Issue 11 – Winter 2006 – Chris McCabe

Chris McCabe

Frank’s Firsts

poem made from some Frank O’Hara first lines


Yes, I am no

Yes it is sickening that we come

Yes, it’s disgusting

Yes, it’s necessary

Yes, it’s true, I arouse strange sights

Yes! Yes! Yes! I’ve decided

Yet a tragic instance may be imminent

Yet while            eat           possible exact     slap

Yippee! She is shooting in the harbour! He is jumping

You are so beautiful and trusting

You are so serious, as if

You are someone

You are worried that you don’t write?

You do not always know what I am feeling

You find me tentative and frivolous, don’t you?

You fragile woman whose profile barely discerns

“You give me money happy days”

You say that everything is very simple and interesting

You walk into a theatre in the semidark

You’re not really sick





Eight minutes to a meeting I don’t want to be at
                lingering at stool in the white room
my dad would have written his dream England XI
                             I want to make a poke at a poem
      – one likeable Larkin take: to write what
you would want to read – 
      but there’s always games on mobile phones
        DETAILS next to DELETE
                                       thumbs like fitting seals
                       two minutes to go – 
      was it Parkinson or Aspel
                       who shadowboxed pre-guests?

Cicatrix of papercuts makes this need to confess





They walk down dustless corridors talking of anxieties,
the Chief Executive addressed her in her dreams
in the language only her Grandparents used
                          – Lizze we need to talk about this – 
and the only way out was the water machine
in the boardroom


In the flow of Tottenham Court Road CENTRE POINT
is already out-of-date, an obsolete tool wrenched from the British Museum,
each honeycomb of glass a slot for a singular sun.

I dreamt wasps the size of peugeots ploughed through & disappeared,
bees – calm as buicks – left us alone but only for their own sake.

In a dagenham hedge : the bees wait : the wasps watch



No Hawkers

Drunk or sober I’m still your father like

like a man walks a dog, a scarecrow in a field of flax like

like your loveworn eyes of freshbrewed TETLEY like

like it’s your life’s work & you’ve got to believe in it like

like all those break-ins at the youth courts like

like upturned boats in a burned-out church like

like banks sell loans because new cars make a life like

like the accents revved in our throats like

like a two-litre diesel will get you happy like

like the industrial landscape was an open plug like

like all the parked cars were cloned gemstones like

like keep pouring me more sham pain like

like like is to life but never like it was like

like we fled to the City & tried to fit in like

like moth larvae flocked in the QUAKER OATS like

like the use-by-date flutters, always calling us back like




The Manager   

       after The Brothers Karamazov

Dolphins are the Osmonds of the sea
the Mananger said & introduced his sons:
Benneth, Billip, Barreth & Whillip.
During the Summer they support Sunderland
and in Winter, Arsenal. It was October
so their bannered scarves said Arseland.

They had travelled to this festival to watch
Jack Clown & the Whites: the quietest
karaoke in town. Whillip asks for an oyster
and ends with a clam in his palm. Look,
there, in the moo-tent, he mutters – an upturned 
motherfucker of pink & yellow udder.

Barreth is first to become romantically attached
despite being only seventeen with a comb-over,
he attracts interest as he puts forward his theory
on an unknown species capable of the Pregnant
Foetus. Disgusting, says Mananger: wash your
vowelly mouth out with consonants.

Benneth & Billip sit themselves under a tree
and look up – the first carousel they ever
knew has a whoosh in the trees – it swirls
childhoods of pink & purple paisley.

Whillip thinks: my brothers will be made to pay for this.



Chris McCabe was born in Liverpool in 1977. He has published poems in a number of places including Poetry Salzburg ReviewShearsman and Poetry Review. His first collection ‘The Hutton Inquiry’ was published by Salt Publishing, Cambridge, in 2005.  This includes a sequence of poems that chronicle the controversial circumstances surrounding the death of government science adviser Dr David Kelly in 2003 and Britain’s involvement in the war in Iraq.

He has read his work at the Cambridge Conference of Contemporary Poetry 2004 and in the Crossing the Line Series at the Poetry Café. He also discussed and read some of his poetry on BBC World Service on Armistice Day, 2005 and featured a poem on the Oxfam CD Lifelines. He currently works as Assistant Librarian at the Poetry Library, London.