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.]

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Another poem from Alasdair Paterson’s Brumaire and Later – see ‘Goose’ below for the context.

//

Out on their feet, the new recruits,
but they don’t want to sleep.
They’ll make a night of it, cajole
each other near that hideous border
they’ll some time need to cross alone.

The wine helps, maybe not the colour;
bitter salad’s plated up and meat
they sent for cooling in its juices.
They’ll have each other taste it all, roar
slogans and poor songs till lights out.

The border crossing into sleep tonight,
when they get there, will be a bridge
over a meander fat with bodies
that go bumping under, fifty, fifty one,
and so towards the watercress beds.

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

Goose, by Alasdair Paterson

11 September 2014

Alasdair Paterson’s pamphlet Brumaire and Later, published in 2010, features a series of poems under the titles of names of days proposed for the French revolutionary calendar: agricultural and bucolic names like Beetroot, Endive, Harrow. ‘Brumaire’ itself was the second month of that calendar, named after the word for fog, ‘brume’.

//

In honour of the day that was in it,
we ordered a neck to be wrung
and fresh quills cut to consecrate
the age of the supreme pen.

Soon those quills were up and riding
the thermals of the times, or they’d dip
down into new opacities, give names
to all that had to be renamed

and craft the hard dispatches too;
so many old friends and similar
to be detained for more than questioning
somewhere near the border.

Lunch: we signed off with greasy fingers
a sketch of the new morality, unmistakably
a classic, all we’d dreamt and more:
something severe and diaphanous.

Then we winged it through the afternoon:
loose, free-flowing, no more prisoners,
and though we saw our signatures worn down
to small hard ciphers of the will,

they made their point. Our best day filled
brimful with our marks: so many.
And quite enough to count against us
on another kind of day, citizens.

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