Poetry

Bomb

They dug up another bomb in Frankfurt today.
The flowing clouds never blinked nor paused
and neither do we.
We pack our bags like we’re heading off on an adventure,
not scared in the slightest,
but I back up my work just in case
and carry it with me in my pocket.
I wake up in a strange bed and listen for a bang.

I sit in the exam room with the Integrationskurs Teilnehmerinnen,
a private fly on a public wall.
It feels offensive to recognise the achievements of someone
who couldn’t read or write her native language this time last year,
but who nevertheless fills in her Geburtsort in a laborious foreign script.
Damascus. Kabul. Samarra.
Not caricatures or ciphers but women
in headscarves and jeans and heavy black dresses.
Who fill this room and
wait until the exam is over so they can pick up their children,
knowing they’ve jumped over one more hurdle
to their Niederlassungserlaubnis in a city
where all the bombs are already safely in the ground.

“Is this the last one?” we ask.
I make fun, but one day it will be
and we’ll never know.
There’ll be no parade, no public holiday,
no Peter Feldmann posed gamely by
the last ever one: Good work, everyone.
Will the earth become kinder?
Will the flowers bloom lighter-headed?
Will we have replaced them by then with something else?

The Egret

On the day she died
an egret flew low over our heads,
each feather sharply shadowed
on its snow-carved wings.

There are pieces of her in me.
The one-sided heat of a gas fire
and the patina on her teaspoons.

The particular cold of a greenhouse in winter.

A small fortune of copper coins
slyly pointed out on the ground,
a hundred lucky days.

The secret places in a church,
and the weight of altar cloths.

Jagged pieces, too, mine now to name
and keep. No longer borrowed, but given.
A sullen silence and words unmeant.
An unsustainable balance. A hedgehog wall.

But if, on the day I die,
someone can mistake my soul for an egret,
I will have lived a good life.

New Rites

My place is empty and my duties undone.
Other people must phone the florist,
scour for photos and pick out the nicest blouses
from the wardrobe, the ones she liked best.
Where am I?

Don’t accuse me of running.
I am not running, I am
walking, walking, walking.
I am pounding the ground in my search for answers.
I have read the flights of woodpigeon flocks
and interpreted the chatter of siskins.
I have followed a buzzard to its secret roost to ask
what does all of this mean?
I have watched a bank vole escape with its life
and still have no answer.

I have read the bones of every story
to understand the sameness
of triumph and loss,
rummaged frantic through all of history,
plucking at its strings and unravelling its threads
to recognise an echo of its vibration, a tinge of its hue.
I have seen how the least of things
can form one constant point in the world even as
the weeks begin again and
begin again.

I haven’t forgotten my duties,
I have only had to invent my own
from this lonely place.

Language Evolves

I am waiting for news at the end of the world
in a high place surrounded by clouds
where the snow falls upwards.

My ears are radar dishes
straining into space
to catch the quiver of dead sounds.
As if there’s a sacred resonance where everything
that has happened is still happening
and if I listen hard enough I can get there.

My tongue is a tree
that grows with the insistence of shark teeth
and green things towards the sun.
The end of the world isn’t far enough away.
There are always new heights to taste
and beyond every cloud is more sky.

So moulded to my own ends,
is it any wonder these changed ears and tongue
can no longer understand or be understood?

The signal comes and is misinterpreted.
The answer is given and all the letters are wrong.

City Music II

The purest note pierces the grubbiest corner
of the Hauptbahnhof shopping concourse.

Something in the heart of the escalator
has caught,
a moving shudder, a feeling gasp,

and a piccolo burst of postmodern birdsong
slides breathy-rosined through the air
at sensitive intervals.

A masterful dissonance
falls like water from icicles
and we stand quietly, carried at measured speed

through this art installation,
our ears barely able to take it all in.

Beneath our feet the metal
ascends in darkness,
relives its birth over and over.

City Music I

One of those buildings
that you’re never quite sure what it’s for.
Offices, probably,
but then there are those art projects
filling the ground floor rooms,
the paintings pinned to the windows.
A college? Night classes?
You’ll never know now,
because the insides have been sucked dry,
those windows shattered in a frozen wave
of sea-coloured shards around the perimeter,
as though the builders have picked up the building,
taken it and shaken it, tapped it
like a sheaf of news against the ground.
The outside layer has been stripped off,
leaving strange hollows
and a dangling dancer’s jewellery of metal
that rings like bells in the wind.
What it was is lost,
but just for now it is a performance,
a musical improvisation of metal and air.

Lessons

I have decided that today I will smile.
It’s raining and yesterday I made soup
and stayed away from the news,
so today I step neatly out of ways
and wait my turn,
and when I avoid collision with a small child
trailing like a kite
I smile,
in case he looks back,
to show him no harm done
and nothing to worry about.
We’re all going in the same direction.

From this angle the clock which is five minutes fast
is only one side of a three-quarters right clock.

The child stands with his family
in a triangle on the escalator
and I wait with all the time in the world
behind them, beneath the red shadow of my train.
There’ll be another along.

They see theirs a tick too late,
hurry up as the doors close,
but the father has a trick.
He shows his son how to use the world to his advantage,
like any animal teaching its child to hunt, use tools, tell good from bad.

He slips his hand fearlessly between the train’s jaws
and waits–
don’t fight or it will bark at you or run, spooked–
and the doors open obediently as a shell.

Poem – A Break-Up Letter

I don’t do this very often, so let’s get it over with. Am I happy with it yet? Not really, but when was the last time I was happy with something I wrote? Exactly.


A Break-Up Letter

So firstly, England, yes, I miss you,
and I think there’s part of me that
always will. I told myself I
wouldn’t be so sentimental
but it’s true. I’m still not
coming back.

It wasn’t you-or-me, we simply
grew apart. We never would have
worked. And, oh, I told myself
I wouldn’t, but you ought to know –
you never were supportive, and
remember when you laughed at me
and told me my opinions were –
enough of that.

Of course we’ll still be friends. I’ll visit
every year, and see you in
old haunts and new, keep up with all
your news. And thank you, too. You let
me go so easily, without
a fuss or radge or song and dance,
just set me free.

I wish I could have left you in
some loving arms, but you’ll find
someone else. Just let them in.
If I could name my own successor…
but who’s good enough for you?
I’m choosing everyone who is
what I could never be. The poets,
doctors, politicians, those who
drive the buses, wild-eyed thinkers,
tailors, those who carry vanished
worlds within them. All the people
reaching out to you, who see things
in you even you cannot. Be kind
to them. Be worthy of their love.

First Terrible Poem of 2017

I’m reading a book of poetry right now, and I guess I just couldn’t help myself.

Continue reading

Valentine’s Poem

This is the poem I wrote for Spuggy and gave him on the morning of our wedding <3

OK, I meant to give it to him then but I forgot because I was so nervous. I gave it to him that night…

From the Bride to the Bridegroom on their Wedding Day

Your bride-to-be’s a scaredy cat. Howay,
Let’s call it what it is, from truth not swerve.
The only saving grace is that, today
My worries may be termed “the bridal nerves”.
The flowers might all wilt, the plates be smashed,
The clocks might change or all the dates be wrong.
I might get down the aisle to find I’ve flashed
Our guests a sight they won’t forget for long.
The bridesmaid might get lost, the rings forgot,
I might get stage fright when I make my vows.
Aye, when you think about it, quite a lot
Might go wrong ‘twixt the honeymoon and now.
I wonder if you know – I’m sure you do –
The one thing I’m not nervous of is you.