Champagne

‘Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends’ – a toast..

I

It was a champagne reception,
With champagne cocktails.
Taffeta sprayed from the waist,
         Like champagne.
Their vows giggled on their lips.
         Like champagne.

II
Like champagne, the perfection of desire.
Like champagne, exquisite blisters.
Like champagne, the kiddie in the river-
Bubbles ascending, golden light.

III
Champagne: its base, its superstructure-
It melts into air.

IV

They poured over the trenches, like champagne.
Shrapnel, cordite, bullets, like champagne.
Like champagne, we remembered them.

V
Hawblossom like champagne.
Cow’s parsley like champagne,
Cassiopeia like champagne
The ditch, the hedgerow, then the stars.

VI
She rose from the commode like champagne in a flute,
The carers applaud, like champagne.

VII
Seborrhea, like champagne.
Hypertension, like champagne.
Asthma, like champagne.

IX
Under the microscope: basophils, lymphocytes-
Champagne.

X
A dry day in April, then the rain broke. Hail pattered
On the roof of the nissen hut.

Two Easter Poems

Easter Saturday

Do you not yet understand, that whatsoever enters in at the mouth goes into the belly, and is cast out into the drain? Matthew 15:17 KJV

Even in the belly of the dead Christ bacteria
Breed. The cold flesh stirs to a murmur of trapped gas,
Blood pools in purple blooms along the back
And yes, bowels void and pop.
Even the skin will slip its moorings.

Leave the abstract to the Gods and air;
Despair, love, anger – vain ambitions,
Are nothing to the Dead.

In the cave behind the stone,
Meek matter reclaims its own.

 

Paschal

In the queue at the corner shop, the lady with the zimmer frame
Buys two shop-soiled Easter Eggs and a can of Special Brew.

We do not meet her eyes, but stare instead at the floor. She has no shoes.
Her feet: swollen to a deep blue-purple, raw with roseate scabs and road-grit.

We wait as she fumbles for her monies in a purse more worn than used.
The shop assistant’s open palms: cupped, expectant of a falling gift.

 

Hecuba

Sons fall before their mothers, some from city walls,
Others kicking in their own coughed foam.
They bring them in on trays, like tea, or news.

Who, in my old age, will call me his slave?
I who once turned heads with an eyelash flutter,
Bent double with a stoma, peg-fed, fucked.

Ask an old mouth for the measure of the times
And it stops. The face drops. It’s a kind of
Disappointment. Words can sink or swim.

Oh bald man with a beard and ‘Say your name’ and
‘What’s today?’ and ‘Who is this year’s man?’ These are
Stones dropped in a hollow. I echo.

‘House!’ calls Cassandra, and louder, ‘House!’ again.
Bingo was yesterday; today’s a sing along.
Wrong days. You see the problem, don’t you? Wrong.

Who of any of us knows how their lot will fall,
Out here amongst strangers and strangers to ourselves?
Each day they change the label on someone’s door.

This is the house of sitting futures. This island.
This is the handle. This is the spout.

And yet it moves

We conclude therefore that stars are seen at midnight in uncurtailed glory…
Galileo: ‘The Sidereal Messenger’

In 1610, Galileo Galilei
Observed moons orbiting Jupiter.
He shifted one foot to another.

For this, they locked him in his chamber.
The table, chairs, the painted mirror
On the wall: tangents to a frozen centre.

This was the Inquisition’s irony.
We could speculate that dust gathered
And was thrown through winter light,

That there was a call of cicadas,
And the thought of birdsong, echoing
In courtyards, without measure, without end-

And laughter, the abjured word spoke sotto voce
To the door, the stars their own answer.

The Visitants

At length, we found them in a noisome byre:
Unregistered, swathed in crawling rags,
The she soiled in the fundament of her parturition.

The father, such as we supposed, babbled
In a tongue out from the North. We beat him
South, East and West, until he learnt our manners.

The mother, suffice to say, kept schtum
As we worked upon her man, though she clung
To her spawn so tight, it took a punch to wrest

It from her breast. We gave each one a number,
Drove them to edge of town, and sent them packing.
‘There is nothing new underneath the sun’

Or so old Ecclesiastes says.
We’re keeping it that way.

Baba Yaga

An old woman who
Sweats crows
And lives in a barrow
Raised from the bones
Of forgotten children.
Neither the candles,
Nor her pewter cups
Nor the greased
Soles of her sandals
Can bear the sight of her
And flee to the fringes
Of her field of vision.

Each morning at her toilet,
She scolds her comb
For harvesting her hair
And wrings her handkerchief
Until it weeps salt tears
And lets a thread of mercury
Crawl from her breast
To the barometer on the wall
Where it lies about the weather.

All year she has been waiting
For her nemesis: some tit-less
Wonder from the surface
With eyes like walking on the moon,
And skin that’s only fit for swaddling,
Sent on some useless errand
For thread or murder – both,
Most likely. ‘Is it not enough,

To have become this?’ spits
Our witch. As if the final
Indignity lies not in wizened
Chicken bones or a kitchen
That laughs behind your back,
But this- to lapse entirely
Into parable, as if this ruin
Was a book of hours, passed
Between breathless virgins
Side-eyeing their way through mass.