When I think of the Psalms
I become agitated.
There are plenty of diversions
In a communal kitchen.
Your neighbour’s life is on display,
So you can oversalt his pot.
To spit in the tea and not be seen
Is a skill, like a good denunication.
In bygone days a man might wander
His castle with a sword, looking for
A ghost. In our times he shuffles,
Axe in hand, ready for the resident
Who forgets to turn out the toilet light.
It is the duty of art to relate
This deathless theme, this habitus.
But flautists should live in the suburbs.
I do not intend to live forever.
People have invented
Many curious things:
And Gillette razor blades.
Yet operas and ballets,
Even Anna’s requiem,
Cannot construct a canal,
Fix a leaky toilet,
Or pass a maths exam.
Much that seems obsolete
May soon regain its strength,
But I have no need for
The eternal needle
To light my primus stove.
To escape history’s detectives.
What a fate that would be.
The Master wanted to give the Devil
A tighter hug, so clasped him close
With an opera. Beautiful sweetmeats.
I am training my left hand to write,
In case I lose the ability in my right.
Gymnastics for the dying.
The poet should look at his subject
As a duck looks at a goat
Whose fortune is to have a home
On a well-planted balcony.
Write a poem about the Master
From the duck’s point of view.
Then read it underwater,
To be sure the goat approves.
Colin Graham‘s poetry has been published in The Tangerine and The SHOp. His short stories and memoir essays have appeared in The Edinburgh Review and The Dublin Review. His most recent book is Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography and he is currently co-editor of The Irish Review. See 19acres.wordpress.com.
Image credit: Zoltán Vörös