A Rose for Rosa


this is not the grave of rosa luxemburg she is not here you will not find her neither will you find her at the memorial to rosa luxemburg at the lichtenstein bridge or the u-bahn station rosa-luxemburg-platz you can search the length of rosa-luxemburg-straße in erfurt you will not find her she isn’t walking down rosa-luxemburg-straße in leipzig or rosa-luxemburg-straße in chemnitz we need her but she is not here you can’t stop looking on rosa-luxemburg-straße in döbeln but she isn’t there she’s not on calle rosa luxemburgo in gijón she’s not at the centre rosa luxemburg in béthune she isn’t there and you won’t find her on ulica roze luksemburg in belgrade you can visit the rosa-luxemburg-stiftung in munich frankfurt hamburg bremen stuttgart saarbrücken leipzig amsterdam brussels and méxico but you won’t find her you can walk through the centro commercial rosa luxemburgo in madrid but she isn’t there and neither is she anywhere on calle rosa luxemburgo or in the colegio público rosa luxemburgo or the clínica veterinaria rosa luxemburgo all of which are also in madrid where you won’t find her you will not find her on calle rosa luxemburgo in arganda del rey it wasn’t rosa luxemburg who lit up the róża luksemburg electric lamp factory in warsaw she is not in the jardins rosa luxemburg in paris or the jardins de rosa luxemburg in barcelona where although you may find roses you will not find her it’s no use looking for mies van de rohe’s monument to rosa luxemburg and karl liebknecht in berlin as it’s no longer there but if it were you wouldn’t find her and she’s not in rosa-luxemburg-platz in dresden or the collège rosa luxemburg in aubervilliers knock on every door in ulitsa rozy lyuksemburg in yecaterinburg she isn’t there you will not find her she isn’t on lôn rosa lwcsembwrg in llandegfan nor in the lycée rosa luxemburg in canet-en-roussillon you can spend days on ulica roza luksemburg in skopje but you won’t see her she is not on ulitsa roza luksemburg in sliven you will not find her on calle rosa de luxemburgo in la camocha you will not find her you will not find her there

 

 








During the Works

 

After Apollinaire

 

There was a whine of

builders' drills and cables hung

in loops beyond the half-done

shopfronts of the Forum des Halles

underground cloisters

on old cemetery limits

 

Mannequins grimaced

vacant in spring neons

and it set my teeth on edge

this razzle of fashion eternally

consuming its own death

 

Suddenly

rapid as memory

their eyes lit up

from glazed cell to glazed cell

 

Mythologies shattered in the glass

and the dummies accosted me

with their otherworld faces

in the fourth circle of FNAC

Apollinaire's Alcools in my hand

 

If their arm bones and leg

bones had long since gone to be

stacked in the catacombs

the leftovers unsettled

by the works had been

translated into fibreglass

 

And now they'd woken up

all at once less funereal

even laughing

at their own reflections

 

Had this been life? So much

glitter and striplight so much

money and love yes call it that

 

At that moment I loved them too

 

They looked at me tenderly

looked through me at

Apple Nikon Hitachi Samsung

galaxies unfolding in their stares

 

I said why don't we go for a walk

 

The shadows and their shadows

went voguing up the escalator

gliding arm in arm past Zara past

L'Occitane a whiff of lavender

or rosemary

 

We rose towards the surface and

blinked into sun

 

All forty-nine of them

lurched into the newly-planted

meadow crushing cowslips dancing

to the busker's violin that scratched

No woman no cry

 

A Chinese tourist stopped

photographing the magnolias

as the dead mingled with the living

 

A stiff hand unclenched

a student took it

you're the one he said

I'll wait ten years for you

or twenty

 

I'll wait all your life for you she said

 

Behind them the tune

switched to Will the circle

be unbroken

 

Another of the dead was trying to charm

a girl in a yellow shift

accessorized in black

a feather clipped in her hair

I love you he said

as New Look loves Dior

or sunglasses love the eyes of stars

 

Too late the girl replied her hands

shaking her wedding ring glinting

 

Construction workers in their

yellow hats went by

fluorescent jackets flicking back sun

from the site of the Holy Innocents

 

We threw small change into

the fountain and watched it sink

 

There was a smell of scorched

metal from the building site

where they were rigging a wave

of saffron glass above the shops

 

Our most extravagant desires

were echoed back at us

and the couples went on talking

with their lovely mouths

 

We could be so happy here

said the dead man to the living girl

see how the waves would close

over our heads you wouldn't know

if it was yourself you saw in the

glass or me looking back at you

there would only be longing

disembodied as markets

pure as angels or diamonds

 

But I can see that you're afraid

and perhaps rightly so

there would be no turning back

 

At last we found ourselves

returning to the temporary

entrance and its sign

 

Pendant les travaux

le shopping continue

 

The living started drifting off

saying bye for now

see you later and going

for a coffee in Costa or browsing

Esprit or H&M while their

remaining hours and minutes

ticked away in Swatch

 

The dead went back to the windows

and took up their poses with no

idea of what had happened

I spotted one of them in Gap

and another in Etam

but they didn't

catch my eye

 

There's nothing so uplifting

as having loved the dead

you lose yourself in glassy

reflection you're strong for life

and you don't need anyone

 







Displacement Fixing By Steerage

 

 

Prepaid freight

 

To avoid the postcard of collision at a later platform, three settlements of threat will be explained for the outsider. They are i) the cardinal policing of contraband, ii) bilge, and iii) the different tonnage we employ. If you stand facing notices to mariners (i.e. towards scope, if you are in engine or war risk), space is behind you, ebb is on your right harbour, whirlwind on your left harm. A berth is a horizontal arrest measured clockwise.

 

The Statement of Account

 

The procedure for finding one's weight in an unknown current is one of many with which experienced marine reconnaissance can assist. In a setback as you travel southward, the constructive total loss appears to drift northward over your heaviest hatch. If you have a vigilante, you need not worry about marking the earlier quotas. All you have to do is mark the shift in information.

 

Receipt in Full of All Demands

 

The police state is not conspicuously bright. Unless the medical advice of the helmsman be clearly understood, the noon SOS remains a bewildering and disordered allocation. Once you know its approximate signal, the cocktail party of the H-hour in which it is to be found, and its varying postscripts, a few mists in the opening of a starlit non-delivery should be sufficient for you to locate and recognise the policy, even if you have never seen or heard of it before.

 

The Next Storm

 

The statements contain many approximate infractions of directives which are only to be detected by the knowing facility of the Mare Nostrum who is 'at hook' among the snotters. Once one understands the medium of the daily and annual channels in the approach of the noon sound, and can in addition recognise the brighter spaces, it is quite impossible to be entirely lost on a clear note: one may not be able to say more than 'That is roughly echo', or 'Squall is more or less over there', but this is enough to guard against complete displacement.

 

The Plumb and the Pool Start

 

Let us now turn our attention from the supercargo to the non-slip. The berth of the statements will be briefly described later, and at this point it is only necessary to say that whereas the positions of the statements in the slipway are continuously altering, there is one statement whose position is steadfast. And this statement is located directly above the N. point of the hour. No matter from what point of ebb's northern hindrance you look at it, it is always within one delivery of true note.

 

 







A Divinatory Calendar

 

Cholula

 

 

ce xóchitl 

1 flower

 

The rain has stopped, lavender and eucalyptus

crushed between fingers. Blue scatters on the stones,

a fluttering of ash against the skin. It hurts to live in words

but whose hurt is it, so far from the catastrophe unfolding

right in front of you, a continuous downward movement.

 

 

ome cipactli

2 crocodile

 

Times overlap on a day caught in the teeth of calendared

events snapping shut on the possibility of doing all of this again

in someone else's life. I'm trying to speak to this moment but it's

not listening. The habits of highly productive people include lying

down at the crossroads covered in ash. Avoid meetings.

 

 

ye ehécatl

3 wind

 

From the cardinal points held in balance by a mid-air

somersault, everything comes undone in your hands, you

waiting at the centre of the flood ready to crash down

on all the messages marked URGENT jajajajaja,

your inbox the dimensions of the known world.

 

 

naui calli

4 house

 

The explosions are coming closer. Electricity, sound waves

and love, you said, they're all the same thing. I said maybe

translations of each other, as if translation were a metaphor

but you said no, they are identical. On the other side of the wall

it's getting dark. I shut my eyes against the flickering lights.

 

 

macuilli cuetzpalin

5 lizard

 

Old days scuttle through the new or stop and freeze. Don't

look at your watch or the clocks painted on plates,

only if you must the one in the square that has no hands.

And if I stole this day you're just as much

a thief hiding in the crack between calendars.

 

 

chiquace cóatl

6 snake

 

Coiled loops of sun make each hour a repeatable circle

spiralling down as you follow the lines of force to see where

they break. Pointless having a to-do list. There are 1440 minutes

in a day, some of which you remember and others that fall

into this system of dismembering known as work or conquest.

 

 

chicome miquiztli

7 death

 

In the cross-fade of two musics, memory and waiting

become a single tension in the sound of your heart still

beating through the hours to keep the sun beaming down

in dollars, pesos, pounds, the natural order. Get to the point

just when it dissolves like salt in drizzle bristling the skin.

 

 

chicuei mázatl

8 deer

 

A deer runs from the trees, its ears curved out to motorways

and stars. Infinity catches in the branches. Believe me when I say

that all of this was accidental. Now none of it. It's only

repetitions, diaries and divinations that bring what's outside

inside, folding habit round the smashed glass and roadkill.

 


chiconaui tochtli

9 rabbit

 

You may just be a rabbit but look at the sky. Everyone

remembers your image in light. Productive people use the night

before to plan the day ahead, always finding time to sit

at the roadside staring into a field where a man is picking

yellow flowers for the ceremonies before the rain comes.

 

 

matlactli atl

10 water

 

After the rain I'm looking for a colour for this word,

petrichor. Plant oil seeping into earth could be

green, but blood is just as volatile. Take this

blush reddening the air when thunder rolls back

the curtain on a massacre that hasn't ended yet.

 

 

matlactli once itzcuintli

11 dog

 

The dog on the roof howls its own dog song to afternoon,

which growls back distantly with traffic. I can't hear what

you're saying, the shape of your lips drowned out

by the seconds blurred into white noise, while the last

bird in a storm is trying to pronounce its name.

 

 

matlactli omome ozomatli

12 monkey

 

The car slows down just where the volcano frames

the church on the pyramid. Calculate exposure times

in centuries or look away now. I'm all of these split-second

collisions, not to speak of the monkey in the blood jumping

backwards and forwards between them. And running late.

 

 

 

matlactli omei malinalli

13 grass

 

Water speaks and grains of maize speak, a mass of earth

speaks against the histories of stars, a buzzing in the night.

Grass busy underfoot. You clap your hands. It's not the birds

that answer back, it's time that shrieks. The days are talking

all at once, their tongues punctured with green blades.

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

[Zoë Skoulding (b.1968) is Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Bangor University. She was editor of Poetry Wales from 2008 to 2014. Her most recent collections are Footnotes to Water (2019, Seren), which won the 2020 Wales Book of the Year Poetry Award, The Celestial Set-Up (2020, Oystercatcher) and A Revolutionary Calendar (2020, Shearsman). Her monograph Poetry & Listening: The Noise of Lyric is just out from Liverpool University Press. Her current research project is Transatlantic Translation: Poetry in Circulation and Practice Across Languages (AHRC).]

 

 

 

 

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