It was a very good year; A Wild Regret Appeared!; John Hall’s Remedy; The Wood-Chipper
It was a very good year
Hope is a blister-plaster on the sole of the city,
but a new day brings new socks, whispering their zen
pronouncements between my toes. Even Cain,
having wandered himself raw, was finally permitted to sit
in the face of the moon, its freehold denizen.
Sometimes nothing is bad. When Kane
unmasked, he was bulldog-bald with black eyeshadow. Not a zit
or scar or blemish hidden; the kind of ugly mug that’s a dime a dozen,
God’s forgiveable lapse—like when a boss uproots you to Spokane
or any other region’s second city
and the bars are passable, the parks still green. Kaizen
bulldozes underpasses; schools replace the cane
with demerits, then counselling. There’s hope in electricity,
the arc of history, learning that the Danish word for turtle is en
skildpadde, meaning “shield-toad”—in all of the arcane
byways of joy by which we stumble on what isn’t shit
about this world. Sure, heroes milkshake duck, Constable Frozen
sullies childhoods, but when I cane
each midnight middleway, I scorch this city’s
backroads with my clichéd French driving instructor, when he calls out zen
we SLAM ze brake—oh inexplicably not-yet-disbarred Phillippe, ze ’urricane
of ’arfleur, high priest of obscene velocity,
together we coast corners so smoothly I approach zazen
and all I breathe is bliss and novocaine.
Again. Again. Back to the source. Op cit. Is
anything more perfect than that Portuguese chocolate milk? Then
take me back to Lydia’s makeshift flat in Vauxhall, take me to Cockaigne.
Oh eleven-thirty dusk in Trondheim, Stockholm’s water gold: the cities
that remind me to hope when
all other hopes I’ve nurtured bend in rain like cane,
oh Birmingham, Helsinki, Rome—another day hops on its brand-new bicycle
without a care for any thief or thieves.
A Wild Regret Appeared!
In the library, behind the study carrels
offering 24-hour access to a certain
mitigated hope, a dress with cherries on
drifting round a corner. It’s super effective.
Between enclosures at the nature centre
where inadequate maps place redundant fauna,
I use a joke that doesn’t land at the right time.
Drips of ice cream fall on an ankle boot.
Across the ergonomic lecture theatre,
a single false eyelash on a raked desk: I fainted.
I can hook my wrist, but there’s some things you can’t capture.
Now I want to see precisely four people or no one.
Not every creature has the same defences,
and I’m not famed for my deployment order.
I meant to kiss you by the herbaceous border.
Instead I said: “Hey, look, a herbaceous border!”
In the wrong light, conifers look sentimental.
I’m thinking of making up someone called Jennifer.
If I squint from here, I can see the new tenant repainting.
Shutters open with a sound like a kiss: two faces coming apart.
John Hall’s Remedy
This is the tincture
I made for my daughter
to ease her distress
and to bring down her fever:
the roots of asparagus,
orris and madder
and parsley and fennel,
the bark of an elder
were boiled and strained,
to which I added senna
and cinnamon, aniseed.
Then I took sugar
and rhubarb infused
into chicory water.
I mixed it all up
as she lay in distemper
and gave seven spoonfuls
and prayed it would help her,
but all I could give
was the best I could offer.
Oh nutmeg, oh pepper,
oh oil of amber,
you are all I have
in the way of shelter.
I trust in the Lord
and my good wife Susanna,
my skill as a doctor,
my love as a father.
Friend, if you want the thing to start
its grizzly burr, its choke and blurt,
first you must feed its churning heart
a tribute log,
Whatever gift you choose to bring
(ash, elder, alder, anything)
it will repay in shivering
Next, you will come to sift the grit
its belly volleys up in drifts
that scatter as you stoop to lift
one strange, smooth bead:
Such, some might argue, is the best
way to make meaning from the mess
which every day we compass,
the unwieldy whole:
But when I hear that cry again—
the motor pinioned to its pain—
this cannot be the only way plain
truth can sound: