In the office, the slender plot-lines on the charts
conspire to veer the wrong way, down, and cross the border
into the rough terrain of in-the-red. Now heads
will roll, he knows, and of course it’s always the foot soldiers first,
no matter how loyal and true, how many years they’ve served.
On the 5:20 home, his mercury’s rising again:
he curses the plague of the mobile phone, and in his mind
the stubby handset clutched by Mister I’M ON THE TRAIN
a few rows down spontaneously explodes, takes out
that oafish head, and all admire the smashed remains,
the lovely splash of scarlet on the window pane.
This evening his wife’s indifferent back in bed is turned
to him, a bracket round the start of private thoughts.
He sleeps a while, then waking sweaty from bad dreams,
he doesn’t sleep. The embery glow of digits on
their squat clock-radio engulfs the corner of
the room, as though a private hatch to hell were waiting
open behind the bedside drawers: a crimson light
in the dark might be a guiding beacon or a warning –
it all depends on whether you know how lost you are.
Today, a mass assembly in the camp
before we get our bromide-tasting tea;
the visiting colonel scolds us, once again:
A military offence to get VD!
We stand in ordered silence for a while,
then Private Fenton, ever the lig, exclaims
Will we be clapped in irons, sir? is sent
straight back to the front-line duty for his pains.
Thus discipline and hygiene are restored;
tomorrow, another virgin soldier falls,
and Private Fenton claps his hands around
the shrapnel-wound that used to be his balls.
the mind pursues
a witless grind
beneath this caul
its constant mate
a fleet of thoughts
that race unchecked
but never free
until the day
(so sweet, so far)
when earth rains
down to lift from me
this brain, its choke
of branching veins,
exchange them for
a stone, a tree
Perfect Blue by Kona Macphee
Bloodaxe Books; £7.95
ISBN: 978 1 85224 866 6; pp63
Oh aye, here’s the soft winds; the fifty-five
species of rock dove; the red fringed
dwarf mushroom; the majestic stork; the scalp.
The ten toes of wisdom; the nail varnish
taken up and applied just so; the old corals;
the pink brandies of the lips; the lappy gullies;
the fronded inlets; the bays where salt tigers go;
the soft winds; the calves and the shins
curved like a moon; the wicked cross currents;
the tug of the shallows; raccoons and their germs;
the soft winds travelling part way there and back;
the lips; the teeth; the filthy dirty fancy looks.
Wolf Called to Bird
I feel hot – do you feel hot? I’m thinking
a shower – damn! it’s hot. Icky.
What the devil’s got into me?
Maybe take a step into a chest-
freezer, cool me down a little –
hold down that lid, just you be a dear.
Those angel blooms sure do look nice up there
hanging off that big tree.
How about you pick a posy?
Women like that sort of thing.
Damn! Why can’t I get cool?
There’s a river running down past my neck here.
If I was your boyfriend I’d take care of you;
wouldn’t treat you bad at all.
I’d love to take care of you (rubbing
his crotch). You look so good
(licking his lips). I’d make sure
you got (drooling) spoiled. Keep you safe.
Damn it! What are you looking at up there
furry-face? I bet you can see
all the way to Grand Isle;
a couple of old codgers
leafing through some cookbook.
Just you get down here and give me a good time.
(after the Gond)
My face is full of sin
His mouth is an axle turn
My lips are a spanner in the works
His fingertips are a cocker spaniel
My palms are white as snow
His teeth are lovely as marble
My eyelids are wild as a Turkish dervish dance His back is blond as a stone
My mouth is yellow as cornmeal
His mouth is beautiful as a river
He is the flint
But he has not got the better of me,
His flint has become the touchstone of my soul.
Dirty Looks by Cheryl Follon
Bloodaxe Books; £7.95
ISBN: 978 1 85224 865 9; pp63