Back to list





Martin Farrar

Variations on a Mistake

As you sit down
I pull the chair from under you
but you don’t see
and sit on air for several minutes,
my sweet naïf, my Wile E. Coyote.

As you sit down
I pull the chair from under you
sliding in a smaller chair. Before you land
I replace it with an even smaller chair, then one smaller still,
in this way lowering you gently to the ground.

As you sit down
I pull the chair from under you
but I somehow see the fear in your eyes
and put it back. You’ll never know
where you got that sense of falling.

As you sit down
I pull the chair from under you.
The restaurant chatter stops. Forks are suspended,
faces aghast. You stand into the silence, give them your winsome smile
and take a bow. The audience goes wild.


The Liver

Give in, give it all back. The gut unknots
a hot wash of dinner, a milky broth
still redolent of wine, whiskey and beer.
Say to the children stood at your back
Go on, get out of here.

Don’t guess what they divine in strings of spit,
a glistening web between the bowl and your lips,
the lips that say be good or give me a kiss,
lips speckled with your soft, pale flecks
of human ambergris.

Place one hand on each side of the slippery rim
for the aftershock, the sweating and heaving.
Now spy in your buttery spew and spatter
the tinsel strands of red and black
that speak of a darker matter.

Drop that thought off the steep cliff of your brain.
Tell the kids that you won’t tell them again.
Stand up and gob, flush away the stain.
Your mind expels what it can’t correct
like water down a drain.

Turn around grinding a towel in your hands
to explain to the kids You have to understand…
but what can you say, there’s nobody there.
Throw the towel back on its rack
and bless the empty air.


Big Buildings

Town halls hunker forward on fat columns.
Stadiums cup their grass protectively.
Office blocks shoulder the sky to one side.

Old museums have hearts hung from ceilings
in squared-off, serene, symmetrical stone.
The new museums are curving tilting drunks.

In shopping centres bodies rise up
escalators, the walls are made of glass
and ownership is a kind of soft fudge.

Factories disassemble vacant space
behind gap-tooth windows, or they smoke pipes
and empty their bellies into long trucks.

Cathedrals are grey pyramids veined with scaffolding.
Cinemas are caverns of loud, bright thought.
Lighthouses are tower dreams, somewhere near the sea.

Big buildings. I spread my arms across
their wide, rough walls: impending scale,
unbreakable patience, large lovelessness.


The Grandmaster


After my mother put me in the world
my father put the world in front of me
with each thing separated from the next.

I saw no beauty in its elegance
and winning never freed me from the next loss.
My love of chess was love of my own self,
a self devoid of anything but chess.

When my parents pulled me out of school
it seemed a natural, purifying move,
a digging out of shrapnel from a wound.


When I close her hand around a piece
I feel, through her, the strangeness of its shape,
then the strangeness of her hand, and mine
enclosing it. The strange shape of my love
that turned away from chess when she was born
and found another world within the world
of which this small hand is a continent.

I show her how the pieces move. She laughs
and tells me no, they also move like this
or this. She dips her head back with a smile
and I’ve no heart to tell her that she’s wrong.
My daughter, I know, will find joy in play
but not in chess. Her rules will ebb and shift
like weather on the surface of the Earth.

Add new comment


Post as Guest