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Tony Harrison, 12 February 2009

... I’ve always been aware one day I’ll die but I feel my real mortality begin when this year, for the first time, I’ve filled in the ‘in case of emergency please notify ...

October 2006

Tony Harrison, 2 November 2006

... This ladder creaks. Take that ring off I bought for you in Gdansk, first token of my growing love, with the 40-million-year-old fly embalmed in its amber, resin oozed before Man, not to bruise the apples I drop for you to catch from the Bramley I planted after that Polish trip ...

PM am

Tony Harrison, 22 May 2003

... Why is it, Lord, although I’m right I find it hard to sleep at night? I often wake up in a sweat they’ve not found WMDs yet! The thought that preys most on my mind, is maybe the only arms they’ll find (unless somehow I get MI6 to plant them to be found by Blix, that’s if the UN sneaks back in) are Ali’s in the surgeon’s bin ...

Under the Clock

Tony Harrison, 17 April 2003

... Under Dyson’s clock in Lower Briggate was where my courting parents used to meet. It had a Father Time and Tempus Fugit sticking out sideways into the street above barred windows full of wedding bands, ‘eternities’ to be inscribed with names, like that I felt on Dad’s when we held hands, or on Mam’s crumbling finger in cremation’s flames ...

On the Metre

Tony Harrison, 2 June 2005

... I’m always quoting le coeur bat l’iambe – Jean-Louis Barrault on the metre of Racine. Blood recorded on an echocardiogram in synch with karaoke squid shapes on the screen, I hear now with a woman in white coat. Though not iambic, more fluttery trochee, the odd dochmaic, anapaest, I note the verse in my pounding heart at least’s not free. The beat’s in a blood wash, the sound’s more a factory filled most hours but now forlorn where a nightshift cleaner swabs a vast tiled floor shoes’ll clatter on and echo come the dawn, someone weary and worksick but in a hurry with measured swishes from his sodden mop ...


Tony Harrison, 15 December 2005

... The best wood to make chips with for our fire was from bakehouse boxes Dad brought smeared with lard. It had a whiplash crack. Its sparks leaped higher. You had to look sharpish with the fireguard. Primed with Posts Mam plaited the greased chips lit with a purple sputter and deep hiss. More than childhood’s pier-machines or sherbet dips this fire I learned to lay’s what I most miss, though my hands got clarted with thick lard and slack and newsprint from the crumpled Yorkshire Post, and made the white bread finger-marked and black when I used the fire I’d lit to make us toast ...


Tony Harrison, 15 April 1999

... I’ve noticed Donny’s bridal gownshop’s lights are only on, in winter, Saturday nights. Though window shopping for white wedding gear ’s not done this coldest, darkest time of year, maybe, the owner reckons, as they pass those near-nude girls, reflected in the glass, might remember his window’s lacy white, if they get pregnant from their date tonight ...

Three Poems

Tony Harrison, 26 April 2007

... Galaxidi Those golden hairs I’m stroking on your thigh I only get to glimpse in this Greek light and only here do claw-snags on my hand, (from grappling with our lunch of garavides, the Greek word for the local langoustines) the back of which has those dark freckle marks my grampa called his ‘grave-spots’, catch on your glittering Galaxidi-gilded hairs ...

The Gifts of Aphrodite

Tony Harrison, 4 January 2001

... These figs missed the picker moved to pluck tokens of love or welcome to strangers, missed bird, missed casual snacker, so are burst and outspread as red as hibiscus, scuffed pistil opera plush, carmine mite-view velveteen the pile of posh bathrobes. The carob pods clatter, as the woman rattles her long pole in the tree, down through the branches to the roadside ditch from which she picks a handful as we pass her: Take, sweet as honey ...

Black Sea Aphrodite

Tony Harrison, 21 November 2013

... Chersonesos, Crimea. Archaeologists reassemble miscellaneous pebbles to restore Aphrodite found on the Black Sea the year of my birth, 1937, by Kiev’s Prof. Belov. An Aphrodite of pebbles made fatal as missiles when flung by fervid adultress-denouncers, in sects so hyper-pious they damn all such couplings, and stipulate suitable sizes for stoning so adultresses the goddess had goaded to lust suffer death dragged out slowly (as they deserve!) and not sooner snuffing with stones more grenade-size, like those the Taurians lobbed at Orestes, damaged child like his sister from Trojan War fallout, as he foamed at the mouth with Furies inside him driving him to the temple whose ruins stood here, and Artemis made his sister priestess of ...

The Grilling

Tony Harrison, 6 June 2002

... all swamped, engulfed by cinders in a flood of fire: power like this not even gods desire. (Tony Harrison (1937- ) Goethe dashed his own off, and his wine in which he tasted AD 79, then spoke to my portraitist Tischbein: The gods are grilled to have such dreadful powers. But what gods’ hands let go of ends in ours. What Martial’s gods say no ...

Two Poems

Tony Harrison, 21 October 2004

... Eggshells One year in Washington DC a girl I got to know said she came from Germany. She looked quite like Bardot. And her first name was Brigitte (rhymes with bitter not with sweet) and though things turned out bitter we met for walks, for drinks, to eat. In a little while she let me see her total tan, breasts, belly, legs. And that Easter Sunday in DC she brought me Easter eggs ...

Florida Frost

Tony Harrison, 17 February 2005

... Cancer carried off his cherished wife as Florida floundered in a freak harsh freeze and let the fahrenheit out of his life never to gain back its lost degrees. He still can’t quite believe she’s wholly lost. He no more thought he’d see his dear one go than that he’d see in Florida a frost with that sudden drop last year to 12 below. Grapefruit first froze then splurted slush ...

Wasted Ink

Tony Harrison, 6 November 2008

... 1. So much black ink expended and still speared! From here, where I’ve been happiest, and my most down, I can see the last place you’d been happy in. Down from Apollo’s wrecked temple with caper plants flowing out of the cracks of once sacrosanct columns, across Amphissa olives to Itea and sea. Twenty years since then, I still can hear, above the squeak of sneakers on the Sacred Way, the creak of sun-dried giant fennel stalks, the sort Prometheus hid filched fire in, above the raucous ratcheting cidadas’ rasp: poli zesti, poli zesti, poli zesti! polar ice-caps, polar ice-caps, polar ice-caps! schizophrenic, schizophrenic, schizophrenic! like match-heads scratching on the striking strip, pyromaniacs rehearsing the fiery finale, to make us regret the gift in the fennel, above all these, from down below, I still can hear an octopus being slapped against a rock, swung by two tentacles to be charcoaled less chewy, each slap echoed back from craggy Parnassus, you perched on the pier steps, happy and snapping a live one in an ink cloud spared the harpooner, me watching your happiness unaware it would snap ...

Cornet and Cartridge

Tony Harrison, 17 February 2011

... I look through lace curtains in the Swell hotel with glass in its windows not panicking plastic like the one I’d camped out in during the war, and see morning mist in now sniperless hills. Next door ’s the old hotel, the Shell not the Swell with sunflower shell-bursts on its windowless sills, some deep enough at least for sparrows to nest in, and my shadow makes them fly up in a twitter, filling the air between the Swell and the Shell ...

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