‘radiant with bovine life’ (E.M. Forster)
‘It’s raining but I don’t believe it’s raining’ (G.E. Moore)
Docks, nettles, self-sown
thunderstruck by their own
boughs gone scissor-handed.
The cow is there, now.
Do not move suddenly
or she’ll scare.
Scrutinise the lining
of flies. First thistles
then she tongues down a slip
of overhanging willow.
She is there.
A woman sleeps rough
by the chained punts, money-spiders
criss-crossing her back.
Attempting steps down
from Fellows’ Court,
the poet, grand old man,
white-haired with stick.
The living image of my mother
whispers to her companion:
‘I like walking full stop.’
High summer’s over.
The great elms motionless,
yellow blotches on their leaves.
I’m there – in the meadow –
I have proved it to myself.
I’m not down some
off the old Kite
nor chalked up
and ICES beneath
of canned peas
there since rationing
nor standing any week-day
dusk by a temporary
bus stop on Pound Hill
over the drop handlebars
of some five-gear
nor behind a crack-pot
hollyhock by spiked black
railings past the U.L.
but simply blistering off
that have collected
according to the laws
of surface tension
on the bonnet
of a permit-holder’s Polo
down Grange Road
contemplating that turn
up to the Maltings
What rough beast…
Jon Tipple in ‘The Granta’
all randy laughter, Eraserhead hair,
fingering shrapnel from the till,
collaring a chilled draught Guinness.
Love’s bitter mystery…
The trace of down
on an arm can do it. T-bone, fillet, rump.
‘Green leaf or mixed, dressing for the salad, sir ?’
Grant me an old man’s frenzy.
What else have I to spur me into song ? Ah, there, across
the mill pond towards the new Pizzeria,
those punters with the pole playing silly buggers
right next to that swan.
Ground Floor between Fiction and Poetry.
The second time in as many days. It comes at me.
The smell from where she sits between Travel
and Crime is enough to make browsers wrinkle
features in ‘what is that ?’ disgust. She stinks.
Because clothes for sleeping rough, layer upon
layer, are being walked in, underneath the visible
leather-sheen great-coat and cap. Auschwitz ?
That liberation shot at the wire ? No, here, beneath
the 3 For 2 CD offers in the Borders Summer Sale.
The truth is, she impregnates every last page of verse:
the entire Carcanet list, the brand new Armitage,
the Collected Muldoon, the Selected O’Hara, the new
Billy Childish, 101 Poems That Will Change Your Life —
you name it. We all track on by, join a queue
to pay by plastic. She exits into Market Square, freeing
up from under the cap her long streak-grey hair,
making her way beyond us. I keep finding her
days later, unremitting, unbearable still, in page
after page of Paul Celan or Miklós Radnóti.
I’d made it — broken the back
of Anna Karenina on a three day week
of eight hour shifts, barely conscious
of the world out there: the lines at Grunwick,
the National Front, the exiled Shah. All done
in top floor digs on the Lensfield Road, a room
with a view over a carpark and a criminal
Edwardian fire escape. Oliver’s army was here
to stay. Talk over the chicken chow mein
was of ‘narodnost’, commitment to the cause.
Then to the place of labour: working flat out
on bed or floor, a production line of borstal specials
and Maxwell House brews from the communal tin.
Snow drifted through
the second night;
an easterly wind jittering the string
of the primitive extractor fan. History
was one vast steppe. By dawn, water
at Hobson’s Choice was laminated in ice.
My classic set in Linotype Pilgrim fell apart
at the death– individual leaves came away
in my hands from the creased black spine.
The only thing to stick was an image of Kitty
and Levin under the Milky Way before the run
of blank sheets you get at the very end.
a place to graze the eye
note the levels
here a shimmer
of springtime buds
the glaze of mist
you point out to me
carved in stone
a bird stilled
on a college wall
but quiet now
from a lilac bush
badly in need
of cutting back
ups and leaves
for Coe Fen
on to the place
where rivers join
A stone wyvern –
weighed a ton.
Midnight prank there come dawn.
Snow dusted the college lawn.
We knelt, shaking.
Then it was done.
Peter Carpenter has a New and Selected Poems forthcoming from Smith/Doorstop in 2012, following five previous collections. He is a regular essayist and reviewer for London Magazine and The North. He was Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Reading during 2007-08, was made a Visiting Fellow at the University of Warwick in 2000, and has taught at Tonbridge School since 1992. He co-directs Worple Press.