No 10 - Spring 2001
I get up, wash my face, and catch a bus.
It's hard to think of prison on the out
what men are doing in that burst of time;
just weather emptying miles down the line.
Always write out on what's to hand,
the cupboard, for instance, staring at you,
or prison paper, its varicose lines,
the small print, and instructions on writing.
I'm asked to write a poem for a girlfriend
but explain it's better coming from him;
a man stealing through a garden, his crotch
wet with shower spray and sweat, time on his hands.
The only bloke who asked to see my work
and I forgot. His thick split lip
and bit talk of looking forward to that
made my looseness another small betrayal.
That letter, a couple of weeks, months, years
down the ladder. It smells of somewhere else,
and leaves the standing world impossible,
like slippers tucked behind the door, waiting.
Sometimes I think words are the enemy.
Words that forget them, words that choose them.
Words that fall over with no echo, no
bottom. It's the element they swim in.
I'm asked why so much poetry is shit.
I suggest, in defence, it's the modern condition:
surface slipperiness, knowingness,
detachment, and I don't buy it either.
I read the bib cards: two years, ten years, life,
as if the doors froze shut for all that time,
and men reappear blinking into light
renovated, healed, saved.
Behind backs, the hearsay, misheard story,
the way words cover the knuckle of action -
best to learn the language of the body:
yellowing bruises hold the attention.
Hot house flowers that slowly lose their colour,
fat on the fore-arm, hard on the knuckle.
I look, don't read, don't touch, for these take years
to cultivate, each one a private garden.
Can't shake them - these hundred year old ghosts -
food, sweat, semen, commingling above
the throat tightening bleach,
hold me to the salt-lick of the living.
Some, given grace and tickets, would not scram:
you sense life has no love in it for them,
or they want for nothing. This man, in softer times,
would slip out the front gate, bring the milk in.
To disappear, to leave your face and learn
a new language, to drink, fuck, out of hand, to mouth,
to slip through days conspiring into night,
to understand what is wanted badly.
Inside, a fish tank stagnation of light,
outside, dirty light rusting on fences.
At night the orange lights stay close to ground
and feel around the darkest places.
Sometimes rooms I never knew existed;
the stores where towels are carefully arranged,
compact and faintly genital, all stamped
and counted - keeping hold, lest things should slip.
A prison says: I'm not you. But they are.
Myself, I stack books, paper in a locker,
put on my coat, through the gate and out,
look up to drizzle hidden in the wind.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The