The Poetry Exam
The hall begins to fill. The students sit.
She sets her papers neatly on the desk
and rolls the lines around her mouth, flits
from word to word, moves her lips. The rest
is left to memory. The tests are stacked
for passing out on perfect, icy lines
of tables set in single file, tables packed
away when half-right answers whine
In Place of a Bio
Can we not take all these prizes as given?
The awards, fellowships and accolades
that greeted an awaited first book, the driven
milestones of a talent in spades?
Must everyone describe the same lookouts
from Parnassus’ slopes, Calliope’s redoubts?
When all are gods, let the lame smith stand forth:
just for once, couldn’t th ... More
As if all the world’s ravel, its bright course
of device were to stream through a pinhole in the side
of a box and emerge into a corridor of Delft tiles
on which tiny figures from childhood or a dream semaphore
at my self-portrait, ghostly pentimento in its dun
vestments, and the servant drying linen in the dunes;
the images unclear, inverted ... More
‘You Never Said It’s A Race, Dad!’
Oh, but it’s a race all right, trust me, kid, that
hill he almost managed to beat you to the
top of (‘Rubbish!’) challenged him more than you, de-
spite all the picnic
stuff he made you carry in your Batman rucksack.
It’s a race to find all the spare parts, becoming
antiques, puzzling kids in the bike sh ... More
In the warm dusk, pink and purple arcs
appear above the old town’s lanes
as jugglers toss their clubs outside
a gallery’s bright, acrylic interior.
Petunias lean from baskets like cheerful spectators
carriage horses wait in plumed rows
for tourists from the ship that dominates the wharfs
below. A couple and their son pause
with ... More
There should be a name for the special case
in which we say ‘the crowd marvelled’,
if the roar that rose
over the back of the stadium walls
over the rain-shingled streets
conveys the sense that what mattered
on the pitch, or the court, happened
in the eyes that watched it;
that indicates a place has changed
fo ... More
Thirty years of dreams are stored
in notebooks, written down on waking.
Her daughter’s kept them all,
imagining her mother moves
among those shimmering and scribbled
layers on a bedside table.
Those narratives live on, she’s sure,
in all their raw hallucinations,
their sudden runs of ecstasy,
their weird humili ... More
If all we’re told is right
how wearisome He’ll find it;
all those fine gradations,
those mitigating factors.
Psychopaths are easy
but who are we to say?
The virtuous are harder,
their sin of subtle pride,
their svelte self-satisfaction.
The normal are the worst,
one day a fine donation,
next day a little nip ... More
The honours list has been announced,
recipients are ‘humbled’.
Three jet fighters, adolescent,
fly past proving nothing.
Fireworks later on are promised.
None of this requires
my serious attention.
How many million barbecues?
Our tall ships and our
sixty thousand years
attempt a sort of ba ... More