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poem in progress 1

An example of my current work, with a nod to painting.  don’t like the ending, but apart from that…


National Portrait Gallery


I am in the National Portrait Gallery and you have auburn hair.

This much is clear. Your hair is hair but you know

how it affects me this particular hair.


In the atrium, your head is turned and auburn hair is running past

beside that ordinary profile and dutiful, beautiful lips.

You have a blue coat on. It is like the girl

who walks through Schindlers List with a red coat on.

You appear and disappear with immaculate timing.

My heart a wristwatch sinking in the sea.


You appear in this painting with a large nose,

and in this one you are flaky and flat-chested.

Everywhere, you are poorly represented

especially in the Renaissance room.

You have been proven by time more than any

of these old pastries in only a few years, I think.

Years which have blazed by like bullets

with roses on the end.


There you are. There you are. There you are.

Here your skin is at the point of vanishing into perfection,

as yours does. Nice small nose, I think.

A good effort at you, really, and not without your charm.


You are a living girl wading on the edge of a dream.

A startled stillness made movement. In and out of the rooms,

under that unmistakable shade of copper sway,

you appear. Here, reflected in the corner of a painting

I am looking at where a dog chews his bone.

There, smiling at one of a fat man in a silk hat.

Barely discernable breasts and hips, swollen light

falling blurred at the edges, inside your coat.


Uncontrollable, I follow your back –

your hands and hair flickering and sputtering

in the light – into the Age of Invention.

You have seen me looking at you

and you will be afraid. You would be. You were

afraid of me always, until you discovered how kind I can be.

And I cannot go through that again. You go in the Tudors.

I turn into Early Twentieth Century to gather myself

The walls are hiding and confusing.

My heart is a cracked heart in some alien room.


You appear again in the contemporary series of rooms.

Your movements are poor here, but from experience

I know your body is a marine mammal inside that deep coat.

I am feeling poetic, tired and hungry.

A surge of arrows sways along the channel

your body fills with echoes and fallen red flowers, my love.


You are nervous of me now. I am afraid too.

Afraid to touch your shoulder and ask you about Velasquez.

Afraid, more than death, the gallery attendant

will ask me to leave you alone.

Afraid to look again, but I do, because I love you,

as you pass. Our lives are turned together so tightly

you are around every next corner I turn,

waiting and turning. And each time round you are a bit ruined.


I look again. Your nose is softened until it barely pierces the air.

I look again. You flinch and our shared experiences fall off.

I look again. I am reminded of the men who are caught

masturbating under the gallery stairs.

These little balding bastards with their filthy retorts.


You go through to the shop and linger by the postcards.

I decide I will never see you again

(my scrotum grips, like a sea anemone as the shadow of a ship passes over it.)

A body, I admit, has been thrown from my ribcage

falls through the reflection of flailing arms from another age

and I will not hold you all lonely day. All lonely life.

I am thinking of the blossoms that appear on the chest

and burst from the eye or the top of the head.

We are looking for something inside ourselves

And all we get is eyes that follow us around the room.

Don’t you think so, Stranger?

The National Portrait Gallery is disappointing, I decide.

It is sunny outside, and you are a plain girl eating a sandwich

on St Martins Lane. You have bought postcards of youself.  

You are at the end of all journeys.

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