Two Poems

Michael Hofmann

Campaign Fever

We woke drugged and naked. Did our flowers
rob us and beat us over the head while we were asleep?
They were competing for the same air as us –
the thick, vegetable breath of under the eaves.

It seems like several days ago that I went
to see you to your train. A cuckoo called
and our vision drizzled, though the air was dry.
In a place I’d never noticed before, a low siren

was sounding alternate notes. I remembered
it had been going all night. Was it in distress?
I slept four times, and ate with the base,
groundless haste of someone eating alone.

Afterwards I smoked a cigarette and lay on my back
panting, as heavy and immobile as my own saliva.
The newspapers preyed on my mind. On the radio,
the National Front put their case in five minutes.

The fiction of an all-white Albion, deludedness
and control, like my landlady’s white-haired old bitch,
who confuses home with the world, pees just inside the door,
and shits trivially in a bend in the corridor.

Mr Thatcher made his pile by clearing railway lines
with sheep-dip (the rich man’s statutory one idea).
When he sold his shares, they grew neglected,
plants break out and reclaim the very pavements ...

I think of you trundling across Middle England,
Peterborough, Leicester, Birmingham New Street –
the one-time marginals – up to your eyes in a vigorous,
delinquent haze of buttercups, milfoil and maple scrub.

Disturbances

I go over to my window in South Cambridge,
where the Official Raving Loony Monster candidate
stands to poll half a per cent – the moral majority ...

Below me, the idyllic lilac tree has scorched
to beehive, to beeswax, to Bienenstich, a spongy cack.
Voorman parks his purple car in its shade.

I picture him underneath it, his helter-skelter
fat man jeans half-way down, showing his anal cleft.
Though what would he be doing, face down like that?!

He’s even more remote than I am, curtains drawn,
stopping the plug-hole with his hair-loss,
never a letter for him, a visit or a phone-call.

How is it, then, that in the featurelessness
of his Sundays he throws fits, shouting and swearing,
punching the walls, putting us in fear of our lives?

I’m so fearful and indecisive, all my life
has been in education, higher and higher education ...
What future for the fly with his eye on the flypaper?

The house is breaking up, and still I’m hanging on here:
scaffolding and a skip at the door, smells of dust
and sawdust, the trepanation of the floorboards.