The Open Road
What if colour film came first
and all these searing sunsets, curly copper mops,
pink-fringed parasols and gaudy frocks
were so much blah to an eye that thirsts
to watch an ashen rose unfurl,
see the charcoal sheen of a peacock’s tail,
a seascape rolling in drab grayscale,
dun smudges on the cheeks of girls;
dancing flames of heatless brume,
rockets spraying asterisks of chalk,
greybells blooming on pallid stalks,
the world’s flags starred and striped with gloom?
We wouldn’t dress our hearts in motley threads
and fix the world in greens and reds,
projecting all the loves we said
we’d never leave but left for dead,
and might not glimpse the widening seam
between the separating reds and greens
of everything we’d thought we’d seen
on our memory’s monitor or silver screen.
-previously published at Peony Moon
Italian Verb Drills
A dozen dancing declensions to partner;
unfailingly I choose the wrong ending,
uncoupling the remote past and embracing
the simple future, which dissolves in my clasp
leaving only its ivory opera gloves.
The X-ray Room
This is small beer; at worst a chipped orbital bone.
But the silhouette of crown and brow,
black as space, thrown against the metal plate;
the segmented camera craning back to shoot
its payload of photons through my skull, fill me
with projected fears. It’s not this injury
but the ones to come: shadow-puppets figured
through the lamps of my eyes, leaning on crooked canes,
batting at murderous crows, dancing for Satan
under full moons, shedding their skin like clothes
and stepping down into their graves at dawn.
“I’ve been brave!” says a fading teddy bear
brandishing balloons on a sticker designed
to help kiddies through the ordeal. Maybe I have.
For the next head-shot I lie back on the trolley.
My first thought is to hand back the black leaden mat
she places so carefully over my crotch.
“All clear.” she beams minutes later. I’m almost sad
to leave so intimate a place. I hurry past
an open door where a CAT scan machine lies in wait.
A draughty shoebox up on blocks,
Yorkshire Tea and terrier prints,
lived in just a year —
my Dad's caravan at Sand le Mer
was on the market the month he died.
Leaky, salt-lashed, anonymous,
Beatles and brass band LPs
warping in the yearlong must,
a copy of Emmanuelle
and framed royalties from Radio Three.
His second divorce beached him here
and he couldn't support his own weight,
and his dog gnawed the fur
off its paws for a year
and had to be given away.
- all three previously published at Limelight