No 8 - Winter 2001
The James Brothers: A Tryptich
1. The Photographer
The room smelt of cigars and peeled oranges.
Henry was the ether addict, William teetotal.
First, I had to open every window to clear the air
then close and bar them with shutters
to cage the dark for this photograph.
Both brothers sat uneasily on the green sofa,
muttering about finance and psychology
like two surgeons viewing an X-ray.
When a clock I hadn’t seen chimed behind me
I jumped, dropping a spare plate on the floor.
Henry stared out from his ether dream; William
chose not to notice. But the camera was loaded
and I caught them both in their tweedy silence.
2. A Friend
After his fall he gave up ether, alcohol and cigars
and took up preaching to the city’s poor.
He sold his books and wrote only sermons,
which he gathered each year in bindings of green cloth,
paying the printer from his wrecked inheritance
and driving his brother to the edges of patience.
William broke his walking stick on the sofa in rage,
the dust rose up like smoke from a cannon,
while the maid quivered behind the door. Two days later
both maid and manservant quit for good,
taking a selection of silver knives.
Spider and beetle conspired with dust
to convert his mansion to a tiny dark corner
of the Kingdom of God on earth.
3. A Neighbour
Fifteen acres of prime grazing land those brothers own.
I made them an offer after their mother had died
but they turned me away as if I were trade.
That Henry and his books, he lives in another world,
he’d trip on his own laces if the servants weren’t there.
And that William, pampering the London rich,
he treats us all like a heathen rabble.
They’ve let the old barn roof collapse. Nettles
clog the paddock. One evening by the river
I saw old Henry alone, stumbling under the elms
where he’d played as a child. I saw him fall
where the roots are exposed. I thought he’d drown
but found him with blood on his face,
dry and alive, though he’d never walk straight again.
- 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