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Three Poems

George Szirtes

Postcards to Anselm Kiefer

Rubble, Light and Voice

Concrete and rubble: the Word
Produces its monuments.
Monstrous overheard
Conversations. Lost tenements.
Attics open to the elements.

We were leaving the wreckage.
Soon it was dark and the queue
Lengthened into a sleepless dream
We had somehow to live through
And, finally, to redeem
As if night itself were the passage.

A lost glove hanging on a fence,
A shoe without laces by the roadside,
The hand’s abstraction, the foot’s absence:

Marriage of invisible inconvenience.
Bridegroom stripped bare by the Bride.
Lost glove. Lost fence.

The rubble was the frightening thing.
So much had fallen and the rain
Was as much inside as outside.
Tiny pebbles were pretending to sing
To keep fear off. And then more rain
With nowhere to hide.

We were clerks of forgotten states.
We scribbled memos
That none of us would read,
Opened deals that would not close,
Followed leaders who could not lead.
We traded our empire for a single bead
Of light that broke us like cracked dinner plates.

The evening, shrimp-coloured and cool:
A late mild header into winter.
Soon enough dark morning, soon
Enough the splinter
Of ice stuck in the window, the moon
Stuck fast in the deserted lido, the pool
Blossoming into night,Black as anthracite.

Sometimes you want to sing but as
You open your mouth the world shunts
Like a train and voice fails.
The failure is unimportant, hardly counts
In the scheme of things, but you’re off the rails.
Sometimes voice is all a man has.


Demi Monde
After Brassaï

It’s where desire drives us to, this truce
In the sex wars where the dark fawns over
A plump thigh and fixed stare,
Where everyone is glad to be of use
Providing there is adequate cover
And smoke fills every cubic inch of air.

A woman is a man who is a woman:
Flesh parts itself in mirrors, turns around
To watch itself undress. Root and sap and urge
Move over cold sheets. There is no-one
To talk to in the psychic underground
From which your face is waiting to emerge.

You cake yourself in paint, become the scent
That you’ve been trailing through passages
Of dreamless night. Flick through the address book.
Find your own name and prepare to experiment.
Flesh leaves behind its cryptic messages.
See, there you are, if you but care to look.


The Apocalypse at a Cinema near You

In The Night of the Living Dead there is no Shaun.
In the last Millennium the lights have gone.

In the War to End all Wars the Dogs of War have buried the last bone.
In Last Man Standing the last man is last and lies alone.

In the movie version of The Apocalypse the ghouls
Creep out of institutions, corporations, schools.

In the book of the film of the Book of Revelations
The state Reveals All and there is Peace Among the Nations.

In the Armageddon game available for your Pod
Is lodged a fatal doomsday bug called God.


I cannot help you, says the helpful booklet of facts,
The Gospels you know, but thereof follow the Acts.

I cannot serve you, says the server. Quit the site.
Your gig’s defunct, not worth the gigabyte.

I cannot help you go with the same flow,
The bank says to the stream. The answer’s No.


Far off in the distance hangs the dome
of St Paul’s and everywhere faces
cast adrift are going home
to all their secret places.

Offer us shelter, Lord, in the remains of Elmet
Or if that’s too much to ask, provide the odd tin helmet.

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