from Arrival : an autrebiography

posthumous muse revisiting
the rhyme of herself on herself out
of sea-mist you arrive in our midst

55 years late to play your parts evacuee
from death you limp between barbed
wire and groynes amid foghorns

air raid sirens ice cream chimes on
Sunday we scuttle to the shelter we
huddle with scraped knees loose bowels

sucking our thumbs and shudder in
the night at each made up thud with koda-
chrome curls and curves you roll your hips

the heaving English Channel uncomfortably close
your bosom secrets sewn into your pockets
of cloth and flesh in a sniper's pillbox squeezed

in Adur mud-flats we crouch acting up as
Soviet V-bombers skim the coast or whine high
white blips caught in the turning cups on

Truleighy Hill this poem is your pass-
port to my made up world this invocation
deadly with its trip-wire tropes

‘He yelled at me, a great nerve singing. That was love as far as we were concerned! His mother had died on Saturday. Three women recognised him from the photo in The Shoreham Herald. The airport where he spun time, the DHSS Portslade where he used to link life, the Vic over the road where I died each Friday lunchtime with a girl affecting your life where he first taught. I collapsed on sleepers. Negative space where he first worked my fabrication, where he used to watch my place play cricket. I was the pool of black ink that sketched Narcissus. I knew he thought he could outstrip me, and I told him that sometimes we are impelled to speak rather than to think. At least he noticed that I could be very beautiful and that I was enjoying the drama, the nothing-doings of the dead. I didn't believe him until I saw the wound in his long hair. I could have been one of those Christians cooking pork chops in the university kitchen. I could have blessed the blues haunting him curious, the green dope listening for the cricket ball as it landed. I came up but he took no notice of the children, didn't record my conversation. I was losing him, like you lose short-wave reception toward dawn. I was one of the foreign girls, not both of them for a change. I was only one of the waitresses in Brown's, perhaps none of them. He phoned to say he'd awoken in the death position. The sunlight hinted on the diamond music roof at Sompting. I was half of one of the nurses at the doctors' party he nearly gatecrashed. I came over but he was deep in MacSweeney and Rimbaud. I absented myself and took his bag to the station to ship on in advance. I took a woman's name but I remained unmoved, unmoving. I was static beauty clipped from a dirty magazine. Plucked free of pornographic feathers, I was a naked bird hopping by him. I wasn't Julia, not that day anyway. I wasn't Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion, either, watching the flies on the rabbit meat. I looked a little like Lorna Sage's twin, cigarette shaking between my nicotine fingers. I popped over in the evening but he was full of it. I was the day his mother went to pick him out. History tilted an imperceptible grain from its axis, the string of gravity tugged by the hand of a child. I appeared at his door carrying the birth certificates, mine as well as his.'  

the flickering carriages of the London train
pass on the fast track strobe the mesmeric pages
of the sacred codex of escape he sees
clumps of gorse clinging to the smooth sides
exiled from the mobile history of his life he
intuits ‘those early days when
she shined' within
the shell of her ‘virgin-crums' washing along the shingle
a seal without sharing a share without meeting
happy to see himself outside his own life
the slanting sun sets across the harbour mouth
it regrets its absence that will swallow the lighthouse
where the moist lawns and eyes turn lilac
and the sycamore cloud darkens the Green
the man with no origins other than those chosen
sees the Downs tumble down from the stars
under thundery skies over Thundersbarrow Hill
night burns against the northerly window
on the sheet of night his darling sleeps while
his slashing heart splashes its tatters of light
she never borrows time the way he beats it
he steals duration from her arrhythmic heart

   (after Pasternak, with Vaughan)

He takes her name and torques it
into a word that signifies the opposite
of everything she might once have
believed. She reaches out her hand
to her own in the mirror
and it looks older with each blink
until she is holding a claw
up to a claw, shameless confessant.

If she jumped out
of her skin would it crumple
to the ground like rubber and leave
the true monster to fill the air
like halitosis,
bloody pneuma, spiritual entrails?

She will speak at last: ‘My only
difference from every other fabulous
beast in history' – adjusting her
bodice and black wings – ‘is
I'm writing the fable
and you're not:

Coming in under the radar nostrils full of plankton
Hair plaited with sea poppies and rotting condoms
Blubbery and scaly

I suck the green sea back like sick it crouches
A beast and then leaps as I spit my briny vomit breath

Pebbles etched with poems
Pelt you amid the bleached cuttlefish
This tarry noir on the shingle

The withered seaweed hung on the groyne
Forecasts tempests and your dream deferred

Suck my pebbles and you will speak in my voice
And my fishy tail will flip the semaphore of love!

A house ghost my ashes pour
Out of the pepper pot onto your
Vesta Beef Curry my blood
Splutters out of the taps my wild hair
Twirling alive
Clogs the plug-hole in the bath keep it
Sealed or I'll send my bum-biting spiders
Up the whistling plumbing!

My billets-doux are scratched on Izal
At midnight by the low light on the landing
And you read them each morning
While having a dump

Listen to my crumbs of dried snot
Rattling in the earpiece of the phone
Cream and majestic in the hallway

I'm croaking my name in the crackling
I'm drowning in noise save me

Wood nymph without a thicket! just
Gorse clumps with miniature claws
Like mine poisonous yellow blossoms
Clenched curmudgeonly

He arranges cowpats on the bald Downs
To signal for his UFOs to land rabbit pellets
From softer ground punctuate his welcome

But I'm looking for a chalk man to calcinate
My brittle bones the one with the big dick
Will do the green man can fuck off
The wicker man
Burning in the stubble field
That scratched my limping ankle

His little green men can zip back to his childhood
Zap him Abduct him Adopt him

I want to suck fossils with my dead gums
And speak in a language as slow as geology

So slow you'll only hear a low o-o-o-o!'

     © Robert Sheppard 2013