Poem in which Arjen reads a poem on an escalator

(for Arjen Duinker)
Arjen would like to read a poem on an escalator.
Because the festival organisers have not arranged
for translations into any lingua franca
it is unclear to many of us whether
it is a poem about an escalator or not.
Although loquacious on many topics
on this matter of the pertinence of the escalator
Arjen remains silent.

There is only one escalator in the city of Durres
and it is in the new shopping mall
so everyone involved in the festival
has to go and hang out at the mall
congregating at the foot of this escalator which
Arjen ascends, reading.

Because it is quite a short escalator
he then has to get off the up escalator
and onto the down escalator
then off the down escalator and on again
without pausing.

Because it is not a short poem
this has to happen several times
during which various members of the Albanian public
get on the escalator too
and stand for the ride blinking at
the back of his reciting head
or pass, staring into
his incomprehensibly speaking face,

either seeing or not seeing
that for the length of this unknown poem
they, we, the mall, and especially the escalator,
have been drawn into a kind of respiration
the rising and falling of the breast of an idea
sleeping in the heart of every escalator
the interpretation of which
we still scarcely know how to begin.

W.N. Herbert

Poem in which the anthology’s lacunae are accounted for

The Emperor who ordered history reset.
The Emperor who ‘read ten thousand scrolls
and still this day arrived’, (his overthrow),
‘that’s why I’m burning them.’
The chickens roosting in the library during plague years.
Carelessness with tea stoves. One fire still unsolved.
The governor who made
his gibbering cousin head librarian.
The roof unfixed.
The crack that germinated
from a thumbnailed placemarker,
and the caldera of blotch which wrecked
the scrolls we moved by barge
the year they changed the capital.
All of you who went on feeding the monkeys
after we put up the sign.
The retrospective censors, multipliers
of edict and decree, cheerleaders for decency.
Our vanished caretaker’s suspiciously bulging lunchbox.
That endless winter.

John Clegg

Poem in which I gouge out his eyes with a soup spoon

A glorious Morticia,
my lips a study
in sense of occasion.
I spread my off-
white body above him,
soft as mosquito netting.

Chemically treated,
abundantly cunning.
I do not brandish,
but grasp like a nettle.
I want to cut him
as a diamond cuts glass;
bounce his head
off every curb
from Bogside to Brixton.

But there is a better idea,
an etiquette of scraping.
The spoon is sanitary and deaf,

He lolls in lotus-eating cosh.
My punches do not wake him.
Green-fingered as a gardener,
I begin my ministrations.

It isn’t that I hate him.
But God,
that ornamental pedantry!
That Magdalen drawl!
That fish-eating sneer!
Can I really not tell
demitasse from parfait?

And how he made
making love
an act of gap-year heroism;
a fatuous Samaritan,
who condescends to fuck me.

I grew tired of being patronised;
dispensing hand-wash mercies
for the dry-clean only care
of his Old Etonian ego.

A glorious Morticia,
I draw on gloves like a sawbones.
And with barbarian gusto
I scooped to conquer, smiling.

Fran Lock

Poem in Which, in Which, in Which

In which a couple of lines will be read which came, perhaps, from the Evil One.
In which the reader learns that this story is told not from forethought, but through a common chance of life.
In which are contained divers reasons why a man should not write in a hurry.
In which the author makes small progress in his journey; but wherein he endeavours to make amends in other ways.
In which the polite reader may very possibly find an image of himself; and concluding with a piece of advice especially intended to go round the upper circles.
In which a fairy in a cotton-print dress is introduced.
In which the affection of a humble friend manifests itself.
In which comes a wind which blows nobody good.
In which ‘misfortunes never come singly.’
In which some light is thrown upon some circumstances which were before rather mysterious.
In which we change the scene, and the sex of our performers.
In which a point of some delicacy is started.
In which much is developed.
In which a radical change of atmosphere is at once noticed.
In which there is much joy and some work.
In which the reader assists at some religious services, intermixed with dancing and sundry recreations.
In which we enjoy three courses and a dessert.
In which the party receives a new impetus.
In which a sudden stop is put to the music.
In which a heavenly witness appears who cannot be cross-examined, and before which the defense utterly breaks down.
In which the reader will perceive that in some cases madness is catching.
In which the last act of a comedy takes the place of the first.
In which the readerkin will, if he has an ounce of brains, begin to catch the inevitable denoumong of the imbroglio.
In which the author himself makes his appearance on the stage.
In which post-mortem processions are spoken of.
In which is shewn how the torch of hope blazes to the last, and makes around it an atmosphere of light and life.
In which the author became convinced that he was no longer upon the earth.
In which the Sphinx sleeps forever.

1 Cosette, 1862, Victor Hugo, trans. Charles K. Wilbour.
2 Lady Beauty, or Charming to Her Latest Day, 1882, Alan Muir.
3 A History of New-York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, 1821, Washington Irving.
4 Rambles in the Footsteps of Don Quixote, 1837, Henry D. Inglis.
5 Adventures of Bilberry Thurland, 1836, Charles Hooton.
6 Jessie Trim, 1874, Benjamin Leopold Farjeon.
7 Margaret Ravenscroft, or Second Love, 1835, James Augustus St John.
8 Vagabondia, 1884, Frances Hodgson Burnett.
9 Otterstone Hall, 1884, Urquhart Atwell Forbes.
10 Henrietta Temple, 1837, Benjamin Disraeli.
11 Snarleyyow, or the Dog Fiend, 1837, Frederick Marryat.
12 The Life and Adventures of George St Julian, the Prince of Swindlers, 1844, Henry Cockton.
13 Was He Successful?, 1863, Richard B. Kimball.
14 The Little Red Chimney, Being the Love Story of a Candy Man, 1914, Mary Finley Leonard.
15 Julia Ried, 1872, Isabella Macdonald Alden.
16 Asmodeus in New-York, 1868, Ferdinand Longchamp.
17 Vanity Fair, 1848, William Makepeace Thackeray.
18 His Lordship’s Leopard, 1900, David Dwight Wells.
19 Haunted Hearts, 1864, Maria Susanna Cummins.
20 Sevenoaks, a Story of Today, 1875, Josiah Gilbert Holland.
21 Sir Launcelot Greaves, 1760, Tobias Smollett.
22 The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, 1859, George Meredith.
23 The Green Overcoat, 1912, Hilaire Belloc.
24 The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, 1749, Henry Fielding.
25 Sense, or Saturday-Night Musings and Thoughtful Papers, 1868, Brick Pomeroy.
26 Tom Bowling, 1841, Frederick Chamier.
27 Armata: A Fragment, 1817, Thomas Erskine.
28 The House of the Sphinx, 1907, Henry Ridgely Evans.

Erik Kennedy

Poem in which aliens invade my bedroom

with ray guns gaping
……………at my chest,
with a membraneless shape
……………floating dark on dark
and you’d say,
…………..drink a glass of water,
go back to bed.

And if that sound is not rat scuffle
…………..or upstairs flats
but the tearing of worlds
…………..choking greys from motherships,

all distress signals
…………..run off-script
because you are the one
…………..in the patchy home videos,

hungry anecdotes,
…………..the black-splattered myth
that once held me,
…………..lighter than rain.

Poem In Which The Wasps Want You

their wings, done and then undone,
hourglass abdomens sexily gloved
in faux-fur, satin, like thimble-sized
vibrating Marilyn Monroes

they drone above the black jam
of swatted, smeared brethren
to butt their massing face
against the fuchsia glass and catch you

–you, whose saliva speckles
the Fanta can they’d thrill to drown in,
whose fist, slick with snow pollen
from an ice-cream Everest, looms
in fever dreams, split baubles,
their conical voyeur eyes

the garden is a bathhouse
pitch-thick with swarms masticating
on thoughts of you, your perfumed spritz

your Polaroid sweats in the nest
of which their boundless enamour is made

Matt Haigh

Poem In Which It Is 1981

In which Princess Diana’s New Romantic wedding dress,
“Ghost Town” by the Specials
and getting sunburnt on a beach in South Devon loom large.
In which there is a big misunderstanding
and the days darken very darkly into autumn
and there is an evening when rage collides with hopelessness.
In which the hospital glares white.
In which there are cubicles with mauve plastic curtains.
In which there are drips and bleeps.
The face of my half-Greek friend in the clinic is beatific
but I won’t mention her by name because even now she might be embarrassed
if she’s not dead.
In which a psychiatrist offers cosy platitudes.
In which I think he’s an idiot.
In which I don’t change my mind about that.

Sheila Hamilton

Poem in which I am captured. Again.

Hearing dogs and jack-clad footfall
they set off, calling “Guard the gold haul.
By the way, we’ll need the rifle.”
Handclap, shoulder, hello bare cell.

Playing Patience, twigs in helmet,
the avant-garde off on some gamut,
I trotted off to squat a moment.
“Not so fast.” Lights out. Godamnit.

Whispers in the hilltop heathers
took away the muddied others,
not to mention all the daggers.
Ambushed, bundled, rats for brothers.

Satan, ooze out of the orchard.
I’m alone and hollow-holstered.
Enlist me in a decent hell-horde.
Cart me off, you thorny bastard.

Kirsten Irving

Poem in Which She Vanishes into Fog

Fog knows the art of slow conceal:
there goes one small and hurried figure

as she flies towards the morning train,
the school of endless tests, the mute hills

of tomorrow. Fog knows how to steal
the child from your eyes, to contain

that life that can’t be yours, a land that lies
beyond you. All shapes must change.

Jacqueline Saphra