Stay in the loop and register for email updates about events, competitions and all things poetry.
sign up now
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
This is the dangerous time, sky clouding:
lifesavers on the alert, intermittently moving the flags,
shoals of swimmers still keening the fray.
Only a narrow stretch of ocean left now
between the signposts, the spume growing wilder
lifting more boldly - you imagine yourself drawn in,
tugged all ways past the horizon.
Isn't it enough just to be here on this ivory sand
watching breakers curl against clouds darkening, still far out,
spellbound by the limitless, the reach of coast?
Six o'clock now, the show's closing down.
A few paragliders swoop in
while children put final touches to their sandcastle.
Soon they'll carry water to the moat.
Of course, we would meet in a bar,
dark as our wombs,
the banquettes lined in wine Marquette.
Three sexy Scorpios—one golden girl,
one sloe-eyed brunette and me
showing the ashes of middle age.
It would have to be August
in a limp Boston loosening
her corsets against vapidity
and the heat. We would meet
at this watering hole,
cackling over very dry martinis
or maybe a couple vodka stingers instead.
We would watch the spills on the bar
spread like Rorschach blots.
We would all cheerfully wear our
ovaries on our sleeves and make course
jokes about male poets and their pricks.
Flirting academically with the bartender
we would order more nostrums,
crazy women swivelling gaily on barstools.
You both would be happy.
You’d swear off crucifixion by art,
decide to survive, become grandmas,
grin and flash nicotine-stained teeth,
wear cliché purple hats and scarlet lipstick
living more potently than legend or myth.
amid the rain of ether from the noisy sky
& the mild diffidence of dials, the drench of laws
and scripts greeting the storm, its policy of tempered
the exasperation of metals & drift as if its bloom were simple
to the corpus from below in panels, with outliers brushed into ice
the fruiting instability of air, beneath which a ribbon struggles
I am a conversation articulated quietly across oceans
regarded as a measure of uncertainty or surprise
surviving precisely as a desire for redundancy
& this morning the first the guides that lead you in
their capture/the displayed tautology the tunnels of air
preferments of fall lines, new climates tightening on the earth
waypoints for the astronaut & the arctic tern
fat crickets & car-wrecks in fine evening rain
in spilt declivities of bright symbology
tacticians drive their windward aires along
demonstrating the facilitation of flight
the slew at sea, the captured wires & the unequal catapult
definitions too lazied to mark the precision of the first breath on deck
stepping into a rose
but you were walking towards me, after all, as if
it weren’t in fact anything other than the imaginary
front sight of one index pressed to your brow
which held you to a name and its willing execution
the pure distinctions you pull upon
your eyes the specific lightness of material perfection
a static click breaking into small worlds
where death has music in a vice-like
I think not. A cloud of polarised light
the specific charade I cleave to ‘miracles of ’ falling to machinery
one black dot spilling fowards into the brim of a pupil more distant
his schematics of rash energy, clean daguerreotypes of humidity
& humour beats down in planes and sepals from the island trees
and you say I’ve dreamt this & your voice is exceeding level
as your eyes with their perpetual ironies inquired
practically as the parable of the aviator’s eye
of a shelf of clines and deteriorating greys
frayed with the packed flocks of boreal falls
nighthawks & assemblages of frosted passerines with foil legs
described as angels as the waves reflect
at ten centimeters from their mute bodies and return.
and, in the perfect meteorology of the brittle desert,
at the limit of breathable air where it thins into darkness,
these are the scripts of fallen planes, broken by fog.
& you were scraping the ice from the leading edge a.m.
printing an image of the mansions of the dead a.m.
looking for a small world in the uninhabitable air
trying to extinguish some deeper desire for fire
with something as cold and as hard and as temporary as flight
& what you were hoping was that the air would recolonise you
recognise you and welcome you into the sunlight
and all would be forgiven. ink in the thick air would curl
into glyphs of desire & the lightly starred heel
would dip into the sea at dawn as it spills
into a blaze of mute objects
in the pure suburban heavens
Lying asleep walking
Last night I met my father
Who seemed pleased to see me.
He wanted to speak.
Dad, what are you doing with the machine?
You should have no need of it now you’re dead.
This is my son you never met, connected
This side of the rust. What force of dream
Allows the three of us to push a machine up a hill?
No. It is only to the base of the hill we need to go.
My brother goes ahead, ill-endowed with purpose,
As you stop us with a nerved hand, cubed with gold.
Why are we standing here, the three of us,
You fourteen years dead & my son still a boy?
Can you come back now? We’ve been waiting for you.
I told my son the story of you & the stale milk.
He’s happy I think, but there’s been a blank piece
For as long as you’ve been gone from this place.
It was Christmas day you climbed that tree
With a hipflask of vodka & a Holla to the wind.
What are we doing with this machine in any case?
As acid as sap the rust has ceased.
It is stranger than blood that you had to meet
Your grandson across the picket fence of my sleep.
The three of us held on to the machine.
It didn’t lose purchase on the slope.
Dad, where are you taking the machine now?
Is this death when you keep the machine for yourself?
You’ve made us redundant in this landscape, bleatfast with snow.
We watch you attach the machine to a motorway
And punch a first from the window as you speed into orbital.
The machine you’ve taken gave us such purpose.
What are we supposed to do now?
The keys are clenched in my son’s tight fist.
Hurt no living thing:
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.