De-signifiers, by Jamie McKendrick

8 December 2012

Rust and dry rot and the small-jawed moth
are our best friends and they wish us well,
undoing the fabric of our heaven.

They correspond to something inside us
that doesn’t love the works our hands have made
– wire cutters, pick-locks, saboteurs.

‘Are you building a good memory to have of me?’
you once asked as though I’d just begun
a papier-mâché Taj Mahal.

I keep a cardboard box of newspapers
in the cupboard so everything that’s happened
is safe from pulp mills and the record-shredders

but all the while in the dark the silverfish
and woodlice are at work on the word,
its dot matrix. Living on what seems to us

dust, they profit directly from our negligence
and attention in general only provokes
their swerving, averting or curling up manoeuvres.

Meaning? They roll it away and break it down
into unrecognisable fragments
like fatigue in our metal or cancer in concrete.

[Read in Sky Nails: Poems 1979-1997, published by Faber & Faber.]

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