along the old pack road that no longer goes anywhere,
and like the windy leaves never still,
always on the way to some thought
lost in the traffic and the chatter,
the town below fading into voices off,
a hammer’s knock travelling beyond itself,
a man shouting his name over and over,
lives made from the sounds they make.
These things do not connect:
a yellow flower from a far off country,
linked hearts cut in a tree’s side,
sussura of pigeon wings, an animal threshing
the undergrowth, scribble of bird song
here, here, and your secret names for me –
Old Paint, Wild Root, Scissorbill. I dreamed
the ridge and these massed dark roots of the yews,
anger like a sudden wind. Wild root.
The Secret Police
They are listening in the wires,
in the walls, under the eaves
in the wings of the house martins,
in the ears of old women,
in the mouths of children.
They are listening to this now.
So let’s hear it for the secret police,
a much misunderstood minority.
After all, they have their rights,
their own particular ways of seeing things,
saying things, cooking things,
they too have a culture uniquely their own.
And we think
they should have their own state
where they could speak their own
incomprehensible tongues, write
their confessions, their unknown histories,
cultivate their habits of watching
by watching each other, and fly
their own flags there, at attention
on parade in their medals at their monuments
on their secret anniversaries, making speeches,
singing praises to the God of Paranoia.
And at the end of the day
bury their dead, publish their coded obituaries
of each other, and rest at last
in their own kind of peace, forever.
The above recordings were made at Ken Smith's home in London (on 29 July 1998) drawing on poems from both The Poet Reclining and Shed and originally released on cassette on The Poetry Quartets 3 (Bloodaxe Books/The British Council, 1998). See page for The Poet Reclining for his reading of an extract from Fox Running.
Five poems by Ken Smith: 'Being the third song of Urias', 'My father with two knives', 'My father fading out', 'Years go by', 'The Donegal Liar' (from the Bloodaxe collections The Poet Reclining and Shed). First transmission: BBC Radio 3, 4 August 2002.
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