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Four Poems by Joseph Minden

Godalming

 

Eating a sweety with picky fingers 

does not make it less fatty, Patty,

if that really is your name. It was not me.

It was my accomplice texting you off my phone.

 

I am a retired captain from the sea.

I am so desperate to use that line,

I keep whipping it out in the most inappropriate places.

Today there are hot air balloons all over the sky. Behold,

 

these are boys who grow up eating crisps together on the train

and playing cricket as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

They have the best gear. Godalming seems like a pretty town 

but I don’t know if I could stand the violence.

 

Examined prejudice is like the Giant’s Causeway.

It is a pattern, and then there is the sea.

 

 

The Agricultural Revolution

 

I feel really good about myself and pick a berry seed

out from between two of my teeth, success

on my fingers. I flick it with human disdain,

the firm, digital ballistics of a cultist,

downwards, towards the dirt, where my best guess

places my feet, which I rarely look at. Dude. 

 

King Daddy’s coming with a Holy Roman sandal!

 

The setting sun is ricocheting off my grin

because I’m right up here on the hill in a fantastic way

and the pool of evening is settling on the wheat in the basin,

but the height I’m at keeps my face in the sun 

as if nighttime is not even cool enough for the peaks.

The future suddenly shines and my balls get tight.

 

King Daddy’s coming with a cloud beard!

 

The distant ridge is waxy with heat leaving the day

like a bather steaming by the side of the pool

and the shade moves fast up the wheat on the ridge smoothly

like resolve turning to adultery. But between the parted

slats of the haze is a formation, a motion. What is it?

A figure of cloud? I relax and blink it to eye-lube.

 

King Daddy’s coming smashing over the big buildings!

 

The wheat is laughing its ravishing head off

like something I could write a poem about,

the trace of the wind solid in the massed heads

that have lately filled the land as far as all 

significant boundaries and are gladly spreading

past the pool down there and beyond the high ridge.

 

King Daddy’s coming on a black Friday!

 

The crop doesn’t need attention now: I couldn’t stop

it growing if I wanted, it will grow for good

and fit in temples like a house of shade.

What’s the big figure shuddering like a lumbering runner

behind the deviance of the leaving heat, beyond the ridge?

Is that a face, a huge face? Is that a toothless giant running this way?

 

King Daddy’s coming and a generation is due!

 

 

Screens and Windows

 

One of the first times I fell in love was in the Sistine Chapel,

which was good timing. The ceiling has a picture of reaching.

The clouds parted and the last of the bodies fell away,

and there we were, staring at each other with perfect conviction.

 

Nothing looks as mythical on the horizon as Disneyland

when you are en route to Chartres at sunset

and the awe with which the syllables Disneyland are sounded,

as its spires appear in the twilight, is cathedral awe.

 

Outside the cathedral, there was a man dressed as a jester

in the colours of stained glass, towering above us

with a pocket full of breadcrumbs to fling at pigeons.

I couldn’t sing, but opened my mouth in the shadow of singing.

 

I was watching a video yesterday and it dwelt on fire

and ritual actions you perform around the flames, as if to say: 

when society falls, we rise. Screens and windows are the same.

The only difference is what happens when you break them.

 

Sometimes the fire looked civilised and sometimes the wild men

looked as though their headdresses were nothing less than spires.

All over the pasture, steeples are putting out their burning heads,

scattering tiny people near mill ponds and village greens.

 

I ring you up because you are in New York

and I am walking up the dark grove in London

and you exit the cafe to hear better, bringing the sound of sirens to England

as a silent ambulance drives past me down the dark grove.

 

Do you remember when we used to go past Battersea Power Station

and our father, who is in heaven, used to point out its black smoke,

and then we’d go past the Tate Modern Power Station

and he’d point to the white smoke, to show us progress?

 

 

Reproducer: a Script

 

Viruses on other planets will have the symmetries of dodecahedra.

Why? Nothing can be reproduced more efficiently than a dodecahedron.

Plato said the universe was a dodecahedron.

Viruses have profound evolutionary love for symmetry.

 

Why? Nothing can be reproduced more efficiently than a dodecahedron

owing to its maximal symmetry. Floating around in a cell,

viruses have profound evolutionary love for symmetry

because they cannot reproduce themselves.

 

Owing to its maximal symmetry floating around in a cell,

a virus is something very beautiful, like a crystal. But,

because they cannot reproduce themselves,

viruses need help: the cell’s machines don’t know

 

a virus is something very beautiful, like a crystal, but

what they know is how to replicate strings of DNA and 

viruses need help. The cell’s machines don’t know

the difference between DNAs. Cellular or viral?

 

What they know is how to replicate strings of DNA and

so they replicate the virus DNA as well as the cell’s

(the difference between DNAs, cellular or viral,

being barely discernible, delicate and double helical).

 

So they replicate the virus DNA as well as the cell’s

and soon the cell is full of virus proteins coming into

being: barely discernible, delicate and double helical, 

slopping around in the bag of a cell.

 

And soon the cell is full of virus proteins coming into

contact, randomly but by a kind of design

slopping around in the bag of a cell.

Surprise symmetry is an order chaos can

 

contact randomly, but by a kind of design

pulled out of the future like a blue radome:

surprise! Symmetry is an order. Chaos can

only obey the inevitability of the symmetry

 

pulled out of the future like a blue radome

as though the floating proteins hear a voice:

‘only obey!’ The inevitability of the symmetry

is the source of that great evolutionary love,

 

as though the floating proteins hear a voice

guiding parts into a whole. The need for efficiency

is the source of that great evolutionary, love.

That leads to a naughty anthropomorphism,

 

guiding parts into a whole. The need for efficiency

in thinking about order just happening, in communicating

that, leads to a naughty anthropomorphism,

‘god’, used for arranging constellations.

 

In thinking about order just happening, in communicating,

Plato said the universe was a dodecahedron

god used for arranging constellations.

Viruses on other planets will have the symmetries of dodecahedra.

 

 

Joseph Minden’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tears in the Fence, PN Review, The Manchester Review and elsewhere. He was part of the team behind The Polar Muse, a project commissioning poems for The Polar Museum in Cambridge, and is currently writer in residence at The Koppel Project, a gallery, bookshop and creative space at 93 Baker Street, London. He regularly collaborates with composer Laurence Osborn and artist Kat Addis.

 

 

Image credit: Jim Wrenholt

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