The Witch of Endor

A worried king came to me, lord knows why
to measure his luck against the Philistines.
Strange how an eldritch technique can change
from heresy to dogma for reasons of state –
anyway, for all my murdered sisters I gave
him just enough doubt to put off his aim –
he’ll lay down his sword from anxiety, then
lie down and slide along it, slowly, to rest.
I slaughtered a calf to give precursive thanks
and fed him libation to his own pierced flank.

When the gods ascend from out the earth,
justice sees tyrants come off the worse.

The Flood

The Rain: streaming with direct argument through the air.
The Sea: calm as children swam with their dogs at the whispering surface.
The First Doubts: felt by those who stood by the rivers as they rose.
Torrents: under arches, creaking bridges.
The Water: rising, day on day – perhaps we had hit a galactic cloud of ice, which melted through the plum atmosphere. But it was so relaxing that the scientists lay down, or swam with their dogs in the lakes which were overcoming the cities on the plain.
God: when contacted, denied involvement.
The Priests: unworried, they lay in the belfry and felt the water lap their ears.
The Spire: up out of the water, the church became a rock in the sea, which pierced the bottom of a boat that had been constructed for fun.
The Boat Crew: relaxed. Went into the water slowly and quietly.
Soon: the earth was blue and yet the rain didn’t stop. It poured between the stars in an unknown mechanism, doubtless to do with the meanings imbued in some partial beginning when pure energy thundered out of the centre of things.
Soon: water filled the galaxy, and then the spaces between the galaxies.
Underwater Stars: booming in the depths.
Comets: moving very slowly, leaving trails in the intergalactic ice as it spread in the manner of mould with a dispersed origin.
The Water: perhaps streaming from black holes, connected to another, drowning, diluvian plane.
The Water: glub.
The Water: glub.
The Water: glub.

V.130

Sometimes the heaviest reading
is the lightest – you understand?
Threading a needle envelops
the whole of us, a subtle task –

It is not a wetted slide down
in bright acrylic tubes to pools
It is a staircase and each step
slightly differs in height. Slowness

is an active ideal. I read
the day we spent in Dunstanburgh
and it is complex. Razor bills
and Shags patrol the ruined keep

in the darkness while the basalt
is thrashed by the waves. A staircase
starts halfway up a ruined stack –
The last person to take those stairs

was some unnamed and lost servant.
Yellow gorse patches over hills
which spread to the damp horizon
and fields of rapeseed glow and grow

We have steps to take and relearn
as heat passes into the sky
over the bookshop. And your kiss
stumps me like distant history

V.99

The world is not a game of chess –
A game of chess is not a game
sometimes it’s something more and less
When a world turns on an evening

When rain churns upon the roof tiles
and rain sounds dance inside the ear
and rain worlds are raised from the red
depths of the mind, a damp childhood.

In an oxbow lake three kids act
in a pirate film, and leap out
in the rain, to feel the warm depths
and feel roots in the dark water

touch their legs, and shiver. A fish
a dead fish bobs among the reeds
Its unused eye staring at clouds
dark with the shadow of water.

In a film a neat cottage stands
by the sea, and an old man gives
advice that, being trite, this time
because of something deep, and past

returning, brings with it a roar
like the sun checkmates the dark sea
and castles on the sand, kids hands
had made, are washed away. I love you

V.98

Eggs salivate in the pan – and
all mistakes that remain are mine
THE WORLD IS ALL THAT IS THE CASE
is no materialist take –

I am condemned simply by not
having violence trapped in my name
as a deed weaves you to the state
as a wave talks upon the beach

At night I play videogames
at night the storm rolls over us
inside us in static, forget
it says, forget the world, and fear.

In the day I go to the car
which has cut us off from the past
through rhythm and distance, and dream
(in trying to claw some short rest)

of moments in videogames
where I could have performed better
these performances being real
(At least outlined like a series

of logical atoms.) The game
is all that is the case, and I
have made the world mine. Thus I pass
over everything in silence

V.92

Come to me now, being of dark
body, smooth and night sky-like. Come
being with a galaxy head
and lie with me under the moon

The night is passing too slowly
the clouds ensure a tempered glow
My window is fluorescent, dull
and shelves stretch to the roof above

But I have no one to work it out
come, body of the supple stars
touch my skin so I may feel you
the softness from which I am built.

You have lain in the sky too long
The moon breast, and the other, sharp
sun hidden under the planet
veil, I draw you back for long hours

The stars are the hair on your back
and I smell the warm air which climbs
up, having held your body, now
in my lungs, I hold your hot scent

and the metal in my fillings
melts, draining down my throat. Come now
sex of the night with the landscape
achieve your end with me and sleep

I Would like to Pay for your Chips, by Cécile Coulon (2018, Le Castor Astral)

It began at that so particular time of the night
where the end of one day bumps up against the start of another;
I went out in the rain, I was hungry.
The storm unleashed its warm hail on the flapping shutters,
no one else was walking in the streets
which were slick and seeped down to the square at the bottom
where the fountain overflowed.
Normally bony dogs would be having a bath there
but now, no barking, no whistles.
The night, the rain, the heat.
I crossed the road. A guy waved from the other side:
two fingers and a mouth ajar to ask
if I had something to smoke, I threw up an open hand
flapping, like the shutters, to show him that no,
and I went on, face buried in my oversize hoody,
hair full of the smell of a day
that wasn’t quite done.
By the sign, a young girl in a pink skirt and a guy
with a haircut that recalled the best moments
of Agnés Varda, waited their turn to order a kebab
with extra cheese.
The girl looked at the mounted flat-screen
on the wall showing clips of american pop,
the guy threw and caught a plastic bottle behind him
turning it over skilfully.
After they’d paid, the owner said
“Sorry for the wait”
I’d only just arrived, so that made me smile;
“a box of chips, with ketchup
okay
you can wait
inside.”
So I waited, standing, leant against the fridge
in front of the empty salad trays.
It was then that a man, soaked to the bone, came in.
I pushed myself aside to let him pass:
his clothes gave off a smell of cement
and cheap alcohol, his hair cropped short, grey,
held water
like the surface of a field at four in the morning.
He ordered.
At the moment I went to pay for my chips, he fixed his eyes,
eyes rounder than the beak of a Flemish rose,
the weak mouth of those tired men who drink
a bit too much and with acceptance –
he looked at me for a while,
and stammered:
“I don’t know what to say to you.”
At first I thought he was winding me up, but all the same,
his eyes, his eyes!
“How’s that?”
He took a great breath, as if each word
tore from him half of a lung:
“I don’t know what to say to you, Miss”
The guy behind the counter listened with one ear
filling the industrial chip trays.
“You don’t have to say anything to me”
I responded, shaking my jumper.
“I don’t know what to say to you because I know who you are.”
The rain left lightly shining grooves, falling
from his skull to the bottom of his nose.
I didn’t know what to say either:
midnight wasn’t far off, I’d come looking for what to expect til morning,
and this guy, perfectly drunk and sound of mind, seemed
about to cave in on himself.
“I know who you are, you write books.
How do you do it?”
“Well, however I can.”
He gave himself a tap on the knees, and then
in one go,
tears, sweat
of the rain which comes from the inside
something humid and sincere came over his look,
already drowning in solitude and the bizarre night.
He turned towards the guy
who folded
the orange trays
with the precision of a dental surgeon.
“I can tell you that I didn’t get soaked tonight for nothing, no way!”
At my back, the fridge hummed.
A light smile installed itself, naturally
between my dimples.
On the counter, my chips were ready, well packed.
I took out my coin
a two euro piece and the drowned man said to me:
“I would like to pay for your chips, if you don’t mind.”
I sighed and left my coin between him and me, then I offered my hand.
He shook it.
“Thanks, mister”
and I left, my bundle of chips on my wrist.
On the way back, the characteristic smell of chip fat
invaded my nostrils, my hair, my clothes.
I will probably never see that man again, or at least, not like that.
Since yesterday, I’ve wanted to write about him, because I wonder
which of us in a few months, in a few years, will be betrayed
by the image they have constructed
of the outside world?
Will it be for others to shake hands
at that hour of the night
for a box of lukewarm chips and an iceless cola?
I would like for poetry to be as natural to those
who surround me as the emotion
that sprang forth that night, before that square
with the improbable ease of moments that might not have been,
but that happened all the same, poorly thought out
overflowing with grace, and impossible words