About Your Sketches

Only the defoliate branches
are looking after it, the pedestrian street
in the windsweep as Autumn begins
with a series of controversies we look down on
but are starting to feel matter, like dark matter.
Tribute pours in, out, the sun rises
in a frame of the same 90s moulding:
Come for the bum-bags,
stay for the immiserating futility cast over everything.
The cameras are on. Hope
is the worst medicine in your state,
these lakes without lustre:
the silence of the iambs malicious
but right in its echo, asking
who do you think you’re talking to
anyway. Medicine is the best
that’s why we call it medicine.



Southampton Morning Song

Coming home in the fog
round back of the precinct where someone’s taken the c
off the coral sign and sprayed
an arse-shaped pizza on the domino’s shutters, in its loveliness
dawn is a fast buck in the cutthroat world
of conurbation, the pavement growing
charlock and bull thistle, so much in silence,
bleached crisp packets shuffling by the robin hood bricks
like a host of daffodils, like birds in bird rush hour.
I always slept through it, morning’s marinade of fact,
the miracle that even here gets it; here
come the buses like myths of the working day.



Engine Management System

Assurbanipal, the grandeur of his edifices,
the Great King, the mighty King, the King of the World,
his dreams on his bed at night were pleasant
and in the morning his fancies were bright.
Scion, making the kings of Arabia carry baskets and wear caps
      as his people steal bricks away as spoil by the command of the gods.  
Emptying wine of sesame he enters under the canopy
of his mighty harem. O Assurbanipal, my old Corsa
has still got the spanner-in-a-car light on



Labour Along the Charted Path

In the woods around here it’s more like autumn
but otherwise the same. Five million
are on less than the living wage. The fireworks
like fireworks on firework night.
My oil cap is holding well, I think,
stepping out of the car
in walking boots hard to walk in.
From the phone to the dark is a rural measure
for the eyes. This country has been set
no limit.

We know it.
Today’s climate
makes everyone look bad.
To say it
is like highlighting in white —
oh yes, somebody better investigate
soon. And we know who.
And again. The only thing worth trying
is something else.




[Ben Hickman is a poet and critic living in Canterbury. He is the author of John Ashbery and English Poetry (Edinburgh, 2012), and is Lecturer in Modern Poetry at the University of Kent. His poems have been published in Poetry Review, Tears in the Fence, Shearsman, ZONE and elsewhere.]

Copyright © 2013 by Ben Hickman, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.