The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want
for much. He maketh me to lie down
on the chalky grass of Finsbury Park, the skatepark
distant; he leadeth me beside the canal’s still waters,
curtained barges settling, resettling,
underneath them sediment thick enough to spread on sandwiches.
He restoreth my soul until it is gold like the straps
of the sandals in Krishna’s Shoes, shiny
like the sunglasses of the young.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake
(though I shuffle with the others
at the crossing, waiting for the good green man).
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
or stand in the mirrored kebab shack alone at three a.m.,
or pass my father resurrected in the eyes of an aged junkie
and wish myself his daughter, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence
of mine enemies – who may be numerous, though I seek
to drown them in love. Thou annointest my head with oil, as I shampoo
the baby’s hair, splashing my hand for her delight as outside
a deluge dashes the panes. My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days
of my life; on channel ferries and through the aisles of antique markets;
in the sallow closed-off rooms of the sick; in playgrounds,
family resorts, and in precincts where the elderly collect.
And after the bungalow, the care-home, whatever awaits,
I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
The feathery hearts of the ill-at-ease
Murmuring – startled – eager to please
The choux-light hearts of the oh-so-holy
Filled with cream from a distant dairy
The twiggy hearts of the always-left
Breaking stick by stick like nests
The wire grilled hearts of the ne’er do well
How to get near them? Who can tell
The battered satin hearts of the sad
Little empty evening bags
The heave-ho hearts of the undeterred –
Rowing, rowing, never a word
What I Did in My Summer Holidays
Never ask for an ice-cream confidently or menacingly or using any other adverb. And if you’re in pain, show me where it hurts and how. Love is an abstract noun. Dialogue gives the effect of real speech but with all the boring rubbish taken out. Every thought you’ve ever had has been thought better and by someone else. Does anyone have any questions? We talked last week about the stanza, you might think of stanzas as little rooms: what are you going to do in yours – are you going to just lie there watching light reinvent itself? The second line doesn’t scan. Yes, flair is better. For homework, sit in a soft chair and describe the exact experience, no, don’t do that, write down a conversation you hear on a bus; go out in the rain and open your mouth; make a list of everything in your bathroom cabinet. Try not to break your line on an article. The first person you have to please is yourself, but if nobody else is pleased you have a problem. Fill out the form and give it back to me: te-dum te-dum te-dum te-dum te-dum. Notice that beautiful line where the widow’s hands are likened to a dead bird. Less is more, but sometimes less is less. What do librarians get paid? I’ve never seen that particular noun used as a verb. But it’s too late now to get to grips with the Dewey Decimal System. Did anyone else have a problem with the turnip metaphor?
Kathryn Simmonds, 2012