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 boy and I face each other.
His feet are huge, in black sneakers
laced with white in a complex pattern like a
set of intentional scars. We are stuck on
opposite sides of the car, a couple of
molecules stuck in a rod of light
rapidly moving through darkness. He has the
casual cold look of a mugger,
alert under hooded lids. He is wearing
red, like the inside of the body
exposed. I am wearing dark fur, the
whole skin of an animal taken and
used. I look at his raw face,
he looks at my fur coat, and I don’t
know if I am in his power —
he could take my coat so easily, my
briefcase, my life —
or if he is in my power, the way I am
living off his life, eating the steak
he does not eat, as if I am taking
the food from his mouth. And he is black
and I am white, and without meaning or
trying to I must profit from his darkness,
the way he absorbs the murderous beams of the
nation’s head, as black cotton
absorbs the heat of the sun and holds it. There is
no way to know how easy this
white skin makes my life, this
life he could take so easily and
break across his knee like a stick the way his
own back is being broken, the
rod of his soul that at birth was dark and
fluid, rich as the head of a seedling
ready to thrust up into any available light.
‘Don’t talk to people,’ my landlady said.
‘They’ll only want to know about you.’
Even shoptalk made me edgy; ‘Are ye gettin’?’
‘Howse about ye?’ Nowhere had my cigarettes.
I couldn’t understand their bread.
This summer I have come to see her.
She gives me tea, barmbrack, soda farls
And asks about my wife. She is washing her nets
And I can see through arcades of union flags,
Bunting, red-white-and-blue lamp-posts
To the gable wall; King Billy on horseback,
Square and compass, masonic numbers.
Before it, her son is practising his mace.
He waits to catch a thirty-foot throw,
Holding his stance, counting.
There’s a woman called Faithless
living in my house.
She moves from room to room,
trailing musk and ambergris.
Mouth parted, faintly bruised,
she is moody as seaweed. Her glad
gull’s eye collects shells, bones.
Her favourite haunt is horizontal.
A creature wearing only a necklace
of names, she is all things to all men.
You can count on her to kiss and tell.
I think she’s a swan on holiday:
fascinating from across a lake,
all beak and hissing when you get close.
I watch her giving the Man of the House
the largest slice of cake. I know her
too well; I cannot trust her.
She’s Faithless, as a cat;
steals love from cupboards.