Blown dust the days since I was called
from the rabbit-hole of childhood. By ear
history is stage-set, it recreates via rains
playing Schubert or untaken photographs.
They said I came out with a thorn in my foot—
hillcloud child who spoke with a large name,
blossy among broken hedges and molten fields.
When the house hellbelled I retouched an image
of hyaline mists gridlocked to corn. The memory
of sky-sagas at Pankridge Farm held like a salve.
Artifice to my own laziness, cold at the leash,
I listened to the quiet motherese of a voice
until it was clamant, exasperated to nerve—
‘Home’ it repeated. ‘Home. Come home’.
Four Interpretations of Photographs by Claude Cahun
30o (Hand Trio)
The human hand gleams and imposes itself
cannily, like the white glove of SS Wolff.
If such configurations could rejoin the living,
Goebbels would be at the flashbulb, mad as a yapping seadog.
The black hand belonged to a spying washmaid in Nantes.
Any half-trained eye can see the curlicues.
Unbeknown to her—a '30s Telphousa—
she is grinding the wheelmill of war.
The baby hand is puppet-like and cut from the wrist.
Its cold digits are sized to the tip of an icicle.
Through the fingers of the child, darkness merges, entwists.
A blousy tablecloth rivers into ice, bloats to a hold, solid.
26o (Military Tailors)
Crocodilian wars where a sacred bull glints the shadow-stamp
of an 8-ball on his own forehead.
On conscripting, I was fitted up here.
Samuel & Finch. Haymarket. A three-piece. 1912.
It was the suit I pillowed my face into
fresh from Loos crying:
God is not dead,
God wears the face of my enemy sleeping.
Entrenched proceeding from dark to dark,
the early moon would watch back
doomy, unflinchingly alert,
like the skull of a pterodactyl.
44f (Self-Portrait Among Masks and a Crystal Skull)
Mutant Japanese. The disconnected neck round as the face of a Bodhrán.
ii. Far Left Centremask—
Baselump of Marx’s tomb. Blank eyeholes, the dunce-stare of an age wasted.
iii. Upper Left Crystal Skull—
One thirteenth of world exposed. The ghost-luck beauty fidgets in its glass.
Skeletal hermit, invisible until looked for. Wind-weary with a Gestapo sneer.
v. Right Centremask—
Lunatic humiliated by ancestry. Hair pierced straight. Fraying for lack of evidence.
The seed of it Hindu/Parisian –
not the blurry portico
but desire in the bangles of a bronze baroness,
a three-jet of pigeons—
the nine-blossoms of a head-flower
Scabbed wrists offer possibilities of self-portrait:
a young-un spaced clear, genderless
but for the touch of a nursery mother.
This is your mother.
Un-witched. Dregs of you.
Chess in Kirkuk
for Fadhil Al-Azzawi
‘Two men tossing a coin, one keeping a castle’
Ezra Pound, ‘Provincia Deserta’
In the Café Atlas, you furlonged over countless games of chess
with a signature move: checkmate, X’ings of bishop and queen.
Victorious, to be prized as a prisoner, while those you conquered
were laurelled with limousines and castles, the new ministers
of the slaughterhouse had you wearing old shoes from the dead
who had no time to put on their shoes when the guards burst in.
A thirty-year exile, honing your skill as chessmaster and prophet.
In Leipzig, you saw Saddam bare his polished teeth like Dracula.
In Paris, a mirror returned the blooded forehead of Al-Mutanabbi.
You saw Iraq’s future torturers flogging their backs for bread
and wished them a square meal and a hex against the atom bomb.
Arriving into giant shafts of sunlight along the Turkish strait,
you remembered those who traded their poetry for propaganda;
not as turncoats; but simply chessmates flexing pawns for victory.