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Two hundred and seven words. 28

old’s the word for the wind in town, that which defies the compass, blows at you from a corner and redoubles in the next street, yet on the other side of a rattling window she saw a single dandelion parachute progress at a slow diagonal, watched with her jaw on her chest, then as she reached for her phone to take a pic, that devil blowhard whisked it skywards and out of sight, its song and rhythmless dance a wild dirge that reminded her of how she pounded and punched her pillow at a recent loss, buried her face in the cotton case and screamed, she a banshee, her damped wailing for the death, she breathing in dust, mites, feeling the prick of the wrong end of wee feathers, her argument of injustice mocked at every turn, and if there was rhythm to this rhapsody it was the pulse in her ears – later she looked out on the feral butterfly-trees crooking out from each angle of neglected buildings, their desperate agreement with their sisters/brothers beyond the debatable limits of town, and told them it was the truth that tore at them, the taut columns of street lights hummed in sympathy, the whole town agreed, such unexpected harmony

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©Marie Marshall

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Two hundred and seven words. 27

Each with her back to a tree trunk, she liefing smooth bark and I wanting to feel the punishment of old oak to make me aware of aliveness, she mused and I agreed that winds were the product of the trees’ impatient and frustrated conversation – as they moved, so moved the air in consequence “… and when they sleep and cease struggling with their few but subtly shaded words, so cease the hurricanes…” winds out of a clear sky being the combination of arguments from the rainforests far west of us; even in winter nudity, their words hoarser, harsher, they shout more loudly and lessly nuanced; so backed, each to her living, rooted giant, we stretched to hold hands, resolved we’d never be cremated, but rather laid in sediment and covered with a lighter grain which, one day being eroded, would reveal the pyrites or at least the depression where two old women (neither wished to outlive the other) lay, as poignant as a child’s footprint and just as anonymous – it never occurred to us to be buried with our backrests in some future carbonifer – no epitaph to say she told me nature things, e.g. the blackbird’s last to roost and first to stir, I wrote poems

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©Marie Marshall

Kisses/death

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Kisses to me, they let me, but let me what?

they show that the old Kickapoo who said

you never see a reflection of the same moon

could say you never cross the same trail –

if you look close, see the comes and goes

of ants, the slow grow of lichen, they let me

die sitting – I don’t want to die standing,

only to fall, or meet death supine, I want to

be throned, like that queen, meet her eyes.

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©Marie Marshall

Wooden Mary complains about Veronica’s ghost

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I damn your ghost for having presence but no voice,

womanhood but no mense, for sleeping beside me

without a sign of breath, and for being that beautiful

without your customary wisdom – do you believe

I’d have this more than let in the night you left us?

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©Marie Marshall

Wearing jet for Veronica

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Victorians wore jet in mourning,
I affect an irregular pendant

in memory of Veronica; it swings
against my breast bone; it clatters

on my laptop if I get up quickly;
it’s an irritation, but then Veronica

was part irritant, part joy, and – hey!
– it’s the irritation I miss most.

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Oh, Wooden Mary!

I hear her chide, a coffee in each hand,

bought for us to sip in between chat,
those silences, our long, long silences.

I use my lips to feel and feel again
the roughness of that jet;

I’m a child, touching it like so,
I was always Veronica’s child.

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©Marie Marshall

Reprise: ‘The Kursk Sestina’ from ‘Welshday’

Instead of a new poem today, I’ve decided to share an old one from 2014. Welshday is a project I shelved a few years ago, because I was getting nowhere with it. Basically, it was a kind of 21c mash-up of Joyce’s Ulysses, Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, and Dante’s Divine Comedy, but all very tongue-in-cheek. It was supposed to trace twenty-four hours of novelist Irvine Welsh wandering through the city of Edinburgh – I got in touch with him, to ask his permission to use him as a character, and he replied to the effect “What the hell, why not!” His companion – his version of Dante’s Virgil – is the drunkard policeman Detective Inspector Rimbaud, whom I imagined voiced by Alex Norton (DCI Matt Burke in the TV series Taggart). Fragments and even long passages of Welshday still exist, and the odd bit which could be a stand-alone poem. This is one of them. It’s a Sestina. Welsh and Rimbaud find themselves in a disreputable pub, where Welsh is cornered by a Russian sailor who claims to be the only survivor of the sinking of the submarine ‘Kursk’ in 2000…

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Old Rimbaud said, “Let’s go and take a glass
of whiskey in a jostling pub I know.”
I, like a sodding numpty, dogged his steps,
And tracked him to a clapped-out, frowsy dive,
Where half the clientele were missing ears –
the other half were shouting to be heard!

We’d been there half an hour when I heard
a Russian sailor tap the falling glass;
he grabbed my sleeve, said “This is for your ears
alone, no other bugger has to know.
I heard my skipper calling dive-dive-dive,
as I slid down the conning-tower steps…”

Old Rimbaud, blootered, sunk down on the steps;
the Russian bellowed at me, to be heard.
“The air inside gets hotter when you dive,
the sea is slagged and dark as bottle-glass.
The ghost of every bugger that you know
floats by, and there’s a pounding in your ears!”

His sliding, slootered accent hurt my ears.
I thumbed my belt and slipped some salsa steps;
I said, “Now tell me something I don’t know,
no half-arsed, half-cocked tale already heard,
no shite enigma darkly in a glass,
no bonny buck-and-wing, no duck-and-dive!”

He scowled at me and, miming a crash-dive,
resumed the tale that battered at my ears,
while I, to ease my pain, sucked at my glass.
“Kolesnikov took all the proper steps,
and we went aft – perhaps you might have heard –
but when you’re frigging shark-bait, boy, you know!”

I shut him up, and said, “Here’s what I know –
no fucker made it home from that last dive –
They all asphyxiated, so I heard!”
He laughed, he jeered, I stopped my ringing ears,
and sat down with old Rimbaud on the steps,
to spit at all the demons in my glass.

When ghosts well from a glass you always know,
You’re sitting on the steps of some sad dive,
and though you stop your ears you’ll still have heard!

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©Marie Marshall 2014

get a bike

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I forget the tight spot on my shoe
when you walk alongside me, but
only until a car pulls up and you
get in; that’s when I make a limp;
off you go, meanwhile I read my
own shoes, measure my steps –

no matter how short a time you’re
in the car, or the fact that you get
out of a car coming in the opposite
direction, or it’s a different car,
maybe red instead of blue, it sucks;
but the pretty sound of your heels

is something I swing my feet to;
sometimes we all wish you’d take
away your heels, and the warmth
your arse leaves on the car seat,
get a bike, so you’d freewheel, or
climb the hills, joie en danseuse.

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©Marie Marshall, by special request. Read the rest of this entry »

100 microphones

An asemic offering from Johannes S.H. Berg.

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The excitement
of a palimpsest
but with a deeper
mystery; I read it
while dreaming;
I impart it while
the sun bleaches
the woken world

100 microphones
hidden in a grey
hillside, mark and
record and offer
for interpretation
each stroke, each
waymark, black
or blood, blood.

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full-moon-icon-hi©Marie Marshall

nevertheless

An exploration of the shops that stocked
suddenly old things, guitars, game consoles,

and our heads bumped as we closed in on
the window to cut out reflections; she said

my body scent was like biscuits; and I didn’t
say that when her hair was wet it smelled like

the wind through my nan’s vegetable garden,
but I guess that meant we were comfortable

with it all; she fessed to loving war games
as we saw one boxed, the thump of her heart

under her sweater – I told her I’d check –
at the approach of the miniature enemy;

there should be space made in anyone’s life
for times like this, intimate but not touching,

a conversation about nothing but loaded
with philosophy, a little rain on your neck

to laugh at, and the brush of your knuckles
against her knuckles, not wed but blessed,

finding a coin on the flags – joy – and an
opportunity to drop it in a collecting box,

or in a beggar’s Subway cup; road gold,
a nugget; a slow-breathing morning bustles

into a busy noon, more exploration, this time
the world-map in a coffee cup, she grinning,

the soul of the city she is, moving its pulse
with word, each, yes, my living moment.

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©Marie Marshall

Two hundred and seven words. 26

follow the witch, me on a Cayuse, she on a paint, through this field of saguaro without precedent, not a field though, more a forest, a city that presses us in so that we twist and turn on our restive ponies, spines and prickles catching our deep moccasin boots and our chaps, our way a series of zigs and zags; somewhere beyond this monster shade there are mountains, I must believe because I can’t see, I can only glimpse, before each sharp turn, the witch, and I’m conscious of the inverted triangle the line of her broad shoulders makes with the route to her saddle, the hexagon of her pony’s hindquarters and the further hexagon stamped in brown, though I can only see one third; we have left magic and machines behind, she is humming a single note, the regularity of my pony’s tread makes words cycle in my head that I hiss through my teeth in a kind of tune; I search to make them rhyme; my digital watch has stopped; my digital watch gave up the spirit some time ago, but as time is liquid its blank screen seems to be locked in secret, internal argument; I ask how silence can have a rhythm

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©Marie Marshall