Excerpts from "Places You Can't Reach" by David Chorlton
David Chorlton was born in Austria and was taken to England within weeks, before he could protest. After growing up in Manchester, he moved to Vienna in 1971 and seven years later he came to Phoenix. That leaves twenty-two years of writing, operating with small presses, and carrying on a parallel life as a visual artist.
David Chorlton's publications are poetry collections. They include:
OUTPOSTS, a book from Stride Press in England
FORGET THE COUNTRY YOU CAME FROM, a book from Singular Speech Press
THE VILLAGE PAINTERS, a chapbook from Adastra Press
ASSIMILATION, a recent chapbook from Main Street Rag
Several of these, and others, are accessible through Amazon.com, but David Chorlton is the most reliable source at 118 West Palm Lane Phoenix AZ 85003
HOW TO BUILD A WALL
Mark where the wall should stand
with a sprinkling of lime.
If you have nothing to hide
and nothing to keep out
this will suffice.
continue by considering
how large a shadow the wall will cast,
and upon whom.
Plant sticks at the height you desire
and tie a string between them.
If you wish only to make a gesture
stop here. Should you need more
permanence, collect rocks
and stack them. Use mortar
only if you are prepared to sacrifice
aesthetics for function.
When resting from your work
read about Hadrian's Wall, the Great Wall
of China, and the Berlin Wall,
all of which will impress you
with the gravity of your task.
Check local ordinances
before you go too far. Do they consider
walls as metaphors, or simply engineering?
Concrete is best for more height
and you can build a monument
visible from space, one
that is impossible to scale,
good if you don't care
about appearances. Concrete
takes graffiti well. Spray paint is best.
you began for its function
will become a record
of the aspirations of all
who stand before it
with their imaginations loaded,
every one with a finger
on the trigger in their minds.
By David Chorlton
Everything breaks down in time;
the cassette player
speaks in tongues,
software doesn't function,
and the soul
slips beneath a shadow.
When my online provider stops
providing, I dial
a number that tells me
to dial another
and so on
until I reach a living voice
that speaks with a dusting
of Indian spice
offering me an upgrade
to a more costly version
of frustration. An inspirational
from the television screen
that problems are illusions.
He starts me thinking
about the people whose jobs
left them behind
when they moved overseas,
about the ones who sleep outdoors,
and those whose lives
have broken down
beyond repair. We need to connect
with our inner selves, the speaker
says, to find our way
to the light from which
we emanate. I dial again,
calling long distance
for directions to the source
of life. Please enter your zip code
and date of birth, please turn
inward. If you seek happiness
don't look around, the world
is broken in places you can't reach.
By David Chorlton
Vermeer and Mars
The letter a maid hands to her mistress
might contain startling news,
that a small device has landed
on Mars, and jerks forward over rocks
like a child's toy guided by remote control.
But the costumes are those
of an earlier time, a year television images
cannot reach, and whose days
pass in longhand. Johannes Vermeer
was alive then, enthralled
by shadows, quills and pearls
and cloth that thickened in the hands
arranging it. A door closed when he died.
Mars flickered like a candle flame
as his soul flew by, leaving behind
the table with an empty wine glass,
a globe stalled beneath the geographer's palm,
and the clay pitcher
filled with darkness instead of milk.
Three hundred years later,
the guests return: the soldier; the courtier;
the gentleman with lace at his wrists
and a sword at his side;
to sit down as if nothing had happened
to smear the sunlight with industrial
fingerprints, or to stamp a brand name
on the food we eat. They find
their old rooms just as they were,
only the streets outside have changed.
And we, who have grown accustomed
to noise and anonymity,
stop to look at their faces. We want
to touch the velvet on chairs
and the meticulous tiles, and feel
the intimacy inside an envelope
as it changes hands. We want
to breathe the polished air
between the river and the sky
in Delft, but Mars is breaking in
to our lives, a planet of drought
with no shores, god of the wars
that drives economies. Its images arrive
like letters from the future
describing a journey lasting years
and the marvel of technology
we trust without understanding.
Meanwhile, we are drawn to the astronomer
with charts surrounding him
at an open window
that measure the distance
between belief and imagination.
By David Chorlton
My face is bleached. I look away to my left
appearing to be caught
in headlamps glare,
but I am only gazing past my number,
country of birth and the date
on which I expire,
toward a fingerprint that could be a map
of the land I crossed.
The card is all that separates me
from those who entered by night
and turned to smoke
after circling for days
with the heat boring tunnels
inside them. Every ten years
I renew my status
as a stranger. By now I know the way
between the dry arroyos,
through the eyes burnt into rock,
and across the broken stones.
Once in each decade
the desert crackles under my feet
and I take all the water I can carry
in a pack, lace up
my shoes, wait
for the clouds
to cover my run
until the silence of the stars
and I stop to look for the others
who share the journey.
They wave me on,
say go ahead, don t wait for us, don t give
us away. I make it every time
and leave them gripping level ground
as if it were a cliff.