Whether you take the next boat to Taipei
or crouch in the rippling barleycorn,
she’ll find you anyway.
Fly to the nearest meteor
– she’ll blow your houses in.
She’ll know just where you are.
Shun her, she’ll creep in underfoot like rootlings.
Thwart her, she’ll bide her silky time.
Betray her, she’ll bring you down, flapping grey wings.
Moments you’ll have before her gusts and rain.
Make your three wishes.
Meet her eye, and run with her again.
Hard-up once, between rented ﬂats, I went for a room at King’s Cross.
It was late to be looking on a July night.
I walked along a road of B&Bs, off-key translations of travel: Shangrila, Imperial, The Heights. A couple turned on glimpsed stairs.
Curtains ﬂoated over a screen’s blue light.
It was hot, too; peopled, no vacancy all down the terraced line.
A man sat slumped in a doorway. ‘You can stay…here,’
– a camp bed, for 19 pounds. His face sagged over a t-shirt logo’d, Monterey. He said that he’d been a police sergeant in Algiers.
The reception ticked, footsteps kept time in the twilit square.
I pulled off my trainers in this anteroom. He came in though.
‘Sorry but I need to sleep here for a moment’; lay down, his thick
back to me as I stood, tensed. ‘Please put your arms around.’
I held him, thinking of backroom cells, of singeing jolts, of ﬂex,
a good half-hour until he started, went. I slept the night, and left at six.
Behind wall and tree you could hear the alley
where lorries backed in, to the kvetching of a drill.
Ivy grew over the wall, and I set out marigolds,
little suns against the grime, and forgot to replace them when they died.
Nothing ever went wrong. The windows stuck shut,
the crab tree toppled. The bricks stood worn, and high
– until I climbed out, into nothing’s weeds and blight,
and felt what was hidden: a tearing anger at the living, and found
a gash in the earth, a fallow groove, and turned up the ground
to bring on the dry, ﬂecked seeds of grass
– the green of which had arrived in the loam
this morning, when I crouched and looked with you and the child.
The Scholars’ Hostel
For the convenience of its guests, the Scholars’ Hostel
provides iron toilet cubicles, painted a pale mustard; chain pulls
with wooden handles; brass bolts, exposed pipes, an asylum’s group bath.
On the spacious landing, a wax Madonna clasps two lilies.
Missing a drawer, handles, patches of ﬁnish, a mahogany cupboard lours
over a red carpet frayed to a dishcloth. Go further in: enquire.
Were there dusty sweets, a grandfather clock, a freckled mirror at reception?
Were the scholars, that evening, mute as grey swans, as one by one we tripped
downstairs to dine, wearing our severe, or bewildered expressions?
Did I imagine the man with lamentable breath, an out-of-work editor–
the be-cardiganed crowd in the tv lounge, frankly defeated;
the blotched counterpane, the smirched tiles, the chipped walls,
as if we’d been pulled, unresistingly, through a maelstrom,
and left our panicky marks and prints, the night going down with all hands?
Return to Sender
It’s a no man’s land: rusted side-gate,
gully of last year’s leaves and briars,
grey aureoles of seeding dandelion – sentinels
against the neighbours’ stucco and rose.
I wait here for the greetings to wash over me.
A moth beats, ﬂimsy, against the entry light.
Brown water rots in the terrace’s troughs and urns.
I can smell its marshy stagnancy.
Then I’m like the prodigal’s brother, railing
at the vines, why’s this layabout, death, so welcome here?
I go to the feast, eventually, and wonder
at the conjurors, their daylight getaway.
They sweep out, their sequinned trains trailing
in the rutted driveway, to the wooded road
– as love, like a stooping bodyguard,
walks with them to the end.
8 Moonrise 2021
10 Feeny’s Yard
11 Finish Line
13 Night of the Monkey Puzzle Tree
14 The Town
15 To the Night Market
16 Ballad of a She
18 Late Swim
19 Greetings from Hastings Pier
21 Request to a Neighbour
22 The Builder’s Mates
25 Cyclops in Cythera
26 The Waves, and a Bang
27 It Greens Again
28 Uncertain Ode
29 A Thank You Note
30 The Morvoren
31 Morvoren (Variation)
32 Ode to a Puritan
33 From the Dark Tower Came
34 Man Ironing
36 The Scholars’ Hostel
37 Before I Left on Friday
38 High Wall
42 Notes from a Moon Station
45 Speech Act
46 Ildeth in Bela
48 A Calenture
49 A Lothario
51 Domestic Animal
52 Report on Local Damage
54 Found Poem for Beryl Markham
56 Suburban Pastoral
57 The Beat
58 At Chincoteague
59 Return to Sender
60 The Maying
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