After Philip Sidney & Charles Mingus
The moon in jive-ass slippers dances close
to offer back neglected things we lost:
a partner’s kiss, a porkpie hat, a face
that brightens as she coolly circles past.
Two weeks of heatwave and the hottest day
for seven years unpacked by warm fat rain:
the scents of earth and river, dung and hay,
sweet and rotten, beneath a perigee moon.
The ghost of a riff on moonlit ground
- Boogie Stop Shuffle and a walking bass –
the furthest supernova ever found,
a faint signature at the edge of space
ten billion years ago. We stray
in Mingus landscapes here, places to play.
Snow is a changeling,
shifts in the arms
of the land, redrafts
where it rests – its outlines,
dissolve in underfloor light.
Snow consoles the asthma fret
of traffic, pushes it
elsewhere. Snow fingers
each syllable of land,
spelling its translation:
paragraphs of spaces
pasted here on a plain field.
The steel sky sulks, reboots
with backed-up snow, makes
us small in the world.
Smudging the moon-white surface,
snow’s ultraviolet glare,
have scuffed a few green cursors.
bread, n. (Old English) bit, piece, morsel
hljeb dabo khubz
related to breowan, brew, perhaps because
of the fermenting action of yeast, leavening
bara borotho mburu
once pronounced ‘braid’ to rhyme with break
the old word hlaf survives in the modern loaf
ruti canjeero nan
Our baking group meets on Tuesday evenings
when the displaced and numb can speak
mkate kikwanga kobiz
and it helps to come and make simple things
kneading dough a haven, bread an innocent shore
panis pita pen
the smell of wholeness, home, before
(apostrophe: mark of omission, possession, or speech to absent person;
from apostrephein, ‘turn away’)
It was a morning like this
they came for you, those Border
Force creeps. You’d slipped out the back —
just saw a blur of your blue
sleeve, a flick of pony tail.
Know what I think?
If those bastards hadn’t come
you’d have been a keeper.
From the moment you pulled on
the overall, arm in a dancer’s curve:
reminded me of wrapping Christmas
satsumas in blue tissue paper.
The way your accent skipped
syllables, like hiccups or giggles,
when you turned from the till —
those delicate gestures.
Not being funny, but you
left me standing in a scatter
of onion skins, cold catch of draught
on the back of my neck, wondering.
Viral on YouTube and now here, flung
above the lake a swirling weft of birds.
Black but diaphanous this skirl of stars twists
and banks to its own mysterious arithmetic.
Neural networks more subtle than markets
conjure an aerial screensaver
contingent as crowds that flock the ether
to counter power, occupy tents.
Dark webs encode surprise: the tip of a system’s
critical transitions, poised, then instantly
transformed, as filings magnetise, or continents fold
and drift, framing new maps, possible worlds.
In our language we have one word only
for breath, sigh, whisper, and gasp,
but six for different clicks of the tongue.
We refresh our souls by chanting
in the otherguess light before dawn
while we dress for the annual reunion.
Here we make black kites from silk
shed in spring by giant stag beetles -
their old carapaces the size of doors:
stretched on frames they become dry
drums for the wind to call our ancestors
who rise up the sound ladder against a sky
bright as a new painted guiro.
On our mountain, in our cool hall
on firework night we hear ice music:
our marimba a frozen waterfall,
ice rings out in thin fluorescent air,
a catch, a loop of lunar noise.
The instruments are melting, slippery,
and hearing the light, our shaman, scruffy
in moth-eaten fur, bells, feathers,
barks through his ice-horn: sound
waves reverberate in space, spread, curl out
to protect the far edges of this world.