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Four Poems on Affairs of State.


‘For it is as impossible for a sovereign…openly to break or hold in contempt laws which he himself has passed, and still to preserve his sovereignty, as it is to be and not be at the same time.’
—Spinoza, Tractatus Politicus (1677)


1. Just in Time

When Faustus sacked Mephistopheles,
remember, all hell breaking loose
– pandemic on pandemonium –
I can’t lie, what with just-in-time
supply chains groaning, his abuse,
the left behind, no, I can’t lie –
no gain, as if we could deceive
queuing at the Gare du Nord to leave
and be where his are coming home.

2. Haunted House

That Haunted House across the park
with name in red graffiti letters
on tromp-l’oeil weatherboarding is
so very much the worse for wear.
It brings on such a sense of loss
now we see somebody who does
lose just that much reality –
as if determined to be and not be
at his darkened black, guarded front-door.

3. Vanity Mirror

Like a child who can’t afford the fee
but imagines what goes on inside,
through its polished hall of mirrors
we see their overflowing table,
a vanitas Jan Steen genre scene
with red wine spraying up the wall,
some drunkard being sick, a scuffle,
the mirrors cracked from side to side
by apologies, apologies, apologies …

4. Epitaph for a Populist

The truth will out, and things move on;
what with a European war and war’s
alarms, the states of your affairs,
inflation, living costs, now you find
if the people, the people have spoken,
well, they can change their mind;
and then if you give courts the lie
a week’s a long time in oblivion
defending your legacy, the damage done.
No sooner has your moment come, it’s gone.

PETER ROBINSON helps edit poetry for The Fortnightly Review. Alongside Retrieved Attachments, recent publications include English Nettles and Other Poems; his translations from Pietro De Marchi, Reports after the Fire: Selected Poems; and The Personal Art: Essays, Reviews & MemoirsPeter Robinson: A Portrait of his Work, a collection of essays and a bibliography edited by Tom Phillips, has also recently appeared. An archive of his work in The Fortnightly Review is indexed here and an audio track of ‘Dreamt Affections’ is here.

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