Four Poems

Don Paterson

A Powercut

This is what we’ve come to, this damn lift,
this blackout, this airlock, this voiceless stop,
this empty set, this storm cave, this dead drop,
this deaf nut, this dumb waiter, this blind drift,
this Necker cube, this coalshed, this Swiss bank,
this iron lung, this hide, this diving bell,
this pseudocoma, priesthole, holding cell,
this meatlocker, this isolation tank,
this, since I’m too lazy for the stairs in
this airless guesthouse in the Dales, so went for
this jackscrew for the old or lame or spent for
this two-second trip between two floors, this
this-way-up box to sweat and say my prayers in,
this six-foot night, this theatre of doors: this.

The Roundabout

for Jamie and Russ

It’s moving still, that wooden roundabout
we found at the field’s end, sunk in the grass
like an ancient buckler from the giants’ war.
The first day of good weather, our first out
after me and your mother. Its thrawn mass
was like trying to push a tree over, or row
a galley sealed in ice. I was all for
giving up when we felt it give, and go.
What had saved the axle all these years?
It let out one great drawn-out yawn and swung
away like a hundred gates. Our hands still burning
we lay and looked up at a sky so clear
there was nothing in the world to prove our turning
but our light heads, and the wind’s lung.

Apsinthion

What did I do in the war?
Son, I watched a download bar
and drank the last thing in the house.
I ran the show on meshugaas
the way some ancient dynamo
we couldn’t replace would only go
on walnut oil or cherry must.
My poems sucked. My guitar grew dust.

But when we heard the star would fall,
did we choose to die like sheep?
Hell no – we were men, and blessed
to know the hour and place … I jest.
One by one we fell asleep
and that is how they found us all.

To Dundee City Council

Fair play. Round here, only junkies walk
so it’s unfair that I affect my shock
at this last straw: that fine baronial stair
you found cheaper to fence off than to repair,
thus adding twenty minutes to my trip
via ringroad, bombsite, rape tunnel and skip
to the library where poor folks go to die
or download porno on the free wifi.

My shameful vanity? I thought you might
take time, this time, to personalise the slight.
Know at least I leave here with my tail
between my legs again, and setting sail
for that fine country called the fuck away.
Farewell! Good luck with the V&A.