birthing partners     

you begin            to be conventional
‘hold my hand’
                                  chaos is not so much foreign
as not to understand
                        so stop jumping
it’ll come      we’ll all feel natural
if we do this right


                                  High above London
love and all its particulars
      new ones were founded on
speculative ventures     

            a gravedigger donned a surplice
to read      “the cool of an afternoon shaded
apple-blossom      her veins in leaves

quiet my love      we should compete in the games”

You enter on the folded edge of a paper aeroplane, the crack in a slab open      as if you have been waiting for years in parchment unavailable to me except through a handful of scholars. So many numbers appear as lakes and lacunae      strings connected to a balloon over the mountains, the sea, heading towards a decision.

so says the constable at Traitor’s gate
gentleman-thief of bacteria
heading back towards the Thames
absolutely saturated as someone else
himself admits (by way
of a warning)      ‘this is garish
and exquisite’      we find compassion delineated
in the creases on exhumation      the jumble of
rent sex and pillows offered fresh off the boat




your feet face me now as you tumble
who was it      that bad scientist
the inveterate juggler who realised he was standing
on nobody’s shoulders and had such a fright
knowing the competition at hand
he let go and things fell out
from nuclei and places they shouldn’t

he was soon a tourist attraction in his own right

‘No cemetery in London can boast so many natural beauties’
and we wonder why      ‘you don’t have to be Einstein’

 I pull a wire to see what happens. In uniform male and female enquire with concern      why      it was necessary to pull the wire. They give me things to fold instead            creases in speech

and still      the whispers’ attitude       is it enough

‘many set sail for earthly competition but not all’    
wisdom written on the blades of a television paddle-boat
too big and not deep enough      cut/flick/and switch

rain rips out flower after flower
in a startling exhibition of tooth and claw
raising the temperature      contracting
fulfilling the scripture      ‘only those who labour
hard and compete well’

                                                waiting for jaws to open we
bite empty the angles of silence
and night      sidled to by dimmed lamps
it made no difference of course      the moth
in the vaults equally confused confessed to seven
historic murders only one of which
had been depicted cinematically
‘Tower Green on 19 May’      we should therefore
compete that we may all be crowned




a whistle enters the darkness
      surprised by phosphorous
      where mechanical escalators are on standby
in a garden of hollyhocks      the portrait of a girl
               you know
what this is of course      it has
been going on a long time
we should at least come close to it     
the symphonic      a trademark
appeal for loneliness


Why is everybody standing around in surplices? Why the jump-cuts and flowers, long teeth locked in longer faces piercing your own eyes when she smiles? We should not forget today of all days when it comes to naming       how the entrance was rolled away leaving only a stone.


what happens
will leak into the soil and contaminate
nearby water supplies            you recall the earliest
pagan ceremonies      for example the bloody-minded stoicism
that had seen Londoners through the black death’s
one old lady from the East End who shook her fist at the heavens
declaring that she had survived the Luftwaffe
and would decide when it was time for her to go

but we arrive
accompanied by letters cards and candles
replicated up and down the land

many watch on giant screens
which read most conventionally     

there will be a spectacle for all to see

a circulation of blank pages
pushed under every door      loving today      only
none of it at all      little stories or white lies     pictures taken as it happens


[Sources: The Letter of 2 Clement (Trans. Bart D. Ehrman) and Necropolis: London and its Dead by Catherine Arnold.]



[Nathan Thompson lives in Jersey but won't soon.  His most recent collections are A Haunting, a sequence of lipogrammatic sonnets, from Gratton Street Irregulars and Holes in the Map from Oystercatcher Press. The Arboretum Towards the Beginning was published by Shearsman Books in 2008.]

Copyright © 2010 by Nathan Thompson, 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.