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Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
Published by Coracle (2013). Living Locally No. 24
“He wants witty sexy poems about icebergs
to read to his cruise passengers now and then.”
But it has no sex and no wit. It tips
over, sometimes, weightily, or rights itself. The surface of the sea
meanwhile engages our visual cells, the ones
devoted to the horizontal, where they meet with delight
that outrageous barrier, that flagged vertical whose downward slice
is deep as a knife into cake. Wedding cake will do,
there’s the sex bit, tier over tier and mostly
hid from us, out on the deck and peering. The water’s strewn
with whites opaque as rags or as the sky. Between these a polish, a
What parts of this scape can you penetrate, what can you see?
Whites beyond whites, green that has never been near grass, the green
of a beetle or a feather, maybe, in some remote location, the green of
phosphor and vermillion,
or some fake colour - a chemical
slid into candy that makes the teeth seethe.
Or some electric game, or the irid
of a reptile, or the very heart
of heat at the flame’s exhalation,
oxygens doing something weird and barely planetary.
Testing the new filling in my mouth with my tongue
I’m walking to the station from the dentist’s,
when the man who’d sat opposite me in the waiting room
pulls up in his car, guesses where I’m headed, offers me a lift.
Though he could be the father of any of my friends,
a serial granddad, I don’t know him from Adam,
couldn’t possibly say yes, but when I say no thanks
he seems so offended, puts his foot down as I quicken my steps.
Watching his tail lights disappear around the corner,
along with an earlier train to my job in the city,
I’m sorry it’s not a September morning four hundred years ago.
He’d have been certain to know my husband
and I’d have been on my way to market to sell the last
of my lettuces. I’d have hopped on to the back of his cart
along with my six children and a goat, which my third youngest
had insisted on bringing. He’d have told me about his five sons,
seven daughters and thirty nine surviving grandchildren,
one of whom was bound to be called Adam. Then my Cuthbert
would have started singing a popular ballad to his beloved goat,
in time to the steady clop of the hooves of the horse,
and we’d have all joined in, our teeth (untouched by sugar)
sparkling in the fully filtered light.