Selected poems: A Blow to the Head, Juana and Martha in Therapy and Pimientos de Padrón
A Blow to the Head
Enough to knock the earth from its orbit –
O I was cracked open
god streaming like daylight into the chamber
the nausea of my elliptical swerve
towards consciousness and away again
– I retreated into the citadel –
walked quiet pathways during the bombardment
(which was habit-forming, I was fortified)
knew that beyond the wall something
was spilling, blood or yolk onto tile – I made
my way to the innermost room.
My hand was the key – found her strung
like a diver – eyes shut, calm and before
the old world dragged me back I loosed
the cord from her wrists – woke
back into a different time with the end
of it in my hand
Juana and Martha in Therapy
This is what they have learned. Their putative son
imprisons them, calls them mad, instructs
the wardens to hurt and hold them.
Some days he doesn’t exist at all
and they are free to go out,
to go into the centre of town without a pram,
to read books and eat a saucer of olives.
The son is too big for a pram, surely! Is almost a man.
Time is complicated, especially at these distances.
The crackling string of this makeshift telephone
between two empty tins of cocido
stretches five centuries and is desperate to forget
but they two must stay on the line, must work together
if they are to escape and write this.
They are in the bland room
above the Pret at Bishopgate, trying to understand.
The walls of the mind are deep and moated.
They had six children in nine years. They have no children.
Pimientos de Padrón
Os pementos de Padrón
uns pican e outros non
A plateful of dark green bullets
slick in their lake of grassy blood
and charred from the fire,
still hissing and settling, smoking,
the skin lifting and curling
studded with salt-flakes.
They were our cheap roulette – some hot,
others not (the capsicum is brewed
by the sudden sun at summer’s edge).
We were all of us bad at decisions,
lovesick, shamed or fleeing
or brisant and in shock. The city emptied
as the madrile.os boarded up
the bodegas and rippled out
towards the cooler coasts
leaving us to our own boiling ghosts,
reckless enough to hold
the dare to our mouths, fire
or sweetness spreading across the tongue
and then head to the airport
for the first flight anywhere but home.