FULHAM FANTASIA: POEMS BY C. CAUNTER
The following eighteen poems were written between 1998 and 2022 and are being first published here with the kind permission of the author (one poem was first published elsewhere).
Johnny said there was a sound,
A high-pitched beep, that only kids
Up to age seventeen could hear.
He liked these titbits that astound.
Out came his phone, home to the app
That functioned like a science lab
And we two lab rats huddled round
And he pressed play, our faces near.
The lower tones did reach my ear—
Then came the one that made it clear
Where I stood and where he, the gap,
The very gap that got us here.
Photograph in the Museum of Ethnology
The day the photographer came to town
My siblings and I wore our hardiest frown.
The town wrapped its talk around the event
But none of us knew our faces were lent
To the gazes of those to our grandchildren born.
In this dead-end museum we hang forlorn
Yet amused by the visitors who each stay awhile
And muster our portrait and expect us to smile.
At Any Given Time
At any given time
In any given town
Across the earth
There is a boy
Who can eclipse the universe
In a Vast and Loveless Land
In a vast and loveless land
I saw a boy stretch out his hand,
Reaching for an era’s end.
He never spoke, but clearly the
Description of his reverie
Was on his face, for love to see.
I saw in his desire a blend
Of reaching back in history
And searching for a future friend.
(Written at age 17)
Love was a weakness the people would hide.
Indignant as Moses and equally pale
I yelled it was just and could not be denied
And pushed to erect what I thought was the grail.
Now and then someone would saunter along
To judge with complacence my ludicrous deed.
Never approval, and never a throng
To further my labour or truly give heed.
One day the dead flowers had beautifully grown
And all that was trampled was blazing with light.
I could not explain. I was still all alone.
The grail rose with ease. It stood tall and upright.
(Written at age 17)
The Port That Has No Lighthouse
The port that has no lighthouse
Its docks are abandoned,
Ships’ hope is lost.
Reports in the papers
Of vessels left stranded
Terrify sailors and libel their cause.
(Written at age 17)
On ‘Swimming pool at the Foro Italico, Rome’ by Algernon Islay de Courcy Lyons
Up in a corner of the temple of bathing
Where the walls speak wordlessly of wrestling ancients
Sits my little brother, my little son
Whose life was lived somewhere and somewhere begun
Who may have gone on to great heights at the bank
With family outings and a wife to thank
But who sits here alone on a past day in Rome
Smiling a frown at his friends further down
Taking a break from the diving and din
Though in a jiffy he will somersault in
And abandon the frame—but sit a while yet
And be constant for us, and forbid us forget
Prettiness As a Commodity
Prettiness as a commodity
Is surprisingly commonplace
Pray there isn’t a tax to pay
On seeing a winsome face
Many are the rash encounters
When only the eyes can meet
While the body is taken forward
And away by unwilling feet
Few are the occasions
When the temple opens its gate
And beauty is fully uncovered
And the body is suffered to sate
Poem for a Shooting Star – I
There was only your body
As we lay in the dark
My fingers touched your acne
And my heart was marked
There was only the contour
Of your admiring face
As you hovered above me
My contours to trace
There was only your tongue
And the knob of your nose
And all night long
Our minds and toes entwined
With no space in between
Our chests were united
And my heart was sixteen
There was only your whisper
As you said I was sweet
And my heart was committed
Between the skip and the beat
I’ll be hearing you whisper
And feeling your breath
Through the wink of my life
And the length of my death
Poem for a Shooting Star – II
A few years after our first and final meeting
In which, exhilarated and hidden like truants,
We sat down to the bare essentials,
I find your profile with a smattering of photos.
Here are your sisters I didn’t know,
A holiday I was not party to,
A smart jacket you haven’t paraded before me.
You’ve filled out handsomely; I can see
From your flushed cheeks and winsome smile
You’re still riding the world like your skateboard.
You’ve no doubt graduated to a new handheld trinket
And I wish you skiesful of entertainment
With as many trinkets as it may please you to hold.
Your single being, cut free like a kite,
In rising elevates our singular night.
How Splendid Are Those of Bronze Complexion
How splendid are those of bronze complexion,
On whom Spanish soldiers first laid eyes.
I am sure that some put away their swords,
When the captain wasn’t looking, to make love instead.
Mahogany eyes have enchanted Christians
Who took home to Castile hearts heavy with gold.
We’ve laughed in our beards, amazed that the New World
Would be so attracted to faces so pale.
My mustang! please be welcome to my brain
I’d wondered when you’d canter up again
My inner landscape is our secret plain
Your foalsome frolics rub the finest stain
No minute but the ecstasy of you
Envelops the mundanest thing I do
Your gallop keeps me trained on what is true
And naught more noble than this run of two
For when you neigh and whinny and work up my blood
I marvel that you bless me over any stud
Clamp down, boy brown
Twine tongue, lock toes
Stay pressed, slick chest
Time flies, god knows
As above, so below
Blood erupts, life flows
Eyes shine, lock mine
Time dies, god shows
As below, so above
God in man, man in love
Cavafy in Reverse
He sits in twilight thinking
About himself as a young man, strong and versed
In embraces that now exist only in his mind.
How far off are those days of strength and indulgence.
His fist clenched in twilight
Looks nothing like the fist of a man
At the height of his strength, in the days of indulgence.
‘How long must I still wait,’
He sighs, ‘being only eight.’
Hodge and Hora
Who has not heard the tale before
Of how two brothers stepped into lore
By landing and taking the Saxon shore?
Some claim that their totemic names
Make them mere symbols of those who came.
Their footfall echoes all the same.
Ages later, at St. Teath
Two mussel pickers meet their death
As they lose their footing on a cliff.
Two lads of fourteen, Hodge and Hora,
Fasten as totems onto the shore
And settle their names, like Hengist and Horsa.
Written on reading an article from The West Briton, 27 March 1818: ‘Two lads, both about fourteen years of age, named Hodge and Hora, went on the cliffs, at St. Teath, on Good Friday, to pick mussels, and have not since been heard of, though the most diligent search has been made after them by their parents and friends. There is not the least doubt of their being drowned.’
He was straight and a tough angel
He was sixteen going on twenty
Skin the colour of duct tape held up against the sun
He lived around, I never learned the particulars
But our martial arts class took us to Fulham on Fridays
Where the ‘Fulham Road lights stretch and invite into the night’
He was from Nepal and used an English name for short
Short he was, squinted a little, cuteness written all over his face
In a quiet nook by the allotment gardens
We eluded Jack’s watchful knife
And French-kissed savagely, all love not war
He standing on tiptoe and me stooping a little
And I thought very well of his rubbery soft skin
Which was cool and warm and alive and above all electric
And our hearts screaming, and another labouring kiss
All his soft round hard shapes mugging mine
Or so I imagined as we walked chatting to the bus stop
He talking in all his straight innocence about tall British men
He could spar with; my mind sparking off on tangents
Our eyes smiling about different things
And he disappeared on the bus’s top deck
And his life veered away, and stays with me now in lines such as these
Boy on the Train
Your eyebrows so full you look sternly cool
Your eyes sparkle brown and soften your frown
Your lashes so long, they shame any fawn
Your backpack so filled, you trot at a tilt
Your togs all so hot—a privileged lot
Your fingernails chewed—the best gems are crude
A streak of hair dyed—or is it the light
Invading the train that brings you again?
Your cheek has a mole that strengthens the whole
Your age a fine poise between men and boys
Your mobile, of course, is jealously yours
But I see you shine—your halo is mine
We might have lived in a different time
Or each in a different land
But oh, the charm of the here and now
Where we, incredibly, stand!
Many a fine lad has your name
Like many a man has mine
Yet still when I think ‘Larkin’
It’s your uniquest sign
Tramping a sodden grey expanse
Each found the other’s treasure
And hard by, at your mother’s place,
Each took the other’s measure
Amid the randomness of life
It’s for symbols that we thirst
So you’re my mudlark of the Thames
And I’m your active first
Thanks and thanks and thanks again
For never-ending bliss
As we first meet forever more
When we remember this