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Scotch

Ruth Padel, 14 November 1996

... The fox you didn’t know you had in your front garden is craning his velour neck from the hedge at two in the morning to see what he doesn’t often get a glimpse of, that moonspark on a glass of Scotch he doesn’t often smell being more at home with fish-heads and the rinds of Emmental: trainspotting to his fox-astonishment a tumbler doing the rounds of his own beat about heart-height in the dark ...

Writing a Postcard after a War

Ruth Padel, 3 December 2009

... Like Matisse, bending over ink and watercolour on a shut-in terrace to sketch the only wineglass on his table. Its coiled, thick stem. The row of blobs below its bowl a choker of pearls for a bony throat. The candyfloss smudge of thinning pink within. Its need to know the worst but hope for more. He’s writing, small and black beside the pale-rose tint he’s given to particles of water drying on a letter, 6th May 1947, This is the glass in which I drink the fresh and perfumed wine of Alsace à ta santé ...

Harley Street

Ruth Padel, 3 December 1992

... She was born round the corner in an attic. Balancing chemistry textbooks on her feet, her father pushed the ivory five-foot pram down the middle. ‘He thought you were immortal’ says her mother. Later she daggered sticks along immaculate black railings. Today it is a psalm with each brass doorbell, every blue-rinsed concierge, daily bland against the rush of last hopes ...

The Phoenix

Ruth Padel, 27 May 1999

... her once-red head locked In a tank of steam,         Her face foxing down into nothing Saying ‘All my beauty’s gone,’ Holding on To your wrist, your bare arm, Through a shock hedge of wiring, spliced         Every which way to intestines And rationing herself to Seven Up (Plus morphine) on the rocks. So cold, under the striplight Night after night         Through all the carry-ons: The bubble-cloud of rosaries, The small-hours foraging for ice In the hospital kitchen ...

Sorry

Ruth Padel, 8 May 1997

... For Don and Chris who asked me to check the genitive of clitoris not in Greek, which is easy, but Latin. I’m trying standard dictionaries in three languages for that sleek particular satin- ness of skin, homologue of penis, male, present in the OED as rudimentary organ in the female of many of the higher vertebrata, found in all and any Carnivora, nub (you might say) of all those ravaged strata of what we think about each other our hit and miss way, as illustrated from the Torah to Pop Chic ...

Revelation

Ruth Padel, 5 January 2012

... A ladder’, the master whispered, ‘of nucleic acid.’ This was the first we’d heard of it. Rain nosed the glass; wind lashed the trees outside. ‘Four hydrogen-bonded nucleotides locking on like mating damselflies, but each a different size, pulling the ladder’s sides into a twist, like serpents on the sign outside a chemist who for old time’s sake gives lodging in his window to the alchemist’s glass jars ...
... How can I paint Winter Landscape with Temples and Travellers, or Five-Colour Parakeet on Blossoming Apricot Tree? The oracle boxes are empty and the Minister with a Brief for Charming Explanation has signed a licence to the army for the forest to be cut, ordered satin linings to his red kimono and is drinking with the General in what he says is the best restaurant in town, attended by two 15-year-old girls: hand-picked, translucent brown jade ...

Two Poems

Ruth Padel, 18 September 1997

... Sumatran Watching him handle his life as a flame-thrower on pilgrimage for a key geological event – say, volcanic eruption in snow, the frozen cocaine of church bells giving out under ice below Reykjavik – or let’s say he’s something more animate, a very endangered species of tiger, the kind that makes himself go without silence, not giving stillness, either, a chance in his fire-clawed search to be loved, crying at Disney, not seeming always to like himself much but giving his tiger-all to whatever’s on hand at the moment, you worry, seeing him glitter out that ruthless innocent blaze (does a tiger need to be moral?) rushing at everything: what will he have of his own at the jungle’s end? Arson Appollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 3 ...

Two Poems

Ruth Padel, 26 January 1995

... Mr Exocet She dreamed he made a scape ship from a grandfather clock, bone soap, and the certainty that human’ll breed true. Refuse the transhuman, he’d thunder in his sleep to the digital alarm. But that’s the old style him. He’s bought air purifiers, banned whisky from her house, eats only yellow food. He’s carving tables of exogamy. Marry out ...

Two Poems

Ruth Padel, 28 April 2011

... The Two-Handled Jug A low-flying stork. Two acres of graves, guarded and layered in rose-pink. Walls, city, dust. We have been here for ever. Anonymous pinchpenny plague tombs from medieval centuries. Bronze epitaphs in French, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic. Fathers and children, fathers and wives. The Jewish Cemetery, Marrakesh. A visitor, wearing the guard’s black velvet kippah, wanders, takes notes, then washes his hands in a marble trough by the ten-foot gate ...

Two Poems

Ruth Padel: ‘The Excavation’, ‘The Watchers’, 20 February 2003

... The Excavation Travelling ends. Fur’s losing condition. Brittle, each ginger hair-tip will snap. Rubbed patches appear on the rump as they squeeze into underground tunnels, flatten themselves under fences in wet sieve of rain, scuff through concrete hole four inches square. Greeting the year with a clear soul, she looks for a family earth. Her mother, her grandmothers dug in cement under lock-up, door step, grave; a tower of Ford Capris in a breakers’ yard ...

A Drink in the New Piazza

Ruth Padel, 7 March 1996

... In Memoriam Gerry Macnamara I They were switching on headlights through A40 dusk, despite the blaze from Mister Lighting and a glow-worm trek of aeroplane through the scuffed cloud: a written line, a last letter running left to right of the flyover till it smudged out in coughs. The little source drawing south, away from its end: that soft broken run of cotton commas ...

Slices of Toast

Ruth Padel, 8 March 2007

... for Ian Jack Lying in bed in the dark without heating. December 3rd and feeling warm, almost too warm, I hear the window give that rattle-burp it only ever does when the wind is fierce outside. Black raindrops flame on the glass. Light from across the back gardens, one lone yellow oblong, someone up early on a winter morning. And I think of my parents putting radiators in their home, dark slices of metal toast in every room ...

Two Poems

Ruth Padel, 12 March 2009

... Giant Sable Antelope Would Like a Word with History At night the savannah comes to claim me. Thirty females and their calves in search of a leader. Shaggy manes down each nape. White cheeks and that dagger of kohl down the nose. Vibrissae, strands of black glass under a pure white chin. Nefertiti eyelashes, each aching hair standing proud from each whiffy pelt ...

Two Poems

Ruth Padel, 1 June 2000

... The Grief Maps You find the manuals (‘How to Mourn’) on Borders’ Self-Help shelves. ‘Imagine this to be your Trail Guide in a park. Starting from Point Death, the paths available are Numbness, Shock, Denial. They lead to Loneliness, Confusion; visions of black lorries dashing by on the M25 each with a hole in its black side like the last piece missing from a jigsaw: sable icebergs calving in the Sea of Desolation ...

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