Portrait of Tom Matthews by Anthony Weir
in the guest room
eats chocolate he does not share
Wishes he was home
or at least elsewhere
should write a song, Tom
said my Newfoundfriend
What kind of song I said
A song for today she said
A song about living
A song for real people
When she went home
I wrote this song:
stops me is the thought of leaving in panic.
and vegetable soup
Hot and rich and refreshing
With white meat
David Bowie made it
When I finished slurping he smiled
And walked off down our street
Wearing a white leotard
And a small cape
Of silver chicken-skin
our insubstantial bones
embedded in mist
to the world
we become people of substance
of the master race
has come and gone
spreading its portable gospel
in some other part of the county
Hall, I am a fan
of yours, doomed
though I am
know I am not strong enough
but I want
you to know I send my love,
Norah and Ruth and Jim and Ivan
you and your Abundant Life Campaign
to your truck
and to your Jesus who was crucified
you marry me
We would not live together
But I feel that as man and wife
We could write more significant letters
IN THE HOLY LAND
ward is aerial
it is airy and light
and on the seventh floor.
It could be Seventh Heaven
but seagulls loiter by the windows
looking pale and cruel
looking like demons
looking like doctors.
I say to the doctor
when he comes with his needle Young man
next time bring a hatchet.
We billow and droop
in our night-dresses
we shuffle in our flat slippers
showing pale ankles;
I sometimes think I am in the Holy Land.
With my walking-frame
I escape to the corridor
it is subterranean
it is dark and warm.
My walking-frame is my lectern
I stand behind it
a Pauline of Tarsus.
Athenians hurry by
I say to one of them
a clergyman I feel like Pauline of Tarsus
lecturing the Athenians.
He smiles and says, that's good.
He is busy but kind
and working for the Unknown God.
WITH YOU, SEAL
saw you lying like a mattress
on a rock near Carrickfergus
black on a black rock
shining in the growing dark
saw you from the train
one summer evening
is now autumn
I hope you have not come to harm
I hope you are well
I hope you are very very well
in the heavy depths
swimming in the oily swell
my thoughts go with you, Seal.
Duffin lives next door
I know because people
have knocked on my door
asking Does Archie Duffin Live Here ?
cannot live opposite
An old lady lives there
And there are only three flats
He must live next door
has ever returned
and knocked again on my door
saying You Made A Mistake
I have lived here
years come September
I have never spoken to Archie Duffin
Or the old lady opposite
whom no-one seems to visit.
THE POET WITH BAD TEETH
And deathly loitering
smell his breath
And hear him muttering.
is the poet with bad teeth.
We are not listening.
my friend and I
In our friends we look
We look for what we lack
Alone together we avoid each other's eye
Our friendship is such hard work
When we are tired it is hostility.
GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM
go to the prison once a month
They say is unhappy I am neglecting him
But when we meet we have so little to talk about.
The children. Then I wonder
how can we two stay married.
Now he says he is Saved.
He is a model prisoner since
Jesus became his personal saviour.
I said to him:
The devil looks after his own.
I was so angry.
birds are happy in Agamemnon's Tomb.
The lizards on the stones outside seem not so happy
having to find always another stone.
I saw a very disgruntled snake.
The people turn into photographs. But, gee honey, now I don't get the background.
Myself, I have foreground trouble.
know the national holidays of 29 countries
You know holy days from Circumcision
to Holy Innocents
You know the Queen of England's Official Birthday
and Memorial Day Observed and the First Day of Ramadan
know the Day of Atonement and Diwwali
You know Epact and the Golden Number
and bank opening-hours in Belgium
and when Winter begins
and the rising and the setting of the Sun
and the Phases of the Moon
For this and what I shall not write
I shall keep you.
am now Mrs Groenwald, but still your friend.
Write to me c/o the Asbestos Mine.
live on the company estate
happily ever after. We laugh a lot
at our misunderstandings.
He is the perfect stranger sometimes.
I feel perfectly useless.
Our garden is enormous
and the only flowers I recognise are roses.
have a Bantu servant. She makes me nervous.
When I tell Andy, he laughs.
he goes to the Army for two weeks.
I will go to his parents.
mine employs 2000 natives.
All night they are on the streets.
the animals of our countryside.
First named were the farmyard animals
then the foxes and the rabbits and the badgers
and the hares, then a boy said Please, Miss - Lions.
you were a little African boy
you would find lions in your countryside.
But there are no lions in Ireland.
Miss, we went in our car
to the countryside and we saw lions
in the Safari Park. They were in a field.
was suddenly aware of lions
in the fields as comfortable as cattle,
of cattle following the cats indoors
and the bull in a bottle.
agree it has more
to offer than just the falls
are you doing
ups and downs
has gift shops and floral displays
and viewing towers and dining places
It has the Biblical Wax Museum
where Christ ascends aghast in gauze
Christ was impassive
Anyway, that was a Freak Show
is the honeymoon capital of the world
It has vineyards
It has America
It has the falls
falls is nothing you say
but a Natural Phenomenon
like a honeymoon
the wilderness waits
like room service
was a Nature Trail you say.
SERPENT MOUNDS/RICE LAKE
This Good Indian
turns to dust
He died before
he is meaningless
No tourist is interested
We hurry to the beach
to the audience
for the photograph his publisher provided
guess I was kinda handsome then
That is not what bothers me
original was full-length
and showed a little dog sitting at my feet
I now see that photograph I think
of that little dog hidden down the page
and dead all these years
run in aid of cancer 'research'
are pilgrims, penitent
Dentures (if any) removed
Bowels empty and minds
full of the journey from Ashbourne to Ashbourne
us Oswald, gather
your butchered and sanctified and peripatetic
pieces together. And Bertram
stop your prayers, quit your cave
Meet us at the War Memorial with water
from your well, for we are running
say Penda was doing his kingly duty
We say the wolves were famished in the wildwood
We say there can be laughter in the cancer ward
Floating on the lambent autumn air
we fly higher than
the highest spire in all
MEMORIAM TOM MATTHEWS 1945 - 2003
work of Nature is to
Undo the works of Man.
(Endless is the wilderness within.)
Stones are the souls of stars.
Stars are the souls of stone.