(Winner of the 2007 Bridport Prize in Poetry)
The paparazzi got her
again outside the chip shop
next to her London hotel,
still drunk, the strap on one heel
undone, her dress wine-stained,
once white, her hair
elf-locked, only this time
she looked at one
right through the lens of his camera,
came at him, her thighs
two columns, her lipstick
and he knew,
though he would only say once,
years later, piss drunk in Wales,
a cab driver now and his head shaved,
grey stubble coming in,
yes he knew
it was in fact a goddess,
a minor one, not Greek,
her name unpronounceable,
and he understood
that if he did not instantly
smash his camera
spectacularly on the ground
he could expect no kiss, no erection,
not even one look
from any woman, ever again
that did not suggest he had farted.
So of course he did it.
And the others took pictures of that,
and of her again, undressing,
walking away from them
and into the tube.
The trashcans grew shells I can’t crack,
and where did the berries go?
If I eat another berry
I will become a bird,
thin like a bird,
and sows don’t answer chirping.
I need something naughty.
Worse than a sack of jam or cold cuts.
You know what I mean.
Something in boots.
Something with tattoos.
One of those fat seraphim
whose love-squeals leak
soft as rain from the tents
they light like little moons.
Something that might jump in the lake,
surprised that I can swim, too.
My uncle said they are cursed,
that nobody who eats one survives a week,
but when was the last time anybody tried?
Not my uncle, vomiting berries in the snow.
Not my cousin, swearing and waddling after the moose.
Then eating berries.
O Roman-nosed god of we black bears,
all smaller than you and humble
in the boozy smell of your urine,
let one of those, or two, but not three,
come to the park tomorrow (on foot, please),
and armed with only a camera,
which I will not damage
so that all of them will know my face
and know that my god is greater than theirs,
who will not come when they scream for him,
but will remain hanging on his branches,
sweet and passive as a beehive.
LOVE SONG FOR THE GEMINID METEORS
(First published in The Atlanta Review)
The night of the meteor shower
I went outside and looked up
at the only patch of sky the moon
had not blanked out
with all her proud light.
Soon I saw one,
a quick flaw in the celluloid,
a scratch of fire that smoked.
I waited for a sizzle or a boom
but the only sound
was the faraway mutter of traffic.
I went inside, understanding
that the one I saw was mine
somehow, enough for me,
and that’s the secret
I didn’t know ten years ago
when I was afraid to piss
because I might miss something,
when I didn’t know how to love one
instead of letting hundreds