My granddad introduced me to shallots, which he would fry
in butter with chopped potatoes. I tried to write about this
but a friend said I’d made a Heaneyesque fetish of the word
shallot – or was it a reference to ‘The Lady of Shalott’?
When Granddad died I turned to Schopenhauer. I thought
only suffering was real and happiness pain’s absence.
I convinced myself that art should draw from the well
of its own making, as when Hart Crane sings the silken skilled
transmemberment of song, his pained voice carrying across
(or through) unmaimed. No one should have to say they’re sad.
I know I should get rid of things, ‘let go’,
so I start making piles of paper to be
sifted through and (maybe) disposed of
when among my university notes – most of
them angular, angry doodles – I find
this squib: the heart’s wax, soft enough
to show the slightest mark and deep
enough for it to last. Which is the kind
of bullshit I once scribbled half-asleep
in lecture halls when I was bored, nearly
twenty – stalling – weltering in stuff
I should have left behind, like my blurred
love of high modernism, its terrible belief
in progress, a world where NO PART
CAN BE REDUNDANT. Oh the heart…
I don’t know if technology gives our brief
epiphanies more/less value. If I wrote
it now I’d be more candid, try to quote
myself. In Shepherd’s Bush, a green-
shirted man eats a kebab with his phone
propped up in front of him – a Skype
image of a room with pear-coloured
wallpaper, a woman shouting off-screen.
The heart’s not wax, it’s fucking stone
and if the past can’t be escaped I hope
it smothers me – slowly – before letting go.
Paradise Lost: Book IX
I dozed, woke up, the forecast looking grim
– Florida tilted towards Trump – then dozed
again and woke hours later as a scrim
of cloud loured above me, metamorphosed
into – what? Figures weirdly glitched.
That morning, teaching Milton, I steered close
to being explicit: How was it breached,
the Garden? The moment they let evil in?
Or maybe Paradise itself was fixed?
But for Milton, I said, it makes no sense
to think that good and evil are opposed;
dark can’t be driven out, or shame unmixed
from pleasure. Forget raking over sins.
Think of despair, the lengths to which it goes.
Will Harris co-edits the small press 13 Pages and helps organise The Poetry Inquisition. His poems have been published in The Poetry Review, The White Review and The Rialto, where he is an Assistant Editor. His debut pamphlet is forthcoming from HappenStance. He is also a fellow of the Complete Works III, and will be published as part of the Bloodaxe anthology Ten: Poets of the New Generation later this year.
Image credit: Jessie Williams