill again!

[also from 'Ten of the Best'. United Press. 2013]

This Ulysses

This angry fellowship of the heart;
This dark seasoned spell that dams
The flow of love's beauty, and fades
Beyond the enchanted reach of the stars...
And the touch of long ago, still haunts,
Like a kiss in darkness, to remain,
An echo of this constant growth
That cannot truly live or die.
O lover, my demon sigh of despair;
My noble god of limitless soul
Who sings and slumbers in the mortal brain -
Strong in spirit and arm, gentle of mind...
But in me there is some whispering dread
That keeps me at its side, always
To watch in the hollows, and handsome, hide
A memory of love on these dead lips of mine;
Dead as the passion that bloomed in youth
To look, Calypso-eyed upon love, and grow...
A love unmoved in every mood -
I go into a dream that I cannot change!

[also from 'Fact and Fantasy'. United Press. 2010]


I gazed through the half-open window
In the dimmed afternoon;
And sombre, my heart set me dreaming
As I paced from room to room.

I saw the sun-scorched lawn,
And thought: the rain will come soon.
The frogs lay screaming in a dry pond
And the cat was securing their doom!

But I'll soon send words to Natasha -
Ballads to a baleful moon...
But this house, still gripped by ghosts
Keeps my love from its first bloom!

White Nettle

I looked upon a rose, and saw
The gothic-lipped mist of evening,
Kiss each petal beneath a summer moon
In the dark time brush of the woods.

And ghosts and magic filled the air
Like cinnamon to the nose, and
Those I used to know came by
To see me standing all alone
Between moon dew and black boughs,
Tracing my shadow's outline
Amongst dogweed and wild garlic.

Yes, the woods in June were fragrant,
The oaks and the birches all stood,
Breeze-born and stupendous,
Weathered by elements and time.

But my love is a mythical witch,
Typhooning from the north;
Bound for the cruel starry gloom
And the endless abodes of night.

[also from 'Reflections'. United Press. 2010]

The Birth Of Pan

This earth calamity;
This new-born man:
Short on form, long on reason...
At the coming of the Golden Dawn
Wood whisperings reveal:
Great Pan is born!
Born into a world absorbed by war
Where darkness is thy maiden whore!
And at the fount of our man-god, take
This treacherous rot of globe and make
A Kingdom, wonderful with gold
And goat-god lust both brave and bold:
Awake! Masturbating man of old!

This piss of life;
This earthward bowel:
This token charmed from midnight foul!
Here, vomit up your history
To see the scum of Sodom pouring forth,
From the night to light this mystery;
Where loathsome is the flesh within
The sanctity of salvation's throne,
To reveal a great god, shook from dust;
His thighs thick with honey lust:
Mad, for the passion-bashed clitoris of fire
Where his seed shall flow and never tire
In the endless gash of mortal desire!

The Alien Brook

Dark continent of reeds
Where a mythical world unwinds,
Sunrise stirruped to its mystery, broad,
And the jasmine heart in decline.

An echo of time, repeats and runs
Through meadow's dwindled pulse, and blood
Booms in veins, where hornbeam and ash
Reclaim, a dead fox with its hunting claw.

Stood, as stranger, though always touched
Veiled glamour of long ago - I'll retain
A memory of this evening, between us,
Immersed in magic, sleep shall flow,

Through Tudor brain, moon-milled by woods
Beneath a bat-black oppressive sky;
Purposeless over pebbles now, its course
Meanders with antique weariness,

To sigh, where owl-haunted beauty persists
Between star and steeple - a steady pace
In blankets of twilight - the heart beats
To an ancient song, sung far away.

[also from 'Poetry in Motion'. United Press. 2010]

The Totem Elect

Under the steed breath and warlock eyes,
His granite stare lifts a Canterbury miracle
And a death... Lips like a drained lake, reveals
A winding path amidst the sunken graves...

The thump, thump of hideous thought
In gloomy gardens... violated remains
Castrated to the crack of horse hooves,
To jab like wax-work, and become
Insane at some vile ache of time.

And at the summit of imagination -
Black angry marks; a widow's tongue
Cuts like some cancer through the heart,
Snorting at pantry fever and kitchen dust.

While above the tree-tops, from a steeple
Swooped a raven, thrashing low
Over columns and pillars, to the waterside
Where it earthed with ineffable joy,
And placed itself upon a pendant.

Here it wove for a thousand years:
Dreams and domes and all things lost;
All things smothered in their prime
By twilights charging at dawns...

Some dead foetus tumbled down
From out of the summer lightning;
Performing staggering etudes
In its unsteady playing.

An idea came to me:
Why not show it life?
I'll take it to the idol room
And breathe into it, intellect!

Spring Equinox

You have looked into the dawn, my love,
To see a string of black bound pearls -
Fragments from the darkened tide
To muse upon the world!
From the windows shifting menace
A storm has come to pass...
Sometimes a terrible guardian
In the shape of Briareus;
Sometimes a sleepless wanderer
In the pallor of Saint Alastor...
Yet, the park, fresh with snowdrops
Is also as dead as you are!
And your lips, red and eager,
Spun of gossamer glass -
Do you feel the sea wind's salty
Corrosive whispers pass
Beyond the darkness, sleep of death,
Over sea-world's gleaming?
A rich meadow of love is upon us
Where stars are born of dreaming!

[also from 'Spring Vision'. United Press. 2010]

Troubled By Time

To the memory of A. E. Housman.

Born, in the year of Darwin's 'Origin',
Where secret worlds of unrest grow;
His inward lips were tenderly pressed
Over the lines of Juvenal.

His passion: silent - humanity's ache
Under the touch, lies far away...
And in the night, there is no sleep
To stamp over the angles of each day.

Words lived, yet he was dead,
Caught in a season's oblivion.
His sombre thoughts were all but lost
On boys to which the war had won!

Ballad-whistling, yet still no-one,
For he would not stay...
His spy-hole on the liturgy,
Kept like photos locked away!

Now, he is going into rooms
Where his heart lies with the dead;
His romance found in Latin graves, and
All that need be known - was said!

Not wanting to remain, no,
Our poet-scholar built a tomb -
A small wound bleeds his sex away,
To flow like wine in printing bloom.

But how could a passing flower give
Life to old bones and dust,
When sorrow thought it fit to stay
And cauterize his lust?

[also from 'Ten of the Best'. United Press. 2013]

On Hampstead Heath

Man of earth - titans and wraith stones;
Dwarfed by hornbeam, alder and ash...
Acorn jewelled moss paths, bluebells and nettles;
Dark places of anemone and dead man's rot.

Songs of grass: the honey-haunt of weeds,
Shaken in shafts as shadows darken and sink
Beneath a bridge. The lakeside strangeness
Had disappeared and seemed less strange, somehow...

The chalk bricks, white as maiden bones,
Stood weary, turned on time...
Green pools, poppy-bruised, where
The corpse of years remains...

And here, the dead where pathways cross,
Reach from roots and ground elder stems;
Hoof-thuds vanish down a winding track and
Ale exulted blood still courses through the wood.

The oaken brain, like a steel box, contains
The dream of history, grown dim and flowing
To the magic and menace of reeds by night,
And lips of twilight found me there.

[also from 'Poetry by Moonlight'. United Press. 2009]


In bygone squid-lust, it slays
Centuries; shift from eye to eye;
Slumped in the bottomless sludge,
Uncaring of the world above
Where mankind, like mayflies, die!

Devil-curst fame: its fathomed kiss
Lies like love notes on the wake;
Measureless, in its humped myth
Where its bulk of heart can evoke
A dark and ancient emptiness.

Yet, we intrude upon its sleep
To wish upon it: 'museum-death',
The prey of monster eyes, always...
Guardian of your dark reach, deep,
May the mystery of our worlds,
Never meet!

[from the collection 'Hexham Heads' 2011
and 'Ten of the Best'. United Press. 2013]

The Butterfly

O secret or symphony -
I know its heart too well;
Sweet sovereign of life's mystery,
Your silence cannot tell
What difference this is, parts you and I
Or what spirit takes you far away.

Will this love immense, never fade;
Could my heart but love you less?
I have seen your fiery wings displayed
To summer's silver light caress;
Serene, unfolds, and flits away
And blessed to live another day.

I'll say I'll seek its beauty,
To hear its sealed heart sigh
Through the long, lone summer,
Wherever its soft wings lie.
And passions fleeting in vain, will chase,
Though never mar nor seize its grace.

Since then in my remembering
Its sad and sable flush,
Fate, in its surrendering,
Steals by a pale moon's crush
Where the frailness of the butterfly
Unknowing strength - must die!

[From the collection 'From the Hermit's House' 2011.]

Ode To Satan

His bones are black like dragons’ teeth
And he’ll make merry with your soul.
Beyond concept, form and time, to dwell
In the regions of your own imagined Hell.
Like mind-fire, he rises,
Silk instigator, his bulk shall sway,
Song-like, in timeless rhythms, to emerge
Urgent at his supper of souls, again.
No purity too high; no weakness too low;
He is mistrust in the heart of every lover
And anger wrestling in the down-trodden.

A name swift to lips – he’ll come
In sleep or silence, seducing:
‘S’ words – serpent, scratch, sugar, sun;
Slumber, sweet, shout, sex, sing,
Smoke, scream, sinister, snake, sin...
Of them all, Satan, upon the tongue,
Licked with a rush of air...
Shushed and shaped into Sss-a-tan:
Satan, I call thee to me, Satan,
Sensual flame and saviour, strong:
Satan, Satan, Satan, come!

[From the collection 'Under Wind and Over Sun' 2011
and 'Ten of the Best'. United Press. 2013]


Muse, thy fair and busty presence
Brought moonlight, madness and song;
Conjurations inspired wise words to mind
And invoked beauty, but you belong

In your world of mythology, not mine;
Come no more and trouble me not!
I do not care for your enchantment;
I do not want your alluring rot!

I am sick of your flowery love-words;
Sorceress, do not trouble me!
Go back to your sisters: Melpomene,
Urania, Thalia and Calliope,

Polyhymnia, Clio, Euterpe and
That haunting devil of dance – Terpsichore!
The old blush of youth has gone
And so has your hideous hold on me!

Still she came, she did not listen;
I pushed my pen firm in her eye;
I cut her heart out with my scissors
But still Erato did not die!

The brain slipped easy from the skull;
I tore her lungs out with my fingers!
The tongue was simple to remove
But still the muse of love-words lingers!

I cut her up into nine pieces;
Wiped my finger prints from the pen;
I left her body parts in bags:
She will not trouble me again!

[from the collection 'A Toe in the Queen' 2016]


They said falling in love would be painless –
Some numb beast in the brain,
Distorting dimensions of dreaming
To dull the senses of pain!

A whirlwind romance, they called it,
But the heart is deplorable now;
Love sought a serenade of perfection,
More than the heart would allow!

They said love’s just pure emotion;
A tissue of tournament tears,
Devoid of intellect – love is
A carousel of shameful fears;

A torturous sadness of longing –
The heart hangs heavy with time;
An enchantment of song was left muted
To whither away in its prime!

A dreadful departure of passion;
A vacuum void of cold kisses;
The perfumed pretence of not knowing
Why this arena of soft caresses

Remained flowerless, diminished,
With sweet words blunt and dull;
The dim rush of longing sensation
Was heart-breakingly beautiful!

Sunlight was always my cradle
And moonlight was always my bed;
Romance went out with the old year –
Romance is decidedly dead!
[from the collection 'A Modern Antinous' 2018]

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