Open 11am to 8pm
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
Know that yes, he will indeed
turn the screws on you,
attempt to maim your mortally ascendant
birds. They will be pierced,
taken down by drones and remote pilots.
Forget your truth. It will be shattered
Commissioned by the National Poetry Library as part of Constructing Spaces. In partnership with graduates of the Poetry School’s MA in Writing Poetry.
the corpse is terrified
of the girl pulling on his pans
and the woman forcing
his arms into jacket sleeves
the stunted stranger
at the hot unchanging window
clasping her white hands
is trying to teach him Portuguese
and their Christian names
which one did he fuck?
which one is going to fuck him?
which one must he never fuck?
he can only remember
being resurrected in school dust
and dance halls and Saturdays
with closed eyes under eucalyptus trees
he’s terrified of his daughter
pulling off his pants
and his sister forcing
his arms out of jacket sleeves
it takes a mother
a maid and a crone
to really work an altar
lock a door
choose a tie
a business suit
and resurrect a man
and he can only remember
the lizard he kept in a shoe box
and his father’s first car
this is someone else’s bed
this is someone else’s family
why can’t he speak?
why can’t he love them all?
Twilight: the last ferry leaves Vancouver
for the tiny islands.
Tsawwassen blinks out,
rows of bolted plastic chairs
and old vending machines
gone blurred, crossing over.
Sotto voce, a woman croons
under the water, her hair
spilling luminous and phosphorescent
across the depths. The drowned
love this hour, before the stars
are let down like bait to tempt them,
before the steam moans out
and the captain settles back for a smoke.
The others on the boat
talk, drink coffee, drift upstairs;
two lovers stand at the railing
for the sheer terror of feeling
something might happen.
A moment ago they were sure
they would die for each other.
Then the kiss ended -
she leaned a little away,
his arm fell, everyone
turned towards the islands
they knew were out there,
willing them to appear.
That whole wet summer, I listened to Louis Armstrong.
Imagined him arriving in New York after Funky Butt
dance halls, wearing hick clothes: those
high top shoes with hooks, and long
underwear down to his socks.
Thought of him shy in a slick, new band, locked
for two weeks reading the part he was set,
until the night when Bailey on clarinet
took over an old song. Then Louis’ horn
rose in harsh, elated notes,
of phrases he’d invented on riverboats
and ratty blues tonks, using all the sinews
of his face and muscle of his tongue.
And what delights me now,
is when he grinned to thank
the crowd that stood to clap, and saw
slyly from the corner of his eye
all the stingy players in the band
were sitting motionless, their tribute
only an astonished sigh.