by SRB

Six Poems, Six Poets

October 19, 2009 | by SRB

When the City Winds Down
by Alan Gillis

I
In the morning we wake and board the bus packed like a waiting room for a passport
or injection, then pass into our grave
and buckled grid of concrete and bustled compartmentalisation and feel the eyes
of silent police within the workplace,
the long arms of check-outs that cordon
each store, bars clamping alarmed doors against dirty sneakers with Burger King beakers. In some such way, we dreep through the day
as the hours wind down. We talk for minutes, then go under to our dreams’ self-harm
and haggle with the quick and the dead,
the wards of night, waiting for the alarm.

II
Dreaming of murder, dreaming of kites,
dreaming of leather that fits good and tight,
of thighs and hot tongues from morning to night; dreaming of widgets, of television,
dreaming of first place in a competition;
dreaming of Havana, of counter-intelligence, enormous mojitos, a forbidden entrance;
dreaming of fire and sword upon parched veldt, rain-swept gorse, shattered windows, shattered delft; dreaming of a trophy wife and hyperbolical wealth,
a peachy brand new brand name blushing on the shelf; dreaming of hawks, dreaming of doves:
between the weird filth below, blasted wonder above, dreaming a sentence in the cells of love.


from Country
by Peter McDonald

The little roads, signed off to a townland or a farm

are the ones I turn from

by driving straight ahead,

just tilting my head
to long names of places,

although I am stone-deaf to – say – the call

of Lungs Mission Hall, travelling on, graceless,

and making believe
I never felt these hills’

threaded, invisible, Jesus-wired

forcefields in even
my childhood’s blood:

the pain of the Gospel, that for the truth’s sake

will separate, forsake, part blood from blood,

all of it here still
where Gospel is heartbreak,

a high lonesome wail
for what’s gone and to come,

but tired, tired.

This world is not my home.


Night-Snow
wee song for Sydney Graham
by Andrew McNeillie

The real poem never ends.

The blizzard beneath its last footprint is where we search in its memory,
the blizzard that is also night
as fresh on your face as snow.

Night-snow the ultimate
a body must weather, body I say, but I mean soul
out on the manhole sea
where the littoral-minded sail

beyond Cape Metaphor to be.

And Sydney Coastguard keeps his watch ticking on course for Greenock,
with Alfred Wallis at the wheel
aboard the good wreck Alba.

For who but a blind one can’t see Scotland from Cornwall? –
every small hour of the year
with the heart in the right direction and a glass to his eye.


From the Pole
by Miriam Gamble

List, woman: you may cling,
fattening your husband into false contentment.

I mean to have him nonetheless, an ice-spangled specimen. I will make him bloat and leathern; yes, woman, I will tarnish him beyond your wildest dreams. He will have no language for me
when he returns, if he returns, to you.

You may anguish to him of desire, but,
woman, I tell you, you know nothing of such things. I inhabit him bodily; I reach out
and I infect him like a virus. I am moribund
and tumourous, crabbing my weight
on his intellect and at the same time I do not exist.

I am sorceress and siren, you cannot take me.

Like yours, my love for him is of the body.

I nibble, and I keep bits; I have sent
many a chilled digit to my deepest stores
for summoning in times of need. The flesh
is wary of me: its pink crevices
go sapphire at my touch, it evaporates away,
and their tread fades lightly from my settlementless spine.

They leave stool, silence, a scattering of ashes. They have barely scratched the surface, will be back with their dog-sleighs, their inarticulate grief.

You, lady, may clutch him to you,
sue for him with all the springs in Scotland
and still you will not have my measure.

His love for me is different, difficult, too much.


George Orwell’s Death
by Leonita Flynn

The lamps are lit at half past five on Jura
as the island sinks into shadowy isolation. George Orwell here has a vision of the future – a place as stark. He lights a cigarette, thinking.

In every room a kind of two-way screen
whose language says one thing but means another controls the people (pap will divert the proles) and chastened by news of far-off, constant war

each man must drag the cross of his own frame
as Orwell, in hardship and illness, now drags his.

One shouldn’t, perhaps, smoke when suffering from TB…

His work complete, he’ll convalesce in Cranham, Planning more books – one can’t die with books to write! Thinks Orwell to himself. And then he dies.


A Priest Assesses Breastmilk for Wet Nursing
by Medbh McGuckian

The question mark turns like a fishhook:
Such a one ought to be naturally of a sweet and virtuous disposition.

She ought to be between 20 and 30 years of age,
To have lain – in a little before the child’s mother, an honest woman, such as had a man child last afore, nor approaching near unto her time again,
Free also from the scurvy, scabs or hard glands,
As these are indications that her humours are corrupted.

A fat nurse is preferable to a thin one, but if one can be found That nearly corresponds with the constitution
Of the child’s mother, she will answer still better:
She ought to be able to suckle at each breast,
The nipples of which should be of a middling size.

These ought also to be irritable, so they grow erect
By being gently stroked with your finger,
Which is a necessary quality of their giving milk.

Whose goodness may be tried,
1. by its colour, which ought to be rather bluish.
2. by the smell,as it should be void of any.
3. by the taste, not by any means salt or bitter.
4. by its consistence,when thin it is always better than thick.

Therefore a drop of it on your nail, ought easily to run off
On inclining it. Even on shaking the finger hastily,
There ought not to remain the least white streak on your nail.That milk is good, which neither fletheth abroad at every stiring, nor will hang fast when you turn it downward, but that which is between both is best,
5. by the touch, because not any pain ought to be felt, On letting a drop of it fall into the eye.
6. with rennet, for if the milk gives much cheese, You may judge it to be good for nothing.
7. by keeping it several hours in a glass,if it gives much cream, It will also prove bad, the lighter it will be found.
8. by the age, because the older the milk,
The more unhealthy it will be.

She should have a large and airy chamber, tolerably kept warm,
As also to prevent the nurse and child from getting the itch.

Except when it cannot be avoided, she ought always to cover
Her breasts very well: small beer may be drank at pleasure, so that she may accustom the child unto mirth,
But neither sour, new, nor stale, and not by any means,
When drawn over night-wine, brandy, ale or coffee
Ought by no means to be given her.

White coral increases the supply.

Do you insist upon a certain region?

No, provided that she’s not from Lorraine.

If the nurse be squint-eyed, she cannot look upon the child but side ways. They say that Michelangelo was nursed by a stonemason’s wife.

That the royal prince has one each night in rotation,
One for suckling,rocking , holding and walking.

At the appropriate time, let the teat be anointed
As with aloes, or wormwood, or mustard,
Or soot steeped in water.The way Licidas rushes
To see if you have milk, it would seem the rake
Is interested in the baby. His mother came to see him
With her cousin with the moustache, and I would bet,
Philis, that he has fathered it.

From this Issue

Hammer of the Scots

by Karl Miller

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