Empty Laird was called that ‘cause
his Christian name was Matthew
and his middle one was Thomas.
Towards the end he commented
that by his-self he’d made a sixth
of the disciples, and forgone a life
on the quest for the rest.
And a good book.
Or a decent cause.
Laird Jnr was a tyke, a terrier.
A nit-picker who grew to a hair-splitter,
he was not so much scared of his shadow,
as of its absence. He knew he was see-thru.
It was a very modern kind of terror.
the one who went on to become Mrs Laird
the wife walked into my life
one night I’d had six or seven pints
and it was either that or fight
and she was just the type I like
chest spilling out of itself slender hipped
with a Nubian face closed to the public
waist my exact hand-span
poised and filmic she was drinking my usual
unthinkable and very
very do-able I am not a good man
into my grave into my grave into my grave she was laid
It could almost be harvesting ice,
what with that chaff, this sluice of lost fillings,
pellets from air-guns, breadcrumbs and grape pips,
these infinite clippings of night.
They scatter. They generate weather.
And flesh the road from bone to wound. Open.
The gritter makes unhurried circular journeys
like the drunk in a child’s anorak,
who nightly would slope his resolute ghost
out through the pub and then once into dawn,
found dead, face down, detaining the herd
on their way to be milked at some farm.
They stand patiently round him like mourners
then veer off in groups. Their breath clears like smoke.
This might be the end of an all-night party:
potholes like punch-bowls, a grass tinselled verge,
thawed drops of birdsong prodding the straggler
to tell him it’s time to get up and go home,
but he won’t sleep this off, won’t wake
surprised and wander back to town alone,
through swift new snow that’s falling now
too heavily to leave the myth
of how those flakes are each distinct,
like fingerprints, like skin, intact.
Send Letters To:
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN
Please include name, address, and a telephone number.