Three Poems

Michael Hofmann

Biology

The brick ship of Victorian science
steamed on, ivy beard, iron beams and stairs,

iron paddleboat pillars. A pair of whiskery Germans,
father and son, had specialised in fixing in glass

some of the degenerative conditions of fruit.
A split blue peach, a bough laden with gangrene –

all pocked, opaque, Venetian, venereal ...
Dry air, manila light, cardboard and silence,

anything to stave off the time when the exhibits
will revert to silica, parrot feathers and wire.

The Day After

I arrived on a warm day, early, a Sunday.
They were sweeping the gravel dunts of boules,
clearing away the wire rig and char of fireworks.
The red metal ornamental maples, planed and spinning
like globes on stalks, had caught the sun.

The cups of the fountains were running over.
A few drops rolled back on the underside, trailed along,
tense and brimming, and fell into the common pool
like ships going over the edge of the world:
the roaring waters, the stolid, daylong rainbow ...

It struck eight, nine. There was no wind
to blow the glassy fountains off course. My eyes hurt
from the silver bedding plants and vermillion flowers.
I could almost believe the smooth, slabbed plinth
that said: They will rise again.

Hart Crane

The territorial integrity of a battlefield:
a small state without frontiers, guarantors or governance,
without its own flag to run up its own flagpole
– an arm waving in the Caribbean, drowning –
a power vacuum ringed by lifeboats.

His name hardly fit a natural human man,
more an amalgamation, the merger of parent companies:
one surname after another, mother’s, father’s,
his sugar daddy, Peppermint Candy Cane Crane.
‘In all the world no sweets like these.’

Dada, boom and Prohibition pushed him
the way of symbolism, Spengler, fruit-and-flower wines.
A sufficiency of drink, the manic repetition
of a mantric record – any record – and he typed.
Corona, Corona, Victrola and a Columbia loud needle.

Hollywood fellatio, the ‘ancient mariner’ dragging
Sands Street for sailors, standing on Brooklyn Bridge
with the US Navy steaming between his legs.
Stout Hart Crane with his sweet embonpoint,
a pud of pulchritude, lustre to his cluster.

Cigar eyes, shellac eyes, chocolate spaniel eyes.
Shoulder to shoulder with his father in Chagrin Falls,
cigars, canes, plod shoes, a twin squeezed benignity
in fat black double-breasted coats. He took up the hem
of his father’s tombstone with his landless name.