January, by Jaya Savige

16 August 2017

for Peter Gizzi

We sit to a bowl of miso ramen,
same as the night before, only this time
you’re coming down with something
and need the chilli. Later we’ll sketch
a brief history of risk, the word’s
first appearance in a seventeenth-
century translation of the Lusiad,
the Portugese retelling of Homer
with da Gama as Odysseus; how
mortality data drawn from the plagues
in England gave birth to actuarial
science, and Halley, of comet fame
crunched the numbers for the seeds
of life insurance — the epistemic
shift from the providential view
that meant you’d sooner sacrifice
a goat before a trip than trust in
numbers. These days we rationalise:
what’s the probability of the plane
falling out of the sky? You’re far
more likely to be struck by lightning.
Did I tell you my father died in a plane
crash? you’ll say, and I — mortified
by my hypothetical, nodding as you
explain your penchant for Xanax
on cross-Atlantic flights — think back
to this moment, ladling miso into
our mouths, steam rising in winter,
you explaining how you nursed
your dying mother this September
and muttering, half under your breath:
Dying is so expensive in America.

[Read at and ripped from Jacket2.org]

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Toledo la rica, Salamanca la fuerte, Leon la bella,
Oviedo la sacra, y Sevilla la grande

Liverpool the impoverished, the liverish, the void, the full,
the self-besotted, the blarney-argoted, the blitzed and blackened,
the bella-brutta, the rag-rich, the moss-stained sandstoned,
the green-lung’d, the ricket-ridden, the loud and adenoidal.

Liverpool the last-to-be-served, the least-accounted,
the over-arched and undermined, the mother-tongued and plurilingual,
the Catholic-Protestant, the cap-in-hand, the hand-
to-mouth, the pub-encrusted and hovel-haunted.

Liverpool the riverine, the ocean-avid, the slaveship-tainted,
sugar-whitening, matchstick-making, slum and dockland
refuge of Lascars, Chinese, Irish, Jews, Somalians.

Liverpool the deserted, the polluted, the de bon aire,
the clinker-built and shipwrecked, the chameleon,
the edge-of-everywhere-and-nowhere’s-centre.

//

That final line could serve not just as an epithet for Liverpool, but as an epigram for Jan Morris’ Trieste and the Meaning of Nowherea longer meditation on somewhereness and nowhereness.

[Read in Selected Poems, published by Faber & Faber. poetryarchive.org has a recording of McKendrick reading the poem.]

I have hallucinations about roofs falling on whole families, a car running over a child, a stray bullet hitting right into a heart… Those events show glaringly that we are mere objects. Nature has its unavoidable laws.

Light is blinding, is the enemy. Desiring desire: that’s when a body disintegrates, and contaminates every river it has ever known.

Lines of trees lining a dry land form a line of pilgrimage. There’s a beyond-ness to words.

Nothing matters besides the little town’s yearning to go to sea, to never return.

A cool summer’s breeze is different from a winter’s same temperature.

Night is a subtle rain, wetting body and soul.

//

[Read in Night, published by Nightboat Books]

A passenger is boarding a ship. Let’s live before dying.

At times, an appetite for death creates a withdrawal into the nature of heat, turns the world into a blur.

A woman mourns her dead lover while everything buckles under her sorrow’s pressure. Her days are going to grow longer.

I can hear the night’s pulse. Divine will circulates around its edges. A precocious summer lies on a granite wall. The ocean is my land.

Disastrous are disasters. Paradise is such a lonely place that we are doomed, anyway. But at the meeting point of its rivers the horizon is always enlarged, the imagination, unleashed.

In the courtyard, the sun is scribbling shadows on the fading roses. I’m spending hours waiting for the next hour.

Love creates sand-storms and loosens reality’s building stones. Its feverish energy takes us into the heart of mountains. Sometimes, a frozen moon illuminates frozen fields.

There’s so much life around me, and I will have to leave.

//

[Read in Night, published by Nightboat Books]

(Baker Street station buffet)

Early Electric! With what radiant hope
Men formed this many-branched electrolier,
Twisted the flex around the iron rope
And let the dazzling vacuum globes hang clear,
And then with hearts the rich contrivance fill’d
Of copper, beaten by the Bromsgrove Guild.

Early Electric! Sit you down and see,
’Mid this fine woodwork and a smell of dinner,
A stained-glass windmill and a pot of tea,
And sepia views of leafy lanes in Pinner –
Then visualize, far down the shining lines,
Your parents’ homestead set in murmuring pines.

Smoothly from Harrow, passing Preston Road,
They saw the last green fields and misty sky,
At Neasden watched a workmen’s train unload,
And, with the morning villas sliding by,
They felt so sure on their electric trip
That Youth and Progress were in partnership.

And all that day in murky London Wall
The thought of Ruislip kept him warm inside;
At Farringdon that lunch hour at a stall
He bought a dozen plants of London Pride;
While she, in arc-lit Oxford Street adrift,
Soared through the sales by safe hydraulic lift.

Early Electric! Maybe even here
They met that evening at six-fifteen
Beneath the hearts of this electrolier
And caught the first non-stop to Willesden Green,
Then out and on, through rural Rayner’s Lane
To autumn-scented Middlesex again.

Cancer has killed him. Heart is killing her.
The trees are down. An Odeon flashes fire
Where stood their villa by the murmuring fir
When ” they would for their children’s good conspire. ”
Of their loves and hopes on hurrying feet
Thou art the worn memorial, Baker Street.

//

[Read in Six Poets: Hardy to Larkin – An anthology by Alan Bennett, published by Faber & Faber. Ripped from middlesexcountypress.com]

Another poem from Alasdair Paterson’s Brumaire and Later – see ‘Watercress’ and ‘Goose’ below for the context. Paterson’s writing in this pamphlet – for all the anguish of its subject, and often ripe-to-rotten richness of its imagery – has such clarity, like cool mountain water held in a wooden tub.

//

The first of the month,
the day named Apple,
pigs were fattening
as usual on the windfalls,
the sauce was thickening nicely,
when fog came down like white mourning,
like a mountebank’s trick hankie.

Then it was a morning
to spin you around;
so by the time you looked again
how strange and sharp
the landscape’s edges had turned,
how many stumbled into them.

But for others it was sweet,
sweeter than orchards to bite
into our time, our element at last.
To hear like a new-delivered pulse
the calendar’s muffled drum.
To walk sure-footed in the dim russet.
To unwrap the weapons.

//

[Read in Brumaire and Later, published by Flarestack Poets.]

Pain – has an Element of Blank –
It cannot recollect
When it begun – or if there were
A time when it was not –

It has no future – but itself –
Its infinite contain
Its past – enlightened to perceive
New Periods – of Pain.

[Read in Everyman’s Selected Poems.]