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Gordon Costello


Sydney, NSW, Australia

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Five Sonnets, Whose Title is a Name


Gordon Costello

My friend, receive the love that you have earned;
I would not give, nor offer it to fade
Where my respects might be but ill repaid
Or subtle compliment be softly spurned.
Long in the kilns of solitude I burned
And cauterised my spirit, that was made
Of clay, no sick creator did upbraid
Me but myself, yet strong have I returned.
And you may learn from these that I have done
To see all you are worth, and do not spend
Your fires to crack your heart, for you have won
Where lesser souls have lost, and I intend
To prove that you deserve this benison:
Receive the love that you have earned, my friend.

Now wish me well, all you whose marble arms
Have twined in Eros' living monument
Or from your wounds supped sweet emollient
And bent your breath toward a lover's charms.
Now wish me well, or sing for me those psalms
Once heard in groves and avenues, and sent
On papyrus, with perfume redolent
And sealed by tender lips and trembling palms.
For I at last have felt my stone awake,
These lifeless eyes bathed by the morning sun
And frozen limbs are thawed in its delight.
The song's first breath is mine, and for her sake
I'll ancient melodies and stanzas shun,
And in her praises my own missal write.

O let me touch that raven hair! My hand,
See! Trembles, drunk, this breeze is summer wine
And pours a vintage rain on every strand,
Now swallow sleep, and in my glass recline.
O let me press that cygnet hand, no chalk
Was ever mined so pure, so colourless
Then I might fall, to rest beside the auk
Extinct, after a feather-light caress.
O let me lure those osprey eyes that dance
Like ocean waves, shake sunlit tips and foam
Here caught, bewitched, beneath that gentle glance
I lay my head and find my nestling home.
No bird am I, yet I may swear to this:
My soul would soar for one warm, loving kiss.

Such febrile verse I fashion for my humour
You see that I am poisoned, drugged to dream
Spat on the hands that work me to this crime
I here declaim, under red passion's hammer.
The blast that drives this hurricane of summer
And stirred me to the deeps, but left you calm
I bend before. Forgive! This is my doom,
Bequeathed to me by stars. Be my redeemer
And help me burst the vessels of my fate.
Or, if I may not ask your chance to fall
In my favour, I'll beg for no respite
But only leaven hope that you may smile
And, though I do not stand where you have sought,
Look kindly on my words; they bare my soul.

I fired for you the engines of desire
And oiled and set the piston's rakish cant
My breath was like the locomotive's pant,
The steams of lust I must, and did, perspire.
Machineries of joy, that do inspire
The heresies I will no more recant
I break my sweat upon the bone, I want
To fuel a naked flame, and raise the fire.
You give me grace and faith, but while you care
So little, when we part, that I must leave
More than a little death that we might share;
Now love is dead, and hope is dead. I grieve
For blood and strength have drained, I cannot bear
To earn or love, my friend, what I receive.



Gordon Costello

I yearn!
And if you placed the highest wall
That you could build before me,
I'd climb it. Yes, I'd climb it.
For then I'd be more than I am
And maybe more than any man
Has ever hoped to be:
A dam to hold the ocean back,
A bridge across the widest sea.

I crave!
And if you laid the longest road
That you could seal before me,
I'd walk it. Yes, I'd walk it.
For than I'd find more than I own
And maybe more than Heaven has
To offer any soul:
A treasure brighter than the sun
Or darker than the blackest coal.

I wish!
And if you cut the deepest trench
That you could dig before me,
I'd cross it. Yes, I'd cross it.
For then I'd see more than I know
And maybe more than any eyes
Have ever seen before:
A palace made of dreams fulfilled
With answered prayers behind the door.

On The Birth of Emma


Gordon Costello

Emma, born,
And nestling near at motherís breast.
This treasure chest of life, unworn
But blessed with beauty,
So that you know it,
Is fragile, pitiful and small.
Hard to believe she lives at all,
Though she may show it.

So innocent,
Dependent, blithe and unaware.
That curious stare and imminent
Encroaching hair; we gather
Though weíve seen before
Such as this, yet still we feed
And help indulge a childís need
To be the cynosure.

I realise
That though a babe is nothing new
I canít tell you to turn your eyes -
I cannot do so either.
Now I can understand
The quality that thus enthralls us
And to admiration calls us
With such a gentle hand.

Now listen, all;
That which commands attention
Deserves its mention; so I fall
To this invention as my work.
Would that I earned
Such high praise as babes receive!
Would that, to the mark I leave,
Those heads had turned.

I must admit
That Ďtis to be a babe once more
And at my door have people sit
As for the gift of new-born.
Should baby Emma grow
And come to be like me, afraid
To age? Sheíll know that I have prayed
That it might not be so.

I No Longer Feel Young


Gordon Costello

I no longer feel young
Although not old,
Although I have not done
So much, or been
So far, or sold
Myself to weary resignation
A need has crept upon me
To seek rejuvenation.

For, in glancing back upon
My bygone deeds,
I feel my face describe
Indulgent smiles
Upon those seeds
Once planted in that fertile soil;
The soil that youth kept watered
By light, inconstant toil.

But no fruit could then be borne
For hopes and griefs
Were, in that distant time,
Unripe, and though
My spring beliefs
Still somehow have not ceased to grow,
I live now in that limbo
That lies Ďtwixt guess and know.

One Question


Gordon Costello

One question, asked.
I asked it, hoping
In her glance to find
Reflected, some sweet sign that here
My longings were answered in kind.

One moment passed.
I passed it, holding
In my hand her hand,
And then I knew my faith reborn
That once had died, and me unmanned.

One smile, given.
I gave it, freely,
So her smile and kiss
Delighted. In one brief exchange
I lost the weight of years for this.

One word, spoken.
I spoke it, pausing
Only for a breath
To conquer my timidity,
For speak I must, though faced with death.

One question, asked.
I asked it, vainly.
Now answer me why
There is not dirt or dust enough
To choke me more than her reply.

A New Poet is Needed


Gordon Costello

A new poet is needed;
A new poet and a new prophet
Whose metre spans the cosmos
In the fire-trail of the moon rocket
Whose words will score their hallmark
In the melting-hot tarmac pavement
Whose ice will crack the cirrus
And the rain pour from his statement
The streets will collide together
And the towers cram with the heartbeat
Sweat from the pores of brickwork
Soak the passers-by in the stark heat
These are the rhymes of a new age
With verses versus the fire-alarms
Sawn from the beams of a face
And thrown on the pyres of the firearms
I swear on a stack of Bibles
As tall as the tallest skyscraper
The new prophet is coming
Writing words on recycled paper
And graffiti-etching walls
The stones broken up by the message
Of a brave new world of wonder
To crown the Lordís futurist visage
And I will hoist his banner
Behold! It still reads ĎExcelsior!í
And eyes that lift toward it
Will forget the words that went before.
A new poet is needed;
A new poet and a new prophet
Whose imagery will outshine
The atom bomb, and perhaps stop it
Who will cast out old designs
And bestow on us all a new one
Who will break hearts and crack minds
And whose best hope will be a true one.

The Brightest Jewel


Gordon Costello

The brightest jewel
Among all the worldís treasure
Is not the measure of passionís fuel
That burns within my heart, for thee.

No strong flavour
That stings my taste could cover
Nor season over what thy favour
Might stir within my amity.

My treacher tongue
That causeth me to stutter
Has turned to water, else I had sung
Thy praise, which words may never utter.

A Dark Lover


Gordon Costello

I am a dark lover
As the night is dark,
When nothing breathes
And devils rest.
The sleep of the dreamless, the hopeless
Is mine: I lie,
Chilled and deathless
No smile giving life
No heart giving warmth.
I am a dark lover -
Wake me!

Flare up, O desire!
Blood bold, and compel me,
Torment me! I offer
My flesh to the pinch
Of your vice.
Claw the eyes from my sleep,
Scrape the breath from my phlegm.
Must I live to sleep?
Must I breathe to choke?
Flare up, O desire -
Burn me!
Wake me!

I watch, not insensate,
Each limb-shaped caress,
Each lip-dyed impress
The amorous sport.
And cruel want is my want,
And hard need is my need.
Hopeful and yearning,
Fearful and envious,
Passion-cursed, heart-rent,
I watch, not insensate -
Touch me!
Burn me!
Wake me!

I practise transgression
And milk my frustration
For each bitter drop
Of this lifeís viscous poison.
Wracked by diseases
Of vital deficiency,
Gored by the scars
From the many who cut me,
I nurse the bruised flesh, and
I practise transgression -
Bless me!
Touch me!
Burn me!
Wake me!

Challenge the sour flavour
Scorn has infused in me!
Wrest me from the yawning
Maw of spite!
Is there no heart reaching out
To my outstretched hope?
Is there no hand
Weaving ties to enmesh me?
Freshen the stale breath,
Challenge the sour flavour -
Taste me!
Bless me!
Touch me!
Burn me!
Wake me!

On Being Asked Where I Came From


Gordon Costello

I was born in a cloud
And my country is the air.
So, when the winds of passage blow,
I, ushered forth, shall land
Where I am dropped
And settle there. What roots have I?
What heritage need I to show?

They who brood on the earth
Have in soil planted their souls
Now where they stand, they call their own.
Their kindred crowd them in,
Support their claim,
And they feel whole. They do not stray,
Content to stay where they have grown.

Yet, could they see the lands
Beyond their experience,
Or know this worldís variety
Of faces and places,
Of lifeís works and
Habiliments; theyíd tear down flags
That prison their society.

Then from borders be freed,
And erase the lines scrawled black
Across the map, across the globe,
But not upon the rock
Or in the air
To hold us back. No-one to play
The patriot or xenophobe.

Nor take arms to protect
What is shared by everyone.
And is this world not to be shared?
Or did we ask to be
Born on our square,
And was it done? We did not ask
And so from pride let us be spared.

For what pride might we claim
From a deed that was not ours?
Forget your nationality
That was not earned or won,
But given you
By nameless powers. A human is
A human, wherever they be.

I was born in a cloud,
And I reign upon the earth.
I care not where my race began
Whence my ancestors came
Or in what place
They gave me birth. My home is: Here.
I am no countryman, just: Man.

For Belinda, who didn't deserve it


Gordon Costello

You moved me into Heaven while I live,
My breath became your music, and my song
The rose which colours in your cheek. Iíll give
My song, my breath, my love to bloom for half as long.

O you, who comforted


Gordon Costello

O you, who comforted
In that cold hour
When granite deeds and words
At last wore down my stoic will,
Amidst the ragged mouths
That spoke no peace,
The wretched eyes
That palled in shame,
Helped to restore, repair
The warmth, the wound
And cooled with balm

Think not a man is strong
Until you see
His face through dark despair
And rescue from his wretchedness
Across a veil of tears;
When I was weak
And losing heart
A hand was near
Helped to dispel, display
The strain, the strength
And thus inspire

Though not unharmed by all
The sharp words said
That day our people met
And watched our grand design collapse,
Whatever pain you bore
You gave no sign
But came to share
In my distress,
Helped to exhort, expunge
The hope, the hurt
And bade it cease.

That one whose strength has failed
This strength can find
Is cause to sing indeed
As we have done through time.
Now, when I think
Of all I gained,
How small my thanks appear
And I am shamed;
Is there no gift to offer
Save my meagre verse?
That might express in truth
The grace for which I have no breath.
O you, who comforted
The highest blessing made
Would fall far short
Of your deserts.
What Earthly blessing might reward
This kindest spirit, and
Most generous of hearts?

Journeyman Darkwood


Gordon Costello

Journeyman Darkwood came one day
And rattled upon my door.
"Iíve been to lands so far away
Youíd travel for a month or more
To reach their nearest borders, where
The people gathered Ďround to hear
A word from your lip to their ear,
And I have come to fetch it."

"Then tell them, Journeyman, tell them this:
Your hearts be true, your spirit strong
Your voices raise in word or song,
Your hands in artifice.
To your emotions give release
And so your soul may live in peace."

Journeyman Darkwood came one day
And rested upon my sill.
"Iíve been to lands so far away
Youíd travel for a year until
You reached the place where people wait
For word that you have thwarted fate
In manner they might imitate,
And I have come to fetch it."

"Then tell them, Journeyman, tell them this:
I met with fate, and proudly stood
To bid fate do whateíer he would
And never be remiss.
Though fate the conqueror would be,
I follow not; fate follows me."

Journeyman Darkwood came one day
And settled beside my hearth.
"Iíve been to lands so far away
Youíd walk a lifetime on the path,
And there the people pressed me for
An explanation to your lore
And all that you have said before,
So I have come to fetch it."

"Then tell them, Journeyman, tell them this:
The cipher to unlock the sense
Lies well within your influence
But not your avarice.
If you are bold in heart and mind,
The meaning is not hard to find."

Journeyman Darkwood came one day
To kneel beside my bed.
"Iíve been to lands so far away
My feet were worn to bone and shred,
And there the people bade me ask
For news of whether you at last
Have finished your appointed task,
And I have come to fetch it."

"Then tell them, Journeyman, tell them this:
Iíve done what I have meant to do
Up to a point, although itís true
Some things have gone amiss.
But soon I will have reached my end,
And any harm Iíve done, will mend."

Against Self-Despite


Gordon Costello

I question you, great incubus!
Whose lies pervade my living hours;
Whose cowardice my mirror sours
And calls me ignominious.

You rape my mind, you scar my world,
Hold my desires out of reach
And though I clutch with spit and claw
I cannot seem to grasp one piece
Of happiness. My spirit dies.
I question you: What justifies?

And in reply you only say
"I will not change -
It always has been done this way."

I question you, great incubus!
My heart explodes in silent plea;
Come! Let me go, my people too,
What we could do if we were free!

You cause a storm to wrack my flesh
And all my blame lies at your door,
And my mistakes which others curse
From your misguidance they were born.
You thrust me into infamy.
I question you: By what decree?

Yet in reply you only say
"I cannot change -
Since dawn of time
It always has been done this way."

The History of a Heart


Gordon Costello

In the history of a heart
When the smallest moment
May last for years,
An śon passed for me
When my blood flowed not,
But tears replaced the pulse
With a cataract of grief
And pain, and loss,
Its magnitude out of all proportion
With its source.
And when, after an age,
That flood subsided,
Another rain would fall
To soak the landscape of my years
With cold and bitter water.
And yet I always drink my fill
Hoping that, through swallowed tears,
I might yet taste laughter.
But history repeats itself, they say
And my heart is not of stone,
And when the rains begin
It is too easily washed away.

There is little solid ground
On which to build anew,
But somehow, in the dry season,
Out of the centuries
And on the last foundation that remains,
The work begins,
Though each time it is slower
And the walls of trust
Have lost their shine,
Eroded in the rains
And gathered rust.
So when at last that edifice
Can stand once more
You will see the signs
Of wear and tear
And know the structure incomplete.
What holds it up?
It stands in hope!
A tenuous hope, afraid of storms,
And can no longer stand apart
Yet would survive, if one soul came
To join it there, and write a name
In the future of a heart.

The Smile


Gordon Costello

If Mona Lisa lived today
Her smile could not match
The shine which I have seen upon
The face of someone here.
So bright that I can barely see,
So amiable and clear,
And yet elusive, so that I
Must strain, a glimpse to catch.

O smile for me, you must not frown
While you may feel this wonder.
If sadness hides that beam away
Then sadness has betrayed you.
So many wear a sombre mask;
You need not do as they do
While I could trust the pleasure of
The spell you put me under.

A face not worn by care and time
Can lift for many moments
The shroud that hangs upon us
While we lack the strength to move it.
Whose is that face? I think itís yours,
And just a smile could prove it.
A secret hoard to open up
Of blessings and good omens.

A Bouquet


Gordon Costello

In spring, when, through the air expectant
Runs the breath of bold amour,
Each flower from its bed is wakened
By the hand of youth, resplendent
In its heart-warmth, and is taken,
Pleading cause of hopeful suitor
Laid in vases with the message:
"I adore thee, be my lover."

I can no longer bear to break
One stem, not even for your pleasure.
What a symbol of my love
A fading, dying rose would make!
Tend, instead, my flowering passions:
Seed them with your eyes, and water
All my thorns with petalled kisses -
Gather ye my rosebuds ever.

Kiss the bride


Gordon Costello

On the practice of ringing glasses at a Wedding Feast, calling for the bride and groom to kiss

What is it worth, her kiss
Given by your command?
Less than my finger: This,
The boundary of my hand.
I have a private love,
I, and my world, who shares it.
Spare me your winery clamour for sighs
And kisses: I despise it.



Gordon Costello

Sleeper -
Tie rocks to your eyelids
To hold them down,
And clasp rigor somnis
The eiderdown.
A foot to the floor
From the bedside falls;
Moon throws the black midnight
Shadows to walls.

What do you dream of?
Not the bright schemes or the ivory towers
Youíd plan for or wish for in your waking hours
What do your eyes see?
Darting so wildly under their lids;
Travelling the roads where the sandman bids.

Sleeper -
Slow breath stirs the hair
On your outstretched arm,
So cold is the air
Yet your hands are warm
While outside the window
The night wind calls;
Moon throws the black midnight
Shadows to walls.

On an eyewitness report


Gordon Costello

Who begs a man the truth of any case
Should be prepared for what he may receive;
Acknowledge what he wishes to believe
Is rarely found, and harder still to place.
The truth is not an easy thing to face,
Nor honesty so little to achieve
When things are not always as you perceive
And what you catch not what you tried to chase.
For many eyes may witness, yet not see
The same event, or passing circumstance
To be as every other eye has seen
Therefore, wheneíer we claim a thing must be
Remember that the truth is prey to chance
And shows a different face to different men.

I read two eyewitness reports of the same event in two different newspapers: They differed substantially on some significant details, which prompted me to write this sonnet.

My apprenticeship


Gordon Costello

Even so I begin my apprenticeship
Ďmid the cityís morass and its poisoned clovers;
In steams from the streams where no star-crost lovers sip,
Though I barely can breathe,
I may now learn to speak, write and think,
Writhe and labour: Waste pens, sheets and ink,
Run down to the wreck, parched and peeled,
Rummage loudly for treasures on tarmac, in brick.

When I lick up the graphite and whet my tongue
On the words and the stonework to pave these pages
The trash of my passion burns fine and rages long.
Though I spin in the wash
And the mop, what cannot douse the fire,
Drowse or tire me, will flood me with tears.
I will swear and Iíll curse and Iíll blame;
Iíll inspire and Iíll praise and Iíll sing a new pśan.

By the monolith spires of the plastic blocks,
By the cityís machines are my verses peopled;
The masses that pass through the porous, steepled rocks
Are my suns and my tides.
In the garden of ships, in the bed
Where the trains flower, rattling, instead
Of the pastorís descant, smooth and green,
The cacophonous strain of this lyric I spend.

Tear the cover from volumes of antique rimes
And distribute the leaves in parade like streamers;
The journals of yearning and witching dreamerís crimes,
Though they litter the streets,
May be left unread: soaked, old and torn.
Let the shoes tread them! Why anyone
Even comments or cares few will ask,
Yet between you and I weíll be stretching the lines.

And anon I may crack like the arctic noise
In the perilous seas of my aches and crazes;
To die without trying the blast, or raise his voice
In the albatross wind,
Is the death of a beast: lapped and spoiled.
When the liquor that thaws me is spilled
My parchment will flow. Bite the crust!
And absorb with it all you can swallow, or thirst.

As an auto-da-fť I will cross my arms;
With the ash of the pure I will dot my fingers.
The rite of enlightened and altared singers charms
Every supplicant heart;
May I make it my chorus, my oath
To the beauties or furies of life.
If the song gutters hot, fan the sparks;
Never let the refrain smoulder out in my throat!

Still, and while I have hands, my apprenticeship
Will be carving and shaving the treated timber.
My rasp and my saws need a stronger, limber grip
For a graduate craft.
Have I yet learned to cope? Plain as dust,
If the panel is bored by my thrust
I will fall through the holes, but the gaps
May be stopped if I never stop building my hopes.

A brief thought of rain


Gordon Costello

An ocean shatters
On not-dry land,
And I smile in sympathy at the joy
Of the thirsty landís libation,
And weather the motion.

Upon the shore


Gordon Costello

When lost in thought I beach upon the shore
Where running tides meet, break the patterned sand,
And belch dťbris from up the ocean floor,

The world that here surrounds me as I stand:
A vast arena, natureís crowded stage
For plays directed by a hidden hand

Seems always to be whispering of age
And time relentless, tiding hours, the wait
Through cold millennia, and cosmic rage.

What price the anchorage of manís estate
Where mortals ebb as froth of foaming crest?
Should worlds heed any challenge to their fate?

Or yield to those who scrabble to divest
Them of their wealth, and all that here is best.

From ice-age wilds a newly-wakened thought
Strode, marched, and packed the sand with hurried feet,
And, to the formless, shaping will was brought.

Then, stained with pride, that will began to treat
With sore irreverence and poor restraint
The substance of the world, the motherís meat.

Now what was pure is maculate: the faint
Remaining hope to heal or mend or purge
Itself is given up to common taint.

Is it for Earthly ills we feel this urge
To claw revenge upon the motherís face
And chasten her with greed to wield the scourge?

If so, we thus repay with little grace
Our spring of life, and spoil her sure embrace.

A piping here, a seeping there, a spill
Of dinosaurs in dirt; we plough the waves
And plant our engines every way until

The urchins are corralled into their graves
And petrified; Weíll ride the sea-horse, round
The timid rays and craws into their caves.

Then let the whaleís carcass be the mound
To bury the detritus of the vice
That squeezed the dollar; pack it with a pound.

This, frankly, is the crown we won; the price
Of work and rest, our yen for gews and gaws
That flavour it, in salt and sweet and spice.

Itís time to wash the wounds and kiss the sores.
O, mother world! Forgive our ocean flaws.

Rebuttal to a(n honest) friend


Gordon Costello

As long as the day is honest, I honest am,
And ever Iíll be an honest man;
My ground, my word, my hand
Are better (best
I humble be, but better? Yes!) than thee.

The spirit of Abe not brutalized but brushed aside
Informs our age, and you, with high head high,
Cavort like a parlour-game with lies.
As long as theyíre white, congratulate
Yourself. (Iíll hide, and seek
The comb elsewhere)
"The truth," I shout, "if this means war, will out."

If handsome is as handsome does then many a doubled deed
Is all as worthy as ever it was when it was seen
To be, or spoken of as handsome. We
Could argue about perception, but,
As long as youíre happy, why, I think
(I know!) Iíll hear you bark,
Should I object?
Because: If none the honest truth protect, youíve won.

A Villanelle


Gordon Costello

The Villanelle is widely regarded as the most difficult form of poetry to write. This one's a send-up, but it is a perfect example of the form

I thought today I'd write a Villanelle
Because a formal poem can be nice,
But this one sucks, as if you couldn't tell.

"If it's to be worth writing, write it well,"
My mother said, and so, on her advice,
I thought today I'd write a Villanelle.

A poem is a tricky thing to sell
Though if it's good you'll get a better price,
But this one sucks, as if you couldn't tell.

I'm told that poets always go to Hell,
Therefore, because I like a little vice,
I thought today I'd write a Villanelle.

I'm busy, so I wrote it down pell-mell
Which sometimes lends a poem extra spice,
But this one sucks, as if you couldn't tell.

I can't remember now how it befell
That, motivated by some rare device,
I thought today I'd write a Villanelle,
But this one sucks, as if you couldn't tell.

For those who criticise but cannot do, or will not try


Gordon Costello

And some will take the rhyme in hand, and wrack
The tinder of their mind to burn a wick
Or paper, send its light of rhetoric
And wonder to beguile the darkness back.
And others cry an error, or attack
Them from the corners where the lines may stick
In shadow, stir the air until itís thick
With war of words, and swear the ink is black.
Why cavil, if it pleases any man
Or woman to inflame themselves? The worse
Sin is to quench their voices. Though I can
Be critical or blame, I am a verse:
Better it is to write a candle, than
The spark struck from anotherís hand to curse.

One for Mark and Harry


Gordon Costello

(Dedicated to Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell, two Australian stars of the Leeds United Football Club.)

Now we (we poets) often write of grass
(A nod to Carl the poet). "New-mown grass?"
The groundsman coughed. "I reckon Iíve a line
Or two could fit into your afternoon.
A noble battle well they fought, with sweat
And blood to wet the field of Waterloo,
And is our strife or victory the less
Because we fight, but live another day?
We sow our own nobility, we graze
Instead of meadows all our shins, we need
No arms to take our shots, no horse to bear
The stamping charge, our ball no cannon flings.
So if youíll pay the soldierís trodden blades
More honour for that ground, Iíll but you buts:
What better life for grass than this? Upon
The football pitch to kiss the football boots."

Around the world the television bends
The English winter light, and we who sit,
Remote, with goggle-box before, and eyes
To envy those who walk the Elland Road,
Can pinch a little share, and, yes! excite
Ourselves. To every raucous cheer we shall
An echo shout, and hound the man who keeps
The oppositionís goal so loud heíll hear.
And isnít this an art? And isnít this
Our culture manifest in men who strive
The better to inspire us, so we may
Believe ourselves alive? My oath, it is!
The sport of Kings is well and good for Kings,
And other games for kids, but for a thrill
Or heart-attack, well, give me any day
The soccer ball, the soccer match, the goal!

If one of these eleven takes the wing
To harry the defenders, urge him on
With word and gesture. Think yourself in his
Hermetic shoes, itís better than a film.
And from the terrace, brash into the box,
Let every muscled lung exhort the lad
Who tracks the wicked crosses floating in
And jump with him, be sure heíll hit the mark.
So I, a poet, lift my pen. Although
I cannot run or jump, I can inscribe
In pitch upon the earth the names of those
Who best I can extol, and tell you why:
In every hard endeavour, whether art
Or sciences or sport, the ones who care
The most and give the most will come to be
The best a man can be, and these men are.

With Mark and Harry stepping up
Iíll live to see them hug the cup;
The League will bow to Leeds, the louder sons
Then if I can, before I die
Iíll stand to celebrate the cry:
"Advance Australia - World Champions!"



Gordon Costello

How now is a heart as yours, so become cold
that veined in the ice is the blood of your loves?
Heedless, indifferent, core-callous, cruel:
I call you out, name you the polar ghost
whose eyes are both dead bare and shed shards, derelicts

of my belief in you. In you, and I
was a fool, O I know I know it, to have faith.
You hypocrite, bloodless, two-faced lying crow.
You prised me apart from my last good company,
spurned my direction to bleak, swamped paths, and let

me to tread alone. Selfish, you, yes I said
and mean it, gnawed me and, better for you
was it? ignored me. It must have been, for you
bite this sweet apple we plucked we should share,
and keep your bitten half while it, my half, rots red. That is

some excuse, youth, that you have. Am I grey
that I must for your age forgive? Shanít! So there!
Should I so answer you, chit that you are
and admit you are? Tongue for tongue, ilk for ilk? Even
at your time I better knew, better did, than for use, you,

of me, played for me. Well sing I did and dance,
as on my strings hammered your ring finger, cast
to catch me, use me, bate me, gut me, scaled down
am I, now cast down outcast. More than for this
in the worst moment held I up hands. Waste! The times tell now

that I was blind. My opaque, puckered lids
my eyes shaded, screwed up, squinted, balled like fists, knocked me
sightless, senseless, doting foolish.
No more now can I reason see or love know.
Damn the words! Damn the world! Damn you, and damned I go.



Gordon Costello

What if I was alive and listening, when
A flat world, spinning, hummed a cool
And tremulous green delight, the round world heard,
At least in my head, the shivering word.
Then Iíd know how the music begins, Iíd know
The dominant meaning, leading my hand
To carry the tune to a better finale, down
The staff of my life, and prove my gain.

In principio erat verbum. Is this
What he meant, the apostle? Or did he know,
As I to a most primeval tone give ear,
The Word had a note for the void to hear.
And who shall I say has sent this note?
Not "abba," not "father" but "mother" : she is
That "I am" I have faith in, the feminine voice divine
Does more to redeem my fault or sin.

Though Iíll never be poet enough to dress
In poetry something already dressed
In solace and empathy, blending the light and long
Sustained desire in a spiral song,
Yet I will sharpen my flat world,
Yet I will tell you forty thousand
Singers, with all their quantity of psalm,
Could not begin to make up my sum.

And a laymanís sermon verse may not reach
The ear of our Lord, but the music, ah! Surely
The music is heard, an answering note intoned,
A cadence and harmony, chord and sound.
So may I not quaver when, mute and bowed,
In a colourful clef I play my prayer,
As ultimate proof of a final and sure belief:
When the music is over, Lord, take this life.

Inspired by and dedicated to the English pop duo Mandalay.



Gordon Costello

Anima, be conscious! Dare egregiously,
For God has imperfected judgement,
Keeping languid minds naive.
Openly protest quotidian recitation; stoic
Theologic unction. Voice wonderment:
Xerophilous yet zoic!

(Some definitions: egregiously = standing out from the herd; quotidian = commonplace; xerophilous = growing in a dry place; zoic = having animal life.)

Happy Birthday, dear God.


Gordon Costello

In every year, every
December, I, no Christian,
yet not faithless, ask
myself, and now you, why
we need a season
named to teach us peace
and goodwill? Why to God
we beg for blessing, why, upon
a day the ancients lately begged
the sun, we call a son
of Man our God, and to appease
Him better our behaviour? Better we
should bless each other every day

in every year, and for no other
purpose and no better
than that we are sons
and daughters for all seasons.
Peace and goodwill: may they be
their own reward. Iíll need
no other saviour but my own
belief in my own worth,
which I shall earn not only
in December, and not only
among Christians; but for all
Man, where my faith is
needed. Here I celebrate
its birth.

Sonnets for my friends: Howard


Gordon Costello

Hey punk! You garage youth, my boyhood chum,
we had some times, eh? Did we have some times!
To stage our adolescent pantomimes
we hit the bass, the microphone, the drum.
We razed our voices, bawled them hoarse and numb
in disagreement. Hell! Those jarring chimes
we rang each other with were never crimes
among our kith, but best weíre mettlesome.
The ecstasy of years ago has passed,
and sober we, and wiser maybe, turn
our paths to different designs and ends.
But hereís a thing: however wide at last
the world between, our petty Comintern
will buoy us through, and see us ever friends.

Sonnets for my friends: Helen


Gordon Costello

I care. You made me sorry that I care,
but care not I will not. However poor
you paint your worth Iíll know you better, more
than youíll allow, and give a better share.
I care. Yes, still, and if youíre unaware
how I have been to bed a stranger, or
have battled with myself to close the door
upon a tarnished love, yet I am here.
And why? Because, although your welcome was
a cocked and ready word, although you twist
my aim to spill awry, your favour has
me fired in other ways. Iíll be the last
to scrape my back against your face, because
although you test me most, you bless me best.

Sonnets for my friends: Allan


Gordon Costello

Thou godless, soulless man: that you may claim
to be so doesnít fool me, buddy. When
you shrug away the wickedness and shame
which you perceive to be the joys of men
you call yourself apart from, yet I see
the blood behind your crawling skin is red
and blushing. Hide that well, and let it be
an amen to the prayer you never said.
Now, which of us is better off? I find
the multiplicity of daily spite
we founder in excruciates my mind,
but to my face you laugh and call it light.
Take refuge in that rictus and, God knows,
what damns me cannot damage your repose.

Sonnets for my friends: Gary


Gordon Costello

You spoonfeed me the courses of your sanity
when I am empty, stretched to indolence
or apathy. Your wit and fantasies
impress me, drive me to disintegrate
my groping lines, the way you often
tempt me to. Let me accept your generosity
with sense and syntax, profit
by example, and to like invention
bend my mindful hand. If that fertility
of growing thought can seed and motivate
my own: apply your pen! Exhilarate
us as you know you can. Appropriately
set to work, no more pretending.
Go, imprint your oeuvre upon the men.

Sonnets for my friends: Susan (on her birthday)


Gordon Costello

Itís time again to wink at passing time
without regret; unstop the wine and shed
the beeswing. Any, every glass we share
of you will leave the bottle full and true.
The best is growing better, every taste
can still be savoured, and the seasons should
be spiced for those around you. You can shape
the richest textures well in those you touch.
The spirit that I know lives, still young, shy
and subtle in you, shows behind your eye;
unwearied, all unweathered. Let it breathe
forever in these lines, and if you read
them after, celebrate that life has made
a life in you that shall not age or fade.