Steve Sawyer

Two poems


Because you made me pulsate
like hot peach trees, reel like liquid skies
the colour of naked limbs. Because you were
the rain that dreams of larkspur
and woodruff, the smell of loam and bubble
gum laughter as the pub door opened.
Because we felt the same way about the city
of leaves and the miners’ strike, string vests
and washing lines in back yards. Was it Neruda
who said love is a three-legged dance
on a reclaimed stair-case with two right turns?
I loved you as a seasoned stockpile
of 3′ by 4′ adores the sun. You said love
is what happens when you feel the ocean’s
clamour prime your heart, when the roots
of larch and birch nourish your fingers
and toes and you see the world anew. It’s true,
when we first met my senses were alert
to amber clouds radiant like hives, the smell
of the bread bin, burl in the bark, iron
in the dew; it’s true, when we first met, I did
see the world anew. Was it Hegley who said,
love is a scream in the bathroom?
Remember, we debated what it meant to say
space or spruce is ‘real’ compared
to love’s laughing grief. We agreed real
is Yorkshire puddings, Stilton evenings
but when we talked of Plato’s cave,
prisoners blinking in the crackling air
where one shadow may hide another, we were
no longer sure. When we recited Neruda,
I loved you as rivers foam to the song
of whitethroats. Here, I loved you as burglars
escaped through the cellar while managers
ate a steak dinner; here, in this pub we
called the ‘197,’ I loved you like tomatoes
long to bounce down stepping stones,
passing kipper sheds and jagged rocks
to the monumental jaw bone of a whale; here,
at this table under the caped silhouette
of the Porto Sandeman, as folk musicians
played button accordian. Remember, we
didn’t know what a euphonium was, so we
bought another round of drinks, quoted
Marx on the Class Struggle in France,
asked whose side Christ was on, and why all
the greats wore clinically intriguing volumes
of hair. Here, under the caped silhouette
of the Porto Sandeman, we debated
what it means to know that string quartets
and the sans-culottes are real
compared to amour. We agreed love happens
on Ward 53. We agreed love happens
in Peru and the Bungalows and Bears
on the Cantril Farm estate where Maggie Kelly
bought me a chilli, asked if I threw
that tennis game in the hospital grounds.
We agreed love happens at the Showroom
on the big screen in The Crying Game.
That night your chrome yellow Mini-cooper
went missing outside the Star and Garter,
remember, we walked in donkey jackets
by the burnt-out boathouse, a glycerine lake
under the alopecia moon. I called you Three
birds that teach three birds to sing. I called you
the burning blue breaks of the sea. Your navel
was an ear to the shore – the bark of silence.
Now, I throw you a bone. How could I forget
your cold-war tantrums and bonfire eyes
Niagara could not quench. How could I forget
your six quavers of silence to the apocalypse
smile and when we talked of Plato’s cave,
where the shadow-mimes signify and prisoners
second guess, we knew it was war.
When we talked of the missing four weeks
we agreed we were deja vu and amnesia
in the same conversation. Tell me everything
you know about Medusa, Cruella De Vil,
Ivor Cutler. Because you were a Tyrannacide
hiding behind another Tyrannacide, disguised
as a florest. Because I couldn’t forget
the rocket-salad, free range eggs you launched
from the kitchen hatch. Was it Bukowski who
said love is a lot of bad movies, and a hair pin
in the ass? Because I didn’t fear your assassin
who stabbed me in the arm with an Easter egg.
I feared waiting between Everyday Loans and
Noble Amusements for the cab-door’s yawn,
that How-funny-you-are smile. I feared a spine
of burning salt and billowing lace at dawn.
I feared waiting between Everyday Loans and
Noble Amusements for Three birds to teach
three birds to sing.

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