On the Metre

Tony Harrison

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.

She switches off that sound like sloshing slurry
and I hear the tide of almost alexandrines stop.