And three more poems.
By IAIN TWIDDY.
THE COACH SLID like a slow bullet east
through settlements, waterlogged furrows, past white
boundary stones, towards the smirred crest of the coast.
Here opened the dunes’ lunar beauty, shale
sky, floodwind, and the saltmarsh’s stinging riches.
But March ’88 may even then have been late
to catch the fieldfare pick prinked oranges
from the buckthorn, or to scope the knot’s plucky strut
on the mudlaps. And were an oystercatcher to flit
from cover, and fit her beak to a daggled shell
like a key to a car-door lock, it still wouldn’t alter
an inch of what I now recollect of Gibraltar,
where the whitewash of waves beats a retreat, the sound
of sniper cries bands into mist and distance,
and the murky water spits up still more sand,
so the only thing growing is resistance.
WHAT IF, ALL along, this pure lowland pour,
lightsome, creasing, ebullient, aswirl,
thrilled by the willows, clapped on by the rocks,
deepened by the broad-boughed shade of the oaks,
what if this spontaneous reed-lit overflow,
slingy and sloppy, relishing the bends,
sluicing through the straights, crescendoing falls,
lilting in myriad improvisations,
what if this was no song, but a gravel-
throated no, that never wanted to go,
a Rubicon abduction, a flower-bearing
slip, openly weaving a mud-thick gagging,
a banishment by capricious inclinations,
a protest drowned out by its own volume;
what if I got it wrong, hearing this flow alone,
which could be the echo – no – the spit of the river,
a tongue just as constantly cutting off.
WE STOOD ON the river’s smooth-pebbled bed,
around the drummy aluminium pots.
You couldn’t sit, couldn’t blanket, given
the gaps, the uncomfortable lumps; so we stood,
crunchily, on the chit-chatty pebbles,
which were much the same shape as the potatoes
the water tossed and throttled in the pots,
as the chatting and laughter bubbled up
and the steam tongued up like a midge veil
or the frail tail of a rescue flare.
The river was a rag wrung out by summer.
But still, it felt like a trespass, to be
stepping her bed, assailing her nakedness,
as the unpushable-back, flash-flood worry
gathered in the highlands of the mind.
Hara told me how when he was a boy
they would swim in the river every summer,
splashing and glinting, streaming with sun, but now
no one did, since it was run with pollution.
I’m trying to fill in who else was there,
that day by the Hirose in Sendai –
Ozawa, Mizuumi, Kawauchi –
trying to match faces to names I’ve dredged up,
trying to picture them standing, just there;
but all that comes is a flood,
a whitewash rampant back up the river
from when the sea was boiling and booming,
the bodies flung in a burning cauldron,
a rush which, when it rips, eventually, back,
on a settling, trickling, trembling again,
leaves no lasting impression, nothing so clear
as a big toe poking out of a flip-flop
among the pebbles on the bed of memory.
I WOULD LOVE to tell how my ear was trained
by the mild assuagings of David, attuned
to grave allusions and echoes like the sting
of a slingshot; how its core could have been scored
by the hand of Moses, commanding through heart-sore
crags, then plunging down to the well-spring, the sing-song,
replenishing thrum at the border of Jordan.
But some channel must have bunged up with gore.
So my tongue may as well be a socketed rock,
cut off in a shibboleth shush,
or checked by a byzant in the guts’ slip and slop
where Jerusalem has punctured and gushed,
dumb as a bridle-deep equine going back
on his tracks, with nary a clip nor a clop.
Iain Twiddy studied literature at university and lived for several years in northern Japan. He has poems published or forthcoming in The Poetry Review, Stand, The Manchester Review, Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly and elsewhere.