[Giant Impact Hypothesis No. 31]

Back then it was still kind of plausible,
you could get away with it, that sort of speech:
her silken fingers still plucked a heartstring
through a grate in the Tower, or struck cold
as a gleam blanching a cuisse or poleyn
through a tent’s vent on the floodplain of IJssel.

Four groping, discourteous centuries on,
immensements made plain and necessities
uncloaked, she’s flung poor-watered, godless and bald.

But where else, little eased or laid timorous
low, can you go, as disfavour’s gangrene takes hold,
but to draw full from her well once more
and pour out by her shafts how loss tore
through the shield and blasted, splintering sores
in the stolid sculpt of asthenia, which cooled
and refused, smooth as the ball of a femur,
left her to reflect how she stands now appalled,
to the side of her life, a troubled absurdity,
crater-dumb, hobbled by memories of
the clench of the iliac ocean, its supple,
lilting roll.
                    And there she turns, beyond pale,
panting and hangdog, dumbstruck and puzzled
as that dispossessed lurcher, circling
the pool’s shivered mirror, his joint out of reach
in the unfailing arc of the parable.




[The Wrap]

When I almost remembered, sleep-free and fretting
and boozed, to duck through to the bathroom – all
of these doors low-framed, to keep you on your toes,

or minding your head, as the saying goes,
deru kui wa utareru
and shocked on the light, what I thought was a tear

of mascara smeared off into tissues was really
the soot-drops from a moth’s inky wings.
Not dust exactly, but miniscule scales

it can shiver off to slide free, if need be,
of a dew-slung spiderweb, and spread its tiger-
striped underwings back to their moon-slant.

But now battered by winds, its wings tattered,
this rare little thing fluttered in
to a wrecker’s light, unable to steer clear

or to recognise its straight line now a spiral.
Perhaps it bashed its head for some time,
bemused or panicked to be on top of the world,

or at the end of the night so soon,
switching off, unconcerned. But now it lay
waste, half-shrouded by you in the wicker bin.

How small were the chances of ending like this,
Catocala unijunga, slipping through
the two-inch gap of the window left open:

about as slim as the decision to stay put
or take flight this uneasy night, as clouds
bloom and fade from the moon; about as thin

as a sip from the lips of Hylocereus undatus,
milk-skinned; as slight as a pollen grain
brushed on or glanced off, as it catches

its breath from a close shave; about the breadth
of a hair on the hunter’s head, some undistinguished
bat calling it a night, when its interest wanes,

its pulses sogged by a few pin-drips of rain;
or less than that, even, the ghost of a chance,
a flicker – not quite a paper width –

of an erratum slip now lost, with its skinny
on Vampyrum spectrum, which frequently sleeps
with wife and pup wrapped up in its wings,

and Desmodus rotundus, which often
may not. How slim the chance, I wanted
to ask, cocooned wherever you were now.


[The Ruse]

When Odysseus reneged on his vow
he not only set a donkey and ox to his plough
but plied the meagre fields of his rocky outcrop
with salt wrestled from the sea’s bitter grip.
But not even he, lesser than Agamemnon –
though city-sacker, butcher – could stomach the son
glinting before him, so steered off from his ruse
and the cliff, into the blood-storm, the hungrier furrows.

Then would come lotos-eaters, the oxen of the sun;
who would touch a hair on the head of a lowly one,
all we ploughed through in class, north of Fukushima,
whose crippled beasts ploughed straight for the prickling shimmer,
the big rig sowing the sea with so much caesium
Ulysses wouldn’t have known home from Elysium.





She’s walked in mud all over the carpet.
Like a toddler, or a dog, coming back from the pool,
squidges that stuck to her slip-on shoes.

There’s been no rain. It’s not a muddy day.
Where has she been? The field, she says; but where,
there’s no field between here and the river.

The field could be anywhere – grass or bank,
path or park, sheep-field; it could mean anything,
given wherever she goes is dementia,

treading its muck into her brain and tongue,
slurring the lucid stream of the Latin tia
nearly to smirring, dreich, Scots-Ulster sheugh.

Where could she have been. As if she could tell,
see clearly the clart inside her own head,
as if the mind, like a sponge, could wipe itself clean

in much the way a rubber could rub out
the mess dementia has made of this page,
without lifting any tissue with it.





[Iain Twiddy grew up at the edge of the fens in Lincolnshire, eastern England. He is the author of two critical studies of contemporary poetry. He lives in the city of Sapporo, in northern Japan.]

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