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Ken Smith

The Window of Vulnerability

Sure today it could come in a fast plane
named perhaps for the pilot's mother,
the city ends in a smear in the road
and that in a child's shoe. No one

will say aboard the Missouri all these
proceedings are now closed, by nightfall
hours beyond zero no one remarks
it was grey, it had no beauty at all.

Now what to do with these postal districts
drifting downwind? It would be
routine enough on the autopilot,
flying home till there's no home to fly to.

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Encounter at St. Martin's

I tell a wanderer's tale, the same
I began long ago, a boy in a barn,
I am always lost in it. THe place
is always strange to me. In my pocket

the wrong money or none, the wrong paper,
maps of another town, the phrase book
for yesterday's language, just a ticket
to the next station, and my instructions.

In the lobby of the Banco Bilbao
a dark woman will slip me a key, a package,
the name of a hotel, a numbered account,
the first letters of an unknown alphabet.

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Duck at Haldon Ponds

At evening watches the duck
slow feeding the waterline.

Praises the duck. Such a fine
white miracle breasting the mayfly.

Green of her tail feathers,
space of her neck doubled in water
paddles off with my mind.

Ducks I have known.
Old duck mates of mine
inspecting the meeting of air and liquid.

Make no mistake, duck.
I´d like to eat you well cooked
one bell-battered Sunday in April.

And I´d wear your gorgeous feathers in my hat,
make a soup of the bones

[...] Read more

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Train

After Max Ernst's 'Europe after the Rain'

In the dark
each sits alone
clutching his flag

I have more than my one death
to attend to
there is a sickness about
and the magician has vanished

But I sit with my twenty six years
spread on my palms
and I wait for the silence
when the programme is interrupted
and the speakers have no script.
And I think how to carry my children
into the sewers.

Roll up the cities.

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Fast Forward

one thing then another

one story then another conversation
always interrupted by another conversation

I want the words to barely glaze the page
gone the moment of their utterance

as we are

I want

in back of this a story a man with his face with his name
exile emigrant refugee displaced person outsider offcomerdon stranger suspect
the terms interchangeable politically undesireable
a story of a man who leaves his country

and the woman he loves

and the story of why

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The Secret Police

They are listening in the wires,
in the walls, under the eaves
in the wings of house martins,
in the ears of old women,
in the mouths of children.

They are listening to this now.

So let's hear it for the secret police,
a much misunderstood minority.
After all, they have their rights,
their own particular ways of seeing things,
saying things, cooking things,
they too have a culture uniquely their own.

        ;            And we think

they should have their own state
where they could speak their own
incomprehensible tongues, write

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Possessions

They spent my life plotting against me.
With nothing to do but cultivate themselves,
but to be there, aligning their shadows,
they were planning to undo me,
wanting to own me completely.

They have marched through the rooms,
their presences litter the surfaces
close at my elbow calling attention.
When I sleep they begin with their meetings,
when I leave home they hold a convention.
The minutes, the notes, the chairman
calls order, the lamps signal aye. When I die
they'll start in on another,
easy at first, learning his ways.
Now they're gone, taken from me, good luck.
If I kept them I'd never be free. I'd die
and have to begin picking everything up,
all the waste paper, baby teeth, beards,
I'd have to go back for the fingernails.

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In the Next Street

there’s only ever one argument: his,
bawling out whoever punctuates
the brief intervals his cussing
| interrupts, something unheard, reason perhaps.

What you never get is silence,
always some groan on the horizon
out on the borders of attention
where would be quiet if they let it.

Always some conversation far away,
foreign, banal. dramatic, translated
it means my wife’s name is Judit.
I am an engineer from Spidertown.

What to reply? Your Majesty,
my name is Smith. All lies anyway,
all we do is get drunk, the evening’s end
collapsing loosely into gutturals.

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The Shadow of God

To Mohács
in the marshlands, still in the pouring rain,
August 29th, 1526, where those summoned
and hastily gathered died in thousands
in the space of a moment the chronicler
scribbles, in the safety of distance,
cruel panthers in a moment to hell's pit.
That day the guns chained wheel to wheel,
smoke and the cries of men and horses,
the knights shot from their saddles, armour
dragging them into the mire, the hooves
stamping them in, the infantry butchered,
in the space of a moment the swift
routine of retreat, slaughter and rout,
the space of a moment. No prisoners,
the wails of the wounded, the dying, becks
brimmed with blood, and the young king
thrown from his horse, drowned in his breastplate.
Thereafter Suleyman recalls he sat on the field
in the pouring rain on his glittering throne

[...] Read more

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