No 17 - May 2002
The scribe laments the under-utilisation of his talents.
Who would not lie where Noisiu lies
lapped in the brimming ocean of her thighs?
Nor sup where Noisiu supped
out of Deirdre’s milky cup?
Bad cess to the bishop that put me here
illuminating this pagan missive my fields
unturned and my prayers unattended.
Day and night I follow the black feather
all my resolution ejaculated out through my
finger ends. My roof leaks and the rust
cleaves to the very hinges and I am denied
what every bird and creeping thing delights in.
Between the child who slips your hand at the crossing
caught up and returned to the house all alight and full of
admonishment and the child who slips your hand and is lost
a chasm across which she is always fish slipping.
On her first outing before the quality she disinters
from the hour glass of her mother’s body
the same heretic yell expounded by the tongue
clapped round the ball of burning metal.
The men are minded to dismember her nubbed
limbs from the scherzo of the parabolic rhythm
till Conor the big man with the farmer’s eye
for cattle offers to rear her up as his own.
Fifteen years she’s under his protection while he
plays conquistador to her golden city. A mare at the
water margins she expects only the ultimate interruption.
Not understanding this
he understands nothing.
Fifteen and all orality
a parliament of voices in her head
she cradles the gold in the buttermilk
the white of it and the red.
Still inky thumbed and preoccupied
as he leans over to expound her lesson
his fingers stray lightly to her breast.
The women are busy in the kitchen
the men are called away on business
if you ask them afterwards
they will say this did not happen.
The Mother laments
My little silver fish is hooked
now shame and all her sad companions
court her. My little one, my honey mouth
at night when I lie down I am restless.
In the day when I think of you taking
your country dance through the round
ring fence of your arrangements
my mouth is broken out in endearment.
Younger than she are made men’s bed
fellows younger than she are stoppered
in disinclination. Younger than she
are taken at this time the world over
to foul mattresses and rusty razors.
Younger than you my sweet peach my apple
are taken to back streets and butchered
for that rosy blush for that slippered
sex slumbered in downy pocket
for that triumvirate of envy
pitched between hip and navel.
Once we were one in this and you fluttered
my bright fish my heart’s darling in dark pools
and were sun-freckled dappled and desirous
turning in a trice in all the tented tenements of our house.
Deirdre mixes her pigments.
She shifts between two schemas. The one
liable to bending by stars and startled objects
a matter of the fix of the light on the retina.
The other a matter of addition. A tendency
towards eclipse in too much mixing.
At swim in the plurality of colour
she sees him in all things but chiefly
at the three places in the spectrum
where the light is least refracted.
Stifled her eye emigrates across
the kilted winter landscape to where
a crow strums at a freckle of blood and bone.
Until now she has had the grammar
of him but not the lexicon.
How they talk. Men always talk
this way about women. Every tattle
tongue and corner boy comes running.
Conor. too big a man to relinquish
a possession takes his shoes off
to catch them at it and finds them
playing stony by the wall. Her
fist over his and him guessing.
Now they stand the length of a spit
between them her hand on Noisius arm.
It is her first time and therefore she
is reckless. She lays down principalities
the bruise of fruit skedaddled mouth
to mouth. Ha cones to her like rain
on nettles and she a land in drought.
These choices there is no living with them.
Either way you take what you can get.
The low life of pacific indecision.
The high life of clamorous regret.
Though up here in the North where there is
no forgetting is the last place on earth
to go Julietting lions and lambs lie down
in her and she is away across the peace line.
Quick now! Only a little time ago
and she put her baby lips up for the kissing.
Only a little time ago and you tucked the great
round o in with her in her cradle linen.
Quick now, find a new way of beginning.
Ah but what could you say and how could she listen?
You could talk your mouth raw and she would still
stand there all alight and full of admonishment
her foot in the door and she already fish
Unlucky the bride that sails back from her
honeymoon after all that common sailoring
below decks to find herself in the stern
and himself installed in the captain’s cabin.
Unluckier still if she finds herself still tousled in him.
The gay sextant pitched and she resolved
in the plain writ of roused sea-mettle.
All night she watches while the light
describes in an exact arc across his collar
the trajectory of her flailing comet.
Noisiu a stor would you not sail with me
along the rim of Lugh’s bowl to Galicia and
let the sea break eggs over us? Would you not
do this thing for me and think it small?
Noisiu a stor would you not sail with
me to the green land of Galicia?
But he’s for home and for the fellowship.
Red Hands in Ulster
Conor is in two minds. The dovecote is full
of plump young pigeons and she after months
of rough trade bound to be on the slide. Still
and all better to send the boy out for a reconnoitre.
Through the diamond of the window Conor’s
running boy has had his eyeful. The two of them
at the chess moving their pieces in slow procession.
He sacrificing his knights and she coronated
in black and white and red.
Look at them arm in arm. Between them
the clap and relax of easy inference.
Look at them.
They are walking between two pediments.
Into the place where the road narrows.
Into the passage of the kings.
There is always this threshold. Through the half glaze
of the door the night visitor. The outline of his weapon.
Always this pause. Kisses warm and duplicit.
The sword clapped back in the scabbard simply
out of a wish for a life less complicated.
Though Deirdre’s feet twitch for Galicia
though she leans out for the pure Galician dawn
tonight they course the hare in Embain Macha
in all the crowded corners of the lawn.
It is a night of high stars and the distilled
conductivity of crystal. It is a night of jewel colours
a bride blush on the snow’s irreproachable linen.
The Grande Marrée of Noisiu’s blood-letting.
She has become a common place. The fore-grounded
wailing woman allowed to interrogate the one fixed spot
on the horizon. Between her thighs a welter of tarry honey
across her knees something lax and lately violated.
Look at her holding fast to her blood stiffened instant
choosing even this white of him and this red
over all the embroidered after-dancing of continuance.
No point leaving the trophy wife on the shelf.
Better to bring her out a time or two for the
polishing. Women are notoriously mobile.
Who having flesh still rousable would prefer
to dally with the dead? A month or two of
playing hard to get and she’ll be reasonable.
In the meantime take her scarf away and her belt.
She whispers behind her hand.
Painfully plaiting her table talk.
Her can I and may I.
They glance her way only to appraise.
She cultivates being no-where.
Almost she forgets to breathe.
All these months he has washed
orality out of her
his heavy tongue making
its ingress into her soft palate.
Though she is ammonite she is ruptured
night by night he scales her
and ledge by ledge.
Worse than this is when he wheedles.
Worst of all is when he begs.
He asks her who does she hate most beside herself?
A child again brought to book for stealing sugar
she answers him in what she thinks he likes the least
you first and after you Eogan that butchered Noisiu.
So much now for the compromise
himself and Eogan put her between then in the cart
the better to catch the crawl of their reflection
the better to distinguish life from art.
As they hand her into the cart
she catches a correspondence
past knowledge of her and its surmise.
Blood follows blood
and mentor follows master.
Between two bulls a heifer
between two rams a ewe.
Whereone of them has ploughed his furrow
the other has a mind to sow.
The rock holds itself aloof.
It is either minding its own business
undeterred by the occasional shock
of interplanetary metal
or it is accusatory
the perfect place for such a picnic.
Either way something boils on it
and is un-made.
She drinks the cloudy liquid from the glass
she sucks the excited gasses from the faucet
she crashes herself into an under-pass in Paris.
Using the knot as a lever she vaults across the
high slats of the cart shooting her silk into
the mirror rolling herself a pebble in the dark.
She robs the rug right out from under them
she robs the pillars from underneath the house
she robs the astonished sight out of them
she robs the tongue out of their mouths.
Blood maddened the mare takes flight
forgetting for once who’s master.
Preoccupied in sawing at the bridle
they miss her last walking out.
The fret of her milky instep.
Her little after-dancing with disaster.
Tragic? perhaps avoidable?
Nothing said that wasn’t said before.
If only she had been more articulate
I would have recommended the talking cure.
Though naturally it is regrettable
no indication she would go so far.
She was always highly strung and maladjustable.
Well you know what women are.
How quickly Helen’s ships are scuppered
and Greeks turn gifts on their heads.
Here is a lesson noted in Cruachan
around Maeve’s forts some determined double digging
bedding in for the congeal of massed passages.
Clever clever Maeve
whispers in Ailill’s shell-like
opening for herself the great mouth of self-accounting.
Never again the lovely famine victim
her tent flap stained with the names of her amoureuses.
From here on in begins the long long war of attrition.
Awake she begins to count her herds.
Cue the chorus of wailing women. Lovers cursed
before birth escape from a landscape and an order
of druidical compulsion storms and star crossing
and all kinds of portents. Find everything in one
congealed moment. Lose it all in the double cross.
Above the marsh pleased satisfaction. Below fire
radiant beauty. Such elements cannot long sustain their
opposition. Such elements always tend towards collapse.
Wake night and the house is crowded.
Left to themselves the women would bury her
in some place known only to themselves
breaking the earth’s crust an inch for every growing season.
They make do instead with the close-work of corpse washing.
Grief’s palpable erudition.
The cortège sways between country hedges.
The horse crops grass. Flowers droop from
the parapets. Many a corpse has been put to bed
on semtex. The patrol dogs its lights out
in the nettles and jemmies up the lid to take a look.
The sergeant sliding his long thumbs under her
is reminded of a girl he took once after a dance
against the double black of a wall. The two of them
half stunned and she skimming him just so just so.
And afterwards the scour of hawthorn on her.
The grave a broad and open harrow the lads
already nuzzled in it against the cut black of the turf.
Into this wide and roomy hollow where there is nothing
only aftermath she tumbles a child to her pillow. Taking
as her parting glass the gift of dirt on the end of a rainbow.
The customary six feet particled out into an arc.
First the priests and then the politicians.
Next Conor dispensing his spent cartridges.
Later saints and monks sweeping the house
clean after her. All of a mind to disinter her
from the lewd clasp of her sleeping kin.
Fixing it for one another. Conor redeemed
on the stag’s uplifted antlers. Kevin
receiving onto the candelabra of his collar
eggs sex and the delight of procreation.
Unable to disentangle the small bones at the wrist
the archaeologists incline only to the plausible.
Putative Celtic burial. Evidence of violent death.
Possibly some kind of ritual offering.
She crosses the yard her heels click clacking
bright sparks against the flags’ gun metal
the heat released from her milky in-step.
Always the same lilt in the walk.
She puts the jug beside the kettle
she puts the kettle beside the hearth.
Every dog must have his whistle
after her hop scotching on the medallions
of the causeway Noisiu that dapper darling
cleaning his kitten mouth.
She steps into the launch
all set to waster home without even
the wherewithal to make a plural
all set to set of f on the cruise up the estuary
about to go piss-drinking in the mirror
about to plant her oar in some winsome field of wheat
she feels the swell of things beside themselves in
one another the jug beside itself in the kettle
the kettle beside itself in the hearth
the wash of the melt-water in the colour
and is caught.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
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- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
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- French Literary Review, The
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- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
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- Poetry Salzburg Review
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- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
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