Michael Stowers

with an introduction by T. Merrill

Except for an early play, which was performed at the University of London (St. Mary's campus) and a few poems published by Jocundity, a paper vehicle based in NY, Michael has kept his literary inventory strictly under wraps. Treating it more as an ongoing hobby than as a ticket to imagined glory, whenever mood and circumstance have been favorably aligned, he has kept busy revisiting the collection and revamping pieces as they seemed to invite alteration. For as long as I've known him, perhaps a decade now, he seems to have regarded all of his hefty hoard of poems as neverending works in progress. When I asked him to grant me the pleasure of introducing him to whatever audience might be secretly tuned in to alternative music channels, I confess I was not greatly hopeful. He would not be ready—they would not be ready—they would never be ready. After all, only posthumous work can ever be truly finished.

I'm not sure if it was by stumbling across the perfect incantation, or by asking at a propitious moment—Mon Dieu, but would that mean the end is near?—or just by grace of the prevailing winds, but somehow or other I managed, much to my happy astonishment, to woo him from his cocoon, and get the aerophobic fritillary aloft and launched onto the airways.

Buffeted around the globe as a youth, from New Zealand to Cape Town to Australia (in the first two of which, he told me, he got his first exposure to discrimination in its more vicious forms) he finally got whisked back to merry old Angleterre, abiding awhile in "Broadstairs by the sea, where Dickens lived and Turner painted" before enlisting for a stint in a higher learning institute in Birmingham. Cutting short his stay there due to flagging interest, he fled the hallowed halls to pursue his bent for painting. To pay the bills, he got work in the computer industry, ending up finally, after the passage of a number of years, as a "Computing Manager." But "man management" led to a sort of affective collapse, or utter loss of motivation or will for trying to keep the crew on course. The battery lost its charge, went dead, and he stalled out.

As well as being a poet with an ever-evolving style of his own and genuine poetic preoccupations, Michael is a wonderful painter, and when more poems are added to his page, I hope some of his pictures will accompany them. It would be a delight to have them on view, and I'm hoping a good number of them may have survived assaults by the Furies.

(No reproduction or republishing of this work may be done without the express permission of the author.)


While gliding down the steel steps' slide,
being carried through maws of old borings
slowly down the stone throat into the larynx,
to the fever and squeal and thunder of wheels,

I saw him unkempt, asleep in the grey;
piled like cast-offs, heaped like worm-cast;
coarse hair tangled, webbed and spun
with sticky strings of sputum
flecked with dried comestibles
and the smearings of disease —

I wondered, sliding past him, how it is
that life can sump and sink to such a shape;
how childhood and dream could lie
down and die in such a place;
how this smashed, somnolent thing had come
to pillow its ravaged skull

upon the staves
of those Palestrina motets

which looked, then,
through neon-blind eyes,
like birds' trails in snow

but which I remembered hearing, once,
climbing into vast, sightless night
as if lifted on slow wings of angels,
as if hurled gently, raised like cathedrals,

suspended with stars and moon,
to be left to linger
in the ebb of the evening,

like perfume,
like love.


How pitiful, sometimes, it seems
that the things which matter
may no longer be said—
words' embrace not wide enough
or shouted by many far too loud
and by repetition made utterly dead. How sad
that the half-watchmaker, half-screamer
in mad wildernesses, who calls himself "poet"
is forbidden love for fear
that underneath all the pledges, gentle troths,
and ineffable linkage; beneath
all the moments in which both
of you blurred and mingled;
below that sense of completion
lies buried nothing more
than these clichés
the sick-sour cloy of rotting roses
and the inexorable thrust of genes.

This "poet" seldom attempts, any more,
to freeze out of the clouds which cluster
there in the evening skies
even one inkling of what it was really like
to be there,

loved, before the vast machinery
began to whir and the blades became blooded;
and, if he does decide to try
he ends up hackneyed
like violets
and kisses;
like honeysucklepie.

Sad, that there are no longer fresh words
for these things which still keep the "poet" from sleep;
that they must nowadays be dealt with
stealthily, obliquely

as that wasp there,
quivering upon young bark, slides
the tube out from abdomen,
angles it gently
through dark wood,
that her single
ovum might alight
upon soft,
safe, slumbering
insect-infant skin.

See? Precision.
See? An act
of love.


Brittle little stick-flyer the blue
bands of your back flash
like memory's imagined
perfect skies

and your wings' shiver
the warm whirr of life as
cool runs the light-quivered water;

then dripping back up
to heaven's illusion
you are gone, as if
you had never dipped
and stitched yourself over
the river, and

your precipitate absence
needles me
for forgetting how,

as worlds infold
to the tiniest spaces,
so grief
might out of
small leavings


Sad small chinaman
you are drowned in the seas of events
that overflowed as you gazed blindly
shorewards. Now,
your Confucian smile
is still as confusing to me as your language
and the dead persistence of your culture
somehow reminds me

of the way
the vivid tang
of those small oranges
though death is long
and the can is dark and sealed.

Fall I: Disembarkation

I asked my heart "how goes it?" Heart replied
"Right as a Ribstone Pippin." But it lied. (Anon.)

There are no more Coxes or Ribstone Pippins.
The spring is stopped. Could it have been

The cast of light, this world's slant leaning
Into winter, the lowering beams, the mean
Wind keening? A speckle of birds settles
Against pale pregnancies of cloud
As if gravid skin were beginning to freckle.
Might it not be malignant? Their cackling, loud,

Falls like malice into the trees, which seem
To have widened their branches to catch it,

To keep it quiet. Yet trees are not mean:
When their hands at last unlatch it,

The breeze which has found a voice of metal,
Outspreads ash-cold and leaden with leaves.


I saw you with him:
watched your fingers whiten skin.
You leaned into him

as if he out of all the flotsam world
might not sink; weather had tousled
his hair, yours, as ever
was liquid and light. He was the tether
to which you were anchored,
a bright buoy bobbing
on rock-pierced Ocean's heave
where even waves are cleaved.

You leant into him,
fingers tight, indenting skin,
as your emptied eyes
emptied him.


Evening falls again
golden light and children
playing, down in the street.
It was once as this, before the fall,
remember? Recall?
Hot sun melting tarmac,
warm skin,
a grazed knee,
a keen eye;
thrown ball hanging
against bright sun-shimmered sky.


These clumsy words reduce
only to zero; nothing
remains afterwards but this
absence, this space
stretched cold and ineffable
between the digits. The hand
that holds the pen so
tremblingly falters
and fidgets its scribbles across
a smooth surface, yet only
serves to carve out vacuum
from the interface of ink
and page. What rage results
is worthless, what love languishes
is transitory; all things
in the end become
nothing. But nothing