Martin Malone – Four poems

martinBorn in West Hartlepool County Durham, Martin Malone now lives in Warwickshire. A winner of the 2011 Straid Poetry Award and the 2012 Mirehouse Prize , his first full collection – The Waiting Hillside- is published by Templar Poetry. Currently studying for a Ph.D in poetry at Sheffield University, he edits The Interpreter’s House poetry journal.

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LOVERS IN AN UPSTAIRS ROOM

After Utamaro

His tongue speaks out the poem of me,
mouthed upon my pillow of down.
Oystercatcher; Hamaguri ni
Hashi o shikka to.

O, those hours in the pleasure quarter,
when we re-write the gō of us, loosen
my hiyoku, give flesh its reason.

And on that Autumn evening
when he cannot fly away, we give
and give and gift ourselves allowing.

Thew, kiss, thigh, lips; his heft
upon me, teeth at my nape,
small lightning from breast to cleft.

Unutterable spoken as caress;
unsayable murmured in his melt
and melt, once more into me.

That bud of me found beneath my silk,
the stock of him, planted deep.
This now, this Autumn gives skin its season.

Oystercatcher; beak caught
firmly in the clam shell.
His eyes seek out the leaves of me
spread before the wind.

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TIME AND CLEAR ROADS

In the end,
this is what we want:
hours wide open
to an empty road,
a sunset giving out
to the line of hills
and a car heading west.

Morning will bring you, surefooted and smiling,
to the gate at the end of your narrow track.

Between then and now, a crossing
and the drive across Mayo
to your home on the Moon.

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GADD’S OWL

Autistic as the day is long; to us pre-decimals
he was nutjob, loony, and spazz. While
Miss Tobin tried to explain new pence,
Old Bug-Eyes moaned like a revved Cortina;
chewing on his carpus when he got upset,
or unsure. That bloody, corned-beef wrist,
gnawed-at and angry as a gypsy’s curse.

Round-headed and squat and commonly found
in the playing field scrub we called The Wood,
he was the last of the worm-eaters; swallowed
them whole to delight the girls, showed his own
to make them squeal. Kewicking, scratching
and kicking, he was fierce in the defence
of his polythene den beside the railings.

Impossible to withhold comment, then,
on the ironies of choice made when
that crippled Tawny took to roosting
in the garage of the Gadd’s semi. Why there
in Hart Station, so far from his twisted oak?
Perhaps old Stix sensed a kindred varmint
or deciphered the house name’s Latin. Maybe.

Things ended grimly at Stella Maris.
Gadd’s owl, growing tired of celebrity, tried
a return to the bole before he was ready.
Like a tidal grounding, we gathered
to help but saw him beaten each time;
as he flung himself from his perch
into the metal door with a doom, DOOM…

Christopher’s Dad did what was right: to our
sickened delight he banjaxed his Brown Owl
with a tent pole. Collectors to a man,
we fell upon the carrion, stripping it
down for parts. I took a talon for some grim
work with a knife. Yet on my desk, it is
school again. And again that bloody wrist.

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ARTLESS

Let’s just remember this;
That when the time came round
We stopped our mouths
And laid each other down and told the truth.
(‘Honesty’ by Jo Bell)

My gloss on your word, the one in your head
you carry furthest and use most often;
the one you say survives us when we’re dead;
the word you save, for when I’ve forgotten
this glad witchcraft of our double bed
casting us. That candid thing and candy kiss
which keeps us , yes – have it – honest. Ahead
of harder days, when drab things have gotten
us nowhere but the edge of some abyss;
let’s just remember this.

Hell yes, love, drop those things on the floor
and come to me. Drop your aitches, your guard
these pulled punches, your clothes. Left at the door
our words can fend for themselves and bombard
their own day with questions. Leave us the night raw
with stars and the silence of bodies aground
in sleep, your head cradled in this good man’s paw.
We have been here before in others’ regard
but this tired time rejoice to have found
that when the time came round

we stopped our mouths , kissed and told the truth.
For, what’s there to prove beyond this moment
and our touch? Leave the big talk to youth
and let us live it. We’re not opponents
but poets of the space we share. No reproof
is needed here, no whys and whens and hows;
just a coming together under this roof
when we’ve time and clear roads: plain components
of the simple state of joy aroused
when we stopped our mouths.

Have my word – artless – to see your honesty:
shorn of deceit, open, frank and sincere,
a tongueless term from an unopened dictionary.
Let it serve us well, ring true to these ears
and guide us through our days. I come out slowly
and kiss your bones, that fifth one giving proof
to a rhetoric beyond vocabulary.
Here, then, to those future days and hindsight years
when we went quiet, kept the world aloof
and laid each other down and told the truth.

 

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