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February 2004  |  Jacket 25  Contents  |  Homepage  |  Catalog  |  Search  |

Iain Britton

Two poems

Scenes of Stanley Spencer cooking

Scenes from the street the clangour
of people’s habits scenes from inside
a brick shithouse of the annunciation
the crucifixion

eating their last suppers.

You sit naked like a peeled onion
drawing pictures of men and women
bible banging and chanting rhythms
cooking in the newness of their religious stews.

You sit on the loo reliving the daily events
of one man’s life

scribbling an instantaneous procession
of microscopic stories and
emptying a mind onto the softest of tissue.

You scribble hurriedly
before the focus fragments into that mass
of matter going greyer by the minute.

With my head bagged in its own breath
I too thrive in the smelliest of places
screwing words out of a fullstop
using forceps to deliver verbs
squeezing oxymorons from the blackest spots.

In this square-planned town of stages and theatres
band rotundas and gardens older than Gethesmene
I sit and sing
under a clockworktower ticking under a
fluorescent cross
stained red by angels
flying too low or
going too fast
splattering into its brightness. I can still
hear them exploding above me like moths.

Wine runs in sticky-brown rivulets
varnishing the concrete steps and footpaths
where I walk — vomit ages in the gutters and drains.

You unroll your story in pictures across
the backyard. You have dedicated it
to one man’s vision of how the villagers should behave.

A council worker enters the public conveniences
on the corner of Rangitikei Street and begins to
disinfect the urinals sluicing the pans
poetry busting the last traces of human expression
polishing the pipes before the second coming
manifests itself again for the obligatory slash.

Night-time activity

Observed this man
on TV1 speaking too loudly
invading my privacy of turning
wine into sleep. I could smell

the dampness of a cemetery
on his clothes

see crosses

dug into the pockets of his crumpled coat

and there were these gaps about him
glaring at me where planets used to be.

He left footprints
dirtying my carpet

a door banging in the draught

and long-eared bats
in sonar dialogue.

He was someone I could
do without — a

belched-out-of-the-box expert
practising home invasions
using my lounge as a thoroughfare —

but who expects civilities
from the likes of him?

I lock the door
half knowing my night will be interrupted
by fingers at my windows
the knock of knuckles
shoes scuffing outside
shovels working
conversations passing from hand to hand.

I presume now is appropriate
to listen to Rachmaninov

with eyes closed
the moon
slumping soporifically into its orbit.

Iain Britton’s work is widely published in New Zealand literary journals and also in the UK, USA and Australia. Some work can be accessed online via the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre and also in Jacket and Masthead (Aust). His first collection of poems will be published by Hazard Press, Christchurch, NZ, in mid-2005.

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