from It’s Nothing
Can you make a poem out of rain?
A man pushes a pram through a haze
of drizzle. Yes you can, but what’s it
singing, winking across the tarmac, gargling
in gutters? The lighthouse ignites the storm
that rushes towards dissipation; beams spark
in the gloaming. You fail to duplicate,
verisimilitude crashing the bins in gusts in
the backyard, real enough. A car put-putts
very close behind you and purrs. Not real.
Turn. You see the lights of a dream sedan
burning under the wet hump of its bonnet, the windscreen
a driverless blank wiped clean. When words
overtake you, you edge into the midst of your life.
THE CRUST OF MIRACLE
Stolen by fog, sunlight returns like a spelling
to the tongue, peeping through the blue dye
sinking into viscous air, tinged orange,
until the milky film unfolds the baffled ear.
The sick duck isn’t sick at all; it’s a decoy
bobbing wooden among real preening fowl;
its beak droops; its curved neck sinks. Once
solved, enigma glides off-stage, empty and full.
The fallen ash tree buckled an iron fence,
its rotten fungal trunk exposed. It must have snapped
while branches wriggled as it fell, in gales,
to soften the blow, between splitting and
impact. It’s easier to deride somebody’s bad
spelling than to teach them to think and see.
It takes five minutes flat to work out he’s a professor too.
He carries his research everywhere on a hard drive
that he pulls from his pocket – though he risks every
drug he can remember: acid, speed, dope and e. Gin.
The cosmic caveman, freshly fallen from the wagon,
shares a spoof kid’s picture book called Jack Shit. Imagine.
The retired gigolo with one trouser leg trapped down his sock
leaps on the bar to unravel Christmas tinsel. In the back
room, one of the La’s is playing impromptu guitar
but we don’t check it out. I miss the nights when Steve used
to lean round the bar and ask, ‘Fancy some Howlin’ Wolf?’
This is nothing much ado about something or other, like my dream
in which a long dead neighbour from Southwick said, ‘Your parents
never got something they could understand.’ Meaning me.
SETTING OFF FOR WORK AHEAD OF YOU
I’ve forgotten my reading glasses so I’m writing this
Today is one of the numbered days on the long tally
And I’m negotiating with myself about myself
I left where we left ourselves on the mattress
I might have to leave my European Union
The PM’s negotiating hard with the Poles
Goodbye Roubaud goodbye Kouwenaar back
To a thin slice of parkin and a slim vol by Larkin
Forsythia bursts cold beside the rusty tracks warm
You’re still at home negotiating your wardrobe for work
A bye-law states no one shall sing on this train
If I could read it back this might prove a love poem
Entuning our hard pleasures into our soft routine
I scratch my voice in harsh contravention of the rules
Copyright © Robert Sheppard 2017
Robert Sheppard's most recent publication is Petrarch 3 from Crater, a fold-out map of versions of one of Petrarch's sonnets to get lost in. Before that Shearsman brought out his selected poems, History or Sleep. His critical work includes The Meaning of Form and The Poetry of Saying. He lives in Liverpool, teaches at Edge Hill University, and blogs at www.robertsheppard.blogspot.com.