Poem of the Week Archives

Someone

someone is dressing up for death today, a change of skirt or tie
eating a final feast of buttered sliced pan, tea
scarcely having noticed the erection that was his last
shaving his face to marble for the icy laying out
spraying with deodorant her coarse armpit grass
someone today is leaving home on business
saluting, terminally, the neighbours who will join in the cortege
someone is paring his nails for the last time, a precious moment
someone’s waist will not be marked with elastic in the future
someone is putting out milkbottles for a day that will not come
someone’s fresh breath is about to be taken clean away
someone is writing a cheque that will be rejected as ‘drawer deceased’
someone is circling posthumous dates on a calendar
someone is listening to an irrelevant weather forecast
someone is making rash promises to friends
someone’s coffin is being sanded, laminated, shined
who feels this morning quite as well as ever
someone if asked would find nothing remarkable in today’s date
perfume and goodbyes her final will and testament
someone today is seeing the world for the last time
as innocently as he had seen it first

a)

he played injun in gods country
where boys proved themselves clean

dumb beasts who could cut fire
out of the whitest1 sand

he played english across the trail
where girls turned plum wild

garlic and strained words
through the window of night

he spoke through numb lips and
breathed frontier2

A Rushed Account of the Dew

I who can blink
to break the spell of daylight

and what a sliding screen between worlds
is a blink

I who can hear the last three seconds in my head
but the present is beyond me
              listen

in this tiny moment of reflexion
I want to work out what it’s like to descend
out of the dawn’s mind

and find a leaf and fasten the known to the unknown
with a liquid cufflink
              and then unfasten

to be brief

to be almost actual

oh pristine example
of claiming a place on the earth
only to cancel

Thinktent

I am my world. (The microcosm.)
– Ludwig Wittgenstein

Hospitality: the first demand
what is your name?
the city bound me so I entered

to dream a science that would name me
daughter and launch beyond
grief, that old thoracic cause

myocardium: a blood-orange foundry
handed down by the humoral
anatomists and not be

inside my own head perpetually
not simply a Wittgenstein’s girl
but an infinite citizen in a shaking tent

If you are in need of an answer
consult a jiisakiiwinini
scientific rigour
psychoanalysis
the unconscious a construct
method amphibious
of two minds
that’s the translator
her task to receive
the call that comes
down the barrel
of the future

all of us a congress
of selves a vibrational chorus
I know myself to be a guest
in your mind a grand lodge
of everything I long to know and hold
within this potlatch we call
the present
moment

If I speak of the night
speak its illicit cerebrum
of branches and back seats
speak beyond our future
a thinkable urn

my empirical training
my non-status brow ridge
indivisible and glistening

every time I tease a thread of being
from its moment in standard time

let’s elevate the coordinates of distress
take it all in
I’m all in and over the limit

the limit, the eliminative, the lumens, the mens rea, the loom

to be a shopkeep in the showroom of nouns
what to purchase and what
to disavow

speak with saffron

speak of just the small bits, atomic

speak of the inevitable curve in the data

all foreclosed upon and glimmering

like a good bitch in the brine of night

I haven’t nearly enough heat here

in this stakeout

the sky died and I’m its anima in the pitch thickets

I have fingers with which to squish

pin cherries and rosehips

dogwood, I have begun

to hear a rosary of pure tones, the colony

hear its call toward disorder

citizens, I have never

been dishonest in my horror

the underclass of our era

a requisite paternity test

dominus

in excelsis

 

from Clasp

Sleep is for the weak.
I collected the reasons against it, which were in every body’s mouth. I marked them down, with, I think, some additions. (You may or may not remember.)

I feign now pleasure—sleep in splendour—notwithstanding
the sadness of the subject.

(Please read the letter.)

A fool could read the signs.

January

January long light
Janus     I see you
God of locks and doorways

two-faced looking in Capricorn
Capricious like the snowy owl
      irruption

We fear heavy body collisions

January     time of doors
time looking back on itself
    God of gates

    spelt and salt

They say when you
walk through a door

you can forget what
   you came for

a)

he played injun in gods country
where boys proved themselves clean

dumb beasts who could cut fire
out of the whitest1 sand

he played english across the trail
where girls turned plum wild

garlic and strained words
through the window of night

he spoke through numb lips and
breathed frontier2

Little Eva

Time took your love – now time will take its time.
‘Move on’, you hear, but to what howling emptiness?
The kinder place is closest to your dead
where you lounge in confident no-motion, no thought
of budging. Constant in analytic sorrow, you abide.
It even makes you happy when you’re feeling blue.
Jump up, jump back. Flail on the spot.
I can disprove this ‘moving on’ nostrum.
Do the loco-motion in my living room.

This poem contains brief excerpts from the lyrics to ‘The Loco-Motion’, words and music by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, originally performed by Eva Boyd as Little Eva.

A Rushed Account of the Dew

I who can blink
to break the spell of daylight

and what a sliding screen between worlds
is a blink

I who can hear the last three seconds in my head
but the present is beyond me
              listen

in this tiny moment of reflexion
I want to work out what it’s like to descend
out of the dawn’s mind

and find a leaf and fasten the known to the unknown
with a liquid cufflink
              and then unfasten

to be brief

to be almost actual

oh pristine example
of claiming a place on the earth
only to cancel

from Chronicle of the Citadel of Exile

Write, write, never stop. Tonight and all the nights to come. When I am at last face to face with myself. And must take stock. No more uniform. No longer distractedly pacing a measured area for the regulation exercise period. No more obeying wretched orders. My number still on the other side of the door. When I am done with drinking, eating, urinating, defecating. Done with talking, with calling things by their worn-out names. I light endless cigarettes whose smoke emerges from my lungs in broken chains, bitter swirls of rejection. Prison night has gobbled up the artificial light of the day. Ragged stars populate the vault of my visions.

Write.
When I stop, my voice begins to sound very peculiar. As though unknown notes were clinging to its cords, driven by strange storms from all those zones where life and death watch and spy on one another, two oddly hued wild animals, each crouched ready to spring, ready to slash and destroy the other’s essential nature.

Write.
I can live now only by wrenching myself away from myself, by wrenching away from myself my points of rupture and suture, those places where I most acutely feel splits and junctures, where I cut myself into pieces so as to return to life in unfathomable elsewheres: earth, roots, trees of intensity, granular effervescene under the sun.