I. from Mallarmé
Any given solitude
with neither swan nor quayside
mirrors its obsolescence
in the gaze I abdicated
here from the vain glory
too high to be touched
many a sky adopts tincture
of sunset yellow
hugging the coast with languor
like white linen cast off
such subliminal bird as plunges
into the wave become you
your nude jubilation.
II. from Mallarmé
like my far-flung hopes
have gone up with a bang, lost
in fury and silence,
voice stranger to the wood
or followed by no echo,
the bird you get to hear
The haggard musician,
expiring in doubt
that my breast and not his
might have issued the louder sob
blown apart will all of him
still hit the road!
(Military) from Mallarmé
I can’t not say
I sense from my armchair
stiffen with blood on my legs
I await the invasion
with the just and virgin
wrath of the baton
in the soldier’s white glove
bare or still covered in bark
not to batter the Teuton
but as another threat
to the end expected in me
of cutting short this wild
nettle of sympathy.
Two lychee seedlings
One arose shaped by unforeseen checks
the odd leaf curled by red spider I never see
in this dry house flee from a simple dusting of water
the first adult pair irrecoverably scorched
the topmost leaflet fallen, petiole still green
above the unrolling copper threatened by silk
at the growing point.
One is as yet a root,
it has lifted the stone half-clear of earth
the shoot grown into itself in the fork of the loop
sent down from retained seed-leaves
by repeated false starts is slowed to a red wooden knot
still green and white at the base
where side roots make light
of each broken tip.
i.m. Ralph J. Mills, Jr.
for Maggie Graham
in the nowhere unrecognised as such at the top right
the brain does not patch over, not the blind spot
no cat ever leaped out of, bordered by what you know
or that second learned at the centre of night vision
is a holding cell where everything permitted and more
bleeds, called by the pulse at the scar boundary
names you would wish on no-one. Eskimos
build in the ischaemic loss, where it is warmer
out than in. Give them that, Greenland
looks big on a map. Literally nothing doing
where once what you see gently gave out
a shock in itself to halt speech and flash
the return of halting on all possible moves.
Your mother wouldn’t teach you to knit
but someone did, part of the head an amulet
too keen to wait to be written, barely
a kitten on the keys, it is trying to help.
We bury the dead or else would extend empathy
without prejudice to the inanimate.
Shot down in giving up, your ghost
does just what ghosts do, won’t be told
you didn’t die. Knit it a woollen hat.
It blocks a high road into the beloved
who would be stateless, but for it.
For Kylie Minogue and Marianne Faithfull
Rogue atoms on the golden leaf
sentence the structure;
the whole surface, written to
by an ant’s gesture
into a clean thing, taken
for the fire-source
by a male wanton babe.
What living earth went in or costed fighting
to constipate this era known by sight reading
you won’t drop this again in decades mother
the sucker lit an antique camel light
an information blackout on a Honda
divested in a stake-out of a rug
reforms the warp, the woof, the lees:
I’ll send you a jug in the morning.
Peter Manson lives in Glasgow, Scotland. His book and pamphlets include “me generation” (Writers Forum, 1997), “Adjunct: An Undigest” (Edinburgh Review, 2005), Before and After Mallarme (Survivors’ Press, 2005) and “For the Good of Liars” (Barque Press, 2006). His website, “Freebase Accordion”, is at www.petermanson.com.