Authors: Ian Pindar
My awful seventies
name, you sd
(mine too) but
From alle wimmen my love is lent,
And light on Alisoun
Levedy, al for thine sake
Armed with certain relics, I began to assemble an emporium where nothing in it would be for sale – a shop that would never open.
The author gratefully acknowledges the following publications in which poems in
first appeared, sometimes in slightly different form:
The London Magazine, Magma, New Poetries III
Oxford Poetry, PN Review, Poetry Review, Stand
Times Literary Supplement
. Thanks are also due to Michael Schmidt, Judith Willson and all at Carcanet for their support. Invaluable advice was offered by John Crowfoot regarding ‘Birds’, and Dana Pšenicová at the Czech Embassy in London helped me with ‘Mrs Beltinska in the Bath’, which won second prize in the 2009 National Poetry Competition and was shortlisted for the 2010 Forward Prize (Best Single Poem).
The Poet Reclining
Suggestions for Further Reading
Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement
Everybody’s Talking about Antonin Artaud
Naked on a bed, the sex in shadow,
not caring if man or woman.Â
Something of the caged beast, captive, fallow,
odour of unclean linen.Â
Darkness beyond everything.
Nothing visible exceptÂ
limbs turning, seeking rest,
arms and legs bending, unbendingÂ
like a puppet examining its joints.
The head moving from side to sideÂ
as if struck by invisible fists
from different angles, from inside.Â
Pavel in profile
his eye at the spyhole
watches Mrs Beltinska in the bath.
Steam from the spyhole
rises and unravels in the dark
cold apartment at his back,
where a TV with the sound down
shows the River Vltava
bursting its banks.
And as Prague’s metro floods
and the Malá Strana floods
and the Waldstein Palace floods
and the National Theatre floods
and the Kampa Modern Art Museum floods,
Mrs Beltinska sinks her treasures in the suds.
The first Czech bible (1488) is drowned
in sewage water, but the warm orange glow
from Mrs Beltinska’s bathroom
coming through the spyhole
gives an odd kind of halo
to Pavel’s head seen from behind.
Youth and beauty have left me
a full packet of cigarettes
and this balcony. Time redecorates
my home as a reliquary.
The camera loved me once,
as everyone loves a young woman
of spirit who toys with men
and uses her natural elegance
to get what she wants. Siren
or ingénue, whatever they asked of me
I exuded ‘a carefree, naive sexuality’,
the critics said. Dominique, is that Dorian
at the door? My official biographer
promised to swing by after church
with more questions. He isn’t much
to look at, but he’s my last admirer.
There are monsters on the prowl whose form changes with the history of knowledge.
Scepticism is insincere
If not maintained in daily life,
Professor Aromax concludes
While murdering his second wife.
Ideas, we are told by James,
Are true if they are profitable.
Professor Bidex keeps a shrunken
Head upon her coffee table.
Professor MacIntyre expounds
At length upon his idées fixes,
But hastily departs if any
Student wears a crucifix.
Professor Pyke is much the same
And has no tolerance for God.
His last dispute resulted in
A bloody carcass in the quad.
The students of Professor Stead
Know better than to mock his stammer.
The last to do so had his head
Caved in by someone with a hammer.
Professor Mallard has a coat
Of thick and matted body hair,
But only when the moon is full,
At other times it isn’t there.
Professor Gant, a revenant,
Who rarely ever takes the stairs,
Prefers to glide from room to room,
Catching students unawares.
And still the ghost of Francis Bacon
Haunts the winding stair below,
Doomed for a certain term to stuff
A chicken carcass full of snow.
In a nearby exhibition hall
Mr Ponsonby-Smythe demonstrates his new machine
for winning back the Empire – there is blood
all over his doeskin pantaloons.
In a pagoda surrounded by bamboo
Miss Grace Laluah serves coconut milk,
bananas with honey and tropical fruits …
But who is that girl in the wicker chair,
her arm amputated at the elbow?
Her copper hair and small breasts delight me:
the standard lamp, the single bed, the curtained window.
Her skin smells of pepper.
In the doghouse.
I am a dog and I don’t even like dogs
(I’m a dog and I don’t even like them).
Skulking through the streets like a dog.
Licking old wounds like a dog.
Have you forgotten
None of this was made for your
(So tired, so tired.
Work tomorrow …)
First there was sleep, then waking
then making do, then sleep.
And when night falls
and the will fails,
when the will fails
and night falls,
all the poisons within me,
all the poisons in which I am mired
accumulate in the marrow.
They will be smiling as they did of old,
keeping tradition in the blood
and blood in the soil.
Men of action, irrational,
suspicious of intellect: all dissent
is betrayal and betrayal death.
Fear difference: the enemy
within. If you are weak
you will die, as Nature intended.
And the people perish,
reeling, staggering towards
a ring of light on the horizon.
I drove a car to Chambourcy
And left it there, without a thought.
It hurt the owner of that car
To think of it.
The kindly Camboriciens
Prayed for its soul at St Clothilde.
The car was bound to play them false
It was a wicked, wilful car.
Its classic parts, so very rare,
Were polished there with tender care.
Its engine all of burnished gold
It did not care for man or God.
Time was when the poet lay in a green field.
O I once met a poet reclining
For a pillow he had but a coat
And I saw his green halo a-shining
Green halo, green halo, he wrote.
Alone at last in the country
With a pig and a horse in a field
With pine trees and woods all around me
My heart at last shall be healed.
Now I have no farmer’s wisdom
And grow here nary a bean
But the woodland makes me welcome
And the grass my halo green.