Two Poems

Robin Robertson

Wormwood

A flight of loose stairs off the street into a high succession
of empty rooms, prolapsed chairs and a memory of women
perfumed with hand-oil and artemisia absinthium:
wormwood to me, and to the sappy Russian sailors, chernobyl.
The scooped-back ballroom gown shows the tell-tale bra-strap:
red, tired, losing its elasticity.
‘Leave it,’ my maths master used to say at a dropped pencil,
‘it can’t fall any further.’ Well, I couldn’t, and neither could she.

Asparagus

Pushing up, hard and fibrous
from the ground, it is said to be
grown for the mouth:
steamed till supple
so the stem is still firm
but with a slight give to gravity.

Each glistening wand has spurs
that swell in bedded layers
to the dark tip – slubbed and imbricate,
tight-set and overlapping round the bud.
In a slather and slide, butter
floods at the bulb-head.