Poems from Reactions

One Over
Hugh's Boomerang
PVC Trousers
The Cows in My Garden Swim in Moonlight
There are Many Ways to Leave a Millionaire
Hot Dog
Mariachi
look at you
The Red Zone
Turning Into Men Again
Into the Rain
At Evvo's, on Newport Road

Esther
Morgan






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Poems from Reactions 1

One Over

Stiff faces spill from cars into silence,
herd up the churchyard, shy away like sheep.
The same crowd looks immaculate, but tense,
that danced right through the night and fell asleep
under the marquee at Jacko's wedding
last May. We blew across the lawn - bright
crumpled litter - and drove home laughing.
Now we are all too awake but chalk white,
standing beside the hole we want to shun.
Suddenly you're there in my dry mind's eye,
raising your sparkling glass - a wry oration,
wishing the newly-weds good luck, goodbye.
The mute grave catches my breath, mouth open
wide to welcome the tongue of your spoken
life.

by Helen Oswald

 

Hugh's Boomerang

A haze of eucalyptus oil
in sun-fermented vapour dazes
khaki trees to blue

and lubricates the air; a hunting
boomerang slips through it, winging
skew as a drunken fruitbat,

its barely slowing whuh whuh whuh
two coarse-thewed copter blades come loose.
A hunter's lethal spiral

is spun here to a tourist's toy
skimming the foreign green of trees
that know a leaner sun.

(O land of subtle colours, land
of large air, you cannot catch:
I was not cleanly thrown.)

by Kona Macphee

 

PVC Trousers

make you creak when you walk.
Try to hide that from your father.
Try to hide that from the taxi driver
who looks like your father.
Hide it with a coat, laughter.

Let loose at the club
pretending you're naked, shameless.
Pretending they're not the first
thing on your mind.
That you're walking not strutting.

Have your arse squeezed,
legs smoothed.
Spill a pint.
You're waterproof.

You seem too perfect.
Make sure you speak
of the seat, the tautness,
your father.

Wear them again next week.

by John McCullough


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Poems from Reactions 2

The Cows in my Garden Swim in Moonlight

in paths mapped out by the stars.
They move in single file,
slow silhouettes in the moonlit dark.
Their breath warms the air in clouds
and low music fills the air,
tugging at the edges of my dreams.
I breathe in the scent of their skin
and see the stars reflected in their eyes.

We are navigated to pastures
that sing with the sounds of the night.
I stand still as the cows pass me by.
They are silent now, and seem to move as one,
padding softly in the long grass,
dissolving in the space between night and day.
And all day the stars are blinded by the sun.

by Helen Ivory

 

There are Many Ways to Leave a Millionaire and This is One

Be French and 36 and not pregnant again.
Peel off the thigh-high boots that cost him an arm and a leg,
Wrestle your mock-croc coat into the ornamental pond,
Watch it sink under thick algae skin.

The snow is light as a falling eyelash.
The hothouse is a long summer bottled in glass
Three miles - longer than you ever thought you'd have to walk again.

Your husband is on a seed-collecting mission in Uganda.
Imagine a thousand deaths in shades of jungly green -
Stung, stunned, man-trapped, cooked as sacrificial meat,
His chest is a bloody trampoline for the gorillas,
All that's left is a heap of bones licked clean.

It won't work, but run a stiletto heel against your wrist,
Knock, knock your boot against the glass
To catch the attention of the rare coal orchid,
Fumbled and abused into life and born to be named after you.

Inside there's a chair of mossy wicker and a radio left on.
You hear polite applause brush the yellow teeth of a piano.
You are colder than winter. Take your shoe to each pane of glass.
Watch the rains come to shatter the Amazon.

by Miranda Yates

 

Hot Dog

The smell of hot dogs reminds him
of how he used to like them, how long it's been
since he had one and with plenty of time,
five minutes to kill and five minutes
to get to the interview five minutes early,
he joins the queue. Orders a jumbo,
agrees to onions, foolishly adds brown sauce
which slips off the sausage and gathers
into a slick which starts to drip out of the roll,
dribbles over his cuff, cries on his tie, runs
down his shirt. The streaks on his chin
he smears with a tissue, spreads to his cheek,
even manages to rub some on his forehead,
and with time escaping, as the last slither of onion
skids down his jacket, he has to run.
It's further than he thought but, arriving late,
still has to wait, the secretary telling him to sit
and stay, offering him a chair in the exact spot
where the sun cuts across the room. Left alone,
panting, pulling at his collar, gently frying in the heat,
he realises he smells of onions, find his fingers
tainted with grease, just as the boss appears
and wants to shake him by the hand.

by Dean Parkin


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Poems from Reactions 3

Mariachi

is not all je t'aime and sunshine.
The old women, always old women, refusing
black lace shawls, calling it something else.

is probably from Marriage, the French again,
another funny verb, another wedding.
There is more to Mexico than meets the eye. It

is one of your favourites. Guitars,
violins, to have, to be, je t'aime. Old women
in blue dresses, keeping time to Je t'aime

is on the tape stuck in the stereo
of the truck as you drive through Mexico
to somebody else's wedding. Sunshine

is burning your ears and the skin around your funny bone;
arm out the window making shadows like birds
in the desert.

is not just a street band, the sons of old women in black lace shawls
at a small country wedding in Mexico. Call it something
else, your tape melting in the sunshine, call it music, love.

by Andrea Holland

 

look at you

london, with your
shaved boys, your candy buses, your black
corpuscles

your sleepless drag their blankets
lift them high off the wet pavement,
their clean dogs keep a solemn pace behind

in a west end alley restaurant the maître d'
greets all like a temple guardian, his palms
joined

a cluster of men in black and white tiger print
suits hatch from a black rolls royce

look at you, london, your body alive
with seduced australians, gardens and streetlight and
beautiful secret people in coats

underground, blue veins, red arteries of cable
frantically unravel alongside the speeding tube,
lives undone

look at you, you tight up price, you
scaly fin, you broke, hemmed up lush, all
malachite and cheap glitter

even the pigeons hurry to ground, race on foot, join
the rush into your bonfire

even they will make airborne confetti of themselves
just so they can be lit by you

by Morgan Yasbincek

 

The Red Zone

I need to get back into the Red Zone
because I left something in the apartment
ten, twenty, thirty years ago.
And this little row of pants lining the alleyway,
handwashed, sparkling . . .
I need to climb these slate stairs.
Has anyone bothered with the locks?
And I thought the city so quiet
until helicopters drifted over my shoulder.
I need to get into that apartment
with its high ceilings, its whorey curtains,
the bat still flapping in the wardrobe,
a baby on the table.
Did someone leave a baby on the table?

by Julian Stannard


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Poems from Reactions 4

Turning Into Men Again

This morning men are returning to the world,
waiting on the sides of blackened pavements
for a rickshaw to carry them away
on the sharp pins and soles of their dancing feet.

They must go to the houses of their childhoods
to be soothed. They must wait for the wheels
to appear from the thin arm of road.
They must catch the crack in the sky

where the light shifts from light to dark
to light again, like the body in the first stages of love;
angering, heightening, spreading.
Bent knees, bent breath.

Now they are moving, changing colours.
Women are standing at the thresholds of doors,
holding jars of oil, buckets of hot water and salt,
calamine, crushed mint, and drink.

Some crawl into their mother ’s laps,
collapse against the heavy bosoms of old nannies,
search for the girl who climbed with them
to the tin roof for the first time.

Inside, in the shadows of pillars,
fathers and grandfathers are stepping down
from picture frames with secrets on their lips –
calling the lost in from their voyages.

by Tishani Doshi

 

Into the Rain

If I lean toward the day, toward your scent,
the sheep graze mildly on the slope.
We grow warm with the uphill walk,
the scent of jasmine ripening in the still air.

The sheep graze mildly on the slope,
glancing from time to time at the low field’s buttercups.
The scent of jasmine ripening in the still air –
the cast of your glance is that close.

Glancing from time to time at the low field’s buttercups,
we talk of what we see yet skirt desire.
The cast of your glance is that close.
Rain’s on the new breeze, rain’s underfoot.

We talk of what we see yet skirt desire;
we grow warm with the uphill walk.
Rain’s on the new breeze, rain’s underfoot
if I lean toward the day, toward your scent.

by Carrie Etter

 

At Evvo's, on Newport Road

Beyond ordinary consciousness, says Evvo,
there is a whiteness that may be mystical,
or it may be brain damage. He isn’t sure.
He glimpses it now and then, for milliseconds.
What we often thought was mystical was merely
chemical, he says, so this may be burnt wiring
but it could be the two-way mirror glimpsed
from the perfect angle, and the surprise is such
that each time we see it the angle is lost. Evvo draws
the bubbling water through the cotton wool
into the body of the syringe. They wear togas there,
he says, and he says that’s what makes him suspect
that this white city he has seen . . . oh . . . about seven times . . .
may or may not be real. He wants me to jack up.
It will be fine, he says. First thing you’ll do, he says,
is throw up, feel like shit for a while,
and then . . . and then . . . he hunts for the poetry . . .
you will see the sun break through to illuminate
a small field . . . the one field that had the treasure
in it. I call to him through the bathroom door
as I’m leaving . . . as he is vomiting
his last meal into the toilet bowl . . .
that it was strange to see him again,
so unexpectedly, after all these years.

by Alan Mumford



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