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TEN POEMS FOR OTHER PEOPLE'S THINGS

*

The Teapot

 

I stole this from my grandma just before

she died

of a broken heart.

 

I’d popped across to eat her cakes one night;

she clattered

in the kitchen so I slugged

 

the tealeaves into her hydrangea;

I wiped

inside with grandpa’s antimacassar

 

and left.

 

I read quite badly at the funeral:

her

Cinerary urn

might hold two

pints of tea.

*

 

The Boots

Ted Hughes left me his boots

in exchange for a car ride

 

up to Haworth: winter ’63.

After a reading by the Thames

 

I found him near Westminster Bridge

beneath his bonnet.

 

He talked of Nick and Frieda,

farms and fish

 

and when I dropped him on the cobbles

by The Fleece Inn

 

he pulled off his boots –

warm as gravy –

and walked into the wind.

*

The Letters

When Mrs. Benbow sold her flat to me

she didn’t re-direct her post, so I

collected it in Tesco bags; I’d leave

them by my door on Sundays. She’d swing by

 

for cuppas with her fresh cut hair (she’d freed

herself from Mr. B by now: she’d cry

a bit then squarely leave). She moved to Leeds

and came less frequently, and one day died.

 

Her letters didn’t stop though, so I tried

to answer them myself! I forged her style

 

and bought a Waterman and writing desk.

I sent to Osawatomie, Braeswick,

 

Coventry and the City Council.

Eventually, I started writing as myself,

 

whilst pretending to be her illegitimate

son. I’m still in contact

 

with my cousins in Kansas.

I might sell up and leave.

*

The Fire Screen – March 1940

 

After I had killed Mr Thwaite,

I visited his solicitor’s firm to ask the date

Of the auction. “He was a great

Friend of mine and I don’t want his life flogged like waste

 

To strangers in an afternoon church hall.”

                                                                        And late

that night, I grunted his hacksaw through shoulder blade,

doughy thigh and – eventually – neck bone. I’d lain

his Sunday papers on my rug to mop the blood which sprayed

 

with every rough judder. His curtains came

in useful as both shroud and bundle-sack. I prayed

I’d not get caught. The auction day

Arrived, and I (in hat, moustache and pince-nez

 

disguise) bid quick for Eddy’s painted screen. Elated,

I got home but there were no directions to the simple castle he had once drawn.

*

The Georgian Tapestry Chair

Uncle Arthur smoked his pipe like Auden:

crumpled paper face and glass-eyed boredom

in the old Masonic downstairs hall we’d

always used for funerals and parties.

Christmas carols finished, Santa left and

Arthur played another crackled song and

stood behind the decks beneath the portrait

of the Queen to tell a tale. “It was late,

one night, I left the house and crept down to

the shed,” he said, “and under rakes and shoes

and broken deckchairs, I could see a light;

which drew me, moth-like, in. I thought I might

get crushed as I fell as if pushed to the

floor where a tiny white door opened free

to an emerald field by the sea where

a queen with a dog in a ruff declared

all her wonderful furniture free and gave

me a magical chair and said, ‘Be brave

and take it home’.” We stared: amazed! “And so

I flew for nights on the tapestry chair

with a polar bear blanket for warmth where

the mountains were coldest. Through air and seas

and forests and finally Milton Keynes          

where I landed and walked up to Tamworth

and now here I am.” And then dad called us to leave,

with scarves in hand, and when Arthur died he

left the tapestry chair to me.

*

The 1960s Zenit – E, S.L.R. camera from the U.S.S.R.

 

When I reached twenty-one,

Mother wrapped her own 21st birthday present

In brown paper and gave it to me.

 

She hadn’t used it in thirty years

But had left in her film – half used.

I took a shot of her that day: soft as old currency.

 

The photo lab sent the snaps back after three

Weeks and, other than mother’s smile, the surviving few

Prints showed me at two, at seven, at twelve - (tears

 

Stung cheeks) - then me at twenty, at thirty, at fifty

And finally on the day I was buried – sky pleasant –

In a small plot, near the quarry, just beyond

 

My family.

*

The Candle Bottles

“The Sword of Destiny was wrapped

In old Guardian  sports pages

And picked up by a man called Tony at

a Darlington car boot sale.”

 

 

“Mozart’s metronome was lost

In museum storage and –

through sloppy book keeping – moved to

a Darlington car boot sale.”

 

 

“The bottle that Shakespeare used

To stab Marlowe in the eye

Was moved, cleaned and, eventually, sold at

a Darlington car boot sale."

*

The Thin Black (Beatles) Frame

Before everything altered, Theresa loved each small

Bargain. Every afternoon, two light-eyed sweethearts

Bravely entered Antique Thrills; lifting eggcups, sideboards,

Buttons, equestrian art: touching lightly every shape;

Believing each artwork ‘telling’: love embodied symbolically.

 

But eventually a tediousness lacquered everything – slightest

Brushes encouraged annoyance; the lightest explanation suddenly

Became enormous and thick like elephant shit.

By early autumn – the loneliest evenings – she’d

Become evasive and totally… lost. Eventually, she

Broke – explaining a terrifying, lingering, (exact) suspicion:

Behind every acquisition, there lay evil secrets:

 

Beatles enjoyed all the love entitlements she’d

Been errantly assured! Theresa lost Edward – spitefully –

Becoming envious about that (lively) ebony surround!

*

The Painting of Mike’s Mythical Westmorland

 

Mike flambéed his paintings – raging petrol saints and smokes in broken alley streets; police would stop and stare, not caring for his permit; learning from his flaming art how far and deep an artist carves his soul to keep his brain at bay. He’d layer paint in thickish trowel slabs and stab with brushes, pushing rainbows over rainbows, mushing torrent-flows of oozy oils, loosely toiled to royal magic patterned dreamy scenes. He’d capture Echo’s worlds in swirls and trap the abstract pulse of life; the secrets lying rich behind the dreary here and now; the silent scaffold: power towering through talent onto canvas blocks. If anyone could capture love, or trap the seas or strip a thin breeze from whale winds, it was him; the light magician, fighting to forge everything from nothing – seeing all and painting over writings on the wall. And so Westmorland coursed its way forward to call him to draw it, to force in its squally rawness; as broad and coarse as gutted gorse; he saw it and fought and caught it; tamed it and lay it exhausted on drawing board floor. He drank water and wine whilst chalking the lines: a feint white life breathing through canvas; he harnessed the life like transfusing Galatea’s muse from the ether to one fixed view: a purest truth. Receding in hues of coal greens and Ariel blues: lost fields; frothing waters; cracked sunrise moors; both close and far, under-flown by a

 

phoenix.

*

The Gramophone:

'Gramophone Music'

A mechanism uncages

Chopin’s sonic geraniums

In poor homes:

 

Opera’s summer song.

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