‘The Chorus’ and ‘My Daughter’, poems from ‘The Back-To-Back Classics: Within the Wooden O’, recipient of UEA’s 2016 Malcolm Bradbury Prize
We must consider it as a personified reflection on the action which is going on; the incorporation into the representation itself of the sentiments of the poet, as the spokes[person] of the whole human race.
— August Wilhelm Shlegel
We have been here since the beginning,
huddled inwards like penguins, a mighty we.
We send Christmas cards to ourselves/each other,
and have done since before Christmas came along.
And we should say ‘I’, that desolate hieroglyph,
an empty spool of thread, the world a line of them,
I I I, all in binary, I I I, more bars on the cage.
We do not remember our own bodies.
We share clothes, baths, and stories. Look at us —
can you even see us, here, seated? Now look back:
a company of white gowns, a happy-clap church.
They always put us at the back.
But really we are right here, in front of you.
Whenever you feel something all at once,
when you kick out of a dream, that’s us.
That’s us in the mirror, smudgy, the prickle on your neck.
We are just the affirmation of voices
egotists invent to appease their guilty conscience.
We are something subtler than any stage can summon.
You all wrote this. We just held the pen.
Remember when we were Time,
time and time again?